outdoor gear reviews you can trust slogan one line 450w alt 2
outdoor gear reviews you can trust slogan h72
ADVERTISEMENT

Coros Apex Review: The Ultimate GPS Watch For Trail Runners?

All opinions are our own and never influenced by brands. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here's our process.

This Coros APEX review covers the original Coros APEX Watch: a fully-featured GPS running watch which is packed with features and designed for all types of runners, including ultra runners. It is also great for small wrists and therefore caters well to women in particular, an area that has been lacking in the GPS running watch market when it comes to highly-spec’d watches suitable for ultra running.

ADVERTISEMENTOn Running sale

I’ve worn my Coros APEX watch for trail running all over the world over the past couple of years, as well as regular lifestyle use, and this review covers my knowledge and experience of wearing the APEX watch over this time, as well as its key features, how it performs while running, and explains why it has won our Editor’s Choice Award for Best Value GPS Watch for Ultra Running.

When the time came to upgrade my GPS running watch, there were certain key features I wanted to make sure the watch had. Specifically, I wanted a watch for road and trail running that was not big and bulky, could monitor my heart rate through the wrist without a separate (uncomfortable) chest monitor and had good battery life that would, if needed, last a few days for long ultramarathons or multi-day adventures. Cue, the Coros APEX GPS running watch.

Coros APEX Review – Table of Contents


What differentiates the Coros APEX GPS Watch from other GPS running watches?

While the Coros APEX GPS watch offers features similar to other brands (namely Garmin and Suunto), including training software and the wrist heart-rate monitoring, the two stand-out features of the APEX for me are it’s size/weight (a mere 50.8g/1.8oz), and superior battery life. Oh, and did I mention the comparatively low price point?!

The Coros APEX is also featured on our ‘Best GPS Watches for Ultrarunning’ comparison, which compares it to the Garmin and Suunto competitors in this space, and in our ‘Coros GPS Watches Compared’ post, which compares the APEX to the APEX PRO, PACE and VERTIX Coros running watches.

Matterhorn Ultraks 30k Helen approaching the finish Trail Kale
Wearing the Coros APEX GPS Watch during Matterhorn Ultraks 30km Mountain Race in Zermatt Switzerland. A Bucket-list race for sure!

Size and Weight of the Coros APEX Watch

Firstly, it is great to see a GPS running watch with so many features that is not huge, heavy and uncomfortable to wear on my small wrists. This was a huge draw, especially as I didn’t want to compromise on other features just to have a smaller watch. I have the 42mm size, the Coros APEX also comes in a 46mm option. The silicone strap that the watch comes with is also comfortable and soft to wear for hours on end.

RELATED: Best GPS Watches for Ultrarunning & Trail Running


Coros APEX battery life when running and for regular daily use

Coros APEX Review trail and kale
Coros APEX charge port and on-wrist HR monitor

The battery life of the Coros APEX is a big differentiator for Coros.

The excellent battery life, combined with the comfortable size and weight of the watch itself, mean that I can wear my watch for regular daily use for several weeks without charging it (depending on how much I am also using it for running).

This is helpful as it tracks steps, calories and heart rate throughout my day. The APEX battery life for the 46mm and 42mm models is as follows:

APEX 42mm: 25 Hours Normal GPS Mode / 80 Hours UltraMax GPS Mode / 24 Days Regular Use.

APEX 46mm: 35 Hours Normal GPS Mode / 100 Hours UltraMax GPS Mode / 30 Days Regular Use.

Coros APEX Review trail and kale wm 2

Coros APEX Usage and Interface

The Coros APEX watch is controlled by a dial and button on the side, and can be worn on either wrist by rotating the display 180 degrees via the settings options.

I love that it is not a touch-screen watch and that you can control it with these two simple methods, as it means it will work in all conditions and not be affected by being wet or if I touch the wrong part of the screen.

The dial took a bit of getting used to, as the watch auto-locks after a brief period of not being touched (including during a run), and it needs to be scrolled through in one spin in order to unlock and use the functions. If you do a half-turn then the watch will not unlock. I initially found this a bit frustrating and had to try several times to get it unlocked the first time but now I know what to do to unlock it the first time around then it’s not an issue.

My only other minor issue with the interface is that some of the text is rather small and you have to hold still (maybe even stop running) to read the details. I noticed this mainly when I pass a lap and the text reading what lap you just completed (eg Km 5) is tiny – but then, can you have everything? If you want a small watch, it will understandably come with a small display! The 46mm version of this watch should be definition have a larger display if this is an issue for you.

The displays can be changed to suit your preference, with multiple screens in use at any time, which you can flick through by turning the dial.


Functionality – Including elevation gain / loss, cadence and wrist-measured heart rate

The Coros APEX tracks everything a regular (yet fairly demanding) runner may want – of course, speed, time, pace – all the usuals, as well as elevation gain / loss, weather (via the built-in barometer) cadence, calories and heart rate. From this data the watch also calculates estimated fitness levels including VO2Max and lactate threshold, and the efficiency of your aerobic and anaerobic training activity.

I’ve found the wrist-based heart rate monitoring to be just as accurate as any chest-worn heart rate monitor, this is something I really wanted in a GPS watch, as I find the chest-mounted straps so uncomfortable. To ensure the HR monitor is as accurate as possible, I make sure the watch is not loose on my wrist so it doesn’t move around when I run.

Coros APEX Review trail and kale wm 4
Image showing how slim the watch face is which makes it excellent for people with smaller wrists or those who don’t want to wear a bulky GPS watch

The Coros software is regularly updated and pushed through via the phone app – there were so many updates to install when I first received the watch that it took an hour to get through them all!

