Garmin Forerunner 165 Review: Running GPS Watch with a beautiful AMOLED touchscreen

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Garmin Forerunner 165 Review: Running GPS Watch with a beautiful AMOLED touchscreen

Today, we’re taking a closer look at the latest offering from Garmin, the Garmin Forerunner 165 running watch. Positioned as an affordable option, the Forerunner 165 is sure to catch the eye of those seeking a reliable Garmin watch priced under $300.

After a wait of two years and eight months, Garmin has finally unveiled the updated version of its entry-level sports watch. Packed with a plethora of new features, including an AMOLED screen, multi-GNSS support, recovery monitoring, and an upgraded optical sensor, the Forerunner 165 promises to deliver enhanced performance and functionality for users at an accessible price point.

However, the landscape of entry-level sports watches has evolved since Garmin’s last update, with increased competition in this segment. With this in mind, it’s essential to assess the value proposition of the Forerunner 165 and determine whether it can hold its own against rival offerings.

PlayBetter Garmin Forerunner 165 (Black/Slate Gray) Running GPS Watch...
  • Boost Your Training: Maximize your running potential with the Garmin Forerunner 165 Series' AMOLED display and...
  • Adaptive Workouts, Real Results: Reach your racing goals with the Forerunner 165 Series, offering personalized...
  • Unmatched Battery Life: Stay on the move longer with the Forerunner 165 / 165 Music, boasting up to 11 days in...
  • Smart Connectivity, Safety, and Music Models: Keep connected and safe during your runs with the Forerunner 165 /...
  • Ultimate Runner's Power Bundle: Garmin Forerunner 165 Running Watch, PlayBetter HD Screen Protectors (4-Pack),...

Garmin Forerunner 165, Running Smartwatch, Colorful AMOLED Display,...
  • Easy-to-use running smartwatch with built-in GPS for pace/distance and wrist-based heart rate; brilliant AMOLED...
  • Up to 11 days of battery life in smartwatch mode and up to 19 hours in GPS mode
  • Reach your goals with personalized daily suggested workouts that adapt based on performance and recovery; use...
  • 25+ built-in activity profiles include running, cycling, HIIT, strength and more
  • As soon as you wake up, get your morning report with an overview of your sleep, recovery and training outlook...

Garmin Forerunner 165: Video Review

SpecsGarmin Forerunner 165
Screen1.2 inch AMOLED Touchscreen, 390 x 390 pixels
Case size43 mm
Case thickness11.6 mm
Band sizestandard 20 mm
Weight39g
Storage4GB
Water resistance50 metres (5ATM)
SensorsGNSS (GPS, Glonass, Galileo), compass, thermometer, heart rate, pulse Ox
ConnectivityBluetooth, ANT+ (wifi with music)

Garmin Forerunner 165: Design

The Garmin Forerunner 165 stays true to the familiar design language of its predecessors, embodying the quintessential sporty aesthetic that Garmin’s Forerunner lineup is known for. It maintains the tried-and-tested formula with its plastic construction and the customary five physical buttons located along the edge of the bezel, each labeled for easy navigation—Start/Stop, Back, Down, and so forth.

Garmin Forerunner 165 Review: Running GPS Watch with a beautiful AMOLED touchscreen

With a case size of 43 mm, the Forerunner 165 sits between the Forerunner 55 and the Forerunner 265, offering a balanced compromise in terms of size. Weighing in at a mere 39 grams, it strikes a harmonious balance between lightweight comfort and robust functionality.

Garmin Forerunner 165 Review: Running GPS Watch with a beautiful AMOLED touchscreen

The Forerunner 165 watch has a polymer body and is available in four colors: black, white, purple and turquoise. However, it’s worth noting that the last two additional color options are exclusive to the music variant, albeit at a slightly higher price.

Garmin Forerunner 165 Review: Running GPS Watch with a beautiful AMOLED touchscreen

While the Forerunner 165 may not be tailored for extreme off-road adventures, it boasts a water resistance rating of up to 50 meters, making it suitable for swimming sessions without any concerns. The back of the case houses the optical sensor and Garmin charging ports, although the lack of wireless charging can be seen as a missed opportunity for added convenience.

Garmin Forerunner 165 Review: Running GPS Watch with a beautiful AMOLED touchscreen

The watch features a 20mm silicone strap that effortlessly attaches to the case using the standard quick-release mechanism, ensuring a secure fit during activities. However, individuals with larger wrists may find the smaller size somewhat limiting.

Screen

The Garmin Forerunner 165 offers the same screen technology as your phone. Embracing the trend, the entire Forerunner range now boasts an AMOLED version, elevating the visual experience with vibrant colors and exceptional brightness.

Featuring a 1.2-inch screen with a resolution of 390 x 390 pixels, the Forerunner 165 is a balance between the compact Forerunner 55 and the wider Forerunner 265. This size and resolution combination ensures a crisp and immersive viewing experience.

