The Garmin Forerunner 255 and COROS PACE 3 are two popular mid-range GPS watches. I’m here to help you make a decision: I own a FR255 Music and I’ve had the chance to use a PACE 3 loaner for 2 months. 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 more 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’ve had the chance to test dozens of Garmin and COROS watches since 2018, and I do a lot of GPS watch comparisons to help you pick the best watch for your needs.
This post contains 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 🙂
Quick Summary: Garmin Forerunner 255 vs. COROS PACE 3
If you just want a quick summary, here are some major reasons to pick one watch over the other:
- You can download music and playlists via apps like Spotify Premium.
- There are more specific tracking profiles, especially for racquet sports (tennis, pickleball) and team sports (basketball, ultimate frisbee, etc).
- Have a peace of mind with safety features like Incident Detection and LiveTrack.
- You can make contactless payments with your watch using Garmin Pay.
- At a $230 retail price, the PACE 3 is incredible value (compared to the FR255’s $350-400 retail price, though there are a lot of sales)
- You get almost double the battery life; the PACE 3 lasts 24 days in smartwatch mode, while the FR255 and 255S last 12-14 days.
- GPS acquisition time is 2-3 times faster.
- The watch has a touchscreen, which can be helpful when using navigation or scrolling through data screens during workouts (it can be enabled or disabled as well).
Things in Common: Forerunner 255 and PACE 3
Before we dive into the differences between the FR255 and PACE 3, here’s what they have in common, so you can know exactly what features you’re getting.
Fitness tracking for common activities: Both watches have a variety of outdoor and indoor tracking profiles. You can also create interval workouts and use breadcrumb navigation.
|Running, Treadmill Running, Track Running, Trail Running
|Biking, Indoor Biking
|Pool Swimming, Open Water Swimming
|Walking, Hiking, Skiing, Snowboarding, XC Skiing, Paddleboarding, Rowing, Cardio with GPS
|Strength, Cardio, Indoor Rowing
More accurate tracking: both watches have All Systems and Multi-Band/Dual Frequency tracking modes that allow you to get access to multiple satellite systems and frequency signals at once. This can be helpful in areas with spottier GPS signal (the mountains or dense cities).
Fitness stats: steps, heart rate, sleep, VO2 max (aerobic performance capacity), pulse ox (blood oxygen saturation).
Advanced training metrics: training load (whether your training is a smart amount), training status (whether your training is effective), race predictor, recovery time, wrist-based running power.
Basic smartwatch features: calendar, message, and call notifications.
Now let’s get into the reasons to pick one watch over the other!
Reasons to Pick the Garmin Forerunner 255
The Forerunner 255 was released in June 2022 and retails at $350-400. It comes in two sizes, the Forerunner 255 and 255S (“S” standing for “small”). The Forerunner 200 series has historically been one of Garmin’s most popular, being simple enough to be user-friendly for new runners, but also offering more advanced performance metrics that draw in seasoned athletes going for PRs.
Here are the reasons to pick the FR255 over the PACE 3.
Compatibility with music apps
The Forerunner 255 has a Music version that retails at $400 ($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.
While the PACE 3 can carry MP3 files, it currently can’t connect to any music apps (you have to be a HUGE company to get contracts with those brands).
More built-in activity tracking profiles
When it comes to tracking profiles, the Forerunner 255 has these built-in tracking profiles that the PACE 3 doesn’t.
|Indoor Track Running, Ultra Running
|Mountain Biking, eBiking, eMountain Biking
|HIIT, Stair Stepping, Floor Climbing, Elliptical, Pilates, Yoga, Boxing, MMA
|Ice Skating, Archery
|Tennis, Padel, Table Tennis, Platform Tennis, Pickleball, Squash, Raquetball, Badminton
|Basketball, Volleyball, Field Hockey, Ice Hockey, Football/Soccer, American Football, Lacrosse, Rugby, Ultimate Disc, Cricket, Softball, Baseball
On the PACE 3, there are some replacement tracking profiles you can use. For Ultra Running, you can use Trail Running (the Ultra Running profile on Garmin just has a time paused screen, which is the default for all activities in COROS anyways). For Mountain Biking, you can use regular Biking and still see your real-time elevation gain (it’s just on a later data screen, but that can be edited).
For the other activities, you can create a custom activity, or use Cardio with or without GPS. This may lack some of the activity-specific metrics Garmin has, however, such as respiration rate for yoga.
Stay secure with Incident Detection and LiveTrack
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.
You can use Strava for live location tracking if you go with COROS, but it’s harder to find a replacement for Incident Detection.
Ability to make contactless payments
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.
See HRV status to inform your training
After wearing your watch during sleep for 3 weeks, you’ll be able to see your heart rate variability (HRV) status, which can inform your training and overall health. Your HRV status will show as balanced or unbalanced.
A balanced HRV status can mean improved fitness, adequate recovery, and resilience to stress. An unbalanced one can indicate the opposite: fatigue, need for more recovery, and high stress.
Get audio prompts during workouts
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.
