COROS APEX Review – Premium Build Tri Watch

COROS APEX Review 42mm 46mm GPS Running Triathlon Multisport WatchIn this COROS APEX review, we look at the company’s two new APEX models – the 46mm and 42mm, both being nearly identical multisport and running watches.

The COROS APEX follows on from the COROS Pace from June 2018, which was also pitched as a multisport watch.

APEX moves into the realms of elegance and away from the sporty look of the PACE. But don’t be deceived by the looks. This is a good sports watch.

Target Market

The COROS APEX is targetted at several athletic and fitness uses, namely: endurance running; multi-sport (triathlon) and general fitness.

It has a very good battery life, accurate GPS/GNSS as well as more of a ‘quality-made, lifestyle design‘ than the ruggedness of its Suunto & Garmin competitors. The smaller 42mm version is a REALLY great option for the thinner wristed amongst us.

Two specific and unusual features are:

  • A crown/knob (like on the Apple Watch) and
  • A battery-saving feature called UltraMax, similar to Suunto’s FusedTrack. This creates a GPS track from your wrist movement and periodically corrects the position on that track by enabling GPS.

COROS APEX Review 42mm 46mm GPS Running Triathlon Multisport WatchRemember the COROS APEX is cheaper than the Apple Watch and cheaper than the Suunto 9. It’s well-featured, sports-focussed, stylishly designed and, hopefully, accurate.

COROS could be on to a winner.

 

Clicks to your local geographic store – use discount code THE5KRUNNER10 or THE5KRUNNER (amazon)

Where APEX fits in the market

Multisport watches are changing and we have seen the emergence of super-smart triathlon watches like the Amazfit Stratos and super-functional ‘do-it-all’, pro-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 multisport, smart watches have become ever smarter and ever more functional (and ever more pricey), so an ‘obvious’ gap is partly created in the middle of the price bands for something that looks like a 24×7 watch but IS a sport watch underneath…ie a sports watch that can do endurance running, run training and triathlons properly. That’s what the earlier COROS Pace did too but the new COROS APEX is also competing by having elegant smart-watch looks rather than the ulilitarian, sporty look of its cheaper sibling and of its competitors.

Now, if we look at the top/pro end of the Multi-Sport market,  there is only the Garmin Forerunner 935 (review), Fenix 5S / 5 (review), Polar V800, Polar Vantage V / M 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’ and that’s where all the COROS watches compete to some degree. They are most notably competing against the Suunto Spartan Trainer, Polar Vantage M and Garmin Forerunner 735XT. The ‘middle’ is defined by me in terms of the seriousness of the watch to the intended purpose – ie in this case that is the usefulness to endurance running and 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.

If, instead, we look at the Endurance Running market then we are again looking at the Polar V800, Polar Vantage V/M, Garmin Fenix 5X Plus and the Suunto 9 Baro at the top-end. These are all big or chunky, sports-styled watches with good battery lives and the (planned) ability to handle routes and navigation to some degree. The APEX is built for the same intended purpose but with the styling of a smartwatch, a smaller case size option and a lower price point.

The COROS Pace Multisport Endurance Watch

Here we have a lineup of some of the current crop of triathlon watches.

Garmin Fenix 5S Plus Review

935 – Fenix 5S Plus – COROS Pace

Here are some more, this time adding in the two APEX variants.

COROS APEX Review 42mm 46mm GPS Running Triathlon Multisport Watch

Suunto 9, Polar Vantage M, COROS APEX 46mm, APEX 42mm

The COROS APEX MULTISPORT is a genuine multisport watch that offers a partly customisable, ‘triathlon’ sports profile. It is physically styled like a Garmin Vivoactive 3 and has both smartphone-connected features and activity-related features. It’s very much a SPORT watch that does some, other SMART stuff, yet it has the design and appearance that some of you might feel makes you able to wear it 24×7. As you can see from the image directly above, the smaller APEX 42mm is noticeably the smallest and suited for those smaller wrists.

The COROS APEX’s menus look similar to those offered by Garmin, although the navigation through the software could be considered to be better & cleaner than Garmin, aided by the scrolling of the crown/knob. The similarities on the menus to Garmin’s icons are obvious but COROS have also implemented numerous proprietary, sporty features including 3rd party physiological algorithms, similar in scope to those offered by Firstbeat for high-end Garmin watches.

Suunto 9 Review

Suunto Spartan BARO, Suunto 9 BARO, Suunto Spartan Sport

COROS APEX – What’s Different to the Competition

That middle space we just talked about for multisport watches is relatively crowded. The APEX does lots of ‘stuff’ that the others do BUT the APEX also needs to stand out from the crowd. I see APEX standing out with these differentiators:

  • ‘Elegant’ design
    • life+style option – coloured straps
    • life+style option – a smaller 42mm watch size option for thin wrists (42mm + 46mm)
  • Excellent battery life and a novel battery-life-extending mode
  • Well-performing GPS
  • Navigation (Q4.2018)
  • Price

COROS APEX Specifications

By way of addressing how the APEX is different to the earlier Pace, here is a comparison of the two which also serves as a list of the specifications for the APEX.

(Source: coros.com, modified)

Most noteworthy for me to highlight, in bold, are the two different size and quality variants of the APEX and then the slightly superior battery life and battery modes of the 46mm variant. The navigation functions are planned for both models for Q4.2018 are also worth keeping an eye on. That aside there are lots of sporty boxes that have been well and truly ticked.

