Polar’s new smartwatches aim to help runners keep up with their pace

The pandemic has sparked a running boom, with one study finding around 28% of current runners started during quarantine. To cater to this new audience, Polar today announced the launch of two new GPS watches designed to help runners improve in the sport. The $199.90 Pacer is aimed at novices, while the $299.90 Pacer Pro is intended to help serious runners up their game.

Polar says both smartwatches will feature faster processors than their predecessors, with 5MB of RAM. This is an upgrade intended to improve performance and provide a better user experience. This has been badly needed in Polar watches, which sometimes lag when syncing and sometimes struggle with menu transitions. Both watches also feature Polar’s Precision Prime heart rate monitoring technology.

When it comes to design and functionality, the watches overlap a lot. The Pacer and Pacer Pro share the same minimalist design, physical buttons and pixel memory color displays for better outdoor visibility. Battery life is also the same, with around seven days on a single charge and up to 35 hours of GPS training with heart rate monitoring. Finally, both watches support push notifications, weather, music controls, and third-party integrations with running apps.

The Polar Pacer. It looks like the Pacer Pro, but it’s not.
Image: Polar

The main design differences between the two come down to weight, straps, and colorways. The Pacer is slightly lighter at 40g, while the Pro weighs in at 41g. Both watches accept 20mm straps, but the Pacer requires those with quick-release spring bars. The Pro is the only one to have an adapter that allows any standard 20mm webbing. As far as colors go, the Pacer is available in white, black, teal, and purple. The Pro is available in grey, white, blue, brown and green.

Despite the watches’ similarities, Polar says they’re aimed at runners of varying skill levels. The Pacer is designed for beginners. For example, it introduces a new walking test that can estimate aerobic capacity after walking for 15 minutes on a flat surface. While you can also perform the walk test on the Pro, the company says the test was designed for beginners who may not have the ability to complete Polar’s more intense running performance test.

The tools of the Pro are more for experienced riders.
Image: Polar

The Pro, on the other hand, is for, well, pros. In addition to step-by-step navigation, it adds a barometer to measure a runner’s “power values” in watts on the wrist. In simpler terms, the idea is to monitor the effort a runner exerts during a run so that they can run at the right level of intensity. We’ll have to see how it works in practice, but it looks like Garmin’s endurance gauge.

Otherwise, both watches use Polar’s long-standing running and recovery tools, like heart rate training on Guided Runs, Training Load, sleep tracking and Fitness Index score. running (Polar’s metric for measuring progress over time).

The Polar Pacer Pro is available today for $299.90 on Polar’s website and in retail stores. The $199.90 Pacer is available for pre-order on Polar’s website and is expected to ship in May.


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