The $700 Watch Showdown: Coros Vertix 2 vs. Garmin Fenix 6X Pro – Runner’s World

The $700 Watch Showdown: Coros Vertix 2 vs. Garmin Fenix 6X Pro  Runner’s World

Coros chiseled out its place in the GPS running watch market by selling devices with extremely long-lasting batteries at prices considerably below the competition. With the , however, the latter selling point has been somewhat eroded, as the premium adventure watch costs on par with Garmin’s top outdoor GPS watch, the . Not only is the price comparable. The Vertix 2 looks shockingly similar to the Fenix and has many of the same features. But, there are some key differences that will determine whether either watch is right for your running.

I tested the Coros for the past two weeks, running more than 100 miles across a variety of environments, from city streets to heavily tree-covered trails in the Adirondack Mountains. I also wore it while pedaling a bike more than 25 miles—mostly while commuting throughout Easton, Pennsylvania. On most of my runs, I wore the Vertix 2 on my left wrist and the Fenix 6X Pro on my right to get a real-time comparison between the two GPS watches.

Coros Vertix 2 GPS Adventure Watch

Coros amazon.com

$699.99

Battery Life

The main reason you should buy the Vertix 2 is for its outstanding battery life. If you hate charging your watch, this is the model for you. As I mentioned, this has long been a feature among Coros GPS watches that sets them apart from the competition, but the Vertix 2 is off the charts. The watch arrived to me at 85 percent full, according to the on-screen readout. I didn’t plug it in once during the first two weeks of testing. (It’s worth noting that, when I did, it wouldn’t charge past 95 percent even though I left it plugged in overnight.)

Battery life is highly dependent on how much you’re asking the watch to do—the more frequently it pings satellites to find your location on the globe, the faster the battery drains. The most intensive setting on the Vertix 2—using five satellite systems and dual-frequency communication—will still get you 50 hours of GPS tracking. Without dual-frequency (which I’ll recommend and explain later), you get an astonishing 140 hours (up from 60 hours in the first version of this watch). And, if you further reduce how often the watch records your location, you can stretch the battery’s life to 240 hours of continuous use.

By comparison, the Fenix will get about 60 hours of run time in the default configuration—recording your global position in “smart” mode, or roughly every six seconds. I always change from that setting to “every second,” even though that reduces my battery’s run time. After all, 60 hours is plenty to get me through a week or two between charges. Like the Vertix, you also can switch it to an “ultra” mode, which extends the battery up to 120 hours.

Regardless of the setting, you’re getting about double the run time from the Vertix that you’d get from a Fenix 6X Pro.

Edge: Coros

Accuracy

The hottest topic of debate about any GPS watch is how accurately it tracks your movement. And, truthfully, most watches have gotten remarkably accurate in recent years. Gone are the days of wildly errant track points. But, Coros is claiming even greater accuracy with the Vertix 2 by leveraging five different satellite systems and using “dual-frequency,” something not found on any other GPS running watches currently. Do you need it? Well, probably not, based on my testing.

What is dual-frequency capability? describes it with a few neat charts. In a nutshell, the watch can track two different radio signals from a single satellite and filter out any that may bounce off a tree or tall building, which could otherwise lead to large errors in your track log. So, naturally, you would expect your post-run map to be locked onto roadways, right? But that’s not always the case.

In my testing, I found that the track still wobbled a bit on straightaways and cut corners (no, I didn’t run through a building). Plus the total distance recorded by both watches never deviated more than five-hundredths of a mile, even on runs up to 10 miles long. To illustrate this point, I extracted the GPX data from both watches and plotted their tracks onto a single map.

As you can see in the image above, the Vertix 2, like most GPS watches, struggles in a city—even one as small as ours, where buildings and houses are mostly just a few stories tall. The blue line represents the Vertix 2, the red line is the Fenix 6X Pro, and the black line is my actual running route showing which side of the street I really ran along. Both watches performed well under open sky as I ran across the bridge from New Jersey into Pennsylvania. But, as I got into Easton, they both veered off course. The Garmin took a wide turn through our city center, while the Vertix had me cutting the corner sharply—that’s a DQ in a track or cross-country race! Both quickly corrected themselves, however, as I neared the turn onto Washington Street (there’s an abandoned parking lot there below plenty of open sky for the watches to regain satellite signal).

Later, I took both watches for a tempo run on Shelter Island, New York. The tree-lined streets didn’t pose much visibility trouble and, there, the Coros fared better. I ran a counter-clockwise loop always staying on the left side of the road. The Vertix 2 never once had me veer across the pavement, a level of accuracy which I’m not sure I’ve ever seen in a watch’s recording before. Though, it did cut some corners tighter than I had taken them—I promise, I didn’t run across anybody’s lawn—it was almost always locked to that inside shoulder of the road.

