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Coros Apex review: Is Coros’ GPS watch fit to challenge the best?

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £270

Coros' mid-range multisport watch is easy to use and has best-in-class battery life


  • Superb battery life
  • Good sports tracking
  • Breadcrumb navigation


  • Limited workout modes
  • No structured workouts
  • Unreliable heart-rate tracking

Breaking into the multisport watch market isn’t easy, with Garmin, Polar and Suunto dominating when it comes to serious sports watches. However, Coros looks like it might just have cracked it with its promising new mid-range wearable, the Apex. The watch nails the basics of run, bike and swim tracking, and also boasts the best battery life in the business.

At £270, the Apex looks like great value on paper, but how does it stack up against its rivals in the real world?

Coros Apex review: What you need to know

There are two different versions of the Apex: 42mm and 46mm. Both watches have excellent battery life, but the larger 46mm variant offers 35 hours of GPS recording compared to the 42mm model’s 25 hours. The larger model also has a titanium alloy bezel where the 42mm variant has a ceramic design.

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Both watches have the same features, with accurate distance tracking via GPS, GLONASS and BDS (China’s satellite navigation system), plus a barometric altimeter, accelerometer, compass and gyroscope. There’s an optical heart-rate monitor, and you can pair external sensors including heart-rate monitors and cycling speed, cadence and power meters. However, this can only be done via ANT+, not Bluetooth, and frustratingly running foot pods are not currently supported.

There are some notable features missing from the Apex, too, with the biggest miss being any sports modes other than running, cycling and swimming – or indeed a combination of all three, for triathletes and duathletes. It also has no structured workouts beyond basic intervals. Coros is intending to add these features to the watch with future updates, but there’s no set timeline for this.

Coros Apex review: Price and competition

Coros entered the multisport watch market in early 2018 with the Pace (£250), but the Apex is a considerable upgrade, with a premium design, longer battery life and breadcrumb navigation. Best of all, it costs only £20 or £50 more than the Pace, depending on which model you choose.

Indeed, the 46mm Apex costs £300, while the smaller 42mm model will set you back £270. There is some stern competition under the £300 mark, with the Polar Vantage M (£203) and Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR (£170) also boasting impressive feature sets at even lower prices than the Apex. Neither matches the amazing battery life of the Apex (and the Polar has no navigation mode), but both watches have more sports modes than the Coros device.

You can also find the excellent Garmin Forerunner 645 Music for around £300, which has better all-round sports tracking than the Apex, along with smart features like music playback and NFC payments via Garmin Pay.

Coros Apex review: Design and features

Although its lack of sports modes does hurt it when compared to its rivals from bigger brands, the Apex excels in terms of its usability. Indeed, the Apex eschews the standard three- or five-button design common on multisport devices in favour of just two buttons, with one of those also being a twirling crown that you use to scroll through menus and data screens during activities. I had reservations about this being a bit fiddly when on the move, but it works well. It’s not better than buttons, per se, but nor does it feel like a hindrance.

It’s fair to say that Coros has taken its design cues from what’s already on the market, with its silver-and-black design looking somewhat reminiscent of Garmin’s Vivoactive 3 and the Suunto 3 Fitness. No matter what the inspiration was, however, the Apex is a good-looking watch that you can wear everywhere, especially compared to the plasticky Polar Vantage M or Suunto Spartan Trainer.

Both models have a sapphire glass screen, but the 46mm variant’s 240 x 240 1.2in display is fractionally larger than the smaller watch’s 218 x 218 1.1in panel. Neither screen really wowed me in terms of brightness: although this may help to improve battery life, the dim screen can sometimes be a little difficult to read, especially at a glance during activity.

Both sizes of the Apex are lightweight, at around 51g and 55g respectively, and I never found the watch cumbersome or uncomfortable to wear, even at night. Its silicone strap is comfortable, too, and you can swap it easily for different colour Coros bands, though there aren’t other materials like leather or canvas available yet.

I’ve already alluded to the Apex’s impressive longevity, but a couple of real-world examples might demonstrate its battery performance better than Coros’ marketing numbers. The first of these is that American ultrarunner Camille Herron used the 46mm model when she broke the world record for distance covered in 24 hours. Incredibly, the watch still had 32% of its battery left at the end. In my own experience, I’ve found that when used in alongside a Garmin Fenix 5 Plus, the Apex 46mm still has around 50-60% of its battery left when the Fenix runs out of juice.

Coros had several updates lined up for the Apex when it launched in late 2018, one of the most significant of which was the addition of breadcrumb navigation, which arrived in March 2019. This allows you to follow a basic trail on the watch, with a pointer indicating where you are. It works well and though it can’t compare with the full maps you get on much pricier Garmin Fenix 5 Plus, it’s easy to stay on track most of the time.

What I really like about the Apex’s navigation tool is how easy it is to add routes from the web. You can open a GPX file from any web-based route creator, for instance, and the Coros mobile app will import it and sync it to the watch in a matter of seconds.

Coros has also aimed to bring some of the advanced training insights found on Garmin and Polar watches to the Apex, providing info about the training effect of your activities as well as stats like your VO2 max and lactate threshold.

