A new player has come on to the GPS run watch scene and it’s making waves if only for the price point vs. functionality equation being a well balanced sum. Reviewer Dr. David Lipman* wraps a new Coros Pace around his wrist in a review as published in Edition 31 of Trail Run Mag, out now.
Hold up, there’s a new kid on the GPS block! In trail running land, it’s always been – for the most part – about Suunto and Garmin duking it out as the heavyweights (figuratively and literally!). Could this be a new contender in the how far/fast/high have I run match up?
Coros Global is a California based company that has worked hard to smooth out common gripes of GPS watches: in the main, unit bulk and the interface functionality both on the watch and online. The Coros App is intuitive with nice aesthetics and the software gets updated regularly. You can toggle many settings like which hand the watch is worn on, interval mode, GPS tracking options, notifications, vibrations, tones, do not disturb periods and alarms for pace, cadence and HR. One of my favourite features is the customisability of the screen in different sports modes: with up to five pieces of information per screen and many screens available this is an in-activity data fiend’s dream.
Aside from things we expect, like timers and countdown features, the Coros Pace can have screens changed for colours and backlighting and the watch face lights up for better viewing when you look at it (and goes to a lower power mode otherwise). It tracks metrics like steps, calories and sleep, with the ability to set goals for these which it notifies you of reaching. The interface has a number of widgets that can be scrolled through including live HR, HR tracking across the last 6 hours, altitude tracking, temperature tracking, activity tracking and compass.
Once synced, the Coros App automatically uploads to Strava and Training Peaks. There is also the ability to export files in a variety of file formats. One major downside is that you cannot download routes to follow on the Pace (though you can on its brother model, the Apex), something I’ve come to love on the Suunto Ambit3 I usually use.
It should be noted, that this watch is the multisport offering from Coros, so it’s trying to cover a few bases across pursuits. The Pace has sport modes including indoor and outdoor running, swimming, cycling and triathlon mode (with more in the pipeline). I specifically chose the Pace to allow more cross training options. The Apex is the other model currently being used by Coros’ professional team, including Camille Herron (who reportedly had 33% battery life left after her 24hr WR), Tim Tollefson and Sally McRae.
When it comes to going for a run, the software is user friendly, allowing for a customisable experience for different users and training or race uses. The ‘AI Trainer’, whilst currently road running–centric, gives post run outputs such as training stress, recovery time and pre-run information like readiness. This integrates with other trainer features such as VO2max estimation, ‘stamina level’ (a fitness measure integrating information from VO2max estimation, resting HR etc), tracking of resting HR and estimating and updating threshold pace and HR. The PACE also outputs running metrics post run including cadence and stride length to go along with what has become standard post run data such as HR, distance, pace and elevation.
With the big claims surrounding battery life, I was impressed albeit somewhat disconcerted by my lack of needing to charge the Pace. I managed over a week with 24hrs/day wear and running ~1hr/day. Likewise, I managed a similar time with 16hr/day wear and running time of well over 10 hours total. Official claims from Coros are 30 days for regular use and 25hr in full GPS mode (though this is not dual tracking mode where BDS or GLONASS is combined with GPS). In a world where we can easily feel anxious about not having a power point available to be able to charge our numerous devices incessantly, for fear of them going flat, the PACE bucks the trend! Charging time for the watch is less than 2 hours.
As for the tracking, beyond the pure GPS mode option, you can use dual tracking and incorporate GLONASS or BDS technology to improve accuracy.
The Pace uses a wrist–based optical HR monitor. I personally don’t love this technology due to its potential flaws in comparison to chest straps (which measure the arguable more accurate R-R interval usually). That said the Pace has the ability to link to ANT+ sensors, so a chest based HRM strap could be used (as could a forearm strap). Having used an old ANT+ HRM strap, I was again surprised by the ease of pairing with the watch; it was actually easier than I remember the pairing of my Ambit3 Peak and the HRM strap it came with.
In terms of other sensors, the Pace has a compass, accelerometer and gyroscope. It uses barometric altimeter which is a great addition for trail running particularly. These sensors integrate with the software for some cool features including the ‘Smart Learning Stryd Length’, which ‘learns’ your stride length and then uses that to estimate distance and pace when GPS signal is weak or lost (such as in canyons or tunnels).
Finally, the size: Sometimes it does matter and sometimes it’s better to be smaller. Especialy when you are a watch on a wrist. The Pace ticks this box big time to become become a serious GPS watch contender – although in the lightweight division compared to the usual heavyweights – in a literal sense we mean!
- Battery life
- Lightweight and size
- Excellent App
- Swift satellite connection
- Barometric altitude sensor
- GPS/GLONASS/BDS capability
- Run metrics and training info and guidance
- Trainer feature and some accuracy is lacking for trailrunning compared to road running (note; this is due to be upgraded at the next update).
- Cannot download routes to follow
|Suunto Ambit3 Peak
|Significant. Quoted 25hrs in GPS mode. Less with dual tracking GPS systems (ie GPS+GLONASS)
|Quoted at between 20 and 200hrs based on GPS mode accuracy.
|For similar amount of wear, similar GPS accuracy and use, the PACE wins by a long shot. It is possible to drop GPS accuracy, not use a HRM and tweak some things to improve the Ambit3 Peak but it’s still unlikely to be significantly better.
|Dual tracking available to combine systems (GPS+GLONASS or GPS+BDS) for improved accuracy.
|Considered one of the more if not most accurate watches on the market, at least historically. This is likely still the case. The sacrifice being the antenna.
|Suunto seemed to be more accurate, particularly as things got more rural.
I am yet to perfect when to use dual tracking and which to use to optimise this.
That said when used on roads, the 2 watches measured within 100m of each other.
When in rural areas the difference was usually <400m.
This was all between 1 and 2%. (It is worth considering that this is probably smaller than the margin of error in either watch’s measurement)
|Wrist based optical but can link to ANT+ hardware
|Bluetooth used for HRM chest strap (comes included)
|Nice to have the option between the two.
Optical heart rate technology has the ability to be as accurate as a chest strap but may not necessarily be so for a number of reasons.
|Syncing with app
|Top of the market
|Glitchy and slow to put it nicely
|This is a one horse race. I still can’t believe how quick and easy this is.
|Linking to Satellites
|Probably the same or similar if not identical.
|Size (See pics above)
|Suitable for most if not all.
|Quite big & has a distinct shape that may not suit all. Antenna (see pic) was a big barrier for most in aesthetic and size.
|I never had an issue with the Ambit3 Peak but many did, particularly those with smaller wrists.
|At almost half the weight it’s hard to argue the PACE doesn’t win this one, the question is whether this is an issue for you. It wasn’t for me, until I had a comparator.
|Cost $399AUD RRP
|Not particularly relevant in light of the Ambit3 Peak being quite an old model and no longer on sale. But at $399 the PACE is much cheaper than it was and cheaper than replacement models.
Dr David Lipman is a podiatrist, exercise physiologist and medical doctor who doesn’t make it to trails as often as he’d like, drinks too much coffee and is a big believer in first principles and understanding the basics, in tech and training alike.
Contact him on Instagram @dlipman5 or via email email@example.com