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COROS PACE 3 vs PACE 2 vs Garmin Forerunner 255 | What’s the Difference?

COROS PACE 3 vs PACE 2 vs Garmin Forerunner 255 | What’s the Difference?

We go over every new feature and upgrade in detail on the ultralight, budget-friendly COROS PACE 3, comparing it to the previous PACE 2 and the Garmin Forerunner 255.

Does the new COROS PACE 3 have many new features and upgrades?

Oh yeah.

Are they enough to warrant an upgrade if you already have a previous PACE 2?

That depends.

Should you consider this watch if you are on a budget but want the running watch with the most advanced features in its price range? 

Most definitely.

In this article, we go over all the differences between the new COROS PACE 3 and the previous PACE 2. Plus, we’re comparing it with the Garmin Forerunner 255/255 Music series and the Polar Pacer series—so you can see how much bang you’ll get for your buck with any one of these watches.

The Quick and Dirty on the 2023 COROS PACE 3

Check out the PACE 3’s new features and upgrades since the COROS PACE 2.

  • New Touchscreen!
  • New Extended battery life (GPS only: 38 hours; Smartwatch mode: 24 days)
  • New Internal music storage
  • New Dual-frequency all satellite GNSS chipset
  • New In-app route builder
  • New SpO2 sensor
  • New Supported workouts (Trail Running, Ski, Snowboarding, XC Ski)
  • Louder vibrations and beeps
  • Brighter memory-in-pixel (MIP) display
  • Built with more rugged materials
  • More accurate heart rate sensor

Watch a COROS PACE 3 Running Watch Review 

COROS PACE 3 Price Comparison

With how hardcore this new COROS watch competes with other mid-range/entry-level running watches, the price is very attractive. 

COROS PACE 3: $229.00

COROS PACE 2: $199.00

Garmin Forerunner 255: $349.99–$399.99

Polar Pacer Price: $199.99

Polar Pacer Pro Price: $299.99

Now let’s find out what makes these running GPS watches different, what makes them unique—and which ones have the features and benefits you want for the price that’s right for your budget.

Size, Model, and Color Options — Pace 3 vs Forerunner 255 vs Polar Pacer

The COROS PACE 3 running watch comes in one size. Its dimensions are 41.9 x 41.9 x 11.7 mm with a 1.2” display. With two watch band options, the PACE 3 is superlight at 30 g (nylon) and 39 g (silicone). It is available in Black and White, with a Pink Track Edition coming in the future. 

 As the previous entry-level COROS running watch, the PACE 2 has the same dimensions and display size and weighs only one gram less. It also offers nylon and silicone watch band options. Colors include White, Dark Navy, and Blue Steel. 

The Garmin Forerunner 255 series offers more models and sizes. The FR 255 gives you a bit more real estate on your wrist with a 1.3” display with dimensions and weight of 45.6 x 45.6 x 12.9 mm / 49 g. The FR 255S has a 1.1” display for smaller wrists with dimensions and weight of 41 x 41 x 12.4 mm / 39 g. This Garmin running smartwatch also offers a Non-Music model and a Music model for $50 more. Colors include:

  • FR 255: Tidal Blue, Slate Gray, Whitestone (Music), Black (Music)
  • FR 255S: Light Pink, Powder Gray, Whitestone (Music), Black (Music)

The Polar Pacer and Pacer Pro running GPS watches both have the same size display as the PACE 3, 1.2”, with dimensions and weight of 45 x 45 x 11.5 mm / 40 g. These entry-level Polar watches offer a lot more colors, which are:

  • Pacer: Night Black, Cloud White, Deep Teal, Purple Dusk 
  • Pacer Pro: Carbon Gray, Midnight Blue, Autumn Maroon, Aurora Green, Snow White

COROS PACE 3 vs PACE 2 vs Garmin 255 vs Polar Pacer Display

Front view of the Coros Pace 3 sport GPS watch with black nylon band

The COROS PACE 3 is the only touchscreen watch in this bunch. The PACE 2, Polar Pacer series, and the Forerunner 255 series all have button operation.

