Garmin Forerunner 265 vs. Venu 2 Plus: Which Should You Pick?

Forerunner 265S and Venu 2 Plus

The Forerunner 265, along with the Forerunner 965, are the first Forerunners to have an AMOLED display. Before, this display was unique to the Venu series.

Now that the Forerunner 265 has the same crisp, bright display as the Venu 2 Plus, you may be wondering which one is best for your needs. 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 loaner FR265S for a month and a loaner Venu 2 Plus for a few months as well. 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).

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: Garmin Venu 2 Plus and Forerunner 265

Forerunner 265S next to the Venu 2 Plus
Heart rate sensors of the FR265S and Venu 2 Plus

Before we dive into the differences between the two watches, here’s a quick overview of their similarities.

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

CategoryActivity Profiles
RunningRunning, Treadmill Running, Indoor Track Running
BikingBiking, Indoor Biking
SwimmingPool Swimming
OutdoorsWalking, Hiking, Skiing, Snowboarding, XC Classic Skiing, Snowshoeing, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Rowing
GymStrength, HIIT, Elliptical Training, Stair Stepping, Cardio, Indoor Rowing, Pilates, Yoga
RacquetTennis, Pickleball, Padel

Everyday fitness stats: Steps, floors climbed, heart rate, Pulse Ox (blood oxygen saturation), stress, sleep, menstrual cycle, VO2 max, Body Battery (energy levels based on heart rate variability, stress, and activity).

Training features: interval workouts, animated on-screen workouts.

Smartwatch features: Both watches have an AMOLED touchscreen. You also have access to weather, calendar, messages, Garmin Pay (contactless payments with your watch), 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.

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 Pick the Forerunner 265

Forerunner 265S lying flat
Heart rate sensor of Forerunner 265S

The Forerunner series has always been more focused on improving your fitness performance. Because of that, the Forerunner 265 is a much more technical watch than the Venu 2 Plus. Here are some of the major reasons to pick the FR265 over the Venu 2 Plus.

More performance metrics

The Forerunner series has always been more training-focused than the lifestyle-oriented Venu lineup.

If you’re going for PRs, you may find it helpful to have the extra performance metrics on the Forerunner 265, including:

  • Recovery Time
  • Race Predictor, including 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)

More training features

You’ll like the Forerunner 265’s PacePro. This feature creates a pacing plan for your races and runs, based on elevation and your goal time. You can adjust the plan based on the kinds of splits you want (positive, even, negative) and your hill strategy (take them easy or hard).

You’re also able to get Audio Prompts for workout stats (like pace and lap number) over Bluetooth headphones. Weirdly, the Venu 2 Plus doesn’t have Audio Prompts even though it actually has a speaker on the watch itself.

The Forerunner 265 is a triathlon watch, as it can track open water swimming and multisport. The Venu 2 Plus only tracks pool swimming. Some other activities that you’ll get on the FR265 but not on the Venu 2 Plus include: Outdoor Track Tunning, Trail Running, Virtual Running, Ultra Running, Mountain Biking, eBiking, and eMountain Biking.

You can also track more racquet sports: Table Tennis, Platform Tennis, Squash, Raquetball, Badminton. And you can track more team sports: Basketball, Volleyball, Field Hockey, Ice Hockey, Football/Soccer, American Football, Lacrosse, Rugby, Ultimate Disc, Cricket, Softball, Baseball.

If you spend a lot of time on the trails, you may prefer the FR265 as it has breadcrumb navigation for saved courses. The Venu 2 Plus doesn’t have breadcrumb navigation, though it does have basic navigation with a compass based on a saved location.

Slightly longer battery life

In terms of battery life, the Forerunner 265 and Venu 2 Plus aren’t that different. The Venu 2 Plus actually has the same battery life in GPS mode compared to the FR265S and slightly longer when compared to the FR265. You do get more battery life in terms of regular use for both versions of the FR265, however.

Venu 2 PlusFR265SFR265
Smartwatch mode9 days15 days13 days
GPS mode24 hours24 hours20 hours
GPS mode with music8 hours7.5 hours7 hours
AutoSelect modeN/A18 hours16 hours
AutoSelect mode with musicN/A7 hours6.5 hours
Counterintuitively, the FR265S lasts longer than the FR265; this is because they have the same size battery, and the screen of the FR265S is smaller and uses less battery. Traditionally, the bigger version of the watch had a larger battery, and lasted longer.

More accurate tracking

The Forerunner 265 has some additional tracking modes in addition to regular GPS mode (All-Systems, Multi-Band, and AutoSelect). This improves the accuracy of your tracking.

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.

AutoSelect mode is the newest mode that picks the best tracking option based on your location/conditions, and it’s the default setting on the watch. I’ve been using this mode, and the path tracked looks super clean and accurate. I’ve been really impressed with the accuracy of the latest Forerunners since the 255 and 955.

Tracking options on the Forerunner 265S

Keep in mind that the Venu 2 Plus is still accurate and the tracking looks pretty clean; the Forerunner 265S just looks impressively good. That said, you may not actually need these extra tracking modes unless you’re doing a lot of training in cities or remote areas with poor signal.

