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Garmin Forerunner 955 review: The best running watch you can buy

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
479
inc VAT

The Forerunner 955 is a fabulous all-rounder stuffed with features – it performs brilliantly in every way that matters

Pros 
Morning Report and Training Readiness features are great
Accurate GPS and heart rate
Competitive price
Cons 
Battery life is middling
No on-watch running power
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The predecessor of the Garmin Forerunner 955 was a brilliant fitness wearable. For runners, the Forerunner 945 delivered the perfect balance between features, comfort, price and accuracy – and we loved it.

With a product this good, the last thing you want to do is rip it all up and start again and, fortunately, Garmin has resisted. While it has kept the overall approach the same – to offer as many features as the Fenix in a more plain, running focussed package – it has updated the Forerunner 945 just enough to make it an attractive upgrade.

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Garmin Forerunner 955 review: What do you get for the money?

At a price of £479, the 955 sits at the top of the Forerunner range and, like the Fenix 7, there’s now also a Solar version of the watch, which extends battery life on sunny days, available for £550.

Despite the three year gap between the 945 and 955 launches, the new model is actually £20 cheaper than the Forerunner 945 when it first appeared. Naturally, though, the latter can now be bought for far less, and it’s currently retailing for around £380.

The Forerunner 955 introduces a few key hardware improvements over the 945. The new model is slightly thicker and the screen is larger (1.3in vs 1.2in) and higher resolution (260 x 260 vs 240 x 240), although the technology used is the same colour memory-in-pixel as before. It’s an excellent display: superbly readable in daylight and clear in dim conditions, too, thanks to a backlight that illuminates automatically when you raise your wrist. The new display is also a touchscreen, but the touch functions can be disabled if you prefer.

The watch inherits the multi-frequency, multi-GNSS (global navigation satellite system) that featured on the Fenix 7. This promises more accurate pacing and distance measurements than the previous model and, in my testing, it never skipped a beat.

The new hardware features are accompanied by a selection of new training analysis features – Training Readiness, heart rate variability tracking and the new Morning Report – plus the ability to view running power live on the watch during a workout and incorporate it into structured workouts. The 955 is also now a fully fledged triathlon watch, with fully customisable triathlon and duathlon modes, a dedicated swimrun and multisport modes.

All of this builds on an already incredibly broad feature set. Although this is ostensibly a sports watch targeted at runners, you’ll find workout modes for every sport imaginable, from the core cycling and pool swimming modes to open water swimming, hiking and various winter sports.

A full bank of sensors lets you track your heart rate, blood oxygen level, steps, pace and distance, stairs climbed and sleep. You can download Spotify playlists onto the watch so you can keep the tunes playing without needing your phone to hand and it’s also loaded with maps, allowing you to venture out on longer routes without having to worry about getting hopelessly lost.

Additionally, you can connect external sensors via ANT+ or Bluetooth, with heart-rate monitors, cycling power meters and running footpods all supported. The Forerunner 955 also comes with Garmin’s usual toolbox of fitness analysis, coaching and race day tools, including (but not limited to) the excellent Pace Pro mode, which guides you through a race based on your goals, and Garmin Coach, which sets up training plans for you for various running and cycling events and will adapt automatically as your fitness changes.

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Garmin Forerunner 955 review: What do we like?

All the new features work well but my favourite has to be the Morning Report, which ties together many of the watch’s other new features (including HRV and training readiness) and presents them in an easy-to-digest format. If you want to know why some workouts feel tougher than others, this will lay it all out for you.

It appears on the watch face automatically when you wake up and you can ignore it or open it up easily enough. If you click into it, you’ll see it present your Training Readiness score first on a colour-coded scale at the top, indicating whether or not your body is ready for hard or easy or no training that day, followed by a series of other fitness snapshots.

The unusual and great thing about the Morning Report is that, in addition to this overall score, it then goes on to suggest a workout, and to break this down into the various measurements that contribute to it, making it easier to understand what’s going on. If you’ve had a poor night’s sleep, for instance, you’re not recovering from a previous workout as expected or your HRV is “unbalanced”, your readiness rating will be Low and it will be obvious why.

It’s an excellent system and during my time with the watch I found it was mostly spot on, reading “Low” when I just wasn’t feeling up to going out for a run and “Ready” or above when I was feeling refreshed and raring to go. This was especially useful due to the fact that I was recovering from a bout of Covid at the time and didn’t want to overdo it. All I had to do was call up the report every morning and follow the workout suggestion and I never felt I was overdoing it.

The new multi-band, multi-system GNSS worked just as well as it did on the Fenix 7X I tested earlier in the year, too. I chose the most accurate option (all systems, multi-band) and, in comparison tests with my Stryd Wind footpod over a series of runs, the difference averaged out at under 2%, which is pretty darned decent. That’s a difference of less than 200m across a 10km run.

Garmin’s Elevate V4 heart-rate sensor (the same as used in the pricier Fenix 7 and Epix watches) was just as, if not more, impressive. Across the same series of runs, compared with the data from a MyZone MZ-Switch chest belt, the difference in average heart rate was below 1% and, while the difference in peak heart rate averaged out higher, it only rose to 1.6%. A quick look at the heart-rate traces revealed they compared well, too, with peaks and troughs in all the right places.

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Garmin Forerunner 955 review: What could it do better?

I’m so used to battery life improving year after year that I was slightly disappointed at the Forerunner 955. Smartwatch battery life (ie, without using it to track any workouts) is fine at 15 days and the solar model ups that to 20 days. That’s nearly as long as a regular Fenix 7, which gets 18 days, with its solar model managing 22 days.

However, when comparing workout battery life, it lags further behind. With single GPS network tracking it gets 42 hours versus 57 hours on the Fenix 7. With the solar models that difference widens with 49 hours for the Forerunner 955 and 73 hours for the Fenix 7. I should point out that the Forerunner does last longer than the smaller Fenix 7s but not by a huge amount.

Still, there’s plenty enough battery life here for most people and, even if you turn on all satellite systems and multi-band for the very best in accuracy and listen to music over Bluetooth, the watch can deliver up to 8hrs 30mins continuous use. That’s long enough to cover most people running a marathon and leave some capacity to spare.

The other small complaint I would have is that Garmin still hasn’t implemented native running power measurement on the watch itself, as Polar and Coros have. You can display running power natively if you purchase a compatible Garmin heart-rate chest belt or the Running Dynamics footpod, but it’s not available to you on the watch itself.

Furthermore, if you own an external running power sensor such as the Stryd Wind you still can’t incorporate data from that in Garmin’s structured workouts without downloading a separate app from the Garmin app store. It’s doable but it isn’t as elegant as simply connecting the sensor and incorporating the data into Garmin’s own ecosystem.

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Garmin Forerunner 955 review: Verdict

If my complaints seem a little bit niche or insignificant, it’s because they are. I struggled to find anything bad at all to say about the Garmin Forerunner 955 and that should tell you a lot about how good it is.

Not to put too fine a point on it, this a superb fitness watch that pretty much does it all. It’s the best Forerunner Garmin has ever made and it’s very nearly a match for the Fenix 7 series while undercutting it significantly on price.

Sure, it doesn’t quite match rivals for luxury feel but it’s lightweight and comfortable and, most importantly, it hits the bullseye in every other respect. In fact, of all the high-end wearables I’ve tested over the past couple of years, the Forerunner 955 is the one I’d recommend to most people. It delivers the best balance of features, performance, accuracy, flexibility and price – it’s a truly great fitness wearable.

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