Garmin Venu 3 vs Forerunner 265: Smartwatch or Sportswatch?

If you’re looking for a mid tier running watch with an AMOLED screen, chances are you’re weighing the Gramin Venu 3 vs Forerunner 265.

Garmin released both watches in 2023, and they are similar in a lot of ways. They retail at the same price point, and they both feature a shiny AMOLED screen that differentiates them from the more common MIP screens found on most running watches.

But there are some key differences between the two watches. The Venu 3 is more of a smartwatch that also does sports tracking, while the Forerunner 265 is more of a running watch that also does smartwatch things.

Which one is right for you? Let me break down the differences and help you make a decision.

Garmin Forerunner 265 vs Venu 3: The Short Version

Here are the biggest things you need to know.

The Garmin Forerunner 265 is primarily a running watch and it is the better choice for serious athletes.

It offers more performance metrics like training readiness and training load to guide your training. It has special activity profiles, like outdoor track, trail running, and multisport tracking (for triathletes). And you’ll also get access to navigation features.

The Garmin Venu 3 is more appropriate for someone that wants a basic running watch that also functions as a smartwatch.

While it lacks some running features, it includes all of the essentials. But unlike Garmin’s other watches, it has both a microphone and a speaker built in. You can take and make phone calls, and you can also use it to activate the voice assistant (Siri / Google) on your phone. Plus the bezel is a little smaller, giving you more screen real estate.

Keep reading for a more detailed comparison – but your choice will likely be based on whether you want to prioritize running features or smartwatch features.

Venu 3
Forerunner 265
Garmin Venu 3 Slate Stainless Steel Bezel 1.4-Inch AMOLED Touchscreen Display Smart Watch with 45mm Black Case and Silicone Band
Garmin Forerunner 265 Running Smartwatch, Colorful AMOLED Display, Training Metrics and Recovery Insights, Whitestone and Tidal Blue
$442.99
$429.95
Display
35.4mm / 454px
32.5mm / 416px
Heart Rate Monitor
5th Gen
4th Gen
Multiband GPS
Calls and Voice to Text
Training Readiness
Outdoor Track and Trail Running Activities
Basic Navigation
Multisport
Golf Features
Venu 3
Garmin Venu 3 Slate Stainless Steel Bezel 1.4-Inch AMOLED Touchscreen Display Smart Watch with 45mm Black Case and Silicone Band
$442.99
Display
35.4mm / 454px
Heart Rate Monitor
5th Gen
Multiband GPS
Calls and Voice to Text
Training Readiness
Outdoor Track and Trail Running Activities
Basic Navigation
Multisport
Golf Features
Forerunner 265
Garmin Forerunner 265 Running Smartwatch, Colorful AMOLED Display, Training Metrics and Recovery Insights, Whitestone and Tidal Blue
$429.95
Display
32.5mm / 416px
Heart Rate Monitor
4th Gen
Multiband GPS
Calls and Voice to Text
Training Readiness
Outdoor Track and Trail Running Activities
Basic Navigation
Multisport
Golf Features

Price Difference: Garmin Venu 3 vs Forerunner 265

Typically, when you’re comparing Garmin watches, it helps to start by comparing the price.

In this case, the two watches retail for the same price: $449.99.

They’re both mid-tier watches, and you’ll pay about the same price either way. If you get lucky, and you find one watch or the other on sale, price may influence your decision.

At the time I’m writing this, you can find a Garmin Forerunner 265 for about $50 bucks off on Amazon (~$400), while the Garmin Venu 3 is still going for basically full retail.

But that’s not guaranteed to always be the case.

Similarities Between the Venu 3 and the Forerunner 265

Before we get into the differences – and there are some important differences – it’s important to emphasize just how similar the two watches are when you compare the Garmin Venu 3 vs Forerunner 265.

Both watches come with Garmin’s new vibrant AMOLED screen, and in each case you have the option of a regular size and a small one. The battery life is similar, although there are some minor differences depending on the size you choose.

Each watch can track the speed and distance of your runs, count your steps, and sync all of your data with Garmin Connect. You can use either watch to execute intervals and complex running workouts. It’ll also track your heart rate and heart rate variability, as well as monitor the quality and quantity of your sleep.