Garmin Forerunner 165 Review: Running GPS Watch with a beautiful AMOLED touchscreen

One hallmark feature of AMOLED screens is the Always-On Display functionality, and the Forerunner 165 fully embraces this capability. Users can choose from three levels of customization:

  • Always-On Display always disabled
  • Always-On Display only enabled during activities
  • Always-On Display always enabled.

Furthermore, Garmin provides users with a plethora of watch faces to choose from, along with the ability to customize complications and colors to suit individual preferences. This level of personalization adds a touch of personality to the watch, allowing users to tailor their experience to their unique style and needs.

Interface

The Garmin Forerunner 165 maintains consistency with other Garmin models by utilizing a familiar interface, albeit with a subtle update to accommodate its AMOLED screen. Borrowing the slightly refreshed icons from its more advanced counterparts like the Forerunner 265 and 965, the Forerunner 165 ensures optimal utilization of its display technology.

While we won’t delve into a comprehensive overview of the interface, it’s worth reiterating that Garmin’s interface is renowned for its comprehensiveness, albeit requiring a brief adjustment period for new users. However, compared to Garmin’s higher-tier models, the Forerunner 165 offers a slightly streamlined interface, with fewer options and features.

Garmin Forerunner 165 Review: Running GPS Watch with a beautiful AMOLED touchscreen

Navigation within the interface can be accomplished using the five physical buttons or via touch interaction. Daily usage is seamless, with occasional minor slowdowns but overall fluid and dependent performance.

In terms of technical specifications, the Forerunner 165 is equipped with 4 GB of internal storage—double the capacity of its predecessor, the Forerunner 55, which had only 32 MB. While this storage may seem modest compared to higher-end models like the Forerunner 265, it proves more than adequate considering the Forerunner 165’s primary focus on core functionalities rather than advanced features like map loading.

Application

The Garmin Forerunner 165 intersects with a pivotal moment in the evolution of Garmin’s ecosystem, particularly its companion application. The Garmin Connect app has long been synonymous with comprehensive data tracking but has faced criticism for its busy interface. However, with the announcement of a beta version in January 2024, Garmin signals a shift towards a more personalized and user-centric experience, a change that reverberates through the Forerunner 165 experience.

Garmin Forerunner 165 Review: Running GPS Watch with a beautiful AMOLED touchscreen

In terms of ergonomics, Garmin endeavors to infuse a sense of freshness into the interface. Yet, while there’s a discernible effort to rejuvenate the design, the results may not meet the lofty expectations of some users. The interface retains a somewhat raw aesthetic, lacking the polished finesse of competitors’ offerings, which feature smoother lines and elements.

However, where the update truly shines is in its personalized display feature. Upon launching the application, users are prompted to provide insights into their preferences and expectations. Leveraging this information, the app tailors the home screen to align with individual needs and goals.

Garmin Forerunner 165 Review: Running GPS Watch with a beautiful AMOLED touchscreen

The revamped home screen is subdivided into several customizable blocks, offering a holistic view of pertinent information:

  • Today’s activities: Displays recent and upcoming workout sessions.
  • Focus: Provides in-depth insights into selected metrics such as sleep, training load, and overall activity overview.
  • Overview: Offers a snapshot of customizable metrics like heart rate, floors climbed, and VO2 max.
  • Events: Showcases upcoming races and events.
  • Training programs: Features personalized training programs if utilized.
  • Challenges: Presents ongoing challenges and achievements.

Crucially, users have the flexibility to deactivate sections that are not relevant to their needs, fostering a tailored experience.

Garmin Forerunner 165: Health

The Garmin Forerunner 165, positioned as an entry-level offering within Garmin’s extensive lineup, strikes a balance between affordability and essential functionality.

Garmin Forerunner 165 Review: Running GPS Watch with a beautiful AMOLED touchscreen

The Forerunner 165 is equipped with a robust set of features, including:

  • Multi-GNSS chip: Provides reliable tracking of location during outdoor activities.
  • Garmin Elevate Gen 4 heart rate monitor: Offers accurate heart rate tracking for workouts and daily monitoring.
  • Pulse oximeter: Allows users to monitor blood oxygen saturation levels, particularly useful for high-altitude activities.
  • Barometric altimeter: Provides precise altitude data, essential for activities such as hiking and climbing.

In addition to basic step and floor tracking, the Forerunner 165 supports over twenty indoor and outdoor sports profiles, catering to a wide range of fitness activities, from running and cycling to yoga and weight training.

However, there are some limitations worth noting. Some advanced features, such as dedicated winter sports profiles and multisport mode for triathlon, are missing.

Garmin Forerunner 165 Review: Running GPS Watch with a beautiful AMOLED touchscreen

One notable omission is the absence of training load and training status features, which provide insights into workout intensity and recovery. While the watch offers an estimated recovery time feature, it lacks the comprehensive analysis provided by its higher-end counterparts. Similarly, advanced training metrics like PacePro mode and running dynamics are absent.

Nevertheless, the Forerunner 165 still offers valuable features for recovery and performance tracking. It monitors sleep quality and includes heart rate variability status, essential metrics for gauging recovery readiness. The morning report feature summarizes sleep data, HRV trends, upcoming events, and weather forecasts, providing users with valuable insights to start their day.