One other perk of the Forerunner 265 is that the GPS acquisition speed was more consistent than that of the Venu 2 Plus. I got signal in under 10 seconds very consistently on the FR265S, and while the Venu 2 Plus matched that speed on good days, it took over half a minute or longer every so often.

Smaller and lighter

If you have small wrists, you may prefer the Forerunner 265S, the smaller version of the watch. At 39g, it’s 24% lighter than the 51g of the Venu 2 Plus. The FR265S watch band is also slightly less wide (18mm vs 20mm), which is more comfortable to wear. It has a slightly smaller display size and resolution, but I still find it perfectly readable.

The regular Forerunner 265 is 4g lighter than the Venu 2 Plus as well, though the display size and resolution are the same. The band of the FR265 is slightly wider, however (22mm vs. 20mm).

Side of the FR265S with the start button saying "run" on it

Ability to disable the touchscreen

Unlike on the Venu 2 Plus, you can disable the touchscreen on the Forerunner 265 for regular use or activities. The Forerunner 265 has traditional five buttons of the Forerunner series, which are easy to use. I also like the cute little detail that the start button says “run” on it.

Reasons to Pick the Venu 2 Plus

Venu 2 Plus in ivory lying flat with a minimal watch face showing the date and time
back of the Venu 2 Plus

The Venu series has always offered the sleeker, more lifestyle-oriented models of the Garmin lineup. While it doesn’t have as many fitness metrics, it may better support your day-to-day life outside of exercising.

More polished look

While the Forerunner 265 looks sleeker than its predecessors—more like a smartwatch and less like a fitness watch—the Venu 2 Plus looks especially polished with its metal bezel and textured watch band. If you want a GPS watch that you can also wear in a more formal office setting, the Venu 2 Plus is definitely a good fit.

Side view of the Venu 2 Plus

Ability to take calls and use voice assistant

As a lifestyle-oriented watch, the Venu 2 Plus lets you take calls from your watch when it’s connected to your phone via Bluetooth. You can also use your phone’s voice assistant through your watch.

I’ve tried the calling function while outside, and the audio quality/volume wasn’t the best, but it worked just fine, and the person calling me said they could hear me perfectly.

Only watch with an ECG app

One feature unique to the Venu 2 Plus is compatibility with Garmin’s ECG app. So far, it’s the only watch compatible with this app. In case you aren’t familiar with it, ECG stands for electrocardiogram and it records the electrical activity of your heart; it lets you know whether you have a normal or abnormal rhythm (known as AFib). Left untreated, AFib can lead to stroke, heart failure, and other problems since it causes improper blood flow to the heart.

This app is FDA-approved and available in the US, Hong Kong, and Vietnam. You can see your history of ECG results and even export them as a PDF to share with your doctor. I tried the ECG app, and it was easy to set up and use. You just need to sit still with your watch on your wrist, keep it flat on a table, and place your thumb and forefinger on your other hand on the metal bezel for 30 seconds.

Of course, this is no substitute for proper cardiac monitoring devices, and you should consult your cardiologist to see if this would be useful for you because most doctors do not recommend routine AFib screening (and certainly not young, healthy runners).  

Garmin ECG app results on the Venu 2 Plus
My ECG results shortly after a run (probably not the best time to test for a resting heart rate haha)

Tracking profiles for golfing, frisbee golf, and climbing

While the Forerunner 265 has more tracking profiles overall, the Venu 2 Plus tracks a few activities that the FR265 doesn’t. These tracking profiles include: Golfing, Disc Golf, Climbing, and Bouldering.

For these, you could use plain old Cardio on the FR265, but you may not get the specific metrics you want for these activities.

Fun goal notifications

One final, small detail is that the Venu 2 Plus has really cute notifications when you hit your daily fitness goals (like steps or flights of stairs). It’ll vibrate, play a sound, and show an animation on your screen. It can be extra motivating if you’re aiming to hit a certain number of steps daily.

While the FR265 has goal alerts as well, they’re not as delightful as those on the Venu 2 Plus. If don’t want these notifications, you can turn them off.

The Bottom Line

While the Forerunner 265 and Venu 2 Plus both have an AMOLED touchscreen and can track common fitness activities, their similarities pretty much end there.

The Forerunner 265 is better-suited for athletes wanting to improve their performance, as it has ample training metrics such as training status, race predictor, recovery time, and more. You’ll also have slightly longer battery life, breadcrumb navigation, and more accurate tracking modes. If you want a watch with a vivid AMOLED screen, but don’t want to use a touchscreen, the FR265 will also suit your needs.

The Venu 2 Plus is a better fit for those who want to wear their watch all day but work in more formal settings, or those who play more social sports. It also can better support your everyday life with its ability to take calls and use your phone’s voice assistant. If you have abnormal heart rhythm, it can also help you stay more in tune with your health.

Where to Buy the Forerunner 265 and Venu 2 Plus

If this review helped you, it would mean a ton if you purchased through my affiliate links. 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

Venu 2 Plus

Forerunner 265

Amazon

Venu 2 Plus

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!

You may also like these posts:

Forerunner 255 vs. 265
Venu 2 Plus vs. Forerunner 955

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