Coros Vertix review: Big features come at a steep price

An outdoor multisport watch that can really go the distance
Coros Vertix
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The Coros Vertix is an outdoors watch made for hikers, trail runners and outdoor lovers in mind.

Coros is very much an outlier in the GPS watch space – the US company is little more than a start-up and only launched its first smartwatch in 2018. However, it's grown fast, and the Coros Vertix will craw natural comparisons to the Garmin Fenix 6, Suunto 9 and new Polar Grit X.

It's built for the great outdoors, offering up a multisport watch that's built to brave the elements, has big battery life and provides a host of features that will keep climbers, trail runners and hikers safe when they're hitting high altitudes.

While Coros' previous watches like the Pace and Apex came in at pretty affordable price points, it's pushed things up for the Vertix. Pricing starts at $599.99, which puts it squarely around the price of the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro. It's also pricier than the Suunto 9 and the Polar Grit X.

Essential reading: Best outdoor watches to buy

We've spent some time running outdoors on trails and climbing up some snowy mountains to find out if Coros has come up with a sports watch that's a good fit for adventurers.

Coros Vertix: Design and build

Coros Vertix Design and build

With the Pace and the Apex, it was impossible not to feel like Coros was aping the looks of its rivals. With the Vertix, things really don't change on that front. What you get here is a very Fenix-like, 48mm sized watch made with a titanium bezel and sapphire glass covering the 1.2-inch, 240 x 240 display.

You also get 22mm quick-release watch bands (that are actually quick to release), and all of the important sensors packed into the back of the watch.

Coros is offering the Vertix in four different looks, giving you the option of going with something low-key or with a more eye-catching bezel and watch band combo. We had the all-black model and the silver stainless steel bezel with orange strap to try out and the latter screams Fenix.

You've got a slightly raised bezel to help offer protection to the display, machined screws to add to its rugged exterior, and all of its physical buttons down one side of the watch.

Its 48mm frame means that size-wise, it's smaller than the Suunto 9 (50mm) and has more in common with the stature of the Fenix 6 and the Polar Grit X. Like Garmin and Polar's watches, it doesn't weigh heavy on the wrist and we've had no cause to take it off due to irritation or discomfort.

Coros Vertix colour options

Coros Vertix colour options

We've already mentioned those physical buttons, which are your means of navigating the non-touch display. The button up top turns on the backlight to aid nighttime visibility, while the bottom button is 'back', and also lets you scroll through data on one of the sub dials on the watch face.

In between those you'll find what Coros calls a 'Digital Knob'. This is essentially a lot like the twisty watch crown-like button it included on its Apex watches. Twisting that knob up and down lets you scroll through data screens, workout modes and zoom in and out of maps in navigation mode. It can also be pressed to select items.

It's a lot more pronounced than it was on the Apex; a decision to make it easier to use when you're wearing a big pair of gloves or when you're in the water. In the pool, it does offer a nice way to scroll through your data screens. Out in the snow, we had mixed experiences particularly with bigger, bulkier insulated gloves. Once you can get hold of it, it's fine, but it can be a touch fiddly initially.

In terms of waterproofing, Coros has managed to make the Vertix durable enough to be submerged into water of up to 150 metres of depth. That's 50 metres more than its rivals. So if going really deep is a big factor for you, the Vertix has certainly got you covered.

Coros Vertix: Outdoor features

Coros Vertix heart rate monitor

Coros' approach to building an outdoor watch is to focus on the things it thinks climbers, mountaineers and trail runners care about most. So it's not messing about with music storage or payments, instead focusing on delivering big battery life, including strong navigation and tracking features and a design that's well equipped to handle all terrains.

Essential reading: Sensors explored – Pulse oximeter and wearables

At its core, it's a multisport watch that covers sports like running, cycling and swimming (pool and open). It's also triathlon-friendly and carries over the AI Trainer feature Coros introduced with the Apex to offer insights into recovery and stamina readings based on optical heart rate data.

There's a bigger emphasis on outdoor pursuits, making use of a sensor array that includes a barometric altimeter, accelerometer, compass, gyroscope and thermometer. These onboard sensors aim to provide more insightful data for activities like mountain climbing, hiking and trail running. There's now support for ski and snowboarding too.

Like the Fenix 6 series watches, it also includes an optical pulse oximeter, which is a sensor designed to indicate how you're acclimating to high altitudes. The sensor measures oxygen levels or oxygen saturation in the blood along with your heart rate to provide the information. It's not really designed for on the spot measurements to indicate more serious health conditions related to monitoring oxygen levels.

In the case of the Vertix, this sensor forms its Altitude Acclimation Evaluation System. This is a feature designed for climbers and kicks in when elevation is above 2,500 metres. It then provides a score from 0-100 indicating the climber's acclimation to the current climate.

It'll provide recommendations on whether a climber should proceed climbing higher, or to descend if they have any symptoms related to altitude sickness when oxygen intake and blood oxygen saturation decreases.

Coros Vertix hiking data vs Fenix

Hiking data compared: Coros Vertix (left) and Garmin (right and centre)

Now while we did manage to traverse some pretty steep mountain terrain in our testing, we didn't manage to make it above 2,500 metres. When you do try to access that altitude monitoring feature and you've not hit the required elevation, the watch will tell you the feature is not available.

