In this Coros VERTIX Review, we revisit the Coros sports and adventure platform and delve into the details of the limited number of new features that are unique to the new Vertix ‘Adventure Watch‘.
Coros has released a couple of good sports watches already but this time they are going up against the Fenix 5X Plus and the Suunto 9 Baro. This is Big Time against the Big Boys (they are boys). Although having said that I’ve been having an extended email discussion with Roxanne Vogel who is halfway up Everest on a record speed-ascent attempt just about now (May 2019) and she’s testing out the Coros Vertix there.
The previous Coros watches were, to some extent, me-too offerings BUT also with some elements of ‘Ha!! only we do this‘ built in. And that is true of the Vertix as well. Let’s start with the waterproof rating. If we take the $$1000++ Garmin MARQ EXPEDITION then can the VERTIX match that?…err, no, it beats it. The VERTIX is the only SPORTS watch I know of that’s good to 150M…ie you can definitely go swimming with it 😉
I’m getting ahead of myself, here’s the summary and further below are all the details. Enjoy!
Price - 85%85%
Apparent Accuracy - 85%85%
Build Quality & Design - 95%95%
Features, Including App - 90%90%
Openness & Compatability - 80%80%
The COROS Vertix is a very nice and solid hardware package that performs well and is designed for extreme environments. Even though I’m not an adventure-watch format kinda person, the look and feel of the quality on the Vertix are on par with the latest Fenix and Suunto 9 models.
Indeed a fair amount of the Vertix’s watch functionality shares a similar look and feel to those competing watches too; it’s really the rotating crown, a-la Apple-Watch, which changes the flow and interaction of what the watch has to offer. I don’t especially like that crown nor its positioning at 3 O’clock as it is sometimes accidentally pressed, however, I have to admit that it does work well. You can probably assume that Apple knew they were onto something when they went down this design route a few years back.
The Vertix is feature-laden. Whilst not as comprehensive as Garmin, the Vertix’s feature set IS certainly better than that of some of its other competitors and you have to marvel at how quickly a relatively new company like Coros have integrated all their functionality so quickly. The watch and app generally present the functionality well but perhaps could benefit from a tweaked interface both on the watch and on the app. but, like most watches, you will quickly get used to it if it is your main watch.
Thus the great hardware package and good features, coupled with a relatively sensible price (with the 10% discount 😉 ) should make the Vertix a competitive offering. The question remains, “Will you guys & girls buy them?”…only time will tell but I certainly think that Coros, once again, is in with a good shot at disrupting the current Garmin-based hegemony.
- Great Construction
- Looks good, IMHO
- Lots of on-watch features to cover physiology, training, climbing many of the latest ‘smarts’
- 24/7 Oximetry
- Awesome battery life
- The rotating crown’s position and function is an acquired taste. But it works.
- A perfectly nice, sufficiently open and functional app but which needs some TLC on the UI.
- Price may be an issue for some
- SpO2 accuracy on the beta device seemed to under-measure by a tad but expect retail units to address this
Coros Vertix – What’s New? What’s the same?
If you are familiar with Coros watches here are the changes in a nutshell…
- The firmware is mostly identical to that in the previous Apex sports model with oximetry support added
- The new SpO2 functions that take ‘instant’/24×7 readings as well as give a high altitude acclimation/acclimatization index and guidance based on the readings. (definition)
- The new power-friendly Sony GNSS chipset is unchanged from the Apex
- PixArt HR sensors are still used but with new modules and new configurations for the SpO2.
- Totally new exterior hardware package with hardware features having superior durability and longevity
- The rotating Crown/knob moved from the 2 o’clock position to 3 o’clock
- Vertix is crown+2 buttons whereas the Apex was crown+ 1 button
- Quickfit-type easily changeable straps
Coros Vertix – Appearance, Design & Usability
It’s a nice-looking watch of the more rugged, ‘outdoors’ design style. It’s visually reminiscent to something more like a Fenix 5X Plus/Apple Watch Combo than to the cleaner and simpler appearance of the Suunto 9 BARO. My personal aesthetic preference is for something more like the Suunto but those of you who prefer the ruggedness of the 5X Plus would equally like the Vertix. Each to their own.
