COROS APEX vs. PACE 2 (vs. PACE): Which Should You Pick?
The APEX and PACE 2 are the least expensive watches in the COROS lineup, but there’s nothing “cheap” about their features. With advanced training metrics and exceptional battery life, the watches are used by running legends like Eluid Kipchoge (PACE 2) and Des Linden (APEX).
In this post, I’ll be breaking down the similarities and differences of the two watches, and how to decide on one over the other. I will also be covering the original PACE, the older version of the PACE 2.
As some context, I’m a GPS watch nerd who’s toyed around with 11 popular models over the past 2 years (thanks to loaners or my friends). I’m mainly a road runner (marathons and half marathons), but I’ve also dabbled in triathlons and trail running. I like to wear my watch all the time to track workouts and get that everyday fitness data. So, I’ll be looking at the APEX and PACE 2 from not only a running perspective, but also a multisport and everyday fitness wearable perspective.
For full disclosure, I don’t own either watch, but got to test loaners for a few weeks. I personally own only the Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music, and will keep it until it dies, or until I actually need more features (better for my wallet and the planet). When that does happen, I will be upgrading to either the APEX or PACE 2. UPDATE (May 2021): I have since purchased the APEX after my Garmin died.
This post is not sponsored, but it does contain affiliate links, meaning that I earn a small commission on any purchases through those links, at no extra cost to you. Your support allows me to keep writing reviews like this one 🙂
Things in Common: COROS APEX vs. PACE 2
Both watches are extremely capable for their price points ($200 for the PACE 2 and $300-350 for the APEX).
For one, they offer open water swim tracking and triathlon mode, which are only seen in current generation Garmins that retail at $500+ (Edit November 2022: with the release of the FR255, this is no longer true and the price is now $350+). 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 considered accurate, and the APEX was 8% off when I tested it. I didn’t test open water on the PACE 2, but it should perform similarly.
The pool swimming is also more accurate than the Garmins I’ve tested. Each time I track swimming with a Garmin, I get distances that are 10-20% greater than what I’ve actually swum. COROS is usually on the dot, and they recognize your stroke type as well (I haven’t tested the pool swimming on the APEX specifically, but I have on the PACE 2 and APEX Pro).
Here’s a list of the activities that both watches track (the APEX has even more tracking profiles).
|Indoor Run||GPS Cardio|
|Open Water||Indoor Rowing*|
|Triathlon||*added in Nov 2020|
Both the APEX and PACE 2 latch onto GPS signal extremely quickly. I was able to get signal within 10 seconds very consistently.
All COROS watches allow you to create interval workouts. I didn’t actually use this feature because COROS also lets you know the time paused during your workout, so I didn’t need to create intervals to track my rest time. If you need it, there is also autopause on both watches.
Because the watches have a barometric altimeter, your elevation stats will be more accurate, and you can also see real-time barometric data to help predict short-term changes in weather.
What the watch screen looks like when you pause a workout
The barometric data
Runners going for PRs will appreciate the in-depth fitness data like recovery time, running power, and training effect (anaerobic and aerobic). Recovery time lets you know how much energy you have left after a workout, and how long you should wait before a hard workout. Running power tells you how efficient your running is. Training effect shows how effective your workout was. You also have predicted race finish times and 7-day training load.
The watches have insane battery life, with 20-30 days of regular use 25-30 hours in full GPS mode, and 60-100 hours in UltraMax GPS mode. The APEX generally has longer battery life, which I’ll get into later, but both watches offer unparalleled battery life for this price point.
You’ll be able to track everyday fitness data like steps, floors climbed, heart rate, VO2 max, and sleep (no pulse ox or stress tracking though). You can also receive texts and notifications from your phone. Other features include the timer, stopwatch, alarm, metronome (for running cadence), and compass.
If any issues arise, you get two-year warranty, which is twice as long as most competitor warranties.
While I’m a big fan of COROS and these watches, there are some areas of improvement and peculiarities.
The first: it can take a bit of time to get used to the knob/dial navigation. Luckily, the dial is highly cutomizable. You can:
- Turn autolock on/off during regular use or workouts (this helps ensure you don’t accidentally brush up against the dial and mess up a setting)
- Customize the type of screen unlocking; there is the long hold or scroll. I prefer the long hold since scrolling to unlock feels more tedious.
- Change the direction of the scroll (whether scrolling up or down makes the options scroll up or down) and the orientation of the watch face (great for lefties)
After you get the hang of things, the dial isn’t so bad!
