Best Polar GPS Watches for Running Compared 2021

Last updated: November 22, 2021

GPS Running Watch / Polar / Best Polar GPS Watches for Running Compared 2021

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Polar is a company that develops sports watches and heart rate monitors and has been around as early as 1977. Needless to say that they’re also a manufacturer of GPS running watches and have been at the forefront among competitors such as Garmin and Coros.

We’ve reviewed some of the best GPS running watches created by Polar in case you’re wondering which fit the bill for running purposes. Overall they’re great multi-sport GPS watches that can be used for much more than running as well.

Best Overall
Polar Vantage M2
Polar Vantage M2
Most Durable
Polar Grit X
Polar Grit X
Best Female Style
Polar Ignite
Polar Ignite
Best For Multisport
Polar Vantage V2
Polar Vantage V2
Best Value
Polar M430 GPS
Polar M430 GPS

Best Polar GPS Watches for Running Reviewed

We’ve reviewed some the best polar watches based on their specifications, key features and what we liked or didn’t like.

1. Polar Vantage M2 GPS Watch

Key Features

  • 45g (1.6oz)
  • Comes in 4 colors
  • Connects through Bluetooth and ANT+
  • 30 hours of full-function battery life

Reasons to buy

  • Sturdy build quality
  • Tracks plenty of performance information
  • Features a personalized running program
  • Aesthetics aren’t limited to sports scenarios
  • Decent battery life for a smartwatch

Reasons to avoid

  • Controls might be inconvenient for Polar newbies
  • It doesn’t track as much data as other Polar watches

If you want a running watch that flawlessly combines functionality with form, the Polar Vantage M2 is the perfect watch for you. Coming from a well-known and established brand in the performance watches industry, the Vantage M2 has everything a runner needs.

The Vantage M2 gives off a modern vibe with its 1.2-inch display that features a 240×240 resolution. It comes with just the right brightness and contrast to provide adequate visibility under direct light for outdoor running.

The case is made of fiber-reinforced polymer, while the ultra-thin bezels are made of stainless steel. Together, they result in a sleek design that is not entirely sporty, which means you can wear this watch even outside your running sessions.

The Vantage M2 is controlled by five buttons, which some users might find inconvenient, especially when coming from touchscreen displays or two-button setups. That said, Polar regulars will have no issues at all, as this setup is pretty much a brand trademark at this point.

With those controls, you can quickly cycle through the Vantage M2’s different running features, such as automated sleep and recovery tracking, an intelligent energy level assistant, and even a personalized running program called Polar Flow.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the same level of hardcore tracks that users have come to love from Polar watchers. But to be fair, unless you’re planning on winning an Olympic medal, the included modes should already be plenty for the average user.

In addition to performance trackers and intelligent suggestions, the Vantage M2 also has standard smartwatch features such as music control, weather forecast, notifications, and more. Battery life is rather decent for a smartwatch, lasting around 120 hours with regular use and 30 hours in full training mode.

All in all, the Polar Vantage M2 may not be suitable for hardcore data crunchers, but it’s an excellent choice for any serious runner.

2. Polar Grit X GPS Watch

Key Features

  • 64g (2.2oz)
  • Offered in 3 colors
  • 100 hours in battery saving mode
  • 40 hours in full GPS mode
  • Connects through Bluetooth and ANT+

Reasons to buy

  • Great price point for its features
  • Responsive training suggestions 
  • Streamlined but still rugged design
  • Military-grade durability and waterproofing
  • Monitoring and tracking tailored for outdoor adventures

Reasons to avoid

  • Battery life doesn’t match its purpose
  • Only supports online navigation
  • Outdoor features are quite lacking

Specially designed to be durable, the Polar Grit X is made to thrive in off-road trails. It has a more prominent stainless steel bezel and 5-button casing than the Vantage M2, resulting in a more informal and outdoorsy look that’s not as showy as other outdoor watches. 

Despite that, the Grit X is evidently meant to be used outside, for sure. With its military-grade durability and water resistance up to 100 meters deep, this performance watch won’t back down from anything – be it extreme weather or challenging triathlons. It’s also pretty lightweight, coming in at only 64 grams.

