Home Tech Forerunner 165 review: Garmin’s budget OLED running watch

Forerunner 165 review: Garmin’s budget OLED running watch

by Elijah
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Forerunner 165 review: Garmin’s budget OLED running watch

Garmin’s latest smart sports watch condenses all the great features of its high-end Forerunner models into a cheaper, simpler running tracker with a bright OLED display and long battery life.

The Forerunner 165 is the new base model in Garmin’s new range, priced at £250 (€280/$250/AU$429) compared to the Forerunner 265 at £430.

The watch comes in a choice of colors but only one size, with a 1.2-inch screen and 43mm case – in the middle of the small and large sizes of the more expensive 265.

It’s a good size, with a crisp OLED screen large enough to make it easily read at a glance, while still being slim, light and compact on the wrist.

It has the same great touchscreen and five-button combination as recent Garmin watches. It syncs data with an Android or iPhone via the Connect the appvia USB cable to your computer or directly to the Internet via wifi if you buy the more expensive version with offline music playback.

There are many preloaded watch faces, each customizable in color and data, as well as many more available in the Garmin Store. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The battery lasts about five days between charges with the screen on all the time, tracking overnight sleep and a single 40-minute run. That’s shorter than the 265 by a few days, but more than double its traditional smartwatch rivals. Setting the screen to only turn on when you rotate your wrist extends battery life to over 11 days. Runs consume about 6% battery per hour or 14% with Spotify’s offline music, making it more than enough for most people. A full charge via the USB-C cable takes about an hour.


  • Screen: 1.2 inch AMOLED

  • Suitcase size: 43mm

  • Case Thickness: 11.6mm

  • Band size: 20mm standard

  • Weight: 39g

  • Storage: 4GB

  • Water resistance: 50 meters (5ATM)

  • Sensors: GNSS (GPS, Glonass, Galileo), compass, thermometer, heart rate, pulse Ox

  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, ANT+ (wifi with music)

Prowess in sports tracking

The heart rate sensor on the back sits comfortably on your wrist but lacks the ability to take an ECG. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The big difference between the Garmin 165 and higher-end models is the lack of multisport tracking, like automatic transitions between runs, cycles, and swimming for a triathlon. Otherwise, it tracks a total of 24 individual sports, including various forms of cycling, running and swimming, walking and hiking, gymnastics activities, and racket sports. Notable absences are skiing and snowboarding.

For running, it tracks all the usual metrics like time, distance, pace, cadence, laps, but also running dynamics and power, which are rarer but welcome features for runners more enthusiastic. During a workout, you can view up to four measurements on the screen, with a clear, easy-to-read display at a glance. For most racing uses, the 165 performs almost exactly the same as a 265 or the high-end Forerunner 965, which is excellent.

It doesn’t have dual-band or “multi-band” GPS, which means that on paper its location tracking isn’t as accurate as that of higher-end Garmin models when operating in more environments. tricky areas such as cities with many high-rise buildings or dense forests. But in a side-by-side test with a 965 with this feature, both watches achieved GPS lock very quickly and barely deviated from the correct track and pace, which was very impressive.

The watch can alert you when you leave a planned route, but doesn’t have full offline maps to see where you are, which is a feature still reserved for the best Garmin watches.

The Connect app displays the mountains of data connected by the watch, so you can dig deeper into your performance. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The last thing missing from Garmin’s best sports tracker on the 165 is preparation for trainingstatus and load, which are three metrics on the company’s high-end watches useful for measuring the effectiveness of training in achieving goals, such as improved fitness or marathon preparation.

Garmin’s full suite of general health tracking metrics can be found on the 165, including sleep and nap detection, daily calories, steps, stress, and all the other things you would expect to know. a smart watch, including notifications from your phone and contactless payments. The only thing missing is the ability to take an ECG of your heart, which probably doesn’t matter for a sports watch.


The Forerunner 165 is generally repairable, and out-of-warranty exchange and refurbishment are available. The battery is designed to last at least a few years with frequent charging cycles while maintaining at least 80% capacity. The watch does not contain any recycled materials. Garmin guarantees at least two years of security updates from release, but generally supports its devices for much longer. It offers trade-in programs for certain lines and WEEE compliant and other local electronics recycling laws.


The Garmin Forerunner 165 is priced at £249.99 (€279.99/$249.99/AU$429) Or £289.99 (€329.99/$299.99/AU$499) with offline music support.

For comparison, the Forerunner 265 is £429.99the Apple Watch Series 9 is £399the Google Pixel Watch 2 is £349the Coros Pace 3 is £219 and the Polar Pacer Pro is £289.


The Forerunner 165 is an excellent running watch that condenses the best elements of its premium siblings into a simpler, less expensive model.

It has a superb, clear and bright OLED display that’s easy to read mid-ride. It has all the metrics needed to track your pace and performance and has a long enough battery to go the distance for most users. Its compact and lightweight body makes it comfortable even during long training sessions and the key and button combination is best in class.

The only things really missing are offline maps and more advanced training metrics. The lack of more advanced multi-band GPS tracking doesn’t appear to have a significant impact on tracking accuracy, for which Garmin is still the leader.

The biggest problem is the price. At £250 or £290 with offline music, it’s more expensive than most beginner running watches, although in line with OLED-equipped smartwatches from tech rivals and a saving of £180 over the Forerunner 265. Unless you want to track triathlons or need offline maps, the Forerunner 165 is the new Garmin running watch to go for.

Benefits: slim, light, real buttons and crisp OLED touchscreen, accurate GPS and heart rate, comprehensive stats, good health tracking, five-day battery life, offline music option, basic features of the smart watch.

The inconvenients: a bit expensive, no offline maps, no voice assistant, no multi-band GPS, no multi-sport transitions, limited Garmin Pay compatibility with UK banks.

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