Polar Pacer Pro
The Polar Pacer Pro is pitched at runners, but it’s definitely a multi-sport watch that will appeal to swimmers, cyclists and triathletes too. Add in some of Polar’s best software features – brought over from its pricier Vantage and Grit X watches – wrapped up in a lightweight design, and this might be Polar’s best-value sports watch right now.
Slim, lightweight designSnappier performance than other Polar watchesLots of useful training tools and insights
Battery life drain outside of trackingUnattractive black bezelSmartwatch features aren’t fantastic
Sat-nav skillsTurn-by-turn guidance powered by Komoot
Smartwatch extrasNotifications and music controls
Battery LifeYou can get around 7 days from a single charge
The Polar Pacer Pro is a multi-sport watch that joins the cheaper Pacer model as options firmly aimed at runners. It offers navigation features, metrics such as running power, and Polar’s rich training insights in a slim, lightweight design.
The Pacer Pro’s $299/£259 price puts it in the company of Garmin’s Forerunner 245 and the Coros Apex, making it the ideal option for those looking for a watch that goes beyond the basics, but who don’t want to pay the big bucks for Polar’s top-end Vantage and Grit X watches.
Consider that price and the level of features that Polar is promising here, and the Pro has all the hallmarks of being a great mid-range sports watch.
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45mm case size 1.2-inch, MIP displayInterchangeable strapsWeighs 45gAvailable in four different colours
The Pacer Pro clearly takes design cues from the brand’s Vantage V-series watches, sporting a similar circular look and array of nicely grippy physical buttons dotted around the display.
It’s a 45mm-sized plastic case with an aluminium bezel that measures 11.5mm thick and, along with the strap, the device weighs in at just 41g. It’s available in your pick of grey, white, blue or maroon bands. If you like your sports watches light and slim, then that’s exactly what you’re getting here. It’s waterproof up to a depth of 50 metres, too, which means it’s also fit to be used for swims.
The 20mm bands that keep that case are interchangeable, but it’s a proprietary setup, which means you have to stick to Polar’s own straps. The strap proved comfortable, although I did find it retained moisture on wearing it for long periods.
There’s no touchscreen here, which isn’t a deal-breaker in my opinion; but it has all the hallmarks of other Polar screens. It’s a 1.2-inch, 240 x 240-resolution Memory In Pixel-style screen with Gorilla Glass to offer a degree of protection. While that means it is a colour panel with strong viewing angles in bright light, it’s nowhere near as vibrant as an OLED or LCD screen.
On the bright side, Polar has given the Pacer Pro a processor boost, which means navigating through screens is nowhere near as laggy as is the experience on the Vantage, Grit X and Ignite watches. However, what’s disappointing is that the black bezel surround is big and really eats into potential screen estate.
Around the back of the device you’ll find Polar’s Precision Prime optical heart rate sensor technology and the charging point, which sees Polar move away from the disc-shaped cradle of the Vantage, Grit X and Ignite watches, for something that I can’t say is necessarily a better way to charge; but is a smaller setup, nonetheless.
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Tracking and Features
Wrist-based running power Turn-by-turn guidanceFuelWise reminders
The Pacer Pro offers a lot from that slim form factor. You can take advantage of sports modes aplenty, heaps of metrics, and Polar’s smart coaching, training and analysis features as well. It also brings some of Polar’s best new software additions in recent years, including its useful FitSpark suggested workouts, FuelWise fuelling reminders (which first debuted with its Grit X outdoor watch), and running power from the wrist, which is a measurement of performance that does take some time to get to grips with to make the most of it.
The experience of tracking, training and analysing your sessions is solid overall, and if you want a sports watch that covers the key bases, the Polar Pacer Pro does a good job.
Hit the bottom button on the left side of the case to enter tracking mode, which includes profiles for activities such as running, mountain biking, pool swimming, hiking and there’s a triathlon mode here, too. You can add more profiles from the Polar Flow companion phone app, which can throw a lot of data at you, so it’s worth spending time to familiarise yourself with the platform to ensure you get the most from the Pacer Pro.
I used the device to track runs, pool swims and general cardio and HIIT workouts and, in general, tracking accuracy was akin to my experience with other Polar watches I’ve tested recently.
For running, there’s support for GPS, Glonass, Galileo and QZSS satellite systems, with assisted-GPS tech to speed up getting a signal fix. I still found I was waiting longer than I’d like for that signal, but when it did lock on, the data was good overall. I compared it mainly to Garmin’s very accurate Epix watch, and while metrics such as distance tracking and average pace didn’t entirely match up, they were close enough for us to feel the Pacer Pro was reliable.
