Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Fitbit Sense 2

Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Fitbit Sense 2: side-by-side comparison

Choosing the right fitness smartwatch can be tricky – there are so many options! If you’re eyeing up the Garmin Forerunner 165 and the Fitbit Sense 2, you’re in the right place. The Forerunner 165 landed about a week ago, while the Sense 2 has been around longer. Regardless, they’re both aimed at folks who want to stay on top of their fitness and health.

Essential readingTop fitness trackers and health gadgets

Let’s dive in and take a closer look at what sets the Garmin Forerunner 165 and Fitbit Sense 2 apart. We’ll cover everything from their techy bits and design to how much they’ll set you back – all to help you decide if one of these deserves a spot on your wrist.

Key takeaways

The Garmin Forerunner 165 is for dedicated runners who want advanced training features and long battery life. The Fitbit Sense 2 is an intreguing option for those seeking comprehensive health tracking, including detailed stress management and ECG readings. While both smartwatches fall in a similar price range, the Fitbit Sense 2’s added health features necessitate its slightly higher price and may lead to ongoing costs with a Fitbit Premium subscription to unlock the full experience.

View on Garmin; View on Amazon (Fitbit Sense 2).

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Technical specs
Bottom line

Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Fitbit Sense 2: Hardware

Look & feel

In terms of shape, the Garmin Forerunner 165 and Fitbit Sense 2 are quite different. The first opts for a classic round watch face design, offering a familiar and easy-to-read layout. The Fitbit opts for the rectangular form-factor – offering more screen space.

Both smartwatches are constructed with lightweight polycarbonate cases, keeping them comfortable on the wrist even during long workouts. Size-wise, the two devices are quite similar, making the choice come down purely to personal preference in this category.

The Garmin Forerunner 165 and Fitbit Sense 2 rely on a combination of physical buttons and touchscreen functionality. This hybrid approach provides the convenience of quick access via buttons, especially during workouts, while also allowing for more detailed interactions through the touchscreen. The Garmin offers 5 buttons while the Fitbit only has a capacitive button for a more streamlined experience.

Display, colour options, water resistance

Both smartwatches feature bright AMOLED displays, making them easily readable even in bright sunlight. The Fitbit Sense 2 might have a slight edge in terms of display quality due to its history of vibrant screen technology. But there really isn’t much difference there.

When it comes to water resistance, both the Garmin Forerunner 165 and Fitbit Sense 2 offer a 5 ATM rating. This means they can withstand submersion in water up to 50 meters, making them suitable for swimming, showering, and most water-based activities.

Finally, both brands offer some personalization with color options. The Garmin Forerunner 165 provides a selection of fun and vibrant colors, while the Fitbit Sense 2 leans towards a more sophisticated and neutral palette. The choice is truly subjective in this case, determined more by individual style preferences.

Sensor technology

Under the hood, the Garmin Forerunner 165 and the Fitbit Sense 2 share a core set of sensors that are essential for fitness tracking. This includes an accelerometer to measure your steps and movement throughout the day, an optical heart rate sensor to monitor your heart rate during both rest and exercise, and an altimeter to track elevation changes, useful for activities like hiking or stair climbing. Plus they have a Pulse Ox sensor for monitoring blood oxygen saturation levels.

Building on those commonalities, the Forerunner 165 boasts a compass for navigation, and thermometer sensors, enhancing its utility for outdoor and adventure activities. In contrast, the Sense 2 introduces multipurpose electrical sensors compatible with ECG and EDA Scan apps, focusing on advanced health monitoring by allowing users to conduct on-the-spot assessments of their heart rhythm for atrial fibrillation and stress levels through skin conductance. And it has a skin temperature sensor.

Transitioning to GPS and other connectivity features, both devices support GPS and GLONASS, ensuring accurate location tracking during outdoor activities. This commonality underscores their capability to serve users who engage in running, cycling, and other outdoor exercises by providing precise speed, distance, and route data. However, the Forerunner 165 extends its connectivity options with GALILEO support, offering even greater accuracy and reliability.

In terms of additional connectivity and features, the Forerunner 165 and Sense 2 both offer NFC for contactless payments, a convenient feature for users on the go. The Forerunner 165, however, distinguishes itself with optional music storage in its music version, allowing for phone-free listening, and includes both Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity, facilitating a wider range of connections with external devices and sensors.

Battery life

Moving quickly on – and the duo offers decent battery life, but the Garmin Forerunner 165 takes the lead. It boasts a battery life of up to 11 days in smartwatch mode. When utilizing GPS, the device can run up to 19 hours, and up to 17 hours with GNSS, making it suitable for long runs, hikes, or any outdoor activities. For those who enjoy music on the go, the Forerunner 165 offers 7 or 6.5 hours of playback time, depending on usage, which is a considerable amount for a sports-focused smartwatch.

Fitbit Sense 2, on the other hand, offers a battery life of up to 6 days. While this is still respectable, it falls short of the Forerunner 165’s endurance. However, it’s important to note that Fitbit Sense 2 offers a wider range of health and fitness features compared to the Forerunner 165, which may contribute to the difference in battery life.

Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Fitbit Sense 2: Technical specs

Here’s a detailed tech specs comparison table for the Garmin Forerunner 165 and the Fitbit Sense 2:

Garmin Forerunner 165
Fitbit Sense 2
Release Date
Case Material
Lens: Chemically strengthened glass. Bezel and case: fiber-reinforced polymer
Classic band: Flexible, durable material similar to sports watches, aluminium case and buckle. Woven band: Polyester, aluminium case and buckle.
Number of Physical Buttons
43 x 43 x 11.6 mm
40.5 x 40.5 x 11.2 mm
Display Type
390 x 390 pixels
336 x 336 pixels
Screen Size
1.2 inch
1.58 inches
Weight (without strap)
39 grams
40 grams
Accelerometer, optical heart rate (Elevate V4), barometric altimeter, compass, Pulse Ox, thermometer, ambient light sensor
3-axis accelerometer, Optical heart rate monitor, Pulse Ox, Multipurpose electrical sensors compatible with ECG app & EDA Scan app, altimeter, Ambient light sensor
Built-in Speaker
Music Storage
Bluetooth, ANT+, WiFi for Music version
Bluetooth, Wi-Fi antenna (802.11 b/g/n)
Cellular Connectivity
Battery Type
Battery Life
Smartwatch mode: up to 11 days, GPS: up to 19 hours, GNSS: up to 17 hours, Music playback: 7 or 6.5 hours
Up to 6 days
Operating System
Garmin OS
Non Music version: Mist Grey/Whitestone, Black/Slate Grey. Music version: Black/Slate Grey, Mist Grey/Whitestone, Berry/Lilac, Turquoise/Aqua
Carbon/Graphite Stainless Steel, Lunar White/Soft Gold Stainless Steel
Typical RRP
$250 and up

Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Fitbit Sense 2: Features

The Garmin Forerunner 165 and Fitbit Sense 2 both offer a range of features to help you track your health and fitness progress. Both provide the basics like step counting, calorie tracking, sleep monitoring, and continuous heart rate monitoring. Additionally, you’ll find workout tracking for various activities, including running, cycling, swimming, and more, on both devices.

Where they differ is in their focus. The Forerunner 165 leans heavily towards its running heritage. Garmin markets it as its entry-level running watch. The timepiece provides features like suggested workouts, detailed running metrics, and even training plans to guide you toward specific goals. The Fitbit Sense 2, on the other hand, takes a more holistic health approach. It includes stress tracking with its EDA sensor, skin temperature monitoring for potential illness detection, and the ability to run an on-the-spot ECG for detecting irregular heart rhythms.

Sports-specific functionality

The Garmin Forerunner 165 caters to runners by offering advanced running dynamics and pace guidance during workouts. It even analyzes your running history to suggest an appropriate race pace for different distances. For broader training, Garmin includes support for creating custom workouts and uploading pre-designed training plans to maximize your results.

The Fitbit Sense 2 provides a diverse library of workout modes, but it lacks the in-depth running analysis of the Garmin. It does integrate with Fitbit Premium, offering guided workout programs and a deeper analysis of your health metrics over time.

Smartwatch-type features

Beyond fitness tracking, both the Garmin Forerunner 165 and Fitbit Sense 2 function as capable smartwatches. You’ll receive smartphone notifications, be able to control music playback, and use them for contactless payments thanks to their built-in NFC. The Forerunner 165 (in its music version) has the added perk of onboard music storage. There is no music controls on Sense 2 at all, so in that respect it is a downgrade from its predecessor.

Fitbit Sense 3 expectations

Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Fitbit Sense 2: Price

Price-wise, the Garmin Forerunner 165 and Fitbit Sense 2 land in a similar ballpark. The Garmin Forerunner 165 starts at a slightly lower price point than the Fitbit Sense 2. This could be an appealing factor for budget-conscious users looking for a solid running smartwatch experience.

However, the Fitbit Sense 2’s slightly higher price can be justified by its expanded suite of health-focused sensors, such as the EDA sensor for stress tracking. If those additional health and wellness features are important to you, the Sense 2 might be worth the slight price premium.

The Fitbit also offers the option of a Fitbit Premium subscription. This subscription unlocks deeper health insights, guided workouts, personalized content, and additional wellness features. However, even without Premium, the Sense 2 provides robust health and fitness tracking capabilities, making it a valuable standalone smartwatch.

Garmin Forerunner 165 vs Fitbit Sense 2: Final thoughts

Buy the Garmin Forerunner 165 if you’re a runner at heart, seeking advanced training tools and analytics to take your performance to the next level. Its long battery life and optional music storage are added benefits for those who love logging miles outdoors.

However, if you’re looking for a smartwatch with a strong emphasis on overall health and wellness tracking, the Fitbit Sense 2 shines. Consider the Sense 2 if you want a fitness-focused device that also doubles as a robust health monitor.

  • Buy the Garmin Forerunner 165 if:
    • You’re primarily focused on running and want in-depth training analysis.
    • Long battery life is a priority.
    • Onboard music storage is an important feature.
  • Buy the Fitbit Sense 2 if:
    • You prioritize holistic health tracking and stress management.
    • ECG functionality is important to you.
    • You want a smartwatch with a broader range of health features.

View on Garmin; View on Amazon (Fitbit Sense 2).

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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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