Garmin Forerunner 965 vs. Fenix 7 – Which Watch Is Right for You?

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If you are looking to upgrade or replace your Garmin, two of their best options are the Forerunner 965 and fenix 7.

Both watches are part of Garmin’s premium end with tons of features and high price tags. And while they are quite similar in many ways, there are enough differences to make choosing one a tough decision.

We’ll compare the important features of each watch from a running and lifestyle perspective to help you decide which one suits your needs.

Ultimately, they’re both excellent watches. Check it out and make your choice!

Meet the Forerunner 965 and fenix 7

While both watches are undeniably Garmin, they’re designed and aimed at slightly different audiences.

They also come in many slightly different colors, sizes, and models. For this article, we’re comparing the two base models.

Here’s a quick overview of each.

Garmin Forerunner 965

Garmin’s FR 965 has received widespread praise for its spectacular AMOLED screen and new titanium bezel. It’s a good-looking watch, and the beautiful new screen is its biggest selling point.

One of the greatest upgrades is that it now has a USB-C charging cable. If you’re a heavy battery user, this is good news—it’ll charge up quicker than before. Aside from that, it hasn’t got many new features from the previous version.

The Forerunner 965 is designed for triathletes, evident in its lightweight build and extra running-related features.

Garmin fenix 7

The fenix 7 is a workhorse of a watch, built for adventure and able to withstand rough and rugged conditions. It’s designed for many outdoor activities, but it’s also a great multi-sport watch with almost everything you’d need.

It’s got a new touchscreen but still has buttons if you’d rather use those. This watch has one of the best battery life for its size, so you can enjoy it longer before a recharge.

Size and Display

Both watches feature a color touchscreen. And while the FR 965 has the amazing screen, the fenix 7 also a hi-res screen that also looks great.

Garmin Forerunner 965

For some, the Forerunner could feel slightly bulky, at 47.1 x 47.1 x 13.2 mm. It may look quite normal on larger wrists, but those with smaller wrists and hands might feel like it’s a little chunky.

It weighs just 52 grams, which is much lighter than other watches, especially watches that are this size. For a large watch, that’s good to see and indicates it’ll feel good on the wrist.

The display is the most impressive part of the Garmin Forerunner 965. With a 1.4-inch screen featuring a spectacular display of 454 x 454 pixels, this is easily one of the most best-looking screens Garmin has come out with, as well as being the biggest one they make.

The (optional) always-on AMOLED screen displays vibrant colors and is easily seen in the sun, something users have been raving about. It’s also big enough to show slightly more data in one view, so you can personalize it depending on what you want to see when you check your watch.

Garmin Fenix 7

The standard fenix 7 is similar, at 47 x 47 x 14.5 mm. It weighs a little more than the Forerunner, at 79 grams, which is one downside to this watch—it’s somewhat bulkier than the 965, despite being practically the same size.

It’s crowned with a sun-visible 1.3-inch color transflective touch screen. The display is of good quality, a fairly standard 260 x 260 pixels. Unlike the 965, it utilizes a MIP—memory-in-pixel—display, which is a little duller.

There’s not as much contrast, although it’s quite easy to read. But the less vibrant screen does have one significant advantage—it uses much less battery than the Forerunner, which is a bonus. Also, you can disable the touchscreen if you prefer.

Battery

While brands like COROS have revolutionized battery life, Garmin is making strides to lengthen charges and improve charging. Both of these watches use a Garmin proprietary plug charger.

Garmin Forerunner 965

The Forerunner 965 can last up to 23 days in smartwatch-only mode, which is impressive for a watch with such a richly colored screen. In GPS-only mode, you’ll get around 31 hours out of it. Add music to the mix, and you can expect 10.5 hours of use before recharging.

The way you use your watch makes a big difference. While the above numbers are averages, you can view Garmin’s information here on how your usage may affect your battery. There are also battery-saving modes that can help you conserve battery life if you can’t get to a charge until later.

The updated USB-C charging cable is a welcome addition, charging faster than before.

Garmin fenix 7

In regular smartwatch mode, the fenix 7 should last you up to 18 days. This is surprising, considering the screen steals less battery than the Forerunner 965. However, it can last up to 57 hours in GPS mode, which is significantly more than the 965. With music and all satellite systems firing, you’ll get 10 hours.

You can tweak many battery-saving settings on this watch to extend your battery life. While it’s still using the older USB-A cable, it’s got a decent charge time.

Hardware

Heart Rate Monitor

Both the Forerunner 965 and the fenix 7 feature Garmin’s Elevate V4 sensor. It measures your heart rate 24/7, which is handy and doesn’t take away from the battery life too much.

If you turn the watch over, you’ll see two green lights: the heart rate monitor. There’s no ECG feature on either of these watches, but you will get abnormal heart rate alerts and daily resting heart rate data.

