I've been using the new Garmin Forerunner 165 for a week, and these are the four things I like most

Woman's wrist wearing Garmin Forerunner 165 watch
(Image credit: Future)

Today, Garmin launched the Forerunner 165: a new entry-level running watch that aims to deliver everything a new or improving athlete could want, all capped off with a vibrant AMOLED screen. I've been using it for the last week and will be posting a full review very soon, but I haven't been able to link the watch to Garmin Connect until today, so there are still a few features (such as transferring and following courses) that I need to test first.

The 165 has certainly made a strong first impression, though. In terms of specs, it sits in between the Forerunner 55 and Forerunner 265. Unlike the Forerunner 55, the new watch allows you to import and follow your own GPX courses, allows you to see previews of images when you receive a message on your phone, and has nap detection. It doesn't have the multi-sport features of the Forerunner 265, so it's not the best watch for triathlons and swimrun events, but its battery life is superior (up to 11 days compared to seven for the 265).

It's definitely an interesting addition to Garmin's selection of GPS watches, and after seven days, these are my initial impressions:

The display looks great

The key selling point of the Forerunner 165 is its AMOLED display, and it definitely does look good in person. It's slightly smaller than that of the Forerunner 265 (1.2in compared to 1.3in) but looks equally crisp and vivid. It has three brightness settings, and I've found the middle option great for visibility in bright sunlight, when seeing some watch displays can be tricky.

There's a good selection of watch faces preinstalled, too. These appear very similar to those available on the Forerunner 265, but adapted for the new watch's slightly smaller face.

It's super light

At 39g, the Forerunner 165 is one of the lightest Garmin watches I've tested to date, and only 2g more than the Forerunner 55. That's important when you're running, particularly during speed sessions, because a heavy watch feels like a pendulum when your arm is swinging hard. Even if it doesn't actually impede your performance, that's a distraction you don't need.

The Forerunner 165 is also slim, with a resin case that's just 11.6mm thick (the same as the Forerunner 55). This means it slips easily under most sleeves (even tight base layers) and is unobtrusive during the day.

The design is fresh

Garmin has been experimenting with some slightly funkier designs over the last year or so, and the Forerunner 165 is no exception. We're not talking about a design inspired by a rare lizard or samurai armor, but all four colorways (black, white, berry, and aqua) have a two-tone silicone band that we've not seen before on any Garmin watch. The new straps are fun, and hopefully they'll soon be available to buy separately for other watches.

It's worth noting that the funky berry and aqua colors are only available if you opt for the slightly more expensive Forerunner 165 Music. The standard watch only comes in black or white.

GPS connects quickly

I took the Forerunner 165 out for a 21-mile run at the weekend, and although I won't be able to check the results in detail until it's synced with my phone, the watch established a GPS lock quickly. Interestingly the total distance it recorded was shorter than that logged by my Fenix 7S, which I wore on the other wrist. The long run did involve a tunnel, but there was a noticeable difference between the two watches long before I reached it. The 165 did also seem to lose its GPS connection briefly on two occasions, which I didn't realise until it buzzed on my wrist to say 'GPS ready'.

I'll be taking the new watch out on my usual pre-measured 5km route later today to see whether it comes up short there.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.