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Coros Apex Review

A well-constructed and accurate watch with a minimalistic design, excellent battery life, and all the right features
Coros Apex
Photo: Amazon
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Price:  $350 List | $349.99 at Amazon
Pros:  Excellent quality, accurate, simple design, astounding value, very easy to use, great feature set, very long battery life
Cons:  Backlight isn't bright, heart rate monitor accuracy is a little off
Manufacturer:   Coros
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 16, 2021
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82
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 11
  • Features - 20% 6
  • Battery Life - 20% 8
  • Ease of Use - 20% 9
  • Accuracy - 20% 9
  • Design - 20% 9

Our Verdict

The Coros Apex is a breath of fresh air for endurance athletes that care about simple design, excellent battery life, and a great deal. While it doesn't have preloaded layered maps or extras for navigation, it has all the features you need and none that you don't. It offers excellent battery life, a breadcrumb trail map, TrackBack, and sensors to measure barometric pressure, altitude, temperature, and heart rate. On top of that, GPS accuracy is one of the best. After testing it during open water swimming, trail running, and skiing, we are impressed at its performance, especially for the price.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Coros Apex
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Coros Apex
Awards  Best Buy Award    
Price $349.99 at Amazon$199.99 at Amazon$394.50 at Amazon$189.99 at Amazon$146.99 at Amazon
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Pros Excellent quality, accurate, simple design, astounding value, very easy to use, great feature set, very long battery lifeLow profile design, great battery life, very accurate, low costLightweight and compact design, storage for 500 songs, great features, easy to useExcellent features, downloadable workouts, access to Garmin ecosystem, small watch face, excellent accuracy, lower priceEasy to use, large fonts are easy to see, accurate heart rate, just enough features for training
Cons Backlight isn't bright, heart rate monitor accuracy is a little offNo mountain sports or navigational featuresShort battery life with music, long uploads for music, bluetooth connection with headphones is subparLacks navigation and higher end features, plastic design, battery life isn't for ultra athletes, scratches easilySmaller screen for the size of the watch, monochromatic and dated look, lower value
Bottom Line A well-constructed and accurate watch with a minimalistic design, excellent battery life, and all the right featuresA fully functional and incredibly light GPS sports watch boasting out of this world battery lifeThis lightweight contender packs in extensive features including music storage and touchless paymentThis lower-priced GPS watch is easy to use and intuitive with a host of features that'll aid in moving your fitness forwardThis watch is a good training option for most athletes but lacks in design and comparative value
Rating Categories Coros Apex Coros Pace 2 Garmin Forerunner 6... Garmin Forerunner 45S Polar M430 HR
Features (20%)
6.0
5.0
8.0
6.0
4.0
Battery Life (20%)
8.0
7.0
5.0
4.0
5.0
Ease Of Use (20%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Accuracy (20%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
Design (20%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
5.0
Specs Coros Apex Coros Pace 2 Garmin Forerunner 6... Garmin Forerunner 45S Polar M430 HR
Model Tested Standard N/A Music N/A Small
Watch Face Material Sapphire glass Corning glass Corning Gorilla Glass 3 Chemically strengthened glass Plastic scratch resistance material, actual material unknown
Bezel Stainless steel bezel Fiber reinforced polymer Stainless steel Polymer Polymer
Case Alumnium Fiber reinforced polymer Polymer Polymer Polymer
Strap Material Silicon or nylon Silicon or nylon Silicone Silicone Silicone
Tools Required to Change Band? No No No Yes Yes
Size Tested 44mm One size only One size only 39 mm One size only
Measured Main Body Size (diameter or W x H) 44mm 43mm 42mm 40mm 37 x 43mm
Measured Thickness 13mm 11mm 12mm 11mm 10mm
Measured Screen Width 33mm 32mm 29mm 26mm 23mm
Measured Weight 1.7 oz 1.2 oz 1.5 oz 1.2 oz 1.6 oz
Measured Charging Time 70 min 80 min 75 min 130 min 90 min
Battery Type Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion
Measured Battery Life With GPS On 24 hours 29 hours 12 hours 10.5 hours 7 hours
Manufacturer-Reported Battery Life Smartwatch mode: 25 days
Full GPS mode: 25 hours
UltraMax GPS mode: 80 hours
Smartwatch mode: 20 days
GPS mode: 30 hours
Ultramax mode: 60 hours
Smartwatch mode: up to 7 days
GPS mode w/ music: up to 5 hours
GPS without music: up to 14 hours
Smartwatch mode: up to 7 days
GPS mode: up to 13 hours
Daily training sessions: 5 days
Standby mode: 14 days
8 hours of GPS training time
Navigation Built In? Yes No Yes No No
Satellite Networks Used GPS, QZSS, GLONASS, BEIDOU GPS, QZSS, GLONASS, BEIDOU GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO GPS
Maps? Yes - basic No Yes - basic No No
Back to Start Navigation? Yes No Yes No No
Water Resistance (max depth) 100m 50m 50m 50m Yes - no depth data
Music Control? No No Yes No No
Music Storage? No No Yes - 500 songs No No
Daily Fitness Tracking? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Touchless Payment? No No Yes Yes No
Sleep Tracking? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Blood Oxygen? No No No No No
Compass? Yes Yes Yes Yes - widget No
Barometric Altimeter? Yes Yes Yes No No
Temperature Sensor? Yes Yes Yes No No
Main Software App Coros App Coros Garmin Connect, widgets for other features Garmin Connect, widgets for other features Polar
Can Software Cross Over to Different Software Ecosystems? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Coros Apex stands out for its simple design and extended battery life. Most ultra-athletes will agree that when it comes to a design that omits the extras, this one does it best. If you want a charge that'll last with a few extra features, this is one of our favorites.

