Coros Pace 3 GPS sports watch review – fast and accurate GPS tracking, we’re very impressed

The Coros Pace 3 is a very comfortable, highly functional watch that is excellent at recording a range of activities

Male cyclist wearing the Coros Pace 3 GPS watch on his wrist
(Image credit: Jack Elton-Walters)
Cycling Weekly Verdict

A simple to use but highly functional sports watch that finds satellites quicker than any other brand I’ve used, mounted on a comfortable strap. There’s little to fault its performance for most activities

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Simple but highly functional

  • +

    Clear and readable watch face during activities

  • +

    Customizable stats

  • +

    Easy operation from just two buttons

  • +

    Easily change the stats shown using the accompanying app

  • +

    Plenty of watch faces to choose from (but this could be negative)

  • +

    Fast and accurate GPS locking

  • +

    Comfortable ‘velcro’ nylon strap with very minute adjustment

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Too many watch faces to choose from

  • -

    Nylon strap will need cleaning

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Unless you’re in a cyclocross race and expecting to change your bike multiple times during, a handlebar-mounted bike computer will almost always be a better choice for recording bike rides than a wristwatch. Indeed, for me, I have used the Coros Pace 3 smartwatch more often for running and swimming than I have for cycling.

However, this review isn’t about the general merits of using a smartwatch for cycling, it’s about how this specific watch performed: in short it’s done very well across a range of activities.

This watch is certainly one of the best smartwatches for cycling that I have used.

Coros Pace 3: First impressions

The first thing I noticed, once the smartwatch was out of the box and on my wrist, was just how comfortable it is. The back of the body protrudes much less than other watches I have used, with the heart rate monitoring part completely smooth and the charging point recessed so as to not dig into your wrist.

The key thing that makes it so comfortable, however, is the nylon strap. Soft against your skin and with a ‘velcro’ fastening that allows for minute adjustment, no more slightly-too-tight or slightly-too-loose that comes with a hook and hole strap.

The comfort is boosted by the fact that the smartwatch weighs in at just 29g.

Male cyclist wearing the Coros Pace 3 smartwatch, with the standby screen

(Image credit: Jack Elton-Walters)

Coros Pace 3: Watch face

If I’ve counted correctly, there are 250 watch face options – plus, if that’s not enough, there’s a ‘custom’ choice where you make your own. The saying ‘too much of a good thing’ comes to mind.

I panic-scrolled through wondering which to choose. I was pleased to spot a ‘Mondrian’ option and with La Vie Claire’s kit in mind, I went for it. A good choice I reckon: it’s easy enough to read when not doing an activity, then the activity screens are a different proposition anyway.

Coros Pace 3: Activity screens

This is where I have applied the most customization to the watch. Although the defaults are fine, I have played around with what metrics show on each screen and which are given priority – as in which show largest at the top of the screen.

I do a lot of cross training, and I recently took part in a running event and all I really wanted to see was my pace at any given moment and my average pace to that point. I set these as the largest metrics on two consecutive screens, which I could easily flick between with one nudge of the toggle wheel in either direction.

After amending the screens in this way on the running setting, I also played around with those on the cycling setting to better suit what I knew I’d be looking for, which is usually distance and time of day.

This level of adjustability was very welcome and something I think shows the Coros Pace 3’s high usability as it can be a completely different watch from one user to the next, suiting both very well for how they use it.

Coros Pace 3 smartwatch in use on a male cyclist's wrist

(Image credit: Jack Elton-Walters)

Coros Pace 3: Buttons

I’ve alluded to the buttons already, above, but to explain further: the smartwatch has just two. Top right is a dual function button that can click in – for example to start or pause an activity – but it is also the scrolling wheel which will get you through all the menus. Bottom left is a simple click button that works as a ‘back’ or ‘cancel’ button to get you out of a menu and it also serves to click through the metrics on the standby home screen – for example, heart rate and steps.

I found this two button (plus a scrolling wheel) operation to be very simple and extremely effective. With fewer buttons there are fewer ways to press the wrong button: many times I have ‘lapped’ on my Wahoo Rival when just wanting to see a different screen. User error and a repeated mistake, so maybe I should just learn, but with the Coros it’s not a risk.

The scrolling wheel top right button also acts much the same way as the lock button on an iPhone: you have to press and hold it to unlock the features of the watch beyond merely those shown on the standby screen. This means you’re unlikely to find you’ve recorded a drive as a run as a result of mashing the buttons.

Coros Pace 3: Health tracking

Running in the background, the watch records a number of health metrics.

On my watch (set by the watch) these are: calories burned, active time, steps, floors, running fitness [I assume this is intuitive as I use the watch most often for running, others may find this is specific to their most used activity setting], training load performance, recovery score (%), heart rate, sleep tracking, elevation, sunrise/sunset, HPA [barometric/atmospheric reading], temperature. 

Each can be clicked into for further details and many can be scrolled back through to see how they’ve fluctuated over a recent timespan.

In truth I don’t pay much attention to these, I'm far keener on knowing how fast I’ve done a Park Run or how far I’ve cycled, but the comprehensive range of stats is certainly good for those who like to arbitrarily count steps or have the tiredness they're feeling confirmed by a smartwatch.

