Best Polar watch 2023 with advanced training and recovery features

The best Polar watches can measure running power and offer a range of advanced recovery features to help you train more efficiently

Best polar watch: Pictured here, a fit young women practicing yoga indoors
(Image credit: Polar)

The best Polar watch is up there with Garmin and Suunto watches in terms of build quality, precision and features. Some recreational runners might opt for Fitbits, but serious athletes will seek good running watches, such as the Polar running watches on this list.

The best wearables Polar has to offer are among the best running watches because they tend to be priced competitively and boast excellent build quality, among other attributes. Polar's main competitors are Garmin and Suunto. However, they also have to compete with the more lifestyle-y Fitbit watches and bands, not to mention 'regular' smartwatches such as the Apple Watch Series 5 or the Huawei Watch GT 2.

In 2019, Polar introduced the Polar Precision Prime technology, an updated heart rate sensor technology combining optical heart rate measurement with skin contact measurement. This new technology overcomes problems with motion and offers precise optical heart rate monitoring.  How does Polar compare to Garmin? Find out here: Garmin vs Polar. You can also read about the best Suunto watches and the best Garmin watches. There are quite a few Polar watches featured on T3's best triathlon watch list.

Best Polar watches to buy right now

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Detail shot of the Polar Pacer Pro on a laptopT3 Best Buy badge

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)
Best Polar watch overall

Specifications

Weight: 41 grams
Case material: Hardened plastic with aerospace-grade aluminium
Water rating: 5 ATM
Display resolution: 240 x 240 pixels (memepry in pixel)
Battery life: Up to 35h in training mode (GPS and wrist-based heart rate) or up to 7 days in watch mode with continuous heart rate tracking

Reasons to buy

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Screen is visible in broad daylight
+
GPS picks up comparatively fast
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All the tests from the Vantage V2 are present (minus the Orthostatic test)
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New Walking test is unique to the brand
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Works well as a cheap(ish) multisport watch

Reasons to avoid

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Design and UI feel dated
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Battery life is not mind-blowing

The Polar Pacer Pro is one of the best Polar watches – this is a fact. If you aren't super keen on touchscreen operation, we think it's a better option than the flagship Vantage V2 and definitely better value for money. The new screen is brighter and easier to read in broad daylight.

The Pacer Pro can sometimes feel dated, especially its user interface, which hasn't changed for a long time. Not to mention, there are other running watches that A) are cheaper or B) offer more features for the same money as the Pacer Pro. On the bright side, the Pacer Pro is a decent mid-range multisport watch, so if you're on the market for one of those, by all means, get this watch.

Read our full Polar Pacer Pro review

Polar Vantage V2 on white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Polar)
Best Polar watch for trainig and recovery

Specifications

Weight: 52 grams
Case material: Aluminium alloy with glass fibre reinforced polymer
Water rating: 5 ATM
Display resolution: 240 x 240 pixels
Battery life: Up to 40h in training mode (GPS and wrist-based heart rate) or up to 7 days in watch mode with continuous heart rate tracking

Reasons to buy

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'Always on' screen
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Plenty of data top pore over
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New tests are a great add-on
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Better build quality than Vantage V
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Precise

Reasons to avoid

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Button+touch navigation is still a bit confusing
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Smart features mostly training-focused
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Battery life is far from amazing

The Polar Vantage V2 is a watch of many qualities. Its built quality is excellent, and a step up from the original Vantage V. It has loads of useful tests and data for serious runners, cyclists and triathletes to better their form and get ready for races more efficiently. Better still, most of the tests and data provided by the Vantage V2 can't be found elsewhere, making the watch all the more appealing for information-thirsty athletes.

It would have been great to see some improvements to the user interface, especially the navigation, since the Vantage V, but what can we do? Touch controls are still a bit laggy, although the screen feels a bit more responsive than the one found on the Vantage V. We would certainly recommend the Polar Vantage V2 to anyone who would like to take their athletic performance to the next level: there aren't many wrist-wearables that provide as much data as this one.

Read our full Polar Vantage V2 review

How does Garmin's top dog outdoor watch compare to Polar's most expensive wearable? Find out here: Polar Vantage V2 vs Garmin Fenix 6 Pro.

