The Garmin Forerunner 255 and COROS PACE 2 are mid-range GPS watches that offer great value. If I were in the market for a new GPS running watch, they’d be among my top picks after testing and researching 10+ of the most popular models.
If you’re having trouble deciding, I’ve got you covered. I’ll go over the similarities and differences in this post, 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 don’t own the PACE 2, but I’ve used a loaner for a few months, and I also used a loaner FR255S Music for several months before buying a used unit to continue testing for reviews.
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This post was originally published in October 2022 and updated in May 2023.
Things in Common: Forerunner 255 and PACE 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.
|Running||Open Water Swimming|
|Virtual Running||GPS Cardio|
|Indoor Biking||Indoor/Outdoor Rowing|
Fitness stats: steps, heart rate, sleep, VO2 max (aerobic performance capacity).
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.
Basic smartwatch features: calendar, message, and call notifications.
Navigation features: breadcrumb navigation that allows you to follow a downloaded trail with a compass and get deviation alerts.
Now let’s get into the differences between the Forerunner 255 and PACE 2!
Reasons to Pick the Garmin Forerunner 255
The Forerunner 255 is part of the most popular Garmin series. Being a mid-tier watch with lot of lifestyle and fitness features, the Forerunner 255 and its predecessors can be found on the wrists of casual runners to marathoners.
Keep in mind that the Forerunner 255 retails for $350-400, which is $150-200 more than the COROS PACE 2, so this section is going to be longer since the FR255 has more features. Don’t take it to mean that I dislike the PACE 2—quite the contrary, as I’m actually a COROS gal now, though my first watch was a Garmin.
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 and weighs about 20% less than the FR255 (though both are heavier than the PACE 2, which I’ll get into later).
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 to download your playlists. You can also download tunes and play music directly from your watch. The PACE 2 can’t carry music or connect to music apps.
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.
A new feature for this Forerunner series is also All-Systems and Multi-Band GPS. “All-Systems” lets the Forerunner 255 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 watch. “Multi-Band” is the dual-frequency option that allows your watch to get L1 and L5 frequency signals, improving tracking accuracy.
The PACE 2 has access to the same satellite systems, but only has a single-frequency chipset. Of course, the PACE 2 is still accurate, so these additional tracking options may only make a difference if you’re training a lot in cities with skyscrapers or remote areas with poor signal.
The Forerunner 255 also has Heart Rate Variability (HRV) status, which tracks the variation in time between heartbeats at night. This informs and improves metrics like Training Status.
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 PACE 2 doesn’t:
|Trail Running||Stair Stepping|
|Virtual Running||Floor Climbing|
|HIIT||XC Classic Skiing|
You’ll notice that a lot of these are gym activities. 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 appreciate the trail running mode that allows you to see your total ascent and vertical speed. Both watches have breadcrumb navigation that allows you to download a GPX route and follow it during your run to make sure you’re on track. But, the PACE 2 only has a regular running mode, which doesn’t account for 3D distance, meaning it doesn’t use the elevation gain to calibrate the distance (though you can still see your total elevation gain).
It is unclear whether Garmin’s trail running mode calculates 3D distance anyways, but it does leave these trail runs out of your VO2 max calculations. For COROS, you can exclude individual runs from Evolab, which will take it out of Marathon Level and Running Performance calculations.
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.
The Forerunner 255 tracks Pulse Ox, which can be helpful when you sleep, or if you’re adjusting to high altitudes.
You can also change the screen brightness on the Forerunner 255, unlike on the PACE 2. I’ve never had a problem with visibility on COROS, but this could be a benefit for those who like brighter screens.
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 PACE 2
The COROS PACE 2 is an incredibly capable watch for its price. In fact, I’d say it’s the best-value GPS watch on the market, and it’s my #1 pick for GPS running watches under $200. You simply don’t find watches that track open-water swimming and triathlon at this price point.
COROS is perhaps best known for its amazing battery life. On the PACE 2, you get 30 hours of battery life on GPS mode and 60 on UltraMax mode. With just daily use, you can expect the watch battery to last 20 days. For the Forerunner 255 and 255S, you get 12-14 days of regular use, 26-30 hours on GPS mode (less if using all-systems or multi-band), and 6.5 hours on all-systems mode with music. If you’re doing endurance events or want to charge your watch less often, you may prefer the PACE 2.
The PACE 2 is also known as the lightest GPS watch on the market at 29-30g with the nylon band and 35-36g with the silicone band. The Forerunner 255S is 39g and the FR255 is 49g. As a runner with small wrists and baby hands, I find the FR255S very comfortable already, but the PACE 2 is barely noticeable with the nylon band (the band can just be a little annoying when it gets wet).
COROS watches also always latch onto GPS signal extremely quickly. I consistently got signal within 5-10 seconds with the PACE 2, but with Forerunner 255, I usually have to wait around 15-25 seconds. I’ve also had to wait over a minute a few times when I haven’t synced my watch to the app in a few days. 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).
While the Forerunner 255 has more tracking profiles, the PACE 2 does track Flatwater, which is works for activities in calm water, like Stand Up Paddleboarding (also on the FR255) and kayaking (not on the FR255).
Both the Forerunner 255 and PACE 2 have barometric altimeters, which give you more accurate elevation readings, but the PACE 2 lets you see barometric pressure on the watch. This helps you predict short-term changes in weather (there’s also a storm alert).
One nifty feature that I appreciate on COROS is the rest time when you pause a workout. I’ve never needed to use the interval training feature because I’m able to track my rest time in regular running mode. Garmin only has this in their Ultra Running mode.
Finally, 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.
The Bottom Line
The Forerunner 255 is a more capable watch, but it comes at 1.5-2x the price point. It’s great value for what it offers, though. If you do more trail running, the Forerunner 255 may be a better fit with its Trail Running mode. It also tracks more adventure and virtual sports, has a music version, and one of the most accurate GPS systems possible.
The PACE 2 is still an amazing watch, and I personally prefer the COROS ecosystem for its outstanding battery life. Since I’m only an occasional trail runner, I would probably opt for the PACE 2 over the FR255 since I wouldn’t need a specific running mode, and the PACE 2 has breadcrumb navigation, which is my main concern when trail running. The watch is also extremely comfortable to wear and latches onto GPS signal really quickly. If you don’t need the extra lifestyle features that Garmin offers, I’d heartily recommend the PACE 2.
While the PACE 2 is an older model than the FR255 (it came out in July 2020 while the FR255 was released in June 2022), the PACE 2 is still getting major updates. In fact, navigation was added in May 2023, nearly 3 years after its release. If you can hold out a bit longer, it’s possible the PACE 3 will be released in late 2023 or in 2024, but this is just speculation.
Where to Buy the Garmin Forerunner 255 and COROS PACE 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
COROS PACE 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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