Product Review: Polar RC3 GPS Watch

The following post is sponsored by FitFluential LLC on behalf of Polar.

Let me start by saying this … I have used many watches over the past three years seeking the perfect watch that I can use for triathlon. I started with a basic Timex, went to the Timex Ironman, then to the Garmin 910xt (with a short foray into the MotoActv). I had never tried a Polar because, to be frank, I didn’t like the fact that their products were not compatible with all other monitors (meaning, basically, Ant+ devices). I was also not a fan of the GPS method in other models using a “pod” instead of being built into the watch. As a triathlon participant, having more than one electronic device to deal with is more than one too many.

So, here is the Polar RC3 GPS watch. I was sent this watch to wear and review by Polar but as readers of this blog know, it won’t affect my opinion at all.

Did it address the concerns I had prior?

Yes and No …

The GPS is now built in, so one mark in the “good” column, but it still only uses Polar monitors, meaning I’d have to change out the bike sensors if I wanted to test it there, so one in the “not so good” column. I entered this review looking at the watch solely as a running watch, and that is the paradigm I will approach the review and from what you should take from it.

So how do they compare?

In a head to head face off during a Bike/Run/Bike brick I wore both watches, in full geek style, just to see how they compared as far as pace and distance. Going in I knew there would be some differences since I was wearing the Polar HR strap and, as I mentioned, these are not compatible with other devices. That meant that the Polar would be measuring my calorie burn according to actual HR while the Garmin would be measuring according to speed and distance. On the other hand, on the bike and run I am set up with a foot pod for Garmin and bike monitors for Garmin so the Polar was measuring distance and speed according to GPS and not the sensors.

The results, except for calories, were closer than I expected them to be:

Note: Bike 2 above is actually a run
So if the basic results are very similar, is the Polar a watch worth switching to over the Garmin?

While the Polar is a great running watch, and it’s HR readings and ease of use are seemingly superior to the Garmin, to replace the Garmin 910xt as a true multi-sport watch would be a hard thing to, for a number of reasons.

The Polar offers 8 preset views in the running and biking portion, but unfortunately you cannot alter what these views are, like you can on the 910xt. This in itself is not a game breaker, but it is a bit annoying when you want, say, elevation and running pace together but cannot change it.

 
What I like about the Polar:
  1. It is VERY easy to use and get acclimated to using. To test this, because I’m a guy, I tried to use it without using any instructions and figured it out pretty quickly. That is a good sign. To get to the more advanced features I did have to dive into the manual, but that is still a good sign.
  2. The battery life is LONG even when using the GPS. As a normal every day watch I used it for 5 days before even thinking about charging it.
  3. The online site is outstanding. Clear, easy to use, easy to find what you need.
  4. 8 preset view, while unchangeable, does give you many options, and changing them mid run is pretty easy.
  5. Love Love Love the Event Tracker feature (see picture below). Enter your upcoming events on the calendar at website and you can display it on your watch. nice reminder on a daily basis. It’s a small thing but a favorite feature of mine.
  6. The HR numbers are outstanding, and liked the Fittest feature, though I think it’s a bit arbitrary.
  7. This is a Garmin centric issue with me, but I really liked the charging feature on the Polar being micro USB. The Garmin has it’s own charger which only works for Garmin and the points/connectors get corroded a lot, at least for me. The Polar charges without a hitch each time, and does so quickly. 
What I didn’t like:
  1. I really would have liked to test it as a multi-sport watch but the fact that it doesn’t swim, no quick way of switching sports (bike to run for example) other than starting a new session, makes this not a good triathlon watch. At least for me.
  2. The fact that Polar still only uses its own monitor tools and not Bluetooth or Ant+ is irritating. My bikes are set up with Garmin Ant+ tools, which works fine with the MotoActv as well makes it impractical to use with Polar. This relegates it to a strictly running watch for me.
I really wanted to like this watch and, for the features it has, it didn’t disappoint. For my fellow runners out there, it is far superior to the Garmin in my opinion as far as metric go, and especially ease of use. I will not be using it for Triathlon racing, but for run training and for strictly marathons it is going to be my new watch. Go to www.shoppolar.com and check them out.
 
Some snapshots for you:
 

 
 
 
 
 
 

2 thoughts on “Product Review: Polar RC3 GPS Watch

  • August 12, 2013 at 12:51 pm
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    The problem with the HRM is that you can't wear them both at the same time. So one is based on actual HR while the other is on time and distance. That's the underlying issue with Polar, it's inability to use ANT+ or Bluetooth.

    As far as the website, I have no problems getting the information I am looking for. I know some who LOVE Training Peaks and I can't stand it. 🙂

  • August 12, 2013 at 12:36 pm
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    If for the Polar website you mean polarpersonaltrainer.com. Calling it outstanding is very generous, I think. 🙂

    Interesting to see the big difference estimate of calories. Any idea of how to “calibrate” the HRMs to get more reliable data?

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