Coros Vertix GPS adventure watch review: Long battery life, high end specs, and spinning digital knob
While wandering around the Showstoppers event at CES in 2018 I discovered the Coros booth, primarily because of my interest in its Coros bone-conduction helmet that could initiate a text to an emergency contact if you crashed. I also saw that Coros had the Pace GPS sports watch and discovered it offered quite a bit for someone looking for a watch that had a very long battery life and affordable price.
A couple of weeks ago Coros sent along its new Vertix GPS adventure watch that is designed for high-altitude explorers or those of us who run, bike, swim, and workout at lower elevations. The Vertix is focused on providing very long battery life, high quality build for durability, and altitude acclimation data for those taking outdoor adventures to the extreme. I took it for a day hike on Mt. Rainier in Washington State, but didn’t quite reach the 8000 feet minimum for automatic acclimation activation.
See also: Coros PACE GPS multisport watch review: Newcomers challenge Garmin, Suunto, and Polar with affordable offerings
In addition to my day hike, I’ve been biking, running, sleeping, and commuting with the Coros Vertix and have to say that long battery life can be a game changer when you can go all week with some workouts and 24/7 tracking with no charging required. It may not have all the extras like offline music, watch-based payments, or advanced smartphone connectivity, but the Vertix gets the essentials done and is a great option for those athletes looking for a durable, reliable GPS sports watch.
- Display: 1.2 inch 64-color display, 240×240 pixels, sapphire glass with diamond-like coating
- Materials: Titanium bezel and high-grade fiber watch body with silicone quick release 22mm watch band
- Wireless connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2, ANT+, and GLONASS/GPS (Galileo and Beidou with future update)/li>
- Sensors: Optical pulse oximeter, optical heart rate monitor, barometric altimeter, accelerometer, compass, gyroscope, thermometer/li>
- Water resistance: 15 ATM waterproof rating (150 meters)
- Battery life: Up to 45 days in watch mode, up to 60 hours in GPS mode, and up to 150 hours in UltraMax mode
- Dimensions: 48.74 x 48.74 x 16.75 mm and 76 grams
- Color options: Dark Rock (black), Fire Dragon (silver/orange), Mountain Hunter (copper/green), and Ice Breaker (blue/clear)
The Coros Vertix is available now for $599.99 with the unique Ice Breaker color (primarily an azure blue color with transparent fiber elements) priced at $699.99. The comparable Garmin Fenix 5, without music, is priced $100 less at $499.99 and that is really where I think Coros should be with the Vertix in order to establish itself as a true option for Garmin, Suunto, and Polar athletes.
The Coros Vertix is a big watch, but if you have made it this far into the review you must have some interest and understanding that this watch is feature packed and not meant for those with small wrists. There are two buttons and a rotating crown button (aka digital knob) all positioned on one side of the watch. One button is for the light and the other is labeled back/lap. The large digital knob spins while also pushing in to serve as a selection button. The great thing about the Vertix is that Coros lets you setup the watch to have the buttons and knob on the left or right side so it can be made to work with either wrist and whatever preference you desire. I’ve been wearing it on my left wrist with the buttons and knob on the right side.
The digital knob is quite large and has grooves on the end to help you spin it and move the screens up and down on the display. Given that high mountain hikers and climbers may be using gloves, I put gloves on and was able to easily navigate the Vertix with the digital knob and buttons. Thankfully, Coros did not release the Vertix with a touchscreen interface, which I personally hate for a watch designed for outdoor activities.
The display is nothing like a vibrant Apple Watch or Galaxy Watch OLED, but it is a color display. It is very visible outside, but when using it inside my aging eyes require the light to be on most of the time. The light can be enabled when you lift up your wrist or by pushing the light button.
The sapphire glass is flawless and after running, biking, and hiking it remains as pristine as the day I started using it. The titanium bezel and fiber body also are attractive and give the watch a great high-end look and feel. There is an opening for the barometric sensor, and possibly the thermometer, on the side opposite the buttons.
