Garmin broke away from its traditional upgrade cycle with the recent release of the Forerunner 265, launching the running watch just nine months after the Forerunner 255.
If you're here, it's likely because you fall into one of two categories - you're a (slightly peeved) Forerunner 255 owner checking out what's actually new, or you own neither and are wondering whether to skip straight over to the Forerunner 265.
We think there are good arguments for choosing either of these devices, which is why we've created a comparison guide to highlight all the key differences between the pair.
Below, we'll get into the changes in designs, features and price, as well as offer our take on which is the better watch and whether or not you should upgrade.
Note: We're still testing the Forerunner 265 as part of our full review, and will update this comparison with our full impressions over the coming weeks.
Display: MIP vs. AMOLED
The display is the most noticeable difference between these two generations.
While the FR255 sticks with the classic transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) display, the FR265 instead boasts the same colorful AMOLED screen present on the Garmin Epix (Gen 2), Garmin Marq (Gen 2) and the Garmin Venu 2 Plus.
It's the same display that's also present on the new Forerunner 965, and is available in both the FR265 and FR265S. On the former, the pixel resolution is 416 x 416, while the smaller case size delivers 260 x 360. To put that in proper context, the FR255's color MIP display only delivers a 260 x 260 resolution (and 218 x 218 for 255S owners).
The change to AMOLED has also brought a new UI with it, and it's much slicker than what you'll find on the FR255. The newer FR265 is also touch-enabled, bringing it into line with more premium Garmin devices.
As we'll touch on below, the display change is the most compelling reason to upgrade. Based on what we know from testing Garmin's other devices, it really adds a premium feel to the watch - and it can make it pretty jarring to go back to a MIP-packing watch.
As we've already alluded to, the big difference between these watches is the design. However, there are still odd upgrades in the fitness tracking department to be aware of.
The big one is the FR265 range receiving Training Readiness, Garmin's crystallization of sleep, recovery time from workouts, HRV Status, Acute Load, sleep history and stress history. The FR255 duo missed out on this when it launched via the Forerunner 955 last year, but it's here now.
This is one of Garmin's best features, giving you an easy-to-understand way to know whether your body is ready to take on the strain of more activity.
On-wrist Running Dynamics has also been added to the FR265, giving users insights into things like Vertical Ratio and Ground Contact Time without the need for an external sensor (as is the case on the FR255).
We do rate these as considerable upgrades, but it's also very possible Garmin will also deliver these features to FR255 owners in an update over the coming months. Stay tuned for more information on this one, as we've asked Garmin for clarification.
Case sizes and weight
While the overall look appears dramatically different, it's mostly just the display that skews this; the actual case hasn't really changed between generations.
However, there is one minor change to the FR265. While you still get the same five-button array around the case's edge on both, Garmin has tweaked the top-right 'Start-Stop' button for the newer device. Instead of being the same size as the other four pushers, it's now slightly bigger and is labeled 'Run'.
The only other information that you'd need to know regarding the cases are the sizes. As it does for the FR255 duo, Garmin offers the FR265 in two models - a 42mm FR265S and a 46mm FR265.
The weight, according to Garmin, has also decreased in the 46mm model from 49g to 47g, and remains at 39g for the 42mm edition. We think you're unlikely to notice this either way in the bigger model, but, still, it's a change.
While the case sizes remain the same for both generations, Garmin has made a change to the editions on offer - and there's now no longer a pricier 'Music' model available like there is with the FR255 range.
The change is for the best, we think, with built-in support for offline music streaming now coming as standard in the FR265 range. It means Spotify, Deezer or Amazon Music subscribers can quickly and easily sync over playlists and podcast episodes to their watch, connect their headphones and can exercise with just their watch on their person.
We've explained the steps to achieve this in our dedicated guide on how to use Spotify on Garmin, for anybody struggling with the feature.
This is the area we're most keen to flesh out with real-world tests following extended testing, but, for now, we do at least have Garmin's estimations on battery life - and they're usually pretty accurate.
Despite the move to an AMOLED display, Garmin's figures suggest you can expect roughly the same battery life across the board here.
In smartwatch mode, the FR265S's 15 days of battery life torches the FR255's 12 days, though the standard FR265's 13 days is slightly less than the FR255's 14-day battery life.
Then there's the GPS battery life. For the FR265S, Garmin predicts you'll be able to receive around 24 hours without music and 7 hours with music, which is both better and worse than on the FR255S - this watch is able to deliver 26 hours without music and 5.5 hours with music.
For the standard models, it's a similar story. The FR265 can only manage 20 hours in GPS mode, which is down considerably from the 30 hours offered through the FR255. With music on in GPS mode, though, the FR265 can stretch to 7.5 hours, which is a fraction better than the FR255's 6.5 hours.
Price comparison and latest deals
As you would expect, the newer FR265 watches are more expensive than the last gen FR255.
The price remains the same whether you choose the standard model or the smaller, 'S' variant in either generation, but there are still price differences to be aware of.
The FR265, as we say, has been launched at a higher price tag, and is available for $449 / £429.
Check price: Buy Garmin Forerunner 265
Meanwhile, the FR255 and FR255S can be picked up for as low as $349 / £299 - though this is for the non-music version of the device. For the FR255 Music / FR255S Music, you'll have to shell out $399 / £349.
Given that the price of most goods is soaring currently, we don't think this is too egregious of a price increase. With that said, it's also likely the gap will widen now that the FR265 has been officially released, so keep an eye out for offers on the old generation.
Should you upgrade?
Given that it's likely the FR265's 'exclusive' software features will likely land on the FR255 models at some point in the near future, the real area to focus on if you're looking to upgrade is the display.
We know plenty of runners who actually prefer the barebones style of the transflective MIP display, and, if this doesn't particularly bother you, we'd suggest sticking with your FR255.
If you do want something a bit more premium-feeling and smartwatch-like, however, then the AMOLED screen and fancier UI are the upgrades you've been waiting for. If you don't mind taking the hit on your FR255, we don't think you'll be disappointed by the level of improvement in the FR265.
There are also other good reasons, we think, such as the music support now coming as standard, and the battery life claims are very promising (again, stay tuned for our extended test on this area).
It's also likely that Garmin doesn't revisit this Forerunner line for a couple of years, given that it's now had serious treatment in 2022 and 2023. That would give anybody upgrading plenty of time to use and enjoy the latest Garmin tech.
Verdict: Which is best?
The FR265 is undoubtedly a better watch than the FR255, with the display adding a premium feel that makes it very difficult for a MIP-packing watch to really compare.
With roughly similar battery life achieved and better training features (for now) also thrown into the package, there's really no comparison - unless, of course, you're somebody who's against brighter displays.
That's not to say the FR255 isn't worth considering, though. As we've mentioned above, it's still a superb running watch that offers an almost identical on-paper experience.
At a lower price, as well, it might be a better fit for your budget - particularly if you aren't overly concerned with the change in display quality or offline music support.
How we test