Tuesday, August 25, 2020

COROS Pace 2 Premium Sports Watch Review: The Lightest GPS Watch Yet. Highly Accurate and Capable. A Superb Value at $200.

Article by Sam Winebaum

Coros Pace 2 Premium GPS Watch ($200)

Pros

- The lightest, full featured GPS and wrist HR sports watch watch on the market at 29g

- Superb fit and comfort from its thin profile, chafe free nylon woven strap and hinge design. Ideal for skinny wrists such as mine

- Solid spike free wrist HR in part likely due to the great on the wrist fit

- Longest full GPS accuracy, ultra, and everyday battery life of any watch in its class

- Highly accurate GPS distance tracking, even in UltraMax 60 hour battery mode

- Incredible value at $200

Cons

- None of any significance in terms of performance, usability, or accuracy

- It's a $200 non mountain focused watch but pretty sure it could run the vertical and navigation features of its pricer siblings Apex, Apex Pro, and Vertix which would make it yet more sharply compete with watches $50-$100 more.

- Would like to see deeper recovery (HRV, etc..) stats and deeper long term fitness and training trends data in app or at the web site, COROS being app only now.


Introduction

I first saw Coros at the December 2017 CES show where they first introduced the Pace 1. I was surprised at the performance and value of their first watch as previously they were known for their cycle helmets with built in bone conduction audio and emergency alerts.


Since then Coros has introduced several GPS smart watches including the Apex, Apex Pro, and Vertix each with outstanding performance, features such as titanium bezels and sapphire crystals and always leading value. 


We have tested each of their watches and every single one was complete and matched its specs and launch and all have been for all intents and purposes truly bug free, both rarely the case with GPS watches from any brand . The Pro and Vertix focused on “outdoor” be it mountaineering, trail running, hiking, and skiing with vertical features, titanium and sapphire in the mix and were clearly reaching for the top end of the market inhabited by watches such as the Garmin Fenix and Forerunner 945, Suunto 9, and new Polar Grit X.  As Coros grew, they have also amassed a stellar team of sponsored athletes in many sports. Clearly these athletes appreciate the long, long battery life, quality construction and performance of the products. And we do too!


The Pace continued as the “basic” GPS sports smartwatch but was getting long in the tooth with the most direct competitors Forerunner 45 and Forerunner 245 arriving with big upgrades in the last year or so. 

We first heard about the Pace 2 several months ago but it was delayed twice, both times for what appears to us good reasons. Coros doesn't rush until everything is ready and correct. Compared to the Pace 1,  it has 1.5X the processor, 4X more storage, longer battery life, and weighs 19g less yet with the same display size and a smaller case. It has the vast majority of the features of its pricier siblings. At $200 is an unbeatable in value.

The Pace 2 quite frankly shocked us, and positively,  when we first received full details and then during well over a month of testing. Our focus in this review is its running performance.


Key Highlights:

  • At 31 grams in our sample, and lighter at 29 grams in production band it is the lightest GPS with wrist heart rate watch ever as far as we know.

  • Very close to the thinnest at 11.7mm, only the smaller screen Forerunner 45s is thinner that we know of

  • Very comfortable, infinitely adjustable “velcro” type closure nylon woven wristband with standard 22mm quick release

  • Testing confirmed spec battery life of 30 hours in best accuracy GPS with optical wrist heart rate and up and beyond 60 hours in UltraMax mode  all with high track accuracy.

  • 20 days battery life in everyday use. We get very close to that in test

  • While it doesn’t have breadcrumb navigation or climb features of its bigger siblings it has a barometric altimeter with in test accurate total ascent, descent, and elevation 

  • Sunlight readable transreflective 64 color memory LCD screen size 42mm, resolution 240x240

  • 50 meter water resistance

  • Satellite networks: GPS/GLONASS/BEIDOU with GALILEO to come, 

  • Very effective digital knob plus one button interface

  • Multisport including run, indoor run, track run, tri, pool and open water swim, bike, indoor and outdoor cardio 

  • NativePower on the wrist or through Stryd integration

    ANT+/BLE sensor support including for Stryd (launching August 25) and the COROS Pod

  • Full intervals capability as well as having a guided multiple body zones exercise module with exercises demonstrated in the app with heat map tracking your sets and progress

  • Phone Notifications and not just snippets of a mail or message, Activity, Sleep, VO2 Max, fitness, and recovery metrics.