Here are the colour options
I have the Dark Rock and Fire Dragon (to be returned) models and the latter metallic bezel probably looks slightly better even though I normally prefer monochrome watches.
I’ve not seen the ICE-BREAKER colour variant with the azure titanium bezel nor its TRANSPARENT fibre-case which is hand-assembled. So that is interesting both in the sense that it needs to be hand-assembled and that it’s transparent…I bet you’ve always wondered what’s inside your favourite sports watch?
It’s a solid package and has a notable quality feel all packed into a super lightweight offering. There are some nice visual details and I particularly like the look of the oHRM array on the rear as well as the metal bezel and recessed bolts. The crown + 2 button interface looks OK.
Whilst the crown/buttons look alright I think there is a mini-design issue here in that the somewhat chunky crown is easily pressed by a flexing wrist on the worn-hand. Sure you can lock the screen easily enough to counter that but I found accidental pauses to be mildly annoying on some bike rides.
Looking at crown-like buttons from Apple’s perspective, they KNOW it is a good and efficient way to access a watch interface (UI). It really does work well when working with the Vertix too. In that sense, it is better than what both Garmin and Suunto do…I just don’t like the crown! But that’s just me, it DOES work well.
Navigating through the menus of the Vertix makes good logical sense and most options are relatively easily accessed. I’d say the Vertix beats the Garmin & Suunto menus here. HOWEVER. Some of the Vertix functionality is controlled from the smartphone app. So to customise the interface then you have to do this from the app (same as Suunto) and to add routes to the Vertix it’s also required that you do this somewhat clunkily via the app too although, again, that’s similar to other vendors.
Coros Vertix – In The Box & Key Bits on the Watch
The Vertix comes in a somewhat large, heavy-duty carry box which probably fulfils the ‘over-packaged’ criterion. The contents are standard, namely the watch and a charging cable.
You can see the well-designed, Garmin-like quick-release bands in the image above whereas the image below shows the air inlet for the barometer on one side and the crown and buttons on the other.
Coros Vertix – Hardware Specifications, Comparisons & Marketing Headlines
This section looks at the information that Coros is providing and which it sees as being key to proving competence and competing with Garmin/Suunto.
Coros’s marketing headlines these features which I have edited to remove superlatives
- Premium titanium bezel and cover finish with Sapphire glass (diamond-like coating)
- 150-meter waterproof rating
- Ultra-light durability to endure the world’s harshest elements.
- High battery life with 45 days of regular use, 60 hours in full GPS mode and 150 hours in UltraMax GPS mode.
- 24/7 blood oxygen monitoring with altitude acclimation assistance
- Enhanced Digital Knob for easy operation even with thick climbing gloves or under water.
- Navigation with zoom in/out using Digital Knob.
- Analysis of training load and performance. Evaluates exertion and recommends recovery.
Hardware Overview vs Competition
For software features then Garmin is going to win but comparing some of the key hardware features on this chart is interesting and the Vertix stacks up very well and you would say it was ‘the best’ as well as the ‘best value-for-money’.
|COROS VERTIX Garmin FENIX 5X Plus||Garmin MARQ Expedition||Garmin FENIX 5X Plus||Garmin FENIX 5X Plus Titanium||Garmin Fenix 5 Plus||Suunto 9 Baro Titanium|
|Extended Battery||150||48 (4 weeks)||70||70||42||120|
|Price||$599/$699 (-10% discount here)||$1750||$799||$1099($950 sale)||$800 ($650 sale)||$629|
|Screen||Diamond-Like Coating||Sapphire Crystal||Strengthened Glass||Sapphire Crystal||Strengthened Glass||Sapphire Crystal|
Caveats: Extreme conditions will degrade the battery life of all watches and so Coros claim 30% battery reduction at-4 Celsius and also they claim 21 hours of GPS battery life at -30 Celsius (minus thirty)
Circling back again to those aforementioned software features, we still find that the Vertix has an impressive range to offer that exceeds those offered by Polar and Suunto, on the whole. So the Vertix does already offer training load, VO2max and several other Firstbeat-like features that Garmin offers.
