COROS APEX 2 and APEX 2 Pro In-Depth Review

Today COROS has announced the long-teased COROS APEX 2 series watches, including both a base model and a Pro model. While I had considered doing entirely separate reviews for both of these, the reality is they’re virtually identical watches same some minor internal spec differences. Thus, I’ve gone with one consolidated review. And to make things even more fun – I’ve been wearing both watches side by side (well, on opposite wrists) just to see how they handle and differ.

The new APEX 2 series is best viewed through the lens of being a smaller VERTIX 2 (released one year ago). It’s got virtually all the same software features as the more expensive Vertix 2, and in fact, with the Vertix 2 priced virtually all of October at $ 499, it’s been the same price as the new-announced APEX 2 Pro. But, we’re getting distracted. Ultimately, COROS sees these two models (APEX 2 Pro vs Vertix 2) differentiated by style/materials, more so than software.

The 1.3” screen COROS APEX 2 Pro includes a revamped optical heart rate sensor, adds multiband GNSS/GPS, adds music storage for MP3’s (no streaming service), includes offline maps, touchscreen, WiFi, and HRV readings. It also includes a battery life up to 75 hours depending on the mode (25 hours for multiband usage though). The APEX 2 Pro comes in at $ 499, whereas the base APEX 2 slides in at $ 399, but lacks the multiband GPS and larger battery life, and has a slightly smaller screen.

I’ve been putting both watches through their paces, in a variety of sports from swim to bike to run, plus of course daily usage as a general watch/activity tracker. Both units are media loaners from COROS, and as usual it’ll get sent back to them once I wrap up here. If you found this review useful, feel free to hit up the links at the end of the site, or consider becoming a DCR Supporter. With that – let’s begin!

What’s New, and How They Differ:

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At a glance from more than a few meters away, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between the COROS APEX 2 and APEX 2 Pro. They’ve got near-identical bodies, and both come with fabric sport bands. However, when placed side by side you can spot the singular external difference – which is the slightly larger screen on the new APEX 2 Pro, which is 1.3”, versus the APEX 2 base unit at 1.2”.

However, let’s back-up and talk about what’s changed to the original APEX series (for which there was both a base model and Pro model):

– Added multiband GPS for the APEX 2 Pro (not base though)
– Added all systems GNSS option for both models
– Added WiFi connectivity
– Added Bluetooth 5.0
– Added dimmed night mode on watch face
– New optical heart rate sensor
– Added manual HRV readings support
– Added blood oxygen sensing
– Increased storage to 32GB for Pro (from 3.5GB)
– Increased storage to 8GB for base (from a few megabytes)
– Added preloaded global maps on Pro
– Allows downloading of free global maps on Base
– Unified on a single three-button design (previous APEX based model had two buttons)
– Nylon strap comes standard on all watches
– New sorta-touchscreen mode planned for Nov/Dec firmware update (see details in ‘The Basics’ section)
– Removed ANT+ support (previous APEX units had it)

Now, let’s dig slightly deeper on how the two APEX 2 models are different to each other, which is honestly a bit of a quicker list:

– APEX 2 Pro has Multiband/Dual-Frequency GNSS support, whereas the APEX 2 doesn’t
– APEX 2 Pro has larger battery life (see chart below)
– APEX 2 Pro has 32GB of storage versus 8GB for the APEX 2
– APEX 2 Pro has maps pre-loaded, whereas APEX 2 requires computer download
– APEX 2 Pro has a 1.3” screen versus 1.2” for the APEX 2
– APEX 2 Pro has a 260x260px screen vs 240x240px screen for APEX 2
– APEX 2 Pro has multi-pitch climbing activities, whereas the APEX 2 doesn’t

In a nutshell, the main one that really matters for most people here is probably the multiband-GPS support. Though, I’d caution to see my GPS accuracy section down below. Or, if that sounds like a lot of work, the spoiler is it doesn’t seem to matter much. Both units performed the same side by side, and the APEX 2 Pro generally fell short of other multiband GPS watches from an accuracy standpoint. To be clear – it wasn’t bad, but it’s not at the same level of some of their competitors. Anyways, that’s all discussed in that section.

