After years of testing GPS running watches from a slew of brands, I had accepted what felt like a hard fact: When it comes to fitness, all of Garmin’s watches are so far ahead of the pack that it would be almost impossible for any other company to catch up. I’ve seen many companies try and fail. If I wanted to track a workout or map a run, I’d probably strap on a Garmin.
However, a year or so ago, one company started making me pause. Coros, a California company that started out making bike helmets, of all things, began sponsoring some athletes with serious star power. The celebrity pro ultrarunner Coree Woltering, who ran the fastest known time on the Ice Age Trail and won hearts on the World’s Toughest Race, wears a Coros. So does Eliud Kipchoge, the world record holder for the marathon.
It’s like watching every Nike-signed athlete suddenly migrate to a completely different shoe. What is Eliud Kipchoge doing? But it wasn’t until I saw Des Linden set a new world record with a Coros watch that I couldn’t put it off any longer. I had to test the tech. Coros sent me its Pace 2, and—surprise!—it’s now my new favorite running watch too.
Let’s start off with the most striking feature. The Pace 2 is light. It weighs 29 grams, which is lighter by a few grams than its closest obvious competitor, the Garmin Forerunner 45. It’s so light that I barely even noticed I was wearing it.
You also have the option to switch out the perforated silicone band for a nylon one to save even more weight, although I prefer the convenience of soaping and rinsing a silicone band to handwashing the sweat out of a nylon one. (And yes, I know it’s disgusting, but if you’re having irritation on your wrist under your fitness tracker, you probably need to wash that strap.)
The Coros watch has two buttons, as compared to Garmin’s five buttons. One of the buttons rotates like a digital crown to scroll through activities, while one other button selects the highlighted option, and the last one navigates back to the previous step. Operation is very simple.
The screen is simple too. Rather than the Garmin’s crisp, clear, light-up memory-in-pixel display that you can tinker with and customize, the Pace 2 has a basic LCD screen. You can choose different faces and select your color scheme, but your choices are limited. Honestly, I prefer it that way. And sports watches don’t have to have the best possible screens. An LCD is usually fine.
An LCD screen is also a low-energy component, which I found especially helpful when I went camping. My family is outdoors a lot, and nothing is more annoying than going on an impromptu trail run to discover that your battery has died. The Garmin Instinct Solar I tested last year could supplement several days’ worth of battery life with solar charging, but it turns out that you don’t need to worry about recharging your battery—by any means—when the battery itself is epically long-lived.
Getting into the weeds of its specifications for a minute, the Vilo routers support IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac. There’s no support for the latest ax standard, also known as Wi-Fi 6. That’s not a huge deal considering you need to upgrade all your devices to enable Wi-Fi 6, but it would’ve been a nice addition for future-proofing. Security-wise, it doesn’t use the latest WPA3 protocol, but WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 2) instead. Like Wi-Fi 6, WPA3 is still relatively new, so this isn’t surprising. But it does make passwords harder to crack and connections to devices without screens easier and more secure, so it’s an upgrade you ideally want.
Each router has four internal antennas and supports multiuser, multiple-input, multiple-output (MU-MIMO), which allows it to better handle multiple devices connecting to the router simultaneously. There’s also beamforming to focus the wireless signal toward devices.
The Vilo system has band steering turned on by default, which means it picks the band (2.4 GHz or 5GHz) it thinks is appropriate for each device, but both appear as the same network name. This can create problems when setting up smart home devices. My Nanoleaf light panels, for example, connect only to 2.4 GHz but also need the phone that’s setting them up to be connected to the same band. Thankfully, Vilo allows you to toggle band steering off, so you can split the bands, which I did temporarily to set up a few devices before turning it on again.
Your mileage will vary depending on your setup. The limitation for me is the internet speed coming into my house, but the Vilo system does a great job of spreading available bandwidth, and I haven’t had any random disconnections in three weeks of testing. That’s not to say I haven’t had any issues.
