Sports watch pioneer Polar wants to launch two new models at the start of the running season. Pacer and Pacer Pro are designed to accompany both beginners and experienced runners alike during training. Smart all-rounders. No frills. Can that work?

Almost exactly 40 years ago, the Finnish company founder Seppo Säynäjäkangas presented the Polar “Sport Tester PE2000”, the world’s first wireless heart rate monitor. Without a doubt, a device that revolutionized the sport at almost all levels of performance and continues to shape it to this day. However, the sports watch pioneer is no longer alone on the market and the watches that runners wear on their wrists today during training and competitions basically have nothing to do with the bulky prototypes from the 1980s.

They are small computers that record and spit out dozens of other data in addition to elementary important information such as heart rate and training time. They give training tips, analyze sleep and sometimes kick their wearers in the butt (of course only in a figurative sense) when the inner bastard has taken over the scepter. Which brings us to the topic: Polar is stepping up the pace just in time for the start of the 2022 running season and is expanding its portfolio two years after the Polar Grit X.

We laced up our running shoes, warmed up in an exemplary manner and took a closer look at the new Polar Pacer Pro.

A GPS watch with no frills?

I would like to say in advance that I am more of a pragmatic type when it comes to (GPS) sports watches. A digital coach on your wrist is important. I agree. Even and especially beginners should definitely think about a smart helper. The crux and my problem with current GPS sports watches: They are stuffed with menus and functions right down to the color display. And I am firmly convinced that they can confuse, possibly even unsettle, a normal mortal amateur runner (there are many of them in Germany) more than they help him with his training.

This is exactly what Polar wants to avoid with its two new models. Tailored to runners of all levels, Pacer and Pacer Pro should be. And: According to the Finns at the official presentation, they concentrated on the essentials “without any frills”. Wow! That’s exactly what I’ve been looking for for many years. But wait a minute. What exactly is the essence? Where does it end and where does nice-to-have begin? As so often in life, this is a matter of opinion.

The test

Here, too, I would like to say something in advance: due to time constraints, I focused on the core competencies of the device and a few smart functions when testing the Polar Pacer Pro. The watch can do much more. Do you need all of that? Well, you know.

A smart coach should know his protégé as well as possible. For the first date, some personal information must first be entered with the Pacer and the Pacer Pro. The easiest way to do this is with Polar’s own Flow app, which can be downloaded free of charge from the App Store. Height, weight, age, current training background and sleep time. Before the first run, a look at the watch itself. The Pacer Pro weighs in at a slim 41 grams including the strap. This makes it a whopping ten grams lighter than the popular M430, Vantage M and V2. The bracelet comes in slightly roughened silicone on the outside, the colour-coordinated stainless steel clasp makes a noble impression.

Nice idea: The small silicone pin on the inside of the second safety strap to fix the bracelet. Simply press into a hole at the end of the bracelet. Holds up wonderfully. A small but nice extra. Compared to the black, rather unadorned case of the M430, Polar has also given the new Pacer series a sporty, elegant frame that is suitable for everyday use. The chic, brushed stainless steel case is available in four pastel shades (for him and her). In our case, a model in midnight blue coached.

Polar has adopted proven features for Pacer and Pacer Pro. Two buttons on the left, three buttons on the right. Experienced Polar users know this. As with the Vantage V2, the small grooves on the surface of the buttons are intended to provide “super grip”. Polar also remains true to its line with the non-touch display. Intermediate times can therefore continue to be recorded without having to look at or even press the small display. Otherwise, the operation of the watch is intuitive as usual. If you are using a GPS sports watch from Polar for the first time, you should read the (very extensive) manual before the training premiere.

During the run itself, you can choose between different displays, all of which are clear and easy to read even in strong and direct sunlight. Beginners should initially get along best with the standard display. Here you can see the current pace, the distance covered, the heart rate and the total running time at a glance. That’s it. Also calculated watt values, details about ascent and descent or the compass can, in our view, be safely ignored by pure amateur athletes.

Conspicuously inconspicuous: GPS and heart rate

Back to the tried and tested: the improved chips in the Pacer and Pacer Pro calculate the heart rate via the blood flow under the skin. To be more precise, nine LEDs installed on the underside take care of this. Four other sensors analyze skin contact and also record the magnetic clip that is used to charge the watch. This worked very reliably for us. The battery, which was not completely empty after seven days (approx. 10%), was fully operational again in well under two hours.

The fact that the heart rate measurement on the wrist is slightly delayed and appears somewhat erratic on the display is due to the technology and is known. For the vast majority of runners, however, this is precise enough and completely sufficient. If you want to control your training more precisely and more accurately, you can’t avoid the chest strap that goes with the Pacer and Pacer Pro. In our test, the heart rate was reliably recorded and displayed. Runners with smaller wrists can rejoice: Polar supplies the Pacer and Pacer Pro with wristbands in two different lengths.

The GPS location also showed no weaknesses in our test. If you used to have to wait a few minutes for a satellite signal, today you can start within seconds. In the case of the new Pacer series, the housing is intended to amplify the signal. The Global Positioning System (GPS) is also supported by a number of other satellite services.

The conclusion

Loading the big hit with a GPS running watch in 2022 is almost impossible. And yet: The new pacer duo of the Finns shines with tried and tested Polar technology. Haptics, battery life and the display leave nothing to be desired. The case is significantly more valuable than some of its predecessors. With a weight of only 40 grams, the Polar Pacer Pro is very comfortable and unobtrusive. Clear plus point. The displays are clean and clear. Operation is intuitive, even for newcomers to the running watch, and can be learned quickly, even under stress. We were also impressed by the extensive and quick evaluation of the various metrics using the Polar Flow app (mobile or on the PC).

On the data side, Polar has given both watches various new performance tests. Particularly exciting from our point of view: a simple walking test that can determine the general state of fitness based on speed and heart rate. This is particularly interesting for beginners. The extent to which a new target group is picked up here remains to be seen. In short: The new Polar Pacer series cuts a fine figure and comes with a little less frills than other models. The Pacer (from May 2022) with its RRP of just under 200 euros is therefore an attractive deal for beginners. There’s an extra shovel with the Pacer Pro for 100 euros more. From our point of view, a clear case for ambitious runners with a pronounced interest in detailed statistics.

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