Coros APEX In-Depth Review 2021: The Pragmatic Running GPS Watch

The Coros APEX is a full-blown multi-sport GPS watch, with all the features a runner would expect from a premium GPS running watch. What sets the APEX apart is both its incredible battery life (more on that later) and its low price point – it comes in at nearly half the price of some of its competitors.

While Coros is the new kid on the block when it comes to GPS watches, they’ve already enlisted an impressive roster of pro athletes using their devices, including Eliud Kipchoge and Zach Bitter.

And while the Coros APEX is pitched as a multi-sport watch and activity tracker, it’s features are clearly well suited to distance running – whether trail runs, marathons, or ultramarathons.

It comes with a built-in wrist HR sensor, an always-on LCD screen, a Barometric Altimeter, all the high-end GPS functionality you’d expect, and a huge suite of performance analysis options. As well as running, it’s designed for hiking, cycling, swimming, skiing, snowboarding, rowing, and mountain climbing.Basically, all bases are covered for whatever type of workout you have planned.

coros apex running gps review main

I’ve been running with the smaller 42mm model (the APEX comes in 42mm and 46mm models, I’ll get into the differences later) for some time now, and have put it through its paces on a 100k solo ultra as well as a couple dozen training runs, hikes, walks with our stroller, and strength training sessions.

Let’s get into what I think of the Coros APEX running watch!

Check out the Coros APEX on Amazon!

Unboxing the Coros APEX 42mm Multisport GPS Watch

unboxing the coros apex 1

unboxing the coros apex 2

I opted for the 42mm version of the Coros APEX instead of the 46mm, partially because I prefer smaller devices on my wrist, and also because the battery life of the smaller version is ridiculously good and I felt the improvements in the larger (and slightly more expensive) model were relatively minor.

unboxing the coros apex 3
unboxing the coros apex 4

Unboxing and setting up the Coros APEX is simple.

The watch comes with a Quick Start guide, the USB charging cable, and covers for the charging port.

The watch is well packaged and protected and comes with enough charge that you can use it immediately out of the box.

How To Set Up The Coros APEX Watch

The Coros APEX is set up by downloading the Coros app, creating a profile, and pairing the watch with your smartphone. The whole process takes 3-4 minutes.

It’s important to note that you can’t download your workouts from the Coros APEX to your computer using the USB cable; all workouts are managed through the Coros App.

coros apex review rug

Like many runners, I use Strava as my main means of tracking my workouts – thankfully it’s easy to pair the Coros with Strava (or Training Peaks, Final Surge, and a few other platforms).

In the Coros app, just navigate to the Profile screen, choose ‘3rd Party Apps’, then Strava – and agree to share your data with the Strava app. All your workouts will now be automatically logged on Strava.

With this step done, setup of the Coros APEX is complete!

Coros APEX In-Depth Review 2021: The Pragmatic Running GPS Watch 1
The Coros APEX comes with a huge range of watch faces you can browse on the Coros App then send to the watch

Check out the Coros APEX on Amazon!

Battery Life of the Coros APEX

The battery life of the Coros APEX was what convinced me to buy the watch. I was searching for a reliable watch that would be suitable for ultramarathons, as well as potentially multi-day stage races in the future.

And battery life is where the Coros APEX comes into its own.

Coros APEX UltraMAX

It includes an UltraMAX GPS mode, designed to extend the battery life for ultrarunning.

In UltraMAX mode, the GPS detection is only switched on for 30 seconds every 2 minutes, then the watch sensors and Coros algorithm smooths in the gaps in the location data. It works surprisingly well – see my comments later!

The following battery life stats are from the Coros APEX site:

Coros APEX 42mmCoros APEX 46mm
UltraMAX mode (hrs)80 hours100 hours
Full GPS Mode (hrs)25 hours35 hours
Regular Mode (days)24 days30 days

My own experiments with the 42mm model battery life pretty much verify the above: on a single charge of the watch, it lasted for 14 days – which included an 11hr 100k run in UltraMAX mode, and half a dozen shorter (30-60 minute) runs and gym workouts. This includes 24/7 heart rate monitoring, too.

This has given me confidence that I could take the Coros APEX on a 6-day 250k stage race and it would last the whole way, using the UltraMAX mode to track the runs.

Frankly, the battery life is so good on the 42mm model I couldn’t ever see myself needing the 20% battery improvement the 46mm model gives.

Using The Coros APEX: The Build and Interface

The Coros APEX thankfully keeps things simple by avoiding a touchscreen (who can really use those while running?) and instead leaves you with a two-button interface; a ‘depress-able’ digital crown on the upper right, and a single button on the lower right.

