There's plenty to like in the Coros Apex 2 Pro, if you don't mind putting in the work to extract it. If you're the sort of athlete who wants this sort of tracking, chances are you're no stranger to a little extra effort. It'll pay off in this case, both in terms of device usability and in the results you'll get from strapping one on.
When it comes to high-end fitness watches, there’s only really one name on the roster. Or is there? The Coros Apex 2 Pro is a pricy wearable designed to go head-to-head with Garmin’s Fenix lineup. Stuff recently got an introduction to the brand and if first impressions really do count, we’re expecting some impressive things from them in future.
Impressive things right now are also good. That’s just what the Apex 2 Pro supplies. It bloody better, at its R13,000 price point. This wearable is a multidisciplinary gadget but we… are not. This review is mostly based on its run tracking and features but we’ve got no doubt that biking, hiking, swimming, and whatever else you do to sweat will result in similar performance. That’s a very good thing.
Armed and ready
This is definitely a fitness watch, though it’s not as absurdly bulky as other contenders we’ve seen. Ours arrived in black, with a nylon strap that brought to mind cheaper waterproof watches from the 1990s. Said strap is just a little cocky. It’s emblazoned with the phrase ‘Experience Perfection’. Calm down there, buddy.
It may have something to brag about, though. Once it was secured in place, nothing short of an actual shark would tear it from your wrist. Okay, maybe a traffic accident would do the job as well. Taking a tumble at the midpoint of an ultramarathon? Yeah, the Apex 2 Pro will come off better than you will. Even the screen will take less damage.
The Pro’s body is a 46mm case encircling a 1.3in 260 x 260 colour touchscreen. It lacks the punchy colour reproduction of an OLED but the display will handle all but the brightest of days. If you’re clever about your screen settings, perhaps it’ll even step beyond that particular challenge. The case has two basic physical buttons on either side of a dial that is used for menu navigation. It’s also used to unlock the watch — long-pressing on the knob notifies this device that you’re able to tweak settings. After that, any mistakes are purely human error. Like, say, erasing all of your training data instead of saving it. Yeah, that’s all your fault.
Another wearable, another proprietary charger. We’ve long since given up on anything like consistency when it comes to charging wearables but it would be nice to be surprised. The Apex 2 Pro features a small three-pin connector that plugs into the underside of the watch. If it breaks, you’ll have to replace it. You’re not going to find anything lying around your home that’ll get the job done.
Once you’re set up — a process that took us longer than we would have liked — it’s time to start learning how this thing actually works. If you’re coming from Garmin’s ecosystem, this is actually a step down in complication. The Apex 2 Pro is somewhat user-friendlier but you’re still being asked to take in loads of new tracking data. If you’re scaling up from a Fitbit, for instance, and don’t have a coach to explain what’s going on then you’re probably going to have some homework to do. The app itself also takes some getting used to but it’s worth taking the time to delve into it. Even if you’re just bumbling around, it won’t take long before you’re downloading training programs that you’re totally going to use this time.
The app tracks everything. That’s the usual stuff, like steps, distance, elevation, heart rate, as well as more specific data like cadence and stride length, if running is your exercise of choice. It goes even deeper, with VO2 max and performance data on hand (kinda — it’s mostly in the app). Threshold power is another tracking metric and, if you really must have an excuse not to work out, there’s also a muscle heat map and recovery data in the app, based on your last workout. It said we should rest for at least 48 hours and it’s awfully cold this morning so… okay, fine, we’ll go for a run. You don’t have to nag.
Having your performance metrics on hand means it’s easier to create workouts that will elevate your performance instead of just faking it until you strain something. There are a broad range of pre-made workouts that can be downloaded. Via QR code, mostly, and that’s not always the most accurate system. We had a few workouts that just wouldn’t agree to be downloaded and with no other options we had to opt for something else we weren’t going to take seriously either. There are options for getting off the couch for the first time as well as intensive training programs for tackling (or shaving minutes off of) a marathon. If you do decide on something custom, you’ll find the creation options from Coros are powerful enough to hit all the notes you’re after.
If the Coros Apex 2 Pro sounds like it’s all about the workouts, you’d be entirely correct. Yes, it’ll transmit emails and messages to your wrist, and even notify you of phone calls but that’s where those features end. You’re not going to set it up as a payment device — it lacks the hardware for that — and there’s no option to stream music using the watch either. There’s storage, if you’re fine with porting over MP3 files. 32GB of space is plenty for workout playlists but we didn’t bother. Our phone was around anyway and using Spotify is far more convenient.
No, you’re here for the fitness tracking, coaching suggestions, workout support, and battery life. Didn’t we mention that yet? The Apex 2 Pro is a battery wonder. It’ll run for a month if you don’t use any of the workout features — filtering emails doesn’t count as exercise — and it’ll go for a solid 70+ hours with the GPS enabled. That’s far longer than we (or you) can work out in a single session so as long as you don’t forget to charge it, it’ll outlast anything you have in the tank. Okay, maybe David Goggins can beat this thing but we have no shot at it.
Coros Apex 2 Pro verdict
If you’re looking for something outside the world dominated by Garmin to see what other brands can do, the Apex 2 Pro is a decent introduction to your options. It’s sturdy enough to survive any of the workouts it’s capable of tracking and smart enough that it’ll help you to build yourself to that same level of toughness. As a fitness support tool, it’s worth the cash. The lengthy battery, broad GPS support (it covers all available options), offline maps and (sort of) uncomplicated app make it all the more attractive as a workout companion. But since it lacks streaming and NFC support, it doesn’t quite offer the perfection it brags about on the nylon wrist strap.