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Reviewed: The Newly-Upgraded Coros Apex 2 Pro

Coros’ “middle child” gets some key updates on battery life, onboard features, and screen size, but can it hang with other smartwatches in the super-crowded $400-500 category?

Review Rating


Basics

One step up from Coros’ category-killing, $200 base model, the Apex 2 and Apex 2 Pro boast an upgraded larger touchscreen, sexier materials, WiFi connectivity, impeccable GPS, HRV measurement, and offline music and mapping—all a big step up from the notoriously under-featured Apex 1 and Apex 1 Pro.


Pros

Great weight/function ratio

Touchscreen and better screen size increases offline mapping functionality

Fantastic battery life on the pro version

Built-in running with power/”effort pace”

Amazing GPS on the pro version

Cons

Weak “lifestyle” functions like no streaming music/smartphone music control

Not necessarily a winner on price

Tough to differentiate from the competition


Price

$500

Brand

Coros


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I’ll be the first to admit that I have something of an affinity for the scrappy-yet-functional smartwatch brand, Coros. When friends and family ask me about the best smartwatch under $300, I’ll pretty much say the Coros Pace 2 every time. And if you see me out doing a super long, multi-day hike or shooting for an FKT, the watch on my wrist will inevitably be a Vertix 2 (and you’ll definitely see it, even from a distance…it’s that huge). Coros isn’t necessarily flashy, and their watches are typically light on “fun” stuff that a smartwatch like the Apple Watch Ultra has, but I’m definitely a “use your gear like a tool” kind of guy. If training is a nail, all I want is a hammer to hit it with.

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That said, the Coros’ watch family is a little weird. And it’s not for everyone. While the Pace 2 is an all-the-features-you-need-and-none-you-don’t, streamlined little baby watch, the Vertix 2 is almost an overkill monster big brother at $700 and 90 grams for a 1.4-inch touchscreen with a stupid amount of battery life. Meanwhile, the Apex and Apex Pros have both been the awkward tweens in the family photos with some good features, but nothing attention getting. With the latest upgrade, Coros rights some “wrongs” in the Apex missing link, but in a changing smartwatch landscape is it enough to warrant the purchase?

Now, the Apex 2 Pro has a bigger, 1.3-inch touchscreen (that works in all modes, not just maps like the Vertix/Vertix 2), a bigger battery life (30 days regular use/75 hours of full GPS), and offline storage (32gb) for mp3s and worldwide topo maps. The regular Apex has a 1.2-inch touchscreen, a substantially smaller battery life (17 days smartwatch, 45 hours full GPS), and only 8gb of storage for maps and music. There are also updates that appear more minor on their face: dual-band GPS for increased accuracy (Pro only), HRV measurement, a titanium bevel, and WiFi connectivity to name a few.

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Coros Apex 2 Pro Review: The Good

Bearing in mind that this isn’t necessarily a new watch, but more like a series of important updates and fixes, a few things truly stand out—while others are barely worth mentioning for most purposes. The dual-band GPS capabilities (Pro version only) is good for running in canyons or urban areas with big buildings. For trail running, the offline maps (with touchscreen, which is actually crucial for usability) are a huge boon, as the previous Apex only had an admittedly weak map-free, breadcrumb navigation. Also, for runners who like to train with music, Coros has finally joined the ‘20s by storing offline mp3s and playing back with a Bluetooth headphone connection. The inclusion of HRV measurement is actually pretty important to all kinds of athletes who rely on the metric for workout readiness and rest. The bigger and better screen is nice too.

And while not necessarily unique to the new Apex version, it’s worth noting that this watch (along with much of Coros’ line) has onboard running with power, which is actually pretty useful for pacing races or workouts with hilly terrain. However, with this release Coros has softly rebranded the running with power function that measures effort and efficiency to some extent and renamed it “effort pace,” which is basically grade-adjusted pace for those familiar with the Strava metric. Yes, Coros says the effort pace is more robust than that, but the TL;DR is that this data point will give you min/mile (or min/km) pace adjusted for things like hills and your individual strengths—telling you how hard you’re working, more objectively, in a way that makes sense better than X watts.

Coros Apex 2 Pro Review: The Ok

It’s worth noting that while the feature list on both watches doesn’t have anything glaringly off, much of what was added has already been found on competitors’ watches at the same or even lower pricepoints—something Coros can’t really justify with their lack of brand recognition. Yes, a touchscreen with onboard maps is great, but the Garmin Forerunner 955 has that. Yes, the battery life is better, but the increased battery life only actually affects the GPS time (75 hours of full GPS, up from 40 on the Apex 1 Pro), and the 30 days of smartwatch use is probably more like 15-20-ish with daily or twice-daily workouts. So you wouldn’t call this a battery slayer, necessarily.

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Onboard running power is also something that sets Coros apart, but now we have Apple watches with the same function, Polar has had it on their Vantage line for years, and even Garmin is testing the waters in their beta software as we speak. Music storage too, is something that almost all watches in the $300-400 range have, but (and this is a big but), the Apex 2 Pro still can’t control smartphone music or stream/store music from online services like Spotify. Real talk: How many of us have a huge library of locally stored mp3s on our computers? And no, your 2003 College Party Playlist on that old laptop doesn’t really count. So here, it’s a pretty limited use case to those who want to physically connect their Coros and drag-and-drop that Ja Rule megamix onto your Apex 2 before heading out for a run.

Finally, both the Apex 2 Pro and the Apex 2 won’t win any weight or wrist footprint (wristprint?) battles with their competition as that 50–gram range is pretty much the standard for similarly featured smartwatches.

Coros Apex 2 Pro Review: Conclusions

As someone who has already been smitten with the Coros brand, the updates on the Apex/Apex Pro line have finally spackled up a watch that was never super appealing to begin with, for the money. But both upgrades don’t really elevate the Apex above other smartwatches in the same price range with the same or better features.

Coros’ lack of deep physiological metrics (like with Polar), lifestyle “stuff” (like with Suunto or Apple), or sheer volume of features and apps (like with Garmin) means Coros needs to really stand out to get noticed. With its Pace 2, Coros does that with running with power/ “effort pace”, and light weight on a super cheap model. With the Vertix line, it was all about industry-dominating battery life and crazy outdoor/expedition functions that triathletes will likely never use. With the Apex (and now the better Apex 2/ Apex 2 Pro), it’s tough to put a finger on what makes this watch special compared to the aforementioned competition. That said, if you’re interested in a brand that breaks from the herd and has strong battery life with just enough functions to do everything you need (and not all of the crazy stuff you don’t), you absolutely can’t go wrong with the Apex 2 Pro—which has finally busted out of that awkward tween phase.