Garmin Forerunner 955 review

Garmin's priciest Forerunner is a much better fit for runners
Garmin Forerunner 955
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The Garmin Forerunner 955 is the successor to the Forerunner 945, Garmin's most expensive (and most advanced) dedicated running watch.

The new Forerunner 955 offers the best of Garmin's running-based Fenix features – in a smaller design.

The Forerunner 955 brings on-board many of Garmin's Fenix 7 series and Epix features, including Multi-band support, recovery analytics, as well as bigger battery life including solar charging powers.

We loved the Forerunner 945 so do we share the same love for the 955? Here's our comprehensive take on the Garmin Forerunner 955 and its key big new features. Don't forget to check out our Forerunner 955 vs 945 comparison test.

Forerunner 955 price and comparison

At $499/£479 for the non-solar version – and $599/£529 for the solar edition – it's not cheap. And it will be veteran runners that are looking for deep insights and long battery that are most suited.

That price also puts it just below the standard version of the Fenix 7 ($699/£599) – which would buy you substantially more battery life.

If you're looking for a cheaper alternative, the Forerunner 255 ($349/£299) is an excellent choice.

And the Forerunner 955 costs around the same as picking up the excellent Polar Vantage V2.

Garmin Forerunner 955: Design and screen

Garmin Forerunner 955 on wrist

The 955 isn't a massive departure from the 945 in terms of look and what it's like to live with. You're still getting a polymer case to make it a comfortable and light watch to wear and there's a very similar-looking 22mm silicone watch strap that is removable.

It's jumped up from a 44mm case to a 46mm one, to help accommodate a larger, 1.3-inch, 260 x 260 resolution transflective display. That's a bump in resolution too, though in reality, the experience of using that display doesn't feel radically different from our time spent with the 945. It offers strong visibility outside and you've got a backlight to illuminate things when you're training at night.

However, the jump in case size won't be good news for women looking for the best run-tracking experience Garmin offers.

It does now support touchscreen functionality but like the Fenix, seasoned Garmin users will likely still prefer the familiar button approach. We still forget to use the touchscreen.

However, screen responsiveness is good overall and it was at times useful to scroll through longer notifications the list of glances, but the buttons do a good job already here of getting you around. If you wanted a touchscreen, it's a good one, but we think most will likely ignore it.

Forerunner 945 (left) and Forerunner 955 (right)

Forerunner 945 (left) and Forerunner 955 (right)

There's still five physical buttons to navigate the watch software, and if you opt for the solar version, there's Garmin's Power Glass lens, which is represented by a reflective ring that surrounds the display.

We still don't think it's the most attractive design addition, but it does mean you have that extra power source if you're willing to spend more for it.

Around the back is Garmin's Elevate heart rate sensor technology and then you've got Garmin's now pretty uniform charging port. There's the same 5ATM waterproof rating here as the 945 and all other current Forerunners, making it safe to swim with. We've taken the 955 into the pool and it's performed absolutely fine in the water.

The 955 doesn't feel drastically different from the 945. It's a case of minor changes here and if you want the addition of solar charging, then it's there if you want to pay more for the feature.

Garmin Forerunner 955: Running and sports tracking

Garmin Forerunner 955 review

Like the Forerunner 945, the 955 is built to track more than just running. Cyclists, swimmers (open or pool) and hikers are all well-catered for.

A major addition of Garmin's new Multi-band mode support. This debuted on the Fenix 7 and Epix – and now it's come to the 955 and the cheaper Forerunner 255.

Multi-band will grab more frequencies from supported satellite systems to bolster accuracy. So tracking near tall buildings in cities or big wooded areas that might prevent that strong signal strength.

Garmin Forerunner 955 outdoor accuracy GPS

Outdoor run tracking compared: Garmin Epix (left) and Forerunner 955 (right)

When we tested the same feature on the Fenix and Epix, we did clearly see an improvement in accuracy – especially in built-up areas.

