Garmin Forerunner 955 review: the best value for money watch for serious athletes

Garmin Forerunner 955

9.1

Design

8.5/10

Ease of use

9.0/10

Use of information

9.5/10

Value for money

9.5/10

Pros

  • A great device for serious runners and triathletes
  • The addition of new recovery stats is useful
  • The price is right
  • Lots of health & fitness metrics
  • Excellent battery life

Cons

  • Bulky
  • Sleep tracking is not great, doesn't account for naps
  • Native run power needs additional gear to work

In this hands-on review I turn my focus to the Garmin Forerunner 955. Packing almost everything Garmin has an offer, this is a sports tracking powerhouse.

Essential reading: Best fitness trackers and health gadgets

The device was released in early June along with its lower spec brother the Forerunner 255. Packing a familiar design, the 955 brought with it some novel functionality. Most of it has to do with recovery statistics, which are now trickling over to other devices such has Fenix 7 and Epix 2 via firmware updates.

The Forerunner 955 is often considered to be the less premium variant of Fenix 7. And that’s a pretty fair assessment. But how does the latest iteration hold up in real life? Is it as good as its Forerunner predecessors or better?

This is my full review having used the device for more than a month now. To cut a long story short and to save you reading through this 4000 plus word article – I honestly love the watch. It is a superb device that is considerably cheaper than the Fenix 7 and Epix 2 while offering just as much, and more.

Jump to

Design & hardware
Features
The verdict


Garmin Forerunner 955 review: Design & hardware

  • Large 1.3 inch touchscreen looks great, small bezel
  • Retains familiar sporty, lightweight look and feel
  • Standard gamut of Garmin fitness & health tracking sensors
  • Excellent battery life – up to 15 days with typical use

Look and feel

I have owned a high-end Forerunner for some five years now. Having experimented a bit with the Garmin Vivoactive and then the Apple Watch once I tried the 935 I was sold. I’ve held on to the device since 2017, skipping the Forerunner 945 and 945 LTE. In my mind, these watches just didn’t provide enough emprovements to entice me to sell my 935 and upgrade. But this time around it is different.

Garmin Forerunner 955 review

Having read through some of the reviews, my initial fear was that the Forerunner 955 would be too bulky. The 935 is quite thick and although the 955 has slightly smaller dimensions, it adds about 0.5mm of depth. But it turns out my fear was unfounded. I admit, it did seem a bit odd the first few hours but the change in thickness is so fractional you don’t notice it after that.

Additionally, because the display has increased from 1.2 inches to 1.3 inches the device looks more attractive. I didn’t see the point of purchasing the solar variant as I live in the UK. Those in the region will perfectly understand my line of thinking. We simply do not get enough sunshine in this country. It would be a completely pointless purchase. But if you live in a sunny region and spend lots of time outdoors – it might be an option worth considering.

Garmin Forerunner 955 review

Mind you, you still get a bezel around the edges of the display. But it is not nearly as noticeable as the previous iterations. The screen resolution has also been upped slightly, from 240 x 240 pixels to 260 x 260 pixels. This increase is entirely the result of a larger display is its not more high-res in real life.

And that’s pretty much it as far as changes. You get the same general build, the same overall look, the same 5 ATM water-resistance and the same lightweight feel.

If you have small wrists, you may want to think twice before purchasing the 955. I would suggest going for the 945 LTE. It has the same heart rate sensor as the 955 so will in the coming months inherit all the new functionality. That one has a smaller diameter and overall dimensions. Or going for the Forerunner 255.


Sensors, battery life

Under the hood of the 955 you will find the standard gamut of Garmin sensors. The full list is as follows: heart rate (including SpO2), barometric altimeter, accelerometer, compass, gyroscope and thermometer. Of course this is the Elevate 4.0 heart rate sensor, so the last word in Garmin tech.

You also get built-in support for satellite connectivity. So GPS, Glonass and Galileo. But unlike its predecessors, this version has support for multi-frequency or multi-band GNSS. Which makes quite a bit of difference to speed of connection and quality of signal. More about that later.