 

APEX Premium Multisport Watch –

Two Size Variants

PACE Multisport Watch
Device Info
Display Size (46mm model) 1.2 in. 240 x 240 (64 colors) 1.2 in. 240 x 240 (64 colors)
Display Size (42mm model) 1.1 in. 218 x 218 (64 colors)
Display Type Memory LCD Memory LCD
Screen Material Sapphire Glass Aluminosilicate Glass
Material (46mm model) Titanium Alloy Bezel, Fiber-Reinforced Nylon Case, Aluminium Back Cover N/A
Bezel Material (42mm model) Ceramic Bezel, Fiber-Reinforced Nylon Case, Aluminium Back Cover
Strap Material Silicone Silicone
Quick Release Bands (46mm model) 22mm, Pink, Hot Pink, Baby Blue, Orange, NAvy, Forest Green
N/A
Quick Release Bands (42mm model) 20mm, Pink, Hot Pink, Baby Blue, Orange, NAvy, Forest Green
Physical Size (46mm model) 48.50 x 48.50 x 13.75 mm 44.90 x 44.90 x 13.65 mm
Physical Size (42mm model) 45.00 x 45.00 x 14.45 mm
Weight (46mm model) 55.3 g 49 g
Weight (42mm model) 50.8 g
Wireless Connection BT4.2 (BLE – smartphone only), ANT+ BT4.2 (BLE – smartphone only), ANT+
Navigation GPS or GPS+GLONASS, BDS GPS or GPS+GLONASS, BDS
Sensors Optical Heart Rate Monitor Optical Heart Rate Monitor
Barometric Altimeter Barometric Altimeter
Accelerometer Accelerometer
Gyroscope Gyroscope
Compass Compass
Water Resistance 10ATM (100 Meters/328 Feet) 5ATM (50 Meters/164 Feet)
Working Temperature 14°F to 131°F (-10°C to 55°C) 14°F to 140°F (-10°C to 60°C)
Storage Temperature -4°F to 149°F (-20°C to 65°C) -4°F to 158°F (-20°C to 70°C)
Charging Time Less than 2 Hours Less than 2 Hours
Battery Life (46mm) Up to 100 Hours in UltraMax GPS Mode UltraMax Mode TBD
Up to 35 Hours in Full GPS Mode Up to 25 Hours in Full GPS Mode
Up to 30 Days for Regular Use Up to 30 Days for Regular Use
Battery Life (42mm) Up to 80 Hours in UltraMax GPS Mode
Up to 25 Hours in Full GPS Mode
Up to 24 Days for Regular Use
Route Plotting UltraMax GPS: 30% GPS + 70% Motion Sensor
Pace Smoothing Motion sensor used if bad GPS reception (tunnels)
Heart Rate Features
Continuous heart rate Yes Yes
HR zones Yes Yes
HR alerts Yes Yes
HR calories Yes Yes
Recovery time Yes Available via future firmware update
Records heart rate while swimming Yes Yes
HR broadcast Yes Available via future firmware update
Resting heart rate Yes Yes
Lactate threshold heart rate Yes Available via future firmware update
Workout Features
Alarm Yes Yes
Timer Yes, to follow Yes
Stopwatch Yes, to follow Yes
Metronome Yes Yes
VO2 max estimate Yes Yes
Stride Length Yes Yes
Cadence Yes Yes
Recovery advisor Yes Available via future firmware update
Aerobic training effect Yes Available via future firmware update
Anaerobic training effect Yes Available via future firmware update
Training Load Yes Available via future firmware update
Lactate threshold Yes Available via future firmware update
Threshold pace Yes Available via future firmware update
Stamina level Yes Available via future firmware update
Auto Pause Yes Yes
Auto Lap Yes Yes
Auto scroll Yes Yes
Workout alerts Yes Yes
Interval training Yes Yes
Triathlon mode Yes Yes
Customizable activity profile Yes Yes
Customizable data screen Yes Yes
Watch face option Yes Available via future firmware update
Open water swim metrics Yes Yes
Pool swim metrics Yes Yes
Stroke type recognition Yes Yes
SWOLF Yes Yes
Navigation Features
Pre-load route Yes N/A
Route navigation Yes N/A
Off-route alert Yes N/A
Elevation profile Yes N/A
Distance to destination Yes N/A
Activity Tracking Features
Step counter Yes Yes
Floors climbed Yes Yes
Sleep monitoring Yes Available via future firmware update
Active energy Yes Yes
Exercise time Yes Yes
Compatibility
ANT+ for accessories Yes Yes
Strava Yes Yes
TrainingPeaks Yes Yes
Direct file export Yes Yes
Overlay data graph Yes Yes
Smartphone notifications Yes Yes

 

COROS APEX Features In More Detail

Here are some of the stand-out features from the list in the previous section along with details on the watch that are noteworthy in some way.

  • Battery – stated as 35 hours (25 hours 42mm) of workout time with GPS+GLONASS enabled (that’s good). But in UltraMax mode, it’s 100 hours (80 hours for the 42mm). This makes the APEX a serious contender against top-end Suunto, Polar and Garmin ‘endurance’ sports watches.
  • Compass and GPS location
  • Air pressure, elevation, temperature 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 sports profiles including triathlon (part customisable, with transitions), open water and indoor bike. Up to 5 data pages per profile and up to 6 metrics per page (5 customisable). Customisable via the app.
  • New metrics include Stamina, Aerobic TE, anaerobic TE
  • Manual lap, auto-lap, auto scroll, auto screen lock, sports alerts even work in triathlon mode.
  • Cadence, HR, pace, speed alerts but no power alert.
  • Intervals – an interval workout can be created and followed on-the-fly. No app needed.
  • HR/Power Zones
  • Custom pool length setting
  • Part customisable vibration and tone alerts. Decent vibrate and volume.
  • Metronome – ideal for training that higher cadence element of your technique. #QuickWin
  • Phone and app notifications (with do not disturb time range)
  • Workout history on watch and app
  • Training load, Lactate threshold, threshold pace, NP, rHR, VO2max, threshold pace, fitness index, aerobic TE, anaerobic TE and stamina level on the app
  • Strava & Training Peaks upload via the app (plans to also link to MapMyRide, MapMyRun)
  • TCX/FIT data export via email. The FIT files are not fully & properly ‘formed’ for all sports eg NOT properly formed for swimming, although bike and run seem good.