Here’s those battery numbers:

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If I were to overlay the Vertix 2 on there, it’d get 140hrs in standard, 90 hours in all systems, and 50 hours in dual-frequency, and 60 days smartwatch. Keep in mind as you’ll see later, COROS across all their watches is basically trading some GPS accuracy for longer battery life.

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Obviously, you can see the Vertix 2 has a larger screen than the COROS APEX 2 series, plus different styling, which COROS says is where they plan to keep many of the differentiators.

The Basics:

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This section of the review will focus on basic usage, including daily activity tracking (things like steps/sleep/etc…), as well as smartwatch related features like notifications and music. Additionally, I’ll cover aspects around the widgets and other non-workout areas.

First up, is the how you interact with the watch. While both APEX units boast a touchscreen, at this point that’s really only used in the mapping areas. In a future firmware update COROS plans to expand that to scrolling through widgets/lists, but choosing things in the menus are still planned to require pushing buttons. For most users of a watch in this realm, that’s probably perfectly fine. Mapping is about the only area I tend to want touch for an endurance focused watch.

Anyways, on the side you’ll see three buttons, with the middle one being both a button and a rotating digital crown:

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As you might remember, the original COROS APEX only had the single rotating digital crown plus one lower button, but the 1st gen APEX Pro had the secondary button and matches what the COROS APEX 2 has (both models). While I’m still no fan of digital crowns (from any company, Apple included), as I find them finicky to use in sport settings, having the extra buttons here means I can avoid using the digital crown a bit more given the extra buttons. About the only scenario where I find the digital crown useful is zooming on maps.

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Starting off with the watch face, you’ve got a new default watch face available APEX 2 series. You can tap the lower right button to iterate through the data points in the middle of the screen. While the COROS APEX 2 units have been largely bug-free for me, this is one area that seems full of bugs – with numerous mislabeled data metrics (COROS says those fixes are slated for the next firmware update).

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If you aren’t a fan of this watch face, you can choose from a few others using the COROS smartphone app. There isn’t a watch face store like some other companies.

From the watch face you can use the digital crown to rotate down through the different widgets. These widgets cover areas like calories, steps, stairs, sleep, training status, heart rate, altimeter data, and more.

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In general, the steps have been fairly consistent for me with other devices. However, the ‘floor’ tracking seems to undercount the number of times I do flights of stairs by a fair bit. Living in a skinny-tall rowhouse in Amsterdam means I’m an expert and going up and down flights of stairs, though, the COROS APEX 2 units seems think I’m pretty lazy.

If we look at steps for example, we can see steps for the day, as well as tap into widgets to see more details about either that day, or other recent days. This pattern is true for all widgets.

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All of this data is synced to the COROS app as well. For example, you can see your 24×7 heart rate, steps, and all other activity tracking metrics. For example, here’s the same steps data seen on the COROS smartphone app:

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Another example being sleep, here’s sleep data on the watch:

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And then again, on the smartphone app:

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In my testing I’ve found the COROS APEX 2 Pro and APEX 2 units equally nail the specific times I fall asleep and wake-up, usually within 1-2 minutes. It’s spot on, though, so are most other watches these days in that realm.

Where they are a bit more iffy (like everyone else), is in sleep stage/phase data. Given the most accurate consumer comparative data sources in this realm are only about 80% accurate, I don’t put too much faith in this information. And in fact, one really good example is simply showing these two watches side by side from the same night of sleep (one watch worn per wrist). As you can see, the chart for each sleep phase are vastly different:

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Again, I put approximately zero faith in any of these metrics not just from COROS, but anyone else. They are inconsistent at best, and outright useless at worst. Regrettably, this data is fed into numerous other metrics around recovery on most watches.