So, is the Coros more accurate than the Fenix 6X Pro? Possibly. But we’re talking marginal gains here, at best.

Edge: Coros

Appearance

Squint and you can barely tell the difference between these two watches. Both have a 1.4-inch display and take 26-mm quick release straps. Even the bezels—steel for Garmin, titanium alloy for Coros—make the watches look like siblings. The Vertix 2 is two grams lighter than the Fenix 6X Pro, which may be the biggest difference on the spec sheet between these watches. But, the similarities continue on the user interface, too.

Garmin has long included widgets, which give you a quick glance at key metrics like time until sunset, altitude and compass bearing, plus your training stats, VO2 max, and even smartphone notifications. Just push the down button from the main clock screen and keep scrolling. For each widget, you can click the top-right button to expand it in greater detail. The Vertix 2 has nearly an identical layout now, though you access those widgets by rotating the digital crown on the side of the watch.

There’s even a menu option to quickly launch features and access settings that’s nearly identical to Garmin’s execution.

One great feature the Vertix has is the ability to change the orientation so you can wear the watch on your right wrist more naturally. Similar to the Apple Watch, you can rotate the entire watch and flip the display so the digital dial is easily accessible by your dominant hand. And, because Coros has a highly symmetrical design (including its name along the side of the bezel) the watch doesn’t look like it’s upside-down when worn by lefties.

Edge: Tie

Music

I love the ability to run with music while leaving my bulky phone at home. Nobody executes this as well as Apple if you use the Watch on an LTE data plan. I can just ask Siri for any tune on Apple Music mid-run and it begins playing. It’s the dream scenario for any GPS running watch, honestly.

The Vertix isn’t even close to that functionality. In fact, its music playback feature is rudimentary at best. To play music, you first must load mp3 files onto the watch. Yes, mp3’s. In the year 2021. Who even has music in mp3 format these days? The Vertix can’t support any of the streaming music services, so no Spotify for you.

The Fenix—and seemingly every Garmin—by comparison, can store up to 2,000 songs and allows you to play music from Spotify, Deezer, and Amazon Music. No, it’s not as seamless as Apple, but it’s easy to load Spotify tunes to the watch before you head out and you’re not limited to music you physically own.

Edge: Garmin

Navigation

The Vertix 2 is an adventure watch meant to be used in the backcountry, which means navigation is a key feature. You don’t want to take a wrong trail and go off the grid. Navigation is also a surprisingly helpful feature for road and trail runners. I regularly load courses onto the watch to run new routes or to navigate unfamiliar cities whenever I travel. The Vertix 2 has vivid, colorful base maps preloaded on the watch. From the course map, you can follow a breadcrumb trail to ensure you don’t make a wrong turn. If you veer off course, the watch will alert you that you’ve gone astray. But you can only see the map as a data screen if you’re actively navigating a course. Sometimes I like to look at a map when I’m not entirely sure where I’m headed. In that case, I have to go into a menu and bring up the map. It’s not terribly taxing, but not as easy as just scrolling through normal data screens.

Navigation is handled a bit differently by Garmin, which isn’t a big surprise given its history with in-vehicle navigation systems. Like the Vertix, you get color maps—though not nearly as bright or vivid—but the Garmin also shows you street names, which I appreciate. You’re able to set the map to be one of the displays you can view during any run and, when following a course, you also get alerts when a turn is approaching and an on-screen prompt showing you which way to go. This may sound like a trivial improvement, but it’s helpful at tricky junctions. Plus, it helps prevent you from zoning out, missing your turn, and having to backtrack.

Syncing a course from your phone to the watch is a bit trickier on the Vertix because Coros doesn’t have a built-in mapping utility like Garmin. Instead of just hitting a button on your app to send the course to your watch, you have to jump through a few hoops. My primary method has been to create the course on Strava first. To do the same, you’ll open Strava in a browser on your phone, navigate to your routes, and select the route. After clicking “Export GPX” to download the course, choose “Open in…” and find the Coros app in the list of options. At this point the Coros app opens and prompts you to “Save the route.” But, you’re not done, because you still have to click “Sync with your watch.” It’s not at all intuitive, but after you’ve done it a couple times it’s fairly painless.

When you’re actively following a course, both watches can display an elevation plot, so you can see what hills lie in ambush.