Is that enough? 😉

Real-Time Stamina

COROS’s take on stamina seems to be that is the amount of juice left in your tank as you work out. So if it hits zero per cent you are done for. I’m not sure to what degree anaerobic efforts hit into these stamina calculations but they will likely play a big part.

I set aside one > 2.5hour long training run to specifically look at STAMINA. Unfortunately, the oHR was over-reading and so the COROS thought I was working very much harder than I was and the Stamina hit zero after 90 minutes.

Thus I’m not sure how well this works but the idea certainly is very well-intentioned and, with the help of a chest strap, this could be VERY useful.

COROS-Apex-Real-Time-Stamina

You can also see that COROS have, like Garmin/Firstbeat, introduced Aerobic TE and AnAerobic TE. Confusingly COROS have this on a 0 to 6 scale rather than 0-5.

If the underlying HR data is correct then TE metrics are useful. You can use them as a cumulative target as you work out and/or you can use them to score the effectiveness of your workout after you have finished. So, for example, on a long run, you would want to score zero on the anaerobic scale and score highly on the aerobic scale. It’s not quite so simple when looking at shorter intervals but, in principle, you want to get the anaerobic score as high as you can and, if it works like Firstbeat’s algorithms, this can be best achieved by intervals of hard workouts and rest.

Training Effect

Following on from the last paragraph of the previous section, TE can be displayed more prominently in the centre of the screen and some words give the TE number a degree of context. So you’d be looking at getting “productive (3.6)” or higher to improve.

COROS-Apex-Training-Effect

Guided Training

Guided training is a neat feature. I saw a similar feature implemented on the Suunto 3 Fitness.

COROS guide you towards a TE target and that can be either an aerobic or anaerobic target. The following anaerobic target of TE=3.5 would be useful to achieve and should be straightforward to achieve.

COROS APEX Review 42mm 46mm GPS Running Triathlon Multisport Watch

There is also an enforced warmup period and then guidance to get your HR in an appropriate zone. There are periodic alerts to prompt you to get in the zone. All good stuff.

COROS-Apex-Guided-Training-1

Later, I will have to see how the anaerobic targets are met. For the aerobic ones its simpler…you just keep going until you hit the TE target. But, where intervals are required, the most likely method used will be to repeat the intervals until you hit the target but there are other ways too.

Other Pre-Workout Screens

Custom pool lengths and alerts are just two of the many in-workout features that you can set. There is nothing ‘special’ here other than that there is good breadth to the options on offer.

Workout Screens

The workout screens are fairly standard and similar to those found on the other leading, round, sports watch models. You can get up to 5(+1) metrics on to any given screen. (3+1 shown below)

COROS APEX Review 42mm 46mm GPS Running Triathlon Multisport Watch

If you are following one of the guided training modes then, as you work out, initially the screen flashes if you are off the target, only after a minute do you get a dual audio+vibrate alert and then every minute thereafter. Perhaps more frequent audio alerting would be better if you are way off target?

COROS-Apex-Workout-Displays

Finishing the Workout & Workout Summaries

Again, this is pretty standard stuff. If you own a high-end Garmin, then much of this will look familiar.

COROS-Apex-Workout-Summaries

Watch Faces

These are some nice-looking watch faces with more planned from Dec 2018 onwards.

COROS-Apex-Watch-Faces

COROS APEX Review 42mm 46mm GPS Running Triathlon Multisport WatchHowever, they don’t look quite so good in non-photoshopped real-life. The smaller screen and lower resolution of the 42mm option favours a non-detailed, digital watch face as shown in the image to the right.

Having said that, the screen resolutions are exactly the same as the high-end $1000 Garmin Fenix 5X Plus and, if anything, the colours on the COROS are better.

General Features

I have found the smart notifications from my Android smartphone to be robust and they ‘always work’. There is a fair degree of customisation available around deciding which apps you want to receive notifications from.

On other screens, there are some nice plots covering environmental data. This ranges from temperature to compass headings. Here are some indicative images which look not unlike those on other leading devices from the direct competition!

Some other more general features include: broadcast oHR over ANT+; GPS location; steps made; and flights of stairs covered.

COROS Apex Review & Accuracy

In general, I would say that my expectations are low for any first-time sports watch for a new brand.

However, the COROS APEX review ed here, notably EXCEEDED my expectations and was generally good with GPS. Sure it had several moments of madness with oHR and there are always elements of variability in performance but, on the whole, I was pleasantly surprised.

Optical HR Accuracy – Running

Let’s start off with a good performance. This was 3×10 minutes at just under threshold/LT2 and the Apex does a nice job indeed.

As well as some great performances, I got some not-so-great performances too. The following charts show that there is clearly sometimes a problem with the oHR of the APEX when running. It seems to latch on to the cadence rather than the HR. This is a common problem. Maybe it was that reason or maybe it was exacerbated by the onset of the cold weather in the UK that restricted my blood flow at the wrist?

APEX 46mm Shown

It’s a similar situation for the 42mm, shown below.

And again here with a long run where I would expect a good level of accuracy.

