One minute review
The Polar Pacer Pro is definitely one of the best running watches in its price range, a perfect watch for serious runners and a decent tool for outdoor sports enthusiasts.
With its built-in GPS, it can track your runs, providing accurate information about pace, distance, cadence, elevation, running power and more in the Polar Flow app. Race Pace looks at your training history, target time and distance you’re aiming for, and sets you a recommended pace to hit. The Flow app offers detailed information on elevations during runs, heart rates and other metrics, and while it’s difficult to export data to compare one workout to another, you can dive deep into individual training sessions.
There are more features on other sport profiles, like stroke counting during swim sessions (pool and open water) and power during cycling. The watch has extensive GPS credentials, capable of following routes in impressive detail and returning you to the starting point of your journey like other GPS watches, although this is done with a simple arrow, as the watch cannot display color maps. .
Other tools include accurate sleep tracking which is used to determine your “overnight recharge” score or recovery level and gauge whether you’re ready for a demanding fitness session. If you’re into endurance exercise, especially running, the Polar Pacer Pro is great for its price, able to offer a wide variety of fitness metrics and break it down into simple, actionable guidance. Highly recommended.
Polar Pacer Pro: price and availability
The Polar Pacer Pro costs $299.99 in the US, £259 in the UK and AU$495 in Australia. It can be found on the Polar website (opens in a new tab)and many third-party retailers stock the watch, such as Amazon and Australia’s Forest fire sports (opens in a new tab).
Polar Pacer Pro: design and screen
- Clear and bright 45mm display
- Simple and intuitive five-button design
- Ergonomically designed companion app
The Polar Pacer Pro is a very well-designed watch, with a bright 45mm, 1.1mm-thick Gorilla Glass display that’s easily readable in bright conditions. I certainly never had a problem watching it on sunny trails to check on my progress, and it glowed well in the dark. Improved backlight management means the watch can adjust nits output to save battery life.
The rest of the watch is equally well designed, with Polar’s typical five-button approach marked by its bright red ‘ok’ button, framed by up, down, light and pause or menu buttons. Being used to Garmin’s similar five-button functions, it was a bit of a shock to have different functions mapped to different places: I was constantly pressing the wrong button to pause runs my first week, although I can hardly fault to Polar for that.
Once I got used to it, browsing through different stats on the watch was intuitive and easy to do. The basic watch face remains, while the edge of the watch displays daily activity, Nightly Recharge score, recommended daily workouts, weather, and total weekly activity. The design of the Polar Flow app is also ergonomic. It’s easy to access all your key data scores at a glance and tap on each one to open more detailed charts and metrics.
The watch is well designed, comfortable and durable. It’s not super bulky despite its large dial, fitting well on the wrist and its silicone strap is comfortable.
Polar Pacer Pro: Features
- Limited smartwatch functions
- Incredible in-depth fitness and running metrics
- Many other multisport modes
While you can access weather and simple notification features, the watch isn’t a full-featured smartwatch: there’s no option to download third-party apps, run games, or view content that isn’t. This is not a display of a stick feature performing an exercise.
This is a performance tool that won’t replace a fuller smartwatch like an Apple Watch. It can control the music on your phone, so there’s no need to use your handset during races, but it can’t store tracks on internal memory.
But enough of what it can’t do: what Polar offers is an advanced suite of health and fitness features. Some were highlighted earlier in the review, but this is clearly a watch designed for runners. The level of detail you get from your running metrics rivals metrics from competitors like Garmin: calories burned broken down minute by minute, detailed maps of your routes, hills you climbed, and power you exerted during your runs ( the latter of which Garmin can only give you with an additional heart rate monitor). The only thing missing is an exported 30-day training report to tie it all together.
Heart rate zones allow you to monitor and adjust your exercise intensity. Whether it’s running, swimming, biking, dancing or skiing, Polar has a sport profile for you, and many include specialist metrics, such as stroke counter while swimming and power during cycles. You can also customize your own profiles, although it only treats them like any stationary sport, in terms of calories burned and heart rate zones.
You can get simple and practical advice from this watch: the Polar Pacer Pro can recommend cardio and support exercises, such as stretching, and display individual movements and routines on your watch for additional guidance. Your sleep tracking feeds into a Nightly Recharge score, which can indicate that you’re ready for a demanding cardio session or that you need to keep things light. You can enter calorie intake with the fueling feature, which will also set reminders to eat more carbs to fuel your run or drink more water.
Polar Pacer Pro: performance
- Excellent tracking accuracy and training recommendations
- Decent battery life
- Nightly Recharge’s score is a bit brutal
The Pacer Pro is fast and accurate. I measured the Polar Pacer Pro against my phone’s GPS, using the free MapMyRun app, and Google’s pace and duration matched the Polar Pacer Pro almost exactly (except for the 10 seconds it took me fiddling with my handset to pause tracking). It’s my benchmark, and I’m happy with the accuracy of the watch, although it lacks the multiband GPS of more expensive watches like the Garmin Forerunner 955.
I tried out the Race Pace and TrackBack feature of the Pacer Pro, as I ran in unfamiliar surroundings one weekend and was quite impressed. However, the only complaint I had with TrackBack is that it shows a simple arrow rather than your position on a color map and I missed my turn once, even though it was easy to identify and to double it. I imagine it would be of great use on a trail, rather than a winding road full of dead ends. Music was easy to control on the go, whether I’m using Audible or Spotify.
Battery life, advertised to last a full week, lasted about five nights before needing a charge. It’s not quite the full seven days as claimed, but there’s plenty to do – and that’s with several runs using the watch’s on-board GPS.
I’ve learned to dread the “Nightly Recharge Compromised” message on the watch face if I’ve had a bad night’s sleep: I’m not the most restful sleeper, and the burnt orange message ended up causing me more stress than it was worth.
It’s a helpful reminder to rest and prepare appropriately, and the app has provided several handy tips on proper training for my level of rest, but a few times I’ve stopped wearing the watch just because I was tired of the negative comments. Every fitness tracker has this problem, and there really has to be a kinder way to provide feedback on your sleep.
FitSpark’s workout recommendations, however, were more helpful. I’ve used them before on the Polar Vantage V2 and they’re great for giving you extra guidance if you want to switch up your training or don’t have a plan to follow.