Garmin Forerunner 165 vs 255

Garmin Forerunner 165 vs 255 series: Which runners watch to go for?

When it comes to choosing the perfect running watch, the Garmin Forerunner series offers a compelling range of options. With the recent launch of the Forerunner 165 and established success of the Forerunner 255 series, deciding which model best suits your needs can be a challenge.

Essential readingTop fitness trackers and health gadgets

We’re here to break down the specs. Let’s see how they stack up.

Key takeaways

The Garmin Forerunner 165 is an excellent value smartwatch for casual runners and those new to fitness tracking, offering core tracking features and a vibrant display. The Forerunner 255/255s are ideal for serious athletes, with in-depth training metrics, highly accurate GPS, and support for advanced sports tracking.

View on Garmin; View on Amazon (Forerunner 255).

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Technical specs
Bottom line

Garmin Forerunner 165 vs 255 series: Hardware

Look & feel

Starting with design, the watches share a similar design aesthetic. They feature a classic round watch face for a traditional look, with fiber-reinforced polymer cases and bezels offering durability and lightweight comfort. The Forerunner 165 and 255s are the more compact options, making them well-suited for smaller wrists. The Forerunner 255 provides a slightly larger profile for those who prefer a bolder presence.

The case material for all devices is a fiber-reinforced polymer, offering a balance between durability and lightweight comfort. The Forerunner 165 distinguishes itself with a lens made of chemically strengthened glass, while the Forerunner 255 and 255s elevate durability with Corning Gorilla Glass 3, known for its resistance to scratches and impacts.

Ease of use is consistent across the range, with all models incorporating five physical buttons for intuitive navigation. This offers a tactile experience, particularly useful during activities where a touchscreen might be less responsive. The entire recent crop of Forerunner watches adopts this form-factor.

Display, colour options, water resistance

For screen technology, the Garmin Forerunner 165 stands out with its vibrant AMOLED display. The Forerunner 255 and 255s utilize sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) displays. While not as visually rich as AMOLED, MIP screens excel in outdoor conditions with superior readability in direct sunlight and extended battery life.

These Forerunners are built with outdoor adventures in mind, boasting 5 ATM water resistance that allows them to handle swimming, rain, or even a shower or take a bath without worry.

Of course, you get a variety of colour options to suit different styles. The Forerunner 165 has the widest range of colors, including both subtle and vibrant choices. The Forerunner 255 and 255s have a more limited color palette, but they still provide classic and sleek options to personalize your look.

Sensor technology

Under the hood, the models offer a robust suite of sensors for comprehensive activity tracking. This includes an accelerometer, Garmin’s Elevate V4 optical heart rate monitor, barometric altimeter, compass, Pulse Ox (blood oxygen), and a thermometer. Additionally, an ambient light sensor is included on the Forerunner 165.

When it comes to positioning and navigation, the Forerunner 255 and 255s step up the game with dual-band GPS, GLONASS, and GALILEO support, providing more accurate location tracking across various environments compared to the Forerunner 165’s standard GPS, GLONASS, and GALILEO capabilities. This dual-band technology ensures that athletes can rely on precise data during their outdoor activities, whether they’re running in urban canyons or exploring remote trails.

NFC support across the board enables contactless payments, making it convenient for users to make purchases without needing to carry their wallets during their workouts. This feature underscores Garmin’s commitment to enhancing the usability and practicality of wearable technology in everyday scenarios.

Music storage is another area where the Forerunner 255 and 255s shine, offering storage for up to 500 songs directly on the device, allowing users to enjoy their favorite tunes phone-free during workouts. The Forerunner 165 offers music storage as an optional feature, providing flexibility for users who prioritize music as part of their fitness routine.

Battery life

Overall, both series offer good battery life, so you should be able to find one that meets your needs.

The Garmin Forerunner 165 and 165 Music last up to 11 days in smartwatch mode and up to 19 hours in GPS mode. This means you can track your runs and workouts without having to worry about your watch dying mid-activity. This endurance is particularly notable given the series’ vibrant AMOLED displays, which are known for their energy consumption.

For the Forerunner 255 and 255s, the battery life is also pretty good. They can last up to 14 days in smartwatch mode and 30 hours in GPS mode. The Forerunner 255 Music offers the same battery life as the non-music version in smartwatch mode but, like the Forerunner 165, it drops to 6.5 hours in GPS mode with music playback.

Garmin Forerunner 165 vs 255 series: Technical specs

This should provide a clear, side-by-side comparison of the key features and differences between the Garmin Forerunner 165, Forerunner 255s, and Forerunner 255.