Thus oHR running accuracy is not great and, more often than not, I got results from the oHR that I could not use. Being fair to the APEX – I have problems with many (most) oHR devices and so I always wear a HRM chest strap for my personal usage. It really IS quite possible that you can buy the APEX and get GREAT oHR results, oHR performance REALLY does vary considerably from person-to-person. So even if you see another review of another watch with apparently awesome oHR then that could still be awful oHR for you 🙁

Just as an afterthought: Here is a chart for the Apple Watch 4. As you can clearly see, it does EXACTLY the same sort of thing with the confusion with CADENCE. LOTS of devices do it and it is really hard to do oHR consistently well on the wrist for all athletes. Just sayin’, despite what other blogs might tell you.

Viiiiva (yellow), AW4 (Green

Optical HR Accuracy – Cycling

I’ll throw in a few random charts from different rides I’ve done. This first one is pretty good.

Similar sort of thing with the 42mm version and this was on roads that were relatively bumpy for extended periods. Again, it’s good.

This next performance was not as good on a slightly bumpy route using both the 42mm and 46mm. Apart from the one drop-out of the 42mm model, I guess these are more than acceptable for cycling? I’ve not quite aligned up the timing on the curves this time.

This nicely rising effort was doing a ramp test on an indoor trainer. Pretty good I’d say, albeit in normally easy conditions for oHR. And yes I did wimp out at the end.

And I’ll finish on this one where I also compare to Garmin’s Elevate sensor on the 935 (for some reason the HRM-TRI I also used was not picked up by either the Edge 820 nor the ELEMNT…grrr..#NewBattery)

Optical HR Accuracy – Swimming

OWS – it’s too cold now!

The COROS app currently has a bug when it comes to exporting HR from swimming. I hopefully *DO* have data, I just can’t export it and show you here. Superficially the data DOES look alright on the app over 4 or 5 hourish long swims.

Optical HR Accuracy – Summary

I am at somewhat of a loss to explain the oHR. The cycling oHR seems better than I would have expected especially considering the oHR with the running. oHR when running intervals is normally more difficult to get right but normally correct for steady-state running. The APEX seemed to contradict what I would normally find. Either way I’m keeping my chest strap and, either way, I’d still recommend that you approach any watch’s oHR with caution if you are looking for accuracy – as results are highly variable from person-to-person.

GPS Accuracy

The onboard Sony GPS chip is the same as on the Polar Vantage M/V, Suunto 9 and all new Garmins for 2019. It 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 from the GPS from many watches is wrong and hence speed/pace is often wrong at any given time. At least it is when running. Cycling tends to be fine as there is no swinging arm movement.

The COROS Pace uses GPS+GLONASS together – although during my ‘testing’ the ability to use only GPS was introduced. 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, 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

Some easy running under a few trees and some 90 degree bends. The APEX 46mm (blue) is as near to perfect as it needs to be.

Suunto 9 (GREEN), Polar Vantage (Red), APEX(BLUE) – Factette the circular structure is where WWII torpedo testing took place and the Longford River was totally man-made by Henry VIII…well, someone who worked for him.

A little bit further on and there is quite a bit more tree cover but the APEX 46mm still looks good, although it’s hard to see the exact track on the satellite image because of the trees (I did zoom in on the sections and it was by far the closest of the 3).

Suunto 9 (GREEN), Polar Vantage (Red), APEX (BLUE)

 

Further on, a perfect track around the Diana Fountain and to the start of the Bushy parkrun.

Suunto 9 (GREEN), Polar Vantage (Red), APEX (BLUE). Factette this roundabout was on the 2012 Olympic Men’s Road Race Route, IIRC only one person went anticlockwise that day. I was unknowingly cheered by crowds the previous day as I practised on the course behind Froomey and Co #ClaimToFame

Here I compare the two APEX models to the smart-tastic Amazfit Stratos and this was one point where the difference in GPS (42mm) vs the GPS+GLONASS (46mm) can be seen. The APEX 46mm is exactly ‘correct’ here.

APEX 46mm (Blue), APEX 42mm (Red), Stratos (Green)

This is an example of more tricky conditions with trees and high walls (3m) at times. The APEX 46mm (Blue) does NOT quite nail it but it’s pretty good. But you can just start to see the jaggedness and discrepancies of the other two devices as they fare slightly less well. Even then, these tracks are all broadly OK as they are within 5m of where they should be.

APEX 46mm (Blue), APEX 42mm (Red), Stratos (Green)

I have a test that I do for GPS watches. All the results, source files and methodology are here. The APEX42mm scored an acceptably good 75% (GPS only), whereas the APEX 46mm scored a whopping 87% (GPS+GLONASS) – the joint best result I’ve ever had. It seems that with the APEX and COROS’s earlier PACE models, whenever I do my 10-mile tests they seem to know and perform well. They are not as awesome at other times. However, that’s not to diminish the Apex at all. It’s got a good GNSS…maybe not perfect…maybe not the best ever in a sports watch…lots of maybes. But the bottom line is that it is pretty darn good, most of the time, when running and it produces a mostly accurate track at any given time.

There are discrepancies when I look at the overall distances recorded with either of the APEX models and also with the Pace mode. Which is strange when the tracks are otherwise so good. #Confused.

Nevertheless, the INSTANT PACE that is shown is generally relatively usable. You will find many GPS sports watches are OK when going in a straight line in the open with no trees/buildings. But the APEX often takes that a step further and gives good pace under moderate tree cover – even with GPS-only, the 42mm model seemed to often give an accurate pace to within 5-15secs/km. Don’t expect to run in a major city and get meaningful pace though. As always, the best advice is to invest in a properly calibrated footpod.

GPS Accuracy – Cycling

The APEX (Red) was the best in this commute-type urban scenario when pitched against the Karoo and the 935 (ahem, see left of the image).

