The running screen really shines on the Forerunner 265, but I was also a huge fan of the strength screen. You can customize that too, but the default works great for me: It shows your heart rate, a graph of where that falls in your heart rate zones, time elapsed during your set, and reps. Once your first set is done, you press a button to end it, and you’re given the option to edit your number of reps (your watch counts this for you based on your movement, though it’s not always accurate) and fill in the amount of weight you used. In between sets, the time elapsed per set changes to time in your rest period, which I found to be really helpful to make sure I’m taking enough of a breather. After your workout, you can see in the app how many sets and reps you did at which weight for each exercise, making tracking progression really easy.
Accuracy is vital in a running watch, and I found the distance-based GPS to be right on target: I used this watch several times at a popular trail that’s labeled every half mile, and each time I passed these markers, my watch’s distance matched up perfectly. I often run a set loop around my neighborhood, and my final distance never varied more than a hundredth or two of a mile.
I also found its heart rate data to be very accurate, too. In a lot of watches I’ve tried, I’d sometimes notice weird heart rate drops during intervals or short times of harder effort, but my Forerunner 265 never glitched like that.
I’m spoiled by how hardy my Garmin Venu 2 is in regard to keeping a charge, so I expected no less from the Forerunner 265, and it held up: I pretty much only fully charge it twice a week or so, sometimes more if I just plop it onto the charger for a quick boost of juice while I’m getting ready. A 10-minute top-off before a run, for instance, brought me from 42% all the way to 60%. Activity doesn’t sap a whole lot of battery, either. I started a 35-minute indoor bike session at 11%, then after my workout was over, it was just down to 10%. A lot of fitness tracker smartwatches really hemorrhage battery life—so much so that you almost need to charge them daily—so Garmin’s resilience is a welcome break.
Comfort and style
The Garmin Forerunner 265 is a workhorse, and, well, it kind of looks like one. Even though I tried this in the smaller, 42 mm case size, it still has a rugged, functional silhouette—if you’re looking primarily for a dainty, pretty fitness tracker to wear to work or while out running errands, this probably isn’t going to be the best one for you.
As for comfort, though, I really enjoyed this watch. The silicone sports band is not as stiff or hard as some of the others I tried; it’s actually quite stretchy and has a lot of give.
The Forerunner 265 is made to withstand water pressure up to 50 meters—more than enough to track activity for many different kinds of off-land sports. I’m not a swimmer, I can’t comment on how it holds up during those workouts, but I did shower in it daily and wear it while hanging out in both a pool and an ocean where the device was submerged, and it handled it just fine.
Along with tracking activity, the Forerunner also provides a bunch of health metrics—and some really fun extras:
The Forerunner 265 allows you to create running workouts on the app—setting up your warm-up, interval duration and target pace, number of repeats, and cool-down—and sync it seamlessly to your watch. To me, this is a game changer. I recently did a workout with short, one-minute sprints, and before this, I’d have to keep looking down at my watch to keep time, which would break my stride and stress me out. With this feature, my watch started to vibrate five seconds before the period was up, and alerted me via voice (it connects via Bluetooth to earbuds) when my interval was actually done. It also helpfully told me when my pace was lagging outside my target. (On the other hand, if the thought of a literal voice in your ear telling you to hurry up is more anxiety-inducing than motivating, you can skip including pace targets, which I will probably do some times.)