Garmin Vivoactive 5 vs. COROS PACE 3: I Tried Both

Garmin Vivoactive 5 and COROS PACE 3 side by side

The Garmin Vivoactive 5 and COROS PACE 3 are two entry-level GPS watches with pretty major differences. I’m here to help you make a decision: I’ve had the chance to use loaners of both watches for 3 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 🙂

Things in Common: Vivoactive 5 and PACE 3

Side views of the COROS PACE 3 and Garmin Vivoactive 5

Before we dive into the differences between the Vivoactive 5 and PACE 3, here’s what they have in common, so you can know exactly what features you’re getting.

Size: Both have a 1.2″ display, around a 42mm case size, and weigh under 40g with the silicone band. I have small wrists and they’re both easy to wear.

Fitness tracking for common activities: Both watches have a variety of outdoor and indoor tracking profiles. You can also create interval workouts.

CategoryActivity Profiles
RunningRun, Indoor Run
BikingBike, Indoor Bike
SwimmingPool Swim, Open Water Swim
MultisportTriathlon, Multisport
OutdoorsWalk, Ski, Snowboard, XC Ski, Flatwater, Rowing
GymStrength, Cardio, Indoor Rowing

More accurate tracking: both watches have All Systems tracking mode that allows you to get access to multiple satellite systems 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).

Heart rate sensor of the Garmin Vivoactive 5 and COROS PACE 3

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 Vivoactive 5

Garmin Vivoactive 5 run summary

The Vivoactive 5 was released in September 2023 and retails at $300. It features a crisp AMOLED display, touchscreen, and many lifestyle/daily fitness metrics.

Here are reasons to pick the Vivoactive 5 over the PACE 3.

1. Better touchscreen

While both watches have a touchscreen, the Vivoactive 5’s is more responsive and has less of a delay (the PACE 3 has a Memory-in-Pixel display type, which causes the slight delay compared to what you’d see on a smartphone).

You actually need to use the touchscreen to navigate the Vivoactive 5 (the PACE 3’s can be disabled or restricted for specific situations). While touchscreens can be trickier in certain settings (like cold weather), they tend to be more intuitive to use.

There’s one thing to look out for, though: I actually feel that the Vivoactive 5’s touchscreen is too responsive. There were a handful of times I ended runs on accident when I paused my watch at a stoplight, and then my hand accidentally brushed the watch face when I was trying to start the activity back up. This felt a bit like a user design flaw, as a confirmation screen before saving a run could’ve prevented this.

For the record, I never had this issue with my old Vivoactive 3 Music, as well as the loaner Vivoactive 4S I tested. I think this is due to the new screen design where the bezel is much less prominent and the touchscreen curves out more.

Of course, you can set the touchscreen to autolock during an activity, but there’ll be a slight delay when stopping your watch, as you’ll need to use the start/stop button to unlock the screen.

2. Looks and acts more like a lifestyle smartwatch

Sleep metrics on the Garmin Vivoactive 5

The Vivoactive 5 looks more like smartwatch than the PACE 3. The screen is a lot brighter and crisper thanks to the AMOLED display (the same thing you see in your phone). You can also customize the screen brightness on Garmin watches, while you can’t on COROS watches.

The design also feels more like a smartwatch, as the silicone band is smooth and reminiscent of the Apple watch bands. It also has smartwatch features like contactless payments via Garmin Pay.

In the same vein, there are more daily lifestyle features, such as:

  • Sleep Coach—tells you how much sleep to aim for based on your age, activities, sleep history, and HRV.
  • Menstrual cycle tracking
  • Body Battery—your energy levels based on heart rate variability, stress, and activity.

3. Can connect to Spotify Premium

Spotify playlists on the Vivoactive 5
My brother’s Spotify playlists because I don’t use Spotify enough to buy Premium haha

On the Vivoactive 5, you can connect to Spotify Premium, Amazon Music, Deezer, or iHeartRadio to download your playlists and play them from your watch over Bluetooth headphones. No need to bring your phone on your runs! You can also download MP3 files as well.

While the PACE 3 can carry MP3 files, it can’t connect to any music apps, and it’s unlikely this will change (you need to be a massive company to get contracts with music streaming platforms).

4. Wider range of tracking profiles (especially team sports)

If you play a wide range of sports, you may prefer the Vivoactive 5’s wide range of built-in tracking profiles. They include:

CategorySport
BikingeBiking, Handcycling, Indoor Handcycling
RacquetTennis, Pickleball, Badminton, Squash, Table Tennis, Padel, Platform Tennis, Racquetball
TeamBasketball, Volleyball, Field Hockey, Ice Hockey, Football/Soccer, American Football, Lacrosse, Rugby, Ultimate Disc, Cricket, Softball, Baseball
Misc.Indoor Track Running, Disc Golf, Snowshoeing, Boxing, Mixed Martial Arts

Note that the PACE 3 allows you to create custom activities, and there are also the catch-all Gym Cardio or GPS Cardio tracking profiles. However, there may be some activity-specific metrics you’ll miss out on (in particular, the Vivoactive 5 is optimized for Disc Golf and has a bunch of extra features like yardage and course targets).

5. Stay safe with Incident Detection and LiveTrack

For those who often run alone and are concerned about safety, the Vivoactive 5 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 (like a fall) during your run, walk, hike, or bike ride. 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.