Hardware Overview (Visuals) – The Coros Range and Suunto 9
Here are a couple of size-comparisons to the Suunto 9 Baro which show two similarly sized watches, albeit with a very different ‘style’.
I’ll finish this section more out of curiosity than usefulness by showing a quick visual comparison to the other watches in the Coros range and you have to applaud Coros for tailoring the appearance to the task at hand rather than re-hashing the same hardware format at different price points (a la Garmin):
Coros Vertix – Detailed Hardware Specifications
For those of you who want it…
|Part Number||VERTIX GPS Adventure Watch|
|Price||$599 – $699|
|Display Size||1.2 in. 240 x 240 (64 colors)|
|Display Type||Memory LCD|
|Screen Material||Sapphire Glass with Diamond-Like Coating|
|Quick Release Band||22mm|
|Physical Size||48.74 x 48.74 x 16.75 mm|
|Wireless Connection||BT4.2 BLE for smartphone only|
ANT+ for accessories
|Navigation||GPS / GLONASS|
(Galileo / Beidou via future firmware update)
|Sensors||Optical Pulse Oximeter|
Optical Heart Rate Monitor
|Waterproof Rating||15ATM (150 Meters/492 Feet)|
|Working Temperature||-4°F to 140°F (-20°C to 60°C)|
|Storage Temperature||-22°F to 158°F (-30°C to 70°C)|
|Charging Time||Less than 2 Hours|
|Battery Life||45 days of regular use|
60 hours in Full GPS mode
150 hours in UltraMax mode
Coros Vertix – Software Features
The software features are nearly identical to those in the slightly earlier Apex model. Rather than duplicating them verbatim here is a link to those details in the recent review of the Apex followed by the new Oximetry capabilities of the Vertix further below.
Vertix – New Oximetry Functionality
If you can manage to keep still for a minute or so then one of the 4 LEDs emits a red light and that’s the one that measures the SpO2. Like this…
Providing that you are above 2500m then, after taking a reading, you can see the SpO2 value itself (the 99% number in the image above) and the Vertix’s opinion on your degree of acclimation. A climber would use this to perhaps verify a decision to go higher – in my case a green reading of 97 on the Altitude Acclimation Index (ACI) is ‘good to go‘. When ACI is in the 61-80 range then Coros recommends you consider staying at the current altitude with lower or higher readings meaning you can consider going lower and higher respectively.
There are also a couple of nice screens where you can see your hourly SpO2 trend and the trend over the last 3 days but to get this frequency of SpO2 data you have to enable continuous tracking.
Here are some renders of the new functionality which are included as they better show the functionality, particularly of the screen that shows trends over time
Acclimatization to altitude
Medicine.net says it’s “The process of adapting to the decrease in oxygen concentration at a specific altitude. A number of changes must take place for the body to operate with decreased oxygen. These changes include increasing the depth of respiration; increasing the pressure in the pulmonary arteries, forcing blood into portions of the lung that are normally not used at sea level; manufacturing additional oxygen-carrying red blood cells; and manufacturing extra 2,4-DPG, a substance that facilitates the release of oxygen from haemoglobin to the body tissues. Acclimatization generally takes 1 to 3 days and occurs after any significant altitude change above 1,220 meters (approximately 4,000 feet). Acclimatization is the body’s natural means of correcting altitude sickness and the rate of acclimatization depends on the altitude, rate of ascent, and individual susceptibility.”
Now you know. Apparently acclimation is the wrong word, even though it sounds better. IDK.
Coros Vertix – Accuracy
I tend to look at accuracy in some detail by comparing to other devices and to some standard tests. Couple the results of that with lots of more general usage then I get a pretty good feel for the overall accuracy of what’s on offer. I do that for GPS and HR in some detail and then add in a few notes on how the device handles elevation.
