The Coros Pace 2 is one of the best multisport watches we’ve tested and has helped shift expectations of what to expect from a sub-$200/£200 sports watch.
Its successor the Pace 3 builds on that and once again aims to offer great value for money impressing us in our in-depth review.
If you’re currently wearing a Pace 2 on your wrist and wondering whether you need to upgrade to a Pace 3 or hold off until Pace 4 turns up, we break down how the two Paces compare to help you make that decision.
Price, availability, and versions
The Pace 2 launched in 2020, so it’s been around for a few years now with the Pace 3 landing in 2023.
Unsurprisingly, the Pace 3 is the pricier of the two watches and comes in at $229/£219, with the Pace 2 sitting at $199£179.
Coros only offers its Pace watches in one case size, with the option of pairing it up with either a silicone or nylon watch band. Coros suggests going for a nylon one will get you a better fit for monitoring heart rate.
You’re going to get some different colour options across the two watches with a special Track edition available with the Pace 3, which is only about offering a different look.
The strap sizes are different across old and new Paces, with the Pace 2 using smaller 20mm straps, compared to the larger 22mm ones on the Pace 3. So that’s something worth keeping in mind when picking between the two.
Design and display
Coros Pace 3 screen
Coros didn't make radical design changes for the Pace 3, aiming to keep these watches small, compact, and light enough to wear for long training sessions – and when you want to wear them to bed.
Both use 42mm-sized polymer cases and the same 1.2-inch display, with a resolution of 240 x 240. It's an always-on LCD – but the Pace 3 now adds full touchscreen support.
Coros Pace 2
Nothing has changed in the physical button department with both including a twisting dial and a flatter button below.
The 5 ATM-rated waterproof design is the same, making both suitable for pool and open water swimming.
Ultimately the differences don’t radically alter what are both very comfortable watches to wear that give you scope to pick from a few different case colours and remove straps with the Pace 3 offering that additional touchscreen functionality.
Fitness features and tracking
Coros Pace 3 on wrist
In terms of what you can track with these watches, there’s a lot of crossover. With the activity modes available, the core ones remain running, swimming, cycling, and indoor workout modes that include strength training including rep counting.
Both can perform as fitness trackers and will monitor sleep automatically, offering metrics like breaking down sleep stages and capturing sleep duration. Performance-wise, they offer much the same on that front. It's fine, but not the main reason you're going to pick up one of these watches.
For the more adventurous, the Pace 3 additionally offers profiles for hiking and winter sports like snowboarding and XC skiing.
On the mapping and navigation front, Coros doesn’t offer the TOPO and landscape maps included on its Apex 2 Pro and Vertex 2 watches.
It does offer breadcrumb-style navigation and the ability to upload routes on both the Pace 3 and the Pace 2. Turn-by-turn directions are on the way too and are currently in beta testing.
Coros Pace 2
In terms of sensors, the Pace 3 additionally includes a pulse oximeter, a new optical heart rate sensor, and a dual-frequency GNSS chipset, which we’ve found delivers improved positioning accuracy over the Pace 2.
The heart rate tracking performance on the Pace 2 during exercise isn’t a bad performer, but there does feel like an improvement on that front on the Pace 3. It’s worth remembering that you can pair external heart rate sensors to both of these watches.
Unless you’re planning to spend a lot of time training at altitude, then the Pace 3’s optical pulse oximeter is not going to feel massively useful, so it’s really about how much you value that improved wrist-based HR and positioning tracking accuracy.
From a training and analysis point of view, the watches offer the same features. So both have access to Coros’ Evolab metrics and insights, the ability to do things like build interval training sessions, and you can also perform a running fitness test.
These insights feel largely running-focused, so if you're looking for more guidance when you're training for an event or race, some features can offer that.
Smart features and operating system
Coros Pace 3 music player
Coros uses its proprietary operating system that runs largely the same across both these watches. You’ll need the same Coros companion phone app to set things up and the watch user interface is largely the same, albeit the Pace 3 does have the full touchscreen support to offer an alternative method to interact with the watch.
Behaving like smartwatches isn’t a strength of Coro's watches in general, but if you want more smartwatch features, the Pace 3 will give you that. Both can display phone notifications (iOS and Android), offer find my phone and watch modes, and will let you do basics like set alarms and timers.
The Pace 3 also includes a 4GB music player, which relies on syncing your audio (MP3 files only) via computer.
You can’t sync offline playlists from music streaming services like you can on Garmin or an Apple Watch.
The music player integration itself works fine and we've tried it with a bunch of different Bluetooth headphones without issues. However, it feels very old school and we wonder how many people upload MP3s in 2023.
Both of these watches can go for well over a week based on our testing with Coros promising 20 days in typical usage with the Pace 2 and 24 days with the Pace 3.
If you compare the GPS battery numbers, the Pace 2 delivers 30 hours of GPS battery life compared to 38 hours on the Pace 3.
If you use the dual frequency mode on the Pace 3 that battery number drops to 15 hours – so extra accuracy does take quite a hit.
These features are of course not available on the Pace 2.
Neither have power-hungry displays to sap that battery and both include Coros’ useful battery usage modes to see exactly what is draining the battery and give you a sense based on your current usage how long that battery will last between charges.
On the subject of charging, they use the same charging cable and both take roughly 2 hours to go from 0-100%.
Which is best?
The Pace 3 is ultimately the better watch, especially if you care about improved tracking accuracy.
That being said, areas where Coros has sought to improve the Pace, like GPS and heart rate performance, weren’t necessarily bad on the Pace 2 – and with that watch likely to remain at that cheaper price and possibly crop up for less, it does still offer great value for those in the market for a more affordable multisports watch.
The price has jumped up from Pace 2 to Pace 3, pushing the newer Pace into more of a mid-range watch category, but it’s still not as expensive as rival watches from Garmin like the Forerunner 265, 255 or Polar like the Polar Pacer Pro.
On pure performance and features for a bit of extra cash, it’s the Pace 3 that comes out on top for us.
Should you upgrade?
There's no question that the Coros Pace 3 is the best watch here – and the addition of dual-frequency GNSS is worth the extra outlay in our book.
However, if you’ve got a Pace 2 and have been angling for more accurate dual-frequency outdoor tracking support, and like the idea of an added pulse oximeter and improved heart rate sensor, then those are reasons to upgrade.
Ultimately, the core multisports tracking, analysis, and training features remain largely the same across Pace 2 and Pace 3. That also includes the ability to upload routes and make use of breadcrumb-style navigation, which Coros has recently added to the Pace 2 as well.
So for most people, however, there's not enough reason to jump from Pace 2 to Pace 3.
Likewise, if you spot juicy Pace 2 deals this Holiday season, you're not missing out on too much by opting for the previous generation Coros.
How we test