Reasons to Pick the COROS PACE 3

COROS PACE 3 on wrist in direct sunlight

The PACE 3 was released in August 2023 and retails at $230. Don’t be fooled by its light weight and low retail price—it has plenty of in-depth performance metrics.

Here are reasons to pick the PACE 3 over the Vivoactive 5.

1. Double the battery life

COROS is famous for its incredible battery life, and there’s no exception here. It’s intuitive that the PACE 3 would last much longer than the Vivoactive 5, as AMOLED displays are battery-intensive.

You get over 3 weeks of battery life in smartwatch mode on the PACE 3, which is possibly the absolute best you’ll get at this price point/watch size. Of course, depending on how much activity tracking you do, the actual battery life will be shorter, but it’s still fantastic.

When you put the Vivoactive 5 in gesture mode, it lasts up to 11 days for regular use. If you prefer the display to be always on, that cuts the battery life in about half.

Here’s a comparison table of the battery life in different modes:


Vivoactive 5PACE 3
Regular Use11 days*24 days
GPS Mode21 hours38 hours
All Systems Mode17 hours25 hours
Dual Frequency ModeN/A15 hours
All Systems with Music8 hours9 hours
*This is in gesture mode; for screen always-on mode, it’s 5 days

Note: All Systems is a more accurate tracking mode that lets you connect to 5 satellite systems at once.

2. Tracks trail running, hiking, and track running (+ has navigation)

Run summary on the COROS PACE 3 after a trail run

Weirdly, the Vivoactive 5 doesn’t have trail running or hiking mode despite having tons of other, more obscure, tracking profiles (I’m guessing it’s the lack of barometric altimeter, which I’ll get into later). The COROS PACE 3 has both trail running and hiking, however.

On COROS, the main differences between trail running mode and normal running mode are the following:

  • Trail running mode tracks 3D distance, taking into account your elevation gain along with 2D distance
  • The resume later option lets you take long breaks between stages of runs
  • Trail runs don’t impact your performance metrics like Race Predictor/Running Fitness

Hike mode is similar to Walk mode, but mileage is the primary measurement/activity alert instead of step count. You can also see real-time elevation gain/loss.

One other feature of the PACE 3 that supports trail running and hiking is its breadcrumb navigation. You can download GPX files and save them to your watch, or create your own courses in the COROS app. You’ll be able to navigate during activities and get deviation alerts. The Vivoactive 5 doesn’t have navigation at all.

Finally, the Vivoactive 5 has Indoor Track running, but not Outdoor, which is another bizarre exclusion. The PACE 3 has outdoor track running, and you can also adjust the distances to the lane you’re in.

3. Get in-depth performance metrics

The PACE 3 is more of a performance watch compared to the lifestyle-oriented Vivoactive 5. On the PACE 3, you get these helpful 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: intensity of your run

The Vivoactive also has Recovery Time, but it doesn’t have the other metrics. It does, however, track HRV Status, which can help inform your training. HRV (heart rate variability) measures the length of time between consecutive heartbeats. 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.

4. More accurate Dual Systems tracking mode

COROS PACE 3 with tracking options of GPS Only, All Systems On, and Dual Frequency

While both the Vivoactive 5 and PACE 3 have All Systems mode for tracking, the PACE 3 also has Dual Frequency mode. This mode not only lets you connects to 5 satellite systems at a time, but also lets you connect to them in two frequencies.

Dual Frequency helps with accuracy in extra-tricky areas like cities with tall buildings, or more remote areas with spottier signal.

5. Has a barometric altimeter

Barometric data on the COROS PACE 3

Strangely, the older Vivoactive 4 had a barometric altimeter, but the newer version doesn’t. As a result, the Vivoactive 5 doesn’t track daily floors climbed, and its elevation readings may be less accurate, particularly on trails where GPS precision isn’t as good.

The PACE 3 has a barometric altimeter, and you can get real-time elevation readings in relevant activities like trail running and hiking. There’s also real-time barometric data on the watch as well as a storm alert.

The Bottom Line

If you want a lifestyle-oriented watch with an AMOLED screen and ability to connect to Spotify Premium, the Vivoactive 5 is a better choice. You also get a wider range of built-in sport profiles (especially team sports) as well as Incident Detection to keep you safe during your activities.

However, if you do endurance sports and care more about optimizing your performance, the PACE 3 will better suit your needs, given its incredible battery life and training metrics. You’ll also be able to track trail running, hiking, and track running.

Personally, as a marathoner who occasionally hits the trails, I would go for the PACE 3. But if I ran only on roads and did fewer miles per week, then the Vivoactive 5 would be fine. The Vivoactive 3 Music was actually my first GPS watch, and it worked for marathon training (though I did more cross-training than running at the time, so I didn’t have to charge my watch as often).

Finally, you should know that there are a handful of other differences between the two watch ecosystems, so I encourage you to check out my full Garmin vs. COROS review where I wore both for a year and compared the metrics.

Where to Buy the Vivoactive 5 and 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:

Vivoactive 5

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).

Amazon

Vivoactive 5

PACE 3

Other retailers

Swappa (used electronics)
REI
eBay


If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments. Also let us know what you decided on and why!

You may find these other posts helpful:

Forerunner 55 vs. PACE 3
Forerunner 255 vs. PACE 3

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