Performance Comparison


The Coros Apex proves to be an excellent GPS watch that has...
The Coros Apex proves to be an excellent GPS watch that has everything you need. Simple use, extra battery life for ultra distances, and a low profile design.
Photo: Amber King

Features


This little watch packs in all the right features. It comes equipped to track fitness and activities while offering a few navigational capabilities. For sports, it has everything any athlete might need without being bogged down with a whole lot of extras that take weeks to figure out. That said, since it isn't the most featured watch, it earns a lower score in this metric.

The Apex has the basics and a bit more. Time, alarms, pedometer, heart rate, altimeter, compass, and GPS. It comes with 24 pre-set activities, and you can add more via the Coros app. It tracks different types of data in different profiles, including; altitude, ascent and descent, pace, distance, and more. It allows for interval training, and under each activity profile, you can optimize settings. This includes adding auto pauses, metronome, activity alerts, food or hydration alerts, and more.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Navigational features are limited as the map found on each activity is a simple bread crumb trail that shows general direction. The Coros app allows you to build courses and navigate each via your watch once it's been uploaded. It, however, doesn't contain pre-loaded map layers or the ability to pan or zoom around to different points of interest or other data points. We do like that it has the TrackBack function, helping you navigate back to your starting point, if needed.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

The Coros app is pretty simple and easy to use, with the ability to create or upload workouts, see your activities, and optimize to your preferences. Activities are easy to find, and you can make exercise courses and develop training plans. Unlike the Garmin Connect app, it lacks a social ecosystem, but it syncs easily between any platform that you prefer to use for uploading activities.

Overall, we think that the features are exactly what any athlete might appreciate. Coros took the best features of any GPS watch and packed them all into this neat package. No extras that you won't be using. If you seek a heavily featured watch with full navigational capabilities, we'd recommend looking at some other options.

Notable Features:

  • Heart rate
  • Compass
  • Thermometer
  • Alarms
  • Several activity profiles
  • Pedometer and calories burned
  • Barometer
  • Altimeter
  • Sunrise/Sunset information
  • Breadcrumb navigation
  • Course creation and upload options
  • Customizable watch faces
  • Training plan creation and workouts
  • Smart notifications
  • 20 supported workouts that you can upload from the app
  • Water resistance to 10 ATM (100 meters)

Take a look at the Coros website to see the full scope of all the features offered.

We also appreciate the smartphone notifications.
We also appreciate the smartphone notifications.
Photo: Amber King

Battery Life


Where the Coros Apex really stands out is its incredible battery power. There are two size options with different battery life claims. We tested the 42mm that has a lower amount of battery life than the 46mm option. Overall, it scores well in this metric for the ample amounts of juice it provides.