  • All for…$200


Please read on for all the details but I can say COROS Pace 2 is one of the very best combinations of GPS, HR, and battery performance, features, comfort, and value for running (we won’t comment much on the other sports modes as all we do is run and hike!) we have tested to date and we have tested many dozens of watches over the years. 


Does it have absolutely everything I might wish for in a watch for most running? No, but it comes very close. It’s most direct competitors such as the Forerunner 245 and Polar Vantage M cost $30-$50 more and have additional features you will have to decide you absolutely must have.. and will actually use. It is also important to remember that Coros first watch emerged in 2018 and the competitors have been at it for decades.  Coros execution since then has been superb in its consistency and quality with many new features added to the platform in software and in new watch hardware and the eco system appears to be very amenable to improvements so we can expect more features as time goes on but of course as all brands do they may segmented into different price points regardless of the watch's actual capabilities under the hood.


Official Specs

Fit, Comfort, and Interface

In a word outstanding. The lightest feeling watch on the wrist I have ever tested not only because it is in fact the lightest at under 30 grams but as the combination of flat pivoting hinges (no bulges or stiff pieces), soft wrist conforming nylon woven band,  low profile digital knob and bottom button just never press or bother. 

The nylon woven 22mm quick release band is pretty much infinitely and very quickly adjustable with a “velcro” like closure so it is flat with no pins through holes on a clasp and their inevitable "bite". The grip side is completely against the woven nylon band when closed so no worries about it catching fragile technical fabrics. With a standard 22mm quick release band, it also works on watches such as the Garmin Forerunner 245 which I tried. Heck, if you already have a 245 and want a more comfortable band pick up the Coros band.

The end of the strap bulges a bit so you can adjust without fear of dropping the watch and instead of fully opening to remove just slip over your wrist. 

I really like the security and speed of this approach when adjusting, even on the run, as the watch will not fall off your wrist the adjusting tension of the strap by a simple “rip” of the closure, adjust and re-secure. 


Watch Faces, Interface and Operating

There are many watch faces to choose from most featuring large cartoonish and highly visible time digits.  They can be selected in the Coros app or directly on the watch with multiple selectable color options. 

A short press of the bottom button in watch mode cycles. with each press, to bring new stats to the top row such as battery% ,floors climbed, sunrise, sunset, calories, and day’s exercise time.

The interface is operated by Coros digital knob (turn and press) and a single right Back/Lap/ \Quick Menu access button. Each turn or press of the digital knob or press of the button gives back a slight but noticeable vibration. On the run you don’t even have to look at the watch to know your data screen has changed, the vibration will tell you. 


In watch mode spinning the knob down brings you to your notifications as the first view. The content is surprisingly complete, far more so than the usual snippet. In workout mode a spin of the knob cycles the data screens. While small, I have found the knob very tactile and easy to operate on the run with the small flat button below having just enough edge profile to easily find and press.


Spinning the knob up brings you to your basic activity stats, another spin to the last 6 hours heart rate stats graph and with a press of the knob to a graph you can spin the dial through to see each reading. 

The next spins to an altitude graph with again more granular detail by pressing in and spinning. The next two views are barometric pressure and temperature, also with detail, then a very complete view of sunrise, sunset, dawn, dusk and solar noon.

One more spin and you are back to the notifications.


A long press of the bottom button accesses the quick menu. If you want to turn UltraMax battery mode on you will need to do so once in the sport mode either as you wait to start or on the run. All other quick menu items are also accessible on the run.  

The quick menu includes: Timer, Stopwatch, UltraMax on/off, Battery Usage % and graph (press knob), Broadcast HR, Compass, Do Not Disturb, System, NIght Mode (which allows enough backlight to see watch in the dark without fully backlighting), 

Difficult to photograph the Night Mode gently illuminates the screen until the next sunrise so no need to tilt to light and then an overly bright view for night conditions.


