Coros Vertix review: There's new competition for the big-dog fitness trackers in town

With all the excitement that comes from a new device maker entering an established market, there's always a bit of hesitation mixed in. Will the innovation disrupt and add something new to the space? Will the company fizzle out, or get acquired and disappear, leaving consumers hanging.

A few months ago a friend of mine told me about this "new company on the block" Coros. Maker of sports technology products, their website is light on background information and corporate history, but the Coros product line offers solid and feature-rich sports watches with advantages price points. I dismissed the company at first. I was happy with my Suunto watch, didn't think a new product was necessary in that market space.

Suuntos and Coros side-by-side

Then market leader, Suunto, stumbled with months-long syncing issues and Coros pounced on the opportunity. They smartly began sponsoring several of the key pro ultra running athletes, many of them important role models in the outdoor world. Athletes like Timothy Olson, who held the Western States Endurance Run course record for several years, and Camille Herron, who holds several long-distance world records, and several other big names. Now heads started to turn. These aren't just influencers with a large social media following, these athletes use their devices to train professionally and keep themselves safe on long days in the backcountry.

I changed my tune. I reached out to Coros, asking for a test unit, and have been using their brand new Coros Vertix exclusively as my main watch for the last few weeks.

Vertix is Coros's flagship product, a full-fledged GPS adventure watch with a long laundry list of impressive features. Starting at $600 dollars retail Coros promises a dependable product for your weekend runs and your Himalayan adventures.

I've not been up to the Himalayas but ran many miles of trails with this watch as my only means to track my activity. I ran in local city parks, at Mount Rainier National Parks and many forests, backcountry locations and up mountains in between. Here's what I found.

The Setup:

Out of the box, the experience with the watch impressed me on all levels. The integration with their iOS app is flawless. Their color screen impressive, not compared to Apple Watch, but compared to other sports watches. The setup swift and intuitive, and yes, compare that to the Apple Watch setup. Often when setting up a new product the user is required to learn a myriad of new tricks and gestures, but VERTIX was one of the easiest and most pleasurable product to setup and customize for my desires. With software updates over the air and clear on-screen feedback, so I always knew what was going on.

The hardware

The watch feels lighter and smaller compared to other popular GPS watches, which are often bulky. Sadly, the design doesn't impress and doesn't feel like a high-end watch. The imprinted logo and button descriptions make it look more like a cheap Casio-style watch from the 80s. It's not a watch you want to wear outside of your training runs. The charging connector doesn't connect with a satisfying tug. You sort of have to fidget it into place, which isn't that big of a deal since the battery life is so great that you rarely need to charge the watch. The multicolored screen is not a touch screen and the rotating middle button (similar to Apple Watch's Digital Crown) allows you to easily get to all the features of the watch.

The battery

The battery deserves its own mention. This is what will make many ultra runners heads turn. A promised 150 hrs of battery life should allow even the longest runs to be recorded in one go. In my experience, a regular weekday training run barely moves the needle. I recharge once a week at most, and if I do plug in, it charges fast. This battery is a beast, and in such a small watch body even more impressive.

The software

Coros clearly did their homework. They looked at all the necessary features, implemented them well, and then plugged the holes that the big players left. During my activities, the watch gave me everything I wanted. My customized interface shows me the data I want to see and the GPS connectivity is reliable and reasonably accurate. It's a watch I can trust on a short weekday training run and a long outing in the mountains.

The app

Coros Vertix app

4.0 The 'over the air' software updates are a huge improvement over the old 'plug the watch into a computer' experience. Syncing an activity from watch to iOS app and from there to Strava is foolproof, and for many runners I've talked to, the ultimate reason for why they switched to Coros.

The competition

Yes, Suunto and Garmin have huge competition on their hands. And you can tell that they are feeling the heat. Coros releasing the Vertix clearly has changed the game for multisport watches. For a newcomer to get that much right is definitely something worth taking serious.

The verdict

Coros Vertix

Well, it's not quite a full four stars, but it's close. In my short time with the device, I barely scratched the surface of what the product can do. I am digging deep here to find flaws with this watch. The biggest downer for me is the bezel. The watch doesn't look awesome, even when it performs incredibly well. It's a workout tool, not a watch to wear around town. Some of the watch faces feel over-designed and unnecessarily goofy. The cable connector to recharge the watch doesn't click and connect well. But, that's about it. The Vertix is an incredible technological achievement and Coros clearly has a huge winner on their hand. They priced the product to match this, $600 is a big investment into a newer company. But if the overall experience I've had with the watch in the last few weeks is any indication they are a serious force to be reckoned with. And looking on Instagram I am not alone. Lots of runners are giving Coros a try, pros and amateurs alike.

Mathias Eichler

Mathias creates beautiful many things. Co-founder of the Outdoor Society, publisher of outdoor inspiration including guidebooks, calendars and the weekly trail running podcast Singletrack. In his spare time he runs trails and climbs the mountains around his base camp Olympia, WA. Find him at The Outdoor Society or @mathiaseichler.