Garmin Forerunner 165 (Bonus GPS Accuracy Review)

Garmin Forerunner 165 (Bonus GPS Accuracy Review)

This post is an extension (bonus matchup) of the 2023 LITPro GPS Device Shootout series. To learn more about the details of this shootout, including format, devices we tested, and how we determine a winner, go here: 2023 GPS Shootout Intro.

Garmin Forerunner 165 Accuracy Review

In this bonus edition of the 2023 GPS shootout we're comparing the Racebox Mini S (best performing GPS device), to the just-released Garmin Forerunner 165.  The 165 is positioned as a lower-price alternative to the Garmin Forerunner 255 series. 

For starters, here's a great detailed review of the 165's bigger and more expensive brother, the Garmin Forerunner 255: showing it versus the older generation Garmin Forerunner 235 (as well as benchmarking it with the Racebox Mini S) in a blog post: Garmin Forerunner 255 vs Garmin Forerunner 235.  See that blog post for more in-depth insights.

One significant difference between the 255 and the 165 is the 165 doesn't have multi-GNSS GPS support (see feature specifications here: Garmin Forerunner 165 Specs).  Given that, we wanted to see if it would still perform well enough for motocross.

We set up this test at Cahuilla Raceway (near Anza California).  And we benchmarked the Forerunner 165 against the Racebox Mini S like we did for the other GPS watch matchups.


Garmin Forerunner 165 GPS Accuracy vs Racebox Mini S
Summary of GPS Accuracy

Given that the Garmin Forerunner 165 doesn't have multi GNSS or multi-band GPS (its GPS only GNSS) we really expected to see more of a difference.  As you can see in the zoomed-in corner on the right side of that graphic above there are more differences than we really expected between the Mini S and the 165.  Towards the top of the track there are fewer differences, but on that bottom-right side we saw a little shift of all the green lines (Forerunner 165 lines) away and to the left slightly of the red lines (Racebox Mini S lines).  We also couldn't see that inside line in that left-handed corner.

Our belief so far is that this shows the added advantage of the Forerunner 255 over the 165 (or the advantage of the multi-GNSS and multi-band GPS that you pay a little more for in the higher-end models), but it isn't bad!  If you compare the 165 to older generation models (even the 235 we reviewed in the blog post mentioned up above) there's a lot more accuracy to this new affordable Forerunner 165.

We think you'll see even more of a difference in more challenging GPS environments.  The Cahuilla Raceway where we did this test has no tree cover and is away from tall mountains and other GPS problematic environmental conditions.  If you ride in the trees, or on the side of really tall mountains we think you'll notice the GPS inaccuracy even more than we did.

What is multi-GNSS and multi-band GPS?

Multi GNSS means that the watch can communicate with different satellite constellations independently (the US, the UK, the Russian or even the Chinese).  Multi-band means the watch can communicate with those same constellations simultaneously. The ability to talk to more constellations increases the accuracy of the device. More constellations increase the chances of having a direct line of sight to a satellite even when your body, a tree, or a mountain is blocking part of the sky.


At the time of writing this the Garmin Forerunner 165 is $249USD.  That beats the next-lowest Garmin watch (the Forerunner 255 by $100USD).  If price has been holding you back from getting a great GPS device to track your laps with then this is a great new addition to the line-up. 

Other considerations: Usability with LITPro

The steps to log laps or use the Garmin Forerunner 165 watch with LITPro are the same for all Garmin watches (see our help desk article for more detailed instructions):
  1. Start an outdoor GPS activity on your watch (any non-motorsports activity that uses GPS will be fine, but choose Mountain Biking for example)
  2. Go ride, then return and end, and save your activity on the watch.
  3. Launch the Garmin Connect app if it isn't already launched and usually the watch will automatically sync within a few seconds.
  4. Garmin automatically shares that activity data with LITPro over a backend-to-backend connection, meaning the data uploads to Garmin, then Garmin shares that directly with LITPro.  LITPro then processes that data into laps and lap analytics. Note that an Internet connection is required.
  5. You get a push notification in the LITPro app that your lap times are ready to review... All done!

    Other considerations: Heart Rate Tracking

    Like all the other Garmin watch models, the Garmin Forerunner 165 has integrated heart rate tracking (using sensors that shoot light at your skin).  That sensor works as well as can be expected given a motocross activity that has plenty of vibration and jarring motions that can disrupt the light patterns the watches are looking for on your skin to accurately detect heart rate.  Added to that is if you get a little sweaty on your wrist there can accumulate dust which can turn to mud underneath the watch band making this kind of heart rate tracking impossible once that happens.

    Our recommendation for both watches is to also wear a chest-worn heart rate strap.  These are super reliable, and accurate.  The Forerunner 165 can be paired with any bluetooth heart rate strap.  Our favorite is the Garmin HRM Dual Heart Rate Sensor


     We were impressed with the accuracy of the Garmin Forerunner 165 - even though it doesn't have dual constellation GPS support.  We did notice it wasn't quite as accurate as the more expensive Garmin watches (like the Forerunner 255, 265, 955 and 965), but a great entry-price addition to the lineup.  We'll continue using and testing this watch to see how it performs in more challenging GPS environments.

    LITPro gives this watch a thumbs-up for sure and we recommend it to the price sensitive. Note that it is the same price as the Racebox Mini S (which is the most precise GPS device we support currently, so if absolute accuracy is the goal that is our recommendation).


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