Garmin Forerunner 965 vs 955 vs 945: Should You Upgrade Your Watch?

In spring 2023, Garmin released the newest watches in its Forerunner line – the 965 and the 265. This release comes less than a year after the 955 came out. So you should be wondering – what’s the difference comparing the Garmin Forerunner 965 vs 955?

When I first saw that the 965 would be coming out this March, I was surprised at the early release schedule. The 935 came out in 2017. Two years later, Garmin released in the 945 in 2019, followed in another two years by the LTE version of the 945 in 2021. The 955 came out a year later in 2023.

This time, Garmin only waited 9 months before releasing a new watch. As you might guess, the two watches have a lot of similarities, and there isn’t much in the way of new features.

The real distinguishing factor – the 965 comes with a high resolution AMOLED display. Keep reading for some more detail, and to hear about a couple other minor changes.

Garmin Forerunner 945
Garmin Forerunner 955
Garmin Forerunner 965
Garmin Forerunner 945, Premium GPS Running/Triathlon Smartwatch with Music, Black - 010-02063-00
Garmin 010-02638-10 Forerunner® 955, GPS Running Smartwatch, Tailored to Triathletes, Long-Lasting Battery, Black
Garmin Forerunner® 965 Running Smartwatch, Colorful AMOLED Display, Training Metrics and Recovery Insights, Black and Powder Gray, 010-02809-00
$299.99
$487.00
$569.00
Display
240px MIP
260px MIP
454px AMOLED
LTE Connectivity
Optional
Solar Charging
Optional
Battery (GPS Only)
36 hours
42 hours
31 hours
Optical HR Sensor
3rd Gen (4th Gen on LTE)
4th Generation
4th Generation
HRV Status
Wrist Based Running Dynamics
Morning Report
Nap Detection
Garmin Forerunner 945
Garmin Forerunner 945, Premium GPS Running/Triathlon Smartwatch with Music, Black - 010-02063-00
$299.99
Display
240px MIP
LTE Connectivity
Optional
Solar Charging
Battery (GPS Only)
36 hours
Optical HR Sensor
3rd Gen (4th Gen on LTE)
HRV Status
Wrist Based Running Dynamics
Morning Report
Nap Detection
Garmin Forerunner 955
Garmin 010-02638-10 Forerunner® 955, GPS Running Smartwatch, Tailored to Triathletes, Long-Lasting Battery, Black
$487.00
Display
260px MIP
LTE Connectivity
Solar Charging
Optional
Battery (GPS Only)
42 hours
Optical HR Sensor
4th Generation
HRV Status
Wrist Based Running Dynamics
Morning Report
Nap Detection
Garmin Forerunner 965
Garmin Forerunner® 965 Running Smartwatch, Colorful AMOLED Display, Training Metrics and Recovery Insights, Black and Powder Gray, 010-02809-00
$569.00
Display
454px AMOLED
LTE Connectivity
Solar Charging
Battery (GPS Only)
31 hours
Optical HR Sensor
4th Generation
HRV Status
Wrist Based Running Dynamics
Morning Report
Nap Detection

What’s the Price Difference

If you’re going to compare the various watches, it helps to first think about price. The older watches are cheaper – especially the Garmin Forerunner 945. You can find some good deals out there. So you should definitely weigh whether the limited new features are worth the price difference.

The Garmin Forerunner 965 is the latest version of Garmin’s high end Forerunner. It retails for $599.99. Unlike the other two watches we are looking at, it only has one version.

The older Garmin Forerunner 955 now retails for slightly less – $499.99. It goes on sale occasionally, so you might find it for a little less. If you spring for the solar version (which isn’t available for the 965), you’re looking at a retail price of $599.99 (same as the 965).

The Garmin Forerunner 945 – which is now two generations old – can be found on Amazon for around $400, sometimes less. Officially, the retail price is $499.99. There’s also an LTE version – which retails for $599.99 but is also deeply discounted at this point.