Beyond that there is on-board storage for up to 2000 songs, an NFC chip for Garmin Pay, along with Bluetooth, ANT+, WiFi connectivity. No surprises there. Pretty much what you would expect from a high-end Garmin watch.

The Forerunner range is known for its awesome battery life and the 955 is no different. You will certainly not be charging it as often as an Apple Watch. Not even close.

Garmin Forerunner 955 review

The 955 can keep going for up to 15 days in smartwatch mode. This falls to 42 hours in GPS mode, 80 hours in UltraTrac mode. Under ideal conditions, the solar option can add an extra 5 days in smartwatch mode, 7 hours in GPS mode and 30 hours in UltraTrac mode.

Some options such as multi-frequency can shrink battery life even more. Garmin is currently testing something called SatIQ. Once available, this will intelligently be able to switch between different GPS modes thus preserving battery life. The functionality is currently in Beta for the Fenix 7 and Epix 2.

All in all, I didn’t find the battery life to be any different between my old 935 and the 955. With a run lasting about half an hour every other day tracked with multi-band GNSS, I can easily get at least 10 days from the device between charges. Top-ups are quite quick. Rest it on the charger for half an hour every few days and you’ll be above 80% most of the time.

Reading through Garmin forums I noticed that some users have noticed a battery drain issue. In my case it wasn’t the case.


Technical specifications recap

Lens material
Corning Gorilla Glass DX (Solar edition has Power Glass)
Bezel material
Fiber-reinforced polymer
Quick Release Bands
Yes (22 mm, Industry standard)
Physical size
46.5 x 46.5 x 14.4 mm
Display type
Transflective MIP – touchscreen
Display size
1.3″ (33mm)
Display resolution
260 x 260 pixels
Weight
52 grams | solar 53 grams
Water-resistance
5 ATM
Sensors
Heart rate (including SpO2), barometric altimeter, accelerometer, compass, gyroscope, thermometer
Satellite connectivity
GPS, Glonass, Galileo (multi-frequency)
Battery life
Smartwatch Mode: Up to 15 days. 42 hours in GPS mode. 80 hours in UltraTrac mode. Solar option – up to 20 days in smartwatch mode, 49 hours in GPS mode and 110 hours in UltraTrac mode.
Music storage
Up to 2000 songs
NFC
Yes
Connectivity
Bluetooth, ANT+, WiFi

Garmin Forerunner 955 review: Features

Fitness and health monitoring

  • Latest generation heart rate sensor
  • All the smarts are there for 24/7 activity tracking
  • Sleep tracking is still a weak point

Buy any Garmin watch these days and you’ll pretty much get the same general activity and health tracking ability. This includes things such as steps, distance, calories, sleep, heart rate, blood oxygen, breathing rate and more. There are no surprises there or offerings that can not be found in other brands’ devices. But all of this works well.

The 955 is no exception. It is stuffed to the brim with features. You will get a lot of graphs and information about your activities and health.

One of the benefits of purchasing the Forerunner 955 is that you get the latest generation Elevate 4.0 heart rate sensor. This insures the data is more accurate. Beyond that the sensors are pretty standard.

You will be perfectly happy with the ability of the 955 to monitor your general activity and health around the clock. Garmin has nailed this years ago and in that sense, the watch is an iterative upgrade.

Limited sleep tracking ability

One negative worth mentioning is Garmin’s sleep tracking. It is the one area where the company lags behind some other brands. You will be fine if you only sleep during the night. But Garmin devices do not track naps. So if you are like me and tend to supplement your, shorter than ideal, nightly rest with an afternoon nap – this will not be registered. There is no fix or hack that you can make to get the watch to register a nap.

I am not sure why the company does not introduce this functionality. It is completely baffling to me. Particularly as now there’s the addition of recovery stats – which depend very much on how much sleep time you’ve put in.

