In this COROS Pace Review, we take a good look at the latest GPS, multi-sport watch from COROS.
The Pace model is sometimes called the PACE MULTISPORT or PACE M1. Either way, it’s their first triathlon watch. I have been using the Pace for about 2 months and have been waiting to produce this review until they delivered support for ANT+ sensors – which I’m pleased to say they have! And that also includes power meter support (v1.37)
This COROS Pace Review is an updated version of the ‘preview‘ I produced in June. It includes some of the same images and words but crucially fleshes out the new functionality as well as covering aspects of accuracy in detail.
In a nutshell: the COROS Paceis a credible triathlon and sports watch. It competes against the Garmin 735XT and Suunto Spartan Trainer. To succeed, COROS will need to do some good marketing and entice buyers in sale periods — aka the RRP is a little too high…but then again, so are Garmin’s.
COROS are a newcomer to the GPS sports watch market. They have made 2 smart bike helmets (OMNI/LYNX) that look interesting and are also nicely featured.
COROS saw a gap in the sports watch market and have come up with the COROS PACE (aka PACE MULTISPORT or PACE M1).
The COROS Pace is squarely aimed at multi-ability triathletes and runners.
Triathlon watches used to be ‘functional’. But now this part of the market has seen the emergence of super-smart triathlon watches like the Amazfit Stratos and super-functional ‘do-it-all’ triathlon watches like the Forerunner 935. Most of the tri watches are guilty of also trying to be watches that you would wear 24×7 for a variety of reasons, not least of which is to justify their spiralling price tags. As these triathlon watches have become ever smarter and ever more functional (and ever more pricey), so a gap is partly created in the middle of the price bands for something that looks like a sports watch and IS a sports watch…a sports watch that can do triathlons properly. That’s where the PACE is competing.
So if we look at the top end of the market there would be the ‘pro’ tri watch and really there is only the Garmin Forerunner 935 (review), Fenix 5S / 5 (review), Polar V800 and Forerunner 920XT in that space. At the lowest end would be something like the Amazfit STRATOS (reviewed here).
In the middle, there are ‘the rest’, most notably the Suunto Spartan Trainer and Garmin Forerunner 735XT. The ‘middle’ is defined by me in terms of the seriousness of the watch to the intended purpose – ie usefulness to triathlon. Not by price. Also in the middle would be some of the other more expensive Suunto’s like the Spartan Sport and the new Suunto 9 which essentially have the exact same tri capability as the Spartan Trainer just with some non-tri extras and/or a better casing. Epson’s ProSense range (discontinued) also fit here.
The COROS Pace is definitely competing in that middle space.
I’m expecting new entrants in 2018 to come into the ‘pro’ space. I don’t ‘know’ that for sure, it’s more of an educated guess.
The COROS Pace Multisport Watch
Here we have a lineup of some of the current crop of triathlon watches (Aug 2018). Roll the clock forwards to October 2018 and I suspect (and hope) that there will be a few more to add to the image.
The COROS PACE MULTISPORT is a genuine triathlon watch that offers a ‘triathlon’ sports profile. It is styled like a Garmin Forerunner 735XT and has smartphone-connected features and activity-related features. It’s very much a SPORT watch that does other stuff, rather than a 24×7 watch that can also do sport.
Sure you can wear the COROS Pace 24×7 (it’s actually quite comfortable) but to do so you would need to be keen on displaying an obviously ‘sports-style’ watch. That suits me, from a personal point of view, but if I were still inhabiting suit-world then I wouldn’t wear it for work.
The watch itself does feel like the designer had an unhealthy admiration of the Garmin Forerunner 735XT. Some of the menus are scarily similar. However it’s a 4-button watch (not 5) and clearly no newcomer is going to match Garmin’s extensive feature set nor their higher prices.
That middle space we just talked about is relatively crowded. So the COROS Pace needs to stand out.
COROS state their differentiators as 25 hours of GPS usage and a barometric altimeter.
Those two factors ARE differentiators but I don’t fully buy that. I’d take the battery life as being an important feature for longer distance triathletes but I would need to put price into the mix as well. We’ll come back to that later.