For long adventures in the mountains, it's nice to have a watch that...
For long adventures in the mountains, it's nice to have a watch that can track all day and all night. Here we hit some high ridges during a sunny day in the San Juan mountains.
Photo: Amber King

For the 42mm face, the manufacturer claims 25 days of regular smartwatch use, 25 hours in GPS watch mode, and 80 hours in UltraMax mode. In all our tests, these numbers were confirmed, with the watch still offering the same battery life after almost a year of continued use. For the ultra-athlete, this is one we highly recommend, especially if you're out for long stints at one time.

While other options lasted longer in our GPS tests, none could hold a charge with continued use throughout an entire month. We learned that with 3 to 4 activities per week lasting 1 to 3 hours, we only had to charge the Apex once a month. Every other contender only lasted about 1.5 to 2 weeks. Boy, are we impressed.

During our GPS test, we laid the watch out with GPS running in an area with good reception. The 42mm version ran for 31 hours, capturing full statistics the whole time. During a long run, hike, and bike, we got the GPS from 100% to 0%. During this test, we got closer to 24 hours with all sensors turned on, just an hour less than the manufacturer claim, making it a good option for most ultradistance events.

Charging takes only 70 minutes. While you can charge it during activity and still use the watch, you need to take it off, which means you can't track your heart rate. Overall, we are impressed with battery life, making this a recommendation for ultra or endurance athletes.

Ease of Use


The Coros Apex is very simple to use right out of the box. Set-up takes only 2 minutes, and, with the help of prompt screens, you're ready to go. It features one dial on the right side and a small flatter button. There is no touch screen, which limits options but ultimately makes the watch easier to use. Of all options tested, this is one of the easiest to use, earning high scores in our review.

A look at the clarity of the menu of sports options.
A look at the clarity of the menu of sports options.
Photo: Amber King

Simply turn the knob to scroll the screen up and down. This will show you basic stats and give you information on notifications, daily and weekly exercise, or whatever you customize it to show you. To start an activity, press the knob, choose the activity, and hit start. When you choose the activity, you have the option to use navigational features with it or customize specific settings for that activity profile. We like this simple set-up as it negates having to find secret menus or hidden features.

The Coros App is also quite simple, unlike the Garmin Connect App, which seems to be bursting with options. Coros puts everything you need on the main screen with additions featured in simple icons, making it easier to use. Syncing requires you to simply open the app, and the sync will start automatically. Plus, the software has thus far been flawless during our use. We have never lost an activity or had a glitch after a year of continued use.

Under each activity profile, there are different setting options you...
Under each activity profile, there are different setting options you can set for each type of activity.
Photo: Amber King

Fitness files can easily be shared with friends or exported as a .fit, .tcx, .gpx, .kml, or .csv file. This easy export is something we haven't seen with Suunto or Garmin Apps yet. While it's available on those other platforms, it's harder to find than on the Coros app, where it's just under the share setting. Updates also seem to be occurring all the time.

Accuracy


We tested the accuracy of both the GPS and heart rate monitor, and accuracy is above average for both. We tested these while open water swimming, riding bikes, cross-country skiing, backcountry skiing, and trail running in some pretty remote terrain. We'd say that 99.9% of the time, we trusted the data that we got, with this being verified in our tests. This is one of the most accurate watches we've tested, earning it top marks here.

Here we see a zoomed-out version of a 12-mile run in a large covered...
Here we see a zoomed-out version of a 12-mile run in a large covered area with huge Ponderosa trees. From this perspective, everything looks good. The trail is a single track.
Photo: Amber King

Coros uses a unique technology to ensure that steps aren't lost when a GPS signal is weak. No watch can track well when there isn't a clear view of the sky. Instead of "guesstimating" the distance traveled using mapping software and known distance, Coros instead uses a smart stride algorithm. This is supposed to track your relative stride when you run using GPS when it is strong and apply this relative stride when the GPS signal is weak. Over the last months of our use in poor and strong GPS zones, we always felt the distances were accurate. Even when hitting an especially thick stand of trees or descending into a canyon, data always seemed to come out relatively correct.

