There aren’t many smaller sports watch brands that successfully manage to compete with the big players when it comes to fitness tech, but over the past two years California-based Coros has done just that.
The company released its first wearable less than two years ago in the form of the Coros Pace, but it lacked some of the features that brands like Garmin and Polar.
Essential reading: Best running watch for beginners to serious athletes
Following the Pace came the Apex, and Coros Vertix, a release that looks and suspiciously sounds like the Garmin Fenix.
The Apex Pro is the next iteration of the Apex watch, adding a range of upgraded features including an optional touch screen, modified design features, an additional button, an oximeter and an improved battery life.
Those improvements do see a price increase of $200, which is a healthy amount of money compared to the previous model. Are the changes worth it? Let’s have a look.
Coros Apex Pro key features
- 240 x 240 pixel
- Touch Screen Memory LCD
- Sapphire glass screen
- Titanium alloy bezel
- Quick release 22mm silicone strap
- 47 x 47 x 13.4mm
- ANT+ for accessories
- GPS / GLONASS
- Sensors Optical Pulse Oximeter
- Optical heart rate monitor
- Barometric altimeter, accelerometer, compass, gyroscope, thermometer
- Waterproof Rating 10ATM
- Charging Time Less than 2 Hours
- 30 days of regular use
- 40 hours in Full GPS mode
- 100 hours in UltraMax mode
Not a great deal has changed from the previous Apex model – something we’re not complaining about. Unlike the first iteration though, the watch only comes in the larger 47mm variant (1mm bigger than the Apex version).
To be honest, that’s not really a major issue, in comparison to some of the more rugged outdoor watches on the market, the Apex Pro is a sleek-looking piece of kit and despite the fact it’s by no means a small watch it in no way looks chunky on the wrist.
At 13.4mm, it’s 1.5mm thinner than the Fenix 6 and weighs in at an impressive 59g, whereas the Fenix 6 is 82g. That difference has a massive impact on what the watch is like to wear, making it an incredibly light if you’re hoping to take it out for a run. We’ve been using it for a number of races, including the New York Marathon, and it’s barely noticeable on the wrist.
In terms of aesthetics, it’s a nice looking piece of kit. The titanium bezel twinned with the one-sided dial/button design has a definite classiness to it that would inevitably work well with a nice leather strap – especially when you opt for the analog watch face.
In contrast, the bright green version that we tested made it look a lot more interesting than the usual grayscale straps you often find on outdoor watches. Those straps are interchangeable via a quick-release mechanism, allowing you to go for 22mm (46mm) and 20mm (42mm). Those will set you back $30 and come in a handful of color options.
The memory LCD screen is also 1.2 inches and includes 240 x 240 (64 colors), which looks great and we’ve got no complaints in terms of screen clarity. Add to that a titanium frame, a hard-wearing Sapphire glass screen and 100m waterproof rating and you can see why the watch is turning heads.
The Apex Pro is operated via two buttons and a large central dial. That dial is the primary way to access the various dashboard elements within the watch. A few turns of it also bring the watch out of the automatic lock mode.
To move in and out of activities and readouts you click the dial or press the lower back button. The other button controls the light being on or off.
Against something like a Garmin, the operating system is relatively simple, although the alien addition of a dial does take some getting used to initially. Once you’ve unlocked the screen, the dial will scroll through the main interface options, which largely cover graphical overviews from the sensor information: calories, steps, body temperature, elevation, pressure and heart rate
A tap on the crown brings up the scrolling activity options as well as an access point to the settings menu. There’s about a dozen pre-loaded activities available. If you Tap the dial again it’ll give you the option to start and modify the setting for each one.
Lastly, a hold on the lower button will bring up a quick menu screen that controls the top-level options: settings, alarms, do not disturb, maps, night mode and stopwatch.
Overall it’s a clean and easy to use system that goes to show how Coros is developing the product into its own entity instead of piggybacking from other brands – which was the feel we got when we originally picked up the Coros Apex.
The Apex Pro currently incorporates 13 different fitness tracking modes. Those include most things you’re likely to need from a sports watch ticking off everything from running to triathlon, including transitions. It won’t, however, cover off the more specialist activities like paddleboarding and winter sports.
As we’ve already mentioned, the interface to access those tracking modes is beautifully simple. Press the crown, turn to the desired mode, press the crown again and you’re ready to go. It’ll also give you some additional options based on the activity, for example in the running mode you can also set it to do interval training.
This allows you to set interval and rest time periods which the watch will alert you to during a workout. In addition, there’s a settings option where you can modify things like autopause, set navigation routes or add customizable alerts for things like distance, pace and cadence.
Read this: Best heart rate monitors and watches to buy
The workout screens are also customizable. In the watch, you can modify background color, font size, auto-scrolling and message alerts, as well as the ability to turn on touch screen swiping – a new feature added to the Apex Pro.
In the app, you can change the various screens that the watch shows, prioritizing the information you actually care about and choosing between two and six data fields on the screen. Each of those screens is easy to read and the process of modifying them is very simple using the app.
An additional feature has also been added to the Coros firmware since we started to test the Apex Pro called Track Mode. It’s a concept which, once again, shows that Coros is aiming high with what its tech can do – in this case allowing users to accurately record running sessions taking place on the track.
That feature is designed to use GPS data to lock onto the specific lane that you’re running in to give ridiculously detailed data on your performance. The results at present are good, but not without issues – however, as a first bash at the technology, it’s a very powerful idea that we hope will see improvements via future updates.
Following in the footsteps of brands like Garmin and Polar, Coros has included its own form of recovery metric in the shape of AI Trainer. Like its competitors, this feature boils down all your activity into a simplified ‘Stamina’ percentage and aerobic/anaerobic training effect numbers (0-6). Drill down into the individual activities and you’ll find the information used to generate those numbers.