Garmin Forerunner 165
Garmin Forerunner 255
Garmin Forerunner 255s
Release Date
Case Material
Lens: Chemically strengthened glass. Bezel/Case: Fiber-reinforced polymer
Lens: Corning Gorilla Glass 3. Bezel/Case: Fiber-reinforced polymer
Lens: Corning Gorilla Glass 3. Bezel/Case: Fiber-reinforced polymer
Number of Physical Buttons
43 x 43 x 11.6mm
45.6 x 45.6 x 12.9mm
41 x 41 x 12.4mm
Display Type
Sunlight-visible, transflective MIP. Touch-enabled.
Sunlight-visible, transflective MIP. Touch-enabled.
390 x 390 pixels
260 x 260 pixels
218 x 218 pixels
Screen Size
1.2 inch
1.3 inch
1.1 inch
Weight (without strap)
39 grams
49 grams
39 grams
Accelerometer, optical heart rate (Elevate V4), barometric altimeter, compass, Pulse Ox, thermometer, ambient light sensor
Accelerometer, optical heart rate (Elevate V4), barometric altimeter, compass, Pulse Ox, thermometer
Accelerometer, optical heart rate (Elevate V4), barometric altimeter, compass, Pulse Ox, thermometer
Built-in Speaker
Music Storage
Yes (up to 500 songs)
Yes (up to 500 songs)
Bluetooth, ANT+, WiFi for Music version
Bluetooth, ANT+, WiFi
Bluetooth, ANT+, WiFi
Cellular Connectivity
Battery Type
Battery Life
Up to 11 days in smartwatch mode, up to 19 hours with GPS, up to 17 hours with GNSS, with music playback – 7 or 6.5 hours
Smartwatch mode: Up to 14 days; GPS mode: Up to 30 hours; 6.5 hours GPS + music
Smartwatch mode: Up to 12 days; GPS mode: Up to 26 hours; GPS + music – 6.5 hours
Operating System
Non Music version (Mist Grey/Whitestone, Black/Slate Grey), Music version (Black/Slate Grey, Mist Grey/Whitestone, Berry/Lilac, Turquoise/Aqua)
255 (Slate Grey/Black, Dark Blue/Black), 255 Music (Black, Stone white/black)
255s (Light Grey/Black, Dusty Pink/Black), 255s Music (Black, Stone white/black)
Typical RRP
$250 and up
$350 Non-Music version, $400 Music
$350 Non-Music version, $400 Music

Garmin Forerunner 165 vs 255 series: Features

Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or just starting your fitness journey, the Garmin Forerunner series has something for you. At its core, the range focuses on in-depth health and activity tracking. All models track essentials like daily steps, heart rate, sleep, and stress levels, blood oxygen levels and more. Plus, you’ll find insightful tools like HRV Status and Recovery Time across the entire lineup.

The Forerunner 165 is designed to be an entry-level option for runners. It focuses on core metrics rather than the in-depth analysis that can be found on the 255 series. Features that are only available on its more capable sibling include Training Readiness, Training Status, and Training Load. These combine to give you a deeper understanding of your training patterns. The 165 is unlikely to get them via a firmware update.

Another advantage of the Forerunner 255 series lies in its multi-frequency GPS. This ensures pinpoint accuracy in those tricky environments where a regular GPS might falter, making it perfect for city runners or those exploring dense trails. The 255 models also expand the range of supported activities. And serious cyclists and triathletes will appreciate compatibility with power meters for detailed cycling analytics.

Smartwatch-type features

Smartwatch-type features across the Forerunner series blend fitness with convenience. All models offer smartphone notifications, music controls, and Garmin Pay for contactless payments. Safety features like incident detection add peace of mind during outdoor activities.

Runner Garmin Forerunner 255
Image source: Unsplash

Garmin Forerunner 165 vs 255 series: Price

Price-wise, the Garmin Forerunner 165 stands out as the most affordable option. The standard version starts at around $250, while the music version adds about $50 to the cost. The Forerunner 255 and 255s are in a pricier category. For these models, the non-music versions start at $350, with the music-enabled variants costing an additional $50.

It’s worth noting that, since the Forerunner 255 series was released earlier, prices may fluctuate with current sales or promotions. So you could pick up some great deals.

Garmin Forerunner 165 vs 255 series: Final thoughts

The Garmin Forerunner series offers excellent options for runners and other athletes. The Forerunner 165 shines as the budget-friendly choice, packing essential features and a vibrant AMOLED display into a sleek package. If you’re a casual runner or new to fitness tracking, the Forerunner 165 delivers the essentials you need to track workouts, monitor health, and enjoy the convenience of smartwatch features.

The Forerunner 255 and 255s step up the game. The dual-band GPS ensures precise tracking even in challenging environments. The expanded activity profiles, in-depth training stats, and advanced cycling features cater to seasoned runners, triathletes, and those who demand the most from their fitness tracker.

Buy the Forerunner 165 if:

  • You want a great value fitness tracker with a vibrant AMOLED display
  • You’re primarily a casual runner or new to fitness tracking
  • You don’t require in-depth training analysis or niche sport tracking

Buy the Forerunner 255/255s if:

  • You’re a more serious runner who demands the most accurate GPS and detailed workout metrics
  • You participate in a wide variety of sports and activities
  • You want advanced features like Training Status and Training Readiness

View on Garmin; View on Amazon (Forerunner 255).

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Marko Maslakovic

Marko founded Gadgets & Wearables in 2014, having worked for more than 15 years in the City of London’s financial district. Since then, he has led the company’s charge to become a leading information source on health and fitness gadgets and wearables.

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