Garmin Forerunner 965 first look review – did I just waste my money? [OPINION]
This is a Garmin Forerunner 965 ‘first look’ review designed to help you understand the negatives before forking out your hard-earned cash. There are 20-plus negatives listed below
Price: USA $599, UK £599, EU649
I’m happy with my purchase of the Forerunner 965. I paid for it myself, and it wasn’t a freebie.
I’ve now used it for over 2 months of runs, rides, and swims, and I’m impressed with the changes that have been made to the user interface. It’s more attractive and user-friendly than the Forerunners I’ve used in the past.
TL;DR – I’m happy with my purchase and I’m confident that it will be my main triathlon training watch for the next few years. It is a waste of money in the sense that I’ve paid a lot of money for many features I’ll never use. But it has every feature that I NEED to use – it WILL be the same for you.
Garmin 965 Background & Predecessors
The Forerunner 935 was the first Garmin watch to offer comprehensive triathlon training features. If you already have one and it’s still working well, there’s no need to upgrade unless your battery is failing or the device is slowing down.
The Forerunner 945 took things a step further with physiological features that are now well-developed in the Forerunner 955 and the 945LTE added a small degree of internet connectivity.
The Forerunner 965 edges ahead of the 955 with a beautiful vibrant colour display and a slightly larger screen. However, it’s important to note that all the widgets, dials, backgrounds, and, well, pretty much everything visual has been significantly tweaked compared to the 955 and all that came before it.
As I see it, the Forerunner 965 is the best triathlon watch ever, or at least it is if you’re a sucker for a pretty screen like me!
Problems, Bugs & Things That Hack Me Off
Generally, it’s all good. But you came here for criticisms so here goes
- I couldn’t set up my Garmin watch from a backup again. I had to do it all from scratch.
- Again! Not all of my favourite CIQ widgets are available. Developers have to certify them for each and every new watch. This is a ridiculous situation.
- I know how to sideload apps and data fields, which has solved a few of my CIQ problems. For example, I can still use the discontinued Humon Hex SmO2 data field! I’ve not tried the Supersapiens DF yet, but that might not be okay as that’s been implemented in a more modern way that makes side-loading harder.
- The 965 pairs reasoanbly quickly before each workout but for some reason neither it nor my Edge 540 will let me calibrate a Stages G3 power meter.
- The Garmin standard watch faces seem to have been designed by 7-year-olds for 7-year-olds. I’m not 7 years old. I’m a grown-up. Please, Garmin, please give me some grown-up watch faces. There is no excuse now that the colours and resolution are so good. I’m also not especially keen on some of the simplistic and sometimes naive watch faces offered by Apple, but at least many of them are designed for grown-ups. The image, below, shows what I consider to be a grown-up, 3rd party CIQ watch face (the Enduro face is also good) however it doesn’t use the new higher resolution. Click to see an example of a grown-up, high-resolution watch face on a Tag or instead browse the Apple.com website.
- The following image shows the same watch face on a 935 (left) and 965. The screen is a bit brighter and larger. However, to get the benefit of the 965’s superior resolution we need watch faces that are designed to a high resolution, unlike this one. Even many/most of Garmin’s watch faces do not do that. I’ve seen some leaked images for Epix 2 Pro and May/Jun 2023 might herald some better-looking watch faces.
- The screen is beautiful. There are 3 or 4 brightness settings, and I’ve used the brightest setting in these photos. For my own personal use, I’ve cranked it down to the lowest and that’s perfectly fine for me. I cycled over the weekend on a sunny, March day with it on my wrist and I COULD read it when my wrist was angled, but it could have been easier had the brightness been cranked up to the max. Let’s see how it performs when Summer comes.
- It’s not an AOD (Always On Display). Well, it kinda is. AOD to Garmin means that ‘something’ is always on display, and not necessarily the watch face you want to be always displayed. However, there is a true AOD in workout mode. Again, this is a compromise that I don’t really mind too much but, as with Apple Watch, you will not be able to get the quoted battery life in smartwatch mode if your 3rd party watch face were truly on 100% of the time at your desired brightness.
- There is a delay in going from the ‘screen saver’ to fully restoring the watch face it was hiding. It’s a fraction of a second, it is noticeable, but again, it’s fine for me…just.
- The start button is now bigger and more of an oval shape. It also sticks out less from the watch which is bad if you are wearing gloves. It has a slightly soft but positive pressing action. I’d like this to be different, to stick out more and to be more clicky. But, again, this is fine. I can certainly live with it, and there is none of the nonsense that we have with buttongate on the 945.
- I thought the new titanium bezel would not blend in with the aesthetics of the rest of the watch, but it looks great. The bezel is very, very slightly lower than the glass and I would have hoped that would be the other way around to further add protection to the glass. Only time will tell if this matters. The Gorilla glass is supposed to be harder than the 955, so let’s hope that helps too.
- The charging/data transfer port is still as rubbish as it always was and is unchanged, but now there is at least USB-C on the other end of the cable….sadly I have just about nothing that will fit into! Luckily I have some older Garmin charging cables!
- My VO2max has already gone risen in a few days. Once again highlighting the nonsense that different eras of Garmin watches have different VO2max algorithms. (935 >> 965)
- My overnight HRV averages are notably different from other, non-Garmin devices, which, to be fair, are also notably different from each other. The Elevate HR sensor just isn’t sufficiently accurate for anything other than emergency use, we will see the next generation of Elevate in May/June 2023 on Fenix 7 Pro. More 965 accuracy insights here.
