The Garmin Forerunner 245 and COROS PACE 2 are two of my top recommendations for GPS watches. They have great battery life, offer in-depth training metrics, and track a wide range of activities.
If you’re having a hard time deciding between the two, I can totally see why! I’ll go over the similarities and differences in this post, and offer some reasons to choose one over the other.
For full transparency, I don’t own either watch, but I had the chance to test loaners out for about a month. I’m a GPS watch nerd who’s tested 11 of the most popular watches in the last few years, through loaners or friends. I personally owned the Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music until it died, and I now have the COROS APEX. So, I’ve been with both ecosystems and can tell you what I like (or dislike) about both.
As context, I’m a distance runner who mostly trains for half and full marathons. I used to do a lot of cross-training and dabbled in triathlons for a couple years. Nowadays, I mostly run, but don’t mind a good bike or swim every now and then.
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Things in Common: Garmin Forerunner 245 and COROS PACE 2
Before I dive into the reasons to pick one over the other, here are some similarities of the watches:
- Same display size: both watches have a 1.2 inch diameter with 240 x 240 pixel resolution.
- Fitness tracking for common activities: run, run indoors, track run, bike, bike indoors, pool swim, strength, indoor rowing, and many others. You can also create your own interval workouts.
- Fitness stats: steps, heart rate, sleep, VO2 max (aerobic performance capacity).
- Advanced training metrics: training load (whether your training is a smart amount), race predictor, recovery time/stamina remaining.
- Basic smartwatch features: calendar, message and call notifications.
Reasons to Pick the Garmin Forerunner 245
If you spot a Garmin on a runner’s wrist, chances are it’s a Forerunner 245. This series is the choice option for casual runners to those chasing PRs. Because the watch is $100-150 more expensive than the PACE 2, it does have more features. It may sound like I prefer the Forerunner 245 when the reality is that it just costs more.
For starters, the Forerunner 245 has a Music version that retails at $350 ($50 more than the non-music version). You can connect to Spotify Premium, Deezer, or Amazon Music. You can also download tunes the “old-fashioned” way and play music directly from your watch. The music quality is great and it sounds like it’s coming from a phone (keep in mind that you do need to connect to Bluetooth headphones since the watch itself doesn’t have a speaker).
Because of the music feature, you can also get Audio Prompts for workout stats (like pace and lap number) over Bluetooth headphones. If you get the non-music version, you can get Audio Prompts from the Garmin Connect app on your phone. The PACE 2 doesn’t have any audio prompts or music functionalities.
If you’re going for PRs, you’ll like the Forerunner 245’s PacePro. This feature creates a pacing plan for your races and runs, based on elevation and your goal time. You can adjust the plan based on the kinds of splits you want (positive, even, negative) and your hill strategy (take them easy or hard).
When it comes to tracking profiles, the Forerunner 245 tracks these activities that the COROS PACE 2 doesn’t: Trail Running, Cardio and Elliptical Training, Stair Stepping, and Yoga. On the PACE 2, you simply have Gym Cardio or GPS Cardio. You can edit the activity name later, but you may not get the activity-specific metrics you want.
Trail runners will also appreciate the breadcrumb navigation feature that allows you to download a GPX route and follow it during you run to make sure you’re on track. This isn’t available on the PACE 2 and was one of the main reasons I opted for the COROS APEX over the PACE 2 (I do have a comparison of the Forerunner 245 and APEX, if you’re curious).
For those more concerned about safety, the Forerunner 245 has Incident Detection and LiveTrack. For both, you must be connected to your phone for them to work. Incident Detection will alert your emergency contacts if it detects an accident during your activity (like a fall). LiveTrack allows your loved ones to follow your location in real time. You could get a feature similar to LiveTrack through a phone app, but Incident Detection is more unique.
Finally, there are a handful other features unique to the Forerunner 245:
- Shoe mileage: helps you know when to replace your shoes; this is also in Strava though.
- Stress: tracks stress levels throughout the day and suggests breathing exercises during high stress periods.
- Pulse ox: blood oxygen saturation, which can be helpful when you sleep or at high altitudes.
- Body battery: energy levels based on heart rate variability, stress, and activity.
- Menstrual cycle: tracks your period, though you can always use third-party apps.
- Screen brightness: you can adjust your screen brightness, unlike on the PACE 2. I’ve never had a problem with visibility, but it’s something to note if you tend to like brighter settings.
Reasons to Pick the COROS PACE 2
The COROS PACE 2 is my top choice for GPS running watches under $200. At this price point, most watches only have basic tracking profiles and no advanced metrics like the PACE 2’s training load, stamina remaining, and race predictor. Marathon world record holder Eluid Kipchoge actually trains with the PACE 2, so you know it’s got to be pretty good.
