Two recent contenders vying for the wrists of the dedicated and discerning fitness buffs are the Garmin Forerunner 965 and the Polar Vantage V3. Launched in March and October of 2023 respectively, these timepieces are pushing the limits of what wearable technology can offer to enhance training and performance.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
Both watches arrive with a suite of similar specifications, marrying form and function in a way that appeals to athletes who demand precision without sacrificing style. Therefore they target a similar market segment.
Whether it’s through detailed tracking of physical activity or the provision of insightful data to inform training decisions, the Forerunner 965 and Vantage V3 are more than up to the task. They may be identical in price, but there are differences in what they offer that you should be aware of. Read on to find out what they are.
Polar Vantage V3 vs Garmin Forerunner 965: Hardware
Look and feel
Both the Forerunner 965 and Vantage V3 boast a circular design with a modern aesthetic. This is complemented by five physical buttons for navigation. Such a layout ensures ease of use during intense activities, where touch screen functionality might be compromised by sweat or the elements.
The Forerunner 965 features a fibre-reinforced polymer case with a premium titanium bezel, striking a balance between robustness and elegance. The Vantage V3, on the other hand, opts for an all-aluminum case with an aerospace aluminum bezel This offers a slightly lighter feel without sacrificing durability.
In terms of size, the Forerunner 965 measures 47.1 x 47.1 x 13.2 mm. This closely matches the Vantage V3’s dimensions of 47 x 50.8 x 14.5 mm. The similarity in size ensures that both watches maintain a substantial presence on the wrist without being overly bulky. Which means they suitable for both everyday wear and during workouts.
AMOLED is where it is at. The two devices have been upgraded to this type of display from lower spec options of its predecessors.
The Forerunner 965 sports a slightly larger 1.4-inch diameter screen compared to the Vantage V3’s 1.39-inch. The display resolution is identical at 454 x 454 pixels, ensuring crisp and clear visuals. The always-on screen option on both devices means that key information is just a glance away. This is the case whether you’re in full sunlight or the dim light of dawn.
The Forerunner 965 is available in classic Black and a Whitestone/Powder Gray option. This provides a more traditional look that can easily transition from the track to the boardroom. The Vantage V3 offers a more vibrant palette with Sunrise Apricot, Night Black, and Sky Blue. Those colour options cater to those who prefer a pop of color and a more expressive style.
When it comes to water resistance, the Forerunner 965 is rated at 5 ATM. This suggests it can withstand pressures equivalent to a depth of 50 meters. The Vantage V3 is similarly rated at WR50, which generally means it’s suitable for swimming but not high-impact water sports or diving. So whichever device you choose, it will be ready to handle most water-based activities that a user might encounter.
Under the hood
Under the sleek exteriors of the Garmin Forerunner 965 and Polar Vantage V3 lies a treasure trove of technology designed to cater to the needs of the modern athlete. Both watches pack an impressive array of sensors and connectivity options, though there are some differences worth noting.
The Forerunner 965 is equipped with Gen 4 of Garmin’s Elevate wrist heart rate monitor. This is coupled with a SpO2 monitor, and a suite of navigation and environmental sensors including a barometric altimeter, compass, gyroscope, accelerometer, thermometer, and ambient light sensor.
The Vantage V3, while sharing some sensor capabilities like the accelerometer, heart rate, SpO2 and barometer, steps into advanced health tracking. To this end it packs Polar’s Elixir biosensing, which includes a first-generation ECG sensor, and a skin temperature sensor. These additional health metrics can offer deeper insights into an athlete’s physiological state, potentially giving the Vantage V3 an edge in health monitoring.
Both watches offer Bluetooth connectivity, allowing them to pair with a wide range of devices and sensors. The Forerunner 965 also includes ANT+ and Wi-Fi. The latter can be used to facilitate faster and easier data transfers and enable features like automatic uploading of workout data to Garmin Connect.
In terms of satellite connectivity, again not much of a difference. The Forerunner 965 and Vantage V3 feature dual-frequency GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo support, ensuring accurate tracking of outdoor activities. The Vantage V3 goes a step further by including BeiDou and QZSS, which could offer improved coverage and accuracy, particularly in challenging environments.
The Forerunner 965 boasts 32 GB of onboard storage. This is used not only for data but also for music storage. The Vantage V3 matches the Forerunner in terms of storage capacity but does not support onboard music storage, which means athletes will need to carry their smartphones if they want to listen to music during their activities. The V3 also lacks an NFC chip for contactless payments.
Battery life is important for a sports watch. The Forerunner 965 certainly doesn’t disappoint on this count. With up to 23 days in smartwatch mode, it ensures that even the most active users won’t be left frequently searching for a charger. When it comes to GPS usage, the watch can last an excellent 31 hours in GPS-Only GNSS mode. For those who need the utmost precision there’s the All-Systems GNSS mode plus Multi-Band, which can go up to 19 hours. Even with music playing, which traditionally drains battery quickly, you can expect up to 10.5 hours of GPS-Only GNSS mode, ensuring your soundtrack to the grind won’t cut out mid-session.
The Polar Vantage V3, offers a shorter duration in smartwatch mode at up to 8 days. But it shines in GPS-connected training mode, where it can last up to a remarkable 61 hours with single-frequency GPS (power save) and optical heart rate. With dual-frequency GPS and optical heart rate this falls to a, still excellent, 47 hours. For ultra-endurance athletes, the Vantage V3’s power save training mode extends this even further to 140 hours, making it a powerhouse for those long, uninterrupted stretches of training or racing.
Polar Vantage V3 vs Garmin Forerunner 965: Technical specs
The table below should give you a comprehensive view of how the Vantage V3 compares with the Forerunner 965.