The ecosystem takes some time to get used to

All the health and fitness information is viewable on the device itself, and in more detail in the Garmin Connect app and the web dashboard. The ecosystem takes some getting used to, and lacks a bit in user friendliness. But it time you will familiarise yourself with everything. Garmin has not really changed its app and dashboard for years now.

A few things on my wish-list includes an app that can be installed on tablets, and the ability to view your stats without a live internet connection. The latter is particularly important.

It takes me back to a couple of years ago when the Garmin servers were hacked. Everyone who has had a Garmin watch at the time will remember this. For about a week we were not able to log into our Garmin accounts and view our training stats. My suggestion to people with Garmin devices is to download all their .FIT files and store them locally. Yes, it requires a bit of effort – but better to be safe than sorry.

While the general health and fitness tracking ability is fine, you have probably not purchased the 955 so that it can merely count your steps and track your sleep. There are much cheaper options for that. Where the Garmin Forerunner 955 shines is in its mulit-sports tracking ability. It is a device for those serious about their fitness pursuits.


Sports tracking

  • Dual-band GNSS is more accurate and quicker to connect
  • Recovery stats add a whole new dimension to your training
  • Native run power works well

As mentioned, after 5 years of use, I upgraded from my Forerunner 935 to the 955. Somehow I doubt the 955 will last me the next 5 years. I hope not. It is nothing to do with the quality of the device. My 935 is as good today as it was back in 2017. It is to do with the pace of technological progress. My prediction is that two or three years down the line we will be able to track much more with the device on our wrist. Hopefully, glucose, hydration, lactate and more will make the cut.

For now the 955 is pretty much top of the range. Although it represents a cheaper version of the Fenix 7 which is meant to be the best Garmin has on offer (along with Epix 2), it actually outshines this device on a number of counts.

One of these is the dual-band GNSS. We’ve done a separate piece on the benefits of this. Basically, it allows the device to tap into more than one satellite signal. This ensures the initial connection time is shorter, and that the tracking is more accurate.

I live in central London, so a heavily built-up area. With the 935 it would typically take anywhere between 30-45 seconds to obtain a GPS signal. Sometimes longer. With dual-band GNSS switched on on my 955, the signal is acquired almost instantly. In most cases it takes no more than 10 seconds.

The accuracy of tracking is better, too. My post-run maps do not show me running through buildings any more which gives me much more confidence that the stats are a fair reflection of my performance. Sure it eats into battery life, but I prefer to keep dual-band GNSS on.

I am also more comfortable during exercise to purely rely on the 955 heart rate sensor as the latest generation tech provides more accuracy. Previously, I would almost never head out for a run without a heart rate chest strap. Now its a mix.

Mind you, the sensor on your wrist will still not be as accurate as a chest strap when it comes to high intensity exercise. But for most other things it will perfectly suffice.

As a keen runner, of most interest to me are the run stats. Comparing the 935 and 955, you get the same standard post-run information. The major difference are the recovery stats.


Recovery stats

These include Training Readiness and HRV Status. The stats, along with dual-frequency GNSS and the latest generation heart rate sensor are the major reasons to upgrade if you have one of the older Garmin Forerunners.

At the time of launch the 955 was the only device with Training Readiness. The 255 that was unveiled alongside the device only has HRV Status. Which is the reason I opted for the 955 over the 255. If it wasn’t for that I would have purchased the 255 due to its smaller dimensions.

The recovery functionality has recently started trickling over to a number of watches, including the Fenix 7 and Epix 2. It is very likely the stats will come to the Forerunner 945 LTE, as well, and perhaps a few other Garmin watches via firmware updates.

Training readiness

Training Readiness is something that Garmin is hoping will help it sway some of Whoop and Oura customers. It was the one big gap in training stats that the company has plugged now.

Essentially a score between 0 and 100, it quantifies your readiness to train. To arrive at its calculations Training Readiness combines info on the prior night’s sleep, recovery time from the last activity, HRV status, stress, Acute Load and your sleep history. Think of it as a simple colored gauge that shows in real-time how ready for exercise you are in any given moment.

