The Garmin Forerunner 265 is great for runners who are slightly savvier than a total beginner, and probably road runners too – those not reliant on navigation.
A beginner needs build-in training plans to guide them whereas with this watch the runner would need to find a good one externally thus requires more knowledge. Fantastic for a hobbyist runner wanting more statistics and understanding how their body is functioning day-to-day.
Any runner would benefit from training with the Garmin 265, however if you are heavily reliant on navigation, such as trail runners or those who like to run in unknown cities with a tendency to get lost, I’d suggest keeping your phone on you or opting for a different make/model.
Considering this is a March 2023 release, the hardware of the Garmin 265 feels like it’s dragging behind the other makes and their aluminium choice of hardware.
The Garmin Forerunner 265’ plastic casing gives it a cheaper look and feel. It’s easier to scratch and dent in daily life so I’d strongly advise getting a protector for the screen and watch face – especially if you have to alter the watch’s usual on-top of the wrist position (more on that further down).
The plastic hardware option does grant this watch an incredibly light feel, weighing only 39g (on 42mm, 47g for a 46mm watch) matched with its sleek, close-to-the-skin fit thanks to the watch thickness of 12.4mm.
The compact feel and fit means it barely got caught on long-sleeved running jackets, even those tapered at the wrist. It was probably the easiest watch to run with access-wise. Also, the fit offers an ideal transition into a smartwatch day-to-day, mimicking an apple-watch style at first glance.
Garmin continues to utilise a Corning gorilla glass 3 for their Forerunner 265 screen. The screen dips around the edge meaning a specific screen protector would be needed over the usual designs. The dipped edge adds nothing to both design and function so it seems a little pointless.
However, Garmin have improved their watch graphics with a full 1.1”(on the small watch, 1.3” on the large) AMOLED display. The startup screen and the exercise examples look fantastic and surprising to fit in such a small machine. The screen viewing however isn’t fantastic on a bright, sunny day or when not back-lit, in sleep mode for example.
The straps are silicone, you’ll find the majority of manufacturers using this type of flexible material. It’s super easy to clean and forgiving when the wrist swells when warm during exercise.
The small option has thin straps which is great for again day-to-day wear not being too in your face or getting in the way of clothing. I tried the black and aluminous green splash of colour, discreet enough to wear day-to-day. But if you wanted to swap the straps it’s easily customisable pulling out a pin where the straps meet the watch housing.
The box does not come with different straps so you would need to purchase these separately.
There are six running profiles – run, trail run, track run, ultra run, virtual run and indoor track. I used it primarily for roads and trail runs – the wait to lock on GPS did not exceed 10 seconds for either surrounding giving me enough time to lock the car to zip up the jacket.
Garmin gives you a choice of five faces full of different metrics: Timer/distance/pace and heart rate and heart rate zone colour indication – total ascent/timer/vertical speed/lap distance/lap time/lap pace – map -basic time and date. However, these can be modified with ease to support your preferences although cannot exceed 4 data fields per face.
The Garmin Forerunner 265 can follow a course set through the app and if you need to find your way back to the start this feature is available by pausing the activity and selecting ‘back to start’.
There are two options – TracBack or straight line. Why there is a straight line option confused me, yet to think of a situation where that could be utilised.
The TracBack feature was inherently flawed upon testing. The runner can see the track line assisted by an arrow leading the runner back to the start point of the route already run.
However this was tested on a trail route with clear trail routes (not off in the wilderness) I ran a mile, selected TracBack, and turned around to head back the GPS failed to recognise I was back on course or to help navigate me back to the start. It shows ‘off course’ and the distance remaining but little else helped at all. Worrying failure for trail runners.
I set a course of 5x 10 mile laps intending to hit a lap I started the watch just before the route started for a few minutes warm up. The moment the course started, the watch stopped, showing ‘course complete’.
Confusing! I reset it and went again this time purposely heading off course to test navigation and it failed to alert me, but on the map screen face it was clear I headed off course. Again unhelpful especially in trail races, double yikes for those Ultramarathoners needing navigation help.
Immediately post-run Garmin offers several data screens summing up the run in every metric you could want from heart rate, distance, map, mile splits, pace graphs, heart rate zone percentages, running power graphs, power zone percentages, elevation, execution score, training effect on VO2 max and suggested recovery.
Synchronisation with the Garmin app is very fast and it makes the run metrics much more digestible through the app’s session/day review.
Alerts to the fastest mile, longest run, or fast set distances are pulled to your attention here also.
The Garmin Forerunner 265 watch is supremely accurate regarding body metrics – stress, heart rate, heart rate variability and sleep tracking, so a chest strap is not a necessity. However for any of its metrics to work the LEDs need to be able to take accurate readings from your pulse.
A known Garmin issue is its inability to read heart rate through tattooed skin. Since both wrists are covered in ink I had to wear the watch ‘backwards’ meaning the watch LEDs were in contact with my under-wrist not the top of the wrist like a normal watch – not ideal, especially with the plastic casing so consider a screen protector on this watch.
Apparently, there are options such as an ‘epoxy sticker’ to help get more reliable readings, alternatively, Garmin will offer a discount on chest straps if you contact customer service.
