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There’s nary shortage of GPS moving watches. Seriously. When I ran the New York City Half Marathon past month, I rapidly mislaid number of the antithetic brands and models of watches I saw connected the wrists of my chap runners. Runners are among the astir anxious to quantify their workout information with tech — beryllium it with watches, smart shoes, smart insoles, apps, oregon adjacent a connected treadmill. So I was wholly unsurprised erstwhile Polar billed its $299.95 Pacer Pro arsenic a GPS ticker that’s specifically designed to assistance runners instrumentality their contention to the adjacent level.
The happening is, I don’t truly spot however its features are that antithetic from Polar’s different multisport watches. I besides don’t spot however this is simply a ticker that caters to runners.
In practice, we’ve fundamentally seen this ticker before. As acold arsenic price, diagnostic set, and design, it reminds maine a batch of the $299.95 Polar Vantage M2 from 2021. In fact, I’d accidental the 2 watches are truthful similar, I’m stumped wherefore this ticker simply isn’t the Vantage M3.
It’s not that determination aren’t immoderate differences. The Polar Pacer Pro has faster hardware and 5MB of interior RAM. That mightiness dependable debased compared to thing similar the Apple Watch, but it’s a batch much than what each different Polar ticker has. One of my biggest issues with Polar watches implicit the years has been however laggy the screens and syncing tin be. The Pacer Pro fixes that. The Pro besides adds a barometer, which Polar says tin assistance you measurement running power, aka your output, successful watts. And portion the Pro and M2 person likewise sized displays, the Pro’s show is easier to read. The lawsuit besides feels a smidge smaller, thinner, and much lightweight. The mode the straps connect is besides different. The Pacer Pro uses Polar’s proprietary Shift adaptor portion the M2 uses your modular outpouring merchandise pins.
(A speedy detour regarding the Shift adaptor. I admit that it enables you to usage modular straps you whitethorn already have. That said, it’s annoying. You person to usage a ballpoint pen to popular retired the proprietary pin and past swap successful a antithetic acceptable of lugs conscionable truthful you tin usage modular straps. It’s not casual to fig retired conscionable by looking, and I had to Google a video tutorial. I besides present person achromatic pen ink each implicit my achromatic reappraisal unit.)
The Pro’s resemblance to the M2 aside, 99 percent of the features you’re getting connected the Pacer Pro aren’t new. Hill Splitter, FuelWise, Nightly Recharge, Fitspark, Training Load Pro, moving show tests, turn-by-turn way navigation — we’ve seen each of these earlier connected different Polar devices. Sure, premium Polar watches similar the Grit X Pro travel with a small much (i.e., much dashboards, fittingness trial types, etc.) but this feels a batch similar reshuffling features without truly adding caller value.
When Polar says this ticker is going to assistance moving “pros” get an edge, the mean idiosyncratic would astir apt expect running-specific tools and insights — possibly mid-run alerts to up your cadence oregon trim your strength to conserve stamina. The closest happening to that connected the Pro is the moving powerfulness feature. It’s meant to assistance you gauge however efficiently you’re running, but of each the akin features I’ve tested connected different moving watches, this isn’t the astir intuitive implementation of it. I was often puzzled arsenic to what it meant during a tally and however to adequately construe that illustration afterward.
The world is the immense bulk of features connected this ticker aren’t conscionable for runners. Turn-by-turn way navigation is utile to hikers, cyclers, walkers, and anyone who is directionally challenged outdoors. Recovery insights similar Nightly Recharge and workout suggestions similar Fitspark are large for anyone trying to trade a grooming schedule. Hill Splitter — a diagnostic that contextualizes your uphills and downhills — works for cyclists, too. The aforesaid is existent for Fuelwise, which is simply a diagnostic that helps you fig retired your nutrition strategy for endurance sports. That’s large for long-distance runners but besides for cyclists and hikers. This isn’t needfully bad! Usually, having aggregate functions crossed respective categories is simply a bully thing. It’s conscionable somewhat misleading to marketplace this arsenic a ticker for runners erstwhile triathletes, cyclers, and outdoor enthusiasts connected a fund would besides get a batch from it.
The 1 wholly caller diagnostic the Pacer Pro introduces is the walking test. Polar markets this diagnostic arsenic an casual fittingness trial for folks conscionable starting retired connected their fittingness travel who whitethorn not beryllium physically susceptible of doing Polar’s moving show test. In total, the trial takes astir 25 minutes — a 5-minute warm-up, 15 minutes of accelerated walking connected level terrain, and a 5-minute cooldown. At the end, you’re expected to get an estimation of your VO2 Max score. (This people is often utilized arsenic a means of measuring your cardiovascular quality and advancement implicit time.)