Another common complaint is that you can’t track mileage on your shoes or your menstrual cycle in the COROS app (unlike in Garmin). You’ll need third-party apps for that, like Strava, which can track shoe mileage, and Kindara, which tracks your period.
There’s also no way to adjust screen brightness. I didn’t have any issues with visibility, but this is just something to note.
Unlike some Garmin models, COROS doesn’t have music capabilities. There is also no Livetrack or Incident Detection (you need to be connected to your phone for these features on Garmin anyways). If these are dealbreakers to you, you might want to check out the Forerunner 245 instead.
Some people have had heart rate accuracy concerns. There are several factors that can affect HR readings, which COROS outlines in their post on improving HR accuracy. Some factors include poor circulation/cold weather and rapid changes in HR due to interval training (you should select interval training mode if you want better HR tracking sensitivity). I didn’t have any noticeable issues with the HR, but I bring this up to keep my review as thorough as possible. Keep in mind that most optical HR sensors aren’t entirely accurate, so you’ll want a chest strap if you need especially accurate data.
Now that we got these common features and drawbacks out of the way, let’s get into the reasons to pick one over the other!
Reasons to Pick the APEX
You should first know that the COROS APEX comes in two different sizes—the 42mm and 46mm. The watch pictured in this post is the 42mm.
The watch face of the PACE 2 is 1.2 inches, which is actually the same as the APEX 46mm (it’s 1.1 inches for the 42mm). It’s the physical size of the watch that varies; the PACE 2 is more similar in size to the APEX 42mm. If you’re looking for a larger-sized watch though, the 46mm APEX might be a good choice.
The APEX generally has better battery life than the PACE 2. Here’s a breakdown:
|PACE 2||APEX 42mm||APEX 46mm|
|Regular use||20 days||24 days||30 days|
|GPS mode||30 hours||25 hours||35 hours|
|UltraMax GPS mode||60 hours||80 hours||100 hours|
Both versions of the APEX outdo the PACE 2 in battery life, except in regular GPS mode for the APEX 42mm.
The APEX tracks several more activities, including: Trail Run, Track Run, Mountain Climb, Hike, Ski, Snowboard, XC Ski, Ski Touring, and Multisport.
The APEX is generally better-suited for trail/ultrarunners, as it has that trail running profile, longer battery life, and breadcrumb navigation. You can upload your route, and your watch will follow your real-time progress (including elevation) and tell you if you’re deviating from the course. The navigation feature is compatible with these modes: Run, Trail Run, Mountain Climb, Hike, and Bike.
Update: as of May 2023, there is now breadcrumb navigation on the PACE 2, thanks to an update. There is no trail running or hike mode, but you can use regular run or walk mode as proxies.
The watch itself also feels more premium, as it has a sapphire glass screen and titanium alloy or stainless steel bezel (46mm vs. 42mm). The PACE 2 watch body is made mostly of plastic, though the watch screen is made of Corning® glass.
Learn more about the COROS APEX in my in-depth review.
Reasons to Pick the PACE 2
The PACE 2 was released in August 2020 and is the lightest GPS watch on the market at 29-30g (with the nylon band). It’s extremely easy to wear, but I find that the nylon strap is a bit harder to tighten than the silicone one, as it slides around on your skin.
With the silicone strap, the PACE 2 is 35-36g, and that’s significantly lighter than the APEX’s 55.3g (for the 46mm version) and 49g (42mm). With a nylon strap, the APEX is 45g (46mm) or 38g (42mm). The APEX is still a very resonable weight for a GPS watch, but if you want to notice your watch as little as possible, the PACE 2 is a better choice.
Unlike the APEX, the PACE 2 has night mode, which activates the backlight until sunrise. I’m not sure why the APEX doesn’t have this mode, as it’s the only watch in the COROS lineup without it currently.
Finally, we can’t deny the price point of the PACE 2. You can save $100-150 by opting for it over the APEX. If those extra features aren’t worth the extra money to you, go with the PACE 2.
It’s worth noting that you could save even more money if you go with the original PACE, which was discontinued when the PACE 2 came out. You can find the PACE on sites like eBay or Amazon for $140-190 (both used and new). The main differences are:
- The original PACE has 4 buttons instead of one button and a dial
- There’s a Trail Run and Hiking mode on the PACE (not sure why they disappeared on the PACE 2). It doesn’t have the new Flatwater, Rowing, and Indoor Rowing modes.