Speaking of the app, the Coros app syncs from the watch significantly quicker than my old Suunto Ambit 3S, and I have not had any issues with connectivity. I have the app set up so that my runs are also automatically pushed through to Strava, but as the Coros app is so enjoyable to use, I use this more than Strava to look at my detailed performance indicators.


Durability and Waterproof features

The straps and sapphire glass have stood up to the usual trail-running abuse and elements, as well as surviving occasional biting by our puppy, Kepler – the watch has come off unscathed from this abuse, with no scratches despite his best attempts – I have to say, I was surprised and impressed (his teeth are sharp!) – this resistance to scratching is also promising as it indicates the watch will be just fine even if I accidentally scratch it on rocks etc while out on the trails.

The Coros APEX is also waterproof to a depth of 100m so wear it in as many rain storms you like, it’s not going to get any water damage.


GPS Navigation and Barometer features

The Coros APEX has never taken more than 45 seconds to lock on to a GPS signal – this is a great plus as I don’t have to hang around for minutes before a run to have enough signal to get a lock on (As I generally wear this watch trail running and not in the city, I have not used it extensively around tall buildings, which can pose a challenge for any GPS device when it comes to picking up signal).

I am someone who generally likes to just grab their gear and head out the door, without pre-plotting courses to follow using GPS navigation features, so I haven’t used the navigation features a great deal. Unless you’re really into gadgets (which I am not) then I am not convinced that many people actually do use GPS watch navigation features on a regular basis, although it’s nice to have them as an option… navigation features are useful to have if you’re running a new route, to get an idea of how far along a route you are, and whether you’re on / going off-course.

If navigation features are important, and you value more detailed maps and navigation, then a couple of the other options on our best GPS running watches buyer’s guide would be good alternatives.


Coros APEX Price and Value for Money

Ultimately, I am more likely to use an important piece of gear based on its features and suitability for the job, rather than going by price. Having said this, when a watch this good comes in at HALF the price of its closest competition, together with the aforementioned compact size and excellent battery life, the Coros APEX is excellent value for money, and given all the features it packs in, it is thoroughly deserving of our Editor’s Choice Award for Best Value GPS Watch for Ultra Running.

amazon.com Amazon.com See Deal
Last Amazon price update was: 5th July 2022 7:00 am

This GPS running watch is a tough one to beat, and I don’t think you can go wrong with this watch for the majority of running and even multi-day hiking and fastpacking adventures. This is the reason why the Coros APEX has proven so popular with trail runners and worn by a multitude of elite and expert ultrarunners around the world, and why I’ve given it such a good rating in this review and it won an Editor’s Choice Award.

coros apex premium multisport gps watch 42mm white ultra durable battery
Coros Apex GPS Watch
Comfort
9
Design & Function
9
Durability
8.5
software
8.5
Performance
9.5
Value For Money
9.5
PROS
Wrist-based HR monitor
42mm size is good for smaller wrists
100m waterproof
Nice app and fitness tracking features
Long battery life - great for endurance sports and daily wear
CONS
Dial can be fiddly to use
Smaller screen means smaller text size
Navigation features are not very detailed
9
Overall Score
amazon.com Amazon.com See Deal
Last Amazon price update was: 5th July 2022 7:00 am

RELATED POSTS

Trail Running for Beginners: How To Start Trail Running

The trail running for beginners guide: Includes how to trail run, the gear you need to progress, how to find local trails, trail running tips, & much more!

The Best Trail Running Shoes

A list of the best trail running shoes, and expert guidance to ensure you choose comfortable, high-performing shoes for your trail running adventures.

The Best Running Headphones & Wireless Earbuds

The best running headphones, including wireless earbuds, over-ear, and outside-ear bone conduction headphones for running and gym workouts.

15 COMMENTS

  1. Hi there, i’m looking for a new watch. The battery of suunto spartan it’s to small for my adventures. But i’m searching for something that allow me to create specific workouts, intervals with time and distance, climbing intervals with rest… do you know if it is possible to create it on the watch or upload it from the app !? Thanks in advance

  2. Is the normal gps function every second data? I’m trying to get away from my cheap Garmin watch that is every 5 second data points. I have found it really screws up on steeps.

  3. I am debating between the 42 and 46 right now….is the only difference the extra battery life and bezel material? Anything else that justifies the extra fifty bucks besides size….because we know size isn’t everything…

    • The extra size also makes it easier to see the data on the screen while you’re running – more screen real estate. There’s also a bit of a weight difference. The battery life is quite substantially longer too.

      -Alastair

  4. Hello, I would love to buy this 42mm apex choir because of the great battery it has, I want it especially for strength and cardio in the gym and going outdoors on weekends. The really important thing for me apart from the battery is the precision of the pulse to exercise and during the rest of the day. Your review is one of the few that I have seen that speak well of the precision of the pulse, I imagine that for constant exercises you should measure it well but is it accurate for intervals or high intensity exercises?

  5. Hello, I don’t do any sports but I’m avid hiker. Do you think, it’s a good choice for week long hikes: navigation in the wilderness, preloaded gpx tracks, saving the trekking data etc, weather forecast, or this is over kill for just hiking, would you have any other suggestions? thank you

  6. Does this model have “walking” as one of the modes? i currently have the Garmin Forerunner 45 i use it every day. I alternate between walking and running due to very bad knees! I am very interested in this watch.

  7. Can you use this watch to track my walking steps, distance, pace and time? I tend to mix it up with running also. i have very bad knees so i need to walk as well. i have the Garmin Forerunner 45, but am looking to upgrade.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

TRENDING ON T&K

ADVERTISEMENT

LATEST ON T&K

Get our weekly Newsletter

To round out your week, we'll send you our top-tier gear reviews, buyer's guides, deals & tips every Sunday.

You have Successfully Subscribed!