The Polar Grit X has special systems for exploring, including ‘Hill Splitter,’ a real-time online navigation and automatic altitude change detection mode. It even has a FuelWise smart nutrition guide that helps you maintain your energy levels during long runs. Other than that, it has over 130 sports settings and very responsive smart training suggestions.

However, its features don’t stack up that well against genuinely premium outdoor multi-sport watches like the Garmin Fenix 6. For one, the Hill Splitter mode can’t detect minor altitude changes. It also doesn’t have any offline navigation and instead relies on its online GPS navigation, which can be quite unreliable in very long off-road routes.

Not to mention, for a watch that’s supposedly for hardcore off-trail ultrarunners, the battery life seems a bit half-baked, with only 40 hours of battery life in full GPS mode and 100 hours in power-saving mode.

Ultimately, while we appreciate Polar’s attempts at marketing this watch as a hardcore outdoor smartwatch, we feel like Polar Grit X is still a little rough around the edges. 

Nevertheless, thanks to its aim-for-the-moon tactics, it still landed among the stars: for this price point, the Polar Grit X makes for an excellent companion for the everyday offroad runner.

3. Polar Ignite GPS Watch

Key Features

  • 35g (1.2oz)
  • Offered in 5 stylish colors
  • 17 hours full function mode
  • 120 hours (5 days) watch mode
  • Connects through Bluetooth and ANT+

Reasons to buy

  • Sharp minimalist look
  • Wide touchscreen display
  • Comprehensive recovery tracking
  • Smart and adaptive training recommendations
  • Convenient, intuitive, and extensive fitness tracking

Reasons to avoid

  • Battery life could be better
  • Touchscreen can sometimes become unresponsive

The Polar Ignite is a serious all-rounder for runners not looking for anything specific.

Design-wise, it’s rocking the sharp minimalist theme quite well, with a larger-than-average 1.6-inch touchscreen, ultra-slim bezels, and only one button control. Nevertheless, it’s durable enough to withstand hard use. The clear glass face is waterproof for up to 10 meters, and the elastic silicone band ensures a snug fit no matter how hard you run. 

In terms of function, Polar Ignite proves very useful with its recovery assistants and intelligent training recommendations. Since the watch is light and comfy enough to be worn while sleeping, you can also use it to reliably track sleep metrics and give you insights on how you can best recover from your workouts.

As mentioned above, the Ignite also has comprehensive, adaptive training recommendations, which means that it can provide exercises and sessions based on your data. With the Polar Ignite, you can be sure that your training plans are customized specially for you.

It can also track all the necessary fitness metrics to help you understand your patterns better and develop healthier plans. Tracking is reasonably intuitive: once you’ve selected a mode, just press the button to pause, tap the screen to restart, and hold the button to stop completely.

Nevertheless, some users reported that there are times when the touchscreen wouldn’t respond appropriately, which could be a pain when you’re in the middle of a running session. The battery life could be better, too, clocking only a maximum of 17 hours in full function mode and over 100 hours in regular smartwatch mode.

Overall, the Ignite is a jack of all trades. It might lack more comprehensive data tracking for specific running activities, but considering its primary design is for general fitness rather than hardcore training sessions, the Polar Ignite serves generalist runners quite well.

4. Polar Vantage V2 GPS Watch

Key Features

  • 52g (1.8oz)
  • Offered in 3 colors
  • Connects through Bluetooth and ANT+
  • 40 hours of battery life in full-function mode
  • Standard smartwatch features (music control, weather forecast)

Reasons to buy

  • Premium materials
  • Sophisticated aesthetics
  • VO2 max measurement test
  • Features other Polar trademark trackers

Reasons to avoid

  • Very expensive
  • Buttons more useful than touchscreen

A direct successor to the Vantage V, the Polar Vantage V2 is made to be smarter, sturdier, and lighter than its predecessor.

Instead of the Vantage V’s stainless steel material, the Vantage V2 has premium aerospace-grade aluminum casing and bezels, allowing it to be lighter and look more upscale. As a result, although the Vantage V2 is very reminiscent of its predecessor, it’s slicker and more sophisticated looking.