Coros Pace 3: Battery life

The watch is fairly new and so this factor could reduce over time, like with any electronic device, but the Coros will be starting from a very high point as the battery life is excellent. I think I’ve charged it twice in about six weeks.

Admittedly, I haven’t worn it for any all day rides – perhaps 50km tops – but I wear it day and night, run 20km a week with it, swim once or twice, and record plenty of walks. The percentage creeps down slowly and I’m never concerned that it won’t reach the end of an activity that I’m recording for no one to see on Strava.

Coros is keen to push this feature of the watch, saying it has “a longer battery life of 38 hours of continuous GPS tracking or 24 days of continuous daily use.”

Coros Pace 3: Cycling

Already I have perhaps swerved too far into talking about running (and there’s more to come on that), but this is Cycling Weekly so I’d better mention how the watch performs when recording bike rides.

As stated earlier, I am firmly of the position that the best way to record a bike ride will always be with a handlebar mounted bike computer. However, comparing like-for-like – that is comparing the Coros Pace 3 with other wrist-worn smartwatches and not against head units – this watch is very good.

The clear and easy to read display helps when you want to glance quickly and see how far you’ve ridden, or to check your heart rate and the gradient as your rear tire starts to lose transaction on a ridiculously steep ascent on smooth chalk.

A quick nudge of the scrolling wheel takes you to the next screen to show you whatever it is you’ve chosen to prioritize. That might be distance if aiming for a weekly target, speed when seeing how fast you’re going into a headwind or simply the time of day when you know you’re due to be heading home – it’s all there and easy to read.

Coros Pace 3: Running

My use of the watch for running has been mentioned ad nauseam to this point and best summed up in the ‘activity screens’ section above. 

But to reiterate, the watch is very comfortable when on your wrist so does not act as a distraction or performance hindrance when pushing for a 5km PB. It’s easy to use thanks to simple functionality, so the scrolling through and viewing of metrics when your vision goes blurry with 1km to go is still possible.

It accurately and rapidly gains GPS coverage, so there’s no waiting around on the doorstep before getting started (come on, anyone with a Strava account has done this at some point). This is due to what Coros says is “a redesigned All Systems satellite chipset with optional Dual Frequency that will keep your GPS data accurate, even in the most challenging circumstances, like high-rise cities or deep within the forest.”

I’ve run through some pretty thick woodland and I would agree this is the case. I can’t account for manmade structures to the same extent, thankfully there aren’t too many high-rises in my illustrious capital city: Newport, Isle of Wight. When I next venture over to England I’ll see how the watch copes with buildings over five stories.

Set the screens to suit what you know you’ll want to see and the watch is faultless for running, in my opinion.

Coros Pace 3: Swimming

Unlike its ability when it comes to running, the smartwatch is left a bit wanting when it comes to swimming – which might be irrelevant for the vast majority of cyclists, but the benefits of cross training for cyclists are well documented.

In two key areas I have found the watch below par when using it for swimming.

The first is its overzealous and premature announcements of distance: when no more than halfway up the fourth length, with about 85m done, the watch will beep, buzz against your wrist and possibly light up to announce that you have completed the latest 100m. This is irritating in the moment (I’m sure it can probably be turned off, but why is it happening at all?) and also adds to my queries about accurate recording of pace.

Which leads me on to my other main gripe: the average pace, given as time per 100m, doesn’t always seem right for how the swim felt. I’m yet to be convinced of its accuracy, especially when not manually pausing at the end of a ‘set’, but I intend to continue monitoring this factor.

Coros Pace 3: App

The iOS app, which you use to choose watch faces and edit activity screens, continues the theme of high usability.

It's simple and does what it needs to. Syncing activities is quick and easy, and if you've approved access these will go to third party sites such as Strava immediately and without trouble.

There are plenty of features in the app you could really delve into, such as the calendar and metrics that can also be viewed on the watch as mentioned earlier, but for me it was simply a vehicle for transferring data to Strava.

The app notifies you when it or the watch needs updating.

Screenshot from Coros iOS app

(Image credit: Jack Elton-Walters)

Coros Pace 3: Features I haven’t used yet

‘Follow Your Own Path’ – this is a “suite of powerful tools” which includes breadcrumb navigation and turn-by-turn alerts. Definitely something I’d look to make use of if running somewhere unfamiliar, especially if I can use routes from RideWithGPS.

Music playback – this is something I have less than zero interest in using. I never run or cycle with music.

New activity modes – there are loads, some of which (hiking for example) I have used. It’s good to know they’re there when I might need them, but I don’t think I’ll be using a skipping rope soon or going stand up paddle boarding in the winter months.

Coros Pace 3: Value and conclusion

At $229 / £219 the Coros Pace 3 is similarly priced to the Wahoo Elemnt Rival, while Garmin's sprawling range of watches and fitness trackers has plenty of options near to this price. I would suggest the Coros compares very favourably to these leading brands, which themselves obviously make very good products.

I think this price is reasonable when compared to market rivals and very reasonable for how the watch performs. It’s easy to use, comfortable, the GPS is fast and accurate, the battery life is excellent – the watch is a couple of tweaks away from being pretty much perfect.

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Coros Pace 3: Further details
Five optionsBlack nylon (as reviewed), white nylon, white silicone, black silicone, Pace 3 Track Edition
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