The Garmin Venu 3 aced our testing in our in-depth review, but it's not the right pick for everyone.
It will naturally catch the eye of people looking for a sporty smartwatch because of the Garmin brand. But it's important to realize that when it comes to sports tracking, the Venu 3 is pretty basic.
What you might not realize is the powerful Forerunner 265 costs less than the Venu 3, yet boasts most of the same smartwatch skills, wellness features, and AMOLED display.
That means that for many people, the Forerunner 265 is the better choice.
Read on for the key differences you need to know.
The Garmin Venu 3 is positioned in the premium segment with a price tag of $449.99 / £449.99. It caters to users looking for a high-end smartwatch experience with advanced features.
In contrast, the Garmin Forerunner 265 comes in slightly less at around $449 / £420. While neither is particularly budget-friendly, anyone who’s looking at the advanced training analytics of the Forerunner might be pleasantly surprised that it costs less (or the same depending on your location) to get more features.
Design and screen
The Venu 3 boasts a modern and stylish design. It offers a choice of 45mm and 41mm sizes and comes in various colors. The AMOLED screen is vibrant, colorful, and touchscreen-enabled, enhancing aesthetics and user interaction.
The Forerunner 265 focuses on functionality and durability. While its design is more utilitarian, it has adopted an AMOLED screen, improving screen quality. The 46mm version has a 1.4-inch display, with a 454 x 454 resolution. There's also a 42mm Forerunner 265S.
The Forerunner 265 is not quite as bright and slick as the Venu 3. The 1.3-inch display of the 46mm Forerunner 265 has a resolution of 416 x 416 pixels. So it has a smaller screen, in a bigger case, at a lower resolution.
The case material of the Forerunner 265 is a polymer plastic, while the Venu 3 gets stainless steel – making it look and feel superior. And there’s just a 1g difference in weight between them.
So the Venu 3 is undeniably the more premium watch, but the Forerunner 265 is a huge step up from the older Forerunner 255.
The Venu 3 is something of a jack-of-all-trades smartwatch with a host of sports profiles. You’ll find everything from running, cycling, swimming and HIIT.
However, bar swimming, none of the sports profiles are particularly advanced in the amount of metrics they track.
Running, for example, just shows pace/distance/time/heart rate and zone during a run. Afterward, you will get a recovery timer (via a widget) and VO2 Max is tracked within Garmin Connect.
Conversely, the Forerunner 265 is packed with fitness insights.
You get advanced data on recovery, Training Load and effect, and VO2 Max, and there’s the PacePro guidance of race pace, Training Readiness, and detailed running form including running power. It’s ridiculously detailed, and that’s just for runners.
It has the same swimming powers, but tonnes more metrics for cycling and can hook up to sensors for things like cadence, FTP, and power. However, the Forerunner 265 has no mode for golf.
It offers a much deeper dive into your running form, fitness, and recovery – and is packed with tools designed to make you a better runner.
The Venu 3 boasts GPS, which was nicely accurate in our review time.
But the Forerunner 265 has multiband GNSS, which is a more accurate type of GPS, which is better when there are tall buildings and tree cover around.
In short, the Forerunner 265 is a much more powerful fitness device, and still really versatile, at the same price.
When it comes to health and wellness tracking, the Venu 3 (above) does come into its own.
It boasts ECG, so you can spot-check heart rate rhythm, and it can spot the signs of Afib.
The Venu 3 incorporates health-oriented features, such as sleep tracking, Sleep Coach, and Morning Report. It also includes heart rate variability (HRV) tracking and Body Battery for overall health insights.
The Venu 3 also offers extra Body Battery insights and will take into account when you recharge your body by resting.
The Forerunner 265 does most of the same and provides valuable health metrics like resting heart rate, SpO2 readings, stress, Body Battery, and respiratory rate.
However, it lacks ECG functionality, which is present in the Venu 3.
The Venu 3 also has improved sleep tracking, the ability to detect naps, and the sleep coach, which advises you how many hours of rest you need, taking into account sleep debt and workouts.
Both are pretty much on par in terms of wellness and health, but with ECG and the new sleep tracking, the Venu 3 just edges it.
The Venu 3 is the smarter Garmin watch here – but only just.
It enables you to make and take calls from the wrist, and you can also speak to your phone's voice assistant using the built-in speaker and mic.
There's also Garmin Pay, phone notifications, Connect IQ apps, offline Spotify, the Morning Report, weather widgets, and more.
The Forerunner 265 also supports notifications, Garmin Pay, Connect IQ apps, offline Spotify, and all the rest – but it can't offer calling/voice features.
This does feel like quite a small trade-off.
The Venu 3 offers a commendable battery life of up to 14 days, with the smaller 41mm model lasting around 10 days.
In active use with All Systems GPS tracking, it provides about 20 hours, making it suitable for long workouts.
The Forerunner 265 delivers impressive battery life, even with its AMOLED screen. As standard it will last 13 days as a smartwatch, and GPS tracking at the same accuracy as Venu 3 will yield 20 hours.
Using the most accurate multiband GNSS will give you 14 hours – so it boasts impressive longevity.
Which is right for you?
The choice between the Garmin Venu 3 and the Garmin Forerunner 265 depends on your priorities.
If you're looking for a premium smartwatch with advanced health and wellness features, but running and fitness is a casual pastime for you, the Venu 3 is the right choice.
If serious fitness and workout analysis is important to you then it’s all about the Forerunner 265. If you're someone who thinks about their PBs and has ambitions to bring them down, then the Venu 3 can't offer the same tools.
The Forerunner 265 still packs Garmin’s top screen tech but just isn’t quite as refined as the Venu 3. But it more than makes up for its slightly inferior screen and case quality with an astounding array of top running and fitness features, and is an indispensable training partner.
How we test