For runners, specifically, it has a feature called Running Performance Test, which gauges your VO2 max levels, a benchmark measure for fitness. You’ll be made to do a series of predefined warmups and running tests in order to get the results. Like other Polar watches, the Vantage V2 can track different sports modes and typical fitness metrics.

If you also enjoy swimming or skin diving, the Polar Vantage V2 is a good choice. It’s waterproof up to 100 meters and can tolerate temperatures between 50°C all the way to -10°C.  Although it has a touchscreen, it also has 5 buttons that you can use for navigation when you’re in the water. In fact, the buttons work so well even outside of the water that they render the touchscreen pretty much unnecessary.

Other than that, it has all the standard Polar features, like intelligent training recommendations, sleep and recovery analysis, various activity modes, music controls, and more. As for battery life, it can last 40 hours on a single charge in full-function mode.

However, unless this is your first Polar watch, the high price point may be quite off-putting since you can get many of the Vantage V2’s features in lower-priced Polar watches.

Overall, the Polar Vantage V2 is a fancy all-rounder for runners who also enjoy water activities. Still, if you’re not really interested in anything else other than running, the Polar Ignite may be a better choice.

5. Polar M430 GPS GPS Watch

Key Features

  • 51g (1.7oz)
  • Battery life of 336 hours
  • Connects through Bluetooth and ANT+

Reasons to buy

  • Affordable price
  • Retro-vibe aesthetics 
  • Reliable monitoring features
  • Excellent accuracy

Reasons to avoid

  • Very basic features
  • Outdated design

The Polar M430 GPS was one of the most popular running watches when it was first released in 2017. It’s been four years since then, so does the M430 GPS still stack up to newer models in terms of value?

Compared to the other Polar watches on this list, we have to admit that the M430 GPS looks undeniably dated. With its rounded square screen and grayscale display, the watch gives off a no-nonsense, functional vibe. Although still classy in its own way, the sporty aesthetics of the piece makes it clear that it’s for tracking your running performance, not for pairing with dress shirts.

Since the M430 GPS doesn’t have a touchscreen, it can only be controlled via the five buttons on its case. You can use these buttons to cycle through different functions such as calorie, fitness, and sleep.

In terms of performance monitoring, the watch does very well with the basics, thanks to its accurate tracking. However, many modern features are missing from the M430 GPS. If you don’t care much about bells and whistles, this watch will suit you just fine, but if you prefer having access to a wider range of data, then you might find it a bit lacking.

Price-wise, the Polar M430 GPS is unsurprisingly one of the lowest-priced watches on this list. It also has a battery life of 336 hours (14 days), which is much better than many modern smartwatches.

All things considered, if you specifically want a sports watch that monitors only the bare essentials, the Polar M430 does that very well. But if you want to get the features of a modern smartwatch for a relatively affordable price, something like the Coros Pace or Polar’s own Ignite may be a better choice for you.

6. Polar Vantage M GPS Watch

Key Features

  • 45g (1.59oz)
  • Comes in 2 sizes and 3 colors
  • Connects through Bluetooth and ANT+
  • 20 hours (5 days) in watch mode
  • 30 hours in training and GPS mode

Reasons to buy

  • Lightweight
  • Great value for the price
  • Reliable Training Pro mode
  • Sports standard Polar features

Reasons to avoid

  • Plastic casing feels somewhat cheap

The Polar Vantage M is the less hardcore but still capable younger sibling of the Vantage V series. It’s also the predecessor to the Polar Vantage M2.

This watch sports a 1.2-inch display with a 240×240 resolution and the typical Polar modern minimalist aesthetic. The bezel is made of ultra-thin stainless steel, although the case is made of plastic, perhaps to keep costs down. On the upside, the plastic build also makes the Vantage M very light.

It has all the core functions that launched Polar into a household name for performance watches: onboard GPS, various tracking modes for sports, and a durable build that is also waterproof up to 30 meters.

One of its most notable functions is its enhanced optical heart rate monitor. People loved the M430 and M400 models because of robust heart monitoring features, but the Vantage M further improved those with its new built-in sensors.