A standard quick-release 22mm watch band mount is present and the leather band I bought for my Fenix 5 Plus work perfectly on the Vertix. I love having the ability to quickly and easily swap bands for work and play. The included silicone band is very malleable and comfortable, unlike some stiff bands I’ve tested in the past.
There are five areas on the back for the heart rate and pulse oximeter sensors with a three-prong charging port at one end. The charging cable looks like one of the newer Garmin cables, but Garmin uses four prongs to charge its watches so don’t try to connect a Garmin cable to the Vertix.
The Coros Vertix has a 15ATM (150 meters) waterproof rating and while very few people ever have the need, or qualifications, to dive that deep, this high level of waterproofing should translate into longer protection operating in lower depths of water or in rain, snow, or ice conditions. I don’t think the intent is for one to dive to great depths, but understand that their watch has a robust resistance to water intrusion.
See also: Coros Omni smart cycling helmet hands-on: Protection, music, and safety
Unlike modern Garmin watches that can be a bit overwhelming with the number of features, widgets, and settings, the Coros Vertix offers a fairly streamlined user experience. When you first turn on your watch you will see a watch face that can be customized a bit from 21 watch face designs. I usually switch up every few days to try something new. There is no ability to create your own watch face or download others from an app store or anything.
On some watch faces you can press the back/lap button repeatedly to toggle through floors climbed, time of sunrise, time of sunset, active minutes, remaining battery percentage, and steps taken data that appear in various areas of a watch face. The top light button just toggles the light on and off.
Holding in on the back/lap button brings up a host of other options that are arranged around the outside of the watch face and activate when you spin the digital knob and press in on it to select it. Options that appear include mapping, navigation settings, UltraMax toggle, HR measurement, compass, alarm, do not disturb toggle, night mode toggle, watch face selector, timer, stopwatch, altitude performance, and system settings. Most are self-explanatory, but navigation settings is only valid if you have loaded courses onto the watch from the smartphone app.
System settings include a do not disturb toggle, workout interface selector, pair phone, pair ANT+ accessories, calibrate, turn off, reset all, device info, altitude alert toggle, GPS satellite location data, GPS mode, date/time, units, auto lock, tones, vibration, digital knob, wrist hand, backlight, watch face and theme color, and language.
Back starting on the watch face, rotating the digital knob takes you through the following screens: temperature, barometer, altitude, heart rate, and activity stats summary (calories burned, steps taken, floors climbed, and active time). Pressing in on the digital knob will bring up more details for some of these main widgets on the watch.
After using your connected smartphone to customize your workout interface, press in on the digital knob to choose the activity you want to track with the Vertix. Available options include run, indoor run, trail run, mountain climb, hike, bike, indoor bike, pool swim, open water swim, triathlon, gym cardio, and GPS cardio. There are also options to via the AI Trainer and selecting this shows your current stamina percentage, which shows how much you have left in the tank. For example, if you are well-recovered then you may show a stamina of 100%, but if you have been working out every day and are pushing the limits it may show 50%. This AI Trainer area also lets you scroll through recent recorded events and view the details of the data associated with those events.
The Coros app is available for iOS and Android, with the same interface appearing across both platforms. The app is used to manage all Coros products, including the watches and connected helmets.
After adding your Vertix to the app you simply pull down to initiate a sync event with the watch. There are four main displays in the app for the Vertix: today screen with all of your data for the day on one long display that shows calories burned, active energy, exercise time, steps taken, heart rate, sleep, training load, fitness index, and fitness load. You can tap the calendar icon in the top left to see a ring summary of past dates (aka Apple Watch and Garmin) and choose to view the specific data from that date as well. There is no ability to view reports, such as your trends in steps over weeks or months and with no companion website this is one area I would like to see improved upon. The data is definitely there, but you need to go out to third parties to create reports and develop more analysis.
The next available display in the app shows your workouts. You can filter these by type of workout and then tap on a specific workout to view all the nitty gritty details. The details include a map, GPS track, distance, elapsed time, and calories burned with plots of speed, elevation, heart rate, heart rate zones, lap breakdown, training effect, and cadence. You can choose to share that data as an image, export in various standards, saved route, Facebook post, and more. You can also edit the specific workout name.