This is simply a bully thought for beginners. Brands similar Polar thin to beryllium intimidating as, let’s look it, they cater to athletes who already person bully habits successful spot and cognize what they’re doing. Polar’s moving trial is besides nary joke. It’s 30–40 minutes of moving astatine an progressively accelerated gait until your lungs hurt, your legs burn, and you autumn into a sweaty heap connected a adjacent bench. It’d beryllium challenging and not that adjuvant for existent beginners.
But, successful my testing, the walking trial was mode off. For starters, you person to locomotion astatine a gait wherever your bosom complaint is astatine slightest 120 beats per infinitesimal (bpm). According to my Apple Watch, my comfy walking gait is astir 17 minutes per mile (or 3.5 miles per hour). My bosom complaint astatine that gait was lone astir 100bpm. To get to 120bpm, I had to hoof it astatine 14 minutes per mile. Several times the ticker admonished maine with a connection saying, “Don’t run!” But I wasn’t. And for my troubles, the ticker told maine I had a VO2 Max people of 28 — which is, by Polar’s definition, mediocre for my property and gender. Before this test, Polar and Garmin some enactment my VO2 Max people astatine astir 39–40.
Granted, the walking trial is meant for beginners conscionable starting out. It’s apt not designed for radical similar maine who already tally respective times a week, truthful that could’ve heavy skewed my results. Still, I can’t accidental that instilled maine with confidence.
I admit I’m griping a batch astir a precise functional GPS ticker whose biggest crimes are unclear selling and being benignant of boring. In each different respect, the Pro is your quintessential Polar fittingness watch. Battery beingness was excellent, matching Polar’s seven-day estimation with nary issues. The screen, portion not beauteous and cursed with immense bezels, is incredibly readable successful nonstop sunlight. In my moving tests, the GPS tracking was spot connected with my Apple Watch Series 7 and Garmin Fenix 7S. The bosom complaint monitoring was besides mostly reliable and precisely what you’d expect from a multisport fittingness watch. It whitethorn person struggled to accurately picture my bosom complaint during the walking trial — astatine immoderate points, it was astir 15bpm disconnected earlier correcting itself. But, arsenic I mentioned earlier, this peculiar trial wasn’t Polar’s finest work, nor was it intended for idiosyncratic similar me.
The worst happening I tin accidental is the Polar Flow app is convoluted and that its astute features are constricted — but these aren’t caller complaints, either. The Polar Flow app is inactive hard to navigate adjacent though it gets you bully insights without bombarding you with a partition of information similar Garmin sometimes does. You tin get propulsion notifications, acceptable timers, and power your music, but you’re not going to get fancier features similar information alerts oregon NFC payments. Just arsenic however the features are things we’ve seen a zillion times before, we’ve besides seen the Pro’s weaknesses before, too.
Actually, I instrumentality it back. The Pro’s biggest transgression is that it makes Polar’s existent lineup confusing arsenic hell. At $299.90, the Pacer Pro is competitively priced for the precocious diagnostic acceptable it offers. Multisport GPS watches are an costly category, but you’re getting the bulk of the aforesaid features arsenic the $499.95 Grit X Pro. And, arsenic I’ve mentioned earlier, determination isn’t truly a crushed to bargain the M2 anymore due to the fact that the Pro is fundamentally the aforesaid happening with much updated hardware.
I’d accidental that calculus mightiness alteration if you find a heavy discounted M2. But, successful different twist, Polar volition soon merchandise a cheaper entry-level Pacer watch, too. That ticker is $199.95 and is astir identical to the Pacer Pro. It’s conscionable missing the barometer that enables the moving powerfulness metric, Hill Splitter, and turn-by-turn navigation. If those features don’t drawback your fancy, you’re amended disconnected redeeming the other $100.
I’m blessed that Polar is offering much of its precocious features astatine a little terms point. I genuinely am. The Pro is simply a bully GPS smartwatch, and I’d happily urge it to runners, triathletes, and multisport athletes who don’t privation to walk a batch and don’t attraction for a ton of bells and whistles. But I could besides accidental that astir Polar’s Vantage M2, Pacer, and the $229.95 Ignite 2. I privation Polar spent a spot much clip intelligibly differentiating each ticker wrong its lineup. Even though Garmin watches besides stock a ton of overlap, you tin conscionable eyeball a Venu, Fenix, and Forerunner and person a decent thought of who each ticker caters to. It’s overmuch harder to bash this with Polar’s watches connected each level — and that’s a disservice to some consumers and each the things Polar does well.
Photography by Victoria Song / The Verge