For my ultra-marathon training, I used a Polar Vantage V2 watch and trained to heart rate parameters, this Garmin 265 was as accurate as the V2 for heart rate, zones and training metrics like speed, average speed and distance. So overall a solid performance from the watch once I figured out the initial heart-rate issue.
The battery life on the Garmin Forerunner 265 is impressive but as an ultra-runner, I would want more.
Garmin declares 13 days in smartwatch mode and 20 hours in GPS mode, however, it’s more like 10 days in everyday wear, smartwatch mode. Also, I don’t trust the idea of 20 hours in GPS more because different factors impact this such as continuous heart rate monitoring so proceed with caution.
If you are an ultra-runner who needs sufficiently more battery life then I’d look elsewhere. My Polar Vantage V2 has over 40 hours in GPS mode for example. Otherwise for track, 5k or even marathon runners this battery life should be absolutely fine and not impact your training.
I only charge my Garmin 265 when I’m in the shower so a maximum of 15 minutes from which the watch does last days in smartwatch mode. The charger in the box is a Lighting C cable which is significantly annoying if you do not have a Lighting C plug.
Either buy online as no plug comes in the box, or you can use an older Garmin charging cable with a USB end as they fit and charge the same.
Garmin offers 30 sport profiles for this watch from yoga to gym to skiing to running while that covers the most popular cardiovascular activities, it significantly trails behind the likes of Polar Vantage V2 which houses 130 sport profiles.
However, this Forerunner 265 does offer a training readiness widget which is a big plus for this watch. Every day it assesses your stress, sleep, heart rate variability and delivers that to you every morning in a report, added with a suggested run that day (or rest day) with distance and target mile or KM split A great for those who need reigned back in training load or intensity, equally, it’s great to keep a runner maintaining their fitness in-between seasons or races for example.
The heart rate variability is so key, giving an understanding of the baseline, average over the last seven days and also day-to-day/overnight. This helps the runner understand their fatigued, coming down with a cold and generally feeling under the weather. It is one of the watch’s best features in my opinion.
The sleep monitoring and review have been impressive – except it cannot identify or record naps. The watch does need to fit snugly to read your heart rate to work.
It measures REM, deep and light sleep, and the overall effect on recovery. At first, these readings were horrendous as the heart rate LEDs couldn’t pierce through my tattooed skin. The watch needed to be worn ‘backwards’ with the LEDs in contact with my under-wrist instead.
Specific to Garmin are safety alerts, stress, body battery measurements and the ability to track menstrual cycle through the app.
The safety feature sends an alert text to a specific contact in your phone if the watch detects a significant change in metrics such as a sudden stop in heart rate. The alert involves specific coordinates of the watch wearer that can be used for emergency services or maps should the wearer need to be found.
Stress measurements help detect significantly high levels of stress. Instantly the watch offers a breathing exercise to help bring the wearer back to calm.
The watch has several breathing exercises but most often through the stress alert, it signifies 16 rounds of breathing in-hold-out-hold lasting for roughly 4 minutes. The watch vibrates to signal to breathe or hold so the wearer and close their eyes and return to a calmer state.
If the wearer has a significantly stressful day the body battery does dip, the body battery also takes into consideration sleep and recovery from HRV (heart rate variability). Perfect for the wearer who needs some stats to answer for their sluggishness.
Garmin are unique in its menstrual cycle tracking, while very basic and only done through the app, it is limiting in its effect especially when considering body battery metrics etc. It might help a runner understand where they are in their cycle – with links to Mayo-clinic for more information but it’s too basic.
There is no clear understanding of how the cycle can impact training and the body so this needs updating and improving to be of use to anyone. There are free period-tracking apps with more information than this Garmin feature.
Garmin pay can be set up with ease however check with your bank, some banks like mine, do not comply with Garmin pay making this feature void and an utter waste.
In conclusion, the Garmin Forerunner 265 is a fine training/smart-watch option for any health and fitness enthusiast, whether a beginner or hard-core athlete.
The metrics can help you understand your health metrics better and get you on the road to a healthier, more active life. But can equally show a seasoned athlete every metric possible to improve performance. Armed with RacePro and estimated 5k-to-marathon distance times based on current training load, speeds, etc.
This watch is clearly designed for runners, although it can offer bike, swim, gym and other sport profiles, the metrics are clearly tailored for runners – hey, even the main button and strap has ‘run’ embellished on them.
What this Garmin 265 offers is an Uber-personalised experience every runner would want. From short-cuts, screen brightness and alerts to sleep mode variations, data screens and strap changes.
So, while I enjoyed testing the watch, ultimately, it cannot read through my tattoos – personally, I despise wearing a watch when it faces down so it’s a no from me. In addition, as a trail ultra runner, the navigation woes were worrying and for that alone, I would look elsewhere for a training watch. Add that with a battery life of under 24 hours in GPS mode, the workout blunders (not knowing what next unless you have a phone with you) – I’m not overly impressed, especially considering the price tag.
My Polar Vantage V2 watch offers this and more for the same price so I’m more inclined to stick with that, even if the Garmin Forerunner 265 has better graphics, more up-to-date smartwatch features, and every other personalisation option Polar can only dream of.