Gadgets; fantastic aren’t they? I’ve strongly resisted getting into cycling and/or triathlon because my wallet quite simply couldn’t handle the abuse. I jumped at the chance to test out the (relatively) new COROS Vertix 2 having seen a bit of media buzz, and remembering the great reviews on the earlier version, what had COROS crammed into this new watch?
- Battery Life: a major selling point of the Vertix 2, it uses a dual-frequency GNSS chipset claiming enhanced accuracy, offering an incredible 140 hours with Standard GPS or down to 50 hours if all satellite systems are turned on with continuous tracking (I test this later on).
- Three mapping layers; landscape, topo and hybrid (combining the two)
- 1.4-inch touchscreen (280 x 280 resolution)
- Wrist-based ECG
- Insta360 Camera control
- Music (store and playback)
- RRP: £599.99
What do you get in the box? The COROS Vertix 2 comes with its own rigid hard case. Whilst the idea is good and I’m sure some people will find a use for it, it seems a little over the top to me. Inside is just a few pieces of paper (start-up guide etc.), the watch, strap and charging cable.
The brushed stainless bezel looks great and clearly shows the COROS branding. This is not a small watch though and measures 50mm across (55mm including the buttons on the side) and nearly 16mm deep with a screen is 1.4” (35.6mm) sapphire glass, so it will look very large on the slim-wristed amongst us. The supplied orange strap clips easily onto the watch and has a textured/”knurled” finish. I really like this as it feels like it provides extra resistance against the strap slipping.
There are three buttons to get to grips with on the right-hand side;
- Top: Controls the back-light (although an update has since been released which allows this to be programmable)
- Central: unlocks the watch and is primarily the selection button. This button also has a dial around it which is used to scroll up and down any of the menus, the data pages during activities and allows you to zoom in and out of maps (much easier than the zoom functions on other watches)
- Bottom: back/cancel although holding it down opens up the Toolbox menu.
There’s a whole host of watch faces that you can add from the app, so you can customise to your own personal tastes, some of them look a bit wacky but you’ll be able to find something you like. It weighs in at 89g and I did find it a little bulky and heavy on my wrist. My current watch is a Garmin Fenix 6 Pro, so a fairer comparison to the Vertix 2 would be against the bigger 6X. However, I did notice the difference whilst running compared to the Fenix 6.
Set-up was simple after downloading the COROS app and I simply scanned a QR code on the watch and it was connected.
Starting an activity is as easy as you would expect: press the selection button that opens up the list of activities which covers a wide range of sports. I won’t repeat the list here but you’ll find everything you would expect including running, cycling, swimming, water sports, strength/gym and winter sports. Most activities have a few different types, for example indoor run, trail run and track run.
All of the data pages within an activity are fully customisable via the COROS app. You can have up to six data screens, each one containing up to eight data fields. The options are vast, although the very first thing I tried to add – maps – weren’t included as an option. The maps page only appears within an activity when you’re using it for navigation (see later for further details).
I like to keep things relatively simple and I found eight fields on the data screen a little busy and sometimes struggled to read the data description during a run. I prefer a leaner approach when it comes to live information. That’s personal choice though and that’s the point – you can programme the data screen to exactly how you want it.
One data field which seemed to give me great results was running pace. It seemed accurate and stable and this is something I’ve found inaccurate/variable on other watches, so it’s something I started to look at more and more whilst testing the Vertix 2.
I was initially a little dubious about the dial especially as it seemed to scroll everything in the opposite direction to what I expected intuitively, but thankfully I soon found a setting to reverse it. I’m sure others will be happy with the default setting and it just shows how our brains are wired differently. It was also relatively easy to operate even with gloves and easy to scroll through the data pages as you’d expect.
I compared some statistics with those of the Fenix 6, and key stats such as distance and elevation seemed consistent across both devices. That’s not to say that the Garmin is the “correct” benchmark, but a useful comparison. With all five satellite systems on the Vertix should provide better accuracy in areas with limited satellite visibility and this did seem consistent with my GPS traces.
The optical heart rate monitor works well and with a few simple tests (counting my pulse over a minute), the figures were precise.
Outside of an activity, scrolling the data wheel takes you through the “widget glances” covering steps, activity times, recovery, heart rate etc. Selecting one of the widget glances opens up more detailed pages for each activity which can be scrolled through via the touchscreen. It works fine but is only active on certain pages. The best feature for me was the ability to scroll around maps and also simply zoom in and out using the dial. This is much easier/quicker than competitor’s watches.
One of the major selling points (especially for ultrarunners) is the jaw-dropping battery life. We’ve probably all been there on extended activities with our watches plugged into battery chargers which just feels like an unwelcome distraction and something else to deal with whilst you’re trying to run an ultra. I’ve had the Vertix 2 a couple of months and I’ve barely had to plug it in. I’ve almost forgotten that it’s something you have to charge! It just lasts… and lasts. Popping out for a 5-hour run? You probably don’t even need to think about charging before you go.
