50.3 x 50.3 x 15.7mm
If you haven’t heard of Coros yet, this is a good review to read—especially if you’re in the market for a premium do-it-all smartwatch that nails about 90% of what triathletes need while training and racing (and doing other things, too). Coros is a slightly smaller brand with offices in California, but based out of China. They’ve slowly and quietly become the favorite endurance/adventure smartwatch brand for industry folks with their unique feature set, their boundary-pushing specs, and sometimes unusually priced devices. For instance, Coros’ $200 Pace 2 is probably my favorite pound-for-pound smartwatch with its ultra-lightweight design, decent battery, basic-but-effective functions, and onboard running-with-power functionality. I’d pay $300 for a Pace 2, and do it with a smile on my face. But this isn’t about budget-friendly smartwatches—not at all—this is about a premium smartwatch, the Vertix 2, that updates the already-excellent Vertix model. Read on for our tri-related function breakdown, our analysis of the new upgrades on the Vertix 2, and a few thoughts on what works on this watch and what doesn’t.
RELATED: Triathlete’s Best of 2021 AwardsSection divider
Coros Vertix 2: The Features
If you’re looking for the TL;DR version of the Coros Vertix 2 review with competitive comparisons, check out this link, but here we’re going to dive into the most tri-important features, rank them in order for how useful they are for triathletes, then we’ll take a look at what’s new.
Tri-Related Sport Profiles – While it should be obvious at this pricepoint, the Vertix 2 has open-water swimming, pool swimming, cycling (with Bluetooth connectivity to external sensors, but no ANT+), and built-in running with power. It also has the usual indoor profiles for cycling and running. It also has a triathlon sport function for swim/bike/run with transitions and a multisport profile for a maximum of three concurrent sports of your choosing. It bears mention that unlike some of its competitors, you can’t create custom sport profiles (though of course you can edit the data screens), and there is no brick or swimrun profile that would allow you to do endless switching of sports back and forth. This is actually kind of a missing feature that seems like a $700 watch should have.
The Battery – No this isn’t a function, but it bears mentioning early and often because it’s so impressive. Coros advertises a staggering 60 days of smartwatch and 140 hours of full, 1-second sampling GPS. You can run out the GPS to 240 hours if you put it in a less-sampling UltraMax mode. If you play music with GPS, you get 35 hours of battery. In actual use with workouts once or twice per day, we found the battery usually lasted around 40-50 days depending on what we were doing, but that’s still incredible when you look at the Vertix 2’s competitors.
Performance Analysis – For whatever reason, Coros doesn’t make a huge deal of their performance/recovery analysis features, but they’re actually quite good and are quite useful to triathletes, whether they’re coached or self-coached. Like most smartwatches, after a workout, the data is crunched and a relative training score is produced. That’s compiled against other previous workouts to tell you how much fatigue you’re likely experiencing and how recovered you are (and if you’re ready for another workout). The way this info is displayed is also very intuitive and easy-to-follow, unlike some other brands. There’s also a running predictor that bases predicted race times off of your workouts, but this only applies to running.
Training Plan/Workouts – While the Coros app does allow for pretty decent training plan and workout creation, there’s not much you can actually do on the watch itself. For better or for worse, you’re truly married to the app to create your workouts—you can only create basic running and cycling intervals that simply have repeats, rest, warm up, and cooldown on the watch. There’s no way to create a workout on the spot for open-water swimming or pool swimming.
Sleep Tracking – Like most smartwatches today, the Vertix 2 shows decent sleep tracking, but the only caveat in this case is that the watch itself is so large (which we’ll get to below), that it’s not exactly a dream to wear while you sleep. Watches like the Polar Vantage 2 and Garmin Forerunner 945/945 LTE dig deeper into the sleep side of things and are easier to wear at night.