It's a similar story with the Forerunner 955. It locked onto a signal super quick, even on our first run, and in saw less wandering than Garmin watches without that support. If you really care about accuracy, this is a key reason to grab the 955. Though you can get it on the cheaper 255 as well.

The downside of the Multi-band mode is that it does drain battery life a bit quicker, so you sacrifice a bit more time away from the charger to use it.

Outside of that Multi-band support, there doesn't seem to be vast amount that feels different from the 945.

There's a few more tracking modes for more niche activities like snowshoeing, but the experience of tracking in general feels similar in terms of what you can see on the watch, the level you can customise the experience and ultimately, the reliability of the data.

We've run (indoors and outdoors), taken it to the pool, used it for home workouts including indoor rowing sessions – and it's all felt very familiar in terms of performance.

For runs, the core metrics tell an accurate story of those sessions, though much like the 945, the 955's Elevate heart rate monitor doesn't perform too differently based on our testing.

Garmin Forerunner 955 swimming

For evenly paced runs and steady paced workouts, the data held up pretty well against a MyZone heart rate monitor chest strap.

When we put the 955's heart rate monitor to the test in a race, the maximum heart rate bpm was around 5bpm out of a chest strap. It's not a terrible performance, but clearly the optical sensor still doesn't entirely match up to that gold standard ECG method of tracking heart rate during high intensity exercise.

Garmin Forerunner 955 hart rate accuracy

High intensity heart rate compared: MyZone MZ-3 chest strap (left) and Forerunner 955 (right)

The Forerunner 955 offers full-color maps to help you navigate your way around.

It matches the the mapping support you get on the Fenix 7 and the Epix. Garmin still provides the best mapping experience on a watch in our eyes, from the presentation and interacting with maps on the watch to getting routes onto the watch as well.

However, detailed views are still a little fiddly to navigate and some of the points of interest left something to be desired. If your adventures lead you into built-up areas, the mapping can be useful.

Turn-by-turn navigation works well ,and you do also get the more advanced version of Garmin's ClimbPro feature here too to better strategise for upcoming hills on your course. There's also the new Up Ahead feature to give you a heads up on upcoming points of interest along with your performance metrics.

The touchscreen integration remains the same as it does on the Fenix and Epix, where you can swipe to move around a map but still have to use the physical buttons to zoom in and out of maps. Moving between parts of a map does see some small lag, but it's generally something you can live with.

The 955 is a solid sports watch performer and definitely is a great watch for runners. The big sell here is that Multi-band support, if you feel constantly let down by the reliability of the tracking on older Forerunner watches that don't support the new tracking technology.

Garmin Forerunner 955: Training features

Garmin Forerunner 955 HRV testing

Outside of that Multi-Band support, Garmin has added new training features to the already extensive list of analysis.

The effectiveness of those features we'd say is a bit of a mix bag.

The 955 still includes features like Garmin Coach, which is well integrated with the watch and can particularly help newer users get to grips with starting to train to run for a particular distance.

Daily suggested workouts again feels like one for beginner users who need that guidance. If you know what you're doing, those slightly miscued workouts and pacing targets can feel irritating. Thankfully, you can turn them off.

Garmin Forerunner 955 race mode

You can still build training plans and workouts and sync them to the watch in a pretty straightforward fashion, while Garmin has enhanced the experience of building and tracking interval training workouts, offering more metrics and screens to show off data.

There's Garmin's real-time Stamina metric, the great PacePro pacing strategies mode and you're getting features that have been around for a while like VO2 Max estimates.

Garmin has brought over the visual race predictors from the new Fenix and Epix, which we think is much more useful in giving you a sense of how your training is impacting target times.

There's new race and race calendar widgets, which counts down to the race, gives you a predicted finish time and should also offer additional tips – though we haven't seen any of those come through. It's also quite a pain to get that race onto your watch as we needed to set it up on the Garmin Connect web app to sync it over.

Garmin Forerunner 955 morning report

A new feature Garmin is introducing to the 955 is the Morning Report. This is essentially a collection of some key data that's designed to give you an outlook of your current state of fitness, recovery, pull up scheduled training sessions for the day or suggest some.

