Garmin Forerunner 165 Review: Does it Live Up to the Hype? (You Bet!)

Looking for a running watch that tracks your workouts without draining your wallet? The Garmin Forerunner 165 might be your perfect match. We’ll break down this watch’s features, see how it performs, and answer the big question: is it the best budget-friendly GPS smartwatch for runners?

In this post, you’ll find:

  • All the key features of the Forerunner 165, explained in plain English (no fancy tech talk here!)
  • How well it actually tracks your runs
  • Whether it’s worth your hard-earned cash

So, lace up your virtual shoes and get ready to see if the Forerunner 165 is the running buddy you’ve been searching for!

Garmin Forerunner 165 Review: Best Budget GPS Smartwatch

I’m a runner on a budget, and for the longest time, I felt stuck with basic trackers that didn’t quite cut it. Then I came across the Garmin Forerunner 165, and let me tell you, it’s been a game-changer!

This watch isn’t just affordable, it actually packs a punch. It tracks all my runs perfectly, showing distance, pace, and even keeps an eye on my heart rate.

Plus, it has some cool extras like built-in GPS so I never get lost on new trails, and it even estimates my recovery time – super helpful for avoiding overtraining!

Sure, it might not have all the bells and whistles of some high-end watches, but honestly, for what I need, it’s perfect. The battery life is amazing, lasting me days on a single charge, and the display is clear and easy to read, even on sunny runs.

Here’s the thing: if you’re a serious runner who needs every metric imaginable, this might not be the top pick. But for casual runners or those just starting out, the Forerunner 165 is fantastic.

It gives you everything you need to track your progress and stay motivated without breaking the bank.

Overall, I highly recommend the Garmin Forerunner 165! It’s a lifesaver for budget-conscious runners like myself.

Garmin Forerunner 165 Specification

DisplayAMOLED 1.2″ touchscreen (resolution 390×390 pixels)
ProtectionGlass display, plastic case
Positioning SystemMulti-GNSS (not multiband)
AltimeterBarometric altimeter
Heart Rate MonitorGarmin ELEVATE V4 optical HR sensor
Wrist Strap20mm industry standard ones
Contactless PaymentGarmin Pay available (all editions)
Offline Music SupportSpotify/Deezer/Amazon Music/MP3 (Music Edition Only)
PricingNon-music edition: $249; Music edition: $299

Garmin Forerunner 165 Pros and Cons

  • Advanced sleep tracking and insights
  • Up to 11 days battery life in smartwatch mode
  • Pulse Ox blood oxygen monitoring
  • Up to 5 ATM Water resistant Suitable for swimming and showering.
  • Always-on AMOLED display
  • Built-in GPS and Music controls
  • Doesn’t include multi-band GPS
  • Plastic construction 

Garmin Forerunner 165 Features

The Forerunner 165 Series is a powerhouse of cutting-edge features meticulously designed to enhance your health, fitness, and connectivity. Here’s a glimpse of the standout features that make it an exceptional training companion:

Garmin Forerunner 165 review  Best Budget GPS Smartwatch
  1. AMOLED Display: Immerse yourself in a vibrant 1.2-inch display, showcasing training stats and recovery insights and delivering smart notifications with clarity and brilliance.
  2. Race Adaptive Training Plans: Elevate your training with personalized tips, daily suggested workouts, and accurate completion time predictions. The plans are tailored based on race details input into the user-friendly Garmin Connect™ app.
  3. Wrist-Based Running Power and Dynamics: Monitor your running performance directly from your wrist in real time. Track essential metrics like power, cadence, stride length, and ground contact time to refine and optimize your running form.
  4. Training Effect: Gain insights into how your workouts impact your overall fitness. Understand the benefits of training runs and workouts with the comprehensive Training Effect feature.
  5. Courses: Create or discover courses effortlessly using the Garmin Connect app and third-party platforms, then seamlessly sync them directly to your watch for a personalized and varied training experience.
  6. Activity Profiles and Workouts: Choose from more than 25 activity profiles to keep yourself active, including swimming in open water and trail running. Explore new workouts for strength, HIIT, cardio, yoga, and Pilates to keep your routine dynamic and engaging.
  7. Morning Report: Kickstart your day with a customizable report offering an overview of your previous night’s sleep, training outlook, heart rate variability (HRV) status, and current weather conditions.
  8. Pulse Ox: Keep tabs on your blood oxygen saturation levels, whether awake or asleep, adding a valuable health monitoring dimension to your daily routine.
  9. Sleep Monitoring and Sleep Score: Wake up to a personalized Sleep Score, providing insights into different sleep stages and offering suggestions for improved sleep quality.
  10. Nap Detection: Automatically track and log naps to understand their potential benefits and suggested times and durations for optimal results.
  11. Music Storage: Enjoy a personalized soundtrack by downloading songs and playlists from Spotify®, Deezer, or Amazon Music accounts. Listen wirelessly with compatible headphones for an immersive, phone-free audio experience (exclusive to Forerunner 165 Music).
  12. Audio Prompts: Stay guided and informed during workouts with Audio Prompts, providing performance alerts through wireless headphones (available exclusively on Forerunner 165 Music).
  13. Garmin Pay™ Contactless Payments: Experience the convenience of swift transactions at select checkout lines and transit systems through participating providers, making your active lifestyle even more seamless.

Design and Display 

The Forerunner 165 sports a light and bright design reminiscent of its famous predecessor, the Forerunner 235. While the polymer case may lack the premium feel of higher-end models, it offers comfort and unobtrusiveness during workouts. The one-size-fits-all approach might be limiting, but the watch’s aesthetics cater to smaller and larger wrists.

Garmin Forerunner 165  Best Budget GPS Smartwatch

The highlight of the design is undoubtedly the AMOLED display. Garmin’s move away from older MIP screens enhances clarity and user experience. The vibrant display and an improved user interface make navigating the watch’s features a breeze. However, the case’s durability may concern those seeking a versatile look beyond running.

Running Features 

The Forerunner 165 balances the entry-level Forerunner 55 and the more advanced Forerunner 265. While it lacks some features in the latter, it still offers insights into VO2 Max, recovery hours, and customizable race plans.

The inclusion of wrist-based Running Dynamics adds a touch of sophistication, though its utility for beginners may be debatable.

Running Performance 

Regarding performance, the Forerunner 165 impresses with accurate GPS tracking and heart rate monitoring. GPS tracking consistently provides reliable distance data despite a slightly slow lock-on time.

Including Running Dynamics, usually reserved for premium models, adds value, even if its significance for novice runners is still being determined.

Heart rate tracking accuracy is commendable, with the older Elevate sensor performing well during various runs. While the watch tends to underreport slightly compared to a chest strap, its reliability makes it a solid choice for accurate heart rate monitoring.

Health, Sleep, and Smart Features 

The Garmin Forerunner 165 is a versatile fitness tracker packed with features designed to elevate your health and fitness journey. Here’s a closer look at some of its key functionalities:

1. Wrist-Based Heart Rate

Garmin Forerunner 165 review  Best Budget GPS Smartwatch

This feature continuously monitors your heart rate throughout the day and night, providing valuable insights into your exertion level during activities, resting heart rate, and overall cardiovascular health.

It allows you to stay informed about potential health concerns and adjust your workout intensity accordingly. Additionally, monitoring heart rate variability (HRV) can offer further insights into your stress levels and recovery status.

2. Wrist-Based Running Dynamics

For runners, the Forerunner 165 provides detailed metrics like cadence, stride length, ground contact time, and vertical oscillation.

Analyzing these metrics helps you understand your running form, identify areas for improvement, and work towards achieving a more efficient and injury-free running style.

By optimizing your form, you can potentially improve your running performance and endurance.

3. VO2 Max

Garmin Forerunner 165 review  Best Budget GPS Smartwatch

VO2 max, or maximum oxygen uptake, is a key indicator of your cardiovascular fitness. The Forerunner 165 estimates your VO2 max based on your activity data, allowing you to gauge your current fitness level.

Tracking changes in VO2 max over time helps you monitor progress, set realistic goals, and evaluate the effectiveness of your training program.

