COROS APEX 2 & VERTIX 2 GPS OUTDOOR WATCH REVIEW
Words by Robert Johnston & Dusten Ryen | Photos by Dusten Ryen
A good GPS smartwatch can be much more than just a tool for telling the time – it can be an assistant for all elements of your day, including helping you track and organize your rides and recovery. COROS began their story with a Smart Helmet – the Linx – which brought integrated music capabilities following a successful Kickstarter campaign, and in 2018 released their first Smartwatch. Since then, high-tech GPS watches have been their primary focus, and they now offer a range of watches designed to improve the lives of athletes across most sports. We received the COROS Apex 2 and Vertix 2 watches to put to the test day-to-day for the last few months and came away mostly impressed by how they performed. Read on to learn about our experiences.
Many core technologies are shared across the COROS range, especially in their newer models. But there are some key differences between the Apex 2 and Vertix 2 tested, from their size to features and finish quality, so let’s compare them.
The most immediate element that differentiates the Apex 2 and Vertix 2 watches is their overall size. The Apex 2 is a relatively small and slimline watch at 43.0 x 42.8 x 12.8mm and a 42g weight (as tested with the Nylon band), whereas the Vertix 2 is a larger unit at 50.3 x 50.3 x 15.7mm and 89g with the silicon band. This allows the Vertix 2 to boast a 1.4” display (280×280 resolution) compared with the 1.2” (240×240) of the Apex 2, both of which feature Memory LCD functionality for increased battery life, and touch screen capabilities. The screens on both are made from sapphire glass, and the bezels are grade-5 Titanium with a PVD coating to increase damage resistance. The cover on the rear is made from the same titanium on both, but the Vertix 2 receives a PVD coating here also, while the Apex 2 doesn’t.
Both watches have the same button arrangement, with a Digital Dial flanked by a back button and dedicated backlight button, and the watches can be configured to position the buttons pointing either up or down the arm to work with the user’s preference. Either watch can be fitted with a choice of silicone or nylon bands to secure them to the wrist. The Vertix 2 uses a wider 26mm band, which is very easy to remove and refit thanks to the quick fit system, while the Apex 2 uses a narrower 20mm band with a quick release system which is slightly less convenient.
The Apex 2 is rated waterproof up to 5 ATM while the Vertix 2 sports a 10 ATM rating, but both watches are only recommended for surface water activities and won’t handle diving. Operational temperature ranges are impressive, with a -4°F to 122°F (-20°C to 50°C) for the Apex 2 and -22°F to 122°F (-30°C to 50°C). The larger size of the Vertix 2 watch allows for a considerably larger battery, boasting an incredible 60 day lifespan for daily use, and up to 90 hours with full GPS system usage. The Apex 2 has a claimed 17 day daily use lifespan and 30 hours with full GPS. Both watches will fully charge in under 2 hours with the proprietary COROS USB cables.
That COROS USB cable allows for connection to a computer to transfer music and maps files onto the inbuilt storage on the watches. Music can be played directly from the watch to connected Bluetooth headphones, giving a soundtrack to your ride without relying on phone signal. The Apex 2 has 8GB of internal storage whereas the Vertix 2 has an impressive 32GB, letting you store much more music, maps and data.
Speaking of GPS systems, both watches feature connection for 5 different satellite systems, but the Vertix 2 is able to do so with dual frequency to maximize accuracy whereas the Apex 2 is limited to a single frequency. Both watches can have landscape and topo maps downloaded for navigation purposes, with back-to-start function and deviation alert to keep you on the right track. You can load GPX files to both watches through the COROS app, which also allows for the control of many different elements from their functionality to setting up training plans; and even changing the design of the watch face to give the looks and data you desire. The COROS app can also connect to a wide range of 3rd party apps to share any data captured from an activity. Your phone and watch will communicate with each other over Bluetooth, letting you receive notifications on your COROS watch, however there’s no way to respond to a message or take a call without using the phone.
The functionality outside of what’s mentioned above is mostly identical between the two watch models, and there’s an extensive list of different capabilities and features to cover activities and daily usage. Key highlights for mountain bikers are the comprehensive sensors: the Optical Heart Rate Monitor, Barometric Altimeter, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, 3D Compass and Optical Pulse Oximeter; as well as the ability to connect to select GoPro and Insta360 action cameras and control them remotely.
The COROS Apex 2 is available in a choice of three colors with a retail price of $349/£349 whereas the Vertix 2 comes in two colors for $699/£599. Straps in different colors are available for both watches in Nylon or Silicone variants, should you wish to switch up the style or feel.
