October 19, 2021

COROS Vertix 2 outdoor sports watch review: Challenging Garmin with longer battery life, lower price, dual GNSS support Review

Over the years, Garmin has been my primary platform for exercise, sleep, and activity tracking….

Over the years, Garmin has been my primary platform for exercise, sleep, and activity tracking. A couple of years ago I reviewed the COROS Vertix and then purchased one due to the extreme battery life, high end materials, and active support. COROS lived up to its potential with regular software and feature updates, continued excellent performance of the Vertix, and battery life that never let me down.

A couple of weeks ago COROS announced the Vertix 2 GPS adventure watch with a few new features and an increased launch price. When you compare it to the Garmin Fenix 6 Sapphire then you realize the $699.99 price of the Vertix 2 is $100 to $200 less than the similarly specified Fenix 6. We’ve spent a couple of weeks with the Vertix 2, including using it for tracking the three legs I completed in the recent Ragnar Trail Rainier event.

See also: Best sports watch 2021: Garmin isn’t your only option

In addition to my trail race, I’ve been road running, trail running, track running, biking, sleeping, and commuting with the COROS Vertix 2. I fully charged it up when it arrived, but haven’t connected the charger since then and even after all of these activities the battery shows 51% remaining. A couple of new features arrived on the Vertix 2 that make it a compelling outdoor GPS sports watch, but I also want a GPS sports watch that I can wear to track basic activities like walking, elliptical, and other recreational activities.

Specifications

  • Display: 1.4-inch 64-color display, 280×280 pixels, sapphire glass
  • Materials: Titanium bezel and high-grade fiber watch body with silicone quick release 26mm watch band
  • Wireless connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, WiFi, and GLONASS/GPS/Galileo/BeiDou/QZSS with dual-frequency support
  • Onboard storage: 32GB for data, workouts, and MP3 audio files
  • Sensors: Optical pulse oximeter, optical heart rate monitor, electrocardiogram sensor, barometric altimeter, accelerometer, compass, gyroscope, thermometer/li>
  • Water resistance: 10 ATM waterproof rating (100 meters)
  • Battery life: Up to 60 days in watch mode, up to 140 hours in GPS mode, up to 35 hours with GPS and music playing, and up to 240 hours in UltraMax mode
  • Dimensions: 50.3 x 50.3 x 15.7 mm and 89 grams

The COROS Vertix 2 is available now for $699.99 in Lava or Obsidian colors. COROS also offers four other color bands for $29.99 each, including black, yellow, green, and navy blue.

Vertix vs Vertix 2

Before we get into the details of the new Vertix 2, let’s take a quick look at the differences between the first and second generation watch. These are the primary differences between the two generations and as you can see there are quite a few differences:

  • Display: 1.4 inch 280×280 compared to 1.2 inch 240×240 pixels
  • Watch bands: 26mm compared to 22 mm
  • GPS support: Vertix 2 supports dual frequency GNSS
  • Connectivity: WiFi just for updates, but no ANT+ support. Upgraded from Bluetooth 4.2 to 5.0
  • Weight: 89 grams vs lighter 76 grams on Vertix 1
  • Battery life: 140 hours in GPS mode compared to 60 hours
  • Onboard music: MP3 support where Vertix did not support music
  • Water resistance: 10ATM vs 15ATM on Vertix
  • Other: Vertix 2 supports Insta360 camera control

Hardware

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I thought the original COROS Vertix was a large watch, but after opening up the retail package I saw just how big a GPS sports watch can be. The COROS Vertix 2 is a very large and rather heavy watch, but my daughter commented it looked very natural and fit my wrist well. I am 73 inches and 255 pounds so I am not a small person either so keep that in mind.

There are two buttons and a rotating crown button (aka digital dial) all positioned on one side of the watch. One button is for the light and the other is the back key. The large digital dial spins while also pushing in to serve as a selection button. The great thing about the Vertix 2 is that COROS lets you setup the watch to have the buttons and dial on the left or right side so it can be made to work with either wrist and you can also control if the rotation moves you up or down the display. I’ve been wearing it on my left wrist with the buttons and dial on the right side.

The digital dial is quite large and has texture on the end to help you spin it and move the screens up and down on the display. Given that high mountain hikers and climbers may be using gloves, I put gloves on and was able to easily navigate the Vertix 2 with the digital dial and buttons. COROS updated the Vertix to enable touchscreen capability at certain levels of operation and with the Vertix 2 this functionality is enabled by default.

Something unexpected happened when I powered up the Vertix 2 after charging it up initially. I was frankly blown away by the visibility of the display in all lighting conditions. It destroys the Garmin MARQ Golfer watch I tested and actually put my original Vertix to shame too. It’s a slightly larger 1.4-inch display with higher resolution, but COROS also did something to make it so much easier to see in typical indoor lighting conditions. The visibility of the display is one reason I would consider selling my original Vertix for a new Vertix 2.

