Polar Pacer Pro review: Not just for runners

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(Pocket-lint) – The Polar Pacer Pro is a sports watch that wants to be your complete running companion, giving you all the tracking, training and analysis you need to give you big data and insights to help you run better and even influence when you should lace up your running shoes.

Beyond tracking long Sunday runs and lunchtime treadmill sessions, the Pacer Pro also has the smarts to track swims and bike rides and could be a good fit for someone looking for a triathlon-friendly watch minus the big price tag.

At $299.95/£259, it’s by no means cheap, but with a pretty strong features list, could the Polar Pacer Pro prove to be a smart sports watch buy?

Onze snelle kijk

De Polar Pacer Pro is een sporthorloge voor een goede prijs dat veel biedt voor je geld. Is het perfect? Nee. Is het het mooiste sporthorloge? Ook dat is een nee. Het brengt niet echt iets nieuws op de markt, maar wat het wel doet is een aantal van de beste functies van Polar in een meer portemonnee- en polsvriendelijk ontwerp stoppen en dat zal het zeker aantrekkelijk maken.

Polar Pacer Pro review: Not just for runners

Polar Pacer Pro

4.0 sterren

Voor

  • Comfortabel om te dragen
  • Betrouwbare sport tracking functies
  • Inclusief functies zoals FuelWise en turn-by-turn begeleiding.
Tegen

  • Het scherm voelt gedateerd en klein aan
  • De batterijduur is niet geweldig
  • Niet het meest opwindende ontwerp

Polar Pacer Pro: Design and display

  • 45mm aluminium case
  • 1.2-inch, MIP display
  • Removable straps
  • Waterproof up to 50 metres

If you like your sports watches small and light, then that’s what you get with the Polar Pacer Pro. The 45mm plastic case along with the sporty strap weighs in at just 41g and at 11.5mm thick, it’s about an inch thicker than an Apple Watch Series 8.

It’s undeniably sporty in look and while it’s not the most exciting watch to peer down at, it is comfortable to wear, more crucially, and offers a snug fit.

Polar doesn’t opt for a touchscreen, with five nicely sized physical buttons placed on the case and there’s a 1.2-inch, 240 x 240 Memory In Pixel display, which stays on 24/7. That display does offer some color, but it’s no AMOLED that’s for sure. 

Polar says it’s given the Pacer Pro a bit of a performance boost here as well compared to its other watches and that’s most noticeable when navigating screens, which are less laggy than using its Vantage V2 and Grit X watches.

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Much like Garmin’s transflective displays, the Pacer Pro’s MIP display is all about giving you strong visibility outdoors and that’s what you do get here at least. It’s just a shame it feels like quite a small screen to glance at with more bezel than display in place.

The straps keeping that case in place are removable via an adaptor, which will let you put unofficial straps onto the Pacer Pro, if you want to try and smarten up that undeniably sporty watch exterior. 

While it’s a watch made for runners, the Pacer Pro is fit for swimming too. It doesn’t carry the same 100 metre water resistance rating as the pricier Polar Vantage V2, but it’s still suitable to be dunked in water up to 50 metres depth, making it ideal for pool swims and showering.

Polar Pacer Pro: Sports and fitness tracking 

  • 130 sports profiles
  • FuelWise fuelling recommendations and FitSpark suggested workouts
  • Turn-by-turn guidance and import routes
  • 150+ sports modes

The best way to view the Pacer Pro is that Polar has plucked some of the most desirable features from its more expensive watches and squeezed them into a smaller frame.

That means standout features like its FuelWise fuelling recommendations, which helps you manage your carbohydrate intake on workouts longer than an hour and a half, makes the cut here. It also includes Polar’s FitSpark suggested workouts, which looks at your activity history to suggest workouts based on whether you need to add in some cardio, strength and mobility training to better balance things out.

It’s bringing in most of Polar’s top training and analysis features too, so you can access running programs and plans and turn to Training Load Pro to better manage your training – including picking the most productive days to exercise.

That sits on top of Polar’s core tracking features where you’ve got support for the big satellite systems to accurately track outdoor exercise time and Polar’s Precision Prime heart rate sensor technology, which underpins a host of features including Polar’s recovery-focused sleep tracking.

