Garmin Forerunner 255 vs. 265: Which is Better Value?

Side-by-side collage of the FR255S Music and FR265S

The Forerunner 200 series is the go-to model for runners of all abilities. It’s advanced enough that you get some extra performance metrics, but not too complicated that you have features you don’t know what to do with.

While it usually takes Garmin a few years to come out with a new model, they really threw us for a loop by releasing the Forerunner 265 just a year after the Forerunner 255.

In this post, I’ll go over their similarities and differences, and sharing some reasons to choose one over the other.

As context for my review, I’m a distance runner who trains mainly for marathons, but I’ve also dabbled in trail running and triathlons. I’ve used a FR255S Music on and off for the last year, and I tested a loaner FR265S for a few months. I’m a GPS watch nerd and have tested lots of models over the years, and want to help you make a decision (check out the rest of my GPS watch comparisons and follow my Strava to see what I’m currently using/testing).

This post contains affiliate links, meaning that I earn a small commission on any purchases, at no extra cost to you. Your support allows me to keep writing reviews like this one 🙂

Things in Common: Forerunner 255 and 265

Forerunner 255S Music in black and Forerunner 265S in white side by side
Forerunner 255S Music in black and Forerunner 265S in white side by side with the HR monitor showing

Being from the same lineup, the Forerunner 255 and 265 have a lot of similar features. Here’s a quick overview of them so you know what you’re getting into:

Fitness tracking for common activities: You’ll be able to track a wide variety of indoor and outdoor activities, including:

CategoryActivity Profiles
RunningRunning, Treadmill Running, Track Running (indoor + outdoor), Trail Running, Ultra Running, Virtual Running
BikingBiking, Indoor Biking, Mountain Biking, eBiking, Mountain eBiking
SwimmingPool Swimming, Open Water Swimming
MultisportTriathlon, Multisport
OutdoorsWalking, Hiking, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Rowing, Archery
Winter SportsSkiing, Snowboarding, XC Classic Skiing, Ice Skating
GymStrength, HIIT, Cardio, Elliptical Training, Yoga, Pilates, Stair Stepping, Floor Climbing, Indoor Rowing, Mixed Martial Arts
Racquet SportsTennis, Padel, Table Tennis, Platform Tennis, Pickleball, Squash, Raquetball, Badminton
Team SportsBasketball, Volleyball, Field Hockey, Ice Hockey, Football/Soccer, American Football, Lacrosse, Rugby, Ultimate Disc, Cricket, Softball, Baseball

Everyday fitness stats: Steps, floors climbed, heart rate, Pulse Ox, stress, sleep, menstrual cycle.

Training metrics:

  • VO2 max
  • Recovery Time
  • Race Predictor (and how your predicted paces have trended over the last 4 weeks)
  • Training Status (how productive your training is)
  • Training Load (whether your training is a smart amount)
  • Training Effect (how your workouts impact your endurance, speed, and power)
  • HRV status (heart rate variability while you sleep helps you understand your health and recovery)
  • Body Battery (energy levels based on heart rate variability, stress, and activity)

More precise tracking: The new All-Systems mode lets your watch use any of the satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, BeiDou, QZSS) and switch between them based on the quality of their signals. Multi-Band mode is the even more accurate option that allows your watch to get L1 and L5 frequency signals. Both the Forerunner 255 and 265 have had super accurate tracking, even when “just” using All-Systems mode and not the more powerful Multi-Band mode.

Forerunner 255s screen with the GNSS options (GPS only, All Systems, etc.)

Workout features: Interval workouts, PacePro (helps you create and stick to a pacing plan), suggested workouts, breadcrumb navigation, Audio Prompts.

Smartwatch features: Weather, calendar, messages, Garmin Pay (contactless payments), find my phone/watch, Smart Lock (automatically unlock your phone when your watch is in range).

Music functionality: Download tracks to your watch or use Spotify Premium, Amazon Music, Deezer, or iHeartRadio. Available on the FR255 music version only and all versions of the FR265.

Safety features: LiveTrack and Incident Detection, allowing loved ones to track you during your workouts and be alerted if an incident is detected (your watch must be connected to your phone to access these features).

They do have pretty substantial differences though, so let’s get into those now!

Reasons to Choose the Forerunner 255

Data after a run on the Forerunner 255S

The Forerunner 255 is the more “typical” model between the two watches when it comes to the Forerunner 200 series. Of course, since it’s the older model, there are going to be fewer benefits it has over the FR265, but keep in mind that it could still be the better pick for you.

Lower price

The Forerunner 265 retails at $450 and is too new to really be found used. The Forerunner 255 now retails for $350-400 (non-music vs. music version) and can also be found for under $250 used on sites like Swappa.

That’s a huge difference in price for not such a big difference in functionality.

Better battery life for the larger version of the watch

The battery life on the FR265S compared to the 255S is better in smartwatch mode and GPS mode with music, but the FR255S has an extra 2 hours in GPS mode.

Forerunner 255S MusicForerunner 265S
Smartwatch mode12 days15 days
GPS mode26 hours24 hours
GPS mode with music6 hours7 hours

However, when you compare the larger versions of the watches, FR255 actually has better battery life than the FR265. This is because the FR265 has the same battery size as the FR265S but the battery has to power a larger screen.

