1. Price and versions
  2. Design and display
  3. Sports and health tracking features
  4. Smartwatch features and battery life
  5. Which is right for you?

Garmin Forerunner 965 vs Polar Vantage V3

We've lived with both to help you decide which is best
Wareable Garmin Forerunner 965 vs Polar Vantage V3 photo 3
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If you want one of the best sports watches in the business right now, there are a few better than the Garmin Forerunner 965 and the Polar Vantage V3.

While both AMOLED-packing watches are clearly aimed at runners, they’re also well equipped for swimmers, triathletes, and cyclists, offering a mix of tracking and training features in a design that makes them comfortable to wear day and night.

We’ve tested both individually, but what is it like to live with them side-by-side - and where do the biggest differences lie between these two premium multisports watches?

This is our breakdown of how the Garmin Forerunner 965 compares to the Polar Vantage V3.

Price and versions

The newer Polar Vantage V3 costs $599/£519, with the Forerunner 965 coming in at $599.99/£599.99.

There’s just one model and size available for both watches, and this pricing makes the Vantage V3 cheaper to pick up in the UK (but not the US).

It’s worth considering another comparable AMOLED multisports watch here, too: the Suunto Race. At $449/£389, it comes in cheaper than both Polar and Garmin’s watches.

Design and display

WareableGarmin Forerunner 965 vs Polar Vantage V3 photo 4

The first redeeming feature to mention here is that both watches include AMOLED touchscreen displays. That marks a change in display technologies for both the Forerunner 900 and Vantage series.

These AMOLED screens can remain on around the clock just like their memory-in-pixel siblings, but at the detriment of battery life (more on this later). 

Polar uses a 1.39-inch, 454 x 454 resolution display, while Garmin offers a slightly larger 1.4-inch screen with the same 454 x 454 resolution. So, there’s no surprise to find that the experiences of using them are very similar.

The black bezel on the Polar watch is more prominent, but, in terms of brightness, vibrancy, and visibility, these screens are both high quality.

It’s a similar story for the accompanying physical buttons, with Polar using larger, flatter buttons, making them easier to press on the move. Still, we can’t say we’ve had issues using the buttons on the 965.

 WareableGarmin Forerunner 965 vs Polar Vantage V3 photo 6

The similarities continue with the 47mm case sizes with metal bezels in place. The Garmin has a titanium one, while the Polar has aluminum, but this doesn't have a huge effect on weight overall; the 965 is still only slightly lighter (53g) than the Vantage (57g). 

That kind of weight difference doesn’t really alter what it’s like to live with them. If you want watches that are comfortable to wear outside of exercise and to track sleep, then both are fine to stay on your wrist for that time.

The two watches can’t be separated in terms of waterproofing, either. Both are fit for pool and open water swimming up to 50 meters deep. We’ve been swimming with both, and they put in a solid performance in tracking and remain very usable once you're actually in the water.

Sports and health tracking features

WareableGarmin Forerunner 965 vs Polar Vantage V3 photo 9

Tracking your workouts is the primary job of these watches, and, in our experience, they both offer a really strong performance for activities like runs and swims, offering the kind of features you’d expect to find on watches that cost over $500.

That includes new dual-band GNSS modes, which aim to boost outdoor tracking accuracy over older, single-band setups. We’ve used both watches for plenty of runs, including putting them to the marathon test, and found that dual-band performance has been very good on both watches.

Both slightly overestimated distance tracking in our marathon test, but, at least for most distances, the dual-band support has been solid.

In heart rate tracking, both have optical sensors - and you can also pair external heart rate sensors if that's your preferred method. Garmin takes a slight edge here, though, offering ANT+ and Bluetooth support, while Polar sticks to just Bluetooth connectivity. 

Based on our experiences, neither watch is perfect with tracking, though we’ve encountered more issues with the tracking on the Polar.

If you really care about heart rate tracking accuracy, we still always advise grabbing an external monitor and pairing it. We’ve paired both watches to a Polar H10 and Garmin HRM Pro+ chest straps with no issues.

WareableGarmin Forerunner 965 vs Polar Vantage V3 photo 11

Another key feature these watches share is the ability to view maps, though we’d say the experience of using that mapping support is better on the Garmin.

Both harness the touchscreens to make it easier to navigate maps, though getting those maps onto the Polar watch can only be done via the Polar Flow desktop app.

Polar also lacks turn-by-turn directions, which are only available if you make use of the Komoot app, which you’ll have to pay for to unlock most features.