COROS Pace Specifications
Here are the key specifications of the COROS Pace and some commentary where useful
- Colour options – black/grey, red/black and blue/black
- Screen size – 240x240px (1.2″ LCD) – This is the same resolution as the high-end Garmin Fenix 5 Plus devices
- GNSS – GLONASS+GPS (+BDS) is permanently enabled.
- Water resistant to 50m
- Barometric altimeter
- ANT+ sensor support including heart rate monitor, speed/cadence, indoor trainer and power meter. STRYD support is stated as being actively worked on (31 Jul 2018). I could add two power meters so I assume there is some sort of sensor pool.
- Bluetooth connection only to smartphone
COROS Pace Features & Details
Here are some of the stand-out features and details on the watch that are noteworthy in some way.
- Battery – stated as 25 hours of workout time with GPS+GLONASS enabled (that’s good)
- Air pressure/elevation profiles over time
- Barometric altimeter with 3D-GPS elevation calibration and manual elevation calibration.
- Heart rate profile over time plus heart rate zone dial
- Main screen heart rate monitor icon changes to show if chest strap or oHR is in use – neat!
- Calorie counter
- 7 sport profiles including triathlon (with transitions), open water and indoor bike. Up to 5 data pages per profile and up to 4 customisable metrics per page. Customisable via app.
- Manual lap, autolap, autoscroll, auto screen lock, sport alert in triathlon.
- Cadence, HR, pace, speed alerts.
- HR/Power Zones
- Custom pool length setting
- Part customisable vibration and tone alerts. Decent vibrate and volume.
- Phone and app notifications (with do not disturb time range)
- Workout history on watch and app
- rHR and VO2max on app
- Strava upload via app (plans to also link to MapMyRide, MapMyRun, TrainingPeaks)
- FIT data export via email or download to smartphone (latter didn’t work for me). The FIT files are not fully & properly ‘formed’ – I did get them to work BUT I didn’t try every recipient program.
COROS Pace – Feature Omissions for now
It’s not going to have every feature ever thought of. Even some of the high-end Garmins miss some features. The COROS Pace DOES have sufficient features as of NOW to be a sensible option. Here are some of the things I personally would like to see (particularly if it is to be treated as a fully functioned tri watch)…your list may well be different.
- Fully customisable, custom multi-sport profile
- Calendarised plans and structured workout functionalities (hard to implement in full even Suunto do not have this)
- Enhanced run-mode STRYD/RunScribe compatibility – STRYD as source of pace and distance, power alerts when running (COROS ARE actively looking to include this support for STRYD/RunScribe)
In general I would say that my expectations were quite low for the Pace’s GPS and oHR accuracy. Those things are hard to get right with your first GPS device. Furthermore, many companies (eg Garmin) appear to compromise on accuracy to extend battery life.
However, the COROS Pace notably EXCEEDED my expectations and was actually quite good. Sure it had moments of madness and there are always elements of variability in performance – but on the whole I was pleasantly surprised.
I do have a LOT of data points over the last couple of months with the COROS Pace, so I am reasonably happy with what I am about to say. I will add the appropriate notes of caution as we go…
Optical HR Accuracy – Running
Here are a couple of short intervals to reasonable HR levels. It looks pretty good to me. Very slightly better than a £600 Garmin Fenix 5S watch. Assume the 935+HRM-TRI is correct.
Here’s a slightly different (slower) run but with different recoveries. Recovery periods sometimes confuse oHR sensors.
Tum te tum. This is getting a bit repetitive isn’t it?
This is another long and steady-state run but this time with a fair amount of off-road bumpy but flat terrain. The bumpiness DOES seem to cause the COROS some issues. Although cadence seems to be causing a ‘crossover problem’ with the Suunto 9.
Optical HR Accuracy – Cycling
Again COROS performs better than Garmin when out cycling. Normally road vibration confuses the oHR. As you can see, the COROS slightly outperforms the Garmin here. Both are fine…today
A couple more hours here with a couple of incorrect spikes from the COROS…no biggie.