If you’re turning to it for runs, the experience is solid overall. Picking up a satellite signal is relatively quick and you’re getting all the kind of metrics you’d expect to find here, plus the addition of things like running power without a footpod. Accuracy might not be best in class for distance tracking, but it’s proved reliable on most runs. Heart rate monitoring is better suited to steady paced runs, as it has its erratic moments when you up the intensity. Thankfully, you can pair it up with an external heart rate monitor to get better data.

Polar also brings the ability to import routes and turn-by-turn guidance from its pricier watches, though unlike Garmin and Coros, you’ll need to eventually invest in the Komoot app needed to unlock that. There’s no rich, detailed maps to view here either.

Sports tracking outside of runs feels very familiar if you’ve picked up a Polar watch recently. Not a huge deal has changed in terms of the profiles and data available in the 130 sports profiles supported. Indoor workouts like HIIT won’t capture reps though it can count indoor rowing strokes and does a sound job tracking pool swims too.

Polar has added a new Walking fitness test to make the Pacer Pro more appealing, particularly to new runners. This gives you a way to assess your fitness by walking steadily and getting your heart rate up, to know your starting point for getting into better shape.

There’s fitness tracking features here too if you care about step counts and making sure you stay active and moving throughout the day. Polar currently offers some of the best sleep tracking in the business if you care about accuracy, not to mention data that can better inform decisions on when to train. That’s via its Nightly Recharge measurements, which look at data like heart rate and respiration rate overnight.

If you want a sports watch with big smartwatch features though, Polar isn’t going to be your best option right now. It will let you see your notifications, view weather forecasts and control music playing on your phone, but features like apps, payments and smart assistants are not in play here. 

Polar Flow App

  • Works with Android and iOS
  • Polar Flow web app
  • Works with Strava, TrainingPeaks, NikeRunning Club

A lot of the data the Pacer Pro tracks can be looked over on the watch and you can jump into workout history and aspects like training load insights from the watch face. However, if you really want to get into your data, you need to get into Polar’s app – Polar Flow – which is available in phone app and web app form.

If you’re new to Polar, then heading into Flow can feel a bit daunting. There’s a lot of data and menus to digest here and it will definitely take some time getting a sense of what data really matters to you. Head into an individual workout and you can find additional data on energy resources, heart rate graphs and performance scores. There’s dedicated menus for sleep and Polar’s Nightly Recharge measurements here as well.

It’s not the most intuitive companion app you’ll find attached to a sports watch or wearable in general, and does still feel geared towards data lovers. It would be nice to get a more simplified version to hide away some of the additional insights and keep things a little cleaner.

The good news is that if you feel like Flow is overflowing with too much information, Polar does offer pretty extensive support for other third party fitness apps. It does work with Strava and I had no issues syncing over workout data to the Strava app. It plays nice with TrainingPeaks if you want to put your data to more structured training use, and you do have that support for Komoot when you need to build routes and get them onto the watch, although it is a bit clunky to do.

Battery life

  • Up to 7 days battery life
  • 35 hours GPS battery life
  • 100 hours in power saving training mode

While Polar goes big on tracking, training and analysis smarts it doesn’t go massive on battery. If you’re looking for a watch that you can train with for a week before it’s time to charge, then the Pacer Pro only just about cuts it. It tended to be a couple of days short of a week.

When GPS is in use, it does live up to that touted 35-hour battery number, which is a good showing for the price and when compared to watches in and around the Pacer Pro. You can push things further at the expense of the most accurate GPS and any kind of heart rate data to pore over post-session, when you switch to Polar’s power saving training mode.

There are other sports watches out there that will get you longer in between charges, but if you can handle 5-7 days max, then you’ll be largely happy here.

Samenvattend

De Polar Pacer Pro is een sterk presterend sporthorloge voor een goede prijs dat een aantal van de beste functies van Polar biedt en deze in een ontwerp stopt dat het ideaal maakt om mee in het zweet te raken.

Geschreven door Michael Sawh. Bewerken door Verity Burns.

Bron: Pocket-lint.com