This can be really nice in the colder weather so you don’t have to roll up your sleeve to check your stats every mile/kilometer.
Improve your race strategy with PacePro
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).
Ability to pair accessories via ANT+
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 PACE 3 only supports Bluetooth accessories. This is the case for all current-gen COROS models; their older models do support ANT+.
Reasons to Pick the COROS PACE 3
The PACE 3 was released in August 2023. It’s COROS’ least expensive watch, but the features it offers are certainly not basic. At $230, the PACE 3 is extremely good value, as it tracks a wide range of activities, including trail running, open water swimming, and multisport. You also get battery life usually only seen on more expensive models
Here are the reasons to pick the PACE 3 over the Forerunner 255.
Longer battery life
The PACE 3 lasts almost twice as long as the FR255 in smartwatch mode. With battery life of 24 days for regular use, you’ll only have to charge your watch every 2-3 weeks, depending on your usage.
Here’s a table comparing the battery life of the watches in different settings:
|All Systems Mode
|Dual Frequency Mode
|All Systems with Music
Lighter and more comfortable to wear
The COROS PACE 3 is one of the lightest GPS watches out there, especially since the default nylon band shaves off a lot of weight (if you want a silicone band, you can use my affiliate code COROS-Lily to get a free, extra watch band).
With the nylon band, the PACE 3 is 63% lighter than the FR255 and 30% lighter than the FR255S. With the silicone band, the PACE 3 is 26% lighter than the FR255 and the same weight as the FR255S.
|PACE 3 with silicone band
|PACE 3 with nylon band
I have small wrists, and while both the FR255S and the PACE 3 feel comfortable and fit well, the nylon band makes the PACE 3 especially easy to wear. You can get a third-party nylon band for the FR255, but they’re a little harder to find for the FR255 due to the thinner strap size.
And in case you’re wondering how the sizes of the watches compare to the weight, the display size of the watches are very similar. The PACE 3 has a 1.2″display, the FR255 is 1.3″, and the FR255 is 1.1″.
Ability to enable or disable the touchscreen
The PACE 3 has a full touchscreen that allows you to scroll, tap, and swipe out of widgets. You can enable the full touchscreen, limit it only to navigation and scrolling during workout data screens, or disable it completely.
The Forerunner 255 doesn’t have a touchscreen at all; you’d have to go up to the newer FR265 for that.
I will say that the touchscreen on the PACE 3 is a little clunky to use, however, as there’s a bit of a delay. The default setting also has it vibrate with each touch, but that can be turned off.
Faster GPS acquisition
COROS has consistently had speedy GPS acquisition times, and the PACE 3 is no exception. I haven’t timed it yet, but I estimate that it latches onto signal within 5 seconds on average (I’ll update this post when I can do a formal test). With the Forerunner 255S, I got signal in an average of 17.1 seconds over 10 runs.
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).
See time paused for interval workouts
The PACE 3 (and all COROS watches) show 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 few seconds.
This nifty feature can save you time if you do a lot of easy-to-remember interval workouts. I’ve never needed to manually program my intervals on COROS because I’m able to track my rest time this way.
Ability to track Jump Rope
While the Forerunner 255 has more activity tracking profiles in general, the PACE 3 is able to track jump rope when the FR255 can’t. The Jump Rope activity profile will let you see total jumps, jumps per set, speed, and many other metrics.
Longer warranty and regular updates
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. COROS replaces all in-warranty defective units with a new watch.
COROS also continues to bring new features to the watches, such as the EvoLab release in summer 2021, which gave users more running performance metrics (including Marathon Level, Running Performance, and Training Load, among others).
There was another bigger update in spring 2023, which gave users the Running Fitness test + metric and Training Status metric. The COROS PACE 2 even got breadcrumb navigation, which was a huge upgrade. Discontinued watches will even receive these updates, as long as there’s enough memory on them.
Garmin does do some updates with new features, but they’re not as regular or major as the ones COROS does.
Better retail value
At $230, the PACE 3 is one of the best-value GPS watches on the market. It’s very rare to be able to get triathlon, trail running, navigation, and dual frequency tracking around the $200 mark. Plus, you get battery life only seen on watches that cost twice as much for Garmin.
The FR255 retails at $350-400, depending on whether you get the music or non-music version. That said, because the newer FR265 came out only a year later, the FR255 can be easily found for around $250 used (or new, if there’s a big sale).
If you’re buying at full price, the PACE 3 is definitely better value. However, if the prices are only $20 apart, it’s pretty much a tie.
The Bottom Line
The COROS PACE 3 and Garmin Forerunner 255 are both extremely capable watches. If you need the extra lifestyle and training features such as music app compatibility, Garmin Pay, and Incident Detection, you should go with the FR255. If you want a watch with more of a focus on just performance metrics, plus amazing battery life, the PACE 3 is a better fit.
As I mentioned, the PACE 3 is extremely good value at its $230 retail price, but the FR255 is also a great deal if you can get it for $250 or less. So, the main consideration may ultimately come down to pricing.
Where to Buy the Garmin Forerunner 255 and COROS PACE 3
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:
PACE 3 (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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