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COROS VERTIX GPS Adventure Watch Review

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • This is a heavy duty watch for three types of people: 1) COROS diehards, 2) hardcore adventurers, or 3) people who want to be hardcore adventurers and have money to burn. And maybe people who hate charging electronics, whose phone is always hovering around 10% (it me).
  • Piggy-backing on the last point: the battery life is ridiculous (see the hardcore adventurer part above, and my experience below). Specs put it at 60+ battery life in full GPS mode and 45 days of regular use. If you’re a runner, this should be your main motivation for buying this model.
  • Let’s get the elephant out of the room: yes, this looks like a Garmin Fenix 5 at first glance, and it is shockingly identical in some respects (e.g. the quite-similar charging port, removable band, certain stylistic elements). Upon closer look, there are differences.
  • Since this is a running site, I’m not going to go deep into some of the cornerstone functions that make this an adventure watch for other sports

Speaking of adventure, it’s time to choose your own: if all of the above is intriguing to you, proceed. If not, go buy the COROS APEX.

coros vertix

DESIGN

Like I said, there are certain, um, other GPS watches out there that bear a close resemblance to the VERTIX.  That said, there are a pretty limited number of potential GPS watch designs that combine fashion and function. Case in point: diving watches. Nobody would ever say “Oh man, that Citizen dive watch design really ripped of Seiko.” You know why? Cause all diver watches look the same. Large bezel, large numerals, usually a rubber wrist strap. Their function defines them.

Same with GPS watches. I don’t mind that this is—on the surface—a Fenix rip; Garmin should be flattered. And in my opinion, COROS improved upon it.

One of my favorite things about the VERTIX is its oversized crown dial, meant for ease of use even when wearing thick gloves in mountaineering situations. It’s super easy to access and use, and features an auto-lock, even outside of activity, so it’s not triggering every time it bumps on something. This was one of my biggest annoyances with the APEX, so I was glad to see that fixed. The unlock of the watch is genius—instead of a long button hold, you simply scroll fast on the dial and it unlocks.

What I love about COROS (and I mentioned this in the APEX review), is the elimination of bullshit. I just want to run and I want my watch to get what I need quickly. COROS pares down their tech to the essentials. I don’t need music, I don’t need payment options, I don’t need five button options and functions to remember.

The VERTIX has only three buttons, although really just two, because one of them is just a light: 1) back/settings button on the bottom (when wearing on left wrist), 2) crown dial with push, and 3) a light button on the top (the watch automatically lights up on wrist turn, but it’s there if you need it). The navigation is incredibly intuitive, just like the APEX before it. So much so, that there is pretty much no manual for this watch, and I’m still 95% okay with it.

coros vertix
COROS VERTIX in Mountain Hunter

The screen is made of sapphire glass with a diamond-like coating (i.e. it won’t scratch).

The watch weighs 76g (10 oz. less than the Fenix 5+), and although the case is relatively thick at 16.75 mm and wide at a whopping 48.74 mm, it never felt overly-obtrusive or heavy. The feeling of badassery makes up for it anyway.

Comfort-wise, it can’t be beat. The silicone strap clips onto the case arms easily and can be interchanged with a variety of color straps from COROS. Also, nobody talks about this kind of shit, but it’s details like this that COROS nails—the first loop that the strap tucks into is secured by two nubs so the loop doesn’t slide around, providing a lockdown fit.

The second loop has a rubber nub inside that locks into its desired strap hole, so the strap won’t flap around. I absolutely loved this, because strap and loop movement is one of my biggest annoyances when it comes to GPS watches.

If you have smaller wrists, fret not—I have the smallest wrists of any adult I’ve met and I still had a couple holes to spare.

A variety of watch faces with great design and multiple color options are easily switched out through the app.

If you prefer the watch on your right wrist, you can invert the display.

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coros vertix

FEATURES

Like I mentioned above, COROS has no interest in including the “lifestyle benefits” of a wearable device. They’re focused on dedicated athletes who want what they need in a good package.