APEX RED, 935 GREEN, Karoo Orange

The following shows repeated laps (4x) going through a roundabout on the left and up the hill through trees to the right. #GreatJob.

APEX RED, 935 GREEN, Karoo Orange.

Out in the open, around another roundabout, and all devices product a correct-enough track.

APEX RED, 935 GREEN, Karoo Orange

Here is the 42mm up against Wahoo and Garmin. At a high level, they are identical – I could show you the drill-down where the Garmin is a little bit out but generally, all are great.

Elemnt (Yellow), COROS APEX 42mm (Green), 935 (Red)

Further on with the same devices and in more open-sky conditions the Wahoo probably edges it but all 3 are just about good enough for me.

Elemnt (Yellow), COROS APEX 42mm (Green), 935 (Red)

I found no GPS issues when cycling.

GPS Accuracy – Open Water

Come back in spring !!

(Ping me in the comments section below in April/May 2019 if I haven’t updated this)

 

COROS Apex Review – 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 by ‘inadvertently’ choosing easy routes and/or then selectively showing certain parts of the routes or even providing you with the source files – the reality being that you either won’t be able to make the same comparisons or won’t have the time to. Hopefully, I’ve given you a reasonably fair representation of the two COROS APEX models. The GPS test I perform can be seen as a one-off 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.

COROS have built on the good GPS in the PACE model. GPS accuracy is AT LEAST “good” with the APEX. And I am only that complimentary about a select few devices. Rarely, for example, would a Garmin device better the APEX 42mm in as demanding conditions. And the 46mm is better than that.

To be clear: the two Apex model have apparently different levels of GPS accuracy.

Elevation Accuracy

This broadly seems fine for the COROS as the following charts show. You should note that some online platforms (STRAVA) will correct the elevation based on the known elevation for every GPS point that you travelled on. Thus what you see LIVE on your device is perhaps only really useful for you to know the metres climbed or descended rather than the exact elevation.

Looking at the first of two longish rides, the lines should be parallel and, ideally, they would automatically start out at exactly the same elevation as the corrected, GREEN line.

This is a similarly long ride with repeated hills. Of interest is the Garmin Edge which auto calibrates itself at the start of the ride to my POI’s pre-determined elevation. #CoolAsACucumber

Special Feature – UltraMax

I’m going to do some special tests in a separate post comparing Suunto’s FusedTrack and Garmin’s UltraTrac to COROS’s UltraMax and I will link to it here in the future.

Please comment below if you have any specific requirements of what you would like to see here…I don’t have any mountains to hand though!.

  • UltraMax is enabled by pressing and holding the BACK button once the run workout has started
  • UltraMax is a fusion of 30% GPS and 70% Motion Sensor

Coros UltraMax vs Suunto FusedTrack vs Garmin UltraTrac vs V800 Perfect Track

Special Feature – Guided Routes

There’s nothing too unusual about the implementation of the navigation on the Apex. I guess one of the nice things is that the routes are loaded over Bluetooth to the watch and so no cables are needed, which could be handy in the middle-of-nowhere. Otherwise, it’s all standard stuff.

You can manually upload GPX route files to your smartphone or use the track from a workout you’ve already completed – it’s a little bit of a clunky process but it works. I guess it would be nice to synchronise with STRAVA’s routes or RideWithGPS but, for a first release, it’s a great start from a newcomer.

I’ve only used one route file on the watch so far and it seems to work well. You can follow a route in the direction it was initially created or reverse the direction. As well as that the watch shows the map breadcrumb outline at the start and the route elevation profile. You can also set the map display direction to be heading up/north up as shown on the clickable images below.

And then when you are actually running the route you get an alert if you go 10 metres off course and that alert lasts for a minute.

Special Feature – Sleep

The sleep feature is well thought-through in the sense that it displays the necessary data simply, effectively and somewhat originally.

Are the sleep stages correct? A: Probably not (same is probably true of most devices claiming to track sleep stages) however I would certianyl put some faith in the resting heart rate track throughout the night.

COROS APEX Review – Feature Omissions for now

The APEX does not have every feature ever thought of. Even some of the high-end Garmins miss some features. The COROS APEX DOES have sufficient features as of NOW to make it a serious option for the intended target audience. Here are some of the things I would like to see – particularly if the APEX is to be treated as a fully functioned tri watch. Your list may well be different:

  • The multi-sport profile is currently only partly customisable. The APEX can already cover a duathlon but neither a pool-based triathlon nor a repeated RBRBRBR brick workout are possible
  • Calendarised plans and structured workout functionalities are required for any tri watch to be a contender for many more serious athletes, as well as several less serious ones. Some people just like to follow a plan.
  • Enhanced run-mode with running power compatibility covering alerts, power zones and more.

COROS Apex Review – The App

The app seems perfectly fine and generally usable with a few feubles. Some of the graphs are a little unusual, in a nice kind of way.

I’ve repeated these same screenshots from a previous post as they are still indicative of what the app delivers.

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; Training Peaks; the watch’s on-device history; or exporting manually elsewhere. So that basically means you will probably end up using either the app or STRAVA. Both are fine.

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.

Here is one of the newer screens on the app. I’d show you mine but the data is a little messed up by the occasionally high oHR. COROS have done a nice job here by just clearly and simply presenting some simple and useful metrics.

Source: coros.com

ANT+ Sensor Support

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 for any sensors other than the bike speed sensor allowing 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.

Bugs & Other Points found in the COROS APEX Review

These will hopefully be addressed in subsequent releases:

  • Not all FIT files are formed correctly
  • Power meters cannot be calibrated
  • ANT+ sensors cannot be named
  • No running power support for STRYD and RunScribe Plus.

