COROS APEX vs. APEX 2: Should You Upgrade?

COROS APEX vs. APEX 2 side-by-side

In November 2022, COROS came out with the long-awaited update to the original APEX 42mm and 46mm that were released in October 2018. The APEX 2 retails at $400 and comes with many new features, including the firmware updates that the original APEX didn’t have the capacity to receive.

If you have the original APEX and are wondering whether it’s worth upgrading, or if you’re deciding between a secondhand APEX or new APEX 2, this post will go over the differences between the two models. I actually bought the APEX 42mm in April 2021 and received a sample APEX 2 to review, so I’m able to speak from ample experience.

For context, I’m a distance runner who mostly trains for half and full marathons, but I’ve also dabbled in triathlons and trail running. I’m a GPS watch nerd and have tested all the COROS watches and several others, and want to help you make a decision (check out the rest of my GPS watch comparisons).

This post isn’t sponsored, but it does contain affiliate links and discount codes, meaning that I earn a small commission on any purchases through those links/codes, at no extra cost to you. Your support allows me to keep writing reviews like this one 🙂

Things in Common: APEX 2 and APEX

Before we dive into their differences, here are the features the APEX and APEX 2 have in common.

Wide variety of fitness tracking profiles: The APEX and APEX 2 track almost the same list of activities, including the following:

RunRowing
Trail RunSki
Track RunSnowboard
Indoor RunXC Ski
HikeSki Touring
Mountain ClimbGPS Cardio
BikeGym Cardio
Indoor BikeIndoor Rower
Open WaterTriathlon/Multisport
Pool SwimStrength
Flatwater

You can also create interval workouts in the app and follow them from your watch.

Fitness stats: steps, heart rate, sleep, VO2 max (aerobic performance capacity).

Advanced training metrics: training load (whether your training is a smart amount), base fitness & load impact (whether your training is effective), fatigue, aerobic and anaerobic training effect, race predictor, and recovery time.

Basic smartwatch features: calendar, message, and call notifications.

With that, let’s get into the differences between the two watches!

What’s New on the APEX 2?

APEX 2 on wrist in direct sunlight

First things first: the APEX 2 only comes in one size (about 43mm), while the original APEX came in two sizes: 42mm and 46mm.

The APEX and APEX 2 look physically pretty similar. I have them both in black, and when I have silicone bands on both, it’s hard to tell them apart, other than the button placement and dedicated backlight button on the APEX 2.

The materials used are the same, except the APEX 2 bezel has PVD coating, making it more durable. I actually accidentally scratched my APEX 42mm bezel while bouldering, so this is a welcome addition.

When you flip the watches over, however, the heart rate sensors look very different. The APEX 2 has an improved heart rate sensor that is larger, as well as more sensitive and accurate. This new sensor supports heart rate variability (HRV), and COROS has an HRV Index to show how well you’re recovering. This measurement isn’t taken continuously but is done manually using the HRV Index tool on your watch.

APEX vs. APEX 2 heart rate sensors

Another physical update to the APEX 2 is the touchscreen while navigating between data screens or mapping. You can turn this feature on or off if you prefer to not use the touchscreen when navigating data screens, though it’s always on for mapping.

Speaking of mapping, this is also new to the APEX 2. While the original APEX had breadcrumb navigation, the APEX 2 has full topographic and landscape maps (just make sure to download the maps you need from the COROS site—they don’t come preloaded). The touchscreen is especially helpful when navigating the maps.

While the GPS accuracy on the APEX was good, the APEX 2 is further improved with its All Systems mode, allowing your watch use any of the satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, BeiDou, QZSS) and switch between them based on the quality of their signals.

I’ve tested both watches on a couple of the same runs, and the APEX 2 generally does a cleaner tracking job in All Systems mode, with the tracks staying closer to the path and more accurately showing where I crossed the street. Looking at historical data on the same routes, the APEX 2 also generally looks cleaner. It’s not a huge difference, but could be a nice benefit if you’ve had trouble with GPS accuracy in your area.

Run summary on the APEX 2
Side view of the COROS APEX 2

The battery life is also improved. On the APEX 2, you get 45 hours in GPS mode, 30 hours in All Systems On mode, and 17 days of regular use.

On the original APEX, you got 25-35 hours in GPS mode and 24-30 days of regular use, with the lower end of the ranges referring to the 42mm and the higher end referring to the 46mm. The battery life on GPS mode is significantly better on the APEX 2, though its battery life for regular use is actually shorter. This is because the APEX 2 is closer in size to the 42mm APEX than the 46mm, and because of the increased battery drain from the improvements to sleep tracking and more powerful heart rate sensor.