Then with another spin Alarm, and satellite signal mapping (below) a very cool feature  showing how many are acquired, which ones, their network, where in the sky and color coded strength. 

Lots of satellites to work with below, and quickly (generally a workout “green light” of I assume 3-4 within in test about 5-6 seconds most of the time, about 2x as fast as the Forerunner 245) and more means better accuracy on the run!


If there is one default setting I wish COROS would do away with, and I have told them this several times, it is the screen lock by time or spin of the knob and then unlock by spin of the digital knob. It took me a long time with the Apex Pro to figure out how to use this feature the first time and it is not exactly easy to spin just right without paying attention. 


Of course you also have the option to turn it off completely or use the long press by any button option to lock and unlock. You can also set the lock unlock preference differently for workouts and everyday use. So far the inadvertent press of the digital knob of the Apex hasn't occurred once with the Pace 2 but not too many sleeves have been in the mix this time of year! Glad it is an option but make it easy for users when they first get the watch to actually access it without puzzlement and reference to instructions. 



Battery 

The Coros battery spec is 20 days regular use (no GPS/HR activities), 30 hours full accuracy GPS and wrist heart rate training, 60 hours UltraMax mode with heart rate .


I have tested and proven the 30 hour full accuracy training mode several times including during a 9.5 hour night hike where the battery usage was 30% leading to a 31 hour battery life.


As far as everyday battery use a 24 hour test with multiple phone notifications but no GPS activity during the period got me close to the 20 day spec with 6% battery usage so 16.7 days. Note that rounding of the meter with such low usage it is very possible the usage could have been closer to 5% or the spec battery life of 20 hours.


A 24 hour period with a 1:24 min run with GPS/HR used 15% battery indicating 6.7 days of battery life in more mixed use.  


While relatively few will need 30 hours at a stretch of full GPS/HR activity between charges or need to extend to 20 days of everyday use it is the combination of everyday and activity battery that leads here to that oh so pleasant feeling of not worrying about charging much if at all. 


Note that the competing Garmin Forerunner 245 has a spec of 24 hours GPS mode and 7 days everyday mode, lagging the Pace 2’s spec and performance. The Garmin does more continuous heart rate monitoring outside of activities which may account for some of the differences with the Pace 2 sampling once every 10 minutes 24/7 with the Garmin every second.


UltraMax Battery Life

The Coros has an UltraMax battery mode rated at 60 hours. I tested UltraMax during a 7.75 hour elapsed time hike clocked with auto pauses by the Pace 2 at  5.5 hours. The Coros had auto pause running and due to the very steep terrain it often auto paused and we also stopped for snacks, clothing and shoe adjustments etc... so it indicated just less 6 hours as shown below while a Garmin 945 running concurrently with no auto pause totalled 7.75 hours. 

The Pace 2 used 12% battery over the 7.75 hour actual hike elapsed time with an estimated approx. 65 hours of battery life with auto pause turned on, more than the spec of 60 hours.


More remarkably the total distance of the Strava plotted route was 9.67 miles with the Pace tabbing 9.52 miles or a difference better than the 1.5% actual difference as while we started and stopped the watch at the green dot below the Strava plotted route had us going a bit further. For the discussion of how well it followed the trail even with many auto pauses,and it did,  see the GPS section.


While using auto pause underestimated the actual time moving more than it might while running or hiking on more moderate terrain if you care less about pace and more about track accuracy during rough terrain hikes at slow paces where the auto pause will often kick in leaving it enabled appears to extend the battery life to 65 hours in that scenario. 


Screen

The display is a 1.2 inch Memory LCD with a 240x240 resolution identical in size and resolution to the competing Garmin Forerunner 245.  During my testing I found the Garmin 245 with its combination of fatter digits and a slightly more trans reflective screen only slightly more reflective and sunlight readable. The sunlight visibility was far superior to any of the AMOLED displays.

Transflective displays use ambient light and a slight tilt towards the sun when viewing to bring the view in real sharp! Note some of the many available fields including cadence, battery level, and Running Power (with a Stryd or Coros POD). 