The digital crown is what you use to scroll through menus and options and is very intuitive; anyone who has worn an Apple Watch will be familiar with this.

coros apex features close-up

The 42mm model comes with a 20mm wrist strap, and the 46mm model with a 26mm wrist strap. The wrist straps are detachable and easy to change out (again, much like Apple’s device).

Like any new system, the interface takes a few days to adapt to, but is clearly designed to be ergonomically pleasing – once you get used to using the digital crown and the menu system, you’ll be flying.

Features of the Coros APEX

As I mentioned earlier, one thing that I really liked about the Coros APEX was the price point – there’s a significant difference in the price between this watch and most other ultrarunning watches.

Sometimes in the past, when shopping for Ultra-friendly GPS watches I’ve felt like I’m paying a premium for all the bells and whistles included, when all I really want is a reliable device with a battery life that will go the distance.

The good news is that the Coros APEX comes with all the data recording and analysis tools that the modern quantified runner could ask for.

GPS Tracking Accuracy

As you’d expect, the Coros APEX GPS tracking data is pretty spot-on – the combination of the high-end GPS system and Coros’ algorithm to smooth out any bumps works well.

I’ve taken the Coros APEX out for a few runs along with an Apple Watch 3, and the APEX gives a much smoother and more accurate output.

coros apex ultramax gps mode accuracy
Here’s an excerpt from a run I did in UltraMAX mode (where the GPS is only turned on for 30 seconds every 120 seconds to preserve battery life); the ‘smoothing’ works well and seems to guarantee a very accurate record of your run.
coros APEX full GPS mode comparison
This screenshot is from a regular run in full GPS mode; it shows some slight corner-cutting when I turn sharply, but otherwise an accurately-tracked run (note: this is typical, even in high end GPS devices).

Like any GPS device, if you dive deep enough into your run data you’ll find slight discrepancies and ‘drift’ from your actual path (where it looks like you’ve been running a couple of metres off the trail the whole time). While some purists get excited about these discrepancies, it’s worth noting that the overall distance recorded is usually extremely accurate, and tiny cut corners or offset trails don’t really impact your total distance covered.

Check out the Coros APEX on Amazon!

Heart Rate Sensor

The Coros APEX includes a wrist-based heart rate sensor; so far, I’ve found it to be just as accurate as any chest strap sensor I’ve tested, and much more accurate than the Apple Watch sensor (which seems to struggle to keep recording regularly when you’re doing an activity that involves a lot of movement).

Coros APEX In-Depth Review 2021: The Pragmatic Running GPS Watch 2
The Coros APEX Heart Rate Sensor and 3-point charging port

A heart rate monitor is something I’m pretty keen on – it’s great to have your HR data recorded automatically and logged, so whenever you’re in the mood for a data dive you can check how your HR has moved historically (or let the platform analyse it for you!)

Coros APEX In-Depth Review 2021: The Pragmatic Running GPS Watch 3
Example heart rate data over a hilly 5k; plenty of data points (regular sampling) and looks consistent (no unexplained jumps). A step up from the data I get from my Apple Watch

Check out the Coros APEX on Amazon!

GPS Navigation and Barometer features

When using the Coros APEX, it’s never taken more than a few seconds to find a GPS signal – a negligible amount of time, and fast compared to other GPS running watches I’ve trialled recently.

The APEX offers a navigation option, where a pre-uploaded route is displayed on the watch face for you to follow.

Frankly, I haven’t tried this option yet – I don’t often go so far off-course to need route planning, and if I get lost I usually have my smartphone to check my GPS. But, it’s definitely a feature that some trail runners will appreciate.

The barometer in the watch provides pretty accurate altitude info; I’ve compared output from the Coros APEX to Apple Watch data (again, not the best) and Google Maps data and find it to be reliable.

Coros APEX In-Depth Review 2021: The Pragmatic Running GPS Watch 4

What’s It Missing?

For completeness, it’s worth mentioning some of the features that the Coros APEX is missing which some other high-end sports GPS devices offer, such as:

  • No ability to download custom apps
  • No music storage or playback
  • No contactless payments
  • No solar segment for charging
  • No virtual training partner mode.

Frankly, other than perhaps the music function and solar charging, I don’t feel any of these are actually missing from the Coros APEX watch.

In fact, I appreciate having a watch that’s well-built for running and activity tracking, and doesn’t try to become a Swiss Army Knife of stuff that it probably won’t do well, I won’t use anyway, and would hike up the retail price.

Road Testing The Coros APEX in an Ultramarathon

After a few exploratory runs with the Coros APEX to familiarise myself with its features, I strapped it on and took off on a solo 100k run to see how it would fair.

100k coros apex
100k coros apex
100k coros apex

First off, the battery life delivered on it’s promise.

I started off on a full charge, and after 11 hours of running, it was at 69% battery life – and survived a further 13 days of regular use before needing a charge.