Garmin Forerunner 955 review

I found that in most cases the metric is a fair representation of my ability to train. What’s more, it teaches you about your body and what things are important when it comes to recovery. Sleep well and you will speed up your recovery. A poor night’s rest session, on the other hand, can really mess up your ability to train.

On the Forerunner 935 all I had to go by was Recovery Time. Now I have multiple figures. You’ll find out that there are instances you can train even if your Recovery Time is not down to zero.

The caveat is that for me, sometimes I need to ignore the figure if I’ve had a short overnight sleep session and a long nap in the afternoon. Because this will throw the training readiness information out of whack. Which is annoying.

My hope is that Garmin will finally introduce a software update that will add nap tracking ability to its watches. Surely it cannot be too difficult to come up with this. Other companies have done it. Years ago.

HRV Status

What about HRV Status? It might seem like overkill to have this and Training Readiness.

In practice I found that both have distinct uses. While Training Readiness is all encompassing, HRV Status focuses only on one aspect – your heart rate variability. This is the irregularity between the time intervals between your heart beats. The higher the figure, the less fatigued you are. Yes, a bit counter-intuitive.

Garmin Forerunner 955 review

Garmin HRV status tracks your values during the night. You get a nightly average, 7 day average and longer term average (that takes about three weeks to establish). Because you get absolute values you can compare your figures with others. Also, HRV Status is useful because you can track how your average values adjust over time.

Of course, you still get info on Body Battery. In my mind it might be time for Garmin to retire that metric given the other information it now spits out.

Morning Report

Morning Report is also something that is new (ish). It has, in fact, been a feature of Garmin Lily for a while now. But the company has taken this to another level.

Each time you wake up you are served up with a bunch of information. This includes the upcoming weather, your sleep quality for the previous night, your Training Readiness score and more. All of this can be tweaked and tailored to your liking.

Some people are fans of the feature and I found it interesting for about a week. But after that I just switched it off, preferring to simply run through the individual widgets.


Native run power

The other important addition is support for native running power. Once again we’ve done a more detailed piece on how this functions so I will not go into too much detail in this review.

To summerize – run power is expressed in Watts. It quantifies how much energy you are expending during a run and how fast you are expending it. Cyclists have been using it for years – it is only in recent times that runners have started using it.

Basically, instead of looking at your heart rate you keep an eye on your run power. The metric takes into account things such as your speed, terrain change, form, fatigue and weather. A quick look at your run power and you’ll know how hard you are pushing. It helps you better tweak your effort so that you don’t run out of gas before the finish line.

In a sense what Garmin has done with native run power is not new functionality. You could do much of this by downloading and installing the Garmin Run Power app. Plus you still need an external accessory such as the Running Dynamics Pod or one of Garmin’s heart rate chest straps such as the HRM Pro.

The novelty is that the feature is now natively built into the entire ecosystem. And you don’t need to download and install anything. Think of it as the next step up. It is a simpler, more seamless solution than going through the hassle of installing the Connect IQ app. 

Apple is introducing run power from the wrist with its next software upgrade, Polar already has this. It is therefore just a matter of time before Garmin does the same.

I actually purchased the Running Dynamics Pod to test out the functionality. The device will only set you back around $50 so is a cheaper option than going for the heart rate chest strap (which also spits out running dynamics data). You’ll also get the benefit of additional stats which quantify your running form. This includes biomechanical measurements such as cadence, stride length, ground contact time and balance, vertical oscillation and vertical ratio.

For run power, you’ll need to set up the appropriate run power fields on your watch and you are good to go. The app also allows you to customise power zones for training.

You can view the metric in real-time on your wrist, or post run in Garmin Connect or the web dashboard. The infos that you can sift through include Average Power for the duration of the recorded run, Maximum Power or your highest power output during a recorded run and Wind Data (if enabled). You can also view your lap average power in your activity laps table and laps chart.


