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​​Coros Vertix 2 Review: Garmin Fenix Rival Shows Promise, But Isn’t The Finished Article

The Vertix 2 is bursting with features, but many of the headline additions to the watch lack polish

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(Image: © unknown)

Our Verdict

The Vertix 2 provides stiff competition for Gamin’s all-conquering Fenix watches, offering maps, music, great sports tracking and superb battery life.

For

  • Month-long battery life
  • Colour maps
  • Detailed training analysis
  • Rugged design

Against

  • Large and heavy
  • No turn-by-turn navigation
  • No streaming service partnerships for music
  • Screen is a little dull

Buy from Coros (opens in new tab) | £599.99

Should You Buy Something Else?

At the moment the answer is an unequivocal yes. The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro costs the same and although its battery life isn’t up to the Vertix 2’s, it does pretty much everything else a little better for a superior all-round experience. The mapping features are more sophisticated, the watch can link to a premium Spotify account for easier music management, and there are more general activity tracking features as well.

Aside from battery life, the Vertix 2’s outstanding feature compared with the Fenix is the dual-frequency GPS mode, but in my testing this hasn’t proved to be a worthwhile upgrade on regular GPS.

There’s still a lot to like about the Vertix 2 and it does have a more rugged design than the Fenix, which will appeal to climbers and other adventurous types hitting the mountains for expeditions. I also expect software updates will improve features like the maps in time, and it is more feature-rich on some fronts than the top watches from Polar and Suunto. Overall, though, the Vertix 2 is tough to recommend over the Fenix – or indeed the Forerunner 945, which has the same features as the Fenix in a lightweight, plastic design.

Coros Vertix 2 In-Depth

activity tracker

(Image credit: Unknown)

Design

For better or worse, the Vertix 2 is a beast. It weighs 89g with the silicone band, has a titanium bezel and cover and a sapphire display, and is big on the wrist. I found the watch a little too much for my skinny wrists and I tended to take it off at night because it was hot and uncomfortable.

However, the rugged design will certainly appeal to many who like their watch to scream adventure, and the use of titanium and sapphire glass makes the Vertix 2 relatively good value at £600, given that you pay £800 for a Fenix 6 Pro made from those materials.

The 1.4in (36mm) screen is bigger than on the original Vertix and provides room for up to eight stats at once during an activity. Unfortunately I’ve found it looks a little dull both indoors and out, and you can’t increase the brightness of the screen, which at times makes it hard to read.

GPS Accuracy

The feature I was most intrigued by was the new dual-frequency GNSS chipset that promised better GPS accuracy in difficult conditions, such as under tree cover or surrounded by high buildings. Poor GPS leads to poor pace and distance stats, and stresses me out enormously, so I was excited by the idea of greater accuracy.

After more than 400km of running, during which I compared the Vertix 2’s readings with those from many other watches, it has failed to convince me that it’s a solution to GPS troubles. There are times when it seems fantastic, accurately spotting which side of the road I’m running on and nailing each turn, but it still struggles under trees or among tall buildings.

In fact, the Vertix 2 was actually less accurate than other devices sometimes. Coros uses smoothing to try to make GPS tracking more accurate, but if you run a route with lots of sharp turns, or run loops (something I do for hard road workouts), the smoothed tracks can cut corners off your run and bring the distance down considerably.

On point-to-point routes, the Vertix 2 was as good as other watches and sometimes a little better. During a race in central London it went slightly less haywire among the tall buildings of Canary Wharf than the Fenix on my other arm. However, it still did go wrong, and in practical terms it was no more useful for pacing that race as a result.

This is an area where Coros might be able to fine-tune the accuracy through software updates, but for now the dual-frequency mode doesn’t resolve GPS troubles. Turning it on also brings the battery life down to 50 hours in tracking mode, as opposed to the 140 you get in GPS-only, or 90 hours in All Systems On mode. In that mode, the Vertix will use all satellite systems simultaneously, including GPS, GLONASS, Galileo and Beidou. For now I’d suggest using All Systems On mode, since it doesn’t seem any less accurate and the 90 hours of tracking on offer is the most I’ve come across.

Maps And Navigation

activity tracker

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The new offline maps on the Coros Vertix 2 come in three flavours. You can choose street view, topographical or a hybrid. The watch comes with a global offline landscape map for the street view, and the topographical maps for your region can be downloaded from the Coros website. The original Vertix and Apex Pro watches will also be getting topographical maps via an update before the end of the year, but not the landscape maps.

While breadcrumb navigation is generally enough to guide you through routes, having full maps is a considerable improvement. The context you get from a map makes it easier to follow the right trail, and it can sometimes open up new routes to you.

The maps on the Vertix 2 do deliver these benefits but still left me slightly disappointed. The biggest flaw is the lack of turn-by-turn instructions – you get a line on a map for your route, and have to look out for turns yourself, unless you go entirely off course in which case you’ll get a compass pointer back to your pre-planned route. There are also no street or place names on the map, and this, combined with the washed-out graphics, makes it harder to follow a route than it should be.