Another feature that’s worth looking into is the Training Load Pro mode. Paired with the Vantage M’s 24-hour monitoring, this mode gives you intelligent insights into how your training impacts your body over time. Basically, it provides advice as you track your cardio sessions and muscle load and tells you what to do next.

The battery life is also decent, lasting 30 hours in GPS mode and 120 hours (5 days) in watch mode. All these for a price point that’s lower than the Polar Vantage V2, which is only slightly better in build quality and features.

All in all, the Polar Vantage M is a solid mid-range watch that delivers a ton of value despite its affordable price.

7. Polar Ignite 2 GPS Watch

Key Features

  • 34g (1.2oz)
  • Comes in 4 colors and different strap designs
  • Bluetooth and ANT+
  • 120 hours in watch mode
  • 20 hours in full training and GPS mode

Reasons to buy

  • Lightweight
  • Excellent aesthetics
  • Great value for the price
  • Solid training suggestions
  • Reliable 24/7 performance tracking

Reasons to avoid

  • No contactless payments
  • Can’t store music
  • Shorter full-function battery life

Slick, stylish, and capable, the Polar Ignite 2 is a reasonably-priced, good-quality watch that you can bring anywhere, whether it’s the tracks or your office.

Without a doubt, one of the best selling points of the original Polar Ignite is its looks. The Ignite 2 steps up its game with an understated strap paired with a slimmer, minimal case, creating a distinctly elegant sporty vibe. As a result, you can easily take the Ignite 2 from the gym to a semi-format event with no problem.

In terms of functionality, the Polar Ignite 2 certainly isn’t lacking. It has an incredibly accurate onboard GPS and a solid heart monitoring feature typical of most Polar watches. It also has responsive and smart training tools, which, when paired with its monitoring and GPS capabilities, can help personalize your workouts to improve your running times.

Nevertheless, for a watch that seems to go after both the smartwatch and the fitness tracker markets, the Polar Ignite 2 is missing some essential smartwatch functionalities. For example, you can’t make contactless payments with it or store music – although it does have music controls for your mobile.

Battery life is also slightly disappointing. While it does last 120 hours (5 days) when used as a regular smartwatch, battery life goes down to a mere 20 hours when used in full function mode. This is obviously shorter than other Polar watches, although it should still be sufficient for most runners.

Nonetheless, the Polar Ignite 2 is an interesting blend of modern aesthetics and extremely functional features – great for athletes who want to look good without breaking the bank.

8. Polar Vantage V GPS Watch

Key Features

  • 66g (2.3oz)
  • Comes in 3 colors
  • Bluetooth and ANT+
  • 40 hours of full training and GPS

Reasons to buy

  • Great sporty look
  • Long battery life
  • Intelligent recovery assistant
  • Reactive training recommendations
  • Pioneered wrist-based running power tracking

Reasons to avoid

  • High-price point
  • Odd navigation quirks

The Polar Vantage V offers on-point running data and training recommendations for your fitness goals – as long as you’re willing to pay a premium price.

The Polar Vantage V has the same understated sporty look that most modern Polar watches have. Although the thin bezels and stainless steel case still look plenty smart, it does have a more rugged profile than the others, mainly because of its five-button controls.

Speaking of controls: you’d be happy to know that it’s not the only way to control the Vantage V. It comes equipped with a touchscreen, which means you can switch between the two. However, the touchscreen is not as fast, and oddly enough, there are some parts of the interface where you can only use buttons to navigate back to the previous screen.

Nevertheless, the Vantage V is stacked with tracking features perfect for both hardcore athletes and weekend warriors alike. It has over 130 sport modes, primarily featuring different kinds of running sports such as triathlons and off-trail runs. It can also track your running power, which tells you the energy expended during your running sessions.

That said, the Polar Vantage V is not without imperfections. Tracking metrics, for one, is not as accurate as other Polar watches. The pace tracking can be somewhat inaccurate, and although Polar has said that it improved the heart monitor, we can’t really feel the difference. It does have excellent training and recovery smart assistants, though, and offers a solid 40 hours of full training time.

As you can see, the Polar Vantage V was made to be a high-end watch for data-crunching athletes. Although some aspects might not live up to our expectations, we still find the Vantage V to be a solid Polar watch.