Latest firmware info: HERE (possibly just PACE firmware is covered so far)

Summary & Opinions

So let’s sum up this COROS Apex review. I am surprised that a newcomer, COROS, can deliver 3 products within 6 months or so. I am surprised that they are all highly competent products. I am surprised that the 3 products are all thought-through in terms of the features supplied for the target markets.

Somebody might just call that “good marketing“.

Somebody else might call that

Good product design.

But having a very good product that understands its audience is not necessarily all it will take for COROS to break through into the big time. From a marketing perspective, the APEX seemed like it was, to a degree, released by accident via a single announcement on Facebook. Putting that to one side, how are COROS going to raise brand awareness? There is little point in people like me producing a good review of a sweet product if nobody ever consults Mr Google to find this, and other, similar reviews. Where is the brand awareness going to come from? OK, so COROS have been recruiting a few ‘names’ in the world of endurance running – that’s a start I guess.

I’m wracking my brains to try to find a way to criticise the APEX…but I’m struggling. I CAN say things like ‘it hasn’t got an app store’ and I could say ‘it lacks all the niche triathlon functionalities’. And there are a few other lines of attack to present you guys/girls with a ‘balanced view’ but I would really just be picking faults for the sake of it. Ie I would be simply finding out which boxes are not ticked and basing criticism for WHAT I WANT rather than what the target market likely wants. Here goes anyway…

  • I don’t like the crown/knob – but that’s just my personal bias.
  • The oHR is not great but I suspect, as I found with the PACE, that performance will improve for me as it gets warmer (Coros also state post-review FW improvements)
  • There are a few niche things that need to be sorted out eg at the time of writing there was no power meter calibration. All companies products have bugs, mostly they are evetntually resolved.
  • It’s got a ‘meh’-to-good screen that’s still as good as any from Garmin. But I’d like an awesome one, especially on the 42mm variant. But that’s just unrealistic with current tech that’s in search of a long battery life.
  • I don’t like the colours…! Jeez I’m struggling. Actually, I do like the colours !

Seriously though, the main concern for me would be the optical HR. There’s clearly an algorithmic issue on me when running. But then again, I OFTEN find similar performance fails with $300 watches and $800 watches (eg Apple Watch 4, Fenix 5 Plus) and, indeed, on most sports watches. Solution: I just wear a HRM. As I generally say “Expect your oHR won’t work on ANY sports watch and just be thankful if you are one of the lucky ones that it does work on“. (Edit: the day before publication COROS told me that the latest FW now has oHR fixes. Not Tested.)

The only real omission, other than navigation (coming soon), is the lack of an ability to calendarise complex, structured workouts and then execute them on the watch. Polar does that but also has limitations and Suunto can’t do that at all. COROS have implemented the easier, short-term fix by allowing on-the-fly intervals to be created on the watch but I bet they will have a crack at producing complex structured workouts before long!

The positives are many. It’s well-made and looks sweet. It pairs well to sensors and to my phone…heck, even the notifications work all the time. And they can work for a looooong time because the battery is awesome. The user experience on the watch is great and the functionality that is there has real breadth and depth. It’s got the key sports profiles with more to follow and it’s got all your in-sport metrics and alerts. The app presents enough info to keep you interested in your sports and activity stats and you can pipe your data through to STRAVA if that is your thing.

The APEX easily delivers at the upper end of core, smart running functionality. STRAVA live segments are NOT core.

It’s a bit too elegant for my liking – at the moment my personal bias is towards ‘sporty-looking’ watches and I don’t like the APEX’s crown/knob. Other than that I’d say something like “I’d probably buy one”. I guess that’s a back-handed recommendation 😉 [ It is ]

 

COROS APEX 42mm

Best Amazon/REI/Wiggle/PMC price is linked to. Prices are about Eur260/$299/£250 and might fall at sale times. Buying from my partners supports this site.

 

Clicks to your local geographic store – use discount code THE5KRUNNER10 or THE5KRUNNER (amazon)

Price, 10% Discount & Availability

Availability now in the US and Eu is good.

Recommended Retail Pricing for the APEX is: US$349 (46mm) and US$299 (42mm)

Deal Price: Use the code THE5KRUNNER10 to get 10% off when buying from either Power Meter City or New Running Gear (EU) the manufacturer. In the EU the alternate code THE5KRUNNER SHOULD also work at Amazon.

eg that gives US314 (46mm) and US$269 (42mm) 

10% off with code THE5KRUNNER10

 

Clicks to your local geographic store – use discount code THE5KRUNNER10 or THE5KRUNNER (amazon)

Compare to suunto.com and garmin.com pricing (as of 4Dec2018):

  • Suunto Spartan Trainer – $279
  • Garmin Forerunner 735XT – $350

You get a better battery life and a comparable or better GPS with the COROS than those 2 alternatives. You also get ANT+ power compatibility which the Suunto will never give you and you get a more ‘elegantly’ styled watch for 24×7 usage with premium construction materials. With the 42mm variant, you also get a genuine smaller format sports watch for those of us with thinner wrists. With UltraMax battery extending mode & route guidance, you get features that would cost you $600 on a top-end Suunto 9 and a similar amount on a Garmin Fenix 5 Plus.

COROS APEX is a competitive and compelling alternative to the Garmin, Polar and Suunto equivalents

 

Clicks to your local geographic store – use discount code THE5KRUNNER10 or THE5KRUNNER (amazon)

 

COROS APEX 42mm

Best Amazon/REI/Wiggle/PMC price is linked to. Prices are about Eur260/$299/£250 and might fall at sale times. Buying from my partners supports this site.