4. Intensity Minutes

Staying active is crucial for maintaining good health. The Forerunner 165 tracks your moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity minutes, helping you ensure you meet recommended guidelines for physical activity.

This feature motivates you to stay active throughout the day and encourages you to reach your fitness goals.

5. HRV Status

Garmin Forerunner 165 review  Best Budget GPS Smartwatch

Heart rate variability (HRV) refers to the variation in the time between your heartbeats. While a consistent heartbeat might seem ideal, healthy hearts actually exhibit slight variations.

The Forerunner 165 analyzes your HRV to provide insights into your overall health, training stress, and recovery.

Understanding your HRV can help you adjust your training intensity, optimize recovery strategies, and manage stress effectively.

6. Audio Prompts

When paired with your smartphone, the Forerunner 165 can provide real-time audio feedback during your workouts.

This feature keeps you informed about your pace, heart rate, distance, and other relevant metrics without needing to glance at your watch. This allows you to stay focused on your workout and maintain optimal performance.

7. Stress Tracking

Stress is a prevalent factor in modern life, and understanding your stress levels is crucial for overall well-being.

The Forerunner 165 monitors your stress throughout the day, allowing you to identify stressful situations and patterns.

This awareness empowers you to implement stress management techniques and cultivate a healthier lifestyle.

8. Pulse Ox Sensor

The pulse ox sensor measures your blood oxygen saturation, indicating the percentage of oxygen-carrying red blood cells in your bloodstream.

This feature can be particularly useful for individuals with respiratory conditions or those training at high altitudes.

Monitoring blood oxygen levels provides insights into your overall health and can alert you to potential concerns.

9. Cross-Training

The Garmin Connect app offers a vast library of free workout routines, including HIIT, strength training, cardio, yoga, and Pilates.

This diverse selection allows you to incorporate variety into your training regimen, target different muscle groups, and prevent plateaus.

Additionally, you can create custom workouts within the app and send them directly to your watch for seamless access.

10. Health Snapshot

This innovative feature allows you to capture a two-minute snapshot of key health metrics like heart rate, HRV, blood oxygen saturation, respiration rate, and stress level.

The generated report can be shared with your healthcare provider for further evaluation and personalized guidance. This comprehensive overview provides valuable insights into your overall health and well-being.

11. Activity Tracking

Staying motivated and accountable for your fitness goals is essential. The Forerunner 165 tracks your daily steps, calories burned, floors climbed, and distance traveled, providing you with a clear picture of your daily activity level.

This data can be accessed directly from your wrist, allowing you to monitor your progress and stay on track towards achieving your fitness aspirations.

12. Fitness Age

The Forerunner 165 estimates your fitness age based on your activity level, heart rate, and other factors. This metric compares your physiological fitness level to your chronological age.

A lower fitness age indicates that you are fitter than your chronological age, highlighting the positive impact of your lifestyle choices.

By leveraging these comprehensive features, the Garmin Forerunner 165 empowers you to take control of your health and fitness journey. It provides valuable insights, facilitates informed decision-making, and motivates you to achieve your personal wellness goals.

Garmin Forerunner 165 Battery Life 

Garmin’s transition to AMOLED displays raised concerns about battery life, but the Forerunner 165 maintains impressive efficiency.

In our tests, with intensive settings like full brightness and always-on display, the watch still achieved around 7 days, approaching the claimed 11 days in default settings.

The battery drain during runs and music playback remains reasonable, showcasing Garmin’s prowess in optimizing AMOLED efficiency.


The Garmin Forerunner 165 is a compelling choice for beginners and intermediates seeking a feature-packed running watch.

Despite a few drawbacks, such as the separate music edition and slower GPS lock-on, its accurate performance, vibrant display, and commendable battery life make it a strong contender in the sub-$300 category.

For runners prioritizing core functionalities over advanced features, the Forerunner 165 stands out as a comfortable, good-looking, and reliable companion on the road.

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Sunil Bhatt
Sunil Bhatt

Sunil Bhatt: Accomplished IT professional, passionate blogger, and tech enthusiast. Expertise in exploring gadgets, empowering readers with insights and informed decisions. Dedicated to staying at the forefront of technology and inspiring innovation.

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