Garmin Forerunner 265 vs 255 vs 245: Do You Need the Newest Watch?

In March 2023, Garmin dropped the latest watches in their Forerunner series – the 265 and the 965. This is less than a year after the release of the 255, which begs the question – what’s the difference when you compare the Garmin Forerunner 265 vs 255?

It seemed early for them to release a new model. The 235 was released in 2015. The 245 came out in 2019. It wasn’t until 2022, that the 255 shipped. Each time, several years went by.

This time, it was less than 9 months. As you might expect, the watches are very similar, and there isn’t a lot in the way of new features.

The big difference – the 265 comes with a shiny AMOLED display. Keep reading for the details, and a few other minor changes.

Note: I’m focusing here on the Garmin Forerunner 2XX models. If you’re considering the Forerunner 965, check out this comparison of the Garmin 265 and the 965.

The Short Version

Looking for something more akin to a smartwatch with a shiny new AMOLED display? Go with the Garmin Forerunner 265. It’s the most expensive, but it fits what you’re looking for.

Looking for the latest features and hardware, but prefer the traditional MIP display found on most running watches? Stick with the Garmin Forerunner 255. You can also opt out of the music, if you don’t use it. You’ll save some cash, and it’s just as good as the 265.

Looking to save some money and balance features with cost? Go for a Garmin Forerunner 245, and consider looking at a lightly used watch. It’s missing a few of the features found on the 255/265, and it has the previous generation’s heart rate monitor. But it still gets the job done, and it comes at an entry level price.

Keep reading, and I’ll go into more detail about the difference between the three options.

Garmin Forerunner 245
Garmin Forerunner 255
Garmin Forerunner 265
Garmin Forerunner 245, GPS Running Smartwatch with Advanced Dynamics, Slate Gray
Garmin Forerunner® 255, GPS Running Smartwatch, Advanced Insights, Long-Lasting Battery, Tidal Blue
Garmin Forerunner 265 Running Smartwatch, Colorful AMOLED Display, Training Metrics and Recovery Insights, Black and Powder Gray
$214.99
$349.99
$438.00
Size
42.3mm
41mm (S) / 45.6mm
41.7mm (S) / 46.1mm
Display
240px MIP
218px (S) / 260 px MIP
360px (S) / 416px AMOLED
Battery Life
7 Days
12 (S) / 14 Days
13 (S) / 15 Days
Heart Rate Sensor
3rd Generation
4th Generation
4th Gen
Music
Optional
Optional
GPS
Regular
Multi-Band
Multi-Band w/ SatIQ
Memory
4 GB
4 GB
8 GB
Navigation
Altimeter for Elevation
Running Dynamics
With footpod
Wrist Based
Wrist Based
Morning Report
HRV Status
Training Readiness
Multisport Activities
Yoga Workouts
Garmin Pay
Garmin Forerunner 245
Garmin Forerunner 245, GPS Running Smartwatch with Advanced Dynamics, Slate Gray
$214.99
Size
42.3mm
Display
240px MIP
Battery Life
7 Days
Heart Rate Sensor
3rd Generation
Music
Optional
GPS
Regular
Memory
4 GB
Navigation
Altimeter for Elevation
Running Dynamics
With footpod
Morning Report
HRV Status
Training Readiness
Multisport Activities
Yoga Workouts
Garmin Pay
Garmin Forerunner 255
Garmin Forerunner® 255, GPS Running Smartwatch, Advanced Insights, Long-Lasting Battery, Tidal Blue
$349.99
Size
41mm (S) / 45.6mm
Display
218px (S) / 260 px MIP
Battery Life
12 (S) / 14 Days
Heart Rate Sensor
4th Generation
Music
Optional
GPS
Multi-Band
Memory
4 GB
Navigation
Altimeter for Elevation
Running Dynamics
Wrist Based
Morning Report
HRV Status
Training Readiness
Multisport Activities
Yoga Workouts
Garmin Pay
Garmin Forerunner 265
Garmin Forerunner 265 Running Smartwatch, Colorful AMOLED Display, Training Metrics and Recovery Insights, Black and Powder Gray
$438.00
Size
41.7mm (S) / 46.1mm
Display
360px (S) / 416px AMOLED
Battery Life
13 (S) / 15 Days
Heart Rate Sensor
4th Gen
Music
GPS
Multi-Band w/ SatIQ
Memory
8 GB
Navigation
Altimeter for Elevation
Running Dynamics
Wrist Based
Morning Report
HRV Status
Training Readiness
Multisport Activities
Yoga Workouts
Garmin Pay

What’s the Price Difference?

One obvious difference between the three watches is price. The older watches are cheaper – especially the Garmin Forerunner 245. You can find some good deals there. So you’ll want to weigh the new features against the price difference to see if it’s worth it for you to upgrade.

The Garmin Forerunner 265/265S are the latest edition of Garmin’s mid-tier Forerunner. It retails for $449.99, and you probably won’t find it much cheaper.