Edge: Garmin

Sleep Tracking

Both the Vertix 2 and Fenix 6X Pro track not only your workouts and daily steps, but also your quality of sleep. You can review a graph of your night on each watch’s smartphone app to see how long you slept, how frequently you awoke, and even your heart rate throughout the night. Data from the Vertix, though, is mostly unreliable. Over Labor Day weekend, I decided to sleep in after a long day and a strenuous mountain run. The Vertix 2 claims I woke up at 5:57 am—getting just 4 hours 44 minutes of sleep—and said I was awake for nearly an hour shortly after nodding off. Sadly, neither of these was the case. I slept until almost 9 am!

The Garmin, on the other hand, is my nighttime companion. That’s mostly because of the alarm functions: I can set multiple alarms but, most importantly, I can set the watch to vibrate only—no annoying beeps to wake my wife. (The Vertix allows you to set multiple alarms, too, but it rings to wake you up.) The Fenix 6X Pro also more accurately displays when I go to bed and wake up, and creates charts showing how restless your sleep was and how many breaths per minute you took during the night.

Edge: Garmin

Other Features

I won’t dive into every other training feature of the watches, though it’s worth noting that both devices use your training history to estimate your VO2 max as well as predict your race finish times over common distances from 5K to the marathon. The Coros is more ambitious, suggesting that I’m in 3:08 marathon shape currently, whereas the Garmin makes a conservative forecast, suggesting I can run a 3:58. The truth is likely somewhere in between—no matter how undertrained I’ve been, I’ve always run faster; The slowest of my 30 marathons is 3:43:21 (I was leading a 3:45 pace group). Both watches also give you a seven-day total load and four-week intensity distribution so you know if you’re doing too much aerobic work and not enough speed training.

That said, if you want structured training delivered via your watch, you’re better off with the Garmin. Coros has a limited library—just eight static running plans as of this writing—from which you can pick. To test the feature, I selected their “Beginner Runner Base Plan” which features 10 weeks of workouts. (The in-app thumbnail is a basketball player in the triple-threat position. Why? This is the kind of small detail that drives me mental.) If that doesn’t cover your needs, you can program your own plan via the phone app, though it’s quite laborious—every day has to be programmed individually specifying goal metrics like type, distance, time, intensity, heart rate, etc. For the ambitious, there’s also a multi-step process to import a plan from Training Peaks and Stryd to execute on your watch.

Garmin’s training sessions are far more intuitive and easier to set up, plus are more personalized to your needs—but there are still limitations. In the Garmin Connect App, you can choose to train for a 5K, 10K, or half-marathon. During the setup, you can select whether your goal is to simply complete the distance or to nail a certain time. (It’s worth mentioning here that the half-marathon plan tops out at 1:32:00, so if you want to go faster you’ll need to look elsewhere.) When setting up each plan, you can select not only a goal time but also how many miles per week you run, what days of the week you’re available to train, which day you prefer to do your long run, and even search for an actual race that you want to train for. Plus, you get to pick a well-known coach—Jeff Galloway, Greg McMillan, or Amy Parkerson-Mitchell.

Even if you don’t want to train for a specific race, the Fenix helps you progress via daily suggested workouts that incorporate your current fitness and recent training load.

Edge: Garmin

Conclusion

Coros has made up a lot of ground on well-established running watch manufacturers in very short order—we’re comparing a sophomore update to a device that’s been iterated on for nearly a decade now. And the company continues to impress us highly. Given the feature set and value, a Coros is almost always the smart buy. The Coros Pace 2, for example, is just about all the watch most any of us will need for the vast majority of our training, and is available for under $200. Had the Vertix 2 followed that form and been priced significantly more affordably than the Fenix, it would be a much easier decision to make. (The Suunto 9 Peak is just $569 and Polar Grit X is only $430, to further illustrate the point.) But, given that the Fenix 6X and the Vertix 2 cost the same, it makes sense to base your decision on only a few major factors:

  • If you really need a massive battery to get you through a multi-day race with the greatest level of data recording, go for the Vertix 2.
  • If you’re already in the Garmin ecosystem, stick with it and spring for the Fenix.
  • If you really struggle with GPS accuracy and hope that extra satellites and dual-frequency functionality can get you a tiny bit closer to the true track and overall distance, the Vertix 2 might be for you.
  • If navigation is your key consideration, you still can’t beat this Garmin.
  • If you have seven Benjamins in your wallet and need the best watch available, well, I maintain that it remains the Garmin Fenix 6X Pro for now—but Coros is closing that gap quickly.

Garmin Fenix 6X Pro

Garmin amazon.com

$749.99

Runner-in-Chief Jeff is Runner-in-Chief for Runner’s World, guiding the brand’s shoes and gear coverage.

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