Onboard Mapping/Navigation – Though this isn’t a function that triathletes might use all the time for training, the new Vertix 2 has built-in mapping and basic breadcrumb navigation. It won’t give you turn-by-turn directions or allow you to create routes in the watch or on the app (like Garmin, for instance), but you can create routes in a third-party app like Gaia and export the file to the Coros app (and then download that to the watch). It’ll show you the route and tell you when you’re off course, but not much more than that. On the other hand, the color touchscreen does make map navigation substantially easier than a button-only smartwatch (like Garmin, for instance).
Onboard Music – This was something that Coros has ominously been missing from the start, and by adding it, they tick off a very basic version of the feature. You can simply drag-and-drop .mp3s from your computer to the watch, once plugged in, and play it via a Bluetooth headphone/speaker, but that’s about it. The watch has 32gb of storage for music and maps, but it doesn’t have any compatibility with streaming services like Spotify; it also doesn’t control music from your connected smartphone—an unusual feature to be missing given how many watches have this now.Section divider
Coros Vertix 2: What’s New
The good news about this pricey upgrade is that it truly is an upgrade worth getting into—not just some halfway money grab. The inclusion of the full-color, onboard topo maps is actually quite cool, and while they’re a little more limited than what you’ll sometimes see on other smartwatches, if navigation is important to you, then you truly need built-in mapping. It also comes with a bigger screen—1.4-inch and always on (this is a distinction when it comes to battery life on certain color watches).
The increased battery life (up from 45 days to 60 days and 60 hours to 140 hours) is actually a super, super big deal too—particularly for long-course triathletes who would be using the GPS on this for at least an hour or more every day. The previous Vertix had really great battery life, but you can literally listen to music, turn on tons of features with GPS, and still train for weeks and weeks without needing to charge it. The only downside here is that you may end up losing the proprietary charging cable between chargings, but that’s just a funny side effect. The big upside is that you’ll actually use all of the cool functions like music and mapping without fear that it’ll sap the battery in the middle of a long run (Forerunner 945 LTE, I’m looking at you).
Below the hood, the Vertix 2 has a much faster processor than the previous Vertix, which may not seem important, but it is. First, because when you use color mapping and navigation, it can really bog down a smartwatch, but the Vertix rendered pretty well on zooms and while moving the map with the touchscreen. Second, a better processor means more data screens (up to eight at once) and it means there’s space for this watch to get even better. Coros actually has a history of making substantial upgrades to their current and former watches via firmware updates, so I wouldn’t be surprised if some or all of the issues we’ll talk about below will be ironed out in the future. Unlike almost all other technology companies, Coros does an admirable job of futureproofing their hardware.
Coros also boasts of upgrading the GPS system on the Vertix 2 to use five different satellite systems (most smartwatches use three or four) and to be able to use a hybrid, two-system approach for greater accuracy in more places (a first for sports smartwatches). We’ll talk about how that actually plays out below, but it’s another one of those features that’s great if you have it, but won’t necessarily be interesting if you don’t drop signals or live in a super remote/tricky area.
Finally, Coros has caught up to the rest of the premium smartwatch world and included onboard music on the Vertix 2. This might be super important for some, and not-so-important for others, but either way Coros’ music system is as basic as they come. You need to manually drag-and-drop .mp3s from your computer, via a USB cable, and you can’t organize the music in folders or playlists as of this writing. The Vertix 2 also won’t connect or download from any streaming services, so be realistic about how many .mp3s you actually still possess before you get too excited about the music feature. You also can’t control connected smartphone music from the Vertix 2—an unusually absent feature.Section divider
Coros Vertix 2: What We Like
There’s a lot to like on this watch, particularly for long-course triathletes who want their data, want to be able to analyize it quickly and efficiently, and potentially explore new places with navigation. As before, the Coros platform itself is very simple, and easy-to-navigate with intuitive menus, features, and post-workout analysis. This isn’t necessarily something new on the Vertix 2, but it’s important because if you’re going to shell out $700 for a watch, you had better be able to easily use all of the functions on it. At its core, that’s the heart of what we like so much about this watch.
