(The Gear Loop) - The GPS smartwatch and activity tracker market is certainly a crowded one, as new and existing brands are regularly releasing products that offer upgrades over their predecessors and the competition.
Garmin has long been king of that hill, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities for others to swoop in. One such challenger is the Vertix 2 from running specialists Coros - a watch that is designed for adventure but offers a heap of other fitness features to boot.
Marketed as a thoroughbred GPS adventure watch, the big-bezeled beast is both tough and clever, boasting the ability to talk to all five major satellite systems for unrivalled route-finding and plotting, while clever interaction through a rotating crown make it stand out from the often fiddly touch screen crowd.
From the outside, the Vertix 2 is a great looking smartwatch, it feels comofrtable on the wrist and performs intuitively when out in the field. The basic functionality of the watch is all there, the GPS is accurate and fast, the battery life is enormous and with a couple of tweaks in software, it could be a genuine competitor to Garmin’s Fenix range. But for us, it isn’t quite there…yet.
However, we imagine Coros will stick with it and offer incremental firmware upgrades to address some of the issues in the near future, including the relatively poor data crunching and analysis for any activity other than running.
It feels like Garmin has really nailed the lifestyle market and knows how to present facts and figures in a colourful and easy to digest way, while the Vertix 2 requires a little more from the user. But then, it arguably goes one step further for the hardy adventurer with a superior battery life and accurate GPS tracking. And for the keen runner, its incredibly detailed EvoLab software rivals professional training tools.
Coros Vertix 2
- Looks great
- Feels premium
- Excellent running specific features
- Crisp screen
- Lacks metrics for other activities
- Software shortcomings
- Bluetooth isn't solid
Design and build
First impressions of the Vertix 2 are promising, as the watch comes in a sturdy flight case, akin to a Peli camera case, which Coros says can be used to transport small items out in the field, but the likelihood is that it’ll get thrown into the back of the cupboard never to be seen again. It’s a nice touch but the majority will look past it.
The watch itself is hewn from a hunk of titanium and glass, which looks and feels stunning, but when when we say hunk, we mean it. The watch weighs 89g and the bezel measures just over 50mm. So yeah, it's not small and probably isn’t the best choice if you’re looking for a slimline, discreet timepiece.
In addition to the heft, the bright orange straps fitted to this test model were far from subtle, although we loved the general rugged, utilitarian design. The supple silicone straps secure the watch comfortably on the wrist and if orange isn’t your thing, they are removable without tools and can be swapped out easily. Plus, Coros offers a cool caribener clip companion for those who don't want to wear the Vertix 2 on a wrist.
Battery life and GPS
The main feature of the Vertix 2 is its astounding battery life. It’ll run for 140 hours with full GPS enabled and if you’re heading out into the wilderness for a long period of time, the battery can be stretched to 240 hours in the UltraMax mode.
The real world impact of this mighty battery life is that you don’t have to remember to put the watch on charge every few nights. We fully charged the Vertix 2 and a week or so later, it still claimed to have 78 per cent charge remaining, and that’s with us having used it as our main fitness tracker on a couple of mountain bike rides and gentle jogs.
While on the subject of activity tracking, the Vertix 2 talks to all five major satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, and Beidou). Most devices only access one or two and as a result, Coros claims superior accuracy and reduction in the time required to acquire a signal.
We found both claim to be true, as the Vertix 2 is very accurate. When recording rides with our iPhone 12 and Strava, the GPS trace often darts across fields, while we were precisely weaving around trees (trying not to hit them is probably a fairer assessment).
No such issue with the Vertix 2, as the trace is far more accurate than anything else we’ve used for a long time. This might seem a pointless feature, because who really needs ultra-accurate GPS? But try navigating in technical terrain and very low visibility… that’s when knowing a position to the metre really counts.
Time required to get a fix as impressive too. Normally, we have to loiter around on the driveway before heading out to get a GPS fix, but the Vertix 2 took a matter of seconds and maintained the fix throughout the ride.
The beautiful slab of crystal glass on the front of the Vertix 2 is where the magic really happens, because the 1.4-inch touchscreen is crisp and legible, even in direct sunlight, and the touch functionality means panning around the maps is a doddle.
We did find it a little odd that the touch screen’s functionality is limited to only a few functions. There’s no flicking through menus here, you’ve got to use the three buttons and the rotating crown to navigate the system.
In reality though, the digital crown and buttons are very easy to get to grips with and offer haptic feedback, which is great when wearing gloves or with cold hands.
Like Garmin and Wahoo, the Vertix 2 offers tracking for a host of activities, from running and rowing to swimming and skiing. One activity we’ve never seen before was the ability to track multi-pitch climbing. There’s a whole user guide on the Coros website outlining how it works and how to set it up. But having read it, we’re still a bit baffled, but to some, it could be a very powerful feature.
That said, one slightly simpler feature that really impressed us was the ability to control a GoPro or Insta360 camera directly from the watch. Granted, there’s no ability to change settings, but we could switch between stills and video mode on a GoPro Hero 9 Black and the digital crown acted as the shutter button.
We could see this being a really handy feature when the camera is mounted out of reach and because the watch is always on your wrist, there’s no remote to lose or drop.
Up until this point, you’d be thinking that the Vertix 2 is a shoo-in to knock Garmin off its perch, but there’s a couple of things that Coros needs to address.
The first is the vitals tracking. Garmin offers everything under the sun, from its unique Body Battery status (a simple guide to fatigue) to activity specific metrics, so there’s plenty of data to geek out on. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said here.
Lifestyle data is fairly limited to heart rate, steps, stairs climbed and active minutes. There are a couple of running-specific metrics, such as recovery time, fatigue and predicted race paces, but they only apply to running, which is quite frustrating if you aren’t of that persuasion.
The Vertix 2 also offers sleep tracking but requires the user to manually end the sleep session, which seems odd to us.
On top of this, the companion app is nowhere near as feature-rich as Garmin's, unless you're a keen runner. This might be because Coros also boasts what it calls EvoLab software, which offers extremely detailed training insights based on the user’s data, but again, this only pulls stats from runs.
In the EvoLab literature, Coros says that it is looking to add other sports in the future, but it remains to be seen whether it materialises or not. Again, it's a proper detailed training tool that we imgaine will be used by athletes and serious runners, rather than being the kind of lifestyle insights most folk want.
Our other small gripe when it came to functionality was the vibration alerting us of a new notification, as this could be more powerful. We missed a few simply because we didn’t feel the very subtle buzz from our wrist.
The Vertix 2 from Coros is a great looking smartwatch that offers a raft of metrics and analysis features…if you’re a runner. All other activities only get basic GPS tracking, similar to what a smartphone offers. That said, the screen is beautifully crisp and readable in direct sunlight, which makes consulting the maps a breeze and with five different GPS networks to connect to, route-planning and plotting is supremely accurate.