Overall the Apex Pro does a nice job and tracking and displaying training data, but at $499.99 we couldn’t help but feel shortchanged. The difference between the Apex Pro and the significantly cheaper Apex is minimal and although you get all of the workout data you probably need, there isn’t a great deal in terms of interesting data, like you’ll find in the more recent Garmin and Polar watches.
When testing the Apex we did notice some issues with GPS routes and slight deviations. It wasn’t enough to be a major problem but did sour a great piece of kit. Luckily the Apex Pro doesn’t seem to suffer from those same issues and we found very few anomalies in the accuracy of the GPS tracking.
When using on a 3-lapped 10k course the tracked route followed the ran path extremely well. We saw only a couple of minor hiccups in around 6 weeks of testing, the most noticeable appearing during the New York Marathon where the route jumps slightly on one section of the route. This is most likely due to the buildings in New York and we haven’t seen any issues outside of built-up areas.
Heart Rate Accuracy
In our review of the Apex, one of our major gripes was the noticeable issues with heart rate tracking reported via the device. Subsequently, we’ve paid a lot of attention to how the Apex Pro performs.
In a steady 10k race, when compared to a Polar H10 chest strap and a Garmin Fenix 6 Pro, the heart rate tracking was fine. It didn’t pick up some of the peak and drop differentiation of the chest strap data, but it wasn’t far out and showed very few issues. The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro seemed to pick up additional spikes that didn’t appear on the chest strap or the Apex Pro.
When testing in a 45-minute HIIT class that mixed treadmill sprints with strength work the results weren’t quite so good. Overall the peaks and drops were actually pretty accurate in comparison to the chest strap, however, there were noticeable differences in large peaks and drops which the chest strap picked up. Against other sports tracker we’ve tested it’s well within an acceptable level and the max and average heart rates were very close (184bpm max/148bpm for the chest straps and 181bpm max/143bpm for the Apex Pro.)
One of the main features of the Apex Pro focussing on the outdoor market is the navigational system. Although there’s no capability to use maps within the watch, it does offer the ability to use directional route following via GPS.
In comparison to something like the Casio Pro Trek or the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro range, it’s a relatively simple system. You can use it to either generate a GPX route of an activity or you can upload a route map file into the app and then use the tool to navigate that route. Like the Garmin Instinct, the resultant data uses your location to produce a simple navigational view of your movements.
If you’re uploading a map into the watch it’s a very useful tool for hikers and trail runners as it can help to ensure you don’t stray far from the pre-planned route. It’ll even tell you if you start to deviate from that course.
If you’re hiking in a wilderness, it’s an exceptionally useful tool to ensure you get home safely. It’ll also use route data to advise you on expected elevation as you progress.
The navigation system is one of the main areas where both the dial and the touch screen come into their own, offering a much easier way to scroll and zoom in and out of the small screen. In watch models where you use buttons to operate the maps this is a constant issue which often makes using navigational features very difficult.
Activity tracking and smartwatch features
Although both sleep and steps are probably further down the wish list of the apex Pro’s target market, we’ve tested both and found them offer extremely good tracking. Again, in comparison to the Garmin Fenix 6, the Apex Pro consistently showed a significantly more accurate overview of sleep in terms of length of time.
For analysis of deep sleep and REM we did feel that the Coros came in low in comparison to how we felt in the morning, whilst the Fenix 6 often suggested up to 2 hours more deep sleep/REM.
It will also support smartwatch notifications allowing you to receive WhatsApp or email notifications, all delivered in an easy to read format.
The easy to use interface seen in the watch is luckily mirrored in the Coros app itself. In fact, it’s probably one of the elements of the Apex Pro which we like the most, offering a beautifully designed system that manages to be simple yet incorporate a wealth of data at the same time.
The app features four primary screens: an activity dashboard, a workout log, a profile overview and a device management area. Those last two are largely used to update settings and user information, the first two are the really impressive ones.
The dashboard screen is simply an overview of the key elements of data tracked via the watch – nothing particularly exciting – it is, however, a very clean and easy to digest glimpse at the day’s activity. The workout screens take that to the next level producing some seriously nice visual graphics detailing things like cadence, heart rate, elevation and training effect. Our particular favorite is stride, a data source Coros uses to help identify areas where you could be running inefficiently.
If you know anything about the previous Coros models, you’ll know we’ve left the best until last. Like the Apex, the Apex Pro offers one of the best battery lives we’ve ever seen on a watch that operates at this level.
Coros claims that the Apex Pro offers 14% more battery life than the Apex, which, considering it was one of the most impressive aspects of that watch is impressive to say the least.
Corus claim that the Apex Pro has 30 days of regular use, 40 hours in Full GPS mode and 100 hours in UltraMax mode, all on a battery charge of less than 2 hours. We haven’t managed to test the full extent of that, but we can say that we very rarely charged it under normal usage. In over six weeks of testing, we’ve only needed to charge it twice, and that includes multiple runs and a marathon.
Coros Apex Pro
The Coros Apex Pro is a solid outdoor watch that offers more than enough for most users. The wealth of features, excellent interface and battery life make it well worth a consideration if you’re looking for a new option for hiking, trail running and cycling. However, although Coros have managed to rectify some of the issues in HR tracking, the price tag of $499 is significantly steeper than the original Apex and means that the Apex Pro is no longer a remarkably cheap alternative to the likes of Garmin, but is directly competing. In comparison to something like the Fenix 6 it’s still short of the mark when it comes to features.
- Attractive and easy to use
- Smooth and simple interface
- Great battery life
- Too expensive
- Basic smartwatch features
- Limited upgrades from the cheaper Apex