Last Updated on January 31, 2022 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
The COROS APEX 46mm GPS watch was my birthday gift to myself last year. I won’t lie…it was a purchase that I danced around for months before finally hitting the “submit order” button online. Because change from what I’ve become accustomed to? It sometimes scares me.
But of course, this COROS APEX Review has to start with a short back story:
Very soon after I began pursuing long distance running as an adult (nearly 16 years ago), I purchased my first GPS watch. It was a big, red, clunky Garmin Forerunner that I absolutely adored. Back then I couldn’t get over the fact that there was wearable technology available that allowed me to know not only the pace I was running, but the distance I covered, without having to later follow the same route with my car and it’s trip odometer. It made me feel like a real, honest to goodness, dedicated runner.
Since then I’ve owned and used a half dozen or more various GPS watches. Thanks to this very blog, I have had the opportunity to review a number of different brands of running and endurance specific GPS watches, from brands like Motorola, TomTom, and Timex. But I always kept coming back to Garmin, working my way through updated models of the forerunner over the years.
But eventually, my constant gripes about shortcomings with Garmin were getting old. I heard more and more chatter about a newer GPS brand on the market, COROS, and started to do some research. And eventually, I settled on the COROS APEX 46mm.
Nearly one full year later, with thousands of miles of running, mountain biking, kayaking, swimming, and more logged on the watch, I’m ready to give you my full review.
COROS APEX 46mm GPS Watch: Technical Specs & Features
Before we get into the full COROS APEX review, let’s get all of the technical specs and features
As of the date of publishing this post, COROS offers 5 different GPS watches:
- VERTIX 2
- APEX Pro
- APEX (in 46mm and 42mm sizes)
- Pace 2 (in the standard version or the Eliud Kiphoge special edition)
To be completely transparent, I ended up choosing the APEX because it offered what I was looking for in a GPS watch at an affordable price. It felt like a good “middle of the road” option (no pun intended on that one).
What’s the Difference Between the APEX 46mm & the 42mm?
The major difference between the COROS APEX 46mm and the 42mm is the size of the battery, which in turn, affects the size of the watch itself.
The APEX 46mm dimensions are 46 x 46 x 11.9mm, coming in at a weight of 55.3 g with the silicone band that the watch comes with. The APEX 42mm measures in at 42 x 42 x 11.75mm, with a weight of 49 g including the silicone band.
I Have Tiny Wrists, is the COROS APEX 46mm Going to Be Too Big?
This was a concern of mine as well. I have freakishly small children sized wrists. Back in the hey-day of “Livestrong” bracelets, I wore one designed for – I kid you not – a “Build-A-Bear”. So the size of the 46mm compared to the 42mm was a concern for me as well. Ultimately, I wanted the larger battery, so I took a chance with the 46mm.
(For comparison, the VERTIX 2 measures in at 50.3 x 50.3 x 15.7mm and 89g…significantly bigger than the APEX series)
Personally I found the bezel and watch face of the COROS APEX 46mm to fit just fine, and not feel too big. However, the silicone band the watch came with was indeed too big, with the smallest holes on the watch band still being too loose for my wrist.
Fortunately, when I purchased my watch, I was able to snag an additional silicone band in a different color under their “accessories” tab. The additional band was different than the one that came with the watch, and had adjustment holes running up and down the entire length of the band. This one fit.
Now, back to the aforementioned battery. A bigger battery means…you guessed it, longer battery life. Compare the stats between the APEX 46mm and the 42mm:
- 35 Hours in normal GPS mode
- 100 Hours in UltraMax mode
- 30 days in regular use mode
- 25 hours in normal GPS mode
- 80 hours in UltraMax mode
- 24 days in regular use mode
What is UltraMax mode?
According to COROS, UltraMax GPS mode utilizes GPS, motion sensors, and proprietary algorithms to extend the battery life during outdoor running workouts without sacrificing too much of the tracking accuracy. For every 120 seconds, the GPS is switched on for 30 seconds. COROS’ Intelligent Stride algorithm along with motion sensors will kick in for the remaining 90 seconds.
