The Garmin Forerunner 255 and COROS APEX 2 are two long-awaited updates to these popular mid-range GPS watches. As each brand adds new features, it gets harder and harder to decide between the two.
In this post, I’ll go over the similarities and differences between the two watches, and offer some reasons to choose one over the other.
As 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 was loaned the Forerunner 255 for a few months and given a sample APEX 2 to be reviewed. I’ve personally owned both a Garmin and a COROS and am very familiar with both ecosystems.
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: Forerunner 255 and APEX 2
Before I dive into the reasons to pick one over the other, here are some similarities of the watches:
Fitness tracking for common activities: Both watches have a variety of outdoor and indoor tracking profiles. You can also create interval workouts.
|Trail Running||XC Skiing|
|Treadmill/Virtual Running||GPS Cardio|
|Indoor Biking||Indoor Rowing|
|Pool Swimming||Outdoor Rowing|
|Open Water Swimming||Paddleboarding|
Fitness stats: steps, heart rate, sleep, VO2 max (aerobic performance capacity), pulse ox (blood oxygen saturation), HRV (heart rate variability).
Advanced training metrics: training load (whether your training is a smart amount), training status (whether your training is effective), race predictor, recovery time/stamina remaining, wrist-based running power.
Basic smartwatch features: calendar, message, and call notifications.
Now let’s get into the differences between the Forerunner 255 and APEX 2!
Reasons to Pick the Garmin Forerunner 255
One of the first things to know about the Forerunner 255 is that it comes in two sizes: the Forerunner 255 and 255S (pictured in these photos). The FR255S was made for people with smaller wrists, so it has a thinner, shorter strap. It weighs about 20% less than the FR255, 36% less than the APEX 2 with the silicone band, and 8% less than the APEX 2 with the nylon band.
Here’s a quick table with the actual weights:
|APEX 2 with silicone band||53g|
|APEX 2 with nylon band||42g|
As someone with small wrists, I will say that the Forerunner 255S is really comfortable to wear with its thinner strap. The nylon COROS band is also great, but it can be a little annoying after a shower or swim since it retains moisture for a bit.
The Forerunner 255 also has a Music version that retails at $350 ($50 more than the non-music version). You can connect to Spotify Premium, Amazon Music, Deezer, or iHeartRadio. You can also download tunes and play music directly from your watch. While the APEX 2 can carry MP3 files, it currently can’t stream music, though that may change in a future update.
On the Forerunner 255 with Music, you’re able to 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.
While both the APEX 2 and Forerunner 255 have All-Systems GPS, the Forerunner 255 also has Multi-Band. “All-Systems” lets watches use any of the satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, BeiDou, QZSS) and switch between them based on the quality of their signals. This is the default setting for the Forerunner 255, but not for the APEX 2.
“Multi-Band” is the dual-frequency option that allows your watch to get L1 and L5 frequency signals, improving tracking accuracy. Of course, the APEX 2 still has good accuracy, so this additional tracking option on the Forerunner 255 may only make a big difference if you’re training a lot in cities with skyscrapers or remote areas with poor signal.
I will say though that the FR255S Music I’ve been testing has the most accurate tracking I’ve seen so far in a watch (in just All-Systems mode too, not even Multi-Band). When I look at the maps of my runs in the app, the route most closely follows the trail of where I actually ran compared to other units.
If you’re going for PRs, you’ll like the Forerunner 255’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 255 tracks these activities that the COROS APEX 2 doesn’t: Mountain Biking, eBiking, eMountain Biking, HIIT, Stair Stepping, Floor Climbing, Elliptical, Pilates, and Yoga. On the APEX 2, you can use Biking for Mountain Biking though and still see your real-time elevation gain (it’s just on a later data screen, but that can be edited). For the gym activities, you can use GPS without Cardio on COROS, but you’ll have to edit the activity name later, and you may not get the activity-specific metrics you want.
For those who often run alone and are concerned about safety, the Forerunner 255 has Incident Detection and LiveTrack. 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.
Garmin Pay on the Forerunner 255 can be really handy if you need to make purchases and you don’t have your card on you (like those long runs where you run out of water and need to stop in a gas station to get a drink). This feature allows you make contactless payments with your watch. Most major banks are compatible.
You can also change the screen brightness on the Forerunner 255, unlike on the APEX 2. I’ve never had a problem with visibility on COROS, but this could be a benefit for those who like brighter screens.
If you use any accessories that pair ANT+ only (certain HR straps, bike power meters, speed sensors, etc.), you’ll want to go with the Forerunner 255, as the COROS APEX 2 only supports Bluetooth accessories. This is new for their APEX 2, APEX 2 Pro, and VERTIX 2. Their older models support ANT+.
Finally, there are a handful other lifestyle and training features unique to the Forerunner 255 and Garmin ecosystem, such as shoe mileage, stress tracking, menstrual tracking, and Body Battery. I encourage you to read my full Garmin vs. COROS review for all the details on the nuances between the two ecosystems.
Reasons to Pick the COROS APEX 2
While the original APEX came in two sizes—the 42mm and 46mm—there’s only one size for the APEX 2, and it comes in at around 43mm. This is slightly larger than the 41mm FR255S and smaller than the 46mm FR255.
COROS is known for its exceptional battery life. On the APEX 2, you get 45 hours in GPS mode, 30 hours in All Systems On mode, and 17 days of regular use. While playing music, you get 8 hours in standard GPS mode and 7 in All Systems mode.
While the APEX 2’s battery life in GPS mode has improved 10-20 hours, depending on the size of the original APEX, the battery life for regular use has actually declined 7-13 days because of the improvements to sleep tracking and the more powerful heart rate sensor.
