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.

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. You won’t find it on Amazon or any other discount retailer, so you’ll have to pay full retail – $599.99 – directly from Garmin here.

The older Garmin Forerunner 955 now retails for slightly less – $499.99. But you can find some better deals if you hunt around. As of publishing time, it’s just over $450 on Amazon. If you spring for the solar version (which isn’t available for the 965), you’re still looking at $599.99.

The Garmin Forerunner 945 – which is now two generations old – can be found for $400 on Amazon, even though the retail price is still officially $499.99. I also saw the LTE version for a pretty steep discount of $439.

One way or the other, you’re looking at $400+ for one of these watches. At that point, a $50 difference might not mean much – so there’s not a lot of reason to opt for the older 945 over the 955, unless you want the LTE version. But a $150 premium for the Forerunner 965 is significant.

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.

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. If you use the default options and allow the screen to time out, the Garmin 965 is rated for similar battery life as the Garmin 955. But if you keep the screen on all the time, it will drastically cut down the battery life of the watch.

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. Personally, I hate touchscreens on fitness watches. 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.

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.

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.

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.

Bottom Line: Which Running Watch Should You Choose?

At the end of the day, the Forerunner 945 is still a solid running watch. But unless you find a great deal, you might as well spend a few extra bucks for the 955. When the Forerunner 955 was still $600, it made sense to opt for the older watch – but now that may not be the case. If you’re looking to save money, you may want to see if you can just step down to one of the mid-tier Forerunners (265, 255, or 245).

The one reason to stick with a Forerunner 945, though, would be if you were interested in LTE functionality. Garmin tried this out with the 945 – and then they seemed to back off. Although the monthly fee is annoying, the ability to share your activity in real time is a great feature. If you’re interested in the Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE, pick one up here. If this were available on a 955 or 965, it might actually be the tipping point for me. Kind of disappointed that it isn’t.

For most people, then, the choice is between the Garmin Forerunner 955 and 965. Here, I think the real question is whether you want the AMOLED display. The other features for me don’t justify paying an extra $100 to $150 – and the Forerunner 955 has almost all the features available on the 965.

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.

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