Hit the workout button on your COROS APEX 46 or 42 mm watch and you’ll find there is no shortage of workout modes, including:
- Indoor Run
- Track Run
- Trail Run
- Mountain Climb
- Indoor Bike
- Pool Swim
- Open Water
- Indoor Rower
- Gym Cardio
- GPS Cardio
- XC Ski
- Ski Touring
- Training Plan
That…is a lot of options. Fortunately, you can go into the workout menu setting under “customization” on the COROS app, and hide the modes you don’t currently need, which will temporarily move them from your watch. For example, I don’t anticipate needing the “ski” modes anytime soon here in Myrtle Beach.
The COROS app lets you easily and seamlessly create workouts to send directly to your watch, so that you can focus on the workout itself, and not constantly eyeballing the watch screen to see if your interval is nearly up.
You can also do this in the COROS Training Hub, which is COROS’ exclusive training app, comparable to Training Peaks or Final Surge (more in depth review on this, coming soon.)
COROS EVOLab Data:
According to COROS, EvoLab is the revamped COROS sports science platform, which analyzes personal fitness, fatigue, and performance evaluations to help maximize training efforts and efficiently achieve fitness goals. This data includes:
- 24/7 heart rate monitoring with an optical HR monitor
- Sleep monitoring
- Recovery indicator
- VO2 Max
- Training Load
- Threshold Pace
If you are a data nerd (like me) there is NO shortage of stats to look at on the EvoLab platform, both on desktop in the Training Hub (pictured below) or the COROS app on your phone.
Other Notable Features of the APEX 46 & 42mm Watch:
- Water Resistant up to10ATM (100 Meters/328 Feet)
- Charging time: Less than 2 Hours
- Barometric Altimeter, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, & Compass
- Back-To-Start navigation & Breadcrumb navigation
- Bluetooth phone connection, capable of receiving notifications
- ANT+/Bluetooth accessory compatible
- 3rd Party Integration (Strava, TrainingPeaks, etc)
A Detailed, One Year, COROS Apex Review:
Now that we’ve covered the technical and feature highlight of the COROS APEX (46mm & 42mm), it’s time for me to do what I do best: ramble on about my opinion of the watch.
As noted, I purchased the COROS APEX 46mm watch for myself, for my birthday, last year. I’ve used it exclusively as my sole GPS watch, and sole day-to-day watch ever since, and wear it almost 24/7, except for when it’s charging.
Now that the watch and I have really gotten to know each other, here’s what I think:
What I Love About the COROS APEX 46mm GPS Watch:
To give you a little user background about myself, so you know what I’ve put this COROS APEX 46mm through during the last year. I regularly participate in and train for:
- Ultramarathons upwards of 100 miles. This is my “A” sport, if I had to pick one. I usually participate in upwards of a dozen races a year.
- Adventure Racing. Currently upwards of 12 hours, but my husband is eyeballing a 3 day expedition race for 2023, and thus, we train accordingly (mountain biking, kayaking, purposefully getting lost in the woods, etc.
- Strength Training. I’m a gym rat, and I love spending time in the weight room. On average, you kind find me in the gym about 4 times a week, for about 60-90 minutes per session.
- “Other” stuff. Basketball with the teenager? Stand up paddle boarding? Walks around the neighborhood? I generally don’t like to sit still.
I’m a positive person, so let’s start with the features I absolutely LOVE about my COROS APEX:
The battery life on the COROS APEX 46mm is absolutely insane. Even with using it every single day, between running workouts, gym workouts, and just general day-to-day use, I’d estimate I only have to charge it…maybe…every two to three weeks? That’s 14-21 days worth of charge.
Long gone are the days where I have to charge my GPS watch every other day, or worse, head out for a run with a GPS that’s about to die. Even when I get the 10% battery life warming, I know I can still head out for an hour run and be fine.
As someone who has one of those brains going a million different directions at once, no longer having to worry about charging my GPS watch every day or two has been awesome.
How Can the Battery on The COROS APEX Last That Long?
