The COROS APEX and Garmin Forerunner 245 are two solid choices for mid-range GPS watches. Offering more advanced training metrics, the watches are well-suited for athletes hoping to track and improve their performance, but without spending an arm and a leg.
The Forerunner 245 and COROS APEX have several features in common, but also some pretty major differences. In this post, I’ll be going over those similarities and differences, plus reasons to choose one over the other.
As context, I’m a distance runner who trains mostly for half and full marathons, but I’ve also dabbled in triathlons. I actually cross-train (bike, swim, yoga) just as often as I run. I don’t own either of these watches, but had the chance to test them out for a couple weeks each. I’m a pretty big GPS watch nerd and write these GPS watch comparisons to help you decide on the best option for you (I’ve been there, and choosing a watch is tough!).
Things in Common: COROS APEX and Garmin Forerunner 245
Before I go into the reasons to pick one watch over the other, here are some things the watches have in common:
- Price point: both watches retail at $300-350 ($300 for both the 42mm APEX and non-music Forerunner 245, $350 for the 46mm APEX and the Forerunner 245 music).
- Fitness tracking for common activities: run, run indoors, trail run, track run, bike, bike indoors, pool swim, strength, and many others. I had no issue with GPS accuracy for both, and distance tracked was almost identical on all runs.
- Fitness stats: steps, heart rate, sleep, VO2 max (aerobic performance capacity).
- More advanced training stats: training load (whether your training is a smart amount), recovery time, aerobic and anaerobic training effect.
- Basic smartwatch features: calendar, messages, calls.
- Point-to-point navigation: you can download routes and follow the breadcrumb trail in real time.
- Button navigation: both watches aren’t touchscreen and have intuitive button navigation.
- Strava integration: you can easily connect Strava to your COROS or Garmin app.
Reasons to Pick the COROS APEX
Before I dive in, note that there are two size options for the APEX—42mm and 46mm. I got the smaller 42mm since I have small wrists.
This was my first time testing a non-Garmin watch, and I was impressed by the COROS APEX. The APEX had been on my radar for about a year, and I’d been wanting to try it because of 2 main reasons: the insane battery life and open water swim tracking.
One of the first standout features of the COROS APEX is its amazing battery life. Here’s the breakdown in terms of different modes:
- UltraMax GPS mode: 100 hours (46mm), 80 hours (42mm)
- Full GPS mode: 35 hours (46mm), 25 hours (42mm)
- Regular use: 30 days (46mm), 24 days (42mm)
While I was testing the watch, I got 2 full weeks of battery life with 7 runs (usually 40-60 mins), 4 bike rides (30-60mins), 1 hour of yoga, and less than 500m of open water swimming. I had just under 20% battery left. I was amazed how I’d go out for a 4-5 mile run and only lose 1-2% charge. The Garmin Forerunner 245 does also have good battery life with up to 24 hours in GPS mode and 7 days in smartwatch mode (and 6 hours GPS + music), but COROS knocks even “good” battery life out of the park.
Another major draw of the COROS APEX are its open water swimming, triathlon, and multisport tracking features. If you’re a triathlete, the APEX is definitely a stronger choice, as the Garmin Forerunner 245 doesn’t have these tracking functions at all. From my experience, the open water tracking was 8% less than the actual distance (I put my other GPS watch in run mode and pulled it along in a swim buoy to compare). Open water swimming will never be fully accurate because the watch loses GPS signal each time your arm is under the water, and algorithms have to smooth out the curves (they usually overcorrect). Anything within 10% of the actual distance is generally considered accurate for open water swimming. So, I was overall happy with the open water tracking.
If accurate elevation stats and floors climbed are important to you, you should also go for the COROS APEX. The Garmin Forerunner 245 doesn’t have a barometric altimeter, so it bases elevation stats on GPS, which is less accurate (if you upload to Strava though, elevation will be corrected based on their data). The Forerunner 245 also doesn’t track floors climbed throughout the day. Since the COROS APEX does have a barometric altimeter, you’ll get more accurate elevation gain/loss, and you can track flights of stairs climbed. The COROS APEX actually even lets you see barometric/atmospheric data from your watch, which can help you predict short-term changes in weather.