A sports training powerhouse

The Forerunner 955 is a sports training powerhouse. There’s support for an endless list of exercises both in and out of water, along with permance metrics such as Real-time Stamina. You will probably end up using only a small percentage of workout features that are available.

The device also takes on some navigational functionality from the Fenix range. This is head and shoulders above what you get from other brands.

There’s support for offline, full-colour maps in all regions. You can set routes with turn-by-turn directions. That way you can navigate without having to think where to turn next. This functionality is not new but it is good that it has made the Forerunner 955 cut. Create new routes or tap into third-party ones from Strava nad Komoot. You can even input a distance and then let the Forerunner automatically figure out a circular route taking you back to the start/finish line.

And let’s not forget the PacePro and Climpro on-route guidance and navigation, along with the TracBack feature which allows you to retrace your steps back to your start point,. The device definitely lots to offer as far as maps and routes. You will certainly not get lost along the way.

Garmin Forerunner 955 review

Smart functionality

  • A sports watch with some smart functionality
  • Storage for 2,000 songs and Spotify support
  • NFC for Garmin Pay

The Forerunner 955 is a sports watch with some smart functionality. So don’t think of it as a smartwatch akin to the Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy watch. These are meant for entirely different use scenarios.

If you are after an all-round Garmin smartwatch, you are better off going for Venu 2. But even that one will lag very much behind devices from some other brands as far as smart functionality. The Garmin Connect IQ app store pales in comparison to the App Store or Google Play.

Having said that, the Forerunner 955 does come with some smartwatch functionality bits and pieces which will keep the athlete happy. This includes support for all kinds of smartphone notifications, weather information, NFC for Garmin Pay, lots of watch faces and internal storage for up to 2,000 songs.

Do you really need that much space for your tunes? Probably not. But its good to know you can transfer so much music on to your device. This is done via Garmin Express so you cannot download music through Garmin Connect. You can also link up to a Spotify Premium account for offline playback.


Garmin Forerunner review: The verdict

As someone who has upgraded from the Forerunner 935, I couldn’t be more happier with my 955. It is a big step up. The device is stuffed to the brim with health and fitness tracking features.

Would I upgrade if I have the 945? Probably not. And definitely not if I have the 945 LTE as it will get most of the new functionality that comes with the 955.

Is it a perfect sports watch? No. But it is the best Garmin timepiece you can buy today when it comes to functionality and value for money. The company did not increase the price over the previous generation and should be applauded for that.

As a keen runner, the highlight of the 955 for me are the new recovery stats and the dual-band GNSS functionality. Both work well and perform the functions they were designed for. Compared to that, the native run power functionality feels like a bonus rather than a highlight, along with the real-time Stamina metric.

Having said that, the important negative for me is sleep tracking which is not something to write home about. This could easily be fixed if Garmin introduces the ability to monitor naps. The functionality is particularly important now as it feeds into the recovery stats.

Garmin Forerunner 955 review

Garmin Forerunner 955
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Other positives worth mentioning are the functional design, Garmin Pay and awesome battery life. There is also more than enough storage for music.

Buy the Forerunner 955 if you want an all-round multi-sports tracker. Or if you were considering purchasing a Fenix 7 or Epix 2 but do not want to pay an arm and a leg.

The 955 is the real deal! It is the best Forerunner yet, a device for those serious about their fitness. I love every minute of training with the Forerunner 955. It allows me to analyze my performance like never before.

Another option worth considering is the Forerunner 255. For a runner, it offers pretty much everything they need. The only exception is Training Readiness, which is not part of the feature set. But the 255 is smaller in size and cheaper than the 955.

The Forerunner 955 can be picked up on Garmin’s website for $499 in the US and Amazon (check price). There is also a Solar version that runs an extra $100. Those that spend a lot of time outdoors and live in a sunny area may want to consider purchasing that one. If you are in two minds weather a solar watch is right for you, we’ve done a separate piece on this topic.


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