The Coros Pace is a new-comer on the GPS smartwatch market compared to the more established Suunto, Garmin, and Polar options. So it is a bit of a dark horse that we wanted to test after seeing it praised on various triathlon social media sites. Coros has since launched another watch, but the Pace has had some time for the bugs to be sorted out so we decided to stick with it for our first test of a Coros watch. Our take on the Pace — when you compare the price to the features, battery life and ease of use of the Coros, you have a very solid package and that is why the Pace won our top pick award for Hardcore Non-Techy Athletes.
Coros Pace Review
Cons: No navigation, no upload-able workouts, not as customizable as a Garmin
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Our Analysis and Test Results
We think the designers of the Coros Pace had one thing in mind — make a watch that does not waste potential training time for your Ironman or ultra event by fiddling with it but still delivers the data you need. The result is a solid GPS watch that offers activity tracking in swim, bike, and run (which can be used for hiking and walking too) modes. It also offers to combine the three with a triathlon setting. These are the core sports that the Pace covers.
The Pace provides similar metrics that other watches provide, including pace, cadence, elevation gain/loss, training effect, calories, VO2 Max, stride length, SWOLF, workout alerts, interval training, open water swim metrics, steps, and sleep monitoring. It has an optical heart rate monitor, but you can also connect it to an external strap or power meter. It also has basic smartwatch notifications. The feature set is not as extensive as those that many Garmins offer, but it covers the basics needed to optimize your training.
If you compare this list to a Garmin option, you might think it seriously lacks features, but it fills a different niche. Avoiding a long list of features means using less battery life and offering a less complicated user-interface. The Pace accomplishes both of these feats.
In addition, Coros continuously launches software updates that extend the list of features to be more comparable to its competitors. Coros lists the features that it intends to add on their website. At the date of publishing, it looks like the next software update will bring tracking for stamina level, lactate threshold, training load, and a recovery advisor.
The hardware includes a barometric altimeter, compass, accelerometer, and gyroscope.
The Pace syncs with the Coros App. We are fond of the organized and clean look of the Coros App. It presents information in graph form, which is appealing to us because you can immediately see a summary of your performance during the activity. To keep you motivated, it gives you medals as you progress in your training.
What we liked most about the app is its super easy export function. You can either download your activity as a GPX file or upload it directly to TrainingPeaks, Strava, WeRun or Health Kit. This is the fastest exporting app we tested, so Coros also saves you time there.
(They don't offer a web platform at this time.)
Once you pair the watch to the app, you can easily customize your watch interface so it displays the information you'd like to see. Coros recently updated its software, which expanded the watch face customization options to allow you to personalize it more.
The Pace uses GPS, GLONASS, and BDS satellites. GPS is the American system, GLONASS is the Russian system, and BDS is the Chinese satellite system. This is the only watch we tested that offers BDS satellite compatibility. So if you live in Asia or travel there a lot, this may provide the best GPS satellite coverage. (We didn't get a chance to test it in Asia this round.) The BDS satellite system is expected to be the most accurate worldwide by 2020, reaching millimeter-level accuracy. If that does happen, Coros will have a huge advantage in the GPS smartwatch world.
It is important to note that the Pace is the only watch that regularly acquired a GPS signal in the lead tester's apartment. No other watch in our testing accomplished this. The Pace was also the fastest watch to regularly acquire a signal. It often located satellites in under a minute, even when surrounded by buildings. That really impressed us.
One negative is that this watch does not offer navigation. In other words, it only tracks your routes as you go. You cannot upload a route or track and ask the Pace to help you follow it. You can't ask it to get you back to start if you get lost either. It tracks. It does not route. The Garmin Forerunner 935 offers this function if you require it.
Ease of Use
The watch has four buttons that are all labeled. There are no tricky button combinations that you need to use, nor an infinite amount of features to scroll through. As a result, the watch itself is easy to navigate using straightforward menus.
The app is also very simply laid out. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of app use can quickly find their way to the data they are searching for. That, coupled with a no-frills software update notification and quick sync makes the Pace ideal for non-techy athletes who simply want to train and review their data.
