Coros Pace 3 review: the best budget running watch just got better

Coros updated its lightweight running watch to bring it up to speed in the current market. Here's our review of the Pace 3.

Coros Pace 3 review
(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)
T3 Verdict

The Coros Pace 3 is a terrific smartwatch for runners that offers upgraded sensors and features for not a lot of money. It's not the sexiest wearable, and the touchscreen operation isn't the smoothest. However, if you're on a budget and need a reliable training partner to monitor progress and recovery, you can't go wrong with the Coros Pace 3.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Updated GPS and heart rate sensor

  • +

    Longer battery life

  • +

    Touchscreen display (might not be a positive in everyone's books)

  • +

    New outdoor workout modes added

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Design and appearance feel dated

  • -

    Touch interactions aren't as smooth as other smartwatches

  • -

    Offline music only works if you have MP3s

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Coros built a dedicated user base over the years thanks to its approach of not releasing new wearables every two seconds; instead, the brand focuses on supporting its watches by releasing new features and updates, sometimes even years after the launch of the products. Not to mention, Coros watches are famous for being excellent value-for-money products, making them all the more appealing.

The Coros Pace 2 was an excellent example of this approach. Hailed by many as the best running watch for athletes on a budget, the lightweight wearable offered tons of useful features for runners of all kinds, albeit it looked a bit basic. A few years later, Coros decided to update the Pace franchise with the subject of this review, the Coros Pace 3.

To bring the watch up to speed, Coros added a new heart rate sensor and dual-frequency satellite support, as well as a touchscreen display and offline music capability. I've been using the watch for the last few weeks, and I must say, as a big fan of the Pace 2, I've been thoroughly enjoying using the new Pace iteration. Should you buy one, though? Let's find out!

Coros Pace 3 review

Coros Pace 3 review: Price and availability

The Coros Pace 3 launched in five variants (White Nylon, White Silicone, Black Nylon, Black Silicone, and the PACE 3 Track Edition) in late August 2023 and is available to buy now directly from Coros and Coros UK for a recommended retail price of $229/ £219/ AU$ 399 (AU site is currently down). The watch is also available via third-party retailers such as Amazon.

The previous iteration of the watch was sold for $200/ £180/ AU$ 330, so the price went up significantly. That said, the Pace 2 was released three years ago, and a lot has happened since then (e.g. global inflation hike, supply chain issues, etc.), which explains why the Coros Pace 3 has a higher asking price. I'm sure we'll see some decent discounts soon enough (especially at Amazon).

Coros Pace 3 review: Specifications

Coros Pace 3 review

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)
  • Weight: 30g (without strap), 39g (with strap)
  • Dimensions: 41.9 x 41.9 x 11.7 mm
  • Display
  • Size: 1.2 Inch
  • Resolution: 240 x 240 pixels
  • Type: Always-On Memory LCD
  • Lens: Mineral Glass
  • Case and bezel: Fibre-reinforced polymer
  • Water rating: 5 ATM
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth/ Wi-Fi (Bluetooth version not rated)
  • Battery life
  • Smartwatch mode: up to 24 days
  • GPS on: up to 38 hours
  • Charging time (0-100%): approx. 2 hours

Coros Pace 3 review: Design and build quality

Coros Pace 3 review

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)
  • Looks and feels the same as Pace 2
  • Added touchscreen functionality
  • Wider straps

For better or worse, the Coros Pace 3 retained most of the qualities of its predecessor. It's still super lightweight – only 30g without the strap – and has the same button layout and a similar display to the Pace 2. As a matter of fact, the Coros Pace 3 is the spitting image of its predecessor; it has the same weight and dimensions and uses the same materials for the case, bezel and lens.

The display size and resolution are also the same. However, the new watch has a touchscreen display, whereas the Coros Pace 2 didn't. Said touch functionality works okay, although it's far from being as smooth of a user experience as the best Apple Watches. I often found myself using the button and the digital crown instead of the touchscreen, and I'm sure many runners will do the same.

Although the look and feel of the watch haven't changed much, Coros added a new optical heart sensor, or should I say, bio-sensor, as the Pace 3 can now track blood oxygen levels as well as heart rate. The GPS unit has also been revamped and now features a dual-band setup, which is better for accuracy—more on both of these features below.

One peculiar change is the strap width, which grew from 20 mm to 22 mm (it's still the quick-release variety). The watch's dimensions haven't changed, so I can only assume the connection points got wider, meaning you won't be able to use your Coros Pace 2 straps with the new watch.

Coros Pace 3 review: (New) features

Coros Pace 3 review

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)
  • No ANT+
  • Offline music (MP3 only)
  • WiFi connectivity

One of the most appealing aspects of the Pace franchise has always been its bare-bone approach to smart functionality. Coros' main audience is hardcore athletes who look at non-performance-related features as unnecessary. Knowing this, it's no surprise that the Coros Pace 3 has an almost identical feature set to its predecessor. 

One of the feature updates is actually a removal of one of them. The Coros Pace 3 has no ANT+ support, whereas the Pace 2 does, meaning you can't connect the new watch to cycling computers, for example. Not a big loss if you ask me, especially since Pace watches aren't multisport watches, so the ability to connect to cycling accessories isn't a must-have.