 

The efficiency of the processing and very legible on the run and indoors screens are key to the battery life game. AMOLED or IPS TFT screens such as on the Apple, Google Gear, Suunto 7, and Polar Ignite watches essentially use “bulbs” for illumination, and at all times. There is no reflectivity from ambient light as the Coros leverages. 


Visibility with the AMOLED and similar screens in sunlight is often poor while indoor visibility is spectacular and superior but you will have to use annoying tilts of the wrist to light up and to save battery. Think of their screen visibility as sort of like the plush step in feel in the store of a running shoe which turns to mush on the road.  Generally battery life is in the 2-4 day range in everyday use for this screen technology, far behind the COROS’s Memory LCD. 

The Pace 2 screen is legible in bright sunlight even with Roka photochromic sunglasses on and especially with a slight tilt of the wrist to activate the trans reflectivity. I was easily able to see all four data fields on the watch but of course you can set it up with all kinds of combinations from two to six all configurable as you wish from the following choices


Data Fields


All screen layout configuration must be done on the app and there is no current option to change the data fields mid run as with Garmin but you can access the quick menu to for example set the watch to UltraMax if you think your battery won’t make it in full accuracy mode.

I had 5 screens configured on my Pace 2 and all are modifiable including the bottom sliver, hard to see on the run in black and small digits but it too can be configured  with any data field. 

Touch the layout choice at the top, touch the data field to change, select from the scrollable list at the bottom to select.  


Needless to say there is a vast number of running data fields. And over in Bike and Indoor/Open Water Swim I also see a vast array.

The choices above require the optional Coros Pod


I tend to prefer three to four msx per screen for running and up to six for slower paced hiking when things are easier to see.


Below is my “collection” of screens as seen on the run during a sunny day with no tilt to the sun


And the data screens seen on completion of a run


GPS  

Satellites in open areas are acquired in 5-6 seconds, remarkably quickly and consistently so and about 2x faster than my Garmin 245.

The Pace 2 uses all kinds of satellite networks: GPS/GLONASS/BEIDOU, with GALILEO to come with a firmware update. The photo below shows the constellation of available satellites, their location, type and strength. It looks like many GPS and GL (GLONASS) satellites are very much available. 

I tested GPS accuracy multiple ways including a winding trail run in the forest, open straight roads by the ocean, and on  multi hour rugged hikes as also discussed above in the UlltraMax section..


The forest run was on my usual trail test loop. Before moving to the relative accuracy of the track, note how close total distance is in DC Analyzer, within 40 meters between the Coros Pace 2 and the Polar Grit X, a $430 watch, with average wrist heart rate within about a beat per minute

The trail has a very winding section which can affect accuracy. From the above at 10m resolution it is hard to tell which is accurate as the trail is not shown. 

In the view above the Coros track is displayed relative to the trail via uploading to Komoot which has trails on its platform

And above the same area for the Grit X on my other wrist.

Above the Pace 2 on a straighter section of the trai, the Grit X on the same segment is below.


Things got more interesting when comparing the Pace 2 to a Garmin Forerunner 945 on a very steep hike in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with undoubtedly some interference of satellite signals from the forest and very steep trail slope with another steep slope on the other side of the valley also in the mix. Both watches were in their best GPS sampling mode. 


The 945 in blue above via DC Analyzer clearly missed some signals generating straight lines (to the right) on one leg of the out and back whereas the Coros in purple only seemed to have had one small hiccup (to the left). I wonder if the same tech which fills in gaps between pings in UltraMax kicks in when the Pace 2 has difficulty seeing enough satellites in its best mode? The trail was in no way straight that is for sure! Straight up yes!

In the view above via Komoot the same Glen Boulder Trail is represented with a gray straighter line as in the trail run. At 50 foot resolution the Pace 2 in the out and back route view was mighty close to what Komoot shows likely as an average again of tracks straightened out. 

