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The Polar Pacer Pro is the latest in a long line of Polar’s wearables built specifically for runners. It has an ultra-lightweight design, accurate GPS, and a number of tools designed to help improve how a runner trains, recovers, and races.
As a long-time running watch wearer, these are the exact features I look for in a fitness tracker. But since I’d never worn a Polar watch before, I was intrigued at how well the Pacer Pro might compare to other brands like Garmin or Fitbit.
After spending four weeks wearing the Pacer Pro as my daily driver, I was impressed. I found it to tick all the boxes a data-hungry runner like myself would want while also delivering a highly personal workout experience.
Plus, the watch actually made me a better runner. Thanks to its in-depth fitness tracking that analyzed my running form and its useful workout recommendations, it improved how I train each week. I may have only worn the watch for a month but I’m convinced: It’s a quality fitness tracker that’s a worthy competitor as one of the best running watches you can buy.
A variety of running-specific training featuresMulti-day battery lifeRecommended workouts offer insightful training help
What needs work
Its dark screen is hard to read in almost any lighting conditionPolar app isn’t intuitive to navigate
A lightweight wearable with a hard-to-read screen
The Pacer Pro is a lightweight tracker with a round watch face. It comes with a soft band that always felt comfortable against the skin, even during my longer workouts or when I wore it to sleep. It does have a large watch face, though, and while this didn’t negatively impact how I used the watch, I can see how folks with small wrists may think it’s too big.
Navigating the watch is primarily done via buttons that flank the Pacer Pro’s watch face. I preferred this to a touchscreen, especially during workouts, as it was far easier to scroll through my various running metrics by clicking the up or down buttons. Even navigating the menus is quick and easy and I found the buttons to allow for more accuracy than if I was using my finger to swipe on the screen.
I did think the screen was far too dark and difficult to read, however. Polar says the reflective color of the display is designed to make it easier to read in the sun but this just isn’t true. In any type of lighting, I had a tough time seeing what was on the screen without squinting or holding it right up to my face. It does have a built-in light that only slightly improves its visibility.
A great training tool for any type of runner
The Pacer Pro’s fitness tracking capability is where the watch shines, and its built-in GPS is a key component in how well it functions. Not only does the GPS quickly sync before workouts but it’s accurate, too. Each of my runs over the same distance routinely produced results within .02 miles. Accuracy like this is especially important for athletes training for an event or trying to improve their personal best times.
My favorite feature of the Pacer Pro is its variety of running tools — and it’s these tools that made me a better runner. First is its Training Load Pro function which provided an overview of how my workouts might influence my future performance.
For instance, if I logged a few long-distance runs early in the week, it would assess how well I did and adjust my workouts for the rest of the week. It would also inform me of when I needed to pull back on training to recover or when I could increase the intensity of my workouts.
This is valuable to both casual and seasoned athletes and is something that improved my knowledge of the impact of my training. Instead of doing the same routine every day, the Pacer Pro adjusted my training based on my output so I could get the most out of my workouts. This included resting and recovering, too, which can be easy to overlook.
The Pacer Pro also allows for the creation of custom training goals. I first used this to try to improve my running time and I was able to chart my progress each week and adjust the target if need be. While this was effective overall, accessing my progress had to be done via the Polar app which had a bit of a learning curve. It’s not very intuitive to navigate and took some getting used to.
I mostly used the custom goals in conjunction with the watch’s recommended workouts, which took the guesswork out of picking what to do each day. This feature doesn’t only recommend running workouts but also various bodyweight exercises and stretches. Plus, instead of offering a single workout recommendation, it provided up to four options for me to choose from complete with step-by-step instructions.
Accurate heart rate and VO2 max but the sleep tracker is a highlight
The Pacer Pro is a quality wellness tracker, too, featuring a built-in optical heart rate monitor, in-depth sleep insights, and VO2 Max readings. Both the heart rate monitor and VO2 Max readings were routinely accurate and produced similar results to other fitness trackers I’ve worn.
I found the sleep tracker to be its most interesting health feature thanks to its automatic tracking function. With auto-tracking enabled, I never needed to toggle the sleep function on before going to bed and could instead doze off and let the watch detect on its own that I’d fallen asleep.
The next morning I’d awake to a personalized sleep score letting me know not just the different sleep zones I entered throughout the night (like REM, light, or deep sleep) but also how well my body recovered and what kind of activity intensity I was ready for that day. Similar to how the Training Load tool would suggest certain workouts based on my prior performance, the watch would also take into account my overall rest and recovery to adapt accordingly.
This was always such an interesting, and helpful, tool as it taught me how to better understand the importance of not only routinely working out but having a disciplined sleep schedule. The Polar app also provided access to my weekly sleep insights, so I could see how well (or poorly) I rested.
Multi-day battery life even with constant GPS
Another one of the Pacer Pro’s impressive features is its battery life. With GPS enabled, the Pacer Pro lasts roughly 35 hours before needing to be recharged. When it’s configured to basic watch mode (without GPS enabled), battery life increases to roughly 6 days.
During testing, I found both of these estimates to be mostly accurate, give or take a few hours depending on how intensely I used GPS. Regardless of how quickly I drained the battery, I still found myself charging it every other day.
While the Pacer Pro’s battery life doesn’t last as long as some of the best running watches, like the Garmin Forerunner 745, it does still offer enough juice for someone to complete something like a 10K, a half marathon, or a marathon. Those running longer distances may want to look elsewhere.
Should you buy it?
Polar’s Pacer Pro is a quality training companion perfect for a variety of runners, no matter if you’re looking to set a personal record on a 5K or you’re training for a marathon. It has a lightweight, comfortable design and strong battery life, and excels as a wellness tracker with in-depth sleep tracking.
But where it shines is as a fitness tracker, and wearing it helped make me a better runner. Its actionable workout recommendations are incredibly beneficial and would be helpful to both beginners and intermediate athletes alike.
I did find its screen to be too dimly lit, making it hard to see at times, but this wasn’t enough of a dealbreaker to avoid recommending the Polar Pro as one of the best running watches on the market.