In the marketing for this watch, it’s obvious they’re looking at hardcore adventurers and saying, ‘Have we got a product for you.’ For alpine climbers, the watch features 24-hour blood oxygen monitoring (above 8,000 feet). For divers, it’s waterproof to 150m (COROS has noted it’s unlikely to go that deep, and that the 150m rating is more a testament to its overall durability). For extreme ultrarunners, it’ll get most of them through a 200-mile race in full 1-second GPS mode.

Other features include a built-in altimeter, barometer, thermometer, and compass. The watch can also operate in temperatures down to -22 degrees F, which you will never find me operating in.

The VERTIX comes loaded with the typical sport profiles—everything from triathlon (which seamlessly transitions between stages with two quick button pushes), to hiking or mountain climbing. During activity, there are about a hundred things you can pick from to set up on your screens, which you can scroll through manually or set to do so automatically. They’re the standard metrics on every GPS device so I’m not going to go into great detail about them.

You can download your favorite routes to your watch and run them again without having to remember the route. This is a great feature for those group runs on new trails that you’d never remember trying to do it yourself. The map feature during runs allows you to zoom in and out on your route using the crown knob, which is kind of a fun feature.

It pairs with ANT+ devices; I use a heart rate monitor and it picked it up and paired immediately.

You can also get text/other notifications and phone call alerts through the watch, and it’s pretty clear to read.

coros vertix

BATTERY

This, right here, will be the biggest selling point for most athletes. And it should be, because COROS’s claims of 60 hours on full GPS mode seems ridiculous, nearly double that of the Garmin Fenix 5X. Too good to be true? It’s not.

I fully charged it out of the box (just under 2 hours for a full charge) and wore it all day, every day for three weeks straight with over 25 hours of full GPS mode training (around 120 miles). It still had 18% battery life left.

This past weekend, I wore it for the OSS/CIA 50 Miler, an overnight trail race in Virginia. I finished in just under 12 hours and still had 80% battery life. The claim stands. I thought the APEX battery life at 32 hours was legit; the VERTIX is just downright stupid good.

The only downside to the long battery life: I never have any idea where I last placed my charger.

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GPS

Okay, so the VERTIX uses the same chipset as the APEX; in fact, all their watches use the same Sony chipset, as they were all designed at the same time, just with longer software development schedules and staggered release dates. They employ GPS and GLONASS satellite connections, with Galileo/Beidou via future firmware updates.

COROS’s largest investor is a Chinese GPS tech company who primarily focuses on the auto industry, but have diversified into GPS wearables. COROS themselves claim that other “large” GPS watch companies are switching to the same chipset that COROS currently uses.

All that to say, if you’ve been pleased with their GPS performance before, nothing has changed. I compared it against the APEX on several runs and it was nearly identical every time (except for one instance below).

Likewise, it connects with its satellites quickly. I don’t ever recall waiting more than 20 seconds to connect when outdoors.

Now, if you haven’t experienced COROS GPS before, be forewarned, it is not your Garmin, or Suunto, or Polar, or whatever. There is a thing about COROS (it’s so much of a thing that they even dedicated an entire long blog post about it on their site), and that is the fact that their GPS distance always, consistently, is shorter than Garmin.

The end result? You Strava kings and queens aren’t gonna look so fast to your followers (shorter distance + same effort/run time = slower overall pace). Now, COROS defends this to its death—would you rather have more accurate GPS, or look better on Strava, even though come race day you’ll be running an extra half mile to a mile?

To be honest, they have good reason for their defense. I’ve never run a race where I’ve been shorter than the distance; the APEX and COROS are consistently about .2 miles longer (which is totally normal, nobody ever runs a perfect race distance).