The previous model, the Garmin Forerunner 255/255S Music, retails for $399.99. So $50 cheaper than the newer model. Watch to see if it gets discounted in the coming months, though. The Garmin Forerunner 255 also comes in a non-music version for $349.99 – a cheaper option which isn’t available for the 265.

The Garmin Forerunner 245, on the other hand, can be found deeply discounted on Amazon. At the time of publication, the cheapest version is $199.99, but depending on the particular color you want it may go for a bit more.

The 245 is significantly cheaper than the other two watches, now. It’s basically on par, price wise, with the entry level Garmin Forerunner 55. For more on the differences between the entry, mid, and top-tier Forerunners, check out this post.

So as you read below about the differences between the three models, think about whether you’re willing to be $100 to $200 more for the newer watches. For some, it’ll make sense. For others, the Forerunner 245 is more than good enough.

What Features Do You Get With All Three Watches?

It’s important to understand that there are more similarities between the three watches than there are differences.

Whether you go with the older model or the newer one, you’ll get:

  • An effective GPS running watch to track your distance, pace and time
  • A decent optical heart rate monitor to track your effort while running
  • Breadcrumb navigation to help you follow courses and find your way home
  • Garmin Body Battery to understand how stress impacts your recovery
  • Other performance metrics, like performance condition and training load

I started running with a Garmin Forerunner 245 – and neither the Forerunner 255 nor the 265 offered anything that made it worth it for me to upgrade. The calculus is different if you’re buying a watch for the first time, but rest assured that the 245 is a very capable watch.

What’s New With the Garmin Forerunner 265?

The biggest difference with the Garmin 265 is the display. The Forerunner 265 comes with an AMOLED display with a higher resolution (416×416 px) than the Forerunner 255’s MIP display (260×260 px).

The new display is brighter and more like a “real” smartwatch. Fans of the older MIP display tend to worry that the AMOLED will be harder to see in bright daylight, but reviewers tend to suggest this is a non-issue. But the measurable downside to the newer display is its impact on battery life. If you allow the screen to time out and go black, the Garmin 265 is rated for similar battery life as the Garmin 255. But if you use the always on option, it drastically cuts the battery life in smartwatch mode.

The display is also touchscreen. I for one am skeptical. I had a touchscreen Fitbit before my Forerunner 245, and I hated it. However, the 265 does still have physical buttons. So you get the best of both worlds, and having a touch screen for the navigation section does seem like it might be helpful.

Another key upgrade for the Garmin 265 is the inclusion of training readiness. This metric was first introduced last year with the Garmin Forerunner 955, but it wasn’t included on the 255. If you want access to training readiness, but you don’t want to pay extra for the Forerunner 955 or 965, then the 265 may be the way to go.

And finally, the 265 introduces running wrist-based running dynamics statistics. This is now available on the Forerunner 255 as well, but in order to get access to these stats – like ground contact time and vertical oscillation – on a Forerunner 245 you need to use of an external running dynamics pod.

What’s Missing With the Garmin Forerunner 245?

For a more in depth look at how the Garmin Forerunner 245 shapes up, check out this old post comparing the Garmin Forerunner 245 and 255. Besides the screen, the 265 doesn’t bring a whole lot more to the table. So if you would have preferred the 245 to the 255, you’re probably unlikely to splurge on the even more expensive 265.

There are, however, some significant differences between the 245 and the 255 (and thus the 265). So the older, cheaper watch isn’t the right choice for everyone.

The 255/265 both have greater battery life – about two weeks, compared to one week for the Forerunner 245. If you’re a heavy user, that can make a big difference. If you only run a few times a week, that might not matter much.

One significant difference is that the 255 and 265 both feature multi-sports activities. They are essentially triathlon watches, whereas the 245 is strictly a running watch. If you only care about running, this isn’t a huge deal. But if you dabble in the triathlon, the ability to track your runs, swims, and/or bikes together is a great feature.

Another significant difference is that the newer watches feature an actual barometric altimeter. This gives you accurate elevation gain, whereas the Garmin 245 estimates elevation gain based on GPS and map data. This works ok for road running, but it is far inferior when it comes to trail running. If you spend any amount of time on the trails, and you want to know how much vert you’re climbing, it might be worth the upgrade.

There are also some new health and performance metrics on the newer watches. You’ll get access to training readiness, morning report, heart rate variability status, a sleep score, and more. I don’t find all of these features all that useful – although heart rate variability status is the one that I would miss. It’s a useful way to track your recovery in a heavy training block.

Finally, the newer watches feature Garmin Pay. It might seem a bit gimmicky, but I’m sure there are people who find this contactless payment solution useful. The good thing is that more and more places are accepting tap to pay – whereas when these payment methods were first being introduced, it was hit or miss. This would be convenient for stopping at the store while you’re out for a run, but who knows whether you’ll use it frequently enough to justify the upgrade.

Some other differences include multi-band GPS, improved intervals, and some new activity profiles.

Bottom Line: Which Running Watch Is Right For You?