Polar Grit X on white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Polar)
Best Polar watch for trail running and hiking

Specifications

Weight: 64 grams (with wristband)
Case material: Stainless steel
Water rating: up to 100 metres
Display resolution: 240 x 240 pixels
Battery life: up to 40 hours in training mode

Reasons to buy

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Multiple functions that help you navigate training, recovery and relaxation
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Durable construction
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Trail-specific features

Reasons to avoid

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Hefty price tag, especially if you go for a non-standard strap
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Not the most comfortable watch to wear during the night

Packed full of features, this watch still only weighs 64g. It’s easy to navigate with touchscreen options. Having an hour-by-hour weather forecast is just one click away, with weather icons on the screen showing you what to expect. This means the need to take your phone when training is reduced even more. All this watch needs is a camera so you can snap your shots, and then the days of running with a phone will be gone.

You get so much more than training stats with sleep insights, recovery suggestions, workouts (tiny figures animate how to do each exercise) and well-being. You even get WeatherWatch, so essential for trails, hills and mountains where micro-climates are constantly changing.

Read our full Polar Grit X review

We compared the Polar Vantage V2 with the Grit X here: Polar Grit X vs Vantage V2.

Polar Vantage M2 on white backgroundT3 Award

(Image credit: Polar)
Best Polar watch for runners

Specifications

Lens material: Hard-coated PMMA laminated lens
Display size: 1.2" (30.5 mm)
Display resolution: 240 x 240 pixels
Weight: 45.5 grams with the wristband
Battery life: Up to 30 hrs in training mode (GPS and wrist-based heart rate) or up to 5 days in watch mode with continuous heart rate tracking

Reasons to buy

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Buttons-only navigation works great
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Plenty of decent sports features and sport modes
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Strikes a good balance between style and sportiness
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Well-priced

Reasons to avoid

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Usual accuracy issues (nothing major, though)
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Not quite enough personalisation options

The Polar Vantage M2 strikes a good balance between style and substance: it has an ample amount of features, both sport and casual, and despite all the premium features it has to offer, it doesn't cost the earth either. Although fitness wearables are never an investment, I reckon the Vantage M2 will serve its users well for at least a good few years.

Is there a reason why you shouldn't get the Polar Vantage M2? Admittedly, if you need a hardcore running watch, you might find the Vantage M2 a tad too fashion-watch-like. To clarify, it isn't one, but Polar is undoubtedly trying to make the Vantage M2 more appealing to smartwatch users by offering specific colour variants (looking at you, Champagne/Gold Vantage M2). However, you'll find a clever multisport watch under the hood that can effectively help you get better in whatever sport you practice.

Read our full Polar Vantage M2 review

How does the Vantage M2 compare against the Vantage V2? We compared the two here: Polar Vantage M2 vs Vantage V2

Polar Ignite on white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Polar)
Best Polar watch for fitness tracking

Specifications

Weight: 35 grams with wristband
Case material: Glass fibre reinforced polymer
Water rating: up to 30 metres
Display resolution: 204 x 204 pixels
Battery life: up to 17 hours in training mode

Reasons to buy

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Navigation is easy to get used to
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Built-in GPS

Reasons to avoid

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Materials used makes it feel cheaper than it is

The Polar Ignite can be considered the little sibling of the Vantage family; it has the nine-LED sensor setup and all the new features, like Serene and Nightly Recharge. In fact, the aforementioned features were first introduced in the Ignite and then rolled out later to the Vantage models.

Although the screen is a decent enough size, many features that the Vantage models have displayed on the watch itself have been delegated to the Polar Flow app, like the Training Load Pro and Training Benefit. You still get all these extra features, but you will need to sync the Polar Ignite with your phone first to access them.

The watch is super light and weighs only 35 grams with the wristband. The polymer case is a bit – in need of a better word here – flimsy and cheapish looking. That said, the touchscreen and one-button navigation work well, and the screen is not all that bad to look at, either.

Read our full Polar Ignite review

Polar Ignite 2 on white backgroundT3 Award

(Image credit: Polar)
Not a terrible Polar fitness tracker

Specifications

Weight: 35 grams
Case material: Glass fibre reinforced polymer
Lens material: N/A
Water rating: up to 30 metres
Display resolution: 240 x 204 pixels
Battery life: up to 5 days in smartwatch mode

Reasons to buy

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Advanced training suggestions
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Ambient light sensor
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Built-in GPS

Reasons to avoid

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Hardly any updates since the Ignite
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Watch feels less premium than similarly priced fitness watches such as the Fitbit Versa 3

It’s hard to summarise what's not quite right with the Polar Ignite 2. To some degree, it’s still a perfectly adequate fitness wearable and very similar to the Polar Ignite, a watch we really liked. On the other hand, it fails to offer anything new, so we wonder what the point of re-releasing the same watch two years later was.

Even more strangely, Polar already has a similar watch on the market: the Polar Unite, a fitness watch that looks the same, is a bit cheaper and less competent but serves its purpose just fine. For the Ignite 2's price, you can also get a Fitbit Versa 3 or a Garmin Venu Sq (or Sq Music), both being either more popular or more capable than the Ignite 2.