Update: after getting the APEX myself and checking the elevation data against Strava’s, I’ve noticed that the elevation can be pretty off if the barometric pressure changes during your run. I still prefer to have the barometric altimeter for hikes and trail running, but if you’re only doing road runs, it’s probably not a dealbreaker.
The barometric data on the COROS APEX
The COROS APEX also has extra tracking profiles for: mountain climbing, hiking, skiing, snowboarding, XC skiing, and ski touring. The Forerunner 245 doesn’t track these activities specifically.
The APEX also had an impressive amount of customization options, allowing you to change the orientation of the watch face (great for lefties), the kind of screen lock for the knob (long hold or scroll), and the direction of the scroll (whether turning the knob up would scroll down or up and vice versa). This makes it easy to set the watch up exactly how you want.
One last handy feature I appreciated was how the workout screen showed time paused, if you stopped your watch in the middle of a workout (along with heart rate and time of day). This might sound like a small detail, but it really helps if you’re doing intervals with a certain amount of rest. Garmin watches don’t have this functionality, and you have to program a workout if you want to time your rest.
You’ll also be happy to know that COROS has 2-year warranty, while Garmin only has 1-year.
There are however, a couple peculiarities of the COROS APEX. For one, you can’t adjust the brightness of the watch, and there’s no way to keep the backlight on all the time. The watch face is always on, but the extra backlight is only activated for notifications, workout alerts, gesture, and button operations. You can keep gesture mode off, keep it on all the time, or have it on only from sunset to sunrise (it will be disabled during your set sleep hours in the app). I personally didn’t have a problem with screen visibility, but I would’ve liked to have an “always on” mode for the backlight at night, rather than gesture mode only.
Another unusual aspect of the APEX was that the Bluetooth can’t be turned on and off. The Bluetooth just enters a less active mode when you’re not tracking a workout or syncing. I didn’t mind this, as I didn’t have to remember to turn Bluetooth on and off to save battery.
While I didn’t have any real complaints about the APEX, there were a couple areas of improvement:
1. Your VO2 max and training stats (besides stamina remaining and recovery time) are accessible in the app only, and not from your watch. This is something available on Garmin watches that I’d like to see with the COROS APEX.
2. The knob navigation was sometimes difficult. It actually wasn’t too sensitive, as you need to unlock the screen for the knob to work. My problem was that it would sometimes not be sensitive enough—I’d sometimes turn it, and it wouldn’t respond on the first try. This wasn’t a huge issue at all, but it was noticeable.
3. If you’re interested in resting heart rate data, COROS takes readings every 1-10 minutes (based on your settings) and every second during workouts. Garmin takes them multiple times per second regardless. Some have also complained that COROS workout heart rate readings are inaccurate, though I personally haven’t had an issue with them. Optical HR is never perfect, so I’d recommend an external strap if you’re doing heart rate training.
Finally, if you’re looking to save a little money, COROS has a trade-in program. You can trade in a GPS watch of any brand for up to $100 off the purchase of a new COROS watch. I’m not sure how much money people generally get, but it’s a good option if you have a watch that might not be worth reselling. You’ll get a discount on a new watch, and hopefully your old watch parts will be recycled 🙂 According to COROS, if you trade in a COROS watch, it’s repurposed as a demo unit or sales sample. If you trade in another brand, the watches are recycled to the fullest extent possible.
To learn more, see my in-depth review of the APEX.
Reasons to Pick the Garmin Forerunner 245
While the COROS APEX is fantastic watch, there are definitely some reasons someone might prefer the Forerunner 245.
For one, the Forerunner 245 measures stress, and even is equipped with guided breathing exercises to help you relax. The watch also has a pulse oximeter to measure blood oxygen saturation. You’ll also find Body Battery, which measures your energy levels based on heart rate variability, stress, and activity. I don’t find this metric super useful, as you generally know how you’re feeling, but it’s interesting to see how certain activities impact your energy levels (like a stressful call, a nap, partying all night, or watching Netflix).
A new, more advanced training feature is also PacePro, which creates a pacing plan for your races and runs, based on elevation and your goal time. You can also adjust the plan based on whether you want a positive, negative, or even split, and based on whether you want to take uphills easy or hard.
You can also get Audio Prompts while you run. You can set up your Garmin Connect app to include announcements during your workout, including: pace, speed, heart rate, lap number, lap time. You must have your phone with you, but if you have the music version of the watch, you can get Audio Prompts directly from your watch while connected to Bluetooth headphones.
