- Slim design
- Gets best of Vantage V2 features
- Rich training and analysis features
- Ugly black bezel
- No big new features
- Sleep tracking drains battery
The Polar Pacer Pro is yet another new line of watches from Polar that joins its Vantage, Ignite and Unite series collection of watches made for sports tracking.
Joined alongside the cheaper Polar Pacer, the Pro is built for runners, but also has the smarts to offer tracking beyond those long Sunday runs or sessions on the gym treadmill.
Sitting at $299/£259, the Pacer Pro is a clear Garmin Forerunner 245 competitor and comes in significantly cheaper than Polar's top-end Vantage V2 ($499/£429). However, it's more than the excellent Coros Pace 2.
While you miss out on some of the additional tests and some smartwatch features, the Pacer Pro gets big features like Polar's FuelWise fuelling recommendations, turn-by-turn guidance, the ability to upload routes and FitSpark suggested workouts.
On paper, the Polar Pacer Pro looks like a pretty formidable watch for the price.
The question is, does it deliver the goods? Here's our comprehensive verdict on the Polar Pacer Pro.
Polar Pacer Pro: Design and screen
The Pacer Pro strongly resembles the Polar Vantage V2, only slimmer and lighter.
Its 45mm case is noticeably smaller than the 47mm one on the Vantage V2, but not quite as small as a Forerunner 245 (42mm). The 41g weight means it's almost 10g lighter than the Vantage V2, and it's thinner at 11.5mm.
It's a nice, light watch to wear and one you don't need to take off when you jump into the shower or go for a swim thanks to a 50m water resistance rating.
The sporty 20mm sized strap that's paired up with that plastic case has a strong watch-style buckle and can be removed via quick-release bars. Using Polar's Shift adaptor lets you pair up any 22mm band to the watch.
Polar has brought over the flatter, textured physical buttons from the V2, which are ideal if your fingers get a bit sweaty or you're using them with gloves.
They surround a 1.2-inch, 240 x 240 resolution Memory In Pixel (MIP) display, which is the same size and resolution featured on the Vantage V2 and the Grit X Pro. It's not a touchscreen, but does remain always-on with a strong backlight to illuminate that screen better at night.
Visibility on the whole is strong, it doesn't struggle in the glare of bright outdoor light and while you do get splashes of color on watch faces and some data screens, it's unsurprisingly nowhere near as punchy or vibrant as a proper color AMOLED or LCD screen.
That display is surrounded by an aluminium bezel, and a thick black border. We wish the edges of the screen were closer to the bezel, as this is such a waste of screen space and doesn't look nice at all.
Without touchscreen support you're navigating screens and menus with the physical buttons and we're happy to see that the laggy feeling we got on the V2 and Grit X Pro seems to have been addressed on the Pacer Pro. Polar says it's made performance improvements beefing up the processing power and that's clearly evident from the lack of delay when switching between screens or launching menus.
Another note on changes is with the charger. Polar isn't using the same disc-shaped cradle, opting for a cable and cradle that sits smaller on the back of the watch above Polar's optical sensor tech.
The Polar Pacer Pro certainly ticks most of the boxes as far as being something that's comfortable to wear day and night and for exercise. The ability to switch up straps offer some personalisation and while it's screaming out for a higher quality screen and simply more screen, it's a sports watch that looks and feels like a sports watch.
Polar Pacer Pro: Sports tracking
There's much more to to the Pacer Pro than tracking runs, and it offers coaching features and rich training analysis built around runners.
It tracks swims, there's performance tests for cyclists, so it's suited for triathlons as well. It's a well-rounded sports watch that offers a good mix of performance and features.
There's support for GPS, GLONASS, Galileo and QZSS satellite systems for tracking outdoor exercise time accurately.
Polar also includes its latest Precision Prime heart rate sensor technology and you do have the capability to pair it up to an external heart rate monitors, cadence, speed and stride sensors.
It's also grabbed features from other Polar watches like the great FitSpark suggested workouts and turn-by-turn guidance and the ability to import routes via Komoot. The support works in much the same way as it does on watches like the Grit X Pro, offering a slightly clunky process to get routes onto the watch and then giving you a simple green line to follow on screen essentially.
There's also FuelWise smart fuelling recommendations, Strava Live Segments and four different fitness tests. You don't get the leg recovery test you get on the Vantage V2, but you do get cycling, running and fitness tests and a new walking test.
That walking test is designed to make anyone new to running assess current fitness levels without having to hammer out some running time. Though as we found, the concept of getting heart rate up to 124bpm while walking is a hard task if you're reasonably fit already. If you're really starting from scratch and looking to running to keep fit, then it's a feature you could put to use.
Sport tracking in general for us was pretty similar to what we've experienced on Polar's most recent watches. For runs, we put it up against the very accurate outdoor tracking on the Garmin Epix 2, and distance, pace and calorie data all matched up.
We found heart rate at steady pace matched closely to average and max readings on a Wahoo Tickr X chest strap monitor, so we have no hesitation in recommending for those that enjoy steady, running based workouts.
Run tracking compared: Polar Pacer Pro (left) and Garmin Epix 2 (right)
Post run, you can see additional details like cadence, running power average and max readings.
There's running index scores, Training Load Pro insights to better asses your recovery needs and a breakdown of energy sources used for the run.