The app is slick, but it can be slow to load or update after you make changes. Sometimes it takes a few minutes to update with the current status. Even after you’ve successfully changed something, it can take a while to show up correctly.
During setup, to avoid reconnecting my multitude smart home devices, I planned to give the Vilo system the same name and password as my previous Wi-Fi network. Unfortunately, it refused to accept the password and didn’t work. The good news is this turned out to be a bug the company swiftly fixed via a firmware update.
There’s also no way to force a connection to a specific router. This isn’t usually a problem, because devices connect to the closest option for the best possible speed, but my desktop PC kept connecting to a router farther away on the 2.4-GHz band instead of the nearest on the 5-GHz band like I would expect. A firmware update improved this too, though it still occasionally connects to the router upstairs.
Since the company is so new, it’s normal to see a few kinks like this, but it’s nice to see Vilo active at addressing them quickly. Hopefully, that continues throughout the router’s shelf life.
Last year, I said Samsung’s $400 Galaxy A51 was overpriced. Naturally, Samsung went ahead and jacked up the price of its successor, the Galaxy A52 5G. This year’s update costs $500.
Before you get your pitchforks out, this new Android phone does have a few new features that somewhat justify the bump in price, like added 5G connectivity, a faster screen refresh rate of 120 Hz, and a commitment from Samsung to a longer window for software updates—three years of Android OS upgrades with four years of security updates. The latter is even longer than what Google offers for its Pixel phones.
The A52 5G is a good phone, but it’s plagued by the same flaws as its predecessor: Its performance isn’t as smooth as it should be, and the cameras remain a step behind our current favorite midpriced phone, the Pixel 4A 5G.
Mostly Smooth Sailing
I’m hard on the A52 because its performance really could be better. Don’t get me wrong—it’s no slouch. Inside is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G chip with 6 gigabytes of RAM, a pairing powerful enough to speedily launch my apps and run graphically demanding games like Sky: Children of the Light and Genshin Impact. Sure, gaming isn’t as silky smooth as it is on pricier phones like the Galaxy S21, but it’s far from a frustrating experience.
Benchmark tests I ran even put the A52 a notch higher than similarly priced phones like the Pixel 4A 5G ($500) and the new Moto G Stylus 5G ($400). However, unlike these two phones, I’m still treated to regular, noticeable stutters in day-to-day use. Whether it’s switching apps, zooming into Google Maps, or scrolling through Twitter, the A52 5G randomly sputters. I suspect the software just isn’t as well optimized. (A ton of preinstalled bloatware furthers this suspicion.) I can still easily get stuff done, so really, it comes down to how much the stutters annoy you.
Those hiccups somewhat spoil one of the new headline features, though: the 120-Hz screen refresh rate. Such a high-performance screen spec is rare in a phone at this price. Traditional phones have a 60-Hz refresh rate, which means the display refreshes 60 times per second. By doubling this rate to 120, everything on the screen looks more buttery smooth. It does! But when the aforementioned stutters pop in now and then, they take away from that fluidity.
The 6.5-inch AMOLED screen picks up the slack a bit. It’s sharp, with a 2,400- x 1,080-pixel resolution, while also being wonderfully bright and colorful. With dual speakers that also sound pretty good, I didn’t mind catching up on Star Wars: The Bad Batch on this device before bed. Better yet, the large 4,500-mAh battery cell won’t give you any cause for concern. I usually ended the day with around 40 percent left in the tank.
It’s also a surprisingly sleek device. It’s big but slim, which makes it feel not too unwieldy. And sure, it only comes in black, but the matte plastic design means you won’t have to worry about the rear cracking when you drop it. The phone looks simple but modern, and that aesthetic is aided by the slim bezels around the screen as well as the floating hole-punch camera on the front.
The other major addition here is 5G connectivity, which is nice for future-proofing, but don’t buy this phone for 5G. The next-gen network is still sparse around the US, and even if it’s available in your area, the A52 only supports sub-6 5G, the version that’s not dramatically faster than current 4G LTE speeds. Safe to say, you probably won’t notice much of a difference when you switch between 5G and 4G.