Coros is known in the cycling community for its smart helmets, but the company also makes a range of durable GPS sports watches and fitness trackers. The Apex, which starts at $299.99, is designed for outdoor sports like biking, hiking, running, skiing, snowboarding, swimming, and triathlons. It tracks distance, elevation, heart rate, heart rate zone, pace, stride, time, training effect, and more, and its app displays beautiful graphs and offers a wealth of information to help you interpret the data. If you’re looking for actionable insights about how to improve your outdoor sports training, the Coros Apex is a solid companion and our Editors’ Choice.
Price, Design, Features, and Setup
In terms of price and features, the Apex sits in the middle of the Coros watch lineup, between the $199.99 Pace and the $699.99 Vertix. The Apex costs $299.99 for the 42mm model, and $349.99 for the 46mm version.
The 42mm model features a stainless steel bezel, a 1.1-inch color LCD, and comes in three colors: black and gray, gold and purple, or silver and white. The 46mm model features a titanium alloy bezel, a 1.2-inch LCD, and comes in black and gray, midnight black, or white. Both models have a classic round watch design, a sapphire glass lens, and come with a sturdy, comfortable silicone band.
The silver and white model is my favorite, but Coros sent me the 42mm black and gray one to review. Even the smaller 42mm model is a bit on the bulky side for my taste, though my boyfriend thinks the Apex is one of the best looking fitness trackers he’s seen.
The 42mm model weighs 1.7 ounces, which feels pretty light on my wrist, and the 46mm version is 1.95 ounces. Both are around 0.46 inches thick, making them a bit heavier, but around the same thickness as the Garmin Forerunner 735XT, another triathlete-friendly tracker.
As for sensors, the Apex has an accelerometer, a compass, a gyroscope, a continuous optical heart rate monitor, a barometric altimeter for elevation readings, and a compass. For navigation, it has GPS and GLONASS satellite connections. There’s also a $500 Apex Pro model that adds a Pulse Ox sensor and gets slightly longer battery life.
In terms of water resistance, the Apex has a 10ATM rating, meaning it can withstand depths of 328 feet. Coros says it’s suitable for swimming and open water activities, but it’s not meant for deep-water sports like scuba diving. I wore it several times in the shower and it held up fine.
The Apex lacks a touch screen, but on the right side of the circular display, there are two physical buttons that you use to navigate the interface. The top one is a digital knob/confirm button, and below that is a back button to return to the previous screen. Navigating the Apex took a little getting used to since I’m used to touch screens, but once I got the hang of the digital knob and buttons it wasn’t hard.
You can rotate the digital knob up and down to view your widgets, press the confirm button to access the workout menu, and long press the return button to enter the Toolbox. The Apex has widgets for barometer readings, your heart rate, elevation, the temperature, notifications, and an activity summary for the day.
The widgets are chock-full of information. The activity summary widget displays your calories burned, step count, exercise time, and floors climbed. There’s a bar showing your progress toward your daily calorie goal on the left side, and another showing your progress toward your exercise time goal on the right.
The heart rate widget shows your current beats per minute, along with a graph of your maximum, minimum, and average heart rate over the last six hours. You can also press the confirm button, then scroll to view your heart rate data over the last 24 hours. The device records your heart rate every 10 minutes during normal use, or every second during workouts.
From the Toolbox menu you can turn on Do Not Disturb mode, set alarms, manually take your heart rate, enable a battery-saving feature called UltraMax, and change the watch face from a small selection of options. There’s also a 3D compass, a timer, a stopwatch, a map, and a navigation feature that lets you follow a preloaded route on the watch when training or racing in unfamiliar locations.
The Apex syncs with several third-party apps including Strava, TrainingPeaks, Relive, and Final Surge. You can also pair it with ANT+ heart rate monitors, bike power meters, speed sensors, cadence sensors, and bike trainers.
Setting up the watch and getting it connected to your phone and the Coros app is simple. You turn it on by pressing the confirm button, download the Coros app (available for Android and iOS), and create an account. When creating your account, you enter your gender, birthday, height, and weight.
From there, press the watch icon at the bottom of the app, select Add New Device, choose Apex from the list, and use the in-app QR reader to scan the code on the Apex’s screen. Then, just follow the on-screen instructions to connect the Apex to your phone via Bluetooth, and you’re good to go.
Activity Tracking, Sleep Tracking, Battery Life
When setting up the Apex, the app asks you to select your training level (light, moderate, or hard), and set your daily calorie and exercise goals. I’m an average runner at best, so I selected the light training level, and went with the default recommendations of 153 calories and 39 minutes of exercise. If you find your exercise goals too easy, you can change them in the app. When you meet your daily goal, the Apex vibrates and shows a congratulatory message on its screen.
