Coros PACE GPS multisport watch review: Newcomers challenge Garmin, Suunto, and Polar with affordable offering

There are many options when it comes to GPS sports tracking, but newcomers continue to challenge the big names. This time we tested an affordable GPS multisport watch and its fairly compelling.

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Image: Coros

While Garmin, Suunto, and Polar dominate the GPS multisport watch market, we are seeing other affordable solutions that offer nearly the same capability and performance. The price of the new Coros PACE multisport watch is competitive for the triathlon market, but the big names aren't that much more expensive.

Coros was one of my stops at Showstoppers at CES in January and a couple of months ago I checked out its compelling bone conduction bike helmet. The company was also showing off a new GPS sports watch and for the past couple of weeks I have been running and cycling with it.

At $299.99 on Amazon for the black, blue, and red models, the Coros PACE offers most of what multisport athletes are looking for with updates coming soon to address a few minor shortcomings. It might be better positioned at $249.99 since it doesn't yet have a reputation in the GPS sports watch market, but could also see some traction if Strava (it syncs natively to this service in the app) promoted it or offered some kind of a deal with a subscription service.

Specifications

  • Display: 1.2 inch, 240 x 240 pixels resolution color LCD
  • Water resistance: 5 ATM
  • Bands: Watch specific with removal tool included
  • Connectivity and sensors: Bluetooth 4.2 BLE, ANT+, GPS, GLONASS, optical HR, barometer, compass, accelerometer, gyroscope
  • Battery: 310 mAh. Rated for 25 hours in GPS training mode and up to 30 days in standard watch/activity tracker mode.
  • Dimensions: 43 mm diameter x 11.8 mm and 43 grams
  • Colors: Black/grey, red/black, and blue/black

Hardware

The first thing I noticed when I pulled the Coros PACE out of the retail package was the weight of the watch. It comes in at just 43 grams, which is 27 grams lighter than the Amazfit Stratos I recently reviewed. While it is light, the Coros PACE does not feel cheap with matte plastic and solid buttons.

The Coros PACE has a color LCD, it is not a touchscreen, that looks good in sunlight and with the backlight activated in low light conditions. It is not vibrant like an Apple Watch or Gear S3, but more closely matches what we see on other GPS sports watches. The black bezel around the display is only a couple mm in width too.

There are two buttons on the left and two on the right. The lower left is the activation/selection button while the upper left is the back/backlight button. The right buttons are used for moving up and down in the user interface. The buttons are large and easily manipulated. It took me a couple of days to get used o the buttons since I am used to Garmin's setup with the selection button on the right and scroll buttons on the left, opposite of the Coros PACE.

There are four pins on the back for the charging clip that looks just like the charging clip for the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music. An optical heart rate monitor is on the back and it does protrude out the back a bit.

The band is one of the most comfortable default bands I have ever tested on a wearable and I see no reason to need to swap it out for something better. That is a good thing as the band is not a standard band where you can find alternatives on Amazon, but there is a band removal tool in the retail package.

Watch software

The watch is powered by a custom software package that has a watch face with widgets that you scroll through using the up and down arrows. There does not appear to be any way to change the watch face, but you can change the theme color of the fonts.

By default, the watch face appears with the time, day, and date in the center. Battery status and steps taken appear above the time with calories and exercise time counter below this.

Widgets you can scroll through include today's status showing steps, calories, and exercise time with a circular status bar around the display, a colorful heart rate status screen where you can press the selection button to see a chart of your heart rate, a barometer screen with a chart and selection button that shows you elevation on a chart, a digital compass, and notifications.

While you cannot take action on your notifications, you can press the selection button to read more so these can be useful to check things without taking out your phone.

Pressing in on the selection button from the watch takes you to a list with options for indoor run, outdoor run, outdoor cycle, pool swim, open water, triathlon, history, and system. I tested the outdoor run and outdoor cycle functions as I refuse to run inside on a treadmill even in nasty weather. I don't have easy access to a pool or lake for regular swimming either so cannot comment on those experiences.