COROS EvoLab stats on the APEX 2 against the fall leaves
COROS APEX 2 black nylon band that reads #EXPLOREPERFECTION

If you train at altitude, you’ll appreciate the APEX 2’s altitude mode, which is a periodic measurement of your SpO2 levels and performance to let you know if you’re acclimatizing properly. Even if you don’t train at altitude, the SpO2 readings can be useful for monitoring your sleep/sleep apnea.

I’ve also noticed that the elevation readings tend to be more accurate on the APEX 2 compared to the APEX. Both have barometric altimeters, but my APEX 42mm often overestimated elevation gain on runs. For a recent run with 123ft of gain (corrected on Strava), my APEX 2 had logged 121ft, but my APEX 42mm logged 180ft. For another run, Strava said 40ft of gain, the APEX 2 said 72ft, and the APEX 42mm said 121ft.

For those who do water sports, there are three additional modes on the APEX 2: Indoor Climbing, Whitewater, Speedsurfing, and Windsurfing.

While the APEX 2 can’t stream music, it can carry and play MP3 files through Bluetooth headphones. While playing music, you get 8 hours of battery life in standard GPS mode and 7 hours in All Systems mode.

Finally, the original APEX ran out of storage to receive the firmware updates other models were receiving, so the APEX 2 now has these updates, which include:

  • Walk mode
  • Find my phone/watch
  • Backlight always on mode
  • GoPro and Insta360 camera control
  • Virtual run mode

Benefits of the Old APEX

COROS APEX 42mm run summary after 20 miles

The original APEX 42mm and 46mm were made earlier and are simpler watches, so this section will be shorter by default. They could still be the better choice for you though, and there are a few things you might miss if you upgrade to the APEX 2.

Let’s first talk price. The APEX 42mm was $300 and the 46mm was $350. The APEX 2 is $400, which is a pretty big difference when you’re comparing the 42mm and APEX 2. If you’re on a budget, you might prefer to get the original APEX secondhand (it’s discontinued new). I’ve seen it go for $100-150 on Mercari (referral link for $10 off your first purchase). That’s really good value for what the APEX does.

As I mentioned, the battery life in smartwatch mode on the original APEX is 24 days for the 42mm and 30 days for the 46mm, while it’s 17 days for the APEX 2. I was able to get 8 runs of 5 miles in during 16 days before the APEX 2 dipped under 30%, which is when I’d usually charge my watch. (I didn’t wear the watch outside of workouts because I was testing another unit at the same time). This is still amazing battery life, but I will say that I believe my APEX 42mm tended to last at least a few days longer. (I’ll update if I’m able to do a side-by-side battery test, but I’m testing other units now).

coros apex white 42mm mountain watch face
coros apex side view

Physically, the APEX 2 is slightly larger than the original 42mm and smaller than the 46mm. I don’t notice much of a difference between the 42mm and APEX 2 since the physical size difference is 1mm in diameter, and the weight difference is 4g (8% heavier). But, if you’re coming from the 46mm, this watch is noticeably smaller (3mm in diameter), though the weight difference is weirdly only 2.3-3g (depending on whether you have a nylon or silicone band).

One small detail I miss on the original APEX is how long the time paused shows when you pause a workout. On the APEX 2, the time paused data shows up more infrequently than on the APEX since there are three data screens to switch between instead of two. The APEX 2 switches between actual time + battery life, workout time, and time paused. The APEX has the actual time as a constant, and then switches between workout time and time paused + heart rate.

COROS APEX in black with time paused screen

You can see the time paused every 10 seconds or so on the APEX 2, but every 5 seconds or so on the original APEX. Being able to see time paused more frequently is helpful during interval workouts. (You can always program a workout in the app and follow it from your watch, but I’m lazy haha and my intervals are simple).

Finally, if you prefer a silicone band, the original APEX came with one by default, but the APEX 2 comes with a nylon band. COROS did give me a code for a free extra watch band with the purchase of a watch (the code is COROS-Lily), so you can get the silicone band if you buy from the COROS site. You can also use your old APEX silicone band on the APEX 2—I did for a few of the photos in this post.

coros apex white 42mm

The Bottom Line

The APEX 2 comes with a whole slew of new features, from mapping to touchscreen functionality to more accurate All Systems tracking. If you’re doing ultra endurance events, you’ll also appreciate the increased battery life. Overall, it’s definitely an upgrade from the original APEX.