One way or the other, you’re looking at dropping a decent chunk of change for one of these watches. But with the current discounts, a Forerunner 945 is significantly cheaper than the newer watches. So it’s worth giving it a look, if you’re trying to stay within a budget.

If you want the shiny, high res watch face – it may be worth the upgrade. But otherwise, you’re probably better off sticking with one of the older watches. Other than the display, there’s nothing that sets the 965 apart from the 955 – other than the price tag.

How Is the Garmin Forerunner 965 Different?

The key difference with the Garmin Forerunner 965 is that it features a high resolution (454x454px) AMOLED display, while the older Forerunners have a MIP display.

The AMOLED display is brighter, and it seems more like a “real” smartwatch. The MIP display has more of a “sports watch” feel. One concern people raised early on was that the AMOLED display would be harder to see in bright sunlight. I know my old Fitbit had a MOLED display, and I preferred the MIP once I got my Forerunner. But most of the reviewers tend to agree that this isn’t really an issue.

What is a potential issue, though, is the impact the newer display has on battery life. When you’re in smartwatch mode, if you allow the screen to turn off, the Forerunner 965 is rated for longer battery life than its predecessors. But while you’re tracking an activity – which means the screen will be on – it has significantly less battery life than both the Forerunner 955 and the 945.

The Forerunner 965 introduce a titanium bezel – compared to the fiber-reinforced polymer of the older models. It isn’t heavier, but it may feel a bit more solid.

Another difference is that the display is touchscreen. My old Fitbit had one, and it was not convenient during workouts. But, the 965 does still have physical buttons. It’s kind of the best of both worlds, and you might find the touch screen useful for interacting with maps.

I expected to hate the touch screen – but I now have it on my Fenix 7S Pro Solar. It does add some ease of use when you’re navigating different data screens, and it doesn’t get in the way during an activity. The only annoying thing is sometimes flips screens when it gets wet – like when you’re in the shower.

Finally, the Forerunner 965 introduces wrist-based running dynamics stats. On previous Forerunners, you could these stats, but you had to use an external running dynamics pod. If you’re interested in ground contact time and vertical oscillation, you might be interested in the 965. This feature was later ported to the 955 in an upgrade – but it isn’t available on the 945.

What’s Missing With the Older Forerunner 945?

Looking backward, there are a few features lacking on the Garmin 945 that you will find on the Forerunner 955.

The newer watches have a few performance metrics that the 945 doesn’t – training readiness, heart rate variability, and realtime stamina. These were all introduced with the Garmin 955 and continue with the 965.

The newer watches also measure running power without an external running pod – something the 945 can’t do. And the 945 has an older generation of optical heart rate monitor.

Both of the newer watches feature the 4th generation of Garmin’s Elevate optical heart rate sensor – while the 945 has the older 3rd generation. Anecdotally, I’ve heard it responds more quickly to changes in heart rate. It’s a newer piece of hardware, so it’s an upgrade – but it’s not a huge difference.

But otherwise, they are all very similar. They offer full maps functionality, which is a significant difference over the mid-tier Forerunners. They all handle multi-sport tracking for triathletes. And they all have Garmin Pay, another differentiating feature from some of the lower end watches.

Considering the Unique Options

One reason to consider the Garmin Forerunner 945 is because you want LTE Connectivity.

Garmin released an LTE version of the 945 – and it hasn’t released a new watch with LTE connectivity since. This is a feature I would love, so that I could share my progress live during races and long runs. This almost made me pull the trigger to get a 945, but I’m happy with my Fenix.

The downside to the LTE option is that you have to pay a monthly fee to Garmin for the connectivity, and it’s more limited in its use than a traditional LTE connected smartwatch (like a Samsung or Apple watch). Hopefully, they’ll bring this feature back in the future with some improvements.

But at the moment, this is your only option if you want LTE connectivity on your watch.

The other special option is the Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar.