Next, there’s the HRV data gathering. This data is manually gathered by completing a 60-second HRV test. This test simply requires you sit still and hold the bezel of the watch with your other arm. This is actually how you’d typically do ECG’s on smartwatches, and in fact, when COROS first launched this concept on the Vertix 2 a year ago, they called it ECG (and it still shows a little ECG graph). Except, then they realized that got them in all sorts of hot water with regulatory bodies (since it lacks approval/certification), and it’s just an HRV feature now.

As noted, all of this data, including HRV data, is tracked in the COROS app individually, but also collectively in a daily view that shows what you did that day:

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Now before we leave the widgets realm, we’ve got the barometric altimeter widget, which goes along with the ambient pressure widget:

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While I’ve got no issues with the design of this widget, I will note that I’ve seen consistent offsets for the barometric altimeter on the APEX 2 Pro that I don’t see on the APEX 2. The APEX 2 Pro seems to consistently have me about 50 meters below sea level, while the APEX 2 seems to float me between 0 and 20 meters. The real answer is about 0m (+/- 5m depending on exactly where I am in the city). The unit will theoretically ‘correct’ itself each time it gets GPS, but in my testing, the APEX 2 Pro doesn’t do that, while the APEX 2 base goes from being correct to being incorrect.

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You can manually override these settings, which I’ve done, and that helps for a bit, and then it slowly drifts away again.

Ok, now changing topics entirely, we’ve got smartphone notifications. You’ll set these up using the COROS app, and you can use filtering to decide which ones to display. These will chirp and lightly vibrate. It’s not the strongest vibration motor nor beep, so I do sometimes miss it if I’m actively moving. But by and large it works.  When a notification comes in, you can open it up to read more detail, or dismiss it. If you dismiss it on your watch, it’ll dismiss it on the phone as well.

Next, there’s music support. This allows you to manually load (using a computer) MP3 files onto the watch, and then connect/pair Bluetooth headphones to it. And yes, this does work, and with 32GB of (potential) storage on the APEX 2 Pro, and 8GB of storage on the APEX 2 base, you could load a fair bit of our Napster collection.

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The only problem is that it’s 2022, and very few people are manually loading MP3 files onto anything these days. Virtually the entire population (minus the 7 people that will comment down below) has shifted to streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, etc… And while COROS talks about adding a streaming service at some point, I just don’t see that as realistic (at least for any of the aforementioned ones). Those castle gates have long since closed, and getting them to even have a discussion about opening realistically requires tens of millions of active users at this point. Even worse, not only are those gates closed, but the streaming services seem to be fortifying that enclosure too. This obviously sucks for smaller companies like COROS, Polar, Suunto, Wahoo, and others. I’d love to see a chance in that stance, but I think you should be realistic about those chancing being approximately 0%, if music streaming services are important to you.

Finally, for lack of anywhere else to stick it, COROS does have both GoPro and Insta360 camera control, which is pretty darn cool. I’ve got a previous post discussing it here, and it’s nice to see. While Garmin has their VIRB action camera control on most watches, with the VIRB product line discontinued years ago, that’s basically a useless feature for 99% of users. So it’s cool to see COROS support 2 of the 3 main action cam companies (the 3rd being DJI, but I don’t believe DJI has an API for action camera control).

Sport Modes:

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Now if you’re buying a COROS APEX 2 series watch, it’s almost certainly for its sport usage purposes. And the APEX 2 series supports a number of sport profiles, with the APEX 2 Pro supporting slightly more profiles (listed below).

To start a workout you’ll unlock the watch, and then tap the middle button (digital crown). This will bring you to a sport listing that you can scroll through with the digital crown. Once the planned touch firmware is released, you’ll also be able to scroll through this list with your finger/touch, though, selecting a sport will still require a button press:

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Once you’ve selected a sport mode, you’ll see the satellite status (if a GPS activity), as well as the HR indicator icon for HR lock. Additionally, you’ll see any sensors being connected for that profile (such as a heart rate strap, COROS Pod, or cycling sensors). Further, there’s the ability to add a workout or navigation (more on that in a second).

