The Forerunner 55 and PACE 3 are the most budget-friendly options from Garmin and COROS. I’ve had a chance to use both: I bought a used FR55 to test that I later gave to my mom, 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 55 vs. COROS PACE 3
If you just want a quick summary, here are some major reasons to pick one watch over the other:
- Have a peace of mind with safety features like Incident Detection and LiveTrack.
- Make smart race strategies with PacePro, which helps keep you create a strategy and stay on track.
- Get Audio Prompts during your runs from your phone.
- Ability to track HIIT, Elliptical, Stair Stepping, Yoga, and Pilates specifically.
- Tracks more outdoor activities, including Trail Running, Hiking, Open Water Swimming, Triathlon, Rowing Skiing, Snowboarding, and others.
- Offers more running performance metrics: Training Load, Training Status, Running Fitness, Running Power.
- Get more accurate tracking with All Systems and Dual Frequency modes, giving you access to multiple satellites and frequencies at a time.
- You get almost double the battery life; the PACE 3 lasts 24 days in smartwatch mode, while the FR55 lasts up to 14 days.
- 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 55 and PACE 3
Before we dive into the differences between the FR55 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 cover the basic activity profiles. You can also create interval workouts.
|Running, Treadmill Running, Track Running, Virtual Running
|Biking, Indoor Biking
|Cardio, Pool Swimming
Fitness stats: steps, heart rate, sleep, VO2 max (aerobic performance capacity).
Advanced training metrics: race predictor and recovery time.
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 55
The Forerunner 55 is Garmin’s latest entry-level watch, released in June 2021. While this version is a big improvement from its predecessor, the FR45, the Forerunner 55 is still a more bare bones model.
I’ll be frank: the Forerunner 55 is a lot less capable than the PACE 3. While there are some legitimate reasons to prefer it, the FR55 isn’t nearly as good of value as the PACE 3, especially at full retail price ($200).
Here are the unique features on the FR55.
Stay secure with Incident Detection and LiveTrack
If you exercise alone, Garmin’s Incident Detection and LiveTrack can help you stay safe. Incident Detection will alert your emergency contacts if the watch detects abnormal activity during runs, walks, and bike rides. 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. You can find replacements for LiveTrack (like Strava), but it’s harder to replicate Incident Detection.
You can use Strava for live location tracking if you go with COROS, but it’s harder to find a replacement for Incident Detection.
Create smart race strategies with PacePro
The Forerunner 55 has PacePro, which helps you pace your runs and races. You can create your own course or search for an existing one. 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.
Get audio prompts during workouts
While you’re exercising, you can also get Audio Prompts from the Garmin Connect app on your phone, which will announce your pace, lap number, and other preferred data.
This can be especially convenient in cold weather, as you don’t have to roll up your sleeve to check your data.
Structure your training with Suggested Runs
The FR55 can give you daily Suggested Run prompts to improve your fitness. These workouts are based on your, VO2 Max, Recovery Time, sleep data, and recent training history.
Track more specific gym activities
If you spend a lot of time in the gym, you may want specific activity profiles for your workouts. The Forerunner 55 has tracking profiles for HIIT, Elliptical Training, Stair Stepping, Yoga, and Pilates.
On the PACE 3, you only have Gym Cardio or GPS Cardio as a substitute for these activities. You can edit the activity name after your workout, but you may not get activity-specific metrics like Respiration Rate for yoga.
More everyday lifestyle and fitness features
There are a handful of features that are unique to the Garmin ecosystem, including:
- Shoe mileage: tracks this do you know when to replace your shoes (this is also in Strava if you decide to go with COROS).
- Stress: monitors stress levels 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 Pick the COROS PACE 3
At $230, the PACE 3 is one of the best-value watches out there. It tracks a wide range of activities usually only seen on more expensive watches, has more advanced training metrics, and fantastic battery life.
Here are some reasons to choose it over the FR55.
Wider range of activity tracking profiles
The PACE 3 tracks these activities that the FR55 doesn’t: trail running, open water, triathlon/multisport, hiking, skiing, snowboarding, XC skiing, paddleboarding, rowing, cardio with GPS, strength, jump rope, and indoor rowing.
More accurate tracking modes
If you’re running in areas with spottier GPS signal, you may want to opt for the PACE 3 since it has All Systems On and Dual Frequency tracking modes.
All Systems On lets the PACE 3 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.
Dual Frequency is the even more powerful option that allows your watch to get L1 and L5 frequency signals, improving tracking accuracy.
Almost double the battery life
The PACE 3 lasts almost twice as long as the FR55 in smartwatch mode and GPS mode. If you don’t want to charge your watch often, or you plan to do ultra races, this extra battery life will make a difference.
|All Systems On mode
|Dual Frequency mode
Lighter and easier to wear
While watches with great battery life are often bigger, the PACE 3 is actually one of the lightest GPS watches out there when paired with the default nylon band. It weighs 30g, while the Forerunner 55 weighs 37g. That said, the PACE 3 with a silicone band is actually slightly heaver than the FR55 at 39g.
Of course, both watches are relatively light and comfortable to wear compared to others out there. But if you really don’t want to notice your watch, the PACE 3 with the nylon band is the way to go.
Larger display size
While the weights of the watches are very similar with a silicone band, the PACE 3 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.
More running performance metrics
If you want to go after PRs, the PACE 3 has more performance metrics, including:
- Training Status (how your training has impacted your overall fitness)
- Training Load (volume of your training)
- Running Power (intensity of your run)
There’s also a recommended weekly training load, which takes into account your past training history, and even factors in “down” weeks every 3 weeks for optimal recovery.
I’ve also found COROS’ Race Predictor much more accurate than Garmin’s, which always overestimates my fitness. You can read more about this in my in-depth Garmin vs. COROS comparison, where I wore a watch from both ecosystems for a year.
Stay on-course with breadcrumb navigation
If you do a lot of trail runs or hikes, you may appreciate the PACE 3’s breadcrumb navigation, which allows you to upload a GPX file and send it to your watch. You’ll then be able to see the course on your watch and get deviation alerts.
Touchscreen you can enable or disable
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 55 doesn’t have a touchscreen; you’d have to go up to the 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.
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.
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 Summer 2021 release, which gave users more running performance metrics (such as Marathon Level and Training Load). 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.
The Bottom Line
At their retail prices, the PACE 3 ($230) is much better value than the FR55 ($200). However, if you need the everyday health metrics, pacing, or safety features on Garmin, it may be worth choosing the FR55 over the PACE 3. You can also find the FR55 used for around $125 on platforms like eBay, Poshmark, or Mercari (the Poshmark and Mercari links are referral links with a $10 coupon btw!). At that price, the FR55 is pretty good value.
Otherwise, the PACE 3 is definitely packed with more features, including more outdoor tracking profiles, almost double the battery life, more accurate tracking modes, breadcrumb navigation, and more.
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 3
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 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).
Let us know what you ultimately end up picking, and feel free to leave any questions in the comments!
You may also find these posts helpful: