If you’re looking for a straightforward training tool that delivers heaps of data without costing and arm and a leg, this is the watch for you
Impressive battery life
Straightforward to use
Lightweight and comfortable
Stays put when you’re on the go
Low profile design
Lacks smartwatch features beyond message preview
Looks a little cheap
Screen can be a little hard to read on sunny days
You can trust Advnture Our expert reviewers spend days testing and comparing gear so you know how it will perform out in the real world. Find out more about how we test and compare products.
Coros Pace 3 sport watch: first impressions
Coros describes the Pace 3 as being a GPS watch for multi-sport athletes who train hard and move fast and that’s really not a bad way to put things. With the Pace 3, they’ve focused on dedicated runners, and other athletes, who simply want an easy way to track their progress without getting bogged down in smartwatch-style features like payment options and responding to messages. The result is an excellent training tool that turns out to be exceptional value.
The low profile design and reasonable-sized face make this watch super practical whether you’re hitting the trails or swimming laps. It’s all housed in a white polymer case and bezel with a mineral glass LCD and your choice of a nylon or silicone band. It’s not the most rugged design or high quality look, but it’s really lightweight on the wrist and delivers all-day and all-night comfort, no matter how sweaty you get. Users have a variety of watch face display options to choose from, though the majority come with a dark background that can be a touch hard to see in bright light conditions.
• List price: from $229 / £219
• Case size: 41.9 mm x 41.9 mm x 11.7 mm
• Weight: 30 grams
• Materials: Fiber-reinforced polymer case/bezel
• Display type: 240 x 240 pixels, always-on LCD
• Water rating: 5ATM
• Best use: A huge range of indoor and outdoor sports such as trail and road running, pool swimming, open water swimming, triathlon, hiking, skiing, snowboarding and biking
You can easily operate the Pace 3 with two buttons: one to enter into and scroll through options, and the other to back out of the current screen, while a toggle on/off touchscreen capability lets you maneuver with your fingertip if you prefer. Once in, you can choose from over 20 different sport modes and review your workout history with detailed metrics on heart rate zones, aerobic and anaerobic power, cadence and stride, and of course, elevation and distance. For a more detailed overview on metrics like VO2 max and recovery times and to plot a route, you’ll use the easy-to-navigate Coros app.
When you’re out on the trail or road the watch is easy to use – and pause on the go, if that’s your thing – and the battery life is phenomenal, with 38 hours of continuous use for ultra runners and 24 days for daily use. The Pace 3 has some music storage capabilities, but you can’t operate Spotify from it, and while you can set it up to show message previews, you won’t be able to respond the way you can with a smartwatch. While you’ll be disappointed if you’re looking for a fully featured smart watch, if your main focus is training, you’ll be thrilled by the functionality and value of the Pace 3.
Coros Pace 3 sport watch: in the field
I haven't taken the Coros Pace 3 off my wrist for the past three weeks, which as I recently wrote about is my first real entry into wearing a running watch. Though I’ve briefly tested a few watches in the past, this has been my first real immersion into training with a watch and I wanted to do things properly. Since I first put it on, I’ve logged 17 workouts and just over 80 kilometers (49 miles) between trail running, road running, hiking and pool swimming, and I’ve even tried the Gym Cardio function for a couple of yoga sessions.
Here’s how it performed:
Comfort and design
I haven’t worn any type of watch since about 2004 so I was expecting this to take some getting used to, especially as I planned to wear it day and night, but it’s actually super comfortable and took not getting used to whatsoever, I haven’t had any annoying rubbing or rash from it, it’s ultra lightweight and the low profile design means it doesn’t get in the way of life or make it difficult for me to pull on clothing with tight sleeves like my base layers and running jacket.
I tested a version with the white nylon strap and, combined with the simple watch face, the result is a little cheap looking compared to more in-your-face watches, but I like the low-key style.
I’m actually astounded by how long the battery life is on this gadget. I recently went hut hiking in the French Alps where I shared a room with two other journalists, both of whom had Apple watches. The room had only one charging point, which meant only one watch could charge at a time, and between the two of them there was one watch on charge the entire time we were there. I find it a bit crazy that anyone would invest in a watch that needs to be charged every single day.
Anyway, back to the Pace 3. I have charged it precisely one time in three weeks and that’s with over 15 hours of GPS use. This is an extremely low maintenance workhorse of a watch!
When it comes to training, this watch is packed full of features: detailed heart rate zones, sleep tracking, VO2 max, pace, aerobic and anaerobic power, cadence and stride length, recommended weekly training load and recovery times. There are other features that I didn’t even get into, like route planning, breadcrumb navigation and deviation alerts, and it’s got everything you’d want to know about your training and then some, without being totally over the top.
Outside of training, you can get other features like sunset and sunrise times on the home display, music storage and headphone pairing, and you can set it up to show messages from various apps like Whatsapp, SMS, messenger and Slack. I had a bit of trouble getting my text and Whatsapp messages to come through and had to go quite deep into my phone settings to figure it out, but got it to work eventually.
What this watch doesn’t have is the broad scale functionality of a smart watch. You can’t respond to messages or set it up to make contactless credit card payments or access Spotify playlists. For me, that’s more than okay as I want this as a training tool and am happy for my phone to provide those other functions, but perhaps needless to say this isn’t for you if you’re looking for a full service watch.
As someone who’s really a novice at using GPS watches, I was really struck by how easy this is to use, and how detailed and accurate the metrics are. Basically, getting started is as simple as selecting a workout and hitting start, and it’s easy to pause and unpause by pressing the side button without having to look or roll up the sleeve. The only problem I’ve had out in the field is that when the sleeve of my running jacket is over it, it turns the dial button which makes it buzz, but it doesn’t actually affect the performance and as I've figured out, you can turn the vibrate off if you want so you don't notice it.
The touchscreen works fine, but I found it easiest to navigate via the two side buttons. It’s pretty easy to check your progress as you run, though the screen could be a little easier to see in bright conditions if there was a white background version available. As soon as each workout is complete, I press and hold a button and then all the lovely metrics are there for me to peruse, from how many minutes I spent in each heart rate zone to the water temperature of the pool.
Doing a few pool swims in this has been a great way for me to test out its accuracy, since the length of the pool I swim in doesn’t lie, and I think the sleep tracker is pretty accurate too.
Smart watches can get seriously expensive, and in comparison this watch is a great deal in my opinion, particularly if you’re looking for a reliable, accurate training tool and not bothered about all the other, non-training related bells and whistles which your phone probably already does for you. It's definitely made using a cheaper construction and materials than some, but if you're not planning on hitting it with a hammer it should hold up to your active pursuits.
Coros Pace 3 sport watch: the bottom line
If you’re looking for a really accurate and metrics-heavy training tool that won’t break the bank and isn’t a full-spectrum smart watch, you’ll love the functionality and the price of this GPS watch.
Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.