The Coros brand has burst onto the scene with force. If you log into Strava or check your Instagram feed with any regularity, you may have noticed that, in a very short time, the endurance-running crowd has embraced the company’s GPS watches. The Coros Vertix ($599 to $699) is currently the brand’s highest-end device aimed squarely at competing with the Suunto 9 and the Garmin Fenix series devices. The Vertix is a spec machine with lots of bells and whistles, including an optical heart-rate monitor, optical pulse oximeter, titanium bezel, sapphire glass, and more. The Vertix really shines in the battery-life category, where it has posted impressive listed as well as real-life numbers. However, when you are trying to compete with two well-established brands, it takes more than a few features to really stand out. How does the Vertix compare? Watch this review for an in-depth comparison.
Coros Vertix Review Transcript
Welcome to Trail Trials, the video-review section of iRunFar. My name is Travis Liles and in this video we’re looking at the Coros Vertix.
What is the Coros Vertix? Well, Coros is a relatively new GPS-watch-making company. The Coros Vertix is definitely at the high end and it has a full spec sheet of features. What you have is a sapphire glass crystal [watch face] that is very good at resisting scratches. You have a titanium bezel [the top ring that surrounds the crystal] and a titanium back. You have a fairly strong middle section that’s made out of plastic. The watch comes with these stretchy, rubber, quick-release watch bands that come on and off [demonstrates quickly] and which come in a whole bunch of colors. Some of the [watch models] are $599, one is $699.
The Vertix has smartwatch features, so it can do things like notifications and daily heath tracking. You can track steps, sleep, heart rate–there’s a heart-rate monitor built into the back of the watch. There’s also SPO2–a blood-oxygen sensor–to see how well you’re doing at altitude. There are some pretty great features for the big, ‘extreme’ stuff.
The watch has high ratings for low negative temperatures [its range is -4 degrees Fahrenheit to 140 degrees Fahrenheit]. It has insane battery life. This thing is rated at 60 hours of continuous use at the highest setting. It’s rated at 150 hours of use at the UltraMax setting, which reads farther apart than, let’s say, every second. It has 45 days of battery life on standby, which is your everyday use [no GPS]. On top of that, it takes two hours to quick charge; [it goes] from zero to 100% in two hours. So, a ton of really great specs.
That said, this device is squarely set on competing with Suunto. It has Garmin in its crosshairs, too. As I go through this review, I’ve reviewed the Suunto 9 and wore it for a considerable amount of time. I’ve worn the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus; that’s my current watch. In terms of the market that this is going after, I have a lot of experience with those competitors. You’ll hear me talking about that in relation to this watch, of how it stacks up and where it differs. Let’s get into it.
Coros Vertix and Coros App Features and Function
Let’s jump right into the interface. You’re looking at a color that I’ve decided upon. You can change some of the faces, though they are limited by what you have in the app and the settings that are brought down. There’s not a community of folks building new interfaces for it right now. So, yes, you can customize, but it’s somewhat limited. You’re limited to the faces in the app [scrolls through the options on his phone in the app]. You choose five, and those are the ones you can swap between. As more get added to the app, you will, of course, be able to customize the watch a little bit more.
Let’s talk about the watch and the interface. The right-hand side of the watch is where your buttons live. Up top you have a ‘Light’ button. Below you have a ‘Lap/Back’ button. In the middle you have your main way of interacting with the device, and that’s through this digital crown [demonstrates turning it to scroll through different watch views]. That digital crown is your scrolling mechanism, it’s your ‘Start/Stop’ button, it’s how you get into exercises. Everything you do for the most part, you do with this digital crown.
To give a quick roll through the interface here, your first view when you scroll past the time-telling screen is a start page showing daily activity [set up here to show calories burned, time spent moving, steps taken, and stairs climbed]. You can track your heart rate, which is captured here from the back. Another view shows the altitude you’re at. Another view shows the barometric pressure and the temperature externally and on the wrist. Then it’s back to this main interface.