Sensors

Other sensors included on both watches are pulse oximeter sensors—the red lights on the back of the watch near the HRM—an altimeter, a barometer, a compass, and a thermometer.

Both also have an accelerometer and a gyroscope, which are instrumental in getting accurate pace and movement metrics.

GPS sensors on both include GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo. The Forerunner 965 also includes multi-frequency positioning and SatIQ technology, which automatically switches between GPS modes depending on what’s optimal for your current surroundings.

Maps and Navigation

The Forerunner 965 has built-in maps, which look amazing on that new screen. Maps for your area will be preloaded onto the watch, but you can download others for free if traveling.

The fenix 7 requires you to download TopoActive Maps via the Map Manager. You need to be connected to WiFi as it’s quite a big download. Both are accurate, but the 965 edges ahead thanks to its SatIQ tech.

On both the watches, they’re loaded with detail, including topographical terrain and road detail, so you’ll be covered no matter where you go. The MIPS screen isn’t quite as smooth as the 965 and it can be a little harder to see clearly, but it still does the job.

You can create your own routes on your app of choice and upload them to the watch, where they’ll be displayed under the “Navigation” tab.

Both watches feature Turn-By-Turn directions and the “Up Ahead” feature, which notifies you about hazards or features ahead. Take note, though, that they won’t speak to you like a GPS does—you’ll need to glance at your watch to read each new direction as you’re traveling.

Activities

Both watches have the same regular activity tracking, like steps, climbing floors, etc. Aside from that, they have many of the same activities built in, including gym, cycling, and swimming features. However, there are some differences.

The Forerunner 965 is more geared towards runners, with an extra running profile—outdoor track running—and various features built into the watch. Whereas the fenix 7 needs an external accessory to track cadence, vertical oscillation, running dynamics, and stride length, the 965 does it all onboard.

The fenix 7 is definitely more adventure-worthy than the 965, featuring over 10 more profiles than the Forerunner. Whatever you want to do outdoors, there’s probably an activity profile for it here!

Golfers will be pleased to know that the fenix 7 has unique and helpful features, like a virtual caddie, wind speed and direction, and automatic club tracking with the right accessory.

Training Aids

Both watches use the usual training functions, including HR zones, calories, HRV status, V02 max, training status, heat and altitude acclimation, etc.

The Forerunner features improved intervals, which has some extra features. It also has a handy course and weather-specific race predictor, which is quite a bit more detailed than the regular race predictor found on both watches.

The fenix edges slightly ahead with the ability to do an HRV stress test with a compatible accessory and offers customizable battery settings during activity, which is extremely handy when you need to finish that workout but your battery is running low.

Health Monitoring

Both watches feature the usual health monitoring functions, including advanced sleep tracking, which can give you a unique insight into your own rest. They also both have Garmin’s classic Body Battery, a relaxation breathing timer, and women-specific health tracking.

They’re pretty much on par here, with a couple of really small differences. The Forerunner has relaxation reminders built-in and more options for how to use the pulse oximeter.

The fenix 7 is missing those two things, but it now comes with a Jet Lag Advisor. This is super useful for those who travel a lot and can help you better handle your health.

Music

Both can store and play music directly from the watch. There is one big difference, though—you’ll have to upload music onto your fenix 7, whereas the Forerunner 965 can download music directly from Spotify, Deezer, and Amazon music to store for offline play.

You’ll find more memory on the Forerunner 965, which has 32 GB of storage. The fenix 7 has half of that, 16 GB, which is still decent. Keep in mind that maps and third-party apps will also take up some storage space.

Accessories

Both the Forerunner 965 and the fenix 7 are compatible with a range of Garmin accessories, including different straps, Garmin HRMs, the Running Dynamics Pod, the Garmin bike speed and cadence sensors, and various cables.

The Forerunner is also compatible with the Garmin Charge Power Pack. Both watches are Bluetooth and ANT+ compatible, so if you have other sensors you’d like to connect, they should work just fine.

Summary

If you want to upgrade your Garmin watch, it’s a tough choice between these two! They’re roughly the same in size, cost the same, and have many overlapping features, but each has advantages for certain users.

Whichever one you choose, you’re getting the backing of the Garmin name plus their regular built-in features, which millions of people worldwide know and love. They both look great, perform superbly, and are well worth their price tag.

We recommend the Garmin Forerunner 965 for triathletes and runners. It’s a bit more robust in the running section than the fenix, and it’s got all the features you’d need to train for, run, and track your events.

If the lovely AMOLED screen is your main priority, then you’ll regret not getting this one. Just be prepared for the battery life to be less when using the GPS features.

Those who want to get outdoors and have adventures should opt for the fenix 7. It’s geared towards outdoorsy activities, and although the screen isn’t as striking as the Forerunner, it still does the job perfectly.

If you’re not too fussy about features, but you want something that’s comfortable and looks good, then you’ll have to toss a coin because both devices are great choices.

Garmin Forerunner 965

 
 
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AUTHOR

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.