COROS APEX 2 Pro Watch Review
Best Watch For Hiking, Backpacking, and Training
August 3, 2023 – Step aside, Garmin! If you are serious about your outdoor adventuring and/or serious about training, then the COROS APEX 2 Pro is the right watch for you. Over the past two years we’ve run this watch through the wringer, guiding in Alaska, mountaineering, nordic skiing, ocean kayak racing, trail running, mountain biking, etc. The verdict? This an exceptional performer in the field and our favorite outdoor smartwatch. In particular, its battery life blows the competition away with 200 hours of in-field GPS tracking. As such, it’s a perfect choice for those who play and train hard in the backcountry, especially for multiple days at a time.
- 2.0 oz
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This is a backcountry-focused review. As such, we place a high importance on off-grid use and athletic performance monitoring — and less importance on use for streaming music, reading notifications, and answering calls.
What Makes the COROS APEX 2 Pro a Great Watch?
Compared to other smart watches, the COROS APEX 2 Pro has around 200 hours of tracking time in UltraMax Mode making it a clear winner. This is a key feature for those of us that adventure in the backcountry for 7-14 days without a chance to recharge. Other watches like Garmin or Apple aren’t even in the same ballpark for battery life. I can do full tracking of a 7-10 day backpacking trip with Apex 2 Pro vs. only 2-3 days with my Garmin Instinct Solar (in our real world field testing, Garmin solar technology is sadly disappointing). And while the Apple Watch Ultra might have a rugged case, it has frontcountry battery-life and is clearly designed to be charged every night. As such, it might only go for a day-and-a-half with some GPS tracking.
*In UltraMax Mode the watch will use roughly 0.5% battery life per hour when properly configured. Our field testing confirms this. In addition to Ultramax Mode, you also need to tweak a few other watch settings. More on COROS APEX 2 Pro’s Battery Life here.
All the Data at Your Fingertips
Experience excellent data display at your fingertips. Each activity can have up to five data screens (you can scroll between them during operation). And each data screen can have up to eight data elements. Best of all these data screens don’t need to be tediously customized via a teeny watch screen, using watch buttons, and navigating deeply nested menus. Rather, they can be quickly customized at your fingertips via the COROS App on your phone — taking just a few seconds.
The COROS APEX 2 Pro has a “button lock” that keeps you from losing data by inadvertently stopping the watch during activities. This big peeve of ours as we have done this numerous times on other watches when climbing, scrambling, mountain biking and kayak racking — where flexing your wrist too much or bumping a button stops activity tracking, usually without you noticing and resulting in hours of last data and GPS track. Operation is fairly simple. You have to twist the watch crown a decent amount before you can unlock the watch to stop or pause an activity.
New Features for COROS APEX 2 Pro
- Better battery life
- More accurate GPS
- Better Optical HR monitoring
- New case design
- Soft sports band
Example Data Screens
Pros & Cons of COROS APEX 2 Pro
- Exceptional Battery Life | Around 200 hours of tracking time in Ultramax mode. That’s a 20 day backpacking trip with 10 hours of tracking per day!
- Rugged | Sapphire crystal with titanium bezel
- Data Tracking | It has a huge number of easily customizable data screens for each activity and with up to eight data fields per screen.
- Button Lock | A unique “scroll lock” prevents accidental starting and stopping of the watch during workouts. (A big peeve of ours with other smartwatches)
- Navigation | A capable watch for on-screen mapping that comes with preloaded global offline maps.
- At $450, it is objectively expensive. However, that’s par for the course among premium smartwatches.
- While a standout in the backcountry the Coros Apex 2 Pro is not as frontcountry-oriented as some other watches. E.g. if you are using the watch as an extension of your tablet/phone’s capabilities and/or to monitor every aspect of your life, streaming music, etc.
- Battery saving display is crisp and legible but not as stunning viewed indoors as some displays on other watches
Compared to the Competition
In the backcountry, the COROS APEX 2 Pro Watch handily outperforms its closest competitors like Garmin Instinct, Forerunner and Fenix watches, or Apple Watch Ultra. It has far more battery life than any other watch. It has rugged construction with a sapphire crystal and the titanium bezel has withstood all our abuse vs. a number of other watches that use plastic and/or less scratch resistant crystals.