Let’s talk a little bit about how you interact with this watch, the settings and those things. This isn’t going to be exhaustive because there are a lot. The positive thing is there aren’t a lot of big, deep sub-menus. The stuff that you want is readily available.
The settings screen lets you scroll through the options of: system, night mode, watch face, timer, stop watch, altitude, map, navigation settings, UltraMax, heart-rate measurement, compass, alarm, and do-not-disturb mode. It’s a list of features that you might want to get to right away.
Let’s talk about this crown [the dial on the right of the watch that’s used for scrolling and selecting options] a little bit. One of the things that I had problems with was that I was continually hitting this crown when I was wearing it on my left wrist. The button was right where my wrist was [demonstrates]. Maybe I was holding something, or my hand was down, but this is what would happen. I kept bumping it. One of the cool features that Coros has is the ability to decide where you want that crown at. You can go into the settings and say that you want to wear the watch on the left side, and the interface flips. It’s really nice to have this customization. The downside is that the text labels on the watch for ‘Light’ and ‘Back/Lap’ stay the same, but the buttons have switched. But at least it gives you the opportunity to decide how you want it, how you want to deal with it, and what fit is right for you.
Let’s look at the exercise screen. We have options including: run, indoor run, trail run, mountain climb, bike, indoor bike, pool swim, open water, triathlon, gym cardio, and GPS cardio. One of the things that’s pretty nice about this watch is you can change the interface with your mobile device. Let’s check out what that looks like.
Once you’re in the Coros app [shows the app on his phone], you go into the app settings and select a custom interface. You pick the activity that you feel like doing and from there you simply choose what you want your screen to look like: how many screens you want. Down here at the bottom of the app, you scroll through and pick which one of those you want and hit save. It’s a very nice way of interacting with the watch and making it do what you want. When you scroll that little crown and it goes to screen two, it’s exactly what you wanted to see.
The downside is that this is it [gestures to the list of activities on the app]. This is the total number of activities available on the device, and you can’t add more. If you want something like mountain biking, you have to edit one of these other activities. The customization is limited to what Coros puts in there. I will note that some new activities have come since the launch of this device via firmware and app updates.
Getting back to the watch, let’s look at what it would look like to go for a run. I’m going to hit start. When we turn this mode of the watch on, we get information about battery life, satellite connection, and heart rate. I have a couple of settings I can pop in here. I can do interval training. There aren’t a lot of custom features like you might see in the Garmin or if you ever did the apps with Suunto where you could build a workout and then throw it onto your watch. It’s more limited.
So, we hit start. It’s going to give me some information: “Hey, your GPS isn’t ready and your heart rate isn’t ready, do you want to start now anyway?” For the purposes of this demonstration, I’ll say yes. The interface starts up and we can scroll through all of our little screens here that we saw in the app. It’s bright, easy to read, big text. It’s a fine interface to be able to work through. One of the things that you may have just noticed is that if I let the watch sit for a few seconds, it locks itself so that I’m not accidentally bumping it. You have two options then: you can scroll the crown to unlock, or you can press down on the crown to unlock. I’m going to stop the watch and tell it to finish the workout. Now that it’s saved, I can get my information about what went on. Then I’m back to my home screen.
It’s fairly straightforward, and I think that’s one of the nicer parts of this watch–you’re not buried in a bunch of details and features and options. It’s just one of those things where if you like to geek out and do a lot on a watch, you can customize a bunch of the screens, but it’s not as easy to customize workouts.
Let’s dig into the app and look at a couple of things I think are important as a runner as it relates to navigation and routing. Once we’re in the app, we have a couple of screens that are navigated again through this bottom bar. You can look at daily activities, workouts, profile settings, and badges to earn, and then there’s a screen for interacting with the watch. That last option lets you update the watch screens, and view firmware updates and GPS data. All of that stuff lives in here.
