While it might not have excessive features, the Grit X Pro finally does pretty much everything a triathlete would need—from high-level physiological analysis to lifestyle functions.
Great looks/tough construction
Most useful watch face functions (dashboards) we’ve seen
Great sleep/recovery metrics
Turn-by-turn navigation with third-party app
Excellent heart-rate accuracy
Onboard running with power
Battery life is not great at this price
Touchscreen is not amazing
Problematic lag on button press/screen touch
A little pricey for what you get
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Up until a few years ago, Polar was slightly behind in the smartwatch game. The Finnish brand had been a big name in heart-rate monitors (and still are), but their square-shaped heart-rate monitors had gone from ubiquitous to antiquated as smartwatches got better and better. But Polar reversed their own fortune in the summer of 2018 by releasing a totally capable line of smartwatches called Vantage. Originally, the budget Vantage M and higher-priced Vantage V boasted excellent physio readings, accurate on-wrist heart-rate measurement, built-in running with power, and a few other odds and ends. Two years later, Polar upped the ante with the release of their slightly dirtier Grit X that focused on trail running and outdoors. Now, with the Vantage M and V watches both getting mild updates last year, it’s time for the Grit X to go pro.
Want to know more about the Grit X Pro? Check out our extended review.
Polar Grit X Pro: The Basics
The big multisport highlights on this smartwatch include features and functions that the original Grit X already had: open-water swimming, multisport mode, triathlon mode, cycling, and running (with on-wrist power). The Grit X Pro follows the Vantage models’ lead with accurate and reliable (and useful) sleep metrics as well as recovery metrics that even take into account muscular fatigue with a leg recovery test that’s not half bad. The Grit X Pro also has built-in cycling and running tests that help give you accurate training zones (this is big for triathletes). The updates from the Grit X include turn-by-turn navigation (previously only breadcrumb) via a third-party app, a very cool elevation visualization with climb grade, music control, dashboard watch faces with weather, daylight, altimeter, GPS, compass, and more. In fact, the new Grit X Pro very very closely mirrors the features of the Vantage V2—more than the Grit X ever did.
Polar Grit X Pro: The Good
Though this is nothing new, the Grit X Pro has excellent on-wrist heart-rate measurement with its Precision Prime sensor setup—this leads to physiological features and metrics that are pretty much unparalleled in smartwatches. As a result, the sleep tracking is some of the best, the recovery tests are super useful, and the training zone features like the cycling and running tests are super helpful. And the good news is that these functions that were previously only on the Vantage V (or V2) watches are now on the Grit X Pro.
Other things that make this watch and update stand out are the built-in running power (though nothing new) and the enhanced navigation features that were lacking in the first round of Vantage watches. The GPS works quite well, and the turn-by-turn routing features are actually more rare than you’d think.
In terms of everyday use, Polar is finally on the same page as its competitors with music controls and lifestyle dashboards (different options on the watch face) that people actually use often. The weather dashboard updates perfectly and is incredibly powerful, the compass/altimeter dashboard is much more helpful than we’d thought, and the daylight dashboard is actually one of the coolest faces we’ve seen on a smartwatch—essential for triathletes who are probably always pushing daylight to train. Even the looks and build quality of the updated Grit X Pro are notable, as it’s a watch that would blend in on an office setting (unlike previous Polar models, IMO).
Polar Grit X Pro: The Not-So-Good
While the above functions are all fantastic, most of them are also basic firmware updates that are being pushed to all Polar watches at this level—the old Grit X included. This pretty much guarantees that if you’re a Grit X owner, you’re not going to upgrade to the Grit X Pro. Not only that, but rather than bring the price down to something that might put the hurt on a Forerunner 745 or Coros’ Apex Pro, the $500 price tag makes you compare directly with them—something I think Polar should avoid.
And while it’s easy to argue that the Grit X Pro should be priced a little lower (shouldn’t everything be cheaper?), there are some actual issues that make this more like a $400 watch than a $500 one: First, the battery life is a little bit of a handbrake. While Polar advertises a week in smartwatch mode, the downside of all of these cool dashboards and in-training navigation/maps/etc. is that battery life for triathletes is far less than you’d expect. We got typically three to four days of use—often less—with one or two workouts per day. That puts the Grit X Pro on the level of something you need to seriously consider charging almost every night (ok, goodbye excellent sleep metrics!).
The other big hangup (and this is actually one of the biggest) is that not only does the touchscreen still not work all that great, but the touchscreen and the buttons often lag considerably. This means it takes a long time to switch screens while training, and it even means that hitting a lap takes a long time to register. While this may seem nitpicky at first, we bumped up into this problem time and time again—not knowing if the button press worked or if the screen touch registered or not. Annoying when you’re just sitting around playing with the watch, but literally infuriating while you’re training or racing hard.
This is one of those watches where Polar was clearly listening to its customers (and maybe reviewers). Polar was completely outgunned when it came to lifestyle and navigation functions by brands like Suunto and Garmin. They fixed pretty much all of that—with the exception of onboard maps or music, but that’s a big ask at this pricepoint. The dashboards are some of the most functional I’ve ever used, and actually make other brands look like they have work to do.
But now it feels like it might be time for Polar to get back to the basics a little bit. When I saw “Pro” at the end of this new update, I assumed there would be a bump in battery life—if anything with the new processor-intensive functions, the battery life almost felt lower. I’d also expect a watch at this level to be absolutely perfect in terms of button-to-activation processor and lag time—again, it’s almost a dealbreaker. (To be honest, if ditching the touchscreen (which isn’t amazing anyway) helped with battery and/or button response, I’d say do it.)
Otherwise, Polar has made big leaps with this version of a watch that I already really liked. It feels like Polar is almost there with a line of watches that can finally compete with Garmin and Coros, but there are just a few little technical issues getting in the way. Long story short: If you don’t already own a Polar and you want something with great lifestyle features that you’ll actually use (and train with), this is fighting to be one of the best smartwatches out there.