We did do some mountain climbing and hiking to get a feel of what the Vertix could manage. Fortunately, our elevated activities did involve some snow and it was able to handle those cold temperatures without a problem.

Once you're ready to track, you'll be able to see data like your elevation grade, ascent and descent, which seemed in line with what we recorded on the Forerunner 935 set up in the same tracking mode. The sample data above from a hike shows that data like elevation and average speed was largely consistent too.

It seemed to handle that mountain terrain fine as well from a durability point of view. You've got a nice big screen to view your real-time information and it was comfortable to wear for those long hours of hiking.

Coros Vertix breadcrumb navigation

Another useful feature for the outdoors is navigation. Coros allows you to import routes (GPX files only) to the device and use that digital knob to zoom in and out of maps.

It supports following breadcrumb trails and also includes a similar 'back to the start' feature included on Garmin watches and the Polar Grit X.

To add routes, you can use existing workouts already tracked and also share GPS files from your phone. You can also build routes in 3rd party apps to export to the app.

Once you've picked your route of route building, syncing is pretty quick and when you go to track an activity, you'll have the option to follow that route.

Coros Vertix post workout data

What those maps and routing features look like are pretty simple. You're essentially following a line, a bit like you will find on the kind of breadcrumb trail support on Polar's Grit X or on many Garmin watches.

It certainly does the job of getting you where you need to go and it's nice to be simply create routes from your existing logged training sessions as well.

Coros Vertix: Sports tracking

Coros Vertix sports stats

Away from the outdoor-centric features, the Vertix, much like the Apex, performs well as a standard sports watch. There's GPS there of course with BeiDou and Galileo satellite coverage added earlier this year. There's also a heart rate monitor, a feature we had a mixed experience with on the Apex. Data is stored in Coros' own companion app and is compatible with third party apps like Strava.

We took put it to the test for some training runs and races and found the performance mostly in line with Coros' Apex and Pace watches. GPS accuracy is strong and nippy to pick up a signal while metrics like average pace, distance and cadence were in line with what we recorded on a Forerunner and Fenix watches we wore on the opposite wrist.

Coros Vertix heart rate data

Heart rate data compared: Coros (left and centre) and Polar H9 chest strap (right)

For heart rate, things have certainly improved from what we found on the Pace and the Apex. You no longer have to wait for a prompt to indicate it's ready to deliver real-time heart rate data.

For one interval session compared to a heart rate monitor chest strap, it performed well for accuracy. In one race, the average heart rate was slightly lower than that recorded by the chest strap and produced a higher maximum heart rate by 2-3bpm. It's overall been a solid companion as far as heart rate accuracy is concerned.

If you have a problem trusting it, you do still have ANT+ compatibility and Bluetooth smart sensor support to pair up a heart rate chest strap if you want something more reliable.

Coros seems to also be taking the same approach as Polar and Suunto in beefing up the features, promising new software additions through firmware updates. In recent months, it's added a Track mode for track runners to more accurately record sessions. There's now also a new strength training and workout modes, which are in still in beta testing mode, but we did get to spend some time with.

Coros Vertix body training and exercise

With the new training programs, you can create ones specifically for a range of activities including swimming and strength training. These are built in the app and then can be synced to the watch after.

The new strength workout mode offers automatic rep counting also letting you see a breakdown of sets and the targeted areas during the session. It's not the first time, we've seen these kind of features on a watch, but they seem to be well implemented based on the time we've had to try them.

It's nice to be able to keep track of sets during workouts and while rep counting still wasn't 100% accurate, it seems to do a better job of it compared to what we've found with Garmin and Samsung's automatic rep counting features.

When you're done, you can check in on a muscle heatmap in the app, showing you the areas you've targeted to make sure you're paying as much attention to that upper body as you are to down below.


Coros Vertix: Battery life

If you're going to spend days and maybe weeks running, hiking or skiing, having plenty of battery life is a must. Coros promises a lot on this front and in our experience delivers on those battery promises.

The Vertix should give you 45 days of regular use, 60 hours using the full GPS mode and a massive 150 hours in UltraMax mode.

What we can say is that the Vertix really impresses on the battery front. Whether it's using GPS for large portions of the day hiking or running for an hour, it really holds its battery well. Whether it's the 60 hours with full GPS or 150 hours when the GPS sampling drops, these are great numbers.

In standby mode, you really will get weeks from with it without regular use of sports tracking features. If you want an outdoor watch that delivers big battery life, the Vertix comfortably ticks that box.


Coros Vertix
By Coros
As an outdoor watch, the Coros Vertix delivers. There's plenty of dedicated tracking modes, reliable data on the whole and it's not a bad looker either. Even if it does take some clear inspiration from a certain rival. There's also that big battery life too. The price is a big factor here though. You can pick up a Fenix 6 Pro for around the same price, which does give you maps and richer smartwatch features. It's a shame Coros wasn't more aggressive in the pricing like it was with the Apex and Pace. If you yearn for huge battery life and can live without the maps and music, there's still plenty of ways the Vertix will appeal to serious adventurers.

Hit
  • Decent look, rugged design
  • Reliable sports tracking
  • Great battery life
Miss
  • Slightly washed out display
  • Limited smartwatch features
  • The price