It will also display your most recent sleep data and show of the weather too. This report can be customised to let you control what you see in the report.

It's not exactly groundbreaking data – but it's a nice way to present relevant data, and it doesn't feel annoying or intrusive.

Garmin Forerunner 955 training readiness

New data that has been added to the mix is Training Readiness and HRV Status.

We'll deal with Training Readiness first, which is pretty self-explanatory. It apes devices like Whoop by advising you're good to train, by melding sleep, recovery time, HRV Status, stress and sleep history and acute load.

That acute load metric is new too, and looks at your exercise load, duration and intensity via heart rate.

Training Readiness is a score out of 100 and colour zone to indicate whether your body needs to recover or you're in the best possible shape. As you can see above, it seriously advised we took a day off after an intense session the day before.

Garmin Forerunner 955 readiness

We used this in the scenario of a race where pre-race, the training readiness indicated a 76 score, suggesting we were 'ready for challenges'.

By the end of a pretty tough short distance race, training readiness dropped to 4 indicating that our body needed time to recover. The following day, we ignored advice to recover and played football. The next day we were hit with a poor training readiness score again.

It's useful and relevant data, that can give you a sense of your body's need for recovery – and fixes a major missing piece of Garmin's ecosystem.

It's important to remember that the score is based on stress and fatigue of your central nervous system. It doesn't factor in muscle fatigue, as we've seen with Polar's tests.

Garmin Forerunner 955 readiness data in app

HRV accuracy compared: Forerunner 955 (left) and Oura Ring 3 (right)

The other big new addition is HRV status, which tracks heart rate variability measurements during sleep to give a better understanding of your training and recovery balance.

Heart rate variability – the time in milliseconds between heart beats – is a huge indicator of your restedness and stress levels (physical and mental).

HRV status is colour-coded using a traffic light system to make it very clear what these slightly obscure scores mean.

To get those status insights, you need to wear the watch to bed for 3 weeks to achieve a baseline. We tracked HRV with both the Forerunner 955 and the Oura Ring 3 over our period of testing, to compare data to see if they told us similar things.

We found that average HRV readings were about the same across the two devices. While the Oura used that information to inform our readiness for the day, Garmin uses it to tell you whether your body is handling your current training load. It feels like a nice addition to Garmin's already extensive insights into training load and recovery.

Garmin Forerunner 955: Health and fitness tracking

Garmin Forerunner 955 sleep tracking on watch

The Forerunner 955 isn't a bonafide health tracker in the way that maybe an Apple Watch or a Samsung Galaxy Watch is, but it does allow you to track your heart rate continuously, monitor respiration rate and blood oxygen during sleep tracking and measure things like stress throughout the day.

If you want something that can reliably track heart rate 24/7, we think the Forerunner 955 does a solid job of it.

Alongside the Oura Ring 3, it produced similar data on a daily basis. It was a similar story for blood oxygen measurements, though that battery drain in doing that remains like it does on other Garmin watches that include that Pulse Ox sensor.

Garmin Forerunner 955 stress data

Continuous heart rate tracking compared: Forerunner 955 (left) and Oura Ring 3 (right)

Garmin does include its Health Snapshot feature, which lets you take a 2-minute measurement to generate readings for heart rate, stress, blood oxygen respiration and heart rate variability on a single screen.

Those multiple readings are not stored together in one place on the watch or the screen, so it might be useful for Garmin to take that data to and make it more actionable.

Garmin Forerunner 955 step data

Step tracking compared: Forerunner 955 (left) and Oura Ring 3 (right)

There isn't a huge deal new to report on the fitness tracking front here either. It still offers reliable step counts motivating features like adaptive step counts to nudge you to move more.

For sleep, it does feel like things are getting better on that front from an accuracy point of view, though like a lot of Garmin watches we've tested recently, it has it's good and bad nights.

You're still getting sleep stage breakdowns, sleep scores along with additional data like respiration rate and Pulse Ox data.

sleep data in app

Sleep tracking compared: Forerunner 955 (left and centre) and Oura Ring 3 (right)

We've typically found sleep duration data often wide of the mark on Garmin watches, but it was nicely in line with the reliable sleep tracking on the Oura Ring 3.

