The Garmin Forerunner 55 and COROS PACE 2 are two capable entry-level GPS watches. Since they retail for the same price ($200) and come from different ecosystems, it can be tough to figure out which one will be best for you. In this post, I’ll share concrete reasons to pick one over the other.
For context, I’m a marathoner, former triathlon-dabbler, and GPS watch nerd. Over the past few years, I’ve tested 11 GPS watches by borrowing from friends or getting loaners. I bought the FR55 secondhand for this review (which I later gave to my mom), and I was able to use a PACE 2 loaner for about a month. I do a lot of GPS watch comparisons, so if you’re deciding between other models, check those out.
Also note that this post contains affiliate links, which allow me to earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. This income allows me to keep writing these reviews, and I appreciate your support!
Things in Common: Forerunner 55 and PACE 2
Before I dive into the reasons to choose one watch over the other, here are the features they have in common:
- 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: race predictor and recovery time/stamina remaining.
- Basic smartwatch features: calendar, message and call notifications.
Reasons to Choose the Garmin Forerunner 55
The Forerunner 55 is the more recent watch, having been released in June 2021 (the PACE 2 was released August 2020).
Despite its recency and similar price tag, I’d say the Forerunner 55 is slightly less capable than the PACE 2 performance-wise. That said, it does have some performance data that the PACE 2 lacks, and it also has more lifestyle features.
In terms of workout features, the Forerunner 55 is equipped with Garmin’s PacePro, which helps you pace your runs and races on specific courses. The pacing plan takes into account any elevation changes and your preferences for negative/positive/even splits, as well as whether you want to take the uphills easier or harder.
You’ll also get Suggested Workout prompts to improve your fitness. While you’re exercising, you can also activate Audio Prompts from your Garmin Connect app, which will announce your pace, lap number, and other preferred data.
The Forerunner 55 includes a few more tracking profiles, including Cardio and Elliptical Training, Stair Stepping, and Yoga. On the PACE 2, you only have Gym Cardio or GPS Cardio. You can edit the activity name after the fact, but you may not get activity-specific metrics like Respiration Rate for yoga.
To keep you safe during your runs, walks, and bike rides, you can use Garmin’s Incident Detection or LiveTrack. Incident Detection will alert your emergency contacts if the watch detects abnormal activity, and LiveTrack allows your loved ones to follow your workout in real time. Your watch must be connected to your phone for these features to work.
Finally, there are a handful other features unique to the Garmin ecosystem:
- 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.
- 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.
Reasons to Choose the COROS PACE 2
The PACE 2 is arguably the best-value watch at its price point. In fact, I list it first on my guide to the best GPS running watches under $200. While deciding on my second watch after my Garmin died, I seriously considered the PACE 2, but ultimately went with the COROS APEX because of the extra trail running features.
To start, the PACE 2 is one of the lowest-priced watches to track open water swimming and triathlon. If you go with Garmin, you’ll have to shell out $500 for a current-generation watch with these features (it’s the Forerunner 745).
Other training profiles unique to the PACE 2 include: Flatwater, Rowing, and Indoor Rower.
The PACE 2 also has more advanced training metrics, including Training Load, Marathon Level, and Running Performance. These metrics can help you understand how efficient your training has been and how prepared you are to race.
If you don’t want to charge your watch often or plan to do ultra races, you’ll like COROS’ amazing battery life. The Forerunner 55 has pretty darn good battery life already, lasting up to two weeks in smartwatch mode and 20 hours on GPS mode. But the PACE 2 lasts even longer. The battery has:
- 20 days of regular use
- 30 hours in Full GPS mode
- 60 hours in UltraMax mode
While watches with great battery life are often clunkier, the PACE 2 is actually the lightest GPS watch out there when paired with the nylon band. It’s only 29g, while the Forerunner 55 weighs 37g. Keep in mind, however, that the PACE 2 with a regular silicone band has a pretty comparable weight at 35g. Both watches are also pretty light compared to other models out there.
That said, the PACE 2 does have a larger display size. It has a 1.2″ (30.4 mm) diameter, while the FR55 display has a 1.04″ (26.3 mm) diameter. The PACE 2 also has better resolution at 240 x 240 pixels vs. 203 x 203 pixels for the Forerunner 55. I found both watches easy to read, but this could charge depending on your vision.
One thing to keep in mind is that you can’t adjust screen brightness on COROS watches, unlike on Garmin (it’s to preserve battery life). I’ve never had a problem with visibility, but you may consider Garmin over COROS if you prefer brighter display settings.
Finally, a major perk of the COROS ecosystem is that the watches continue to receive updates. Since its release, the PACE 2 has received 4 new tracking profiles, GoPro control, adjusted pace on hilly terrain, and more. COROS warranty is also 2 years compared to Garmin’s 1 year.
The Bottom Line
The Forerunner 55 has more holistic health features, safety tracking, and pacing tools.
The PACE 2 offers more performance metrics and multisport modes, and it has better battery life.
As a marathoner who still sometimes dabbles in open water swimming, and who’s more focused on performance stats than general health tracking, I’d personally go with the PACE 2. But, it ultimately comes down to what features you need.
Both watches are pretty good value, especially after Garmin added pool swimming, PacePro, and Race Predictor to the Forerunner 55 (its predecessor, the Forerunner 45, was more bare bones).
If you still need help deciding between the two ecosystems, you can read more about the differences between Garmin and COROS in my in-depth review.
Where to Buy the Forerunner 55 and PACE 2
If this review helped you, it would mean a ton if you purchased through my affiliate links. 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).
Let us know what you ultimately end up picking, and feel free to leave any questions in the comments!