 

 


 

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87 thoughts on “COROS APEX Review – Premium Build Tri Watch

  1. Thank you for the review. Do you know the name of the third party company that provides the “Firstbeat-like” algorithms? Any white papers?

  2. I like it and I’m tempted to order the 42mm.
    240€ is a fair price tag!

    Bluetooth is only working for sync and not for sensors? Did I get this right?

        • box is wrong 🙂 I see the image. It only offers ‘Pair ANT+’. maybe someone got confused with the bluetooth connection to the smartphone.? if it’s aspirational then it’s not been mentioned to me amongst the list of other stuff they plan to add.

        • This is Lewis from COROS.
          I apologize for the misleading information on the box. Our Bluetooth connection is for phone sync only at this time. And yes, most of the sensors are both Bluetooth and ANT+ enabled, so we put the support for Bluetooth only devices in a lower priority.

    • FWIW, I’m really struggling to think of a sensor that’s BLE only and not ANT+. Only one that comes to mind is the CycleOps PowerCal, but for $10 more you can get dual ANT+/BLE. (There are, of course, many sensors that are still ANT+ only.)

        • Ah right. I forgot about all the Polar (and Suunto) first-party sensors. I do wonder if anyone actually uses the Polar stride sensor, though. It’s such a beast.

          • Ah gutted as I use an OH1 Polar arm band for heart rate recording and it’s been faultless. Don’t like chest belts so looks like I’ll need sell that and purchase a Wahoo Tickr Fit. More expense 😬

          • yeah i use the oh1. it’s sweet. i use mine as a hr track recording device in tests. mainly because of the cache and because i can’t pair it in error to anything else. battery degrades over time and it discharges when left stading. but i like it. it is goos enough for me to use as a main device if i were so inclined. only other prob is the band which is too thin.

            you’ve prompted me to see if caching was ever added to the Tickr FIT…i just have to find it now

  3. Thanks for the tip on the newest firmware updating the oHR. I also saw a fair bit of cadence lock when running, and quickly switched to using a HRM strap. I’ll try without the HRM tomorrow to see if the oHR has really improved. (At least they fixed the spelling of “Konb [sic]” in the settings 🙂

    The biggest issue I have with the watch is that there really is no guidance (aka documentation) whatsoever on the training features. You can sort of figure stuff out by poking around and trying things, but there’s always a suspicion that you aren’t doing things exactly right, or at least not optimally. (E.g., the help screen for Stamina is completely blank; I’d really kind of like to know what a given stamina value means.)

    Otherwise, I’m kind of in the same boat. I really can’t find anything significant to complain about. Looking forward to the additional watch faces, though. The current options are kinda meh.

      • the knob kinda worked quite well. i didn’t like it (looks mostly)
        it was hard to use it with gloves but actually pretty good with a bare finger
        i just skimmed thru the watch again and i dont think it can be locked HOWEVER I seem to recall LW at Coros saying that is to be added…but coldn’t find that in my emails #InconclusiveSearch

      • I have no problems with the knob, and I actually kind of like it, looks-wise, since it frees up having to add several more buttons a la Fenix 5. Functionally, it seems to work well, even with gloves. I suppose lobster mitts would be an issue, but thankfully it’s not *that* cold here in Atlanta.

        Yes. You can lock it both during normal use and (separately) during workouts. I tried that a bit, but turned off the auto-lock since I didn’t see any benefit. I rarely activate the knob inadvertently, and even if you do, I haven’t found any potential harm from accidentally turning it. Turning the knob generally just shifts the display to a new page. Accidentally pressing the knob could be more problematic (e.g. pausing a workout), but I’ve never accidentally pressed it.

    • Great, it would be great if I could share the results a bit and know if it has improved.

      Luckily there is a lot of information on the net that you can use and the functions are quite widespread among sports watches. Even so, as a client, you can contact them and suggest an improvement of the user guide-manual. They told me that they would upload it to the web. Good testing.

      • > it would be great if I could share the results a bit and know if it has improved.

        Not really. My run today was a super easy run, about 2 minutes slower than marathon pace. The heart rate isn’t locking on to my cadence, but it’s way too high for the workout. FWIW, it was practically sleeting with 20 mph winds, so the watch was buried under enough layers that low temperature shouldn’t have been an issue.

        Here’s the run: https://www.strava.com/activities/2009072958

        Looks like it’s back to the HRM strap.

    • stamina!! … yes i asked the same question and looked at the same ‘?’ button 😉
      but, as you say, you can kinda figure it all out easily enough..hopefully

      • This is Lewis from COROS.
        A webpage explanation about the stamina will be updated and users can use the information icon in the app to access it. Thank you for the suggestion!

  4. Thanks for the review! The GPS tracks look great. I already saw some very good tracks from a french speaking reviewer and your review just seconds that.
    I probably had already hit the “order”-button to test it myself but (you know there is always a but 😉 ) this currently stops me from doing so: “No running power support for STRYD “.

    Anyway, it’s great to see that it’s still possible to create a watch that can have great battery-life AND good GPS at the same time. I already started to lose hope here…

  5. apex or vantage M, cant decide by now. i´m also waiting for DCR to review it (and maybe some others too) before i give it a go. (dont get me wrong, TFKs opinion is also very important to me :))
    i hope coros fixes the oHR. i dream of a reliable oHR which makes the chest strap finally obsolete.

    • > i dream of a reliable oHR which makes the chest strap finally obsolete.

      Me too. It’s obviously going to vary a lot by user, but Coros is at least much better for me than Suunto. I tried the Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR, and it was atrocious. On all runs, it just pegged my heart rate at around 220 bpm for the entire run.

      Still, the Coros isn’t good enough.