- Battery life is 30 days regular use, 25 hours full GPS mode, 50 hours UltraMax GPS mode (so 10 days longer battery life for regular use, but 5-10 hours shorter in GPS mode compared to the PACE 2)
- The watch is much bulkier/heavier at 48g vs. the PACE 2’s 35-36g with a silicone strap
My brother has the PACE (bought the month before it was discontinued haha) and he’s happy with it.
Keep in mind that it’s difficult to find a band replacement for the PACE, as COROS no longer sells them, so this is a risk you take if you decide to go with the PACE and the band breaks (I’ve seen it a couple times in the COROS Facebook group).
The Bottom Line
Both the APEX and PACE 2 offer incredible value, but the APEX offers more tracking profiles and trail running features. That said, there are trail and ultrarunners who have the original PACE or PACE 2, and they get by fine. If you don’t need the extra battery life, you can save some money by going with the PACE.
You should also keep in mind that the APEX was released over 2 years ago now (in Fall 2018) and it’s possible that a newer version will come out in the next year or two. This is just speculation though, and I still feel that the APEX is a solid choice despite being an older model than the PACE 2.
Update May 2021: COROS released a new APEX color for Mother’s Day. Because of this, I doubt there will be an APEX 2 for at least another year, but this is just speculation. I purchased an APEX 42mm in late April 2021 and really struggled between the the APEX and PACE 2 because of the age of the APEX and potential updates in the near future. I ultimately went with the APEX because of its premium build and trail running features.
Update November 2021: COROS released a walk mode and GoPro control for the PACE 2, but these updates weren’t available for the APEX because it’s reached its storage capacity. The APEX will no longer get feature updates, so keep this in mind when buying. I highly suspect that the APEX 2 will come out in Fall 2022.
Update November 2022: The APEX 2 is now out and the original APEX is discontinued. I would no longer recommend the original APEX unless you can get it for under $200 used.
Where to Buy the COROS APEX and PACE 2
If this review helped you, it would mean a ton if you purchased through my affiliate links (or used my affiliate code). I also want to encourage you to buy secondhand 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 ko-fi.
You should also know that 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.
Directly from COROS:
Psst, here’s a free watch band code! For any watch 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.
COROS PACE 2
Swappa (used electronics)
Let me know if you have any questions, and happy running!
You may also like these posts:
COROS APEX In-Depth Review
COROS PACE 2 vs. Garmin Forerunner 245
COROS APEX vs. Garmin Forerunner 245
GREAT JOB WITH YOUR REVIEWS I JUST PURCHASED THE COROS PACE 2 BEFORE I READ YOUR REVIEWS
NOW I’M GOING TO GET A GARMIN VIVOACTIVE 3 FOR THE MUSIC . I JUST GOT TO FIND IF I CAN DOWNLOAD TWO MUUSIC APP BEFORE I BUY. APPLE APP, AND YUOTUBE APP. THANK YOU
Hi William! I love the PACE 2 and would recommend it if you don’t need the music function. Unfortunately the Vivoactive 3 Music is not compatible with Apple music or YouTube. It’s compatible with Spotify Premium, Deezer, and Amazon Music though.
This was so helpful thank you!
Thank you for the thorough comparisons. I greatly appreciate it. Also, thanks for the free watch band code. I used your links to purchase my wife the Pace 2 and upgraded myself to the nylon watch band, everybody wins!
I’m so happy to hear that they were helpful! Glad you were both able to get something nice for yourselves 🙂
So routes can be uploaded from Strava on both of these? Or only on the Apex?
The Pace 2 doesn’t support mapping! So only the APEX. But I would wait to buy an APEX because I’m almost certain an updated version will be coming in August.
Very helpful reviews, thanks very much Lily! I’ve finally narrowed it down to the Pace 2 and Apex (also waiting to see what might come in the the autumn). Do the watches come with charging cords or do we need to add it to our purchase? Will be going through your affiliate link when I finally press the Go button.
I’m so glad the reviews could help! Yes, I’d encourage you to wait and see if the APEX 2 comes out this fall. You don’t need to buy the USB charging cords – they come with the watch! Just make sure you have a USB wall charger to plug it into.
How about the swimming function of both? Open water swimming
Are you looking for something in particular about the open water swimming? There is a section about it already in the post 🙂