Garmin Forerunner 965
Polar Vantage V3
Corning Gorilla Glass 3 DX
Fibre reinforced polymer case, Titanium bezel
Aluminum case, Aerospace aluminum bezel
47.1 x 47.1 x 13.2 mm
47 x 50.8 x 14.5 mm
1.4 inch diameter
1.39 Inch diameter
454 x 454 pixels
454 x 454 pixels
Always-on display option
Smartwatch mode: Up to 23 days, GPS-Only GNSS mode: Up to 31 hours, All-Systems GNSS mode + Multi-Band: Up to 19 hours
Smartwatch mode: Up to 8 days. Training with single-frequency GPS/HR: Up to 61 hours. Training with dual-frequency GPS/HR: Up to 47 hours. Training time with power save options 140h.
Garmin Elevate™ wrist heart rate monitor, Pulse Ox blood oxygen saturation monitor, Barometric altimeter, Compass, Gyroscope, Accelerometer, Thermometer, Ambient light sensor
Accelerometer, Magnetometer compass, Barometer, Elixir biosensing, GEN 1 ECG, SpO2, Skin Temp
Dual-frequency, GPS, Glonass, Galileo
Dual-frequency, GPS, Glonass, Galileo, BeiDou, QZSS
Bluetooth, ANT+, Wi-Fi
Case colour options
Black, Whitestone/Powder Gray
Sunrise Apricot, Night Black, Sky Blue
Polar Vantage V3 vs Garmin Forerunner 965: features
Health, fitness, sports tracking
Both of these are high quality GPS watches. You won’t go wrong with either brand as far as health, fitness and sports tracking. Garmin and Polar are highly rated companies.
The Forerunner 965 stands as a comprehensive fitness companion. It is equipped with a suite of wellness monitoring tools that cater to an athlete’s complete health and training regimen. The device integrates the Garmin Elevate wrist heart rate monitor (Gen 4) and a Pulse Ox blood oxygen saturation monitor, crucial for tracking heart health and altitude acclimation. The 965’s advanced sleep tracking (now with naps), stress tracking, and Body Battery energy monitoring provide a 360-degree view of the user’s wellness. This is coupled with obscenely detailed performance metrics for multiple sports, such as VO2 max, training load, and recovery time and many many more.
The Polar Vantage V3 is a similar animal with a particular focus on detailed recovery statistics. It doesn’t have the breadth and width of Garmin’s performance metrics, instead zeroing in on advanced health metrics with its cutting-edge Polar Elixir biosensing technology. The inclusion of a ECG sensor offers granular heart rate analysis and can detect signs of atrial fibrillation. The SpO2 sensor monitors blood oxygen levels, and the skin temperature sensor provides insights into overall health and recovery needs. Polar’s Precision Prime technology ensures accurate heart rate monitoring across all exercise intensities, and the V3’s training load and recovery pro features guide athletes in achieving a balanced training schedule to avoid overtraining.
What is new for the V3 is offline storage for maps. In a sense, it is playing catchup to the Garmin ehre. This feature is important for adventurers, allowing for confident navigation in remote areas with track-back and Komoot’s turn-by-turn guidance, enhanced by the Hill Splitter function. Additionally, the V3 introduces a first-for-Polar virtual flashlight feature, providing a beacon of safety for those who venture out after dark.
The Polar Vantage V3 and Garmin Forerunner 965, while featuring smart capabilities, are fundamentally fitness and sports watches. If you’re looking for a smartwatch experience akin to the Apple Watch, with its extensive app ecosystem, communication features, and detailed daily integrations, these watches may fall short. Their functionality is predominantly limited to basic notification support.
Having said that, the Vantage V3 boasts a CPU speed of 275 MHz, providing users with a smooth and responsive experience. This significant upgrade over its predecessor becomes particularly evident when users require swift navigation through menus and features during demanding activities.
The Forerunner 965 has a few tricks up its sleeve as well. It caters to music lovers by integrating music storage, allowing for the storage of up to 1,000 songs directly on the watch. With support for streaming services like Spotify and Deezer, users can enjoy their music phone-free during workouts. The Polar limits users to smartphone music control.
In the realm of on-the-go payments, the Forerunner 965 distinguishes itself with Garmin Pay. The feature allows users to conduct secure transactions without needing their wallet or phone, a convenience that the Vantage V3 does not offer.
Polar Vantage V3 vs Garmin Forerunner 965: The bottom line
The Garmin Forerunner 965 and Polar Vantage V3 are closely matched contenders, both launched in 2023 at the same price point. The Forerunner 965 draws users with its sturdy build and upscale materials, promising longevity and style. Its design is not just about aesthetics but also about functionality, with a fiber-reinforced polymer case and a titanium bezel that offer a sophisticated look without compromising on durability.
On the flip side, the Vantage V3 stands out with its lightweight construction and advanced health tracking features. It goes beyond standard fitness metrics with an ECG sensor for detailed heart rate analysis and a skin temperature sensor. The latter can provide critical insights into an athlete’s recovery and overall health status. These features position the Vantage V3 as a potentially more focused tool for those who prioritize health monitoring as part of their fitness routine.
Garmin enhances the user experience with perks like ample music storage. Additionally, Garmin Pay adds a layer of convenience, enabling contactless payments that are perfect for the athlete on the move. Both models boast high-quality AMOLED displays, with Garmin’s screen being marginally larger. Battery performance is impressive across both devices. The Forerunner 965 leads in smartwatch mode, and the Vantage V3 dominates in GPS mode.
When it comes down to the decision, the Forerunner 965 is a solid choice for those who value a blend of sports tracking capabilities, in-depth performance metrics and smartwatch features for daily use. However, for getting detailed feedback on recovery and health, we would give an edge to the Polar Vantage V3.
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