Forerunner 255 MusicForerunner 265
Smartwatch mode14 days13 days
GPS mode30 hours20 hours
GPS mode with music7 hours7 hours

Screen is always on

Forerunner 255S on my wrist in the direct sunlight
Forerunner 255S music in black lying flat on a white surface

Since the FR265 has an AMOLED display, the default setting is gesture mode, meaning you need to flick your wrist or tap the screen for it to light up. Otherwise, having the screen always on would drain the battery quickly.

On the flip side, the FR255 is a more “typical” sports watch and doesn’t have a touchscreen or AMOLED display, so the display is always on.

Longevity of watch may be better

I’ve noticed that touchscreen watches seem to die more quickly than non-touchscreen watches. While I know people who have had older Forerunners for 5+ years, my Vivoactive 3 Music died in less than 2.5 years.

According to my tech-savvy brother, this difference in longevity may be for a few reasons:

  • Touchscreens are easy to accidentally stimulate so they wake the watch more often than non-touchscreen watches
  • Touch screen watches typically use a type of display that consumes a lot of power, especially if it’s always on
  • There’s also a tiny amount of draw from the capacitive sensor itself being active all the time

Of course, there haven’t been any scientific studies on the longevity of touchscreen vs. non-touchscreen watches (that I know of), but from observation and this reasoning, it seems worth at least mentioning.

Reasons to Choose the Forerunner 265

Forerunner 265S training load

The Forerunner 265 took the Forerunner 200 series to a new level; instead of just building upon classic features, Garmin turned it into more of a typical smartwatch. Here are the reasons you might want to pay the premium to get this model.

AMOLED display and nicer graphics

Forerunner 255S Music and Forerunner 265S side by side to show the difference in displays

The Forerunner 265 turned heads this year because it was among the first Forerunners to have an AMOLED display. This is the kind of display you see on phones and more traditional smartwatches. The colors are super crisp, and on top of that the graphics feel a generation ahead of those on the Forerunner 255.

Just look at the similar style watch faces—you can tell they were based on the same design, but the one on the FR255 feels a lot less eye-catching.

Touchscreen that can be enabled or disabled

Forerunner 265S lying flat

The Forerunner 265 also has an easy-to-use touchscreen. I had no problem with the responsiveness of the screen or accidentally turning it on when I didn’t want to. It was nice to be able to scroll through data screens and historical performance data.

If you don’t want to use the touchscreen at all, you can disable it and use the buttons just like normal.

SatIQ AutoSelect mode for improved tracking accuracy

Tracking options on the Forerunner 265S

If your head hurts trying to figure out the best tracking mode to use (GPS only, All Systems, Multi-Band), then you’ll like that the FR265 has a new mode (SatIQ) that can switch between the different satellite systems depending on your environment. This is the default mode on the watch.

SatIQ keeps your tracking extra accurate without compromising battery life too much, as the watch will use the higher-power GPS mode when needed (tall buildings, dense forests), but then switch back to less battery-intensive modes when you’re out of the woods—literally (sorry, I couldn’t help myself).

The Forerunner 255 is extremely accurate, however, and its default setting is All Systems, which should work well in most environments. You may only benefit from SatIQ if you run in areas with spottier signal.

Training Readiness metric

The Forerunner 265 has a new performance metric called Training Readiness, which takes into account six factors to let you know how ready you are for your workout.

The factors include: Sleep, Recovery Time, HRV Status, Acute Load, Sleep History, Stress History. You have to wear your watch three days continuously to get Training Readiness to appear.

Since I don’t wear my watches 24/7, I never saw this metric, but I can see how it can be useful because of how holistic it is.

The Bottom Line

The Forerunner 255 and 265 are both really capable watches, and it’s hard to go wrong with either.

If you’ve had a Forerunner 245 or older and want something more familiar, I’d recommend the FR255. It’s got plenty of upgrades compared to older models, including open water swimming and more accurate GPS modes (see my FR245 vs. FR255 comparison for more details), but still has the same button interface and similar look.

If you want a watch that feels more like a smartwatch, I’d recommend the FR265. The touchscreen makes using the watch a little easier and more efficient, and the AMOLED display and new graphics are super sleek. On top of that, you get the new Training Readiness metric and GPS AutoSelect mode.

For those who already have the FR255 and are wondering whether to upgrade: I’m not sure it’s worth the extra money. They watches are almost identical in terms of sports features. It really depends on how important the touchscreen and display are to you.

Where to Buy the Forerunner 255 or 265

If this review helped you, it would mean a ton if you purchased through my affiliate links or codes. I also want to encourage you to buy secondhand or from small, local running stores if you can. I don’t get paid if you do that, so if you still want to show your appreciation financially, you’re welcome to buy me a virtual coffee.

Garmin

Forerunner 255
Forerunner 265

Amazon

Forerunner 255
Forerunner 265

Other retailers

Swappa (used electronics)
REI
eBay
PlayBetter


If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments. Also let us know what you decided on and why!

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