See also: COROS Vertix GPS adventure watch review: Long battery life, high end specs, and spinning digital knob

The sapphire glass is flawless and after running, biking, and hiking it remains as pristine as the day I started using it. The titanium bezel and fiber body also are attractive and give the watch a great high-end look and feel. There is an opening for the barometric sensor, and possibly the thermometer, on the side opposite the buttons.

With the larger watch also comes larger watch bands. The bands have quick-release mounts on the back, but are a whopping 26mm wide so there likely won’t be as many third party options available to you as there were with 22mm bands. However, COROS sells other colors for just $30 each so you can quickly and easily switch up the band color if you like.

There are five areas on the back for the heart rate and pulse oximeter sensors with a three prong charging port at one end. The charging cable looks like one of the Garmin cables, but Garmin uses four prongs to charge its watches so don’t try to connect a Garmin cable to the Vertix 2. COROS also has a cool keychain watch charger accessory that you may want to travel with to charge up the watch. Then again, nothing seems to kill the battery on this beast so you won’t be needing a charger very often with the Vertix 2.

Internally, COROS has a dual-frequency GNSS (global navigation satellite system) which supports simultaneous tracking from all five civilian satellite systems, including QZSS from Japan. This is the first GPS watch in the world to support dual-frequency connectivity. The dual-frequency features is designed to optimize performance in environments where satellite visibility may be limited, such as in a city with tall buildings or in forests where trees block the signal. In your workouts, you can select from standard GPS, all systems on, or all systems plus dual-frequency. In typical COROS fashion, we can also look forward to continued updates and improvements with tracking algorithms and performance of the dual-frequency functionality.

Watch software

Unlike modern Garmin watches that can be a bit overwhelming with the number of features, widgets, and settings, the COROS Vertix 2 offers a fairly streamlined user experience. When you first turn on your watch you will see a watch face that can be customized a bit from nine available watch face designs. I usually switch up every few days to try something new. There is no ability to create your own watch face or download others from an app store or anything so you have to wait for COROS to provide additional watch faces, which they have over the years for my Vertix.

On some watch faces you can press the back/lap button repeatedly to toggle through one of the complications to see floors climbed, time of sunrise, time of sunset, active minutes, remaining battery percentage, heart rate, and steps taken data that appear in various areas of a watch face. The top light button just toggles the back light on and off.

See also: COROS PACE GPS multisport watch review: Newcomers challenge Garmin, Suunto, and Polar with affordable offerings

Holding in on the back/lap button brings up a host of other options, call the Toolbox, that are arranged around the outside of the watch face and activate when you spin the digital knob and press in on it to select it. Options that appear include map, navigation settings, UltraMax toggle, HR measurement, compass, alarm, do not disturb toggle, night mode toggle, watch face selector, timer, stopwatch, altitude performance, system settings, and many more. You can also customize what appears in the Toolbox with the smartphone application and have those synced over to the watch. Most are self-explanatory, but navigation settings is only valid if you have loaded courses onto the watch from the smartphone app.

System settings include a do not disturb toggle, workout interface selector, pair phone, pair accessories, calibrate, turn off, reset all, device info, altitude alert toggle, GPS satellite location data, GPS mode, date/time, units, auto lock, tones, vibration, digital knob, wrist hand, backlight, watch face and theme color, and language.

Back starting on the watch face, rotating the digital dial takes you through a number of screens, called Daily Data. These can be customized in the smartphone app and synced to the watch. Available data options include temperature, barometer, elevation, heart rate, exercise time, steps, floors, running performance, fatigue, sleep time, calories, and more. Pressing in on the digital knob will bring up more details for some of this data on the watch.

After using your connected smartphone to customize your workout interface, press in on the digital knob to choose the activity you want to track with the Vertix 2. Available options include Run, Indoor Run, Trail Run, Track Run, Hike, Mountain Climb, Bike, Indoor Bike, Pool Swim, Open Water, Triathlon, Gym Cardio, GPS Cardio, Ski, Snowboard, Cross-country Ski, Ski Touring, Multisport, Strength, Training, Speedsurfing, Windsurfing, Whitewater, Flatwater, Rowing, and Indoor Rower. There are no options for a simple walk, elliptical machine, or treadmill, or other indoor activities. You can use something like gym cardio to track the activity, but there are no default options for many basic gym and bodyweight exercises.

The COROS Vertix 2 is optimized for outdoor adventures and includes offline mapping support. Three layers of mapping are available; landscape, topographic, and hybrid. One nice aspect of mapping on a Vertix 2 is the touchscreen that makes it easy to pan and move around the map with your finger. The digital dial is used for zooming in and out. FYI, topo maps are coming to the Vertix and APEX Pro in an update later this year.