Once you select an exercise then you will see GPS and heart rate status icons blinking until both acquire signals. I have it set to beep and vibrate when connected. GPS so far has obtained the signal quickly and been very accurate when compared to other devices. You can press the selection button again to start your exercise or choose to press the down arrow to access more settings.

Settings within an exercise option include auto lap, lap key, auto pause, auto lock, heart rate alert, cadence alert, metronome, and auto scroll.

System settings from the main watch face include do not disturb, calibrate elevation, calibrate compass, pair phone, wrist selection, units, theme color, device info, and turn off.

Smartphone software

The same Coros app that I used to manage the Coros Omni helmet is used to connect and manage the PACE sports watch. The app is available for iOS and Android and I tested on both platforms. Connecting to the Coros PACE is easy as a QR code appears on the PACE when you select to pair a phone and then you just scan it from within the Coros app.

Once you are paired with a phone, you have the ability to setup the backlight, do not disturb options, notification options, vibration and tones, and update the firmware of the watch. There are also alarm and data screen options.

The data screen options are excellent as it gives you the power to customize what you will see during your selected exercise. You can customize up to five data screens for your exercise. I personally prefer to have just a few and have three screen setup for outdoor running. You can choose to have one, two, or three extra data fields appear on each screen with a second, third, or fourth (elapsed time) always appearing on the very bottom of the display. For outdoor running you can choose from the following data fields:

  • Time of Day
  • Distance
  • Laps
  • Calories
  • Steps
  • Lap Time
  • Lap Distance
  • Cadence (Current, Average, Lap)
  • Stride Length (Current, Average, Lap)
  • Pace (Current, Average, Lap)
  • Speed (Current, Average, Max, Lap)
  • Heart Rate (Current, Average, Max, Lap)
  • Elevation
  • Total Ascent
  • Total Decent

Dedicated GPS watches often provide this type of customization, which is why I prefer using these devices instead of a simple Apple Watch, Fitbit, or other smartwatch with limited customization.

Future features

The Coros PACE just went on sale today and while it is a very capable GPS multisport watch, there are several more features coming by the end of June. These include:

  • ANT+ and BLE accessories connections: I have Bluetooth speed and cadence sensors on my bike I need to test.
  • GPS Eco Mode - This will extend the battery life in GPS from up to 25 hours, to up to 40 hours.
  • Interval training: This is important for me when training for races.
  • Power Meter Compatibility
  • VO2 Max
  • MapMyRide, TrainingPeaks, MapMyRun Support

As you can see, there is a lot to like in the Coros PACE and it will be getting even better soon.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

I was very impressed by the lightweight design of the Coros PACE and extremely comfortable included band. It was very easy to connect to a smartphone and setup everything just how I liked it for exercise and daily activity tracking.

While you can use the Coros PACE for daily activity tracking with steps, calories, and heart rate, there is not sleep tracking available on the watch. It is a bit large to sleep with though, even though it is light, but with the long battery life as a tracker I would personally like to have seen sleep tracking support.

I also listen to music when I run so it would be great to see a future model with integrated offline music support. Devices with such support often have a $50 to $100 premium though too so it is not an essential feature.

One reason I just cannot use an Apple Watch for all of my sports tracking is the closed ecosystem. It was great to see that the Coros app contains a conduit to Strava. All of my cycling and runs synced automatically to Strava and then from there I could export or sync it to other service, such as RunKeeper, as I liked. It is important for me to have access to my GPS data and Coros provides this through Strava.

The Coros PACE was mounted on my left wrist while cycling for 32 to 38 miles a day and was extremely comfortable. As you can see in my image gallery, it is a larger GPS sports watch that matches with many others with all of this power and functionality. The Garmin Forerunner 735XT and 935, along with the Polar V800, are direct competitors to the PACE, but the PACE is less expensive than these options. I still think $249.99 is a more attractive price for a new competitor, but $299.99 is also fair for all of the capability offered at this time.