The Forerunner 245 is also lighter than the COROS APEX. The 42mm APEX is 27% heavier than the Forerunner 245, while the 46mm is 44% heavier. This is despite the fact that the 42mm APEX has basically the same dimensions as the Forerunner 245. I actually didn’t find the APEX noticeably heavier though, and at 49g for the smaller APEX (55.3g for the larger one), the watch is still a pretty typical weight. It could make a difference if you prefer lighter watches, however.
In terms of safety features, the Forerunner 245 also wins. The watch has LiveTrack, which allows your friends and family to follow your activity in real time. You also get Incident Detection, which alerts your emergency contacts with your location if an incident is detected. You must be connected to your phone for both features though. LiveTrack can easily be replaced with a phone app, while Incident Detection for running is harder to find in an app.
If you lose your phone a lot, you might also appreciate the find your phone feature, which allows you to locate your phone with your watch (the devices must be paired for this to work). You’ll get an audio alert on your phone, and you’ll see the Bluetooth signal strength on your watch, which will get stronger as you get closer to your phone.
Those who like to listen to music on runs might also prefer the Forerunner 245, as there is a music version ($50 more expensive). You can download and play music from your watch, as long as you’re connected to Bluetooth headphones or a speaker. The watch is also compatible with Spotify Premium, Amazon Music, and Deezer.
The Forerunner 245 also has a few extra specific cardio profiles: elliptical training, stair stepping, indoor rowing and yoga. The COROS APEX only has general tracking profiles for GPS cardio and gym cardio. You’ll have to change the name of the activity after syncing your watch.
Finally, you can track mileage on your shoes and your menstrual cycle on the Garmin app, but not on the COROS app. As a workaround, Strava has the shoe mileage feature, and there are 3rd-party period trackers like Kindara, but it is simpler to have everything in one place.
As I mentioned previously, the main drawbacks of the Forerunner 245 are its lack of barometric altimeter and open water swimming/triathlon tracking profiles.
It’s also worth noting that I’ve found Garmin tracking for pool swimming somewhat inaccurate, likely because I’m not the strongest swimmer. I usually get a distance 10-15% greater than what I’ve actually swum. Others say it’s extremely accurate for them. I was unfortunately unable to test the accuracy of the COROS APEX pool swim tracking, but I have tested it on the PACE 2 and APEX Pro. Both watches were on the dot, and they also recognized my stroke type very accurately (the accuracy is likely because COROS uses machine learning for their pool swim tracking).
The Bottom Line
The COROS APEX is a powerful watch that is clearly better for trail runners and triathletes, due to the barometric altimeter and open water swim tracking. Even regular runners might appreciate the COROS APEX more due to its unbeatable battery life. The being said, if you’re a long-time Garmin user, you might need to get used to a few things first, such as the knob navigation and only being able to view VO2 max in the app.
The Garmin Forerunner 245 is also a solid device, and it could be a better choice if you want stress tracking, PacePro, a pulse oximeter, or the ability to play music from your watch. If you’re worried about safety, the LiveTrack and Incident Detection features can also give you a peace of mind. If you have the Forerunner 235 and just want a familiar upgrade, the 245 is definitely a big step up (see my comparison of the Forerunner 235 vs. 245 for more details).
I personally prefer the COROS APEX, as the barometric altimeter, open water swimming, and battery life are huge draws for me. I currently have the Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music, and when it dies, I’d strongly consider getting a COROS APEX. I think the Forerunner 245 is still a great watch though, and I heartily recommend it if it has what you need.
Where to Buy the Garmin Forerunner 245 and COROS APEX
If this review helped you, it would mean a ton if you purchased your watch through my affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I’ll receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I also want to encourage you to buy from small, local running businesses if you can. I don’t get paid if you do that, so if you still want to show your appreciation financially, you’re always welcome to buy me a virtual coffee 🙂
Directly from Garmin/COROS
Psst, here’s a free watch band code! For the COROS APEX on the COROS site (or any other watch), use my code COROS-Lily. You’ll be able 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 in public forums.
I hope this comparison of the Garmin Forerunner 245 and COROS Apex was helpful—as always, feel free to leave any questions in the comments. Best of luck choosing a watch, and happy training!
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