GPS tracking

The Garmin Forerunner 165, although lacking a multi-band mode, impresses with its commendable precision in GPS tracking. Garmin’s expertise in this area is well-established, and the Forerunner 165’s performance in multi-GNSS mode is more than adequate for both road and trail use, catering to users of all levels of experience.

Garmin Forerunner 165 Review: Running GPS Watch with a beautiful AMOLED touchscreen

Through approximately twenty running sessions, we observed no significant instances of missed routes or inaccuracies, affirming the reliability of the Forerunner 165’s GPS tracking capabilities.

Heart rate tracking

When it comes to heart rate tracking, the Forerunner 165 utilizes Garmin’s Elevate Gen 4 sensor, which is not the most advanced option available from Garmin. While this sensor has performed well in testing with other Garmin models, it has exhibited some shortcomings on the Forerunner 165.

Garmin Forerunner 165 Review: Running GPS Watch with a beautiful AMOLED touchscreen

Heart rate tracking is generally reliable during jogging and cycling sessions. However, some inconsistencies were noted during interval workouts, suggesting room for improvement in this area. Despite expectations for enhanced precision due to the watch’s compact form factor, the Elevate Gen 4 sensor’s performance on the Forerunner 165 fell slightly short of expectations.

Autonomy

Battery life is a crucial consideration for any sports watch, especially one equipped with an AMOLED screen. The Forerunner 165 offers respectable longevity, with Garmin claiming up to 11 days of usage. In real-world scenarios, the watch comfortably lasted 6 days in the most precise GNSS mode with the screen off during the day, and around 11 hours in GPS mode only. Activating the Always-On Display mode reduced battery life to less than 5 days, albeit with extensive outdoor activity.

Garmin Forerunner 165 Review: Running GPS Watch with a beautiful AMOLED touchscreen

The watch’s comfortable battery life is well-suited for regular athletes, offering ample usage between charges. Additionally, the quick recharge time of less than 1 hour and 10 minutes via Garmin’s proprietary charging port ensures minimal downtime between workouts, although the absence of wireless charging remains a drawback.

Call and communication

The Garmin Forerunner 165 surprises users with the inclusion of Garmin Pay, a convenient feature allowing contactless payments directly from the watch, eliminating the need to carry a phone or wallet. This addition enhances the practicality and versatility of the Forerunner 165, particularly for users on the go, provided their bank is compatible with Garmin Pay.

Garmin Forerunner 165 Review: Running GPS Watch with a beautiful AMOLED touchscreen

For music enthusiasts, the Forerunner 165 offers a Music variant, allowing users to store and listen to their favorite tracks directly from the watch. With compatibility for popular streaming services like Spotify, Amazon Music, and Deezer, users can download songs for offline playback, enhancing their workout experience without the need for a smartphone.

In addition to music capabilities, the Forerunner 165 supports notifications and event reminders, ensuring users stay connected and informed throughout their day. While calls can be answered from the watch, users will need to continue the conversation on their phone, highlighting a minor limitation in call handling functionality.

Garmin Forerunner 165: Conclusion

Garmin strategically positioned the Forerunner 165 in its lineup. It offers a compelling balance of features and affordability without sacrificing the cost of its more expensive counterparts.

The Forerunner 165 competes directly with models like the Coros Pace 3 and the Garmin Forerunner 255. While these competitors may offer features like multi-band GNSS and better battery life, they typically feature MIP screens rather than the vibrant AMOLED display found on the Forerunner 165 .

PlayBetter Garmin Forerunner 165 (Black/Slate Gray) Running GPS Watch...
  • Boost Your Training: Maximize your running potential with the Garmin Forerunner 165 Series' AMOLED display and...
  • Adaptive Workouts, Real Results: Reach your racing goals with the Forerunner 165 Series, offering personalized...
  • Unmatched Battery Life: Stay on the move longer with the Forerunner 165 / 165 Music, boasting up to 11 days in...
  • Smart Connectivity, Safety, and Music Models: Keep connected and safe during your runs with the Forerunner 165 /...
  • Ultimate Runner's Power Bundle: Garmin Forerunner 165 Running Watch, PlayBetter HD Screen Protectors (4-Pack),...

Garmin Forerunner 165, Running Smartwatch, Colorful AMOLED Display,...
  • Easy-to-use running smartwatch with built-in GPS for pace/distance and wrist-based heart rate; brilliant AMOLED...
  • Up to 11 days of battery life in smartwatch mode and up to 19 hours in GPS mode
  • Reach your goals with personalized daily suggested workouts that adapt based on performance and recovery; use...
  • 25+ built-in activity profiles include running, cycling, HIIT, strength and more
  • As soon as you wake up, get your morning report with an overview of your sleep, recovery and training outlook...

Overall, for users seeking a sports watch with an AMOLED screen at an attractive price point, the Garmin Forerunner 165 stands out as a compelling option. Its combination of Garmin’s brand reputation, stunning display, and essential features make it a strong contender in its class, offering excellent value for money compared to alternatives like the Amazfit Cheetah, which may sacrifice features for a lower price point.

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