Would we recommend the Polar Ignite 2? Well, yes and no. We recommended the original Ignite, and since the Ignite 2 is very similar, we guess we can also recommend the new watch. The training tools are good, the sensors are not too bad, and the smart features are also okay. But the lack of updates since the Ignite is a bit disappointing, not to mention the increased competition, which makes me wonder how many people will actually choose the Polar Ignite 2 over its competitors.

Read our full Polar Ignite 2 review

Polar M430 on white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Polar)

7. Polar M430

Best cheap Polar running watch

Specifications

Weight: 51 grams
Water rating: Up to 30 metres
Display resolution: 128 x 128 pixels
Battery life: up to 8 hours in training mode

Reasons to buy

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Built-in GPS
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Sleep tracking

Reasons to avoid

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Low resolution screen
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Chunky

The Polar M430 is geared towards serious runners. Because if you aren't a serious runner, you can get a Fitbit Versa for cheaper than the Polar M430, and the former looks less like an oversized fitness tracker, whilst still tracking all the basic fitness metrics.

But in case you are an avid runner and would like to own a running watch that clearly communicates to others around you that run often, you should definitely choose the Polar M430. It does most of the tricks the more expensive models can do, like the Polar Fitness Test, which estimates your VO2 max levels, and even tells you your Running Index, which is a measurement of how well you run.

The Polar M430 is heavier than the Polar Ignite but not too heavy with its 51 grams. The screen is a good size, too, although the resolution is fairly low so the display is a bit blocky. You won't get silky smooth animation here and you will miss out on non-running features as well, like the Serene breathing exercise or the Nightly Recharge metric.

But all the negative stuff doesn't matter to you, since you probably wouldn't use all that casual stuff anyway. What you need the M430 for is running, and for that – especially considering the friendly price point – it's more than adequate. You'll get built-in GPS and wrist-based heart rate, which is really all you need to track running.

How to choose the best Polar watch for you

Polar – unlike Garmin – has a straightforward lineup of watches. The company's current offering consists of 5 main smartwatches, and they all have significantly different capabilities from one another.

The cream of the crop model, the Polar Vantage V2, offers a feature not many other watches on the market can do (apart from the Coros Pace 2): it measures running power on the wrist. Granted, running power will only be a gimmick for non-hardcore runners, but for them, it's a real bonus that's worth the premium price.

The Pacer Pro currently sits in the Goldilocks zone, offering plenty of functionality for runners, cyclists and swimmers for not a lot of money. It has new tests, a faster CPU and a slightly updated user interface – not a bad package for athletes on a tight-ish budget.

One step down is the Polar Vantage M2, which is almost identical to the Vantage V when it comes to looks and functionality, and only misses out on features such as some of the tests and the running power. The Vantage M2 can be bought for a little over half the price of the Vantage V2.

Go for the Polar Ignite if you will use your new Polar watch mainly for tracking fitness activities like HIIT sessions or even yoga classes. It has the updated Polar Precision Prime sensor and all the new Vantage features in a lightweight body.

If you just want a no-frills running watch, you can choose either the Polar M430 or M200. The latter really is the basic model, but for the money, you'll still get built-in GPS and wrist heart rate, which is pretty good.

What's the Polar Flow app?

The main appeal of the Polar Flow app is the summary screens, let it be the account of all your daily or individual fitness activities. Polar watches don't automatically synchronise with the phone; you need to long press the button on the watch to start the process.

Once the sync is done, though, you can get a glance view of the activities very easily. The Polar Flow is user-friendly, and the learning curve is not steep at all. The only – let's say – peculiar thing is the chart on the top of the Activity page. It either shows you a line chart or a 24-hour clock with your activities but in a way that's not necessarily understandable straight away.

You can, however, get to the Training page from the main Activity page by tapping on the activity's icon on the main timeline. This is quite handy, and once you're on the individual activity's page, you can see all the key metrics at a glance. In general, the Polar Flow might not be as motivating as Garmin Connect's badge system, but it does the job nicely.

Matt Kollat
Fitness Editor

Matt is T3's Fitness Editor and covers everything from smart fitness tech to running and workout shoes, home gym equipment, exercise how-tos, nutrition, cycling, and more. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar (opens in new tab) and Fit&Well (opens in new tab), and he collaborated with other content creators in the past, such as Garage Gym Reviews (opens in new tab). When he isn't working out, he loves roaming the countryside and trying out new podcasting and content creation equipment, including microphones, cameras and more.