It has the best data displays of the lot, with multiple customizable data screens for each activity allowing you to closely monitor what’s going on. And these data screens are all easily updated/and changed via the phone app. Finally, it has a “button lock” that keeps you from losing data by inadvertently stopping the watch during activities — a problem we’ve frequently had with other top brand outdoor watches.
Basic Mode Handily Bests the Competition’s Battery Life
First, there is some secret sauce here for Coros Watches — that is their, electronics are just more efficient. Because even out of the box and with everything set at the highest GPS mode, full biometric monitoring, fully illuminated screen etc. Coros watches battery life still best the competition by a fair margin. In fact, even in its most battery hungry mode, the the COROS APEX 2 PRO Watch has 50% more battery life than a Garmin Instinct solar with its lowest GPS setting and in full battery save mode.
How UltraMax Mode Slays the Competition’s Battery Life
UltraMax mode periodically switches off the GPS and estimates your distance/speed using algorithms. This sacrifices a bit GPS accuracy in exchange for up to 200 hours of battery life — almost 6x better than the competiton! In our field testing we found that accuracy error to be less than 4%, and the resulting GPS track completely acceptable for all our purposes. So not much, if any, of a sacrifice for huge gain in battery life.
How to Optimize COROS APEX 2 PRO Battery Life
Setting the GPS Mode
The first thing you’ll want to check if the satellite mode, since the watch has a shorter or longer battery life depending on which settings you use. If you’re aiming for close to 100 hours (with HR monitoring), then I would recommend Standard Full GPS (which connects to GPS and QZSS). You can check this by going to System > More Settings > Satellite Systems. Of course, the trade-off here is if you are moving through an area with poor GPS signal like a narrow canyon or forested area, then the watch may have a harder time establishing a signal and Dual Frequency would be the better option — but this consumes more battery.
With Standard Full GPS on, and all other battery-draining features turned off, you can expect up to 75 hours of battery life, or roughly 1.3% drain per hour (but still with HR monitoring on). If you find that you are running low on battery mid-session, the I would recommend turning on UltraMax at least halfway through your session. The good news is you can switch UltraMax on and off in the middle of your session by long-pressing the back button and then scrolling to the UltraMax widget. Or, you can leave UltraMax Mode on for the entire workout, in order to guarantee the longest battery life. This is where you can get close to 200 hours of runtime if you use most of the battery saving measures below.
Other Settings to Conserve Battery Life
- Disable activity alerts. Vibrations, tones, and backlight all negatively impact the battery life. Go to the intended workout mode on the watch > Settings > Activity Alert > OFF. If you wish to keep activity alerts turned on but disable vibrations and tones, you can do this by going to System > More Settings > Vibrations/Tones > OFF.
- Reduce backlight usage. Go to System > More Settings > Gesture Backlight/Backlight > OFF. If you are planning on racing in the dark at some point, but still need to view data on your watch screen, we recommend using Night Mode. This dims the backlight for a good compromise between battery life and backlight. To do this, long-press the back button > Toolbox Menu > Night Mode widget > ON.
- Disable HR monitoring. Go to System > Sensors > Optical HR > Activity HR > OFF. Remove unneeded accessories. This consumes additional battery life, so if you don’t need to pair with any HR straps or other devices, I’d recommend leaving those at home. [And on a long hike, or multi-day backpacking trip we don’t track HR]
- Reduce or turn off navigation/maps. [We navigate with GAIA or CalTopo on our phone.] So, if watch navigation is not needed, we recommend not using it, as following a route or viewing maps will drain the battery faster. If it is essential to use navigation features, then we recommend scrolling away from the map screen onto the regular workout data pages when not viewing the route. You can also exit and re-enter the route at any time during your session by long-pressing the back button > Toolbox Menu > Navigation.
- Add “Battery %” as a data field. Instead of going to the toolbox menu and locating the battery widget, you can add your watch’s current battery percentage directly onto your workout data pages for easier access. By keeping an eye on the percentage in relation to the amount of time you have left in your session, you can determine when it’s best to activate UltraMax mode.
Finally, remember that backlight, vibrations, and tones are the biggest killers of battery life. Keep them off.
We’ve used and field tested COROS APEX watches for the last few years in a large number of outdoor pursuits and training — backpacking, mountain climbing, Nordic skiing, trail running, hiking, mountain biking, and ocean kayak racing. For all of these activities we’ve been super happy with both its GPS tracking and its data rich display. We recommend APEX 2 Pro as the best outdoor performance watch available!