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In my testing, GPS lock typically happened within 5-10 seconds, though, in almost every case HR lock took oddly longer (upwards of 20-25 seconds). This is likely because one of the things COROS does to save battery life compared to most of their competitors is reduce the heart rate sampling frequency and intensity. As such, when it comes time for a workout, it takes a bit longer for that to lock. I don’t think this is a big deal, but mildly notable.

Now before we start that workout, here’s a quick look at the available workout modes on the watch, including both the APEX 2 Pro and APEX 2. As a spoiler, the only difference is the APEX 2 Pro has ‘Multi-Pitch’ climbing, whereas the APEX 2 base does not.

APEX 2 Pro Workout Modes: Run, Indoor Run, Trail Run, Track Run, Hike, Walk, Multi-Pitch, Mtn Climb, Bike, Indoor Bike, Pool Swim, Open Water, Speedsurfing, Windsurfing, Rowing, Indoor Rower, Whitewater, Flatwater, Triathlon, Strength, Jump Rope, Gym Cardio, GPS Cardio, Ski, Snowboard, XC Ski, Ski Touring, Multisport.

APEX 2 Workout Modes: Run, Indoor Run, Trail Run, Track Run, Hike, Walk, Mtn Climb, Bike, Indoor Bike, Pool Swim, Open Water, Speedsurfing, Windsurfing, Rowing, Indoor Rower, Whitewater, Flatwater, Triathlon, Strength, Jump Rope, Gym Cardio, GPS Cardio, Ski, Snowboard, XC Ski, Ski Touring, Multisport

Next, another distraction before we start, would be sensors. The APEX 2 series supports Bluetooth Smart sensors, there is not ANT+ sensor support here. The sensor types supported are: Heart rate sensors, cycling power meters, cycling cadence sensors, cycling speed sensors, cycling trainers (FTMS), COROS POD 1/POD 2, and Stryd.

You can pair sensors via the sensors menu by searching for nearby sensors. You can save multiple sensors of the same type, and some sensors have configuration options:

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I’ve done workouts now with pairings to few different sensors including a Quarq power meter, PowerTap power meter pedals, COROS POD 2, and Favero Assioma power meter pedals. I’ve also done some test pairings with a Garmin HRM-PRO Plus chest heart rate straps. I had no issues pairing to any of those devices. The only minor downside is that since the APEX 2 series only supports Bluetooth Smart, and many (if not most) Bluetooth Smart accessories only support a single concurrent connection, you might not be able to gather the power meter data you want if you have another app (like Zwift or TrainerRoad) already connected to your trainer/power meter.

Ok, back to the workout we were about to start umpteen paragraphs ago. Once ready with all the GPS/HR/sensors set, we simply press the start button and it starts recording. At this point you’ll see the data fields you’ve configured via the app. Here’s a few different ones from a recent run:

You can customize these data fields using the COROS app:

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The only minor downside is you can’t add the map as a data field in your ‘loop’ of fields. It’ll show up if you’re navigating a course, but not otherwise. You can still access via either diving into the menus, or, by adding a hotkey for it. And while those are fine workarounds, it’s just handy having the map page somewhere in the list of scrollable pages.

Speaking of that map, let’s talk navigation and maps. I’ve previously written a bunch about navigation on COROS devices that’s probably worth checking out. In short though, you can send courses from platforms like Strava and Komoot to COROS, as well as load up GPX files. At this point there isn’t yet a course builder within the COROS app. Once you’ve got the course you want in the COROS app, then you can send it to your watch (manually):

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There’s currently a limit on the number of courses you can have loaded concurrently (10), and additionally there’s the requirement to manually complete these sync steps. It sounds like a bigger revamp of the entire mapping/navigation thing is on the near-term horizon, so I’m not going to stress too much about this now – other than to say that in general, while yes, COROS has maps on these watches, the navigation experience is subpar compared to most of their competitors. It’s too early to say how that might change with the planned revamp.