Unfortunately (for me) during the review period I was struck down with Covid so had an extended period confined to the house. What better to do than test the battery life of the COROS! With a 50-hour claim with “all systems on”, and no ultra runs in my calendar, I placed the watch on my window sill, set it on a “run” and promptly forgot about it. 24 hours later I remembered and went to check and it was still ticking along. The battery was getting a lot lower around 30 hours in and then the next time I checked it was showing I needed to charge but the activity had stopped. I uploaded to the app and the activity had ran for 34 hours 54 mins, so I didn’t get the advertised time.
The standard GPS offers 140 hours which will be fantastic for those of us embarking on multi-day activities, or long weekends away with multiple activities without even thinking about having to put the watch on charge. Even with music playing at the same time with standard GPS you’d get 35 hours.
Navigation and maps
This seems to be a key feature for many ultrarunners giving us the ability to import GPX routes onto our watches to assist (or completely rely on for) navigation. Importing a route is straightforward: open the GPX file on your phone (choosing the COROS app) and it imports into your library.
The navigation is a matter of following your imported breadcrumb trail. Whilst this doesn’t have the same sophistication as some other watches with turn-by-turn directions, in practice I think it works fine. You can easily see if you’re beginning to veer off trail and it’s easy to see where to go at decision points (e.g. a fork in the path). It did seem to take a few seconds for the map to orient itself as you lift your wrist up to look at it which made quick glances a little difficult.
The maps are relatively basic, with no text included on them and their usefulness really seemed to depend on where you were. I run a lot in the Bleaklow area of the Peak District where quite often the terrain is barren with not much in the way of features to include on maps. Somewhat unexpectedly (in this area) the maps seemed to make a major feature of water courses but, in reality it was a network of groughs on the ground. Many paths were shown in the area but often somewhat faint on the watch screen for my liking when comparing to the maps on my other watch.
You only have to glance through the technical specs to see this watch is packed full of features. A few things I didn’t try are any interface with the Insta360 camera (I haven’t got one) or connection with any external sensors but I’ll note that the Ant+ connection has been removed/replaced with a single Bluetooth smart channel which will obviously affect some users who need that connection.
Throughout the review period there have been numerous firmware updates which have added all sorts of features including: Galileo (satellite system) support and Landscape, Topographic mapping for the Apex Pro / Vertix 1, walk mode, multi-pitch climbing mode, Strava route syncing, carabiner accessory (hardware), enhanced camera controls, customisable back-light button and others.
It’s clear that this watch (and older COROS watches) are well supported which is comforting to know when you’re investing a large sum of money in a watch.
Anything not so good?
As with any watch, there are going to be a few niggling issues. Whilst I found this with some features, thankfully with a quick bit of menu diving you’d find a setting to alter things to your preference.
Whilst the data pages are extensively customisable, there isn’t the ability to add maps as a data page unless you’ve selected navigation and are actively following a route. I quite often like to have a quick look at the maps whilst not actually navigating a route. You can do this, but it’s a little fiddly: go into the toolbox, scroll around to maps and select. Once you then exit the map screen you’d have to go through the same process to get back in. Thankfully, during the review period, an update was released that allows the top back-light to be programmable to access various features – one of which is a shortcut to the maps which pretty much solved the issue, but I’d still like to see maps as an option on your data pages
You can programme workouts, which I use a lot for treadmill interval sessions. However, with the Vertix 2 I discovered that you have to use the “workout” activity and there’s only two options; either run or track run (i.e. not a treadmill run). This means it’s GPS on in the gym leading to your activity stats at the end being pointless as you’ve effectively covered no distance. Adding a treadmill option to the “workouts” activity would be a useful upgrade.
A very minor point that will only affect a small number of users (including me). I have Vitality life insurance and your premiums are related to collecting points for activities. Most major brands offer the ability to link to Vitality but the COROS doesn’t currently. Whilst it may be a minor point, unfortunately it’s a deal breaker for me because I need my activities to sync with the Vitality site or it means wearing another tracker/watch, but I do imagine this could be easily sorted between COROS and Vitality if desired.
We all want different things out of a watch, and my key requirements are mainly for running and navigation, with occasional other activities thrown in. I want a watch that’s easy to use, with a great battery life, customisable and well supported by the manufacturer. The COROS ticks all those boxes for me, and in addition has a huge wealth of features for even the most demanding of users. The crowning feature has to be the battery life though which has a massive appeal to any long-distance / endurance athlete.
A final note that COROS released the “COROS Training Hub” in December 2021. I haven’t had chance to check this out but COROS state that “The COROS Training Hub is a web based platform that provides users a more robust training experience. The platform allows users to analyze metrics, communicate with a coach, plan future workouts, and form teams. This platform seamlessly integrates with the COROS app and pushes workouts to the watch. This is a free software., and available to all COROS users and users of other brands.” Check it out HERE.
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About the writer: Dan Stinton is a former Editor of RunUltra. He’s a Peak District based runner collecting mud and scrapes in and around Glossop, and he likes nothing more than escaping into the Dark Peak and then writing about how difficult it was.