Polar’s Precision Prime heart rate sensor technology offers some of the best wrist-based heart rate data for exercise available, but it does struggle to keep up with sudden spikes and drops in heart rate during high-intensity workouts. Polar recommends pairing up the device with one of its gold-standard heart rate monitor chest straps to remedy that; but for steady runs and workouts, the data was very good against a chest strap monitor.
It’s also good to see a couple of features that first appeared on Polar’s pricier watches. The first is FuelWise, which is useful for those who may be running or training for hours, or days, to better gauge when and how much to refuel their body in order to make it to the end of the session.
Polar also includes mapping and navigation support, letting you upload routes via third-party app Komoot. Plus, there’s a useful back to the start feature here, too. The mapping experience is pretty basic; you will need to fork out for Komoot to make the most of the support.
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Where Polar really starts to separate itself from the competition is with the level of analysis and coaching features on offer. This even extends to sleep tracking, to help you pay better attention to that all-important recovery time.
You get Polar’s Training Load Pro and Cardio Load status insights to better determine when you should train to hit your optimal training periods. Dig into individual workouts and you will also see running index scores and a breakdown of the energy sources used to fuel workouts through heart rate data.
Polar now adds a means to assess current fitness levels, specifically aimed at those who are new to exercise and running. It requires you to walk steadily, keeping your heart rate above 124bpm to successfully complete the test to gauge your current aerobic fitness. For me, that proved quite a high minimum heart rate for walking, so it was one I struggled to put to the test.
The Pacer Pro does double up as an activity tracker and sleep monitor, too; but counting steps doesn’t feel as much of a priority as Polar’s rich sleep stats, which I found offered some of the most accurate sleep data from the wrist. These include its Nightly Recharge insights, which are designed to inform training times based on sleep quality and how well your autonomic nervous system (ANS) calms during the early hours of that tracked sleep time.
On the smartwatch front, there’s still some work to be done. Polar offers notifications, the ability to view weather forecasts, change watch faces, access music controls inside and outside of training, plus you can turn on a Do Not Disturb mode for those times you don’t want to be distracted.
All notifications have to be viewed from a dedicated menu, and while the boost in performance makes music controls less painful to use, it’s the kind of feature where touchscreen controls would have been welcome. It’s handy that you can access them during workouts.
Up to seven days’ battery lifeUp to 35 hours of GPS battery life100 hours in Power Save training mode
The Pacer Pro packs a 265mAh capacity battery that Polar says can deliver up to seven days on a single charge, which is the minimum I’d expect to see from a sports watch at this price.
For tracking, you can expect 35 hours with GPS use, with that increasing to 100 hours in Polar’s Power Save training mode. The latter adjusts the GPS recording rate and switches off heart rate monitoring when you enter tracking mode.
When you take into account the features available, whether that’s all-day monitoring, smartwatch features and regular use of GPS, battery life is much closer to five days on average. While it may be possible to see the Pacer Pro make it to seven days, in my experience, it’s been fewer days.
Surprisingly, the number one culprit for battery drain doesn’t appear to be tracking your workouts. The biggest drops appear to be the result of Polar’s rich sleep-tracking features and those nightly recharge measurements – and it’s a shame there’s no option to disable the option.
Should you buy it?
You want a feature-rich, well-priced sports watch If you look at what else sits around the price of the Pacer Pro, then this device offers solid value for money in terms of performance and the metrics, insights and training tools you have at your disposal.
You want your sports watch to play smartwatch too Polar’s strength doesn’t lie with its performance as a smartwatch. The execution of features such as notifications and music controls pale in comparison to Garmin models and smartwatches that sit around the same price.
If you’re an owner of a recent Polar watch already, then the Polar Pacer Pro won’t feel wholly different in use. However, what it does is to take most of Polar’s best software features and offer them up at a more attractive price. If you want a device that’s well built to track runs, rides and more, offers a good wrist HR performance and is a watch you can upload routes to as well, the Pacer Pro delivers that and more.
How we test
We thoroughly test every smartwatch we review. We use industry standard testing to compare features properly and we use the watch as our main device over the review period. We’ll always tell you what we find and we never, ever, accept money to review a product.
Worn as our main smartwatch during the testing period
Heart rate data compared against dedicated heart rate devices
Side-by-side GPS comparison with our best scoring smartwatches
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The key differences between the Polar Pacer and Pacer Pro is that the Pacer most notably misses out on the route navigation, barometric altimeter and wrist-based running measurements you get with the Pro.
While Polar is pitching the Pacer Pro at runners, it is capable of tracking a range of other activities including swimming. That means you can view real-time metrics such as distance, rest times and lap counts.
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