Additionally, all of these running watches, including the PACE 3, feature memory-in-pixel (MIP) displays.  

For $50 to $100 more than the 255 Music, you can level-up to the newer Forerunner 265, which is basically the same watch, but with the addition of a bright AMOLED display that features a both full touchscreen and traditional 5-button operation. 

GPS and Navigation Features Comparison

White Coros Pace 3 watch on a woman's wrist with her other hand adjusting breadcrumb trail on display

If accurate, reliable positioning is high on your list,  the Garmin Forerunner 255, followed by the new COROS PACE 3 are the clear winners in this category. 

The previous COROS PACE 2 connects to GPS only with breadcrumb trail navigation, back to start, and deviation alert features.

The Polar Pacer and Pacer Pro have built-in single-frequency with the ability to connect to several satellites (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS) and choose the optimal signal to get the job done. The only navigation feature these watches offer is Back to Start.

The COROS PACE 3 connects to 5 satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Beidou, QZSS) with a built-in dual-frequency chipset that allows it to seek out more accurate positioning in challenging environments like dense cities and canyons. Like the PACE 2, this next-gen COROS smartwatch offers back to start and deviation alert features—plus touchscreen-enabled breadcrumb trail control. You can also search for or build custom routes in the free COROS app.

 The Garmin Forerunner 255/255S running watch connects to GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo and has a built-in multi-frequency chipset plus SATIQ™ Technology, which selects the optimal GPS mode for your environment. Because multi-band positioning can drain your battery more quickly, this makes more efficient use of your GPS modes.   

For navigation, the FR 255 series provides real-time breadcrumb trail, point-to-point navigation, Back to Start, TracBack®, and Up Ahead.

None of these watches offer full-color topo maps. For that you will have to check out these high-end multisport GPS watches from Garmin:

COROS PACE 3 Music vs PACE 2, FR 255, Polar Pacer

The previous PACE 2 did not even play control music when paired with your phone, but the COROS PACE 3 now lets you download MP3 files onto your watch for phone-free listening while you workout or train!

The Polar Pacer is able to control music apps on your smartphone from the watch. But it can not store music on watch.

The Garmin Forerunner 255 and 265 series (and any higher-end Garmin watches) offer the best music experience of any brand out there. These running watches allow you to quite easily use streaming services like Amazon, Deezer, and Spotify to download your favorite playlists to your smartwatch.

Black Coros Pace 3 sport GPS watch with nylon band

On-Watch and In-App Training Tools and Data Comparison

All three of these brands—Garmin, COROS, and Polar–offer free apps that sync with your GPS watch and allow you to organize, view, and analyze your data. Many of them also offer free coaching, workout suggestions, and route builders. They also make training recommendations to help you realize your goals. They are all very reliable for what they do. However …

In our opinion, the Garmin Connect app is the most polished and offers the most features and personal data integration. It blows the others out of the water. And in many cases, Garmin watches often have tools and features right on watch that other brands only offer through the app. 

That being said, it can be overwhelming for people who don’t want a lot of features or analysis. In such cases, the COROS and Polar app might be the better choice. 

Whatever you choose, all of these brands’ apps are pretty impressive, add benefits to your smartwatch experience, and offer valuable insight into your health and performance. 

Wrist-Based Heart Rate Accuracy

Back of the Coros Pace 3 with white nylon band showing the heart rate sensor  

Once again, all of these brands provide excellent accuracy when it comes to  wrist-based heart rate. Our partner and favorite running watch review guy, Dave from Chase the Summit, has tested these against HR chest straps time after time over the last few years, and he usually finds each brand to be a solid performer in this category.

