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Garmin Forerunner 955 review: best running watch for serious triathletes

Garmin’s new Forerunner 955 multisport watch looks to be the ultimate training tool for enthusiasts, packed with advanced metrics, onboard maps, higher-accuracy GPS and a solar-charging option.

The watch is the firm’s top running and triathlon model, costing £480 ($500/A$800), sitting above the £300 Forerunner 255 and loaded up with additional features such as offline maps, advanced training tools and longer battery life for serious runners and triathletes.

In many ways the 955 is best thought of as a smaller, cheaper, less rugged and more sport- rather than adventure-oriented version of the all-conquering £600 Fenix 7 watch.

You get the same great combination of touchscreen and buttons, responsive interface and a crisper, more colourful 1.3in (3.3cm) LCD screen. But the 955 has a slightly smaller case and a lower profile on your wrist while weighing 27g less, which makes it more stable and secure when running hard.

A grid of images showing various watch faces on the Garmin Forerunner 955
There are plenty of built-in watch faces, all of which are customisable with data, colour and look, plus lots of alternatives on the Connect IQ store. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The design is fairly utilitarian, looking more like an advanced tool than a piece of jewellery. It is comfortable to wear 24/7 for weeks, is water-resistant to depths of 50 metres and lasts in excess of 15 days between charges. There is a solar-charging option costing an additional £70 for extending the battery life even further, too.

Specifications

  • Screen: 1.3in transflective MIP LCD

  • Case size: 46.5mm

  • Case thickness: 14.4mm

  • Band size: 22mm

  • Weight: 52g

  • Storage: 32GB (up to 2,000 songs)

  • Water resistance: 50 metres (5ATM)

  • Sensors: GNSS (multiband GPS, Glonass, Galileo, BeiDuo, QZSS), compass, thermometer, heart rate, pulse Ox

  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, ANT+, wifi, NFC

Advanced health tracking with basic smartwatch features

The Spotify app on the Garmin Forerunner 955
The Forerunner 955 can download music from Spotify, Deezer and others for playing offline to a set of headphones. A killer feature for running with music without a phone. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The 955 has Bluetooth and wifi for syncing your data with or without a phone, and can be connected to a PC or Mac via USB, too. Linked to an Android or iPhone, it can perform basic smartwatch duties, showing message and call notifications with replies via canned responses on Android, but not with an iPhone.

The 955 also supports Garmin Pay, which is useful if you need to buy a drink while on a run, though few banks are supported in the UK.

The watch has comprehensive general health tracking covering all the usual bases including sedentary warnings, stress, steps, calories, all-day heart rate, heart-rate variability, abnormal heartbeat alerts, plus sleep tracking with optional blood-oxygen measurement.

A training readiness score of 88 shown on the Garmin Forerunner 955 and Connect app on an iPhone
Training readiness is a useful new recovery-tracking feature that monitors various health data to give you advice on when and how hard to work out. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

All the stats feed into Garmin’s excellent body battery, which makes it easy to understand the impact of sleep, activity and rest on your day. But the 955 takes things a step further by continuously tracking your recovery and readiness for training, producing a useful metric that adjusts automatically through the day and night.

On completion of a hard run, the watch tells me I need two to three days of recovery. After a restful night’s sleep and a physically relaxed day sitting typing at my desk, it will often update to tell me I’m recovering better than expected and should be good to go sooner. However, when I’ve had stressful days, poor sleep, been ill, or have been active after a hard training session, it will tell me I need more time.

Generally, training readiness matches up with my energy levels and muscle fatigue almost perfectly, so I can see when I’m ready for a hard workout or should take it a bit easier.

Sustainability

The Forerunner 955 is generally repairable. The battery is rated to last at least a few years of frequent charge cycles while maintaining at least 80% capacity. The watch does not contain any recycled materials. Garmin guarantees at least two years of security updates from release, but typically supports its devices for far longer. It offers trade-in schemes for some lines and complies with WEEE and other local electronics recycling laws.