At the end of the long day the Pace 2 had the hike at 11.58 miles with the Forerunner 945, a $600 watch with extensive on board mapping capabilities,,had it at 11.53 miles so extremely close to each other 


UltraMax Battery Life and GPS Accuracy

The Coros has an UltraMax battery mode rated at 55 hours. I tested UltraMax during another hike, a 7.75 hour elapsed time hike. The Coros had auto pause running and due to the very steep terrain it often auto paused and we also stopped for snacks, clothing and shoe adjustments etc... so it indicated just less than 6 hours as shown below with a Garmin 945 running concurrently with no auto pause enabled showing 7.75 hours elapsed.  

The Pace 2 used 11% battery life over the 7.75 hour actual hike elapsed time proving the 55 hour UltraMax battery spec with an estimated 67 hours with auto pause turned on. The actual moving time of just under 6 hours indicates 54.5 hours of battery life . 


More remarkably the total distance of the Strava plotted route was 9.67 miles with the Pace tabbing 9.52 miles or a difference of less than 1.5%. The actual difference was less, as while we started and stopped the watch at the green dot below, the Strava plotted route had us going a bit further as shown below.

Pace 2 also achieved remarkably accurate track and distance accuracy in UltraMax mode. It  uses Coros’s tech to “fill in the gaps” between pings at less than the bestsecond as follows: “ for every 2-minute period, the GPS data is recorded for 30 seconds. COROS relies on motion sensors, machine learning algorithms and individual running model for the remaining 90 seconds.”  This approach seems to have some similarities to Suunto’s Fused Track in its use of motion sensors to fill in gaps in track data between pings or otherwise.


See how close the track is to the actual Strava route below. And also note that on this very steep rocky terrain we did not always climb exactly on the track.

I only see a few places where it really struggled near the bottom deep in the valley where with the mountains also rising rapidly and steeply on the other side of the valley. The satellites may have been more obscured as shown below.

Accessing UltraMax  is easy..but not obvious. At first I thought one could turn it on from the quick dial of shortcuts as its icon is present. Pressing it referred me to the Run mode. Once there I looked in settings where one finds options such as auto pause, auto laps and a metronome. No UltraMax option visible. It turns out that by pressing and holding the bottom button one is taken back to the quick menu dial where the option to turn it on and off can be toggled before the run or during if you think you battery may not make it all the way 


The bottom line on UltraMax..and for that matter the humble Pace 2 as an ultra race or multi day hike watch is that while you will not get the rugged titanium bezels and sapphire crystals or the navigation features such as the breadcrumbs and climb statistics of its pricier siblings ,your track will be accurate and you should get up close to 5 days of 12 hour UltraMax tracking each day (based on approximately 17-18%% battery use per 12 hours plus 12 hours of everyday type monitoring (based on measured 3% usage per 12 hour period) from a single battery charge!


Wrist Heart Rate Accuracy

The Pace has a simple single sensor with flanking LED lights. The sensor module is remarkably flush to the back of the watch, always a good sign.


Wrist heart rate monitoring on various pace runs has been top notch. I attribute the accuracy to the light weight, minimal strap hinges, and excellent snug yet comfortable woven nylon strap all of which contribute to a tight, comfortable and air free seal to my wrist. 


These fit elements are key to achieving accuracy all other sensor tech inside aside. I have not as of yet tested in cold dry weather often where wrist heart rate struggles confusing cadence early in runs with heart rate when extremity blood flows are low.


Below is the heart rate for a 6.2 mile / 10K Solo Time Trial  with ending average pace 7:31 per mile

And below a 5 mile progression run ending at average pace 8:55 per mile with Coros Purple Garmin Forerunner 245 in blue compared in DC Analyzer. I note fewer high spikes with the Pace 2.


And a Stratham Hill hard progression trail run with Coros Purple and Polar Grix X Blue. Notice the high spikes in the Grit X data particularly in the final miles of pavement vs the more consistent Pace 2 data.

Bottom line on Pace 2 wrist heart rate to date is that it has been as accurate and consistent as any wrist unit I have tested with cold weather testing to come but given the excellent wrist fit I have fewer concerns in those conditions than with many competitors.


Altimeter

I tested the accuracy of the altimeter at the summit of Mt. Isolation with an official altitude of 4003 feet. The Pace was closer to official at 4026 feet than the Garmin Forerunner 945 which had 4086 feet.