The COROS PACE 3 just majorly updated the design of their heart rate sensor. The PACE 2 had a tiny sensor with only a single light receiver and two light emitters. Now, this new COROS watch is updated to have 5 LEDs and 4 photodetectors, for greater accuracy. The new sensor also has a lot less bulge, resulting in a closer fit for both comfort and precision. 

The Garmin Forerunner 255/255S, which was released in the summer of 2022, has a gen 4 Elevate heart rate sensor. Since then, Garmin has come out with the gen 5. However, the FR 255s sensor is highly accurate. 

Polar, known for their outstanding heart rate sensors, uses their Precision Prime™ technology in the Pacer, which was created to better eliminate disturbances in accurate readings on a wrist-based optical heart rate sensor.

White Coros Pace 3 GPS watch laid out face up with silicone band

COROS PACE 3 Battery Life Comparison

When it comes to charging, you will definitely be doing it less with the COROS PACE 3. As you can see below, it beats the Garmin and Polar watches by quite a bit.

COROS PACE 3 Battery Life

  • Standard GPS: 38 hours
  • Daily Use: 24 Days (18 days w/ sleep tracking)

COROS PACE 2 Battery Life

  • Smartwatch Mode: Up to 20 days
  • GPS Mode: Up to 30 hours

Garmin Forerunner 255/255S Battery Life:

FR 255

  • Smartwatch Mode: Up to 14 days
  • GPS Mode: Up to 30 hours

FR 255S

  • Smartwatch Mode: Up to 12 days
  • GPS Mode: Up to 26 hours

Polar Pacer Battery Life

  • Smartwatch Mode: Up to 43 hours
  • GPS Mode: Up to 36 hours

Keep in mind that using features like music and all systems GPS (on the PACE 3 and Garmin 255) will drain more power on your sport watch.

COROS vs Garmin vs Polar Smartwatch Feature Comparison

Out of all of these sport GPS watches, the Garmin Forerunner 255 series wins in the smartwatch category, hands down.

The Garmin will put these sweet and savvy features right on your wrist:

  • Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity
  • On-device Connect IQ™ Store for downloadable watch faces, data fields, widgets, and apps
  • Smart notifications
  • Text response/reject phone call with text (Android only)
  • Morning Report—shows your data when it senses you are awake each morning, from sleep to training readiness to calendar appointments and more. 
  • Calendar
  • Weather
  • Battery Saver
  • Controls smartphone music
  • Music storage (on FR 255/255S Music models only)
  • Find my phone/find my watch
  • VIRB® digital camera remote
  • Smart trainer control
  • Pairs and syncs with Garmin Connect Mobile
  • Stocks
  • Garmin Pay™

COROS PACE 3 Smart Features

  • Message/call alerts
  • Daily alerts for calories, exercise time, storms, and more.
  • Find my watch/find my phone
  • Offline music
  • Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity 

COROS PACE 2 Smart Features

  • Message/call alerts
  • Daily alerts for calories, exercise time, storms, and more.
  • Find my watch/find my phone
  • Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity 

Polar Pacer Smart Features

  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Music controls for smartphone
Front view of white Coros Pace 3 multisport GPS watch with lightweight nylon band

Who Should Choose the COROS PACE 3 Sport GPS Watch?

If you are in the market for a lightweight GPS watch that offers highly accurate heart rate, sleep tracking, and GPS positioning, you should definitely consider the COROS PACE 3. 

If you want advanced features, but need to stay on budget, this workout and running watch is a no-brainer. 

You’ll get training tools on-watch and in the free app and training hub—and now you can put your must-have training tunes right on your wrist and pair the PACE 3 with your Bluetooth headphones or speaker.  

At this price range, you won’t get full-color landscape maps, but you will get breadcrumb navigation with nav features that are every bit as good as the Garmin Forerunner 255 that is over $100 more.

COROS has made strides in improving this next-gen watch while passing very little cost on to you. It has the most battery life in its category and everything you need to train for a 5K to an ultramarathon. It’s definitely the contender for best value sport watch of 2023!

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