This has been done in a pleasingly simple manner. On the watch you get a stamina gauge that ticks down from 100% while you exercise, then fills back up as you recover. You can see the gauge during your run and then check it in between runs from the watch’s AI Trainer mode to see how you’re recovering.

Unfortunately, this is only available during runs, not cycles or swims, and the same goes for training effect, which is broken up into two categories: aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic running is done in lower heart-rate zones and builds your overall fitness and endurance, while anaerobic work is in the higher zones and helps increase how long you can sustain faster paces.

The Apex has aerobic and anaerobic workout modes, where you set your aim – moderate, high and intense – before letting the watch guide you to reach that goal, which is achieved by spending enough time in the right heart-rate zone.

I like the simplicity of these features, but they do rely heavily on accurate heart-rate tracking and the Apex is a mixed bag on this front. I’ll cover that in more detail below, but suffice to say it’s worth pairing it with a chest strap heart-rate monitor if you want to get the most from the Apex.

Sadly, even when you use a chest strap, the Apex’s advanced insights are hit and miss, to say the least. Metrics such as VO2 max, lactate threshold and threshold pace are tricky for any watch to estimate, since truly accurate measurements require blood tests, masks and trained professionals checking your data in a laboratory setting. However, the Apex’s estimates, which are based on heart-rate data and pace, are particularly bad because they jump around a lot with seemingly no reason behind the leaps.

Indeed, the watch’s VO2 max and training load data was so far off reality at times that I’ve no idea how they could have been calculated. On one occasion, the Apex gave my lactate threshold pace – a pace you should be able to hold for an hour – as 2:48/km, which I might be able to maintain for three minutes at most.

Normally these kind of stats are useful on watches because they give you a simple way of monitoring your fitness over time, even if the exact numbers are wrong. However, on the Apex the numbers seem jumped around so much that they became largely worthless.

Coros Apex review: Sports tracking and performance

There are indoor and outdoor modes for running, cycling and swimming on the Apex, along with a customisable triathlon mode where you can select whatever sports you want in the three slots, whether that’s the traditional swim-bike-run or a bike-run-bike duathlon.

For each of the sports modes, you can pick up to six data fields per screen from the Coros mobile app. That’s the same for both watches, but the Apex 42mm’s lower-resolution screen makes six fields a bit too much to take in on the move.

Running is the most developed sports mode, since you can use the watch’s stamina and training effect features. However, you can’t link a running foot pod yet for detailed insights into your running dynamics. As for other external sensors, the Apex supports cycling sensors such as power meters and cadence/speed sensors, albeit only via ANT+ and not Bluetooth.

When it comes to accuracy, the Apex’s GPS readings were pretty close to what I got from a Garmin linked to a calibrated footpod, so I had no problems on that front. However, things weren’t so good with the optical heart-rate sensor.

I’ve used the Apex for about six months and initially the heart-rate monitor was pretty much hopeless, giving far too high a reading during every run. However, of late it’s been much more in line with measurements from a chest strap. The change seems to have coincided with the weather getting warmer, which isn’t altogether surprising since optical heart-rate sensors are known to struggle in the cold.

You’ll still need a chest strap monitor for the cold months, then, because the Apex is pretty useless in these conditions, but you can discard it come spring and feel pretty safe the Apex’s readings will be on point.

Perhaps my biggest gripe with the Apex’s accuracy was its performance in the pool, where I found that it consistently underestimated the distance of my swims. When I swam continuously, all my lengths were totted up correctly, but if I paused for a breather or to even out the distance with other swimmers in the lane, I’d lose a length.

If, like me, you’re not a particularly strong swimmer and need to pause often, be prepared to feel frustrated with the numbers logged by the Apex. More adept swimmers haven’t reported such problems, though, so if you’re more experienced, it might not be a problem for you.

The watch delivers a solid range of swim-specific data in the app afterwards, with charts for your pace, strokes, SWOLF and stroke rate. It also gives a breakdown of the stroke you used for each length, which it mostly identified correctly for my swims – no mean feat given my sloppy technique.

Coros Apex review: Smart features and everyday activity tracking

The Apex isn’t really what you’d call a smartwatch, with notifications from a paired phone being the only real smart feature it offers. Notification delivery is done well, at least, with enough text shown onscreen that you can read long messages without having to expand the alert.

Things are a little more impressive when it comes to everyday activity tracking, thankfully, with steps, active energy, exercise time and heart rate all monitored throughout the day, and sleep hours logged if you keep the watch on at night. However, you can’t track long-term trends in this data from the mobile app as you can in Garmin Connect, for example. Instead, you can only see each day individually. I also found the sleep data to be somewhat inaccurate, with substantial periods of time ‘awake’ recorded each night even when I had no recollection of waking up during the night.

Coros Apex review: Verdict

There are some areas where the Apex falls short compared to its competition, but it still offers a compelling package to anyone seeking a multisport watch for under £300. As with the Suunto 9, battery life is its key selling point but if you can live without such longevity, the Polar Vantage M delivers a more polished all-round user experience. 

Having said that, the Apex has breadcrumb navigation and is one of the easiest multisport watches to set up and use. If Coros can fix its advanced insights when it adds further sports modes, the Apex will be very tough to top in its price bracket.