Breaking into the GPS sports/outdoor watch market with a new brand seemed like an impossible task – until COROS came along.
Now we are getting the VERTIX 2.
Their Pace and Pace 2 are some of the lightest and cheapest nicely-featured sports watches; the Apex went outdoor; the Vertix and Apex Pro raised the stakes with durability and outdoorsy looks (and higher prices).
With the launch of the Vertix 2, announced today (August 17, 2021), COROS becomes the first brand to put a dual-frequency GPS chip into an outdoors/sports watch, and the first brand besides Garmin that offers offline maps on its watch.
As always, we will have to see how the watch performs in practice, and I do not yet know when/if I will be able to get my hands on a Vertix 2. For this watch release, I am doing an announcement post, for once, however.
Why? Because this announcement is exciting and promising.
Headline Feature 1: Dual-Frequency GPS
GPS chips that can process signals from all GNSS systems – and that we shouldn’t really be calling GPS, but rather GNSS, chips for that reason – have been around for a little bit.
What these GNSS chips do is not the old “use GPS + one other satellite navigation system, as set” approach. (You know, when you set up your watch to use GPS + GLONASS or + GALILEO.
Rather, they can use signals from GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, Beidou and QZSS, all of them, all at the same time.
The chip that the VERTIX 2 will employ is also dual frequency, meaning that it cannot just interpret signals from these various GNSS systems at one frequency, but also a second one.
Using more GNSS systems’ signals means that it gets easier for the watch to get a signal even under heavy tree canopy or in gorges, be they between rocks or in the urban jungle.
Not so much view to the sky is needed to determine a position. Position accuracy can suffer from signal reflections, though.
Using a second frequency of signals, accuracy is improved.
Battery Life with GNSS
Using more navigation satellite systems, adding in the processing of a second set of signals (at the second frequency), all increases power consumption.
This should affect the battery life – and it does.
COROS promises that their VERTIX 2 will still last 90 hours when all GNSS systems are set to be used, and 50 hours when using dual-frequency tracking.
This is down from 140 hours when only using GPS… but hello!:
- 50 hours with all GNSS systems and dual-frequency is still more than TWO DAYS (and that’s only 10 hours less than a fenix 6X in its best GPS setting).
- 90 hours with all GNSS systems, that’s THREE DAYS and 18 HOURS.
- 140 hours in GPS-only… almost 6 days.
That should last for a weekend of hiking or other adventures. Even if map use and navigation – and music – decrease battery life further, it’s still plenty.
(There’s still also an UltraMax GPS setting… for up to 240 hours of recording.)
In daily use, battery life is said to be 60 days. TWO MONTHS.
(On the original Vertix, it was 45 days. That was already quite enough that COROS released a keychain charging plug as an accessory, because it took enough people long enough between charges, they forgot where they’d put the charging cable in the meantime.)
Headline Feature 2: Maps
COROS had been thinking of adding maps to earlier watches, but the verdict in 2020 was that they didn’t have the necessary processing power.
The announcement of the VERTIX 2 comes with an extra surprise…
First off, the VERTIX 2 will have offline maps on board.
I have not yet seen how good they look, but COROS promises global landscape, topography, and hybrid maps, and the functionality to download regional maps from the COROS website (to transfer via USB).
It sounds like it will not be possible to quickly download maps on mobile, and it remains to be seen how clunky or sleek the experience will be.
I would not be surprised if COROS used Mapbox maps, which I love (although, then again, their app so far does not seem to use those but others, which are not as good).
Even if the maps should not be ideal, there are good chances that they will be available for anywhere in the world, and for free.
On that count, they would have Garmin beat.
Map use will be as an overlay over GPX route tracks, with panning/moving via touchscreen, zooming with the Digital Dial.
I love to hear that; the similar navigation is why I love maps on WearOS (see all my posts re. the Suunto 7) and loathe the many, many button presses it takes to even just pan the map on a Garmin.
Garmin still retains the edge, map-wise, when it comes to having them used as another layer of information, for POIs around and for automatic routing.
Some people, I am sure, will miss that and criticize this lack of functionality (or more likely, assume that everything should work as it does on a Garmin watch, not even read up before their purchase, then complain loudly…)
Vertix (1) and Apex Pro Topo Map Layer!
The second, truly big surprise regarding maps: COROS has announced that their VERTIX (1) and APEX PRO would get the topo map feature before the end of 2021!
(This will be limited to the topo maps and regional maps only… but still, it’s great news for current watch owners.)
Price and Value
The VERTIX 2 won’t be cheap, coming in at a RRP of US$699.99 (GBP599.99, EUR699.99)
Cue the “But the fenix 6X Pro Solar still has solar charging, Garmin Pay – and it’s a Garmin, not a knock-off!”
Understandable; COROS is taking a bit of a gamble with its pricing (again), but they have been developing their whole ecosystem, as well as these watches, very nicely.
Additional Build Characteristics
The VERTIX 2 will, again, have a “sapphire glass screen with touch screen capabilities” as well as a “new and improved user interface”.
The display is 1.4-inch and has a resolution of 280×280 pixels (same as a fenix 6X) with 64 colors. Up to 8 data fields can be displayed simultaneously.
Bezel and cover are (grade 5) titanium alloys; watch band’s a 26 mm quick-fit silicone/nylon.
Size: 50.3 x 50.3 x 15.7 mm
(fenix 6X: 51 x 51 x 14.9 mm; Suunto 9 Baro: 50 x 50 x 16.8 mm)
There will be two models available (on launch), an all-black “Obsidian” and a silver case, red strap “Lava”.
As before, the VERTIX 2 also offers oHR including spO2 (Pulse Oximeter) readings, but it adds an ECG reading. The bezel works as the additional lead for that.
HRV readings are possible with the oHR/ECG sensor, and it gives a stress indication on that basis, as well.
Not enough with all that, and even though so many of the features are for the outdoors, the VERTIX 2 will also offer music playback to Bluetooth headphones (apparently, with mp3 tracks of one’s own, not streaming, to be transferred via USB).
More audio functions are promised as coming later.
Total storage space on the watch is 32 GB; not shabby.
Much as I dislike music on an outdoors watch, I may like this last feature, much as it is a “Oh, our new watch can also do that!”
The VERTIX 2 will work as a remote to control an Insta360 camera (One R, One X2, Go2).
So, there’ll be a lot to look at, there’s a lot to look forward to, once I can get my hands on one of those waterproof hard cases that this VERTIX model will again come in.
After COROS addressed one of the main criticisms, that its app was not the best when it came to training status feedback – which they remedied when they released their EvoLab features a few months ago, and which we still haven’t had a good look at, here! – this is all very exciting and promising.