Running, cycling, swimming and many other sports

The data screen configuration settings shown on the Connect app on an iPhone
Using the Connect app, you can customise the data screens, adjust GPS tracking accuracy and various other settings for each activity, tailoring them to just what you need. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

It is Garmin’s top sports watch, so it tracks a vast array of activities, including many different types of running, cycling and swimming, a full suite of golf features, and even more obscure sports such as pickleball and padel.

But the main focus of the 955 is running, triathlon and multisport training. It records a great number of metrics with a high degree of accuracy. It gives you the freedom to train using more advanced metrics than just pace, time or heart rate, including the useful real-time stamina feature introduced with the Fenix 7. Each activity is fully customisable, too. Running power tracking is included but requires an optional heart strap or running dynamics pod that cost about £100.

Much of the data can be reviewed afterwards on the watch, but it is all synced to the comprehensive Connect app on your phone, which displays a mind-boggling amount of information. Whatever you want to see, it’ll be in there.

All the data feeds into Garmin’s new advanced coaching systems, which produce structured training plans for any races that you put into your calendar, automatically tailoring them to your current progress. The system is geared up for running but is very impressive.

When it comes to races, the watch can predict the finishing time you should be aiming for, and Garmin’s longstanding PacePro and ClimbPro can give you grade-adjusted guidance for the terrain to help you get there.

A map of King’s Cross pictured on the screen of the Garmin Forerunner 955
The Forerunner 955 has onboard maps for turn-by-turn routes and navigation, which is the best in the business and a lot easier to use with the touchscreen. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

To keep things accurate, the watch has Garmin’s latest fourth-generation heart-rate sensor, a barometer, a thermometer and a compass. The recently rolled-out “SatIQ” feature balances location accuracy and power consumption, automatically switching on more advanced features when needed, including the new, higher-accuracy “multiband GPS” mode. Using it, the 955 consistently gets a GPS lock within seconds and produces much more accurate live pace estimations and trails when running compared with older generation watches, particularly in and around tall buildings.

The watch has strong battery life for activity tracking, with up to 80 hours in its most energy-efficient mode. With the highest-accuracy tracking enabled, the watch lasts up to 20 hours, or just over 8 hours while listening to music, too, which is still long enough for a marathon.

Price

The Garmin Forerunner 955 costs £479.99 ($499.99/A$799), or £549.99 ($599/A$949) with solar charging.

For comparison, the Forerunner 255 costs £299.99, the Fenix 7 costs £599, the Polar Vantage V2 costs £429 and the Coros Apex Pro costs £350.

Verdict

The Garmin Forerunner 955 is a thoroughly impressive multisport watch.

It isn’t your average smartwatch. It is more well-designed utilitarian tool than jewellery, packing mountains of tracking and data features into a light, comfortable, durable and easy-to-use wearable. Clearly, it means business.

The combo of a crisp touchscreen for smart functions and buttons for activities is the best of both worlds. The new multiband GPS is a meaningful accuracy upgrade on older-generation watches, particularly if you run in dense urban environments. Full onboard maps for route guidance or getting home if lost are very useful, too.

The smart analysis tools are its killer feature, such as training readiness and automatic training plans for races. The Connect app and data ecosystem are unrivalled, too. It is easy to get your data into Strava or other third-party apps.

The solar-charging version is a great idea, but probably not worth the extra £70 unless doing long distances on sunny climbs, since the battery life is already excellent both for general use and activity tracking.

An Apple Watch or Forerunner 255 might make better casual-running watches because this Garmin is a pricey, purpose-built tool to help you smash your goals. The Forerunner 955 is one of the very best running and multisport watches you can get.

Pros: slim, light, real buttons, clear touchscreen, multiband GPS and full maps, accurate heart rate, advanced recovery and workout tools, comprehensive health tracking, highly customisable, long battery life, offline Spotify, Garmin Pay, good cross-platform app and basic smartwatch features, optional solar charging.

Cons: expensive, limited Garmin Pay bank support, limited smartwatch features compared with Apple Watch/Galaxy Watch, no voice control, no running power without accessory.

The morning report summary on the Garmin Forerunner 955.
A handy morning report greets you at the start of the day, giving you a summary of your sleep, heart-rate variability and recovery information. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

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