Tech & Wearables

Reviewed: COROS Pace 2 Smartwatch

Despite the small price tag, this watch is an absolute category killer with pretty much everything a triathlete needs to train and race.

Review Rating


Basics

A watch with so many on-the-nose functions and features that it actually feels mispriced at only $200.


Pros

All spot functions a triathlete would need
Long battery life
Tiny footprint
Great data analysis
On-wrist running with power
Price
Potential for future upgrades

Cons

Lack of some lifestyle functions
Slightly...nerdy style


Weight

29g

Price

$200

Brand

COROS


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Though COROS has been around for a few years now, delighting those in the know with no-fuss watches that get the job done for a reasonable price, there are still plenty of triathletes who’ve never heard their name. With the launch of the Pace 2, it’s time for triathletes to learn. While the original Pace was a good bare bones smartwatch with precisely the sport modes a triathlete would need, it felt like exactly the right watch at the exactly the right price. It looked a little plasticky, it had limited functions, and it didn’t really stand out. As you’ll see from our COROS Pace 2 review, this version changes all that.

Related: Smartwatch Reviews From a Triathlete’s Perspective

COROS Pace 2 Review: The Basics, Done Well

While you won’t find a ridiculous amount of sport modes in the Pace 2 like Suunto, Garmin, or Polar have, you will find precisely the sport modes a triathlete would need: open-water (and pool) swimming, advanced outdoor cycling, indoor cycling, advanced running, track mode, indoor running, and triathlon—plus some strength functions that aren’t bad either. The Pace 2 doesn’t have superfluous things like archery or badminton or acrobatic gymnastics like some of its bigger competitors, but who cares? It does the things triathletes need right. The only mode missing for me is Swimrun or something that would work for a brick workout like a repeating custom multisport mode, but I’m hoping that could be in an update someday (more on that below). The GPS and on-wrist heart rate in all of those functions are as good as you can get without investing in a $500+ watch, and the shocking 30 hours training/20 days daily smartwatch battery life is dangerously close to watches nearly triple this price.

COROS Pace 2 Review: Some Not-So-Basics, Done Well Too

If the review stopped here, you’d already have a smartwatch that beats everything else in this category/price range for pure training (we’ll get to the lifestyle stuff below), and you’d have a watch that would do its job without even thinking about it. But the beauty of the Pace 2 (and COROS in general) is that they don’t like staying in their lane. First, the Pace 2 has onboard running power—a feature only present in a few watches, all of which are WAY above this price. And it’s not bad running power, in fact it’s quite accurate versus something like the Stryd footpod (an accessory that the Pace 2 now ironically supports). It also supports all ANT+ and BT external sensors, just like a $300+ watch. From there, the Pace 2 has some very excellent strength training functions like a muscle heat map that helps show how hard and which muscles you’ve been training that week—something triathletes often lose sight of. The app itself is fairly basic, but does a great job of the simple things: constructing workouts, analyzing sessions, and tracking movements. It also bears mention that the digital dial was a question mark for me initially, but it actually blows the doors off any other non-touchscreen navigation solutions. This is also new for the Pace 2 (other COROS watches have had this feature).

COROS Pace 2 Review: Futureproof

So this requires its own section because it’s such a unique function of the COROS universe. If you purchased an original Pace a few years ago, you got a very basic watch that did about $200-300 worth of “stuff.” It was a fine value with very good battery life, but nothing amazing. In the last year or so, COROS did something kind of stupid, actually, and began releasing these monster firmware updates that somehow added a ton of features to the Pace (that you already owned) like running with power. As someone with a Pace, I was suddenly handed features that belonged on a $300+ watch and all I had to do was sit through a long firmware download. This bears mentioning because one of the Pace 2’s big selling points is the fact that it has a 1.5x faster processor and 4x more storage. Normally I’d write this off as some techy mumbo jumbo, but as COROS proved with its Pace 1 updates, the Pace 2 could magically become even more valuable in the next year or two with a few key firmware updates. This is literally the opposite of what companies like Apple do by obsoleting their own tech and forcing you to upgrade after only a year of use. A smart business decision by COROS? Only time will tell, but this strategy is a really big deal for consumers.

COROS Pace 2 Review: Nothing’s Perfect

Of course nothing is perfect, though this watch comes pretty close. The style of the watch itself might be a little dowdy—with its odd Star Trek-looking lines, colors, and fonts—but of course none of that detracts from the Pace 2’s usefulness while training. On that same front, while the Pace 2 does let you answer calls, and actually does a fantastic job of giving smartphone notifications (a rock-solid Bluetooth connection, one of the best we’ve tested doesn’t hurt here, either), it doesn’t control music, show weather, or have expandable apps like many other smartwatches. The only other thing missing in this watch is navigation, but of course that’s something you’d only find in a much more expensive device (COROS’ $300 Apex does have breadcrumb mode). Again, you may never ever use those features, but they are absent in a watch that’s geared almost 100% to training. 

COROS Pace 2 Review: Conclusions, I’ll Use Them

We’ve put some serious time and workouts into this watch, and we’ve looked high and low for features and functions that could be done better. While you can dig through the long laundry list of crazy performance testing/recovery/sport modes/workout suggestions/lifestyle features to find things that other $400+ watches have but the Pace 2 doesn’t, but I’ll tell you a secret: We never missed them while we were out training or analyzing our data post-workout. The reality is that the Pace 2 has precisely the features and functions that triathletes need without any of the added “fluff” that aren’t usually done well anyway. Nothing feels haphazard or beta on this watch, the things it does, it does without fault. 

It’s hard to say there’s a perfect smartwatch for triathletes out there, but the Pace 2 comes dangerously close—even if it cost $400, which it doesn’t. Super picky and minor “lifestyle” complaints aside (and the missing brick/Swimrun mode) only serve to take this watch from a 10/10 to a 9/10, but the fact that it slays smartwatches way outside of its price range make this a must-buy for triathletes of any level.