Polar's HillSplitter data also lets you see how you've tackled uphill and downhill parts of your route.
Treadmill HR tracking compared: Polar Pacer Pro (left) and Wahoo Tickr R X (right)
For a high intensity run sessions, it was a familiar story when it comes to reliably capturing sudden spikes and drops in heart rate. The Pacer Pro maximum heart rate was at times 5-10bpm over maximum heart readings captured by a chest strap monitor.
If you're training with functional fitness, HIIT or weights workouts, you'll want to pair up a chest strap or HR armband to make sure you're giving those insights the most reliable data.
Interval HR test: Polar Pacer Pro (left and centre) and Wahoo Tickr X (right)
It was a solid performer in our swim test, accurately tracking distance, average pace and stroke counts.
Polar Flow offers data on the training benefit of swims and also show a breakdown of stroke type. It can capture heart rate data too, though you'll get more reliable data from a dedicated chest strap or Polar's OH1 sensor.
The sports tracking on the Pacer Pro is excellent overall. We were satisfied with the level of accuracy, and if you want training insights, coaching/recovery features and access third party apps like Strava there's plenty here available.
It's going to feel overwhelming at first if you're new to Polar's platform, but there's elements both beginner and seasoned amateur athletes can benefit from here.
Polar Pacer Pro: Smartwatch and fitness tracking
Polar hasn't embraced smartwatch features in the same way that some of its rivals have.
Everything it introduced on the Polar Grit X, Vantage V2, M2 and Ignite on that front makes the cut on the Pacer Pro.
You can view notifications, although these are shown in a separate screen. The notification support feels tucked away, and Polar is holding back on these features in favor of a fitness and workout experience.
There are music controls here too, which can be accessed during workouts, and you can select themes for your watch faces.
We really like the presentation of weather forecasts, which lets you see details like wind speed, humidity and hourly forecasts.
Is Polar offering the best smartwatch experience you can find on a sports watch? Absolutely not. Does it do enough? Those looking for the connected prowess of a smartwatch might need to look elsewhere, but people who don't want WhatsApps buzzing their wrist will see this as a canny choice.
Step tracking compared: Polar Pacer Pro (left) and Oura Ring 3 (right)
It feels like a similar story for activity tracking. There is a dedicated screen in the Polar Flow app to view steps, distance covered and see things like inactivity stamps.
You can also see some of that data on the watch too. You don't get the altimeter included on the Vantage V2.
We found step counts and calorie burn estimates were in line with tracking from the accurate Oura Ring 3. However, the data definitely feels secondary to everything else that Polar offers here though.
Sleep tracking compared: Polar Pacer Pro (left and centre) and Oura Ring 3 (right)
It's a different story when it comes to sleep tracking however, and that's because Polar's sleep tracking is being tied closely into your training and recovery insights.
It will break down sleep stages and tell you how long you've slept for with additional insights into sleep continuity and sleep regeneration based on the amount of REM sleep managed.
We found it delivered sleep tracking data on par with the Oura Ring 3 and Whoop 4.0, particularly sleep duration and the breakdown of sleep stages.
Nightly Recharge measurements
Sleep tracking is all good and well, but Nightly Recharge attempts to make it useful. This apes our favorite elements of Oura and Whoop – and is also where we've criticised Garmin in its last few devices.
The feature captures nightly heart rate variability, heart rate and breathing rate, and matches that with core sleep data to guide you on your readiness to workout.
Nightly Recharge will rate your sleep as good, compromised or poor. Like any of these features, insights are heavily reliant on sleep tracking and heart rate being accurate – so the data is built on solid foundations.
The guidance on when to train or take it easy was certainly useful – and can be used to prompt you to get to bed earlier, or step off training/add some extra miles.
In this department, we found that the Polar ecosystem stepped ahead of Garmin's Body Battery feature, by doing a better job of linking recovery to training, and helping users analyse their data.
Polar Pacer Pro: Battery life
While Garmin and Coros build watches that are capable of keeping you away from a charger for weeks and even a month, Polar seems to have faltered in the battery department.
The Pacer Pro should last up to 7 days in watch mode, which is the same number attached to the Vantage V2 in the same mode. The similarly priced (although 4 year old) Garmin Forerunner 245 offers up to 7 days, while the Coros Apex offers anywhere from 24-30 days depending on the watch size you opt for.
In our testing we got around 5-6 days with the Pacer Pro, which is what we experienced with the Vantage V2 and watches like the Vantage M2. We think this should be more really.
While you don't see a big dent in battery from GPS tracking, it's the sleep tracking and Polar's Nightly Recharge measurements, which you can't turn off, that seems to cause the most noticeable drain.
However, like we've seen on other Polar devices, GPS battery life is a solid 35 hours, just 5 hours off the Vantage V2. We'd say it's capable of delivering that 35 hours based on our testing and the battery drop-off during our GPS-based runs.
One annoying quirk we did experience though is that when the battery dropped to 5% and we could still access the watch screen and it would not let use track an activity.
You can switch to a power save option, which gives you 100 hours of tracking albeit without heart rate monitoring and sampling GPS with longer intervals, thus less accurate.
The Pacer Pro is good for just under a week of training and it's a shame you can't disable those very power hungry sleep tracking features to push things further.
How we test