In comparison, the Forerunner 255 gets you up to 26-30 hours in GPS mode, 20-25 hours in All Systems, and 13-16 in All-Systems and Multi-Band mode. If you have music on in GPS mode, you get 6.5 hours of battery life. For regular use, you get 12-14 days (the lower numbers in the ranges are for the FR255S).
You can see that Garmin is actually catching up to COROS in terms of battery life, but the APEX 2 still gets 50% better battery life in GPS mode, 20% better in All Systems mode, and 21% better for regular use. The difference is even more pronounced for the Forerunner 255S (the APEX 2 has 73% longer battery life in GPS mode, 50% longer in All-Systems mode, and 29% longer for regular use).
In a battery life test, I wore both the FR255S and APEX 2 for the same workouts after they’d been fully charged. I didn’t wear them outside of workouts. The FR255S dipped under 30% on the 11th day (below 30% is the point when I’d typically charge my watches), while the APEX 2 was at 50%. This was after six 5-mile runs of about 45 minutes each. It took the APEX 2 two more 5-mile runs and 5 more days to dip under 30% (16 days total).
The APEX 2 is also more durable than the Forerunner 255, which has a plastic case and Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3 screen. The APEX 2 is made from titanium alloy and has a sapphire glass screen.
Speaking of the screen, the APEX 2 actually has a touchscreen when navigating between data screens during tracking and while using the maps. You can use the button navigation otherwise, which features a dial for scrolling, back button, and light button. The cool thing about COROS buttons is that you can change the orientation of the watch so the buttons can be on the right or left side (depending on if you’re a righty or lefty), and you can also change the direction of the scroll.
When latching onto GPS signal, the APEX 2 is also consistently faster than the Forerunner 255. After a slow connection the very first time, I regularly got signal in an average of 6.2 seconds on the APEX 2. With the Forerunner 255S, I got signal in an average of 17.1 seconds. Both these averages were taken after 10 tests in the same weather conditions and at approximately the same time, with the watches previously synced to the app in the last day. It may sound like a small difference, but it makes going out for a run much smoother when you can get signal quickly (especially in the cold). I’ve also had to wait over a minute a few times with the FR255S if I haven’t synced my watch to the app in a few days.
While both the APEX 2 and Forerunner 255 have breadcrumb navigation, the APEX 2 has mapping. You’ll get topgraphic and landscape maps, allowing you to see elevation, streets, and more, which can be helpful in more remote areas.
One nifty feature that I appreciate on COROS is the rest time when you pause a workout. The workout pause screen switches between time of day + battery life, workout time, and time paused every 10 seconds. I’ve never needed to use the interval training feature because I’m able to track my rest time this way. Garmin only has a rest timer in their Ultra Running mode.
Both watches also have barometric altimeters for more accurate elevation readings (this is new to the Forerunner 200 series), but the APEX 2 has real-time barometric pressure data, allowing you to predict short-term changes in weather and be alerted to potential storms.
The APEX 2 tracks these activities that the Forerunner 255 doesn’t: Mountain Climbing, Whitewater, Speedsurfing, and Windsurfing. Mountain climbing is different from Hiking in that the first data screen is uniquely focused on elevation, elevation gain, and elevation loss instead of distance and speed (of course, you can always edit your data screens how you like).
If you’re a content creator, the APEX 2 can control your GoPro and Insta360 action cameras.
One great benefit is that COROS comes with a two-year warranty, while Garmin has just one year. Garmin also will only replace your watch with a refurbished one if you’re beyond 3 months into your warranty. As another bonus, COROS sometimes has their trade-in program open where you can trade-in your old watch from any brand and get up to $100 credit towards a new COROS watch.
On a final note, the default band that comes with the watch is the nylon band. The nylon band says #EXPLOREPERFECTION on the inside (COROS’ slogan), and it’s barely visible from the outside, depending on how big your wrists are (I’m sharing this detail in case you like solid bands, like me). The black watch band also has a red stripe, but the other nylon bands are solid colored. If you want a silicone band, you’ll have to buy it separately (but they did give me a free watch band code with the purchase of a watch—keep reading till the end for it). You’re also able to use your old APEX silicone bands; mine snapped on easily.
The Bottom Line
Since the Forerunner 255 with music and APEX 2 are at the same price point, it’s clear that the Forerunner 255 has more features overall and is better value. You can stream music, send safety alerts to your loved ones, create a pacing plan, and pay with your watch. The Forerunner 255 also has the added convenience of a smaller size for those like me with baby wrists and hands. And I say all this as someone who originally owned a Garmin but defected to COROS.
Still, you may prefer the APEX 2 if you do more rugged activities and need a more durable build or mapping. If you also prioritize battery life and consistently fast GPS signal, then COROS may be better for you. The fast GPS signal is a big one, as it’s annoying to wait to latch onto signal before you start your workout. If you also do a lot of simple interval workouts but don’t want to pre-program them, the time paused on screen is also really helpful for keeping track of your rest.
As a marathoner who dabbles in trail running and triathlons, I was able to easily make a decision when comparing the older Forerunner 245 vs. APEX, especially since the APEX 42mm was $50-100 cheaper than the FR245, had open water swimming and triathlon tracking, had a barometric altimeter, and boasted way better battery life. But now that Garmin has added these features to the FR255 and enhanced its battery life, it’s much harder to make a decision.
But because I don’t use Garmin’s extra lifestyle features (no streaming music for me on runs) and because of the APEX 2’s fast GPS signal, longer battery life, time paused on screen, and longer warranty, I’d probably still go with the COROS between the two. But I think I’d be in the minority since Garmin’s extra lifestyle and training features are pretty tempting.
Where to Buy the Garmin Forerunner 255 and COROS 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 Garmin/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).
If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments. Also let us know what you decided on and why!
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