You also can’t add a map screen to your sports mode set-up – you have to load and choose a route before the map appears in your running or cycling data screens, for example. Loading routes is also more work than with other watches that link directly to route planning apps like Komoot, or have apps where you can create a route to sync to the watch directly. With the Vertix 2 I had to create or find a route online, then email or AirDrop it to my phone to open in the Coros app to sync to the watch.

Without turn-by-turn directions and street names the maps and navigation tools here aren’t the significant improvement on breadcrumb navigation I’d expected, especially if you use a watch that has turn-by-turn alerts for its breadcrumb routes. That said, it’s great to see offline maps available on a non-Garmin device, and there were times during my testing when having a map on my wrist made a big difference compared with a breadcrumb trail – either to make my route clearer or show me paths I didn’t know existed.

Music

Music

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It’s easy enough to pair Bluetooth headphones to the Vertix 2 and the connection was reliable during my runs. However, the management of your audio files is a faff.

For one, you have to plug the watch in and drag and drop any music or podcasts you want to listen to across, which is a bit 90s. I don’t really own any music files anymore, having succumbed to streaming services like most, and even finding and downloading podcast episodes to my computer took a bit of time.

Once you have got your audio files on the watch they are dumped into one mega playlist with no way to divide them up. From there you can play, pause and skip, and set the playlist to shuffle.

I’d only bother using this music feature once in a blue moon for a race, when I might take the time to sort out a playlist or find some podcasts to listen to. It’s simply too much of a hassle to transfer new files across for your daily training, even if you have the files. Garmin’s music devices support Spotify, which allows you to wirelessly transfer playlists across to listen offline, and there are many other devices that link to some kind of streaming service to make things easier.

You also can’t use the Vertix 2 to control playback on your phone if you do have it with you, which would be handy, though most sets of headphones can control your phone anyway.

Again, this is a feature that looks a lot better on paper than it does in practice. It has music storage, and to be fair that’s more than you get from most sports devices outside of Garmin’s range, but the storage is provided in a way that will benefit a minority of people.

Battery Life

Coros watches are renowned for their superb battery life, and this is more the case than ever. Even with the dual-frequency GPS mode activated it lasted me 19 days on my first charge when tracking running outside for around seven to eight hours a week, plus the odd cycle and indoor workouts. When using the All Systems On GPS tracking, you’ll get more than a month out of the Vertix 2 very comfortably, and between activities it barely uses any battery at all.

Part of that is down to the somewhat dull screen and the default heart rate tracking of taking a reading every 10 minutes when not exercising. You can change the latter to continuous tracking, but you can’t change the brightness of the screen unfortunately. Even so, this is the best battery you’re going to find in a sports watch, outperforming even the Garmin Enduro, which offers 80 hours of GPS tracking and tended to last me three to four weeks on a charge.

EvoLab Training Analysis

One area where Coros used to fall behind rival watches was in training analysis, but the recent launch of EvoLab has brought the entire Coros line-up up to par. EvoLab offers range of metrics to help you train at the right intensity to keep improving, estimating your overall fitness and training load, advising you on how long you need to recover after a run and providing race predictions for 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon events – I found these were closer to the mark than those from other brands.

There are some confusing aspects of EvoLab though, not least how you go about getting the stats in the first place. You have to log 150 minutes of steady running on flat roads to kick-start EvoLab’s analysis, and even after that many of the metrics only use data from flat road or track runs, so trail runners and people who do any other sport don’t get nearly as much from it.

It also gives a “marathon level” to all users, a score based on its estimate of how fast you’d be able to complete a marathon. Once you have this score your daily runs are rated against your marathon level, which is set at 100%. So if your performance was deemed lacking compared with your marathon level, you’ll get a score of 88%, for example; if you outperform yourself, you’ll get a percentage rating over 100%. If that all sounds confusing you’re not alone. I have used EvoLab for several months and now tend to ignore the running performance stat entirely, especially as it only appears after flat, steady effort runs.

The training load and recovery advice is more useful, though I’d still say that only runners will benefit from EvoLab significantly, and road runners at that. As with other features on the Vertix 2, EvoLab is a good start, and I expect there will be more to come from it in the future, but for now you’ll find more polished offerings from Polar and Garmin.

Activity And Sleep Tracking

The Vertix 2 is unashamedly a performance-focused sports watch, but it does offer the standard daily activity stats like steps, active time and active calories. It also tracks your sleep and can take heart rate variability measurements. To do the latter you fire up the test then rest your other hand on the bezel of the watch for 60 seconds. It takes an ECG as well, though it’s not yet approved as a medical-grade device so the only result you get is an HRV score which says if you’re relaxed and recovering quickly or not.

If you remember to take these tests each day, ideally early in the morning, you can use them to give a general picture of the state of your body during a busy training period. However, it’s hard to remember to do this and the HRV feature isn’t nearly so well integrated into the device as it is with, say, Garmin’s Body Battery or Polar’s sleep tracking and recovery features.

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.