The Ultimate Guide to Polar GPS Running Watches

Polar has been busy lately, releasing three great new watches in the past year in an attempt to completely redefine their lineup. Find out what we think of the different models and which one is right for you.

If you are a runner and have bought a GPS watch before, chances are that you have heard of Polar. Along with Garmin and Suunto, Polar is one of the main maker of quality GPS running watches. They have been around for 40 years and they make great GPS running watches which are regularly featured in guides everywhere including in our guide. They offer a wide variety of watches and, as mentioned, they have updated most of their lineup in the past year.

The Polar Ignite is their brand new entry-level GPS watch that is meant to replace the Polar M430, which is Polar’s best-selling watch but is already two years old. We will be covering both in this guide.

The Polar Vantage series consists of two models which were launched in 2018: the Vantage M and the Vantage V. The Vantage M offers an excellent quality/price ratio and we were impressed by it in our full review. The Vantage V offers a premium package with more advanced data tracking features, meant for professional athletes or data addicts due to its higher price point. Overall the Vantage series offers a much nicer design and advanced heart tracking.

Polar Ignite

The Ultimate Guide to Polar GPS Running Watches

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The Polar Ignite was launched just a few months ago and showcases a nice and modern look as well as a color screen. At $229.95, it is an affordable which offers advanced sleep and heart tracking as well as guides for training. It is meant to compete with the Garmin Forerunner 45 and the Garmin Vivoactive 3.

Polar Ignite is waterproof and comes with advanced wrist-based heart rate tracking and GPS. It offers all the basic tracking features such as: heart rate, VO2max, activity tracking, steps and calories. But it goes further and also provides you with detailed insights into your recovery and readiness. We especially like the “Nightly Recharge” which tracking how well you are recovering overnight from stress due to training. It also does a good job at tracking your sleep and its quality.

This watch is a solid workout partner and training tool. It offers a lot of different workouts, all available on their training platform: the Polar Flow app where you can analyze your data for activity, recovery and sleep. You get personalized insights and training.
The battery life is very solid with up to 17 hours in GPS mode.

While we did find quite a few flaws in our review, it remains a solid and versatile watch. You can track a variety of sports and activities such as running, cycling and walking.

PROS

  • Look & Design
  • Clarity of the screen
  • Optical wrist-based heart rate monitor
  • Good battery life
  • Tracks sleep quality
  • CONS

  • Touchscreen only
  • No always-on display
  • Screen lag
  • Most settings can only be adjusted using the app on your phone
  • GPS doesn’t work well for open water swimming
  • Who is it for?

    It is best for beginning to intermediate runners and cyclists. As an entry-level watch it does have some flaws and limitations but it remains a nice and affordable watch. It includes all basic functions and a lot more. It also has a great design and look as well as a good battery life.

    Check it on Amazon


    Polar M430

    The Ultimate Guide to Polar GPS Running Watches

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    The M430 has been Polar’s best-selling watch for two years now, which is both its strong and weak point: it is a great affordable watch but it is already becoming outdated. It is meant to be replaced by the Polar Ignite but since it is being sold at a lesser price now, you might still find it interesting.

    The M430 doesn’t have the best look or graphics, far from it. It’s not the most comfortable either. But it is offer a well-rounded list of features and interesting options.

    The GPS is quite accurate but the tracked routes can be strange and off-course. It comes with a wrist-based heart rate which can monitor you 24/7. Like the Ignite it tracks your activity, calories, recovery and sleep. The sleep tracking is less advanced than with the Ignite.

    It works with the same Polar Flow training platform to see your progress, performance, training and other data.

    It offers solid battery life with up to 8 hours in GPS mode.

    PROS

  • Wrist-based heart rate
  • Size of screen
  • Accurate GPS
  • Good battery life
  • CONS

  • Look
  • No always-on display
  • Routes sometimes off-course
  • Released in 2017
  • Who is it for?

    Any casual runner who doesn’t care too much for the latest features but likes to save money. Since this watch is a couple years old, you can find it for around $150. It remains a very good GPS watch with a lot of useful features.

    Check it on Amazon


    POLAR VANTAGE M

    The Ultimate Guide to Polar GPS Running Watches

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    The Polar Vantage M is a very nice watch which offers really great value for the money and a big battery life. The only better watch in this price category is the Garmin 245 because it does not include many of its smart features.
    However it offers very reliable GPS and advanced heart rate measurements as well as advanced sports and performance tracking. For example, it can assess your training load, measure your sleep and estimate your VO2 max.
    It comes with GPS and GLONASS sensors. Its “next-level” wrist heart rate sensor is the only one on the market that combines both optical sensor and bio-impedance technology, to overcome erratic readings caused by movement. We were impressed by it.
    It is compatible with multiple sports (over 130) including triathlon but it will mainly appeal to runners.
    You can read our detailed review of the Polar Vantage M here (https://www.runningshoesguru.com/gps/polar-vantage-m-review/).

    PROS

  • Great value for money
  • 30-hour Battery life
  • Great design and interface
  • Reliable GPS and heart rate measurements
  • CONS

  • Lack of personalization
  • No smart functions at all
  • Who is it for?

    The Polar Vantage M offers a solid value for any serious runner or triathlete looking for a dependable, modern GPS watch with advanced activity tracking. This watch is perfect for you if you don’t like spending extra money for functions you don’t use. If you would enjoy more smart functions at a similar price point, then we recommend the Garmin Forerunner 245 (https://www.runningshoesguru.com/2019/06/garmin-forerunner-45-vs-245-vs-645-vs-945/).

    Check it on Amazon


    POLAR VANTAGE V

    The Ultimate Guide to Polar GPS Running Watches

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    This is a premium multisport watch that is great for triathlon. We just talked about the Polar Vantage M, so why should you spend an extra $200 for this high-end watch?

    First of all, it comes with a color touchscreen which allows for quick and convenient “tap gestures” during training.

    Like the Vantage M, it comes with a coach and a whole suite of tools to help you set up a training / recovery plan. But it is the first watch to offer running power right from the wrist. This allows you to tack the effectiveness of your training. It also supports orthostatic tests, which are an easy way to analyze your recovery from training and optimize your training plan.

    It also comes with the “next-generation” heart rate tracking technology, like the Polar Vantage M.

    It supports over 130 different sports (from mountain biking to CrossFit), including running, cycling and swimming. It also has a barometer to track the altitude.

    Most importantly, it comes with a 40 hours battery life, versus 30 for the Vantage M.

    Note that this year was released the Polar Vantage V Titan, an even more premium version for an extra $100. As it names indicates, the casing is made of titanium and it features very durable materials in general.

    PROS

  • 40-hour Battery life
  • Great design and interface
  • Running power right from the wrist
  • Excellent GPS and heart rate measurements
  • CONS

  • High price
  • On the heavy side at 66g
  • Who is it for?

    The Polar Vantage V is a high-end watch which offers an incredible quality and all the advanced functions and features you could ever need. If you are willing to pay the price, you won’t be disappointed. But if you can do without some of the advanced features such as running power and a barometer, then the Polar Vantage M will be a fine triathlon watch for you.

    Check it on Amazon


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