The Isolation summit is actually the little rise in between the two peaks. To count as a New Hampshire 4000 footer the peak must have a 200’ difference in altitude to the next peaks. The Boott Spur the high peak actually does not when compared to Mt Washington or Monroe the two closest 4000 footers to it.

I also tested the altimeter during the subsequent hike up Mt Washington described above with the Pace 2 in Ultra Max mode and the Garmin 945 in its equivalent UltraTrac mode.


At the well known summit altitude of 6288 feet/ 1916 meters feet in very foggy wet and windy weather the Coros had 6211 feet / 1893 meters let’s just say the Garmin 945 was having a bad day all around as it was at 6671 feet and while it tracked the loaded course correctly indicated only 6.69 miles when actual distance was 9.5-9.6 miles as discussed above.

In terms of ascent statistics for Mt Washingtonin in very unsettled weather conditions (which can affect the barometric altimeters),  the Strava plotted route had me at 4547 feet of ascent,  the Coros measured 4429 feet of climbing with the 945 at 4695 feet so the Coros was 118 feet under and the 945 was 121 feet over. Who is closest to the Strava plot? I suspect the Pace 2, despite its mismeasuring the summit altitude as when closely examining the Strava plotted route I see I missed the final last bit of the climb to the actual summit.


At the end of the day the $250 Pace was within 26 feet / 8 meters of the $600 Forerunner 945 total ascent for one hike and closer to the Strava loaded route on the 2nd than the 945. 


Pace 2 doesn’t have the full topo maps and Climb Pro on board as the 945 does. Worth it? Depends on your needs. This said I would have sure missed the 945’s Climb Pro data for the climbs. The Forerunner 245 would have given me similar elevation metrics and breadcrumb navigation but has no Climb Pro or on board real maps.


Sport Modes

There are multiple available sport modes including run, indoor run, track run, tri (not shown in the app but seen on the watch), pool and open water swim, bike, indoor and outdoor cardio. I only run and hike so can’t comment on non running but I do see ANT+/BLE sensor support. 

The Pace 2 does not have the vertical features (shown above) such in the pricier Apex Pro and Vertix or the breadcrumb navigation of a route found in the Apex, Pro, and Vertix. it does not have a altitude acclimatization pulse oximeter as the Pro and Vertix have. 


While it has that great altimeter and ascent, descent, and elevation data fields it is not targeted at mountain sports as the others are. While not a data feature it also does not have the rugged titanium bezels and sapphire crystals, a consideration if your adventures take you into rough terrain where bumps may cause damage to the plenty rugged but all polymer cased and Gorilla Glass lens of the Pace 2.

Track Run is an intriguing option and with Covid it has been difficult to find a track to test as of yet.  It allows you to pre-set the lane you will run in from 1-8 each with its distance around the oval taken into account. Coros algorithms are supposed to help make track GPS runs more accurate, often an issue.  


Strength and Training Modes

I will admit to not doing much strength or non run workouts. I just run. As I try these new modes, i will update the review. In particular I am interested in trying the Core exercises.

The new strength mode, also available on other Coros watches except Pace 1 enables you to train by body part with instructions provided for each exercise

with a heat map reflecting body parts sets completed (eventually…) as the watch auto detects repeats.

The new Training Mode has 200+ preloaded exercises animated in the Coros app, but not animated on the watch itself. The intervals module is very complete and in prior Coros has proven excellent. Custom workout programs can be shared with friends and coaches via QR code or tap and workouts of the many Coros athletes will be available at Coros.com.


COROS App


The COROS app provides a more than adequate view of your training and fitness status as well as sleep. Data synch is extremely rapidly and reliably synched. I go to the main screen of the app and pull down and everything comes over in very little time, every time and my sense in far less time than Garmin or Polar. You can send your data to several 3d party apps including Strava.


Above is the main view of my day. Note the Fitness Index at the bottom right. A Garmin Forerunner 245M run concurrently for hard efforts while I tested the Pace shows a VO2 Max estimated score of 51 with the Coros at 52. While I buy my Lactate Threshold my Threshold Pace is let's just say "optimistic" as it often is in such estimates as I am old and slowish!