During our tests, we biked a known distance of 10.8 miles. We measured the distance with our car and verified it using mapping software. After the ride, our watch read 10.84 miles. Additionally, if you take a look at the tracks recorded, they are smooth and stay on the track. We tested accuracy again on a run with lots of trees and did an out and back. On this track, we saw that the tracks didn't lay over one another but were actually separated at times, even though we were on a single track. This shows accuracy isn't perfect, but it's pretty darn close.

When we zoom in on the track, we notice that the accuracy isn't 100%...
When we zoom in on the track, we notice that the accuracy isn't 100% (as our tracks were supposed to be on top of another), but it's close enough.
Photo: Amber King

Accuracy for the heart rate monitor had mixed results. While most wrist heart rate monitors are notoriously inaccurate, we thought that the fit of the Apex with its smaller face would help with accuracy. However, during both our sitting tests and active tests, the variation was large, with the heart rate being off by 2 - 20 bpm. During our runs, we noticed that our heart rate always seemed a little higher than normal. Our main testers resting heart rate is close to 60 bpm, but on the Coros watch, it consistently showed a heart rate about 10 bpm higher. While we want our wrist heart rate monitors to be incredibly accurate, this is dependent on watch fit and a few other factors. If you really want an accurate measurement, be sure to use a dedicated heart rate monitor.

Design


We love, love, love the design for its simplicity and low profile. Gone are the days of getting a massive watch face stuck on clothing and tighter fitting jackets or buttons accidentally getting pressed, which annoyingly pauses or ends your workout without you knowing. The Apex comes in two different size options, a 42mm or 46mm face.

There is an auto-lock that requires a full turn before you can access the screen. If you turn this off, it's very easy to accidentally pause your workout, so we recommend keeping it on. We tested the 42mm face, which was an excellent size for our tester with a wrist circumference of 15mm. The strap is comfortable to wear, with the caveat of maybe not having enough holes to cinch down on some of the smallest of wrists, affecting heart rate accuracy.

We appreciate the smaller watch diameter that makes for a good fit...
We appreciate the smaller watch diameter that makes for a good fit. We wish the strap had a few more holds for smaller wrists, though.
Photo: Amber King

The watch body measured 44mm (we included the buttons in our measurement) with a thickness of 13mm, and a screen size of 33mm. The weight is just 1.7 oz, so it feels very light and low profile. These numbers are similar to the manufacturer claims, but we imagine Coros just measured the body without including the buttons. The heart rate monitor is flat, so it doesn't push into the wrist, and we appreciate that the silicone straps can easily be changed out if they wear out. The white color we tested gets dirty quickly but luckily cleans up with some warm water and soap.

It features a simple push dial and a small flat button that acts as...
It features a simple push dial and a small flat button that acts as the backup.
Photo: Amber King

Our only real gripe is with the brightness of the screen. While it is easy to see in most light, brightness and colors are harder to see than other watches tested when in very bright sun. Additionally, the backlight is not very bright, and it's harder to see this watch than most in the dark. Aside from the brightness and color issues, we like the crisp look and visual design that makes it easy to use.

A look at the size of the actual screen. While we do like the design...
A look at the size of the actual screen. While we do like the design we wish it was brighter with better clarity.
Photo: Amber King

Value


Given the excellent battery life, features, and ease of use, we can't help but boast the stellar value of the Coros Apex. After months of use, the screen hasn't scratched, even after rock climbing, scrambling, and crashing on a mountain bike. For the price, you'll be hardpressed to find another watch this high caliber. It contends with some of the highest performers at a fraction of the cost. The lower price means fewer features which also equates to more battery life, making it a great choice for any ultra-athlete. If you want more features and even more battery life, you can shell out some extra shekels to get the Coros Apex Pro.

Conclusion


You won't be let down by the Coros Apex. We love its minimalist design, lower price, and excellent battery life. It stands out for its long battery life in Smart mode, requiring just about one to two charges a month, depending on GPS use. If you're taking on longer distances and need a watch with a longer battery at a good price, this is one to consider that comes with a few more features.

Amber, our main tester, is stoked to have completed this long 4-mile...
Amber, our main tester, is stoked to have completed this long 4-mile ridge traverse that involved some serious scrambling and teeter-tottering on loose scree over steep faces. Looking at the track after 10 hours out that day, she felt pretty good. She's pointing at the starting mountain called S7.
Photo: Amber King

Amber King