- Garmin sleep stages are as wrong as ever even though sometimes they ‘feel’ right. Then again so are those on every other brand’s tech, although Oura and Eight Sleep seem to be the best of a bad bunch in this regard. Note that how Garmin sleep stages ‘feel’ to you is irrelevant to their accuracy. eg last night Garmin had half the deep sleep that Oura recorded.
- Map Render lag – it takes up to 7 seconds to fully render a new map tile as you pan from one to the next. this probably doesn’t affect you too much when running but it makes more of a difference when cycling quickly across the effective map area. This probably also indicates a big battery drawdown.
- Map labels are tiny (unreadable) on zoomed-out levels. Why are they even shown?
- High-Detail maps seem pointless in rural areas when zoomed in…they often zoom in to nothing but a blank green screen. That’s probably a map problem rather than a watch problem. Perhaps that zoom setting will work better on other types of Garmin maps ie the paid-for ones like Outdoor+
- Other lag – Garmin cleverly disguises the on-screen lag in other parts of the menus by the way the screens are drawn. So that’s OK. However, there are noticeable lags but only the same as found on other recent Garmin watches when it comes to, for example, saving/discarding workouts.
- All told the Forerunner 965 is probably UNDERPOWERED. But only slightly so when compared to Forerunners of the past. That said, Forerunners of the past were often reasonably Ok at launch but performance (speed) deteriorated over time with newer firmware. Will that happen again? (A: probably)
- The 31-hour GPS recording time and 22-hour high-quality GPS recording time look great on paper. I don’t really have an opinion yet on the reality of the battery claims. However, I am CERTAIN that battery life will degrade over time so if you are planning two years’ worth of Ironman training and racing then you might have some nervousness about this watch for your future.
- There’s nothing new on the training feature front. Well, nothing of note other than running dynamics on the wrist and some peripheral Training Load stuff. You’re buying the 965 for the pretty hardware NOT any fancy new feature to make you faster.
- The on-watch CIQ app store is bordering on unusable. My considered long-term take is that “It’s rubbish”. How do you quickly select what you want from a long list especially when that list is only loaded 4 or 5 at a time slowly over my (speedy) WiFi.
- Got thinner wrists? Tough. There’s no smaller version for you (yet).
- Want ECG/EKG? Forget it, the forerunners can’t do that and probably never will. We will see ECG in May/June 2023 on Fenix 7 Pro/Epix 2 Pro
- Want QI/Wireless charging? Nope, it hasn’t got that either. Maybe on the next model.
- Want a Solar option?…nope. That might come though.
- Want an LTE option for Internet connectivity without your phone? Nope. Again this might come on a 965LTE or 765LTE
- Want speakers and a mic? You guessed it…nope. Never.
- 965 Accuracy – it’s mostly good but the oHR is not up to scratch during sport. That’s super important for all the physiology metrics to be correct, and those physiologuy metrics are perhaps one of the main reasons for buying this watch… just saying. Think about it.
Some Noteworthy, Good Points
I won’t highlight the vast list of triathlon awesomeness. I assume you already know roughly what Garmin watches can do ie everything that is triathlon-related. And I literally mean everything.
So these are a list of unusual, positive points which might help you in an upgrade decision from an older Garmin watch
- The watch dimensions have very slightly changed from the 955. They feel like they have changed back to the proportions of old and that feels and looks right to me. ie the 955 didn’t.
- Whilst the watch diameter is essentially unchanged the display size absolutely is SIGNIFICANTLY increased. You have lots more screen real estate from the 1.3″ to 1.4″ increase. This massively improves the aesthetics and massively improves the readability of some of the now larger fonts. Suunto and Polar are miles behind here with their black bezels of doom.
- Display resolution is now 454x454px which is a very significant increase from 260x260px on the 955. Display quality is now like a good smartwatch such as the Apple Watch. Typically, however, Garmin hasn’t delivered the screen imagery to make the most of the new screen resolution.
- At the most zoomed-in level there is now more map detail. The maps are generally good, but less so at the most zoomed-in levels. Whilst I would always caution against the usefulness of a small map of a watch on your handlebars or moving wrist, this map is as good as it can get given the constraint of the small size screen (compared to a bike computer). but this screen is as big as it can get for a watch without becoming aesthetically too large for most people.
- Support Physio TrueUp 2.0 and primary training device designation which syncs your physiology metrics to/from other Garmin devices (if they support it) and allows you to give training from this device priority over others (duplicates).
This looks to be the greatest sports watch of all time, surpassing even the 955. It’s obviously the best triathlon watch. Please note that I’ve done this blog for many years and I’ve been critical of Garmin for the VAST majority of those years so you can take that element of positivity that things have improved with the 965.
Other than cost, there are only two reasons NOT to buy it 1) you need more durability (get a Fenix 7) 2) you need more battery life for Ultra-like events (get an Enduro 2)
The child-like aesthetics of the default watch faces can be easily improved but some of the more naive screen backgrounds can’t easily be changed.
Want to wait? That IS a good idea. The problems with the availability of CIQ data fields/apps will fade as the months pass and CIQ developers accredit their work for the 965.
The price might fall a bit this year but don’t hold your breath.
Price: USA $599, UK £599, EU649 (links to tier 1 retailers in your country)
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