WareableGarmin Forerunner 965 vs Polar Vantage V3 photo 8

Beyond tracking, these watches offer a fair amount on the training and analysis front. In terms of training, Garmin has features like Garmin Coach for runners and cyclists, daily suggested workouts again for runners and riders, and race predictions among the standout features.

Polar has its FitSpark suggested workouts, which feels like the nicer approach since it's more based on your workout history.

You have access to Polar’s Running program, too, but the experience on the watch doesn’t feel as slick as it does with Garmin’s approach to following a training plan.

For endurance fans, Polar’s FuelWise recommendations can be a good way to build your fueling strategy for future events and races, as well.

WareableGarmin Forerunner 965 vs Polar Vantage V3 photo 8

There’s also plenty on the analysis front on both. Polar serves up insights like its Training Load Pro and Running Index scores, where it keeps an eye on your overall load, though it’s the presentation of similar insights where the Garmin seems to work better. 

It offers insights on training load, monitors performance to fuel race predictions, and has the very easy-to-grasp Training Readiness metric, which looks at information like heart rate variability, sleep, and stress history to understand simply when you should consider training or taking a day off.

Both watches are going to tell you similar things about your training, but it just feels better managed and presented on the Garmin than it does on the Polar.

Outside of tracking, both watches are equipped with the ability to monitor your heart, blood oxygen levels, sleep, and step counts, though these aren’t watches you’re going to turn to for serious medical insights.

The Polar watch has more sensors in play with ECG and skin temperature ones included, which you won’t get on the 965.

How useful have those extras been? 

Well, we’d say the skin temperature one feels more useful as it adds another metric to tap into when you take the Vantage V3 to sleep.

The V3 performs much better as a sleep tracker and offers richer insights and more reliable tracking, while the Garmin is a better activity tracker and offers more on that front to nudge you to move more each day.

Smartwatch features and battery life

WareableGarmin Forerunner 965 vs Polar Vantage V3 photo 10

Both the 965 and the Vantage V3 can be useful when you’re not running or riding, though the Garmin gives you more on that front.

It has richer notification support, a built-in music player and music controls, features like its Morning Report to summarise key information about your day, and has contactless payment support.

The Vantage V3 in contrast offers notifications but won’t let you respond to notifications. There are music playback controls that well but doesn’t offer a music player. It’s simply a more basic approach, but what is here works well. What we haven’t loved is that the Vantage V3 has a habit of disconnecting itself from the phone we paired it with regularly, which has been slightly annoying.

In terms of battery life, these are watches that are fully capable of handling a week’s worth of training and powering features like notifications and continuous heart rate monitoring, if you opt for disabling the always-on screen mode. 

The numbers say that the 965 will give you up to 23 days in daily smartwatch mode with up to 31 hours of GPS battery life and 19 hours if you opt for the more accurate dual-band outdoor tracking mode.

The Vantage V3 promises up to 12 days in similar smartwatch mode and 43 hours of GPS tracking even in that top dual-band mode. If you switch to always-on screen modes on both watches, you’re going to get less than 5 days to play with, especially if you’re tracking and using GPS regularly.

Which is right for you?

We’ve had strong experiences with both the Polar Vantage V3 and the Garmin Forerunner 965, and if you’re looking for a great, reliable multisports watch that doesn’t feel cumbersome to wear, both will serve you well.

However, there are a few areas that separate them.

The 965 is the better smartwatch/sports watch hybrid and the software experience on the watch including the delivery of training insights and analysis and mapping feels more engaging on the Garmin.

The Vantage V3 offers a strong core tracking performance and does the core things you’d expect it to do very well.

We’d edge towards picking the 965, but, if you can pick the V3 for less, you still get a really great sports watch.

How we test

Michael Sawh


Michael Sawh has been covering the wearable tech industry since the very first Fitbit landed back in 2011. Previously the resident wearable tech expert at Trusted Reviews, he also marshaled the features section of T3.com.

He also regularly contributed to T3 magazine when they needed someone to talk about fitness trackers, running watches, headphones, tablets, and phones.

Michael writes for GQ, Wired, Coach Mag, Metro, MSN, BBC Focus, Stuff, TechRadar and has made several appearances on the BBC Travel Show to talk all things tech. 

Michael is a lover of all things sports and fitness-tech related, clocking up over 15 marathons and has put in serious hours in the pool all in the name of testing every fitness wearable going. Expect to see him with a minimum of two wearables at any given time.

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