That said, the original APEX is still a very capable watch. While it’s no longer receiving updates, if it does what you need it to do, there’s no need to upgrade to the APEX 2. If I hadn’t received the sample APEX 2 to review, I would’ve stuck with the APEX 42mm until it broke or I needed additional features. Now, I’m passing it onto my dad who wanted a GPS watch to track walks anyways (there’s no walk mode, but he can just track it as a run).

Because the original APEX is an older model though, I wouldn’t recommend buying it unless you can get it used for under $200. There are simply better-value watches close to its full retail price ($300-350), such as the Forerunner 255.

Where to Buy the APEX or APEX 2

If this review helped you, it would mean a ton if you purchased through my affiliate links or codes. I also want to encourage you to buy secondhand or from small, local running stores if you can. I don’t get paid if you do that, so if you still want to show your appreciation financially, you’re welcome to buy me a virtual coffee.

Directly from COROS

APEX 2 (use code COROS-Lily to get a free, extra watch band or any other accessory, minus gift cards and the explorer pack. Just add both the accessory and the watch to your cart before applying the code at checkout. Please do not share this code on public forums).

The original APEX is now discontinued on COROS and Amazon, but you can still find it at some smaller retailers, and you can also find it on secondhand platforms.

Amazon

APEX 2

Other retailers

Swappa (used electronics)
Mercari
REI
eBay


If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments. Also let us know what you decided on and why!

You may also like these posts:

Forerunner 255 vs. APEX 2

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8 Comments

  1. Hi Lily hope you doing well.
    My update on Apex2 After few run I was return it for few reason
    1. I don’t think I see alot improve on GPS over my Old apex42
    2. Current Pace still abit lag ( I’m not gonna spend $100 for a pod )
    3. The Number on Apex2 Screen smaller compare to my Apex42 ( both in 4 data fields )
    So next maybe Garmin 255s

    Best

    1. Hi Ryan! Thanks so much for following up and sharing your experience with other readers. I agree that the All Systems update on the APEX 2 hasn’t been making a huge difference for me. I see improvements, but the APEX 42mm was pretty good to begin with. The APEX 42mm struggled for me in cities though and I haven’t had a chance yet to run with the APEX 2 in a city.

      As for the numbers on the APEX 2, are you talking about the in-workout data screens? I didn’t like the default data screens (too much data on one page), but customized them in the app to match closer to the APEX 42mm data screens, and the numbers are actually larger on the APEX 2.

      Either way, the Forerunner 255S is an amazing watch. I ended up buying a lightly used FR255S Music for further testing so I can more readily compare Garmin and COROS in the long term. I hope you like it if you buy it, and let me know what you think!

      1. Yes , I talking about in workout data screen I mean if you choose basic 4 data fields
        on Apex2 you’ll see the top section that take almost 50% of screen just for 1 data. I’m not sure why Coros go with this new design layout. What’s your main training watch now ?
        Also I’m looking forward for you review on Garmin 255s .

        1. Ohh, I see — my main screen is the 3 data fields, which looks pretty much the same. I rarely look at the other screens, but I totally see how this would be annoying as the top section does take up most of the screen for the 4 data fields.

          I’ve been coming back from a longer running break and used mainly the FR255S Music loaner for 3 months since my training volume was really low and I didn’t want to bother wearing two watches while testing the FR255S. Now that I’ve been running a bit more and was able to get some loaners, I’ve been running with both a Garmin and a COROS for most of my runs the last few weeks haha (so I can test multiple units at once and also keep my training data in the same ecosystem). I mostly upload my Garmin data to Strava since it tends to track slightly longer distances and makes me look faster LOL.

          After I finish testing the loaners, I’ll still have the APEX 2 and FR255S Music. I may continue to wear them both for a while to see how the training metrics and race predictions line up. I can’t wear them both forever though, so I’d lean towards the APEX 2 for the battery life and mapping, especially if I’m able to move or travel long-term to a place where I can do longer hikes and trail runs. But that could also change if I have new learnings from this potential long-term side-by-side comparison!

  2. Love your review of the Apex2 as I was doing research on buying a new watch for trail running! I do have 1 question that I can not seem to find an answer for on your review or any others. Do you happen to know if any of the watch faces for the Apex 2 have a second hand/counter that is always going (on the always on display)? You would be amazed by how many sport watches do not, but as a nurse I use this all the time for measuring a heart/ respiratory rate and for giving certain medications.

    1. Hi Jon! I’m glad this review could help. I just checked the app for you, and yes, there are 3 watch faces that have the second hand always moving. They’re called Slim1, Gauges, and Business.

  3. Awesome thanks so much for checking! I know what I’m getting for Christmas! And again thanks for your thoughtfully written and through review!

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