It offered similar sleep stage breakdowns on most of the nights we tracked sleep. It can have a tendency to slip into old habits on tracking up to an hour more sleep than rivals.

Garmin Forerunner 955: Smartwatch features

Garmin Forerunner 955 smart features data

Switching over to smartwatch mode and you're getting pretty much the best Garmin has to offer on that front. We spent most of our testing time with the 955 paired to an Android phones and have no issues to report from a connectivity or setup point of view. Garmin Connect will still feel like a daunting place for new users, but if you've used a Garmin recently, it's going to all feel very familiar.

When notifications fire in, you do now have a touchscreen to swipe through the entire message. There's Garmin Pay if you want to turn your watch into a wallet and music player controls definitely benefit from that addition of a touchscreen display.

The Garmin Connect IQ store still feels like it needs to do a lot of growing as a platform, but if you want some extra watch faces, data fields or widgets, there's some good stuff lurking around if you do some digging.

Garmin Forerunner 955 music playback

You do still have a built-in music player, which gives you around 4GB to play with and you can drag and drop your own music onto it, or sync offline playlists from the likes of Spotify and Deezer.

One thing we have noticed is that Garmin now offers the option to switch between stereo and mono listening modes. Switching to mono means less of drain on the battery, which could be useful for those looking to eek every hour out of GPS+music mode.

Music streaming is a feature that hits the Forerunner 955 and other Garmin watches that support it hard, so this is clearly a move to improve things on that front.

While Garmin added an LTE option to the 945, the same hasn't happened for the 955 – although we wouldn't rule it out happening in the future.

Garmin hasn't used that LTE functionality in the same way that Apple or Samsung does, and instead harnesses connectivity for LiveTrack and safety and incident detection features, which typically need a smartphone to enable. You can still use those features here, but you will need your phone nearby to do it.

Garmin Forerunner 955: Battery life

Garmin Forerunner 955 solar intensity

The last generation Forerunner 945 lasted around a week of real-world use – so the 955 does offer improvements.

The Forerunner 955 promises up to 15 days in smartwatch mode, 42 hours of GPS battery life without music streaming and there's an UltraTrac mode to give you 80 hours of battery life.

If you're using the new Multi-Band mode without music streaming, you'll get up to 20 hours battery life. That drops to 8 hours with music streaming in play.

Like the Fenix and the Epix, using that new Multi-Band mode does double the drain in battery life in comparison to using the watch in normal GPS mode, based on our testing. Around an hour of running saw drop of 4-5% – so you could get around 20 hours.

Music streaming is still a drain too, but the ability to switch between stereo and mono listening modes do improve things slightly on that front.

Now there is solar charging here too, and that boosts battery performance only if you spend 3 hours a day outside letting that Power Glass screen soak up the rays. Smartwatch mode goes to 20 days, GPS battery life goes to 49 hours and UltraTrac mode goes up to 120 hours. Even with some testing time in a very sunny Greece, that overall battery performance didn't drastically change for us.

With heavy usage and regular runs using Multi-band mode, you should get 1.5 weeks between charges.

That's an improvement on the 945, it's no-where near Fenix 7 levels. You do still have those great power manager options, so it's worth spending some time getting to know how it works to push things further and ditch features you don't really use on a regular basis.


Garmin Forerunner 955
By Garmin
The Garmin Forerunner 955 isn't a transformative leap from the 945, but it's a far better training companion. That's largely down to the addition of that Multi-band support, which is for anyone that really cares deeply about tracking accuracy. If you don't want to pay for a Fenix, but want all the running features, the Forerunner 955 will appeal. But the Forerunner 255 does offer most of the same for considerably less.

Hit
  • Added Multi-Band tracking
  • New HRV Status mode
  • Battery improvements
Miss
  • Design is basically same as 945
  • Heart rate tracking at high intensity
  • Not huge battery improvements