Garmin offers solar charging on a number of their watches – including the Fenix and Instinct lines. I have it on my Fenix 7S Pro Solar, and frankly I’m unimpressed.

This is the kind of feature that sounds good in theory and looks good on paper. But the fine print behind the specs mean that you’ll rarely get the advertised boost in battery life. You can read more about it here.

To the extent that the solar charging is useful, it’s when it’s used on a watch with a larger battery (like the Fenix 7X) or one that puts less strain on the battery (like the Instinct). In these situations, you might be able to get a little extra juice.

But overall, I would not recommend paying an extra $100 or so to get the solar charging on the Forerunner 955. The feature is a gimmick in my opinion, and you won’t see much value from that upgrade.

Bottom Line: Which Running Watch Should You Choose?

At the end of the day, the Forerunner 945 is still a solid running watch. If you find a good deal on it – and I’ve seen them available for under $350 – you should consider it. It’s a little older, but it’s still a very capable, top tier Forerunner.

If you’re looking to save money, you may also want to see if you can just step down to one of the mid-tier Forerunners (265, 255, or 245).

One reason to stick with a Forerunner 945, though, would be if you were interested in LTE functionality. It’s a unique feature only available on the Forerunner 945 at the moment.

If you’re trying to choose between the Garmin Forerunner 955 and 965, the real question is whether you want the AMOLED display. The 955 has pretty much all the features of the 965, so there’s no other reason to pay an extra $100 or so.

The only other consideration between them is battery life. If you track a lot of activities, then you may actually be better served by the Forerunner 955 – which has the best battery life in GPS mode.

If you want the AMOLED screen, splurge on the Garmin Forerunner 965. Otherwise, you might as well save a few bucks and stick with the Garmin Forerunner 955.

Garmin Forerunner 945
Garmin Forerunner 955
Garmin Forerunner 965
Garmin Forerunner 945, Premium GPS Running/Triathlon Smartwatch with Music, Black - 010-02063-00
Garmin 010-02638-10 Forerunner® 955, GPS Running Smartwatch, Tailored to Triathletes, Long-Lasting Battery, Black
Garmin Forerunner® 965 Running Smartwatch, Colorful AMOLED Display, Training Metrics and Recovery Insights, Black and Powder Gray, 010-02809-00
$299.99
$487.00
$569.00
Display
240px MIP
260px MIP
454px AMOLED
LTE Connectivity
Optional
Solar Charging
Optional
Battery (GPS Only)
36 hours
42 hours
31 hours
Optical HR Sensor
3rd Gen (4th Gen on LTE)
4th Generation
4th Generation
HRV Status
Wrist Based Running Dynamics
Morning Report
Nap Detection
Garmin Forerunner 945
Garmin Forerunner 945, Premium GPS Running/Triathlon Smartwatch with Music, Black - 010-02063-00
$299.99
Display
240px MIP
LTE Connectivity
Optional
Solar Charging
Battery (GPS Only)
36 hours
Optical HR Sensor
3rd Gen (4th Gen on LTE)
HRV Status
Wrist Based Running Dynamics
Morning Report
Nap Detection
Garmin Forerunner 955
Garmin 010-02638-10 Forerunner® 955, GPS Running Smartwatch, Tailored to Triathletes, Long-Lasting Battery, Black
$487.00
Display
260px MIP
LTE Connectivity
Solar Charging
Optional
Battery (GPS Only)
42 hours
Optical HR Sensor
4th Generation
HRV Status
Wrist Based Running Dynamics
Morning Report
Nap Detection
Garmin Forerunner 965
Garmin Forerunner® 965 Running Smartwatch, Colorful AMOLED Display, Training Metrics and Recovery Insights, Black and Powder Gray, 010-02809-00
$569.00
Display
454px AMOLED
LTE Connectivity
Solar Charging
Battery (GPS Only)
31 hours
Optical HR Sensor
4th Generation
HRV Status
Wrist Based Running Dynamics
Morning Report
Nap Detection

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