Garmin has just released two new watches in the Forerunner line. In this article we pit the 955 vs 255 – both come with some exciting upgrades.
It wasn’t really a well kept secret that we would be seeing the watches at the start of this month. Exactly as expected, they landed on the 1st of June.
The company has put in more effort this time around on recovery stats. And it has done well. Some of the new functionality will give their competitors really something to worry about.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
The 955 is now the highest-end Forerunner. Garmin classifies it as a “Premium Running Watch”, although it would be more precise to say it is for those that are into multi-sports. The 255 is no slouch either. That one is primarily a runners watch and it has gained some new functions which lead us to believe we may not see an upgrade to the 745. Time will tell.
If you’re in two minds as to which of these Forerunners is right for you – read on.
The two new Forerunners retain the look and feel of their predecessors, the 945 and 245. At first glance there is little to separate them when it comes to design. But there are some important differences to be aware of.
In the case of the 255, it is now offered in two size choices. There’s a large that measures 45.6 x 45.6 x 12.9 mm and a 41 x 41 x 12.4 mm option. The latter is ideal for those with small wrists. Its 39 grams of weight make it one of the lightest smartwatches around. The larger edition adds 10 grams to the weight.
The 955, on the other hand, comes in only one size option. At 46.5 x 46.5 x 14.4 mm and weight of 52 grams that one is slightly larger, thicker and heavier.
As far as the build of the watches, there’s been no change there. You get a fiber-reinforced polymer body attached to a silicone strap. Not the most fancy build but it is very functional for sports.
The larger 255 model fits a 1.3 inch sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) screen into its body, the 255s a 1.1 inch display. These are not touch enabled. By they are touch enabled on the 1.3 inch screen of the Forerunner 955. The functionality is customisable so you have control over when to use touch. At other times there are the five physical buttons, the same that can be found on all recent Forerunner watches including the 255.
These watches are all pretty robust. The 955 comes with Corning Gorilla Glass DX whereas the 255 has Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection. Water-resistance is quite good. The 5 ATM rating means you can use these watches in the water and out with no worries.
Moving quickly on to the sensors. An identical set can be found on both the 955 and 255.
This includes a heart rate, barometric altimeter, compass, gyroscope, accelerometer, thermometer and SpO2. Which means the 255 has been upgraded with an altimeter and gyroscope. Also worth a mention is that the heart rate sensor on these watches is Gen 4 Elevate. This is important as that sensor is needed for Garmin’s new recovery stats. Fenix 7 and Epix 2 also have it, as does the 945 LTE.
Built-in GPS/Glonass/Galileo is present on both the 955 and 255. And we’re happy to report that this is dual-frequency which means faster connection times and more accurate stats.
Beyond that, the new watches come with NFC for Garmin Pay. This allows you to make purchases on the go, no wallet needed.
Finally, there’s also built-in space for music. On the Forerunner 955 you have space for up to 2,000 songs. The regular variant of the 255 only has smartwatch music control. But the pricier Music edition comes with storage for up to 500 songs.
Battery life is an important feature of something that is meant to function as a 24/7 fitness and sports watch. We’re happy to report that both the new Forerunners suffice on this count. You can expect around two weeks in smartwatch mode, depending on which model you choose. The differences are not that significant. At minimum you will get 12 days on the 255s, up to 15 days on the 955.
Worth a mention, though, is that the high-end Forerunner comes with a solar option. It adds about $100 to the price but if you spend a lot of times outdoors and live in a sunny area, it might pique your interest. The functionality adds about 20-25% to battery power, but that is under ideal conditions.
Here’s a table illustrating the hardware differences between the Forerunner 955, 255 and 255s.
As mentioned at the start of this article, the 955 and 255 are primarily runners’ watches. This is the builk of the customer base. But they can be used for other activities, too, so are great for those that cycle, run triathlons and engage in most other sports activities.
Beyond that the Forerunner range is great for general health and activity tracking. Garmin has packed the best of its tech into both of these new watches. You’ll get the full gamut of its tracking functionality, including SpO2, stress and much more..
The main differences between the two watches come into play when it comes to sports tracking functionality. As mentioned, Garmin has introduced some Recovery type metrics. One of them is called HRV Status. This spits out your average heart rate variability each morning, and compares it with a short and longer term average. This is present both on the 955 and 255 in addition to Body Battery status.
However, one important recovery function that you’ll only get on the higher-end model is called Daily Training Readiness. This fluctuates between zero and 100. One glance at the stat and you’ll know how ready you are to exercise on a particular day. It all depends on your Training Load, Recovery Time, sleep, stress and other stats.
Considering the 955 and 255 largely have the same sensors under the hood, it seems that Garmin has purposely witheld this from the 255 model. It is a matter of making the more expensive option attractive for purchase. Our guess is that lots of people would opt for the 255 instead of the 955 if this and some other performance stats were made available on the lower end Forerunner. So don’t hold your breath if you’re hoping it will arrive via a firmware update.
Head and altitude acclimation is another feature that is present on the 955 but not on the 255. Environmental factors such as high temperature and altitude impact your training and performance. The watch takes this into account when calculating a VO2Max and Training Status figures. As far as the weather data used for the figures, it gets this from your connected smartphone.
The Real-time Stamina feature was introduced earlier this year with the unveiling of the Fenix 7 and Epix 2. Its aim is to help users manage exertion during running or bike activities. The idea is to ensure you don’t run out of steam before the finish line. It’s a nice-to-have rather than a must have.
The 955 comes with a bunch of mapping and navigation features. This includes Around Me mode, ClimbPro Ascent Planner, preloaded topographical maps, preloaded road and trail maps, downloadable cartography support, GPS coordinates, Sight ‘N Go, area calculation, hunt/fish calendar, XERO locations and more.
To this end the 955 packs 32GB of memory, eight times the 4GB that can be found on the 255. These types functions will be important for those that like to hike and go on other outdoor adventures. But they won’t make a least bit of difference to others.
Finally, the 955 comes with a bunch of features to do with golf. The 255 doesn’t have anything to support this sport. It also lacks a few activity profiles that can be found on the 955 and some safety features. The table below shows the full list of features the 255 misses out on.
Whichever of these two watches you choose, rest assured you are buying the top sports-tech that is available on the market today. Like its predecessor, the 255 is primarily aimed at runners. But it gets more support for other activities so can be used to track a bunch of sports.
The 955 is a more feature-packed version of the same. Starting at $500, it represents one of the best value for money wearable deals around. Probably better than the 255, especially if you need music storage.
The high-end Forerunner packs a bunch of performance stats you don’t get on its lower spec sibling. This includes Daily Training Readiness, Heat and Altitude Acclimation and Real-time Stamina. It also offers support for maps, a touch-display, more sports profiles (including golf) and slightly better battery life.
If you don’t see yourself using most of this additional functionality, at $350 for the regular and $400 for the Music variant – the 255 is the responsible choice. It is also the option for those with small wrists as it offers a choice of sizes. The 955 is for those that want pretty much all the awsome functionality Garmin currently has on offer.
You can buy the the watches on Amazon (links: Forerunner 255, Forerunner 955) and Garmin’s website.
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I often exercise with an external heart rate monitor paired to my sports watch. As good as wrist based heart
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