Once a course is sent to your watch, you can load it up on the watch. You’ll see a quick overview there before you get cookin’:

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COROS provides maps for free for both the APEX 2 and APEX 2 Pro units, only the APEX 2 Pro has them pre-loaded (since it has more storage). Whereas the APEX 2 base unit requires you download the maps using a computer first. COROS had promised easier WiFi downloads since a year ago with the Vertix 2 launch, but that hasn’t materialized yet. Perhaps in the future.

While navigating you’ll see your route atop the map, and you can use the digital crown to zoom, and your finger to move the map around (or, buttons if you want). This all works just fine. There’s a bit of lag on updating the maps, but that’s frankly normal for most endurance-focused wearables. It’s a trade-off to save battery life by lowering processor power.

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While using the course you won’t get turn-by-turn prompts like most other watches, instead, you’ll need to keep an eye on the map page, or the compass bug (arrow) on the other pages. However, it’s important to note that if you go off-course, then COROS watches alert you, but otherwise simply point you in the compass direction of how to get back to the route.

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No COROS watches today support routable maps, meaning, the COROS watch doesn’t actually know that you’re on the “Pacific Coast Trail”, but rather, it just knows you’re not on the line loaded from the route. Thus, it can’t re-route you onto another trail if you go off the wrong way. In a nutshell, there are basically three levels of functionality when it comes to watches:

Level 1: Breadcrumb trail only, no map: This is how most watches until the last few years worked. It’s now almost all Suunto & Polar watches are, as well as Wahoo watches, and the Garmin Forerunner 255 & Garmin Instinct series are. In many cases (Polar/Suunto/Garmin), you’ll still get turn-by-turn notifications, so you won’t miss the turn.
Level 2: Breadcrumb trail atop non-routable map: In this setup, think of the map as a projector slide with the route written on it using a marker. Yes, to the human eye they look intertwined, but from a computer standpoint they have no awareness of each other. If you go off-course, it simply knows you’re not on the line anymore, it doesn’t know what street/trail you’re on though. This is how the COROS APEX 2/Vertix 2 series watches work, except that critically, you do not get turn-by-turn notifications – you have to always be looking at the watch map or directional arrow.
Level 3: Routable trail with routable maps: In this scenario, the watch actively knows that you’re on Main street and turning onto Maple street. It knows that you then missed the turn for Maple and will automatically re-route onto Cowbell street instead, and soon. This is what Garmin’s Fenix/Epix/etc series, as well as the Garmin Forerunner 945/955 series are.

The point of this is to simply understand the levels. To be clear, I’ve successfully navigated complex courses with all three levels of watches over the years. Even in a Level 2 scenario, having the contextual awareness of the terrain around you (as COROS has, though missing turn prompts), is helpful – even if it can’t re-route you. I would suspect eventually COROS will get to a ‘Level 3’ watch, but industry history tells us that once they roll-out that type of feature, you’re looking at 2-3 years of messiness until it’s reliable. Live routable maps is incredibly challenging technologically. The world is a complex and messy place.

Now, continuing to circle back to that workout we were doing. Except, now I’ll just end it – at which point you can swirl that dial through all the summary pages. Additionally, you can see all the same data on the COROS companion app:

After a workout, if you’ve paired up 3rd party platforms like Strava or TrainingPeaks, it’ll automatically sync your workout to those as well, usually within a few seconds.

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Aside from the individual workout pieces, you’ve also got training load and recovery stats shown on both the watch and the app. You’ll see recommended timed got recovery, as well as fatigue and other elements. All of this is under their Evolab banner.

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While it’s every endurance athlete’s favorite pastime to second-guess watch manufactures training load and recovery metrics, the reality is the industry is improving. I’ve previously written about the COROS platform and metrics here, and for the most part, all that remains true today. Which is to say that the COROS metrics are almost entirely runner-focused, and specifically, flat-runner focused. In order to unlock the EvoLab features (of which includes training load metrics), you need to do a number of baseline flat-ground runs (literally, you have to run). That’s different other training load/recovery platforms which aren’t runner-dependent, but rather HR effort driven. Of course, if you’re not a runner, then your efficiency in running (or, lack thereof), will negatively impact your scoring.

Of course, I think it’s pretty fair to say that while COROS makes a good running watch, I can’t foresee recommending it to cyclists as a cycling watch. Sure, it tracks cycling just fine – but it’s not really competitive with cycling-first watches or bike computers.

Finally, in the ‘things that didn’t fit’ category, it’s worthwhile noting that the COROS APEX 2 series will broadcast both your heart rate and running pace metrics from the watch to apps like Zwift. For example, you can pair a Peloton bike to the APEX 2 for heart rate data, or, you can pair Zwift Running to the APEX 2 series for not just heart rate but also pace from the watch on a treadmill.

GPS & HR Accuracy:

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In this section I’ll take a look at the GPS & heart rate accuracy of the COROS APEX 2 series. In these tests, I’m comparing it against a ‘known good’ chest strap (the Polar H10 or Garmin HRM-PRO Plus), as well as one or more other watches or optical heart rate sensors. In these tests, only one watch is worn per wrist to ensure optical HR accuracy is still valid. Additional sensors may be worn on the upper arm (Whoop or Polar Verity Sense), the finger (Oura), or the chest (various chest straps).

For all these tests, the COROS APEX 2 Pro was set in multiband/dual-frequency mode (highest mode), and the COROS APEX 2 (base) was set in All Systems (highest mode it has). All other watches were set in their highest respective modes (multiband/dual/frequency for Garmin, and all systems for Suunto).

First up we’ve got a run that includes a bunch of different terrain from tree-lined paths to bridges/underpasses, to city buildings and more. Here’s that data set. Here’s the overview of this circuit:

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Starting off with one of the theoretically easier sections, I’m on a tree lined path, but both APEX 2 units have issues staying exactly on the path, and that goes downhill when I pass under an underpass. Both APEX units significantly cut the corners putting me in the canal multiple times/ways. The FR955 nails it perfectly.

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Next, looking at a section that’s got one underpass, but is otherwise open, and you see the COROS APEX 2 units aren’t bad, but they aren’t exactly on the path. If you wanted to sum up this entire section right now, it’s basically that. Rarely are the APEX 2 units horrific, it’s just not as good as the like-priced Forerunner 955 (or FR255).

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As we dive into the city, we see the same pattern. This back and forth sweep of the downtown district is challenging for sure, but that’s the way city running is. Which isn’t to say the Garmin was perfect here, but it was the best of the bunch if you average how far each one is from where I actually ran. Though, for these first two sweeps the APEX 2 Pro was a close second.

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But then we get into the upper half of the city portion, and the APEX 2 units make some solid mistakes. Note in particular the section where the COROS units cut across a small retaining pond, and just generally seem a bit off. I mean, not as off as the Suunto 5 Peak Pro, but off.

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Now, I brought this up to COROS and asked what they thought. They said that one solution to improve accuracy in the city section would be to pair the new COROS Pod 2 ($ 100) with it, which includes assistive GPS features that basically use an internal compass/gyro/accelerometer (and altimeter) to smooth out the data, and also produce more accurate GPS tracks by leveraging that compass as a counterweight to tricky city sections.

So, I went out again and did this same section, this time pairing the COROS Pod 2 to the APEX 2 Pro (it can only pair to one device concurrently, so the APEX 2 Pro was the chosen one). I still brought with me the COROS APEX 2 (non-Pro), a Vertix 2, and the Forerunner 955. As you can see, not only were the results not improved, but actually made it worse in some areas. Here’s the data, and note, that I run multiple passes, so each side gets ‘equal’ time in case there’s quirks one side to the other. Note: The colors have changed on this chart. Sorry!

