It looks good, the battery lasts for 35 hours of GPS tracking and it costs less than £300. Those three features combined make the Coros Apex stand out in the world of GPS watches and made me very excited about trying it out.
Coros launched the Pace watch as its first fitness tracker last year and we were pretty impressed, but the Apex is a large step up in terms of both build quality and features – and yet only a small one in price, with the 46mm model costing £299.99 and the 42mm £269.99, compared with £250 for the Pace.
I’ve been testing the 46mm model; the main differences between the models are screen size, weight and battery life, with the 42mm lasting 25 hours in GPS mode.
Like the Coros Pace, the Apex only tracks running, cycling and swimming, along with providing a customisable multisport mode, which will disappoint those who want to track strength and stretching sessions. The Apex has improved its offering for those three sports by adding information on recovery time and training effect in terms of aerobic and anaerobic benefit.
You can also start guided workouts on the watch that are designed to improve your aerobic or anaerobic fitness, with three levels available – moderate, high or intense. These are based on heart rate and are useful for beginners who might not be sure what kind of training they should be doing.
You can’t create your own structured workouts beyond basic intervals, though. It’s a feature Coros has told us it plans to add, but there’s no definitive release date yet. In the meantime, you’ll have to rely on the lap button and your own memory.
During your training session there’s a live rating of your stamina out of 100, which ticks down over the course of a run or ride. It’s a neat idea but relies on the heart rate tracking being highly accurate, otherwise your stamina will deplete too quickly or too slowly.
Unfortunately the heart rate accuracy has been my only major problem with the Apex so far. It’s been absolutely spot-on for about half of my workouts, then consistently high by 15-20 bpm in the others. Because the plastic Coros Pace was excellent for heart rate accuracy I suspect the heaver build of the Apex 46mm is pulling it out of position on my skinny wrist, so there’s a good chance the lighter, smaller 42mm is more accurate.
The design of the Apex is excellent. It feels like a premium watch and it responds quickly when you press the buttons or twirl the navigation knob. I was worried this would be annoying compared with the standard five button design for sports watches, but the knob works well and it’s easy to switch between data screens when exercising.
Those screens can each contain up to six stats, even on the 42mm device, which is great for those who want every bit of info to hand without having to flick through screens on the move.
The battery life really is tremendous. After eight days with the watch, including eight runs clocking in around six hours and a considerable amount of fiddling with it, the battery life on the Apex 46mm is still at 50%. It’s particularly impressive how little juice it seems to use in watch mode or if left in a pocket, with only 1-2% coming off it overnight.
That means if you wanted to use it just as a sports watch and wear something else in between, you could easily get up to four weeks’ use out of the Apex 46mm between charges. Given that it doesn’t track sleep and the everyday activity tracking is fairly rudimentary, this could be an option many people go for even though the watch is smart enough to wear everywhere.
The everyday tracking involves recording steps, active minutes and active calories, along with 24/7 heart rate tracking, although the latter tends to suffer from the same accuracy issues as heart rate tracking during workouts. All useful info, but the Apex is more focused on sports tracking, and you won’t miss out on a lot if you don’t wear it between training sessions.
All your information is sent to the Coros app, which takes its cues from the device itself in being simple but effective: most of the info you want is in two tabs, one showing your daily stats and the other your workouts. In the first you also get info on your training load, along with your VO2 max and your threshold pace, which is broadly a pace that is “comfortably hard” when running – faster than easy, slower than a 5K effort. Again, heart rate inaccuracy might impinge on the usefulness of all these stats, but it shows that Coros is able to offer the same key features as far pricier watches.
The Coros Apex still doesn’t quite pack the same feature-filled punch as a device like the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus or Polar Vantage V, but many people will find it has everything they need and more, all presented in a smart package that’s easy to use and at a price that undercuts the competition. We’ll have our full review up on the site in a few weeks. Who knows, by then we might have even have had to charge it.
Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5)
Buy from Amazon | 42mm £269.99, 46mm £299.99