COROS is here to stay as a serious player in the GPS watch market. After the generally quiet release of the PACE Multisport watch in 2018, the company went hard into the running market, specifically trail running.
You’ve likely seen or heard of them at some point this year, and while Garmin certainly dominates the market as a whole, COROS is doing its best to carve out some new trails. It’s working.
Over the past year, we’ve spent considerable time reviewing/wearing the APEX 46mm, APEX Pro, and VERTIX. As such, we feel we have a pretty intimate knowledge of the good, the bad, and the in-between with COROS.
Although this isn’t a complete COROS family roundup (it doesn’t include the APEX 42mm or PACE), it covers the most desirable watches for the serious runner.
Check out a short rundown of each model below, followed by my breakdown of strengths and weaknesses within the COROS family as a whole.
The COROS APEX 46mm (along with its smaller 42mm sibling) was the first watch released by COROS in the company’s big push into the running market. Previously, COROS had been heavily involved with bicycling and smart helmets, and the PACE Multisport watch kind of fell into that purview.
This is the more basic and lighter watch of the COROS line, a watch that is comparable to the Garmin 235 in terms of purpose. However, it excels above the 235 in many ways, most notably the long battery life and the nice sapphire glass screen.
Real-life example: a friend of mine recently replaced his 235 with the COROS APEX and he hasn’t looked back.
Note that the APEX 42mm only has 25 hours battery life in full GPS mode. That alone is worth dropping the extra $50, unless you really prefer a smaller watch face.
For a full in-depth analysis, read our COROS APEX 46mm review.Shop COROS APEX 46mm
My favorite watch in the COROS family, it certainly looks the best while providing excellent battery life. The watch case is just big enough without crossing the line into clunky.
The crown knob is slightly larger than the APEX knob, making it super easy to use, even with gloves. It’s really comfortable to wear and like the APEX 46mm, offers in-depth analysis, including cadence, stride length, and training effect.
For a full in-depth analysis, read our COROS APEX Pro review.Shop COROS APEX Pro
The VERTIX is truly something. The battery life is just ridiculous, in a class of its own. It became a problem because I would go weeks without charging it and would misplace my charging cable (I’ve since organized).
It’s definitely a bit bulkier for people of my stature (I’m usually secured in one of the last holes on a watch strap), but if you have a normal size wrist it’s not overbearing.
The watch is made for rugged conditions, from the mountains to the deserts. For a typical runner, it’s probably not necessary, but spending an extra $100 over the APEX Pro for 20 extra hours of battery life may be worth it.
Especially if you hate charging things, like me.
For a full in-depth analysis, read our COROS VERTIX review.Shop COROS VERTIX
There are a few things that separate COROS watches from their competitors, but they are things that matter. I didn’t include great features that are generally available in other watches like map loading, heart rate monitor, route guidance, Bluetooth/ANT+ capabilities, etc.
» GPS Accuracy
After multiple tests comparing against Garmin, Polar, and just looking at the damn map, the GPS accuracy is solid. Early versions of the VERTIX dropped at times (I believe this has since been fixed through firmware updates), but I’ve never had any issues with either APEX model.
Every COROS watch incorporates a newer Sony chipset that literally every GPS watch manufacturer is either now using or moving towards.
Just this past weekend I took the APEX Pro through a parking garage and it came out perfectly, a monumental task for a lot of GPS watches.
» Intuitive Interface
Whoever is on the UI/UX team for COROS needs to get a raise. All of their watches (and app) are so easy to use and navigate. It’s almost like the watch already knew where I wanted everything to be. It’s always crazy to me how many watches or apps out there can’t take care of this properly. COROS knocks it out of the park.
Same goes for the COROS app— really nice design, easy to navigate, no superfluous screens or data.
» Battery Life
Simply put, every one of their watches features best-in-class battery life. As mentioned above, the VERTIX is truly mind-boggling, especially when you wear it for a 50-mile race and still have more than 75% battery left.
» Lightning-fast GPS connectivity and syncing
By far, COROS connects to GPS faster than any other watch I’ve experienced. It rarely takes more than 15 seconds to hook up to a satellite. Syncing to Strava is even faster, typically only a matter of seconds.
» Oversized Digital Crown Knob
I can’t tell you how much I love this feature after using it day in and day out. GTFO of here with those sticky or too-sensitive navigation buttons. The crown knob makes it so easy to navigate through menus, to unlock the screen, and honestly— it’s just fun to use. Sometimes, that matters.
» Multi-Day Recording
This is another feature I love that flies under the radar. In trail running and climbing mode on the VERTIX and APEX PRO, you can pause your workout, exit the workout so it disconnects from the GPS satellites (saving you battery), then pick up later.
I’ve always struggled with this on multi-day bike-packing trips, or even errand runs where I’d like to pause my run without ending it while picking up what I need. Instead of having a bunch of chopped up runs or draining GPS battery by having an extended paused workout, I can exit the workout and simply pick it back up whenever I’m ready.
» Lack of in-depth training
If you’re looking to set up a detailed training plan that can be loaded to your watch (i.e. structured intervals), you’re not going to get it with COROS. While simple intervals are doable from the watch, a pyramid workout is not in the cards. At least not yet.
» No Bells and Whistles
If you’re a runner who absolutely needs music on the go, or if you like the wallet-on-your-watch feature, you won’t find it in the COROS family. COROS doesn’t hide the fact that they’re going after pure runners by nailing down the most important aspects of a GPS watch— battery, GPS accuracy, and ease of use. Everything else is secondary.
This doesn’t bother me because I don’t listen to anything when running, but I get that it matters for some people.
That said, it does display text notifications (quite nicely, I may add) and alerts to incoming phone calls.
» App Only
This is almost in the good section for me, because I do feel like COROS made the right move here. CEO Lewis Wu himself said they modeled it after Apple’s strategy— no detailed user guide, web interface, just a simple, intuitive design and an app.
That said, if you love Garmin Express or Polar Flow, either for data viewing or workout planning, you won’t find any of those features whatsoever for a COROS watch.
» Touch Screen Capabilities
While the newest firmware update provides touch screen capabilities for both the APEX Pro and VERTIX, it’s pretty limited in what it actually does. It can only be used in certain screens, and generally speaking, the crown knob does it better.
After testing and wearing COROS products over the last year, I’ve kind of become a fanboy. Full disclosure, they are a partial sponsor and we work in partnership with them for some advertising. But we’re not afraid to tell you what we like and dislike about a company, and they encouraged us to be open and honest about their products, which I’ve done to the best of my ability.
Out of the entire COROS family, my favorite watch is the COROS Apex Pro. It’s a little bit of a wallet hit to jump $150 for a few extra hours of battery and other minor improvements, but for the average to above-average runner, it takes care of almost every need (aside from detailed interval workouts). I also think it’s the nicest looking watch in the family.
The COROS APEX 46mm comes in at a close second, and honestly, you can’t go wrong with it for just a solid, taking-care-of-business GPS watch.
Lastly, while I do love the VERTIX (it looks/is badass), it certainly isn’t very necessary for most runners. For extreme adventurers/climbers/ultrarunners gone for days or weeks at a time, put this on the Christmas list. Or get really good at whatever adventuring you’re doing and get sponsored by COROS.Shop COROS GPS Watches
You can view a full side-by-side spec comparison on the COROS website.