Because the Vertix 2 has such excellent battery life, you’re more likely to use the great features like built-in running with power, the built-in maps, and even the onboard music. Also because the Vertix 2 uses its touchscreen for moving around maps in navigation mode and on occasion in other functions like music, you’re more likely to use them. The rotating bevel is another example of a novel idea that maybe not everyone will love, but that actually works great for moving around the menus and training data screens.
Similarly, the post-workout data and Coros app are simple in their presentation, but powerful in the background. Youl’ll actually understand what all of those metrics mean because there aren’t a million of them, and they’re displayed in a graphically coherent way. It’s unfortunate that you can’t build complex workouts from the watch or build routes in the watch or in the Coros app, but sometimes being able to do everything everywhere just means it won’t be done well. Use Gaia or Komoot to build routes; use the very good workout builder/training plan features in the Coros app.Section divider
Coros Vertix 2: What Could Be Better
Ideally, because this is a $700 watch, this section should be pretty short, and it is. Much of what isn’t great about the Vertix 2 could easily be ironed out with an update or two, so it’s not worth not buying this watch if one of its foibles bugs you—there’s a good chance that could change.
First, the maps are great, but the navigation is pretty bare bones. Without turn-by-turn functionality, you’re basically following a breadcrumb on a fairly simple topo map. The built-in maps don’t have any labels (except elevation), so they’re not as robust as something from like Suunto or Garmin. It’ll tell you when you go off course and what direction you’re heading transposed on the map, but even that directionality can sometimes be off. If you’re trying to move fast in unfamiliar territory, it can be a bit frustrating.
On a similar note, we found that the added GPS systems didn’t always make a monster difference in navigation accuracy or signal dropouts. Many of the canyons we’d lose signals in still lost signals at times, and there wasn’t a palpable difference from other high-end GPS watches. It’s possible in other areas there is a bigger difference, but that wasn’t our experience on the ground or in the water.
There were also a few other little details that will hopefully be ironed out: Things like no music organization, a less-than-airtight Bluetooth connection/reconnection with a smartphone, and the fact that their “ECG” function is really more of an HRV function. But of course a lot of that is simply splitting hairs. The watch itself is also very very large—one of the largest in this category. It’s likely due to the huge battery, but if you’re a smaller triathlete, have a small wrist, or simply don’t like the feel/look of a big watch, that might be a bit of a deal breaker.
The only other issue with the Vertix 2 (and this is more of a Coros-wide thing) is that it doesn’t have as many “relationships” with other brands and devices. Yes, it’ll work with the Stryd app, but it doesn’t have compatibility with some of the other high-end tri training things like Form Goggles, the Core body temperature sensor, Supersapiens, and more. It also doesn’t play with Spotify or do many “lifestyle” functions like contactless payments. If none of these things look familiar to you or are something you might want later down the road, then this doesn’t matter, but when it comes to compatibility with external stuff/services, Apple and Garmin (and Suunto to some extent) still have that market cornered.Section divider
Coros Vertix 2: Takeaways
We’ve reviewed smartwatch “upgrades” in the past that were nothing more than a few firmware updates and a couple more sport profiles. When people ask, “Should I buy this new one if I’ve got the last version?” typically, I say no. But here, with the Vertix 2, this is truly a different watch than the original and the differences are enough to warrant another purchase—assuming you have $700 to spend.
That said, it’s not the absolute perfect watch for everything from lifestyle to training, but I’ve yet to use a watch that is. Triathletes, particularly long-course triathletes, probably value battery life and not missing miles on a workout because the watch died over the types of features you’d typically find on a an Apple Watch. No, the music function isn’t amazing on the Vertix 2; no there aren’t a ton of fun widgets, apps, and watch faces on the Vertix 2; yes, the lack of a brick or swimrun-like feature is a little odd, but the only watches who have all of those things aren’t even in the same stratosphere when it comes to battery life and raw features and usability.
In terms of a line of watches, it’s safe to say that with the addition of the Vertix 2, Coros has covered some of the best smartwatches for triathletes. Finally a brand has a fully finished product at the highest end with all of the functions, features, and hardware a triathlete would ever need.