The pandemic sparked a running explosion, with one study finding that about 28 percent of current runners started running during quarantine. To cater to this new audience, Polar today announced that it is launching two new GPS watches designed to help runners get better at the sport. The $199.90 Pacer is aimed at beginners, while the $299.90 Pacer Pro is aimed at helping serious runners get into their game.
Polar says both smartwatches will have faster processors than their predecessors, with 5MB of RAM. It is an upgrade intended to improve performance and provide a better user experience. That’s been much needed in Polar watches, which sometimes lag while syncing and occasionally struggle with menu transitions. Both watches also have Polar’s Precision Prime heart rate technology.
In terms of design and features, the watches have a lot of overlap. The Pacer and Pacer Pro share the same minimalist design, physical buttons and memory-in-pixel color displays for better outdoor visibility. Battery life is also the same, with an estimated 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 main design differences between the two come down to weight, straps and colorways. The Pacer is slightly lighter at 40 grams, while the Pro weighs 41 grams. Both watches accept 20mm straps, but the Pacer needs those with quick-release spring bars. The Pro is the only one that has an adapter that allows each standard 20mm tire. As for colors, the Pacer is available in white, black, teal and purple. The Pro is available in gray, white, blue, maroon and green.
Despite the similarities between the watches, Polar says they’re aimed at runners of different skill levels. The Pacer was designed with beginners in mind. For example, it introduces a new walking test that can estimate aerobic fitness after a 15-minute walk on a flat surface. While you can also take the run test on the Pro, the company says the test is designed for beginners who may not have the opportunity to complete Polar’s more strenuous Running Performance Test.
The Pro, on the other hand, is for, well, pros. In addition to turn-by-turn navigation, it adds a barometer to measure a runner’s “power values” in watts from the wrist. In simpler terms, the idea is to monitor how much effort a runner puts in during a run so that they can run at the right intensity level. How it works in practice remains to be seen, but it sounds similar to Garmin’s endurance meter.
In addition, both watches use Polar’s long-term running and recovery tools, such as heart rate training during guided runs, training load, sleep logging and running index score (Polar’s metric for measuring progress over time).
The Polar Pacer Pro is available today for $299.90 on the Polar website and in stores. The $199.90 Pacer is available for pre-order on Polar’s website and is expected to ship in May.