I (Robert) began with testing the flagship of the COROS range: the Vertix 2. However, as a rider who doesn’t typically wear a watch, I found the large size to be somewhat of a nuisance, and also had a skin reaction to the silicone band (as I have done with many others), so had to quickly pass this unit onto Dusten to test further who shared the same sentiment with the large size being somewhat of a nuisance. However, keen to get some time in a COROS product, I grabbed the Apex 2, and it’s barely left my wrist since – I’ve got the tan line to prove it.
The smaller size, lower weight and non-reactive Nylon strap of the Apex 2 were instantly more comfortable for me. And after getting slightly familiar with the COROS ecosystem on the Vertix 2, I was happy to find out that the basic functionality of its smaller brother is essentially identical. They’re sensibly laid out, and once you get familiar with the different functions performed by the buttons and get the programs set up to your liking with the COROS app, it’s all very intuitive. The app gives you a lot of options to customize each menu and the looks of the watch to your liking, and once it’s all set up you can go for many days and multiple rides without ever needing to touch the app. That is so long as you don’t want to add maps or training programs to the watch, share data with a 3rd party app, or make any changes.
Speaking of going for many days, the battery life even on the Apex 2 is impressive, easily hitting the claimed values for daily use including activity tracking. Elements such as the navigation begin to draw considerably more power from the watch as it constantly refreshes the display to move the map with you and uses more juice communicating with GPS satellites, but that’s essentially unavoidable. Moving up to the Vertix 2, the battery life gets somewhat mind blowing, stretching easily for multiple weeks of daily use and frequent activity without requiring a charge. The screens on both watches look sharp and the color is rich enough to keep most happy, and it does particularly well at preventing sun glare from preventing the display from being readable. Thanks to the durable materials used, both watches have fended off some months of clumsiness and abuse without showing any worrying signs of wear and tear to the screens or bodies.
Logging your rides on the COROS watches is simple, and there’s a lot of technical data for your activities to help you track your workouts and recoveries. For some, this level of data will only be confusing, but simple metrics like Training Load and zonal Heart Rate data are shown in an easy to interpret manner that just about everyone should be able to understand. Something worth noting is that skin that has been tattooed will not play nicely with the Optical Heart Rate monitor on these watches, much like Drew discovered during his Garmin Forerunner 955 review last year. Also worth noting is the necessity to have the watch secured tight to your wrist in order to obtain accurate data, because as soon as you allow some air gap or moisture to come in between, the readings become unpredictable. Sleep tracking relies on the same treatment, and proved to be a bit hit-and-miss for Dusten at times, whereas my Apex 2 produced consistent data that was mostly believable.
The map guidance is effective and the deviation alert has been useful multiple times over without being annoying. However, when creating a route within the COROS app, there’s not enough information to effectively produce a bike ride on appropriate terrain. Thankfully apps like Strava, Trailforks and Komoot will let you plan a route and export a GPX file, which you can then easily add to your COROS watch to solve that issue. Having the maps downloaded offline means that you can still just about figure out a route back to home if you stray off the intended path without a loaded route to follow. However, when exploring the map on the Apex 2, there’s a bit of lag which can be frustrating if you’re used to scrolling happily around google maps on your phone, so you’re unlikely to use this function outside of a situation that demands it. As you might expect, the COROS watches do a stellar job at tracking your location accurately between the five satellites they connect to, and I’ve yet to notice a drop-out in connection in the USA, UK or continental Europe. The dual-frequency GNSS satellite connectivity of the Vertix 2 takes the crown here though for users who demand the most accurate tracking, beating the single frequency of the Apex 2 and most of the competition.
Overall, the Vertix 2 does add some size, battery life and GPS accuracy over the Apex 2, but for our preferences we’d likely opt for the smaller and cheaper model to still offer us some excellent support and data acquisition on our rides. As a day-to-day watch they do fall short of the convenience of the likes of the Apple offerings, since you’re unable to message, call or pay using the COROS options, but if you’re serious about sport and want an excellent tool for your activities, both the COROS Apex 2 and Vertix 2 are unlikely to disappoint.
The Wolf’s Last Word
With our preferences for a slightly more streamlined and minimal watch, the COROS Apex 2 proved to be a treat to assist us with data and functionality on and off the trail. The Vertix 2 adds some increased functionality and some insane battery life, but at the cost of increased bulk and a significantly higher price. Regardless, if you’re into your data collection to help you to optimize your training, then both the COROS Apex 2 and COROS Vertix 2 watches are excellent units for sports, but lack the day-to-day convenience of some alternatives such as Apple.
Price: Apex 2 – $349/£349 | Vertix 2 – $649/£599