Here are some hill reps and the COROS was not happy. This is not acceptable. But if you didn’t have a comparison chest strap on then you probably would have thought it was OK when reviewing your data after the workout.
Optical HR Accuracy – Swimming
We were bussed to the start of a long swim so I set the HRM-TRI recording and left my Garmin at the finish line. Sporttracks wouldn’t let me add an offset of more than 60 minutes, so the start times don’t match (see offset setting, below). Even if I could change the offsets to the correct value the lines clearly would nowhere near match.
And another result that is not great with a wetsuit.
Optical HR Accuracy – Summary
As we’ve seen above, for run and bike optical HR accuracy the COROS Pace generally looks good. For swim it looks bad.
- Swimming is the hardest to get right and Garmin do NOT provide optical HR readings AT ALL for swimming. Polar and Suunto do. As we saw, Suunto weren’t great either.
- If you check all the dates of the various charts you will see that the COROS performs less well on the earlier ones. This could be because the firmware was later improved or it got notably hotter in the UK (improving bloodflow).
Overall though I would say the COROS Pace was one of the better optical HR performers over all those I have seen. As I always say – if you want accuracy with heart rate then you will get a chest strap or an optical HR ARM BAND.
The onboard GPS chip gives you: a pretty track of where you’ve been; your distance travelled; navigation; and your running pace or cycling speed. Most devices will give you a pretty enough track of where you’ve been if that’s all you want. Most devices will also give you +/-1% accuracy for distance IF YOU LOOK AT THE PERFORMANCE OVER LONG PERIODS (eg >1 hour). At a granular level, however, distances are wrong and hence speed/pace is often wrong. At least it is when running. Cycling tends to be fine as there is no swinging arm movement.
The COROS Pace always uses GPS+GLONASS together. Normally I find with other devices that GLONASS makes the positional accuracy worse although exceptions may be found under tree cover and near taller buildings.
For me personally the accuracy of HR and repeatability of my bike’s power meter are paramount. However I appreciate that there are MANY MORE RUNNERS who want accurate distance measurements and instant pace measurements than there are cyclists with power meters. Instant pace is important to me too (but not distance).
GPS Accuracy – Running
I have a test that I do for GPS watches. All the results, source files and methodology are here. The Pace scored 81% and 77%. 81% is one of the best results I’ve had.
This is a segment from that test that poses several GPS challenges and the COROS IS really good.
Interestingly on both test days there were a reasonably higher than normal number of satellites available in the sky (Details about GPS DilutionOfPrecision (DOP) here).
Yet in more normal use there is not so much that sets the COROS apart as we see here…
GPS Accuracy – Cycling
With repeated laps it can be useful to see the variability of one device at the same point on the earth. On this particular day, below, the COROS was ‘not great’.
Yet slightly better on a different day
Somewhere else on another day and it’s still OK. But still not the best of those on test.
GPS Accuracy – Open Water
Over longer distances the GPS track looks fairly good.
But at a more granular level the picture is less rosy…and yes I was swimming in the middle 😉
This is repeated on other tracks at a more detailed level.
GPS Accuracy – Summary
Any reviewer who actually uses the device for a sufficient number of runs could easily present you with a case that almost any device was either brilliant or rubbish. Hopefully I’ve given you a reasonably fair representation of the COROS Pace. The GPS test I perform can be seen as a sanity check and you have the full FIT files if you want to analyse further against every other device I’ve tested over the same route.
It’s easy to summarise the Pace’s swimming GPS as ‘not great’. It’s probably fair to call cycling GPS as ‘average but fine’. Yet with the running GPS I face a dilemma. I don’t think that the 2 super-high scores in my ‘test’ are fully representative for once. Yes I would still say that the COROS Pace’s running GPS performances on the whole were GOOD but perhaps not as EXCELLENT as the two tests would suggest. Furthermore the Pace’s overall distance measurements are perversely not even good and perhaps would be better called ‘average’.