It’s my understanding that COROS extends the battery life in a number of ways, such as:
- Only monitoring heart rate outside of a workout every ten minutes
- Not having storage room for things like music, or payment solutions (like Garmin Pay)
Will the COROS APEX Battery Last During a 100 Miler?
I have used the COROS APEX 46mm for one 100 mile ultramarathon so far. I ended up charging it during a 20 minute stint where I sat around mid race (because a literal tornado was blowing through). I had zero battery issues, and was able to record my entire run.
I paid $349 for the COROS APEX 46mm. The features on this watch and the battery life are comparable to that of Garmin watches that cost twice as much, if not more.
Running and adventuring are what bring me joy, and therefore, I have no qualms spending money on related gear or event registration fees. But, I loathe the idea of spending hundreds of dollars more on features I don’t necessarily need or care about in a GPS watch. I appreciate that COROS offers a premium watch that has everything I need, at a fraction of the cost.
Because I’m a total data nerd, I always like to compare various wearables to other wearables.
I have run with the COROS APEX as well as my old Garmin 235 (before it totally bit the dust) and found the distances to be identical.
I have worn the COROS APEX and a Polar Grit X with a chest strap, and compared heart rate data. They were identical.
The indoor run mode accuracy – even without a footpod – is pretty damn close to the readout on my treadmill.
I consistently receive nearly identical distance data running identical routes through my neighborhood or local trails.
And at races? The COROS APEX gives me near exact distance data compared to what the race director advertised. (Unless, of course, it’s Chad Haffa and an Eagle Endurance Race. But, that’s to be expected, and it his defense, he does add “ish” behind the advertised distances.)
Ease of Use
I won’t lie, there was a learning curve in understanding how the COROS APEX work, but that’s only because I personally came into this relationship pre-conditioned to use a Garmin.
But, once I set my “old ways” aside, it was not difficult to figure out how to use the watch.
In fact one of my favorite features is that there are only two buttons. One includes both a push button and a twist bezel type function, and the other is simply a push button. This limits the confusion, especially when I’m exhausted during a race or at the end of a workout.
Never once have I not been able to connect to a satellite.
Never once have I gone to start a workout only to be told the memory on the watch was full.
Never once have I looked at my watch, only to notice it randomly shut down or restart, or who knows what.
I won’t mention what other products I constantly have had these issues with…but I’m glad they are not something I deal with using my COROS Apex.
While “constant updates” may seem annoying, from a user perspective I actually really appreciate it. COROS is constantly working to update their firmware and improve their products.
Unlike so many other tech gear items, these constant updates don’t make your GPS watch obsolete. Quite the opposite: in the past year since I got my COROS Apex, the firmware in the watch has continuously updated to provide me with more and more features than what it was capable of when I first bought it.
The updates never inhibit the use of the COROS. So if I delay clicking that “update firmware” notification on my COROS app, it has no effect on what my watch is able to do during a workout or run.
I truly appreciate that the people over at COROS are constantly working to improve their products for their users.
I’m not going to lie: I am rough on my gear. When I purchase any sort of adventure or training gear, it’s done with the intention that I will USE it. (Which is the main reason I tend to buy most of my previously-expensive-gym apparel, like Lululemon, etc. on Poshmark. It’s less disheartening when I fall during a trail race and rip a hole in $110 tights the first time I wear them, when I know I only paid $30 for them.)
That said, I have worn this watch through:
- trail runs
- long distance kayaking
- pool swimming
- bushwhacking (aka “jungle bashing” according to Nathan Fa’avae)
- mountain biking (and falling off of my mountain bike)
- in the weight room
I wear it almost every single day as my daily watch. Through salt water, swamp water, extreme heat and humidity, snow, and LIFE in general, it has endured. The watch band is slightly faded, but the watch face remains unblemished (and I’ve lost count how many times I’ve accidentally slammed it against a door frame or the corner of my desk). Structurally, the watch is in perfect working condition.
COROS has an official users group on Facebook, that is moderated and frequented by some of the COROS developers. If you have a question, they are almost immediately there to help. And if you have suggestions, they are listening (this lends to the aforementioned constant updates).