One of COROS’ biggest claims to fame is its unparalleled battery life. The Forerunner 245 lasts up to 7 days in smartwatch mode, 24 hours on GPS, and 6 hours on GPS with music. The PACE 2 has:
- 20 days of regular use
- 30 hours in Full GPS mode
- 60 hours in UltraMax mode
Between regular use and GPS workouts, I had to charge the PACE 2 about every 2 weeks, which is all the less to worry about.
COROS watches also consistently latch onto GPS signal quickly. The PACE 2 would connect in just a few seconds each time, while the Forerunner 245 sometimes took a bit of time after changing locations (Garmin tends to find GPS signal just fine, but when I owned a Vivoactive 3 Music, it would take ages to connect to GPS about once every couple months).
If you’re planning to do triathlons, the PACE 2 is the most affordable GPS watch that offers open water swimming, triathlon, and multisport modes. The open water swimming mode on COROS is among the most accurate out there. When I tested it, I got about 8% less than the actual distance (compared to putting my other watch in run mode and tugging it along in a swim buoy). Open water swimming will never be fully accurate because the watch loses GPS signal each time your arm is under the water, so anything within 10% of the actual distance is considered pretty great.
Other training profiles the PACE 2 has over the Forerunner 245 are: Rowing (outdoor) and Flatwater (kayaking, canoeing, SUP).
The PACE 2 is also known as the lightest GPS watch out there. With the nylon band, it’s 29g, and with silicone, it’s 35g. The Forerunner 245 is 38.5g; this is a pretty standard weight, but if you really don’t want to notice your watch, the PACE 2 is the way to go. I liked the nylon band of the PACE 2 as it was super light. I did, however, find it uncomfortable to wear when wet, and it didn’t feel as secure against my wrist. I never felt like the watch was going to fall off, but the material just has less grip against your wrist. Just a couple things to get used to!
If accurate elevation tracking is important to you, the PACE 2 is a better choice since it has a barometric altimeter. Meanwhile, the Forerunner 245 bases elevation off of GPS (you can always get the data corrected afterwards in Strava, but you can’t do this in real-time). You will also be able to see daily floors climbed on the PACE 2, while you can’t on the Forerunner 245. The PACE 2 actually even lets you see barometric/atmospheric data from your watch, which can help you predict short-term changes in weather.
While the dial navigation can take a bit of getting used to, there are a lot of customization options. You can change the orientation of the watch face (great for lefties), the kind of screen lock for the dial (long hold or scroll), and the direction of the scroll (whether turning the dial up will scroll down or up and vice versa). This makes it easy to set the watch up exactly how you want.
One thing I really like about COROS watches is that the workout screen shows time paused if you stop 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 specific amount of rest. Garmin watches don’t have this functionality, and you have to program a workout if you want to time your rest.
COROS is also always bringing new features to their watches. In November 2020, they added the rowing and flatwater modes I mentioned earlier. In summer 2021, they rolled out EvoLab, which provided more in-depth training metrics like Marathon Level and Race Predictor. You can view the release notes for each watch to see what’s been added.
Finally, there’s a 2-year warranty, which is twice as long as Garmin’s warranty. There’s also a trade-in program where you can get up to $100 credit towards a new watch. 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. I’d recommend trying to resell your watch if it’s fully functional, as you’ll probably get more money back, and it’ll be used as long as it can.
The Bottom Line
If you have the extra money, the Forerunner 245 has more gym cardio tracking profiles, safety features, and everyday fitness data. But, your elevation data won’t be as accurate, and you can’t track floors climbed.
The PACE 2 offers arguably better value at the lower price point, especially for triathletes. The cheapest current generation Garmin with open water swimming and triathlon mode (Forerunner 745) retails at $500, which is $300 more than the PACE 2. You’ll also get better battery life, more rowing/flatwater activities, and a lighter build. But, it’s possible that you might miss some of the features unique to the Garmin ecosystem.
For what it’s worth, I “defected” over to COROS in May 2021 and have been happy with my APEX. I really did like the PACE 2 and would’ve bought it if it had navigation and trail running features. My brother has owned the original PACE for over a year, and he continues to be happy with it too.
Where to Buy the Garmin Forerunner 245 and COROS PACE 2
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 used or 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
Garmin Forerunner 245
COROS PACE 2 (use code CAP-Fang 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).
Amazon tends to have the best deals, but if you can afford it, I hope you’ll consider buying from a more ethical platform like the others mentioned in this section. The cool thing about COROS is that it’s already great value and costs the same everywhere. I got my APEX directly from COROS and it came within a couple days.
Feel free to leave a comment if you have questions about either watch, and let me know what you ended up picking!
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