This past weekend I raced a looped 50-mile race, whose measured distance was 25.7 miles per loop (total 51.4 miles). I, unfortunately, accidentally paused my watch for roughly a half-mile early on because I forgot to lock it. However, the end reading was 50.95. Add that half mile on, and it’s perfect. Keep in mind this race was 85% single track, unlike a road race that allows for much more deviance.

I ran with a guy for 25 miles who had a Garmin Forerunner. He was a mile over on the first loop (and he started it late!), which was just devastating when you think you’re coming up on your halfway aid station and you still have a mile to go. The VERTIX was spot on.

Now, is it absolutely perfect? No, but you will find few watches that are.

I did find some discrepancies, but keep in mind these aren’t representative of the whole. For instance, I ran a 10-mile race that was pretty much perfect. No deviance from the course, and I finished just a bit over 10 miles. Anyway, here are the discrepancies:

First, an out-and-back 5K compared against a Suunto Ambit3. And yes, I’m using DC Rainmaker’s GPS compare tool throughout this review. Kudos to him for making such a great little application.

In this run, the Ambit3 (purple) and VERTIX (blue) coincided most of the time, with only minor everyday GPS discrepancies. However, both coming and going, I noticed that when rounding a certain corner, the VERTIX cut it off by a considerable amount, both times, but especially on the return when it goes through the park about 50 feet away from my actual route.

Next, this is the biggest and most important one to me, especially because this is that the watch is designed for. The 50-mile race I did last weekend was two, 25.7 mile identical loops. Most of this, and pretty much the whole first half of each loop, was run on single track no more than three feet wide.

Now, I will say (as I mentioned above), that at the end of this race, my distance was exactly the race distance, while a friend I was running with was wearing a Garmin Forerunner, and he was over by a mile and a quarter within the first half of the race. That said, I still found common discrepancies in the tracking, although the watch never had any crazy jumps or drops.

Here is the overall map, doesn’t look too bad:

Now, zoomed in closer, here’s a section of single track along a creek. While we ran on the shoulder of the creek, we never crossed it in this mile-long section (the creek was about 40 feet across for reference). On the map, it shows the line coming over the creek on a few occasions. It’s not totally egregious, especially in trees, but I thought I’d point it out.

The biggest deviance for me was on a routine run along the water in Baltimore, featuring some taller buildings towards the end. I ran it against the APEX and the Polar M430. As you can see, both the Polar M430 (red) and APEX (blue), performed pretty admirably, whereas the VERTIX ran severely off course on a wide-open section along the water.

Here, I ran between some taller buildings and again, off course (the red Polar line was my route). Notably, it ended up .05 miles longer than the APEX and .07 miles longer than the Polar M430.

My final consensus is that the watch isn’t always perfect—and maybe not as good as the APEX. I think it’ll get figured out, they’re constantly putting out new firmware updates during the pre and post-launch. I’ve worn and tested some shitty GPS devices, and those were consistently terrible. Always dropping, or losing GPS signal, or jumping you into the water. That hasn’t been my experience with the VERTIX. Overall, it has been consistent, but I thought I should point out it isn’t perfect.

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HEART RATE MONITOR

I hate reviewing heart rate monitors for watches because they are never as accurate as a chest strap. It’s just not going to happen. And really the only point of having a heart rate monitor is to stay within zones. If it’s off by even 5 beats, it renders it useless for regimented training purposes. The VERTIX is no different. I’m actually doing MAF heart rate training at the moment, so this was incredibly important to me, as I’m trying to stay just below 144 BPM for all of my runs.

Compared against my chest strap, the VERTIX was… hit or miss. Also, like any watch, it takes a few minutes for the heart rate to come up. By that time I was already way into a higher zone than I’d like to have been, and it was an effort to calm it back down for the duration of my run. And of course, there’s always a delay in the ups and downs. Doing heart rate training, this was annoying at best, totally useless at worst. The chest strap, on the other hand, registers a climbing or falling heart rate instantly.