And finally, it’s a good looking watch. Which, if you know me, is something kind of hilarious for me to say. I’m almost always clad in gym clothes, my wedding ring is made of silicone, and I’m a 39 year old woman who doesn’t own makeup. I don’t really care about aesthetics.
BUT, the COROS Apex 46 doesn’t necessarily LOOK like a clunky multisport watch, making it less strange that I wear it 24/7.
There’s also endless watch faces you can add to your screen, if that’s something you want to personalize.
My Personal “CONS” of the COROS APEX 46mm:
As with any review, you’ve got to share the cons in addition to the pros. And I do have a few complaints to add to my COROS APEX review.
No Run/Walk Option for the Trail Run Setting
I appreciate that the COROS APEX offers a specific trail run setting. It’s my understanding that in this setting, the watch will default to using 3D distance instead of standard distance, which can improve accuracy on trails. Especially if your trails look anything like ours: short, punchy “bumps” (I hesitate to even call them inclines) and tight, endless switchbacks (think: mountain bike trails).
BUT, when doing much longer training runs for ultramarathon training (25 miles or longer) I personally prefer to utilize a run/walk method. There is a run/walk interval option in the standard running mode, but it’s not available in the Trail Run setting.
Speaking of trail running…
Initial EVOLab Data Relies on the Standard Run Mode
The aforementioned EVOLab data is neat to track over time. However, as it stands now, only workouts performed in the “Run” or “Track Run” mode will contribute data to the initial EVOLab estimates (you can learn more about that on the COROS support page: “Can I Still Use EVOLab if I am Not a Runner?”)
Further, only “Flat road running” workouts in Run or Track Run mode will contribute to the Running Performance metric, which affects your VO2 max, Marathon level, and other metrics. Take a peek at my data, where I have a gap in my EVOLab data, even though that “gap” included a 9 hour ultramarathon, a few gym workouts, and a and a 18+ mile mountain bike ride.
Point being, there are big workouts that possibly may contribute to or detract from, overall fitness, that are NOT being taken into consideration in these metrics.
Ultimately, I’ll be the first to tell you that these don’t necessarily matter, and a watch can’t tell you your VO2 max in the first place. But, again, as a data nerd, I do like having consistency.
Strength Training Mode is Too Complex
The strength training mode on the COROS attempts to count reps of each set of strength training exercises through arm movements. On their website, COROS states:
“For legs/hips or core training, it is recommended to add arm movements so that the watch can count reps correctly. Without arm movements, the watch won’t be able to detect any legs/hips or core training. “
No thank you.
As someone who takes my strength training as seriously as my running, I will absolutely not be compromising my form on moves by flailing my arms around in order to try and count reps.
My workaround? I simply use the “GYM CARDIO” mode to track my overall heart rate and time spent during that lifting session.
It’s important to note here: I didn’t buy the COROS APEX for gym use anyway. I purchased it for running and other endurance sports. So I’m not super disappointed by this one.
Menstrual Cycle Tracking
This is the ONE thing I miss from Garmin. Seriously, the only thing. About six months before switching over to COROS, I began taking advantage of the menstrual cycle tracking feature in Garmin Connect. It truly was a helpful metric to have along side of my other performance metrics to help me understand the effect my cycle had on my workouts.
COROS APEX Review Final Thoughts:
Overall, I’m INCREDIBLY pleased with my purchase (happy birthday to me!) and decision to switch from Garmin to COROS. My top three concerns for personal use with GPS watches are:
- Reliability/Accuracy. What good is a GPS watch if it doesn’t reliable function the way it’s supposed to, and provide accurate data?
- Battery life. I’m an ultra endurance athlete. I need a watch that lasts just as long as I do.
- Durability. I’m rough on my gear. I don’t want to have to replace something like a GPS watch on a yearly basis.
The COROS APEX 46mm scores 5 out of 5 stars on all of those bullet points, making me one happy athlete. The icing on the cake, for me, is the fact that COROS is constantly working to keep their products not only up-to-date, but are working hard to make their products THE BEST on the market. And I’m glad to be a part of that.
10 out of 10, I would recommend COROS to anyone.
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.