Running watch and brand loyalty is a difficult one when it comes to GPS training watches, and it’s hard to know which is best based on your current training levels, goals and most importantly, budget!
Can an older model of Garmin provide all the training stats you need for your next bout of training, or do you need to upgrade or try something entirely new, perhaps a different brand – but how can you know which is best?
We at Running Shoes Guru tried and tested both of these Garmin 265 and Coros Pace 3 watches for months to home in on the watch’s functions, which brand and model watch would best suit which runner and everything in between.
Design: Forerunner 265 vs Coros Pace 3
At first glance the matt black plastic casing looks cheap compared to competitors who are utilising premium materials such as aluminium on the Polar Vantage V2, but the casing makes the 265 only 39g in weight.
It has both touchscreen and button control, and both respond well even in the rain. The graphics are spectacular on such a tiny screen, it most definitely has an Apple Watch feel to it – just with better, more specific run data.
The 1.1’ Amold display screen dips at the edge for no apparent reason it makes the screen prone to scratches day to day and is hard work to get a screen protector for it.
Coros Pace 3
Interestingly, this watch also has a matt plastic casing but in white, with white Nylon quick-release straps, and a slightly bigger (and flat screen) screen (at 1.2”) makes this watch look stylish. I had so many compliments on its sleek design.
The Coros Pace 3 beats the Garmin 265 in weight too, coming in 9 grams lighter, courtesy of the nylon straps which dry out so quickly from swimming or out in the rain.
There is a touchscreen, button and crown used to navigate the watch interface – the touchscreen requires a heavier touch on the CP3 compared to the GFR265 – in fact I barely used it on the Coros watch, it didn’t feel right.
Coros Pace 3 graphics are dated, and a 64-bit colour display reminds me of the good old Tamagotchi days – very blocky and simplistic compared to the high-end graphics on the GFR265.
Features: Forerunner 265 vs Coros Pace 3
This watch tries to cover all bases to attract the largest number of customers, problem is they’re lacking in many ways. It seems quantity over quality is Garmin’s mission here, in complete contrast to the Coros Pace 3.
Smartwatch features like Garmin Pay, workout library, navigation, and body battery make this watch versatile however it fails in each area also. The navigation is a temperamental arrow that cannot retrace its steps.
The workout library imports to your phone via the app yet you’re not guided through it – a whole 30-minute yoga workout was supposed to be committed to my memory?
And the serious lack of running training plans from Garmin is a cause for concern, there were only three available.
On top of all that, Garmin pay isn’t compatible with all corporate banks, thus is a wasted feature for some.
While I love body battery stuff the Garmin app wants you to input food for calorific data but that is so time-consuming, and not entirely needed.
Coros Pace 3
Super simple but effective. This watch bypasses all the bells and whistles to offer a silent training companion on your wrist.
All its features assist with training, from the sunrise-sunset times to floors climbed, and running fitness score.
Okay, I’m not sure about the skin temperature measurements and how that helps training, but I feel it wouldn’t be on this watch unless it did.
How did each watch benefit my training?
At the end of the day a watch can look great and have a ridiculous amount of smartwatch features but how does any of this help your training as a runner?
If you have tattoos on the top of your wrist, consider another brand. I had to turn the watch around so my heart rate could be picked up from my inner wrist so I could benefit from Garmin’s functions – without a HR reading, your watch is essentially obsolete. No body battery, stress, sleep, heart rate variability data for eg.
This watch helped me massively when it came to overtraining. I couldn’t get over the clear-cut warning when I was physically fatigued yet determined to train anyway.
Psychologically that helped me take a day off when I wouldn’t have normally. It’s like a little guide on your wrist to keep you running long-term not burning out too quickly.
Coros Pace 3
For starters, this watch can read heart rate through a tattoo, it worked better on a color tattoo over black ink so that might be worth noting. However, if you didn’t train to heart rate, then this feature isn’t completely necessary other than sleep metrics. The watch can help you train and hit fitness goals without HR – which cannot be said for the Garmin FR 265.
This watch doesn’t feel the need to remind you that you’re training today; it assumes you know you’ll be training at some point in the day and patiently waits until you’re ready. It is not a guide nor a friend, this is a little data robot on your arm, it has no desire to keep you running long—term but to see out your goal, almost soullessly.
The amount of running plans available on the CP3 is wonderful and goes from beginner 5k to 50k PB which makes sense considering the 50k distance is getting increasingly popular.
And I don’t then have to pay more for third-party plans. So this watch can take a runner right through from beginner to advanced plans and goals proving excellent value for money.
For me, the price tag is a big decider when considering a training watch, the more bucks usually means more features and potential for data burnout so I tend to stick to a mid-range cost.
The GFR 265 is just under $500, while the CP3 sits at $266.
Who suits which watch?
Both watches are great when it comes to helping you train, it comes down to your preferred training style and experience.
For that, I would advise beginners or less experienced runners to lean towards the Garmin to help keep you on target and arrive at the start fit and healthy. The training plans available are from 5k to a half marathon so it should offer longevity for its larger price tag.
The Coros Pace 3 belongs with the more experienced crowd who are more savvy with fatigue, overtraining, and not needing little prompts throughout the day. It’s a no-messing, serious training watch that can adapt with you either for pace or distance goals.
What about you? Indecided between these two gps running watches? What did you choose in the end? Let us know!