At the end of the day, the Garmin Forerunner 245 is still a solid running watch. Its optical heart rate monitor works pretty well, as does it’s. It doesn’t have all of the advanced metrics on the 255/265, but it has more than the most basic performance metrics.

I’ve been rocking my Garmin Forerunner 245 since June 2020, and I still haven’t felt compelled to upgrade. I’ve thought about it a couple times, but neither the 255 nor the 265 are doing it for me. If I do upgrade, it will probably be to get the premium 955/965 with the more advanced navigation features. If you’re trying to get a decent watch at a bargain price, the 245 is still a good choice.

That being said, there is definitely a case to be made for the 255 and the 265. They bring some features that the 245 is missing. They just come at a premium. If money isn’t an issue, or if you really want one of the key features like training readiness, heart rate variability, or multi-sport activities, then you ought to upgrade. And of course, if you like the new screen, you don’t have much choice – unless you want to splurge on the Garmin Forerunner 965.

The 255 is the obvious choice if you want the updated features, but you don’t care about the newer screen or music capabilities. Now that the 265 doesn’t have a non-music option, you’re essentially paying an extra $50 for a feature you’ll never use.

Once you’ve made your choice, you can either head over to Amazon to purchase the Forerunner 245 or Forerunner 255, or the Forerunner 265.

Considering some other options? Check out these other articles to help you find the Garmin that fits your needs:

Garmin Forerunner 245
Garmin Forerunner 255
Garmin Forerunner 265
Garmin Forerunner 245, GPS Running Smartwatch with Advanced Dynamics, Slate Gray
Garmin Forerunner® 255, GPS Running Smartwatch, Advanced Insights, Long-Lasting Battery, Tidal Blue
Garmin Forerunner 265 Running Smartwatch, Colorful AMOLED Display, Training Metrics and Recovery Insights, Black and Powder Gray
$214.99
$349.99
$438.00
Size
42.3mm
41mm (S) / 45.6mm
41.7mm (S) / 46.1mm
Display
240px MIP
218px (S) / 260 px MIP
360px (S) / 416px AMOLED
Battery Life
7 Days
12 (S) / 14 Days
13 (S) / 15 Days
Heart Rate Sensor
3rd Generation
4th Generation
4th Gen
Music
Optional
Optional
GPS
Regular
Multi-Band
Multi-Band w/ SatIQ
Memory
4 GB
4 GB
8 GB
Navigation
Altimeter for Elevation
Running Dynamics
With footpod
Wrist Based
Wrist Based
Morning Report
HRV Status
Training Readiness
Multisport Activities
Yoga Workouts
Garmin Pay
Garmin Forerunner 245
Garmin Forerunner 245, GPS Running Smartwatch with Advanced Dynamics, Slate Gray
$214.99
Size
42.3mm
Display
240px MIP
Battery Life
7 Days
Heart Rate Sensor
3rd Generation
Music
Optional
GPS
Regular
Memory
4 GB
Navigation
Altimeter for Elevation
Running Dynamics
With footpod
Morning Report
HRV Status
Training Readiness
Multisport Activities
Yoga Workouts
Garmin Pay
Garmin Forerunner 255
Garmin Forerunner® 255, GPS Running Smartwatch, Advanced Insights, Long-Lasting Battery, Tidal Blue
$349.99
Size
41mm (S) / 45.6mm
Display
218px (S) / 260 px MIP
Battery Life
12 (S) / 14 Days
Heart Rate Sensor
4th Generation
Music
Optional
GPS
Multi-Band
Memory
4 GB
Navigation
Altimeter for Elevation
Running Dynamics
Wrist Based
Morning Report
HRV Status
Training Readiness
Multisport Activities
Yoga Workouts
Garmin Pay
Garmin Forerunner 265
Garmin Forerunner 265 Running Smartwatch, Colorful AMOLED Display, Training Metrics and Recovery Insights, Black and Powder Gray
$438.00
Size
41.7mm (S) / 46.1mm
Display
360px (S) / 416px AMOLED
Battery Life
13 (S) / 15 Days
Heart Rate Sensor
4th Gen
Music
GPS
Multi-Band w/ SatIQ
Memory
8 GB
Navigation
Altimeter for Elevation
Running Dynamics
Wrist Based
Morning Report
HRV Status
Training Readiness
Multisport Activities
Yoga Workouts
Garmin Pay

1 thought on “Garmin Forerunner 265 vs 255 vs 245: Do You Need the Newest Watch?”

  1. I wouldn’t say “paying an extra $50 for a feature you’ll never use.”
    I don’t listen to music while trail running or mountain biking, because I believe it’s unsafe to be oblivious to other trail users, (and silly to drown out the sounds of nature) but the music version of the 235 offered wi-fi that non-music didn’t.
    That feature was handy.

    I upgraded to the 945 when I started dabbling in triathlons, but now that the 265 has the multi-sport feature and includes wi-fi by default, may be a reason to go back down to the 2XX series. (I can’t think of any time I’ve used any mapping feature other than to return to a start point)

    Reply

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