It’s going to be a bit different for this watch as I’m going to add some commentary based on what Roxanne says from half-way Everest rather than based on what I say half way up Box Hill in Surrey on a bike! I was also conveniently quite ill and hospitalised recently (! Hmmm !). This meant having my SpO2 vital measurements taken 3-5 times a day, luckily I wasn’t THAT ill and remembered to take the Vertix in too! #SpO2-Testing
oHR accuracy has been a little mixed on my beta unit. It’s sometimes good and sometimes just OK but Coros need to improve this some more for the retail version (they say they have made changes for the retail since I finished writing this). I iterated through a couple of firmware versions with the Vertix and noted some improvements in each to the point where the cycling performance and steady performance was acceptable.
GNSS / GPS Accuracy
In general GNSS usage, the Vertix was alright but did not put in the excellent performance that I had found with their previous APEX 46mm watch. Indeed in my formal test, the BETA UNIT scored a somewhat average 65%, at times it was MUCH better than that with the score being brought down because of the occasional ‘wobbly moment’.
Cycling performance was generally getting close to good but didn’t quite match the Wahoo mounted on the better position of the handlebars. The performance delivered here for cycling was fine and certainly sensibly usable.
Running performance was generally mixed with the Vertix sometimes handling trees really well and then, at other times, less so. Like most devices it struggled a bit with tall buildings but, had I spent more time with GLONASS enabled, then I would probably have seen some improvements in urban areas. Some of the open-air performance was very good.
Before performing a ‘final’ GPS test using my 10-mile test course, Coros asked me to wait until they sent a final production unit that they had tested themselves. Edit: Just done that!
My elevation accuracy is limited to hills rather than mountains and the Vertix performed well.
Coros told me that, like some high-end Garmin models, they do use GPS to automatically trigger a re-evaluation of the elevation every 30 minutes. Their algorithm to determine the frequency of GPS recalibration also considers the elevation gain – but they did not elaborate further on that.
Compared to a hospital oximeter and to the Forerunner 945 the Vertix seems to be consistently at one percentage point lower.
The Vertix seemed particularly sensitive to movement. If my wrist was moving then the results were wrong, although usually, the Vertix would tell me to keep still in those situations.
The Everest Experience
Roxanne has sent me some feedback whilst still ascending Everest.
- Roxanne has been monitoring her SpO2 status on the Vertix at least 12 times a day.
- She says that the Vertix helps her to gauge how effective her recovery has been. She has specifically used the tracking of vertical speed and grade which have been key metrics. The altimeter & barometer functions have been “essential” and “the Spo2 monitoring is helpful to determine whether I’m pushing too hard“.
- As we know about Coros watches… “Battery life is awesome“
- Roxanne considers the Vertix to be “…durable but easy to use with gloves on” and it “seems to withstand cold temps well in terms of battery life. Seems rugged, haven’t scratched it yet!“
Coros Vertix – Bugs
Heads Up – I’ve tested this device (almost) TOTALLY as a beta unit and Coros are happy with that. I’m not specifically reporting any bugs here as they will hopefully be sorted out in time for the retail version. From my experience with Coros over the previous two models they are fairly active and responsive at addressing some bugs particularly those, in the past, relating to GPS & oHR accuracy.
I do now have the retail version and I will update any points accordingly over time.
Coros Vertix – New Features At Launch
These will be enabled at launch and were not tested by me
- Crown/Screen flip – you can wear the watch either way around.
- Disable auto-lock – new method of unlocking by fast crown rotation
Price, 10% Discount & Availability
Recommended Retail Pricing for the VERTIX is from US$599 to US$699 depending on the case variant.
From US$599 to US$699 – 10% off with discount
From GBP519 with 10% off with discount
Code THE5KRUNNER10 gives 10% off when purchased at PowerMeterCity in the USA or New Running Gear in the UK. The alternate code THE5KRUNNER also works on Amazon in the EU