Drilling down on the Training Load by touching that panel and in fact touch any panel and you will get to more detailed and historical views allows you to touch the circles and add and subtract data to the graph. You can see the slight bump up of the orange VO2 Max and green Lactate Threshold as a result of a 10K hard effort around 8/17 I will detail below. 

Touching the runner icon at the bottom of the screen brings you to your recent workout results.

Touching Statistics at the top of that view brings you to weekly summaries with monthly views also available.  

The run below was a hard 10K at race pace. The data for each run unfolds as below.


I was particularly impressed with the spike free display of heart rate data.



The Coros app is more than OK but as with all apps the view necessarily has to be simpler, the filtering and analyzing more simplistic. Without a web site view in their platform Coros lags its competitors in deep analysis but they are a young company and prioritized the app. This said the data is easily exportable to other sports training sites such as Strava and Training Peaks so for most, including me it should be more than adequate.


Conclusions

The Pace 2 does the key basics of GPS track and pace accuracy, wrist heart rate monitoring consistency, long battery life, altimeter accuracy, and on the wrist comfort (as the lightest weight GPS smart watch yet at just over 29g) just a little bit better in my view, in each area, than any competitor, at any price. And all for a very competitive price of $200, with only the very basic in sport features Forerunner 45 equally it in price. If these basics with almost infinite data field options for multiple sports, all done reliably from hardware to firmware to connections, are what you are seeking in a GPS multi sports watch it is clearly a best pick of 2020. 


I might wish for something like Garmin’s Performance Condition metric early in a run to guide my day’s effort and Polar’s Nightly Recharge metrics for deeper recovery metrics and for trail and hiking topo or breadcrumb mapping navigation and vertical features (available in Coros more mountain and outdoor sport focused watches such as the Apex, Pro, and Vertix). I often am amazed at how few of the many features most, including me, actually use in higher end watches. 


I would also like to see a web site version of the platform for deeper and longer term analysis of data than an app can provide,


For the vast majority of runners and other multi sports it has everything we need, with no wrinkles surfaced in extensive testing, all for an unbeatable price. 


Sam’s Score 9.8 /10

Great value and quality execution of all the essential basics and then some in GPS smartwatch. And the lightest and most comfortable yet created with superb battery life and GPS accuracy, and HR consistency 


Forerunner 245 ($300)  RTR Review

The Pace is lighter and thinner, has a much more comfortable fit with longer battery life in training and everyday. In my testing it has slightly shown more accurate GPS and HR, and it includes the strength training module. It is $100 less than the 245.. The Forerunner has point to point breadcrumb navigation, every second 24/7 HR monitoring, additional physiology features, monthly cycles tracking, pulse Ox, and if connected to phone safety and alert features. The Pace at close to 10 g lighter and more notably more comfortable and with longer battery life needs to be weighed against the additional features. It is close but I personally lean ever so slightly towards the Pace with the only feature I will really miss from the 245 the Performance Condition metric which appears early in runs. At the Pace is overall at better value. If you really need music on board you will need to pay $350 and go with the Forerunner 245M.


Forerunner 45 ($200) RTR Review

6-8 grams heavier in both versions with far, far more limited data field options and less than half the GPS training battery life at the same price the Pace 2 is the clear winner


Coros Apex ($350)  RTR Review

$150 more than the Pace 2 the Apex has a titanium bezel and sapphire crystal, somewhat longer battery life, and navigation features. Everything else is pretty much identical so the choice really comes down to a somewhat more rugged watch and navigation and vertical features.


Polar Vantage M ($280) RTR Review

With a 30 hour training battery life the M matches the Pace but lags its everyday battery life at 5 days vs. close to 20 for the Pace although it must be said the M samples your heart rate continuously while the Pace samples once every 10 minutes.  Polar’s Nightly Recharge feature is sophisticated, informative and superior to Coros sleep analysis as it not only measures sleep quality and quantity but analyzes the recovery of your autonomic nervous system all presented in detail but also as simple scores.  Polar’s overall software platform is more extensive and informative especially its extensive long term trends analysis at the web site version of Polar Flow while its app lags Coros’s in usability.  A tough choice. If you lean more towards long term trend tracking, training plans and wellness features go with Polar. If you want a simple, very light, comfortable, highly accurate GPS watch with outstanding battery life the Pace 2.