Coros hit the nail on the head with their battery life, although we admit that this might be at the expense of its features list. We considered two types of usage during battery testing — battery life while tracking activities and normal usage battery life.
Watches like the Suunto Baro 9 and Garmin Fenix 5x Plus Sapphire excel at battery life when they are tracking an activity, but don't often last a week during normal use. These are also very large and heavy watches, weighing almost double what the Pace weighs! Watches with fewer features, like the Polar M430 or the Garmin Forerunner 35 can last 20+ days under day-to-day use but have much shorter battery lives when tracking your training or race days.
The Pace finds the sweet spot. Ultra athletes will be happy to hear that we got almost 22 hours of activity-based battery from the Pace. That will easily cover you in an Ironman and up to a middle distance ultramarathon! If you need it to go longer, you can charge it with an external battery without interrupting tracking while on-the-go. What really impressed us though, is that we also got 3 to 4 weeks of normal usage life! Usually, one type of battery life comes at the expense of the other, but not with the Pace.
We measured the accuracy of each watch's mapping, distance tracking, and heart rate monitor. The distance calculations earn a B- grade. In the image below, the Pace is the orange line. You can see that the Pace tracking is in line with the other watches (shown in black, green, and pink) for the most part. It did get confused in a few locations. For this run, it was about 2.7% off the real distance.
It's interesting that the orange line is very accurate for most of the run, including when passing over the bridge, except for locations where there are more buildings. This was a pattern the watch repeated, even though it was the quickest to acquire GPS signal around buildings. That said, we are still more than satisfied with its accuracy, especially considering its price category.
To test the accuracy of the Pace's heart rate monitor, we would run with several watches and a chest strap heart rate monitor. We then compared all the heart rate readings taken while exercising and the data we downloaded afterward. The heart rate readings of the Pace were about average. By that we mean, they were not comparable to top contenders like the Garmin Forerunner 935, but they were better than our bottom contenders, like the Polar M430. In school, the Coros would have gotten a solid B- for the optical heart rate monitor.
Other review sites have commented that the Pace looks very similar to the Garmin Forerunner 235, implying that it is just a copycat. The Pace and its App both display an undeniable resemblance to Garmin products, but Coros stuck more to the keep it simple principle. By doing so, we think they suite an audience that Garmin has neglected — endurance athletes who want a straightforward, all-around performer.
The app design is clean. The watch will not win any awards for its looks, but it is very thin, comfortable and light (thanks to its plastic housing). The watchband fit all testers comfortably, regardless of wrist size and fit under even tighter sleeved jackets.
Ease of Set Up
The Pace also had the quickest and easiest setup of all the watches we tested. Downloading the app, syncing and updating the firmware took about five minutes. It had an 87% battery charge out of the box, so we could immediately start using it. That was pretty awesome. Our non-techy testers were excited about how quickly and easily it all functioned.
This watch is best for non-techy individuals participating in triathlons, but due to its long battery life, it is also suitable for ultra athletes. The Pace does not control or store music and it does not support customized workouts, but it will significantly reduce the time you spend fiddling with your watch functions and still provides all the metrics you need to get on that podium. The features are streamlined, simple, and require minimal battery power.
If, however, you are a tech-geek and can afford a more expensive watch, you might want to go with a higher-end Garmin model, such as the Editors' Choice, Garmin Forerunner 935 or the Garmin Fenix 5x Plus Sapphire.
If battery life is important to your sport, and you want to train instead of spending time searching for a menu on your watch, this is a great option for the price. At a pretty reasonable price, you get a watch with a battery that will easily last through your Ironman or 70K, and you can take it out of the box and be running in 10 minutes. No other watch in our review can boast that. If the Pace had offered navigation features or downloadable workouts, it would have won the Editors' Choice Award.
The Coros Pace is a solid watch designed to save you time while performing the tasks you demand of it. It won a Top Pick award as the best watch for Hardcore Non-Techy Athletes because it is so user-friendly and fast. Whether we were syncing, getting GPS signal or updating the software, the Pace always performed its task rapidly. It does not offer a long list of features like the Garmin products do, but the Pace simply delivers the data you want, something that the tech world seems to have forgotten.
— Larin McPeak