      I do know it’s possible, though. The Apple Watch (Series 3 in my case, though supposedly Series 4 is even better) has absolutely flawless optical heart rate.

      • i was hoping for polar vantage v/m since they got a lot of scientific support and long experience in HR measurements.
        i think it is the best oHR (not tested my self, based on reviews etc ive read) but still not a 100% replacement for a chest strap.

    • the oHR on the coros looks like a rather basic unit
      Apple aside, i can only see PRECISION PRIME as offering improved ohr over the next year unless Garmin or Valencell come out with something new and sweet
      DCR is doing the V only i think.

  6. Is BT support something that can be added later via update? Or do I need to find an Ant compatible heart rate strap?

  7. any news on availability in EU?
    the import fees from the us are pricey (60€)
    ive checked clevertraining.co.uk but they dont offer the coros products, the us store does.

    • This is Lewis from COROS

      APEX will be available on Amazon EU sites in a few weeks. We are shipping them out to Amazon distribution center from the factory this week!

    • I stupidly ordered from the US site and got hit with the UK duty via FedEx. My own fault for diving in. To be fair to Coros, the watch arrived within 72 hours of ordering it (on a Sunday) but my first run yesterday (alongside my Vantage V) woefully undercut the Vantage distance and the GPS track was a mess. Need to figure out how to do a side by side comparison so that I can post the results and of course get a greater sample by running more often.
      Bit of a shame that you can’t view your continuous heart rate on the limited watch faces (none of which match the nice, clean design on the marketing promo). No way of deleting false workouts either – bang it’s straight onto Strava. On the plus side it’s remarkably light, the OHR was pretty good – much better than Garmin and a different league to Suunto. The speed at which it syncs to the app is also rather remarkable

      • IIRC there are new watch faces planned but i do NOT remember any that would disply oHR (as a complication in WearOS could). using the crown to scroll down to the instant HR chart+reading is good tho? the 46mm delivered good GPS+GLONASS for me, will be interested if your results differ.

        • > the 46mm delivered good GPS+GLONASS for me

          Same for 42mm with GPS only. 13 outdoor workout so far, and all the GPS tracks look fine. Hopefully the OP’s experience was a one time problem.

          I should note that my most challenging tracks are trail runs. Not much tree cover this time of year, but still some decently sharp elevation changes and a few tight switchbacks. I have no experience with the watch in dense urban environments.

        • yeah I like the HR graph, bit like the Suunto Spartan. Doesn’t do a good job of stairs though, been up and down loads today and it still says 0

          https://www.coros.com/apex.php shows the watch face I was referring to in teh “Built In Premium” section

      • > No way of deleting false workouts either

        On the iOS version of the app, swipe left on a workout while on the workouts tab.

        • Stephen I have done on the app but they are still in the watch.

          the5krunner – do you have some way I could send you the two side by side TCX files I created yesterday? One with the Polar VV and the other with the Apex? It really was rubbish but based on GPS only and not APEX. I’m going out again later so will use both watches again and this time select GLONASS on the Apex. Coming from a Garmin background that was always a big NONO

    • I ordered the watch on the US side. Was delivered with Fedex to Germany. I had to pay no shipping costs and no other fees. So the watch cost me 260 € 🙂

      • You might have got lucky. No shipping costs here either but I did get an email from FedEx after it was delivered requesting payment for UK customs duties + theur admin fee of £12. All in all it cost me £310 so only slightly more than the £299 tFK quotes in the review

    • The charging port is located on the back of the watch, so you can’t charge it while wearing it. I don’t know whether you could, e.g., charge it in your pocket while it continues to record, but I do know that if I had been running (or cycling) for 20+ hours, the chances of me having enough dexterity to successfully plug in the charging cable would be pretty low. 🙂

    • yes the clock still counts when a workout has started and power is attached.
      see @StephenThomas for a sanity check
      how long do you plan to bike or run for?? the battery lasts a loooooong time. charge it at night after the first day.

  8. Since you mentioned foot pods for accurate pace, were you able to test the Apex with a Garmin foot pod? If so, can the pod be calibrated (seeing as how power meters cannot)? Alternatively, can the Apex at least get distance/pace from Stryd if not running power? Any other ANT+ foot pods out there?

      • Milestone is Bluetooth only. Wahoo doesn’t sell running foot pods (any more?). But that does remind me that I might have an old TICKR Run somewhere. It’s not a proper foot pod, but it does emulate one. If I can find it and resurrect it, I can see if the Apex has any sort of calibration facilities.

    • FWIW, I did dig out an old TICKR Run. The Apex would only pair with it as a heart rate monitor. I guess at this point it’s not certain that the watch supports foot pods at all.

      • APEX doesn’t support any footpod at this point. We are looking into integration opportunities with footpod products. Please stay tuned for future updates.

  9. Hmm so today I’ve found that turning my wrist no longer triggers the light to come on. A bit irritating as pressing a button always performs some kind of action. Tried to get onto the COROS website to log a ticket but it appears to be down. Anybody having a similar experience?

    • Not sure if this helps, but in the Coros iOS app, go to the Device tab (left-most), select the watch, and there’s a toggle for Backlight.

      You could also try System -> General -> Reset All from the watch as a sort of last resort.

    • Hi Craig, make sure you are not in the Do Not Disturb mode otherwise the backlight won’t be triggered with wrist turn. To turn on/off the DND mode, long press the back button to bring up the shortcut menu and navigate to the DND option.

  10. Well…rough start so far. Completed my first activity but the app crashes every time I try to view it. Email in to support, we’ll see what they say…

    • Hi Stromz, we are aware of this app crash issue and working actively to fix it. This bug might happen to android phone users. We are sorry about the inconvenience.

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