Watch COROS YouTube Introduction WebCast here

The Pace 2 will be available early September here

Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was provided at no charge for testing. The opinions herein are the authors'.
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
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10 comments:

Jon said...

Sam, just wanted to say thank you for the great review. I know there is a "leader" out there in gps watch reviews, and while said person does a great job, I believe your reviews of watches are much better from a strictly runners perspective. This one is no exception. Great details and comparisons.

It arguably, from what I can tell, is the best value out there when talking about features to cost. I love the looks of it. I like the smaller size than most of what Garmin/Suunto offer.

I understand it doesn't have some features of the "higher end" units, but unlike you, I found NO value in Recovery estimator, VO2Max, Virtual Training partner, blah blah blah (the ABC function/topography/waypoints IS a very nice feature if you do a lot of trail running). For me, it came down to "are the features making me a better runner" and the answer was "no"...so I went back to a much more basic GPS watch.

Heck, if they offered a super slimmed down version of this watch that did NOT have customized workouts, Stryd and a power meter, and it was say $120, I'd buy it in a second. Give me time, distance, current pace and a good battery life, a good designed watch that fits my relatively small wrist and I'm good to go!

Sam Winebaum said...

Thanks so much Jon! I tend to focus on running and what captivates me or distinguishes or differentiates the product from others. The Pace 2 clearly did as did COROS care in making sure even the sample delivered well over a month ago was finished , flaws free as far as I can tell after many days of testing, and with all spec features on board or if not spelled out as to when (such as Stryd).
As far as that other reviewer he does amazing and deep work but rarely gets to the why or why not or for whom.
The Performance Condition stat, about 11 minutes into a run or race is the one specific feature I miss in Coros. I adjust effort and even workout based on what it shows. A +5 for example has me ramping up the run effort and always unless legs sore it ends up a really good one. Same in races.
As far as a less expensive version my sense it is more about marketing segmentation than the watch's capabilities or any significant additional costs for the hardware.
You say current pace. I rarely use it as it fluctuates so much but tomorrow I will see how COROS does with it and update!
Sam, Editor

Anonymous said...

Great review! If Coros can nail accuracy along with their already great battery life at a prime price, I can see myself sneaking away from Garmin.

Patrick said...

Sam, do you know if Coros integrates temperature into its vo2 Max readings? Living here in Singapore, it's quite important that the temp and humidity are taken into account for this figure!

Will said...

Can you discuss the wrist power feature? Is it useful? Regardless Coros torches Garmin in terms of lack of bugs and updating new features to their other watches. I’m totally done with Garmin

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Will,
The Coros internal power feature went live on the Apex Pro but not seeing it yet on my Pace 2 but will check today on the run. It may have update. As far as Stryd I hope to send my Pace 2 to a tester who uses power extensively shortly. I generally focus on average pace and HR.
Sam, Editor

Will said...

Thanks Sam! TBH I just don't know what those things are for. I found that most things beyond the basics don't add anything for me and, if anything, I agree with Shawn Beardan (Science of Ultra podcast) that they can muddle things.

Oh, the Coros thing that isn't there is a web-platform for data/calendar/log. Strava for free is more limited than ever (and I don't care to share via social media), while Training Peaks is expensive. Have you guys ever considerd a platform review and, if so, perhaps take a gander at Final Surge? Sorry for the weird suggestion!

Linda said...

Thank for your review
Thanks so much Jon! I tend to focus on running and what captivates me or distinguishes or differentiates the product from others. The Pace 2 clearly did as did COROS care in making sure even the sample delivered well over a month ago was finished , flaws free as far as I can tell after many days of testing, and with all spec features on board or if not spelled out as to when (such as Stryd).
My blog: WalMart

Anonymous said...

You may try runalyze as a web platform. It syncs from most watch brands and it is free to use (with ads) or a small fee (no ads).

Greg Lewis said...
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