9. Polar M200 GPS Watch

Key Features

  • 39g (1.4oz)
  • Offered in 4 colors
  • Bluetooth and ANT+
  • 6 hours of battery life with GPS
  • 336 hours (14 days) without GPS

Reasons to buy

  • Affordable price
  • Reliable features
  • Personalized Running Program
  • Offers basic monitoring functions

Reasons to avoid

  • Minimal features compared to newer models
  • Dated aesthetics

Although some might argue that the Polar M200 is a relic of a bygone era, we say that it still brings a ton of value, especially for the price it’s being sold at now.

Let’s put this out of the way: the Polar M200 was never a winner at aesthetics and design. Even when it was first released back in 2016, its protruding and bulky build that doesn’t even have a LED display was not something anyone would want to wear outside of the gym or tracks.

However, it was a massive success among runners, and it’s not really hard to see why. For one, it has an extra-long battery life of 336 hours (14 days), thanks to the dot-matrix display that allows the watch to consume less battery as long as the GPS is turned off. With the GPS turned on, it can only last 6 hours, but even this was enough for everyday runners who enjoyed their M200.

Two, it features a Running Program function, which creates a personalized running plan by looking at your history and daily activity. You can choose from various competitions to train for, such as all-out marathons and 5K runs, and the Running Program will form a winning training plan in seconds.

Aside from specific training for runners, the Polar M200 also offers general fitness guides, such as the activity guide that details your movements throughout the day. It also provides users various advice on how to lead a better lifestyle. More than that, the M200 also featured sport profiles, essential sleep monitoring, and heart rate tracking.

While it may be true that Polar now offers far more modern watches with cutting-edge tech, anyone who’s just after an affordable and basic smartwatch will certainly love the Polar M200.

How to Choose the Best Polar Watch for Running

Polar is one of the most well-known brands in the performance and smartwatches industry, and for a good reason. After all, they have a comprehensive range of products that cover everything, from the bare basics to the high-end picks.

However, since Polar has so many products, how do you pick which one is best for you? In this section, we will answer that by discussing three factors: function, form, and price.

Function

Ask yourself, “What do you want to do with your watch?” If you just want to track your runs, look at calories burned, or have something to remind you to stretch, then the most basic watches, such as the M200 and M430 GPS, will do just fine.

But if you want your watch to be able to formulate complex and personalized training plans, you should go for something like the Vantage V or Ignite, as these watches feature top-of-the-line monitoring and intelligent assistants.

Form

How your watch looks on you is essential as well. Many runners want their watches to be versatile and perform functions beyond helping them excel in their running sessions.

Not to mention, if you want to take advantage of the body monitoring that most modern Polar watches have, the device will probably be on your wrist 24/7.

The Polar Ignite 2 is undoubtedly one of the best Polar watches in terms of looks. If you want something that you can take from the gym to the conference room without drawing any strange looks, this is your best bet.

Price

Polar watches are offered in different price ranges. High-end ones include the Polar Grit X and Vantage V and V2, mid-ranged ones include the Vantage M and Ignite 1 and 2, while entry-level would include the older M200 and M430 GPS.

The price differences can range from a couple of dollars to a couple of hundreds, so make sure that you know how much you’re willing to pay for the features you’re looking for.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Polar watch is best for me?

To find the perfect Polar watch for you, you’ve got to think about three factors: what you’re going to use it for, how you want it to look, and how much you’re willing to pay for it. Once you’ve decided on those, Polar has a long lineup of quality watches that you can pick from: the best of which are in this review.

Are Polar watches waterproof?

Some Polar watches are waterproof to some extent (such as the Polar Grit X), while others are merely water-resistant (Polar Ignite 2). To be safe, always check the waterproof rating of your watch before using it in water.

How accurate is Polar watch calorie count?

Polar has always had a reputation for its highly accurate tracking systems. Although no brand is perfect, you can rest assured that Polar’s calorie counts are among the best in the market.

Conclusion

Whether you’re a serious athlete or a weekend runner, Polar offers competitive and highly functional watches that you can use to improve your runs. With everything from step tracking to automated, data-based, and personalized training sessions, we’re sure you can find a Polar watch that will suit you best in this list. 

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