The Coros Apex is a serious sports watch that’s built for data buffs. Working on increasing your cadence? Want to check your training load for the week? It’s all there, at your fingertips.
The Apex isn’t intended to compete with an Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy Watch for space on your wrist; this is a watch designed specifically for running. cycling and swimming. You won’t find any kind of payment system, Spotify connectivity or third-party apps here.
There are two sizes available, at slightly different prices. The 42mm model retails at $299.99 (about £240, AU$470), while the 46mm version costs $349.99 (about £280, AU$550). That's pretty pricey for a sports watch, though far less than Garmin's top-end Fenix range. So how does the Apex compare?
Whichever model you opt for, the Coros Apex sports a color LCD screen with tough sapphire glass. The band is silicone, as you'd expect from a multi-sport watch, with a quick-release mechanism for easy changing.
Navigation is provided by GPS, GLONASS and BDS to ensure the best possible coverage around the world, accompanied by a compass, gyroscope, altimeter and accelerometer for accurate activity tracking. An optical heart rate monitor on the back of the watch measures your pulse throughout the day, but there's no ECG here.
The watch is water resistant to 100 meters, making it suitable for both pool and open water swimming. Interestingly, it's supplied with a small packet of rubber plugs to insert over the charging socket (presumably in case you lose one). We'd expect the water/dust cover to be attached to the watch somehow, so this is an unusual choice.
Coros estimates battery life between 25 hours while in full GPS mode, and 24 days for regular casual use. We used the watch for several weeks, including regular runs, and only needed to charge it once.
The Coros Apex has a minimal, unfussy design that’s smart enough for everyday wear, with a round display and just two controls. The screen certainly won’t blow you away with its brightness, but in our tests it was easy to read at a glance in most lighting conditions.
That legibility was partly thanks to its size. The Coros Apex is available in two sizes – 46mm and 42mm, weighing 55.3g and 50.8g respectively. Our review model was the 46mm model with a white strap (other straps are available to buy separately) and we appreciated the extra screen real estate.
We were able to fasten the supplied strap snugly on the second tightest notch, and there’s so much data on offer (particularly if you opt for one of the more info-dense display options), all that space is welcome. Unless you have particularly tiny wrists, the larger option will serve you well.
The Apex doesn’t have a touchscreen; instead you interact with it via a button and a dial Coros calls the ‘digital knob’ (it’s a shame Apple got first dibs on the name ‘digital crown’). This is more robust feeling than the digital crown on the Apple Watch, making it easier to control on the move. You turn the dial to move between menu options (the watch gives a satisfying haptic buzz as you do so) and press it to confirm your selection.
The button below takes you back to the previous screen, allows you to pause during workouts, and lets you skip to the next session in interval training mode. It’s an intuitive system, and after a couple of runs it’ll become second nature.
We particularly like the way the Coros Apex locks itself automatically (after two minutes in standby mode or 10 seconds in active mode), so there’s no risk of accidentally stopping the GPS tracking mid-run when adjusting a sleeve. It’s small touches like this that mark the Apex out as a watch designed with athletes in mind – a fact that’s all the more apparent once you check your data in the Coros app.
Connecting the watch to your phone takes a matter of moments, and you can have multiple Coros devices linked to a single handset. You can set yourself daily goals for burning a certain number of calories, working out for a particular length of time, or taking a minimum number of steps, but the app really comes into its own when it's time to analyze your workouts
Each day’s activity is presented as a series of simple graphs, which you can expand with a tap for a closer look at your stats. Interesting stuff, but the Coros app really comes into its own when tracking your workouts. Not only can you see detailed maps of your recent runs, together with your pace and heart rate, the app also tracks your cadence and estimates your stride length; brilliant if you’re trying to increase your cadence in training, and avoid over-striding.
Over time, the Intelligent Stride Algorithm will build up a picture of your running style so it can accurately measure your running in places with limited GPS connectivity, such as tunnels.
The app also provides you with a breakdown of how long you spent in each heart rate zone – a feature that’s steadily making its way to other fitness trackers, and has just made its debut in the Fitbit 4.
The Coros app connects to Strava (so making the jump from a different fitness tracker is effortless), plus TrainingPeaks to help you create and stick to training plans.
We loved the app's overall design, too. It's bright, brash and lively enough to bring a huge volume of data to life. It's just a shame that the watch itself doesn't deliver such a burst of color; dialling up the brightness would take it from excellent to outstanding.
Buy it if...
You're a serious sportsperson
The Coros Apex is particularly great for runners thanks to features like its cadence sensor and stride length calculator, but it's also excellent for all kinds of sports. Its range of positioning technologies ensure you'll get accurate readings, whether you're cycling, hiking or snowboarding.
You love the outdoors
The Apex's navigation features make it a great choice for exploring new routes, and its robust design (including that handy digital knob) mean it's tough enough to survive sweat, spills and being dunked in a lake.
Don't buy it if...
You're looking for a general-purpose smart watch
If you need a watch that's essentially an extension of your smartphone, this probably isn't the device for you. There's no built-in payment system or music player, and it doesn't offer voice controls. It looks smart enough for everyday wear, but if you're not planning to get sweaty on a regular basis then an Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy Watch will serve you better.
- Check out our full list of the best running watches of 2020