Let’s talk about the health statistics. This watch captures data on steps, sleep, heart rate, as well as activities for the day. When you go into the calendar, you can pull those different days up to see the things that were done that day. There are similar circles to what you would see in Apple Health. It gives you a nice interface of your day and what’s happening. As you move over to the next tab, you get very specific details on an activity that you’ve done, including a nice map. You get data about what that activity was: what was your pace, what was your best mile, cadence, etc. It’s all the things you would expect to see in an app. A place where Coros does a really nice job is the amount of data that it captures about a workout and then laid out in a really good-looking app. The data is easy to share and to send out, so if you want to share that with somebody or you want to export the data, you can do that. You get a bunch of different options. You can throw it right into an email or message or whatever. Then, of course, it syncs to your third-party apps like Strava, Training Peaks, RQ, Health Kit, and We Run. It’s really easy to spit a GPX file out here in the application.
Now, what’s the downside? There’s no companion website for this. It’s this app or nothing. Where that gets messy for me is with building routes. I have a tendency to want to build routes on my watch. The way that Coros works is that you’re reliant on some third-party software to build that route, or you have to have run the route already. Since I’ve already done this run before, I can take this and save it as a route. This is something that I can sync to the watch and do later so I can follow the route to make sure I’m not getting lost. But I had to have run this thing. The other way that you accomplish this is by building your route in a third-party application, emailing it to yourself, sharing that route with the Coros app, and then making that a route. There are extra steps.
For me, as someone who travels a lot, I want to build a route on my computer and then sync it directly to the watch. I’m reliant on other things to get that done here.
The other things the app is missing is–you have a calendar with all of this data that’s being captured, heart rate, sleep, all kinds of information, but there’s no aggregate view of it. Everything is on a one-by-one basis. If I want to look at my steps over a period of time, I can’t do that. If I want to look at my heart rate over a 12-month span, I don’t have the ability to do that. If I want to look at sleep, I can go day-by-day and come in here and look, but I don’t have the ability to dig into any of this information to say, “Am I sleeping better?” A lot of data that’s captured and it’s all very siloed to this application. I can’t even look at it on a big screen to analyze it.
In terms of accuracy, I had no problems with this watch. This has been a very solid device. It is in the same wheelhouse as the Garmin Fenix line and the Suunto 9 series. There are probably more accurate devices out there, but I don’t think this is any better or worse. If you’re okay with the readings you’re pulling from your Garmin Fenix or Suunto 9 devices, then this is in the same ballpark. I’ve been on multiple runs where I was wearing a Garmin Fenix on one wrist and the Coros watch on the other and I thought the Coros was reading more true. On other runs, my Garmin read more true, but they were always fairly close. In the altitude department, it rang pretty true to what I expected.
Coros Vertix and Coros App Overall Impressions
In closing, there’s a lot to like about the Coros. It’s stylish. It fits the mold of what a mountain and extreme type of device has, like what you see on the Garmins and the Suuntos. It’s attractive. It’s got these bands to customize. The watch face, while limited, does have a selection that you can personalize and most of them have color options available.
The battery life is just crazy. It’s one of those things where you don’t notice it until you don’t have to deal with it anymore. It’s like if you used to have a car with really bad gas mileage, and now you have one that gets insanely good gas mileage–the noticing is in the not noticing. I think that’s probably the killer feature here, compared to the rest of the market. It charges really fast and that battery life is going to get you about 60 hours. I didn’t go 60 hours straight, but I ran in it a lot. I trained in it for two weeks’ worth of daily runs while also using it to track steps and heart rate and all those things. It took two weeks–roughly 120 miles of training plus everyday wear–before I had to recharge it. So, if you’re a battery person, this watch will be tough to beat. That’s what this device does better than all the others.