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Now, on one of the streets, I’d agree the POD did improve the stability of that line, but not so much on the others (worse). It’s hard to know whether that one street was the pod, or just luck. Like before, the Forerunner 955 wasn’t absolutely perfect either, but it was (by a wide margin) the closest to where I ran (if not exactly where I ran), and made no major corner cutting errors.

There was one area that was improved with the pod and matched the Forerunner 955 (and my actual track), where I crossed the street here. Again though, it’s plausible that it was going to get that right anyways.

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And, to the pod’s benefit, it did then correctly get my distance (assuming the FR955 had roughly the right distance). Whereas the COROS Vertix 2 and APEX 2 (non-Pod) were ~250m short:

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Still, it’s hard to justify having to spend $ 100 to add a pod to a $ 500 watch (making it $ 600) to get still less than accurate results.

In any case, what about HR on those two runs? Well, on the first run, which included sprints intervals every 2KM for 30-60 seconds, the COROS watches did great. It only messed up once, in the final section where I did some shorter/harder intervals:

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Meanwhile, on the second pass run, it was relatively steady state. Its hard to know whether the chest strap or optical HR sensors were correct for that first section, though, I’m reasonably certain I wouldn’t have hit 160bpm in 60 seconds at an easy pace. So the chest strap is more plausible. Nonetheless, I’ll temporarily turn a blind eye to that, and instead focus on the substantial error at 4 minutes at a stop-light, where the APEX 2 Pro simply didn’t recover for another 2 mins.

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Next, we’ve got another HR focused workout, this time a hard indoor trainer interval workout, with clearly defined hard and recovery sections. In this case, it completely and totally nailed this. No caveats:

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So, what about outdoors riding? No problem, here’s how that looked on a windy outdoor ride. Well…that’s a bit rougher, but also kinda inline with what I typically see from wrist-based optical HR sensors – especially on cooler days like this. It was mostly in the ballpark, save for one gigantic loss which basically dropped HR for 5 minutes on the APEX 2 Pro…which is non-awesome (and did it again later for 3 mins):

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Meanwhile, the GPS track here should be a walk in the park, kinda literally:

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And indeed, looking closely, it’s about as perfect as you’re going to get. Though frankly, if any GPS unit screwed this up, I’d be surprised. The majority of this route had little to no tree cover with wide open blue skies:

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But even in the forested/tree-covered sections, it did well enough. Though again, road cycling is pretty easy for most GPS units, helped by the higher speeds and stability.

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And now, for something completely different – an openwater swim. Yes, on Halloween the scariest thing I did was jump in the chilly waters, sans-wetsuit, for your voyeuristic GPS benefit. As usual, I had a third GPS on a swim buoy floating attached to my waist to record the ‘true’ GPS track. And then on each wrist I had one of the two COROS APEX 2 series units. As you can see, it almost pulled off a perfect track:

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Unfortunately, it failed one of my treading water tests. These are tests I do at semi-random points along the course where I briefly tread water for 5-15 seconds, just as any openwater swimmer would do waiting for a swim buddy to catch-up, clearing their goggles, or even in a mass-start race around a crowded swim buoy. This is a great way to see how well a unit recovers from full GPS loss, and unfortunately in one of these tests both COROS APEX 2 units failed, though interestingly, in different directions:

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Then, after that, we see the COROS 2 (base) unit also started creating a GPS track offset that remained till the end of the workout:

APEX-OWS-GPS3

Having done a number of openwater swims with the Vertix 2 over the past year, these APEX 2 results don’t surprise me too much. I’ve seen oddities in virtually every single Vertix 2 openwater swim I’ve done. Most of the time they aren’t deal-breakers, but they certainly aren’t industry leading either.