During setup, you also select a bedtime for sleep tracking, your target heart rate zones, and which apps can push notifications to your watch. I went with 11 p.m. for my bedtime, accepted the default heart rate zones (184 max heart rate, 60 resting, and 160 lactate threshold), and enabled notifications for all apps. In testing, the Apex did a good job displaying notifications from Coinbase, Slack, and Snapchat.
You can use the Apex to track some indoor activities like gym cardio, spinning, and pool swims, but it’s mostly geared toward outdoor sports. The Apex’s screen looks sharp and stays on all the time, so you can quickly glance down for the time without waking it, but it looks best in bright sunlight. Indoors, the screen is a bit dull and dark. Unfortunately, you can’t change the brightness level of the backlight. You can turn it off, but it’s it.
To start tracking a workout, press the confirm button, then scroll to select the type of activity you’re doing. There are options for AI trainer, bike, cross-country ski, GPS cardio, gym cardio, hike, indoor bike, indoor run, mountain climb, multisport, open water swim, pool swim, run, ski, ski touring, snowboard, track run, trail run, and triathlon.
While tracking a run, the Apex displays your distance, pace, and workout time. After every mile, it vibrates and shows your pace. Upon completing a run, it shows a comprehensive summary of your workout on the device itself, including your aerobic and anaerobic training effect, average pace, average stride length, average and max cadence, average and max heart rate, best mile time, calories burned, distance, total ascent and descent, and total workout time. It also shows the amount of time it will take for you to fully recover from your workout.
In the AI trainer section, it shows your stamina percentage, hours until recovery, and a list of your workouts. You can click into any workout to view your metrics for it. If you enjoy reviewing your stats after a workout, the Apex gives you plenty.
As for battery life, Coros says the 42mm Apex will last up to 24 days with normal use, 24 hours in full GPS mode, and 80 hours in UltraMax GPS mode, in which the GPS switches on for 30 seconds every two minutes (the rest of the time, it uses motion sensors and machine learning algorithms to track you). By comparison, the Garmin Forerunner 735XT lasts around 11 days with normal use, 14 hours with the GPS firing, or 24 hours using GPS with a battery-saving feature called UltraTrac, which disables the optical heart rate monitor. The Apex also outlasts the Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music, which gets seven days in smartwatch mode and five hours using the GPS and playing music via Bluetooth simultaneously.
In testing, the Apex’s battery lived up to its promises. After 24 hours, which included tracking two roughly 25-minute runs with GPS, the battery decreased just 10 percent.
While the Apex displays an impressive amount of metrics on the device itself, its excellent companion app has even more. It shows graphs of your active energy, exercise time, steps, heart rate, sleep, training load, and fitness level. The sleep graph shows the amount of time you spent in deep and light sleep, as well as your heart rate.
The app logs all your workouts and lets you view them by year and month. It also tracks your total run, cycle, and swim times. You can win medals for your performance, though I haven’t earned one yet.
After three runs, the app fills in two additional metrics: your lactate threshold and threshold pace. Often used by competitive athletes to evaluate their training load and fatigue, lactate threshold is the point at which lactate begins to accumulate in the blood faster than it can be removed, according to the app.
Threshold pace is “the fastest pace at which the body does not accumulate lactic acid significantly in the body during the workout.” The app says running at your threshold pace “is a great way to build up aerobic fitness and key to train for longer runs.” It said my threshold pace is 8 minutes and 46 seconds a mile, which seems reasonable.
The app also gives you a Fitness Level score, taking into account your lactate threshold, VO2 max (the “maximum amount of oxygen your body can utilize during training”), and workout efficiency. I got 33.4, which according to the app means I’m a recreational athlete, and have “some endurance built already.” The app recommended I do a training program designed to improve cardiovascular strength.
A Training Load graph indicates whether your past training was Minor, Low, Optimized, or Excessive. This is a nice feature that can help you gauge whether you should level up your training or turn it down a notch.
You can also use the app to change your watch face. There’s a good variety of options to choose from, some simple and others loaded with information. I like that they offer colorful and more subdued options to fit a range of styles. I went with Illustrator 2, which features a blue-green mountain design with the time, date, and my step count.
Comparisons and Conclusions
If you’re looking for a smartwatch with features like NFC for contactless payments and onboard music storage, the Coros Apex isn’t for you. If you’re a triathlete, runner, or endurance athlete looking for a sensor-packed sports watch that can give you loads of data about your performance and recommendations on how to improve your training, the Apex is a compelling option. It offers similar functionality to the Garmin Forerunner 735XT, with better battery life and a more stylish design, making it our Editors’ Choice. That said, if you don’t mind sacrificing battery life, the comparably priced Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music also offers advanced fitness metrics like VO2 max along with smart features like contactless payments and the ability to store songs locally.
Coros Apex Specs
|Heart Rate Monitor||Yes|
|Battery Life||24 days; 24 hours with GPS|