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COROS VERTIX 2 GPS Adventure Watch – Review

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

It's taken me months to write this review. I've sat down to it several times, writing, then deleting, and then saying 'tomorrow.' The problem is, if something works just basically exactly as you'd want, what else is there that can you say about it?

Such is the case for the COROS VERTIX 2 GPS Adventure Watch. I got it back in March (disclosure: sponsored), replacing a perfectly good Garmin Fenix 6 that I'd owned a couple of years but which had rapidly become outdated (such is life these days). Since then, the watch has hardly left my wrist and has now been on some pretty good adventures. And, as the ski season has got underway I've found more and more functionality I like, and more and more difference from the Garmin I'd got used to before.

This watch is perfect for the ultra-runner, mountaineer, multi-sporter, and general weekend warrior. It combines heart rate monitoring, barometric altimeter, pulse oximeter, a heart rate variability monitor, sleep sensor and some of the most accurate watch GPS tech on the market, allowing you to record data and track performance on a multitude of pre-loaded activity types.

  1. The bare facts of the Vertix 2, as they are known to me (I've deliberately NOT checked the manufacturer specs, so the following is my "user experience"):

  2. The battery lasts me, on average 10-14 'quiet' days based around town, for example doing a few runs each week and my daily hour or so of biking to and from work. That's with all sensors on, including notifications for texts and calls from my phone. It will last a couple of months just telling the time. My Garmin lasted about a third as long, and was state of the art only two or so years ago.

  3. The Vertix 2 lasts at least 4 days (I've not done a trip long enough to run it out yet) on trips, with full functionality tracking during waking hours. My Fenix 6, when new, died after 2.5 days or so, but the newer Fenix 7 is closer to the Vertix 2 specs (but notably not there yet).

  4. It's waterproof, shockproof and I have no intention of testing how scratch-proof it is, but the tough sapphire glass is up there with the best on the market.

The pre-loaded basemap and navigation options are a game changer, with basic roads, waterways, and land cover, available offline and with activity plotting (and a dedicated return to start function) ensuring you can easily navigate back through whiteout and darkness to your camp or car. You can download more detailed top and landscape maps free online, and the five different types of satellite network the watch connects to means following pre-loaded GPS tracks is easy.

There are a few quite specific things I way prefer about the COROS to my Garmin:

  1. Basically normal menu access during activities. With a couple of minor / reasonable exceptions (like some of the settings of the activity being recorded), you can access just about everything mid-activity, including the map and navigation options. My Garmin locked up pretty much everything once an activity was underway.

  2. Simply a much nicer interface than I think Garmin offer, with the dial as well as buttons, a more intuitive watch and app layout, and a better screen and colours.

  3. Syncing the Vertix 2 and my phone takes seconds. No idea why, but the Garmin took minutes, and often took a few goes.

  4. Auto-detection of skinning and downhill ski mode when ski-touring, based on vertical change. This one is such a bleedingly obvious thing to program in but practically makes such an improvement on manual changes. However, there's a gripe here too - you can still manually change up and down at the brief press of a button, and I normally do this a few times accidentally when fumbling gloves. I'd prefer a 3 second press, like you need for unlocking the watch for other things (I had the same complaint about the Garmin). (COROS, if you're reading – just a tiny change needed)

  5. Recording the exercise benefit from all activity types, without prejudice. Anything recorded with the COROS is going to add up, and allow for accurate and fulsome fitness and fatigue tracking across time. My old Garmin would essentially ignore most hikes (i.e. tramping – even if 10s of kms and 1000s of vert), and even ignored shorter but more intense activities including my bike commute. I'm not sure if some user error was at play here, but I'm not normally a technophobe and this issue (with the Garmin) often meant fitness tracking would cease during any period of reduced activity (i.e. busy weeks at work). The COROS has no such issue!

  6. Man, I can't talk up the maps enough. We disappeared into some dense, flat, and essentially featureless Catlins bush a few weeks ago looking for a cave, and once we found it we could easily retrace our route (and even came up with improvements) based on just the watch basemap – with much less help from the topomap on my reception-less phone. And this was even before I found out about the specific downloadable topo maps for the watch!

There are a few features I'll be honest I'm less interested in:

I'm unlikely to go to the trouble of loading up music on a watch, but hey, you can! I don't normally run to music.

COROS can't sync with an inReach (since that's a Garmin product I guess) for messages in the field, but I never used that anyway. And the Vertix 2 can control an Insta360 camera, if you’re a vlogger or producing outdoor content.

COROS are aiming the Vertix 2 at a climbing market, and a lot of the innovations for mountaineers are awesome. Return to start nav., storm warnings, battery life to last a full trip, and the maps, just for a start. But I’m not yet sure how much I’ll use the rock climbing funcitonality, such as an option for recording multi-pitch climbs. The thing here is that to do justice to such a feature you need to be spending a LOT of time looking at your watch, noting pitches, grades, and so on. I’m unsure I need to go there just yet, but I'm sure the user experience for this will improve with time, and will maybe change my mind!

You can get an accessory for multipitch or alpine routes where the watch detaches from the strap and clicks securely into a plate with an intergral carabiner. That would be damn handy for winter days wearing a billion layers with sleeves (so you can put the watch on your pack), or crack climbing and endless jams. Unfortunately, while the watch securely attaches to the carabiner itself, its a snaplink, rather than a locker, and there just aint no way Im trusting $1200 of watch to a snaplink biner!! (COROS, if you're reading – just a tiny change needed)

When I bought the Garmin just a few years back, there was no NZ importer of COROS, and I had the idea I'd need to buy local in case of any warranty issues (to be fair, there have been none). But I'd have bought a COROS back then if that option was there. And that's because, and this is as true now as it was then – you look at the top brands (COROS, Garmin, Suunto) and go 'yep,' they're all kinda similar, all innovating at great pace, all benefitting from the relentless march of lithium battery tech and all competing with one another, so how come COROS watches are always either cheaper, for the same specs, or better, for the same money? I'm not sure anyone but the COROS accounting team knows the answer to that, but I suggest you try find out for yourself.

Rose Pearson cragging with the COROS VERTIX 2
Rose Pearson cragging with the COROS VERTIX 2

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