For reference, here is my run referenced in the GPS section, using a chest strap (purple), Polar M430 HRM (red), and the VERTIX HRM (blue). Both the Polar and chest strap coincide fairly well in the ramp-up in the first half-mile. Meanwhile, the VERTIX struggles.

In the second half (not shown), it actually matches pretty well. I will say, the VERTIX is fairly consistent, in that it doesn’t spike or drop (something the Polar did a few times in this run). However, if heart rate matters to you that much, you really shouldn’t be relying on any watch. Buy a chest strap (the VERTIX pairs nicely with it).

SYNCING

The syncing, like all COROS watches, is stupid fast within the app. As in, almost always less than 5 seconds. It syncs to all the standard fitness apps and accounts.

PRICING

Not shockingly, this isn’t a 5K runner’s watch. It is a luxury GPS watch with a price tag to match. The base models—Dark Rock (black), Fire Dragon (orange), and Mountain Hunter (hunter green), all cost $599.99. A higher-end model, Ice Breaker, features an azure titanium bezel with a transparent fiber case. It’s pretty dope, but it’s also $699.99.

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THE GOOD

I’m gonna be honest—I love this watch. First off, it doesn’t look like a GPS watch. It just looks like a damn good watch. Have you ever tried wearing a Polar in public? I hope not, because it doesn’t belong in the real world. This watch is a chameleon and can fit in wherever it pleases. Piggy-backing on that—while it’s a larger watch, it feels as light as any other watch I’ve owned, and it’s more comfortable than any other watch I’ve owned. The really nailed it in that department. Like I mentioned in just about every paragraph so far, the battery is surreal. And I’m not sure anyone is catching up to it anytime soon.

From a UI/UX perspective, the VERTIX (and even the APEX), can’t be beat. Out of the box, almost all of the functions are simple and intuitive for anyone who’s ever used a GPS watch before. I love the over-sized crown knob; I think it’s a game-changer in the GPS watch game, assuming its durability holds up for years.

The COROS GPS, while it takes some getting used to (especially if you’re self-conscious of your pace and what others think of you on Strava), is consistently solid, even if it’s not perfect. That said, it’s exactly the same as its cheaper sibling, the APEX. Either way, on race day you will thank your COROS.

I like that they added the map features with zoom in/out using the knob. Pretty fun.

The syncing is incredible, and the app is really intuitive and easy to use.

THE BAD

The dim screen. This was a problem for me with the APEX, and it’s still a problem with the VERTIX. Now, they’ve remedied it in some ways by providing different colors and a white background during activity, but it’s still not good enough. In everyday use, especially indoors, the screen is too dim. Yes, I know I can press the light button, or turn my wrist to trigger the light. But I shouldn’t have to.

I still don’t understand why an online manual or PDF guide doesn’t exist. The CEO, Lewis Wu, pointed out that Apple doesn’t have a manual for the Apple Watch. True, but there are a billion Apple fanboys who will spell it out for you. Maybe I’m just old, but I like having an actual manual to work through.

You can only delete workouts less than a minute long. Any longer and it saves them automatically syncs up to Strava, posting a .1 mile “run” from your living room to your basement. I hate when people post 1-mile runs in general, I don’t need that garbage cluttering my timeline. This was something that was kind of fixed, on earlier firmware versions of the APEX, everything would save and sync. Just not sure why it doesn’t always have the option.

COROS VERTIX CONCLUSION

If you are a COROS fan or are looking for a reliable GPS device with the most insane battery life imaginable in the year 2019, then this is the watch for you. There’s a reason a ton of ultrarunners are getting on board the COROS train. However, if you want almost the same thing with great battery life (32 hours) for half the price, then go get the APEX.

I love this watch and have worn it every day for the last few weeks. I also loved the APEX, but this is just a cut above the rest. I’m hoping the little inconsistencies with the VERTIX are resolved with future firmware updates. If that’s the case, I’m in 100%. You can pick up the VERTIX directly from COROS by using the shop link below.

Shop COROS VERTIX

 

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