You can also use either watch to listen to music without your phone. When you’re in range of your phone, you’ll receive text messages and other notifications on your wrist. And you can load your credit cards on there for use with Garmin Pay.

For either basic running needs or basic smartwatch needs, they both get the job done.

Advantages of the Garmin Forerunner 265

There are, however, some things that really set the Garmin Forerunner 265 apart.

These are:

  • Multiband GPS
  • Training and Performance Metrics
  • Special Types of Activities (Ourdoor Track, Trail Running, and Multisport)
  • PacePro and Race Planning Tools
  • Breadcrumb Navigation

Multiband GPS

The Forerunner includes multiband GPS. This can be more accurate in certain situations – especially in cities and on trails – than regular GPS.

This is a premium feature that sets higher end running watches apart from the lower end ones. The lack of multiband GPS on the Venu – which is at the same mid-tier price point that would usually have it – is a sign that it’s focus is not purely on running.

Training and Performance Metrics

There are a host of performance and training metrics that you’ll have access to on the Forerunner that you won’t with the Venu.

This includes information about your short and long term training load, which you can use to monitor your training and not do too much. It also includes performance condition, which gives you an idea of whether you’re performing better or worse than your baseline on any given day.

Perhaps the most useful of these metrics is training readiness – which combines a bunch of other metrics to give you a general idea of whether you’re ready for a hard workout or not. The Venu 3 will track some of the underlying metrics for you, but you won’t get the same summary screen or score that you can get with the Forerunner.

Special Activity Profiles

Some of the activity profiles are silly and unnecessary. But there are three that are pretty useful on the Forerunner.

First is the track mode. You can use this when you run around an outdoor track. If you use the regular “Run” profile, you’ll end up with a lot of errors in the GPS tracking. But with track mode, you can get a pretty accurate read down to the meter. I love using this mode when I’m doing a track workout.

Next is trail running. This helps separate your trail runs from your regular runs, so you get a better estimate of your VO2 max. Otherwise, slower trail runs will introduce bad data into the algorithm.

Finally, you’ll be able to track multisport activities that combine running, swimming, and/or biking. If you’re a triathlete, this is essential. This used to be reserved for the higher end Forerunners, but it’s recently moved down to the 2XX line.

PacePro and Race Planning Tools

Forerunners include some useful tools to help you plan out and pace your race.

One of these is PacePro. This lets you get grade adjusted pacing advice throughout a race, which can be really helpful if you’re on a hilly course. You can also plan out a pacing strategy ahead of time – like aiming for a negative split. This requires a little forethought, but the result can be a helpful tool for pacing a race.

You can also input your upcoming race into Garmin Connect, and your Forerunner will give you a specific time prediction based on the weather conditions.

Breadcrumb Navigation

The final difference – which is a big one – is that the Forerunner 265 has breadcrumb navigation. The Venu 3 does not.

This means that the Forerunner will track your route as you run, and you can bring up a map while you’re in the activity. This is super useful if you’re exploring a new route and need to find your way home.

You can also map out a route and send it to your watch. Although you won’t get turn by turn directions, because the Forerunner doesn’t have a full map on it, you’ll get enough guidance to be able to follow the route.

I’ve used this often when I’m traveling and doing a complex route for the first time. It seems a bit silly and useless at first – but I’ve found it to be one of the most useful features on my Garmin.

Advantages of the Garmin Venu 3

On the other hand, there are a couple areas where the Garmin Venu 3 is clearly a better watch.

These include:

  • A newer heart rate sensor
  • Ability to take and receive phone calls
  • Ability to use the voice assistant to send text messages
  • Golf features

5th Generation Heart Rate Sensor

Although the two watches came out months apart, the Forerunner 265 shipped with the older Elevate 4 heart rate sensor – and the Venu 3 was one of the first watches to include the newer, Elevate 5 heart rate sensor.

In either case, it’s a better quality and has a better algorithm than the older Elevate 3. They both work pretty well and are an improvement over older watches.

While there may be some minor improvements in accuracy, the real changes come in the form of a skin temperature sensor and a metal ring for ECG testing.

The skin temperature sensor adds some detail to the sleep tracking information. It allows you to see in Garmin Connect how much your skin temperature deviated from the norm – which adds another datapoint for understanding your overall health.