Where I think this device falls down is that it’s playing at a very high level. It’s playing at the level of the mountain-focused offerings from Suunto and Garmin. When you look at all of the features, the Coros is a brand-new device that’s priced at $600, or $700 if you get the blue one with the clear case. [For that price,] I don’t know that this watch brings anything new to the game. What I mean by that is its battery life is new; the ability to have a long battery life is great, but Suunto and Garmin have their places, too. The Suunto 9 will step down. It tells you, “Hey, you’ve only got this amount of battery life left, would you like us to swap the GPS recording to be less accurate but to give you more battery life?” The Garmin devices won’t do that, but the Garmin Fenix 5x Plus has roughly 30 hours of battery. That’ll get you through most events. For longer events, you can carry a portable battery and recharge them on the go.
From a price standpoint, the Coros is too high. If you’re trying to compete at that level, you have to offer everything and more, compared to your established competitors. I did the review on the Suunto 9 and wore it for a considerable amount of time. My go-to watch is the Garmin Fenix 5x Plus. I wear that for pretty much everything. I have a bar, where I’m willing to spend $600 to $700. While the Coros does awesome on battery life, it has the SPO2 sensor in it, and it does the daily tracking, there’s nowhere to do anything with that data. The app is lacking. It’s great for activities, it’s not very good for the day-to-day. I can’t track my sleep for the last year. I can’t look at my resting heart rate and what that looks like over an amount of time. Even some of the more niche features, the Garmin has music on it, it has wireless pay on it. While those things may not be as important, that watch is a year old and you can get it on sale for close to the cost of the Coros Vertix and you have a more mature platform. You have a more mature app. By more mature, I don’t mean it has all of the exact same features, but it’s been around awhile and it has a back end that adds into that.
I’m probably a little biased on this point, in that my job is in the software industry. I work with servers and infrastructure. A big part of when you buy a device is that you’re also buying into an ecosystem. Baked into the cost of the Garmin Fenix or Suunto 9 is their infrastructure. They have apps, though a little messy in the case of the Suunto. In the Garmin world, they have infrastructure. They’re holding your data for a long time so you can analyze it. There’s a lot to it. It’s not just that the watch costs $600. It’s that the watch costs $600 and there’s a whole bunch of development and infrastructure.
While Coros could very well get there, I think there’s a miss in terms of the cost of this compared to what it provides in terms of total watch ecosystem value. I’d say this: If you are frustrated with Garmin or Suunto, you’ve got another option. That is killer to have options. If you’re already into one of those ecosystems, you’re going to find this to be lacking. I can’t step inside my house and have this watch automatically connect with Wi-Fi and sync my activities. To do everything that I require with a Coros Vertix, I have to use a third party. I have to build a route in Runkeeper or Map My Run or Strava and then pull that GPS track down and email it to myself. Once I’ve emailed that to myself on my phone, then I can set the route up. It sounds like a lot of steps. It’s not that cumbersome, but I’m reliant on something else. Even if I do something like tie this watch into Apple Health, I don’t get all of the things that this watch can do. It’s capturing sleep and steps, but I don’t have any historic data. From the software end, it’s not quite there.
It’s a nice piece of hardware. If you’re looking for battery life, this is good, but I have a hard time with this price given where the other devices are in the market. I know that these things are everywhere. They’re all over Strava. You see a lot of athletes running in it and I do think that there’s something there and I’m happy that there is another option. But if you’re trying to compare price, then it’s important to look at the entire ecosystem and determine what’s best for you. If your priority is battery life, this watch is a no-brainer. If it’s everything, routes, music, more of a warm and fuzzy feeling and the knowledge your watch is going to be around for a long time, that makes the Coros a little bit tougher.
So, think about what you’re doing, think about that price point. If this hits the mark, I don’t think you’re going to be let down by this device. To sum it up, any of this stuff–zero-drop shoes, maximalist versus minimalist cushioning, devices–everyone’s got their preferences and what works for them. This is now another option that you can wear on your wrist to get you through a long race. It’s up to you to look at what you value to determine if this $599 (or $699 depending on the trim) is the right price point for you.
Call for Comments
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