Which, ultimately, kinda gets us to the summary of the COROS APEX 2 Pro and APEX 2 units when it comes to GPS accuracy. They’re good, but they definitely aren’t great. And I simply don’t see any meaningful difference between the multiband of the APEX 2 Pro, and the non-multiband of the APEX 2 non-Pro. They’re both so-so in accuracy. When COROS talked about a redesigned GPS antenna on the COROS APEX 2 series compared to the Vertix 2, I was optimistic they might have stumbled into some of the learnings that set Garmin (and to a similar extent Apple) apart in the multiband accuracy race – which continue to produce largely industry-leading GPS tracks. Unfortunately, that simply isn’t the case. Whatever secret sauce Garmin (and a slightly lesser extent, Apple) is doing for their GPS accuracy on their new 2022 multiband units apparently remains a secret to them.

Meanwhile, on the heart rate side, the new sensor in the COROS APEX 2 series is definitely an improvement over the Vertix 2 (and previous APEX units). No doubt about it. Most of my workouts are pretty good. That said, in the rare scenarios where it does lose tracking, it loses it for a pretty long time. Unlike most watches that usually figure it out within a few seconds (maybe 30 seconds at worst), when the APEX 2 does lose it, it loses it hard – for a number of minutes. But thankfully, those seem like somewhat rare scenarios, albeit, also unpredictable ones. The failure points were never hard moments, but rather more casual moments (a stoplight in a run, and a light acceleration during a ride).

(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy portions were created using the DCR Analyzer tool.  It allows you to compare power meters/trainers, heart rate, cadence, speed/pace, running power, GPS tracks, and plenty more. You can use it as well for your own gadget comparisons, more details here.)

Wrap-Up:

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The APEX 2 series units are good watches that largely do all the fundamentals well, and can easily be used to track your workouts. Their heart rate accuracy has improved over all their previous models (including the Vertix 2), as has their GPS accuracy with the new antenna design (again, also over the Vertix 2). However, neither unit’s accuracy was ‘great’, it was simply ‘goodish’. The addition of larger storage is great, and of course so is the battery life. However,

I know tech reviewers often like to try and avoid talking about price, but price is everything in a product. There’s a features for price trade-off that occurs, be it within a brand or compared to others. Pretending it doesn’t exist is silly.  As I’ve said before, COROS is most deadly when they’re trying to undercut the competition on price for value. The COROS Pace 2 being the pinnacle example of that – an incredible value for the money and consistently my top pick. However, when they try and match their competitors prices without also matching features or accuracy, it doesn’t hold water well. For example, the Garmin Forerunner 955 is $ 499 also, and the FR955 (essentially just a plastic Fenix 7). And every tech reviewer (or just an inspection of features and/data) would  agree it has far more features, far better maps/navigation, music streaming services, and battery accuracy – all with roughly the basically the same battery at the higher accuracy modes. Meanwhile, the APEX 2 base at $ 399 is the $ 0-$ 50 more than the Forerunner 255 or Instinct 2, and again, lacks the accuracy, features, and more of those. It does however have maps, which Garmin lacks at that price point, but inversely COROS lacks multiband which Garmin does have there in the FR255 (plus has legit turn-by-turn navigation).

I asked COROS why they had two APEX modes. My reasoning being that if they had basically put all their APEX eggs in one basket at $ 399, it’d have put the COROS APEX 2 back into the dangerously interesting camp. They noted the main reason was having two different sizes, including a better size for smaller wrists, and that further, they didn’t see any an outdoors focused competitor at the $ 399 price point for the APEX 2 base.

Anyways, as I said earlier, the COROS APEX 2 series is a good watch – and easily the best watch that COROS has produced to date in terms of accuracy. Their next challenge is extending and polishing the features on the APEX 2 series units to match the price they’ve set for it. I think in time they’ll probably do that, but then again, so will their competitors. Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to seeing the map-focused revamp later this year.

With that – thanks for reading!

Product Reviews – DC Rainmaker

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