The ECG testing allows you to see your heart rate in real time and supposedly can detect irregular heart beats. Personally, I haven’t found this to be useful. It’s an interesting gimmick to see the heart rate graph pop up, but it won’t give you a result or tell you anything if your resting heart rate is below 50. For a trained runner, that’s not uncommon.

I don’t think either of these differences are life changing in any way – but if you want the newer sensor you need to go with the Venu 3.

Making Phone Calls

A bigger difference is the ability to actually take and make phone calls with your watch.

If you have a Forerunner, you’ll get a notification when someone is calling. But you can’t talk to them with your phone.

The Venu 3 has a microphone, so you can actually answer the phone and talk right into it. This is more like an Apple Watch or another smartwatch than a typical running watch is. This is potentially a much more useful feature – depending on what you’re looking for in a watch.

Dictating Text Messages and Using the Voice Assistant

The other benefit of having a microphone is that your watch can access your voice assistant – either Google or Siri (or Bixby, if anyone actually uses that).

While you can’t directly reply to a text message notification with text to voice, you can tell Google/Siri to send a text message to a person. You can also potentially tell it to do other things (like turn on a smart light or open a smart garage door).

Again, this is more akin to a smartwatch than a running watch. So it may appeal to that kind of user – and help fill a need that a Forerunner otherwise might not be able to meet.

Garmin Golf Features

The final difference is that the Venu has access to Garmin’s golf features – but the Forerunner 265 does not. In the Forerunner line, you need to upgrade to the 965 to access golf.

This is a niche thing, and if you’re not a golfer this doesn’t matter at all. But if you are a golfer, this can be a really nice addition to your watch. Especially if you’re a casual runner who doesn’t need all of the running features on a Forerunner, this is a great way to get the best of all possible worlds – a smartwatch, with golfing features, and some running features.

Bottom Line: Garmin Forerunner 265 vs Garmin Venu 3

At the end of the day, these are two very similar watches.

If you’re heavy into running and you want all of the running data you can get your hands on, go with the Garmin Forerunner 265. The same is true if you’re into trail running, you may end up using navigation, or you work out on the track.

Basically, the Forerunner is a better runner’s watch.

But if you like the idea of answering the phone or sending text messages directly from your watch, get the Garmin Venu 3. The newer heart rate sensor and the golf features may also sway your decision, but I think the microphone is really the biggest reason to go with the Venu 3.

Basically, the Venu 3 is a better smartwatch.

Which one is right for you? Only you’ll know that.

So think about how you plan on using the watch, and click through to make a decision below.

Venu 3
Venu 3s
Forerunner 265
Forerunner 265S
Garmin Venu 3 Slate Stainless Steel Bezel 1.4-Inch AMOLED Touchscreen Display Smart Watch with 45mm Black Case and Silicone Band
Garmin Venu 3S Slate Stainless Steel Bezel 1.2-Inch AMOLED Touchscreen Display Smart Watch with 41mm Pebble Gray Case and Silicone Band
Garmin Forerunner 265 Running Smartwatch, Colorful AMOLED Display, Training Metrics and Recovery Insights, Whitestone and Tidal Blue
Garmin Forerunner 265S Running Smartwatch, Colorful AMOLED Display, Training Metrics and Recovery Insights, Whitestone and Neo Tropic 42 mm
$442.99
$449.99
$429.95
$399.99
Venu 3
Garmin Venu 3 Slate Stainless Steel Bezel 1.4-Inch AMOLED Touchscreen Display Smart Watch with 45mm Black Case and Silicone Band
$442.99
Venu 3s
Garmin Venu 3S Slate Stainless Steel Bezel 1.2-Inch AMOLED Touchscreen Display Smart Watch with 41mm Pebble Gray Case and Silicone Band
$449.99
Forerunner 265
Garmin Forerunner 265 Running Smartwatch, Colorful AMOLED Display, Training Metrics and Recovery Insights, Whitestone and Tidal Blue
$429.95
Forerunner 265S
Garmin Forerunner 265S Running Smartwatch, Colorful AMOLED Display, Training Metrics and Recovery Insights, Whitestone and Neo Tropic 42 mm
$399.99

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