The third smartphone display is a profile display with some basic stats on you and various totals you have achieved in various events. There are also medals you can earn that will appear on this page. Below the medals are options to access settings, 3rd party apps, favorite routes, account link, FAQs, feedback, and about. Third party app options include Strava, TrainingPeaks, RQ, HealthKit, and WeRun. As a Strava user I found this useful since I can then use Strava to run historical reports and help me track improvements. HealthKit integration lets you transfer cycling distance, heart rate, steps, swimming distance, and walking/running distance from the Vertix to your Apple Health account.
The last display on the smartphone app is where you manage the Vertix. The coolest feature is the ability to setup the five available displays for each workout type so you can see what you want when exercising. You can choose to have from one to five types of data on one to five displays. Data options include time of day, total time, workout time, distance, laps, cadence, stride length, pace, speed, heart rate, and many more. I haven’t found one piece of data missing from what I want to track.
Other options on this page include My Route, watch face settings, altitude performance, GPS satellite data, and firmware update.
Daily usage experiences and summary
I owned a Fenix 5 Plus for about a year and enjoyed using it, but then moved on to the lighter and smaller Forerunner 945. The Coros Vertix is 10 grams lighter than the Fenix 5 Plus I owned and still feels just fine on my wrist. It’s not the best watch to wear for sleep tracking, but sleep stats are not a major focus for the Vertix so its safe to leave off at night.
The extremely long battery life is a game changer and when you can go for more than a month just wearing the watch 24/7 then that is something special. For my usage of wearing it 24/7 and running two to three times a week I can easily go a couple of weeks between charging the watch. That might not seem like much, but when you can rely on your watch to just work every day it changes your perspective on wearables.
Last year I tested out and became a fan of running power as tracked by the Stryd device. The Coros Vertix connects to the Stryd, but there is not yet any data field to have power appear on the watch. I read a discussion post on the Stryd website that support for Coros was coming and given the active work by Coros developers (check out the current release notes) I foresee Stryd support soon. When that happens, I may indeed be picking up my own Coros Vertix or Apex.
Given the similar watch faces and basic form factor, it is natural to compare the Coros Vertix with the Garmin Fenix 5 or 5 Plus. Both are large watches about 48mm in diameter, both have quick release 22mm bands, titanium and sapphire glass materials are used, the charging port is similar, and some software elements are nearly the same. That said, Garmin’s watches use a five button navigation system while Coros has a rotating digital knob and two buttons. This may not mean that much to the bike/run athlete that I am, but high altitude athletes will greatly appreciate rotating the digital knob with gloves, having the watch work in extreme temperatures, and having their pulse oximeter tracking their health automatically when high in the clouds.
The Coros Vertix also has stunning battery life ratings that at least double Garmin’s battery life. Ultra long distance runners will also appreciate being able to run for many hours, or a few days, with GPS tracking enabled. I like that you can customize your workout screens for the Vertix on your smartphone and then sync over to the watch while Garmin displays are customized on the watch itself. The Vertix lacks onboard maps, offline music, and Garmin Pay so if these features are important to you then the Vertix is not a candidate for your GPS watch needs.
The sapphire and titanium version of Fenix 5 Plus is priced at $749.99, which is $150 more than the Coros Vertix. That version of the Fenix also lacks a pulse oximeter so you would need the large 5X Plus with no titanium frame for $749.99 or the titanium model for $1,049.99 to match what Coros is offering. Yes, there are less expensive Fenix 5 and 5 Plus models, with some additional features, but I don’t think $599.99 is ridiculous for the Vertix if you are the type of adventure athlete it is targeted for. If you are a runner or cyclist, then the Vertix is likely overkill for your needs and you can look at the much less expensive Coros Apex or Pace.
Although I like to hike, I’m not a high altitude adventurer. However, I love the look, feel, design, and functionality of the Coros Vertix and have my eye on that cool Ice Breaker and the Mountain Hunter models. Coros has demonstrated a good track record of updates too, which is something other companies have been lacking. The Coros Vertix is an excellent entry into the GPS sports watch market and I look forward to future Coros releases.