On the other hand, Coros added WiFi connectivity, which is excellent, as it makes it much faster to update the watch, and it's also useful for offline music. Sadly, the Coros Pace 3 hasn't got the same offline music prowess as the best Garmin Watches, allowing you to listen to Spotify without an internet connection. Instead, you can upload MP3 tracks from your computer to the watch and listen to those. Well, I'm sure this is useful for some.

Of course, you get all the training and fitness features under the sun, including Running Fitness and Training load estimations, Intensity Trends, Recovery Time suggestions, sleep tracking and more. You also get full access to the Coros Training Hub and EvoLab.

Coros Pace 3 review: Workout performance and tracking accuracy

Coros Pace 3 review

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)
  • Updated GPS unit
  • Accurate heart rate estimations

The Coros Pace 2 provided fairly accurate positioning and heart rate data, although it was far from being the most precise running watch in town. I often overlooked the shortcomings of the watch, as it was accurate enough for the kind of training I do, which admittedly isn't pro-level.

Enter the Coros Pace 3. Thanks to the dual-frequency GPS unit and the improved optical heart rate sensor, both positioning information and heart rate data seem to have improved significantly. GPS, in particular, connects to satellites quickly, and I never had an issue with the connection dropping. I tested the wearable against the Apple Watch Ultra 2, and they prompted me exactly the same time when a lap had passed.

(Say what you might about the battery life of the Ultra; I found the GPS and the heart rate sensor pretty darn accurate. Also, I could've used the Garmin Enduro 2 or any other Garmin watch to cross-reference the data from the Coros, but I only have two wrists and dozens of watches to test, significantly limiting which watch is on my wrist at any given en point.]

Coros Pace 3 review

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)

In fact, I often had to wait for the heart rate sensor to catch up with the GPS before I could start running. I often find it strange that the watch needs to lock on to heart rate before the session – surely, it tracks heart rate all day?

I assume when you aren't exercising, it only checks your heart rate every now and then, so if you catch the watch off guard with your workout request, it might have to initiate the sensor properly. Either way, I never had to wait too long for the watch before it was ready for the workout.

Looking at the workout data, the Coros Pace 3 did an excellent job keeping track of heart rate during workouts, and pacing information is also on point. Overall, a big improvement over the Coros Pace 2 and a remarkable performance overall, especially considering the price.

Coros Pace 3 review: Battery life

Coros Pace 3 review

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)
  • Longer battery life in smartwatch mode
  • Multiple GPS modes

The Coros Pace 3 has a longer battery life in both smartwatch and Standard Full GPS modes. The former went from 20 to 24 days, while Standard Full GPS has gone from 30 to 38 hours. Considering the size and weight of the wearable didn't change, it's pretty impressive.

Of course, the new watch has a dual-band GPS unit; if you plan to use it in that mode, it'll affect battery life. All Systems On battery life is 13 hours less than Standard Full GPS mode (25 hours; still decent), and Dual Frequency GPS mode is only 15 hours, less than half of Standard Full GPS.

Under normal circumstances, I'd say you should avoid using the Dual Frequency GPS mode, as normal or All Systems On GPS provides more than enough precision. If you live in a densely populated area, dual-frequency GPS might be required for extra accuracy. I went with Standard Full GPS mode 99% of the time, and it seemed fine; however, none of the areas I tried the watch in were busy or overbuilt.

Based on my estimations, you can get around two weeks out of the watch based on a moderate training load, using the watch for GPS tracking for 30 minutes-one hour a day. Coros claims charging time from zero to 100 per cent is around two hours – I found this to be the case. There is no quick charge as such.

Coros Pace 3 review: verdict

Coros Pace 3 review

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)

I'm in a very easy position with the Coros Pace 3. It's a terrific smartwatch for runners that offers upgraded sensors and features for not a lot of money. It's more than accurate enough for training at whichever level – I know sub-2:30 marathoners who use the watch for tracking workouts – and easy enough to use.

It's not the sexiest of wearables, and the touchscreen operation isn't the smoothest. However, Coros' core audience won't care too much about it, and neither do I, as I wouldn't buy the Pace 3 for its looks or smart features. If you're on a budget and need a reliable training partner to monitor progress and recovery, you can't go wrong with the Coros Pace 3.

Coros Pace 3 review: Also consider

The Kiprun GPS 500 by Coros won't overwhelm anyone with fancy features or flashy AMOLED screens. Instead, it provides basic running and multisport functionality for a remarkably low price. If you're after a no-frills running wearable with decent GPS and heart-tracking accuracy, you should consider the Kiprun GPS 500. It's even cheaper than the Pace 3! Read my full Kiprun GPS 500 by Coros review.

Slightly more expensive, The Pacer Pro is an old-school fitness wearable that heavily relies on people knowing and loving Polar's design and user interface. A great thing about the Pacer Pro is that although it's marketed as a running watch, in reality, it can be used for multisport-tracking, which is pretty good. Read my full Polar Pacer Pro review.

Matt Kollat
Section Editor | Active

Matt Kollat is a journalist and content creator who works for T3.com and its magazine counterpart as an Active Editor. His areas of expertise include wearables, drones, fitness equipment, nutrition and outdoor gear. He joined T3 in 2019. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar and Fit&Well, and more. Matt also collaborated with other content creators (e.g. Garage Gym Reviews) and judged many awards, such as the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance's ESSNawards. When he isn't working out, running or cycling, you'll find him roaming the countryside and trying out new podcasting and content creation equipment.