Action cameras are great companions for outdoor adventures and with the Vertix 2 you can connect and control an Insta360 camera. Support for the Insta360 Go 2, One X2, and One R is provided. Press and hold on the back key to launch the Toolbox on the watch. One of the available options is Insta360 Control and with this, you can capture still images or start/stop video recording right from your wrist. Stay tuned for a future review of the Insta360 One X2 pocket camera.

In order to load music onto the Coros Vertix 2, simply connect the USB charging cable to your computer and then the internal storage appears as a drive. You can then drag MP3 music into the music folder of the watch using the file transfer protocol. The music player appears in the Toolbox on the Vertix 2 and a Bluetooth headset is required to listen to the music. Note that a Map folder also appears on your computer when you connect the Vertix 2. 

Smartphone app

The COROS app is available for iOS and Android, with the same interface appearing across both platforms. The app is used to manage all COROS products, including watches and connected helmets. The smartphone app has been updated many times over the past couple of years and is extremely powerful. There is an entire COROS EvoLab section, customizable workout programs, training plans, muscle heatmaps, and more available in the application and to fully take advantage of the power of the COROS Vertix 2 you need to spend time getting to learn and customize the smartphone application.

After adding your Vertix 2 to the app you simply pull down to initiate a sync event with the watch. There are four main displays in the app for the Vertix 2: today screen with all of your data for the day on one long display that shows calories burned, active energy, exercise time, steps taken, heart rate, sleep, and HRV index. You can tap the calendar icon in the top left to see a ring summary of past dates (aka Apple Watch and Garmin) and choose to view the specific data from that date as well. There is no ability to view reports, such as your trends in steps over weeks or months and with no companion website this is one area I would like to see improved upon. The data is definitely there, but you need to go out to third parties to create reports and develop more analysis.

The next available display in the app shows your workouts. You can filter these by type of workout and then tap on a specific workout to view all the nitty gritty details. The details include a map, GPS track, distance, elapsed time, and calories burned with plots of speed, elevation, heart rate, heart rate zones, lap breakdown, training effect, running power, and cadence. You can choose to share that data as an image, export in various standards, saved route, Facebook post, and more. You can also edit the specific workout name. Even without a COROS Pod, the Vertix 2 will track and show your running power values.

The third smartphone display is a profile display with COROS EvoLab data, race predictor, workout programs, training plans, navigation routes library and more. This is the section where you can spend time creating your own custom workouts and it might help to have a nice big screen Galaxy Z Fold 3 to fully customize and setup your COROS Vertix 2 experience. There are also some settings here to set the units, link your account, manage notifications, and sync to third party apps such as Strava, TrainingPeaks, RQ, HealthKit, WeRun, and more.

The last display on the smartphone app is where you manage the Vertix 2. Custom workout data screens, with up to eight fields on a screen, are available for each type of exercise. Watch faces are managed from here with firmware and GPS satellite data updates. Workouts and training plans can also be accessed from this tab of the application.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

The COROS Vertix 2 is a very large GPS watch, but if you are someone who can comfortably wear a watch that has a 50mm diameter then you may be as impressed with the Vertix 2 as I am. I have said many times that I tend to leave smartwatches after a month or so because I tire of the nightly recharge requirement. Having a watch that you can just wear 24/7 and then go out for an hour run without worry is a great relief and with the Vertix 2 you can go weeks without worrying about charging it up. I continue to be stunned by COROS’ ability to provide such long battery life for its watches.

The display on the Vertix 2 also blew me away with its readability in any lighting condition and the lovely large numbers for my aging eyes. If I could get a good trade-in value for my original Vertix then I would likely pick up the Vertix 2 almost just for the better display.

In order to test out the accuracy and performance of the Vertix 2, I ran with it on one wrist and a Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE on the other, with a Garmin HRM-Pro chest heart rate monitor, during my Ragnar Rainier trail race. The two watches matched up well with each other in GPS tracking and other data with the Vertix 2 wrist-based heart monitor doing very well in comparison to the chest mount. I accidentally bumped my Garmin button and paused one leg for three miles while the Vertix 2 kept on going because of the cool button lock function I enabled before my run prevented me from accidentally pausing that watch. I plotted the output from both watches using the DC Rainmaker Analyzer to compare heart rate, cadence, speed, distance, elevation, and the GPS plot with everything tracking extremely well. Even though I had the dual-frequency GNSS option enabled, I did not see any significant difference in tracking my trail routes through the woods. BTW, make sure to go check out Ray’s in depth COROS Vertix 2 review as he spends an extreme amount of time with the watch and may have actually been able to kill the battery.

Sleep tracking is pretty basic, tracking walks is not an option, and it takes some work to get your own workouts set up in the COROS software. However, COROS also has a proven track record of regular software updates and support for its watches for years so we are likely to continue to see further support for health and wellness features from COROS. I love the powerful smartphone application but would also like web access similar to what Garmin offers in order to run reports and further analyze all of the data captured by the watch.