Forerunner 965

After almost 5 years with my Fenix 5+, Garmin finally released a watch which convinced me to upgrade. In this post, I will describe my experience with the Forerunner 965 and compare it to the old Fenix. 


Design is subjective, but for me, Forerunner 965 (FR965) is finally a watch I really like. It reminds me my first Garmin - FR230 (I loved it so much, I  refused to put it down even on the most formal occasions despite the fact that it was measuring nothing except steps.) 

I never liked the look of the Fenix 5+ (F5+) too much, but I got it for free and it was the best watch at that time. But I got used to its durability and all the Forerunner series looked too plastic to me ever since. But that's where FR965 perfectly combines small and thin FR line with bezel made from titanium. And finally it has a large display without so much wasted space around it.   

Size and weight

While the size of the watches is pretty similar, FR965 is significantly lighter and thinner so it is much more comfortable to wear and it probably also helps with more precise heart rate measurement. The strap is also more elastic, so it is easier to wear it tighter (again helping measurement accuracy). But during the first few days, the strap caused my skin to got red like some rash, but then it disappeared and now I don't have any troubles wearing the watch constantly. Weird as I never had any problems with previous watches. 


The most obvious upgrade is display - AMOLED vs MIP is like comparing iPad with Kindle or modern TVs with black and white TV. Its just beautiful and scrolling in the system is such a pleasure (UI is also finally updated so there are nice animations and everything looks much more modern). The watch feels a bit more like a smartwatch and it is perfect for daily wear. 

AMOLED of course has its disadvantages - it is not suitable to be always on (although the watch supports the mode). Not only it uses more power, but it can also degrade the colors and cause burn-ins. The best use case is to turn the display on by gesture or touch (so sports like cycling might be problematic). On the other hand, display is perfectly bright in all conditions and definitely easier to see than F5+ (especially with the sapphire glass).

Heart rate sensor 

My biggest complain about F5+ was (for me) almost useless heart rate measurement. It worked fine during walking, sitting and running in summer. If it was a bit colder (in Norway almost the entire year), it most often locked to my cadence. FR695 is definitely better, although still not perfect. Initially, when it was still quite cold, it was showing too low numbers (but not locking to my cadence). Now it seems perfectly matching my climbs as shown on the picture. Same as with F5+, it also seems to work better on my right wrist rather than left. I also noticed significant improvements during other activities like yoga and strength, but it is still pretty useless there. FR965 can also measure HR underwater, which is a new feature, but I don't expect it to be too good. 

On top of the HR measurement, this sensor (Elevate v4 [1]) can also measure breathing frequency, HR variability and oxygen saturation. 


F5+ had an old GPS chip which was very power hungry and finicky to get a lock (it required tens of seconds of standing still - provided the watch was synchronized recently). FR965 is absolutely in a different league. It always gets the fix in just a few seconds and the track looks a bit more precise too - but I have it set to use all satellites automatically (SatIQ). On F5+ I had it on GPS-only to save battery. 


The battery life on the watch is absolutely amazing. Using it daily, it is going down slower than on my F5+ laying on a table and showing only time (everything else turned off). During an activity, it is consuming around 3% per hour with all satellites set to auto (SatIQ). My F5+ used at least 7% per hour on GPS only! But it is worth mentioning that I don't use the "always on display" and don't have the phone connected all the time, but still, there is so much reserve that I wouldn't worry even about that. Normally, I charge it once per week when it loses around 45%. 

There was just one case when after synchronization, the battery kept dropping as though the GPS would be active. After a few hours I noticed it and it stopped after restarting the watch. 

Measured metrics 

Comparing to F5+, FR965 can track and measure so much more. I was curious to check all those new metrics, but I have to admit that most of them are just marketing and not something super useful (also considering that they are often totally inaccurate). I might have missed some as there are so many of them: 
  • Advanced running metrics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, watt, potential)  
  • Body battery 
  • Respiration       
  • Training readiness
  • HR variability  
  • Load focus 
  • Acute load 
  • Training status 
  • Training readiness / recovery time (this was also available on F5+, but due to the inaccurate HR totally useless) 
It is important to mention that a lot of the metrics make sense only if the watch is being worn constantly (even at night).  

Running suggestions 

FR965 also gives suggestions for runs (like 50 minutes in a defined pace or a heart rate zone). There is also a possibility to define preferred days for longer runs. I tried it once as this is totally useless for my hilly runs (the watch complaining I am to fast while running downhill and too slow when running uphill). Its still nice to see a general advice and then dismiss it :D  


With the bigger display and touch functionality, maps finally seems to be somehow usable, but for me its still mostly the last resort feature, if everything else fails.  

Software and bugs

Garmin and software, that is a chapter for itself. So far, I noticed the following bugs: 
  • The gesture sometimes activates itself no matter if it is disabled (when synchronization is happening, when using a custom watchface).
  • Display turns on when not wearing the watch if ANY movement is detected - it is so sensitive, even walking past a watch laying on a table can trigger it. 
  • Once respiration stopped working for some time (showing disabled).
There are also some annoying things like: 
  • Inability to enable / disable gesture to wake for specific activity (only general) - this would make so much sense to disable for example for weight lifting as every rep will turn the display on. 
  • Shortest screen timeout during normal use is a few seconds, but in activity it is 2 minutes. 
  • Display brightness is really high even on the lowest setting. 
Luckily it seems that some of those bugs should be fixed in the next update [2]. It remains to be seen if new features (like Hill Score) will be added to the watch, or if it will be a situation like with F5+ which did not receive any feature updates.  

I won't say too much about ConnectIQ's messy documentation, or endless security problems, I still take it as a "fun" feature and something extra, rather then something which needs to be 100% reliable. I tried one of my watchfaces and due to the wake problem (ignoring disabled gesture) had to uninstall it until Garmin fixes it. I would also miss the "touch to widget" functionality which default watchfaces have, but the ones made through ConnectIQ do not support that at the moment (or at least there is no documentation about it).    


Garmin seems to me to be on the perfect track to increase its profits. The push to AMOLED watches, introduction of new metrics and incentives to wear the watch constantly means that users will need / want to buy a new watch more often than ever. I can't really see what new features I could "need", but I am sure that in a few years I will see it differently (the same as 5 years ago with F5+).
Another consideration is price. Upgrading from more recent watches (with the same HR sensor and GPS chip) probably doesn't make sense. But comparing to what costed FR230 or F5+ and what they offered, the FR965 is a much better value. The only question is its durability. While F5+ was practically indestructible (I didn't manage to get a scratch on its bezel or on the sapphire glass), I am not sure I will be so lucky with FR965. 
Finally, do I need or use all the features FR965 has? Definitely not. But the watch looks so good and it is so pleasant to use and comfortable to wear that it was an easy choice for me.