GPS accuracy using UltraMAX mode has been pretty spot-on. There’s the occasional ‘drift’ you experience with all GPS devices, where it looks like you’re running about 2m parallel to the actual track at times, but in all it measured up very well.

I also found the interface pretty practical and, even when exhausted and a little shaky-handed, found it pretty easy to scroll through the menus – usually to pause my run for a bathroom stop. A nice feature is that to ‘finish’ a run, you have to depress the digital crown for 2-3 seconds as a circle fills itself on the screen – there’s no risk of accidentally pushing a button and wiping all your progress!

Here’s are some screenshots of what to expect from the Coros app in terms of data output at the end of a run:

Coros APEX In-Depth Review 2021: The Pragmatic Running GPS Watch 5
Coros APEX In-Depth Review 2021: The Pragmatic Running GPS Watch 6
Coros APEX In-Depth Review 2021: The Pragmatic Running GPS Watch 7

A confession: day-to-day, I don’t pay too much attention to my HRZs, my power output, or cadence. However, I like the idea of having all this data recorded automatically, and stored somewhere for later analysis and digging up.

Who wouldn’t want to see how their heart rate has changed over a period of a few years?

To me, that’s the main value of many of the features on premium watches like the Coros APEX – they’re not there to drive my training, but rather to give me a broader, retrospective picture of how my training and performance has changed over long periods.

Upon finishing my run, the Coros APEX advised me I’d take 2.9 days to recover. I don’t know how this was computed, but after around 3 days I was feeling almost back to normal. My intense runs were still a little throttled (felt like I was stuck in 4th gear), but 2.9 days was a fair estimation.

The Coros APEX is Value for Money

coros apex box

I know I’ve mentioned it, but I’m going to say it again – this watch represents great value for money.

When you line it up against competitor’s models with similar specs, the APEX (especially the 42mm model) comes out at around HALF the price of other premium ultrarunning watches.

And the Coros APEX has already garnered a good reputation for durability and reliability, so you can rest assured you’re buying a quality product.

Check out the Coros APEX on Amazon!

The Bottom Line on the Coros APEX

Coros APEX In-Depth Review 2021: The Pragmatic Running GPS Watch 8

What’s exceptional about the APEX is how Coros have delivered a product that can go toe-to-toe with the top-of-the-line models from it’s competitors, while retaining an amazing price point.

The watch has all the features and analysis you’ve come to expect from a serious multi-sport or ultra-running watch – but for me, the core selling points are its awesome battery life, reliability, and accuracy of data.

Having road-tested the watch extensively now, I would have no doubts about taking my trusty 42mm APEX into the most grueling ultramarathon or multi-day stage race.

And while the battery life is well-suited to ultramarathons and long trail runs, the price point makes it an attractive buy for anyone considering a half marathon or regular 26.2 mile marathon too.

Coros are doing a seriously good job of establishing their relatively fresh presence as a brand that develops high-quality products at a reasonable price point, and is backed up by the huge list of elites and pro ultra-runners who have adopted them – and the APEX is a great reflection of Coros’ achievements.

Functionality and Performance: 5/5

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Durability / Battery Life: 5/5

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Design and Comfort: 4.5/5

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Software / Interface: 4/5

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Value for Money: 5/5

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Overall: 4.7/5

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Bestseller No. 1
COROS APEX Premium Multisport GPS Watch 42mm with Heart Rate Monitor, 25h Full GPS Battery, Sapphire Glass, Barometer, ANT+ & BLE Connections, Strava & TrainingPeaks (Black/Grey)
  • Designed for fast and light mountain athletes with route navigation and checkpoint features supported
  • Working Temperature 14°F to 140°F (-10°C to 60°C) and 10ATM (100 Meters/328 Feet) Water Resistance
  • 24 days of regular battery life and 25 hours in full GPS mode
  • Built with a stainless steel bezel and a sapphire glass screen and includes optical heart rate monitor, barometric altimeter, accelerometer, compass, gyroscope and thermometer
  • Built with a stainless steel bezel and a sapphire glass screen and includes optical heart rate monitor, barometric altimeter, accelerometer, compass, gyroscope and thermometer

Check out the Coros APEX on Amazon!

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson is an ultra-runner, UESCA-certified running coach, and the founder of MarathonHandbook.com. His work has been featured in Runner's World, Livestrong.com, MapMyRun, and many other running publications. He likes running interesting races and good beer. More at his bio.

2 thoughts on “Coros APEX In-Depth Review 2021: The Pragmatic Running GPS Watch”

    • Hey Michelle,
      Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem so at the moment!
      I just checked my Coros app and they offer integration with Strava, Training Peaks, Running Quotient, Relive, Final Surge, Runalyze, Apple Health, and We Run.
      Thanks,
      Thomas

      Reply

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