But to put all that in context the COROS Pace is perfectly fine. It’s impressive for a ‘first device’ from COROS. And that was where the worry was always going to be.
This broadly seems fine for the COROS as the following charts show.
The app seems perfectly fine with a few foibles. Some of the graphs are a little unusual, in a nice kind of way.
For COROS the app is important as there is no online platform. So the choices you have for post-workout analyses are: the COROS app; STRAVA; the watch’s on-device history; or exporting manually elsewhere. So that basically means you will probably either use the app or STRAVA.
It has the zones, your workout’s laps and the ‘usual suspects’ of charts. The app seems to meet the normal sensible needs of someone in that middle market I described earlier. It’s got stuff missing that I PERSONALLY would like to see for me…but I’m not the intended target market. So all is cool.
ANT+ Sensor Support
As of 31 Jul 2018 this is a just-released feature which should be further developed.
I was able to successfully pair power meters, a turbo trainer (Wahoo kickr), cadence sensors, speed sensors and heart rate monitors.
More than one device of each type could be stored but names could not be given. There were no apparent calibration mechanisms but a bike speed sensor allowed the wheel circumference to be set. A power meter pedal (Favero Assioma), when paired, was able to have its cadence AND power read by the COROS Pace.
STRYD seemed to only pair as a power meter (which would mean that it could be used in bike mode)
Finally here is the main screen where you can see a chest strap icon next to the ’75’. Cool.
These will hopefully be addressed in subsequent releases:
- Not all power data is stored correctly in the FIT file
- Not all FIT files are formed correctly
- Power meters cannot be calibrated
- ANT+ sensors cannot be named
- A custom multisport profile cannot be created
- Running power support for STRYD and RunScribe Plus.
Latest firmware info: HERE
Summary & Opinions
With the recent inclusion on ANT+ sensor support, Coros is starting to be a credible contender in the middle market space for triathlon watches with most of the key elements of functionality already existing. The overall hardware package is competent.
The COROS Pace is definitely a SPORT watch rather than a SMART watch. Although it has many smart characteristics. If it continues to develop through firmware along the path of adding TRIATHLON FEATURES then it will continue to set itself apart from good triathlon watches like the Suunto Spartan Trainer. Perhaps such a move will also continue to justify its price tag.
If the COROS Pace were to move forwards along the SMART features route then I would suspect that this would require a LOT of development work and would end up competing with something like the Amazfit Stratos which is already half the price of the COROS Pace.
So if we assume that it will proceed as a running-cum-triathlon watch then it will compete squarely against the Garmin Forerunner 735XT ($340), with the COROS coming in at $299 -ie a $40 lower price. However the 735XT does discount from time-to-time to as low as $269. This would mean that the COROS Pace needs to go as low as $220 in sale periods.
The Pace will also directly compete with the Bluetooth-only Suunto Spartan Trainer. Against the Trainer, the ANT+ only COROS Pace does sit comfortably when their respective features are compared, although Suunto edges it.
Brand Recognition – No triathlon newbie will know the COROS name. Then again, I doubt very many would know the Suunto name either (based on people I know). But Polar and Garmin are widely recognised sports watch brands. Branding can be equated with TRUST, somehow COROS have to establish sufficient trust for someone to spend $300. I think they will find that harder to achieve than Suunto who already sponsor major events like the London Triathlon (5Aug 2018).
The COROS Pace will hopefully do well for people wanting a reasonably well-functioned triathlon watch at a reasonable price. For triathletes competing in the longer distance events then the security of the COROS Pace’s whopping 25 hour GPS battery life might give them some faith that the watch will still be recording as they cross the finish time.
Price, Discounts & Availability
Recommended Retail Pricing for the PACE is: US299.99/GBP249.98
Deal Price: Use the code THE5KRUNNER10 to get 10% off when buying directly from PMC or NRG. That gives these prices
eg Discounted Pricing for the PACE is: US269.99/GBP224.98
Compare to suunto.com and garmin.com pricing (as of 17Jun2018):
- Suunto Spartan Trainer – £240/$279
- Garmin Forerunner 735XT – £350/$449