We test the Polar Grit X – A rugged watch designed for outdoor adventurers

Including new features like Hill Tracker, Fuelwise nutrition and navigation tools
Review: Polar Grit X outdoor watch

When it comes to big players in the wearable sports tracker world, Polar has always been at the front of the pack. However, it has never quite made the leap into delivering a watch that's focussed on the outdoor adventure market. That is set to change with the release of the Grit X.

There are inevitable similarities with previous Polar products, but the Grit X is not a natural progression of any existing range. It's a watch that aims to take learnings from Polar's lineage of performance tracking and apply that to an untapped area for the brand. The result is a watch that will, in many ways, feel familiar to a Polar user, but one also incorporates a host of new features to make it an exciting new standalone offering.

We've been putting the Polar Grit X through its paces over the past for weeks to see how it compares to the likes of Garmin, Suunto and Coros. Let's take a look at how it holds up.

Polar Grit X: Key features

64g | 47mm case | 1.2-inch | 240 x 240 pixel | 22mm replaceable straps | MIL-STD-810G durability | 40 hours | GPS battery life | 100 hours tracking in low GPS mode | 7 days smartwatch | Optical HR | GPS, Glonass, Galileo | Running power and cadence on the wrist | 130 sport modes | FuelWise fuelling recommendations | Hill Splitter segmented insights | Turn-by-turn navigation | FitSpark workout recommendations based on recovery | Nightly Recharge sleep and recovery insights

Polar Grit X: Design

Polar Grit X

The Grit X is, as you'd expect from an outdoor watch, slightly chunkier than recent Polar offerings like the Vantage series, delivering an overall aesthetic more in line with stalwarts of the market like Garmin's Fenix range or the Coros Vertix. However, it's a similarity that sits towards the lighter side of those products, with a noticeably lean 64g that makes it feel considerably more like a running watch than an all-out adventure wearable.

At first glance/wear that lightness, owed largely to the back cover being made from a fiberglass reinforced polymer, does feel slightly cheap in comparison to something like the Garmin Fenix. Weight is no degree of quality though and the Grit X really does come into its own when it comes to comfort against some of the bulkier options out there.

There's a 47mm stainless steel case, which adds a nice visual balance against the polymer back and Polar states that the watch has passed several MIL-STD-810G tests, including extreme temperatures, drop and humidity. There's also a new silicone wristband that's both visually appealing as well as being well designed for comfort due to a grippy exterior finish.

We test the Polar Grit X – A rugged watch designed for outdoor adventurers

The 1.2-inch colour touchscreen offers plenty of screen space for the wide range of displays available and does a competent job when viewed in all levels of external conditions. In comparison with the Fenix range or Suunto, there's no noticeable difference in visibility or clarity and improvements have been made against the Vantage V.Overall it's a very nice looking and comfortable watch and once you have it on you generally forget you're wearing it, whether resting or out on a run. That's a fairly big thing when you're talking about outdoor watches and when you switch over to something like the Fenix 6 you realise just how light it is in comparison.

One other pleasing feature to the Grit X is that it charges using Polar's standard cable. Which will be a treat to anyone who already owns a Polar product.

Polar Grit X: Interface

For anyone familiar with Polar devices, you'll find no surprises in the Grit X menu system. That's a good thing as Polar offers one of our favourite control methods when it comes to logical systems for tracking and viewing your activities.

The watch can be operated via five buttons or using the touch screen. For us, the buttons are by far the best way to control the various settings and features, especially when it comes to operating during activities like running and hiking. There's a grippy finish to them that offers a nice level of purchase when moving around the menus, and there's a weight to the press which, twinned with the vibrating feedback, makes for a pleasing experience.

We test the Polar Grit X – A rugged watch designed for outdoor adventurers

The touch screen is fine, but doesn't lend itself well to quick menu navigation and does have a noticeable lag which can be frustrating, especially if you're trying to flick a screen or find something whilst on the move. If you're out and about and start getting sweaty, you may as well be trying to change screens with a wet sponge.

Polar Grit X: Sports tracking

The Grit X offers sports profiles for 130 activities, that includes everything you'd expect from an outdoor watch to incredibly niche things like specific Les Mills workouts, dynamic stretching and even Latin dance. For us the main focus was running, a profile which covers all of the primary features that sit within the watch.

As we've come to expect from the Polar range, there's an attention to detail when it comes to tracking activities, both during and post workout. The customisable display allows you to specify what information you want to see during a session, from more commonplace information like pace, time and heart rate to more outdoors-focussed readings, like altitude or the new Hill Splitter function.

We test the Polar Grit X – A rugged watch designed for outdoor adventurers

Without going into the new features, the Grit X is an impressive all-round watch when it comes to sports tracking, offering an easy to access and use set of profiles that deliver tracking information clearly and easily. For those looking for simplicity, you can get the information you want without any need for delving into the set-up, for those looking to personalise the watch and jump into detailed datasets, Polar has crammed a lot of analysis into the Grit X.

Polar Grit X: Fuelling and nutrition

As for those new features, we'll start with our favourite. Fuelwise is one of the most impressive new additions that you'll find on the Grit X and it delivers an advanced nutrition system based on training intensity, height, weight, age and gender. By filling in information about your planned activities, the watch will supply you with a breakdown of what you need to be consuming to optimise your training or racing.

We test the Polar Grit X – A rugged watch designed for outdoor adventurers

It's a feature that obviously lends itself to those endurance athletes that are planning on being out for hours on end instead of those running a 10k race, with a series of reminders that take into account your intensity as well as how long you're out for. Those reminders pop up at varying intervals based primarily on when you start burning fat and protein instead of carbs.

You can view that information in the app after the activity for a detailed overview of what you were burning during a session. An often surprising insight into where your energy is coming from during an endurance activity and one that highlights the importance of getting fuelling right.

There is also a hydration feature on the Grit X, however, this is largely a timed reminder system to drink water as opposed to a detailed you'll get from the fuelling element of the watch.

Polar Grit X: Hill Splitter

Unlike Fuelwise, Hill Splitter seems to be a somewhat undercooked new feature of the Grit X. The premise sounds good on paper, offering instant information on when you're tackling an ascent or a descent and then delivering that information as a segmented element of your session.

It is, however, fairly limited in terms of what it can tell you and how quickly that information is displayed. We found that it took the watch a couple of hundred meters to register a climb was actually happening, which meant that the information given wasn't that helpful and non-existent when doing shorter hill reps.

Where Fuelwise offers a feature that we haven't seen to the same standard, the Hill Tracker lacks the level of information and live stats that you'll see with Garmin's ClimbPro. Viewing the information post activity is actually fairly useful to measure performance, but during a session it doesn't add a great deal to the training format.

Polar Grit X: Navigation

We test the Polar Grit X – A rugged watch designed for outdoor adventurers

With Polar's move towards the outdoor adventure market, it will come as no surprise that the Grit X incorporates navigation features amongst its selling points. Unlike Garmin, however, which uses its own proprietary software for route planning during an activity, the Grit X has opted for third-party software Komoot.

Unless you plan to upload route GPX files via the Polar app, Komoot acts as the primary way to create routes that sync directly with the Grit X. The positive side of this is that Komoot is an impressive and powerful tool for navigation that surpasses the majority – if not all – proprietary features you'll find across the range of outdoor watches. The app offers an intuitive and easy way to search and build your own routes for heading out trail running or hiking.

The main negative aspect of this third-party association is the fact that you'll need to pay for a vast chunk of the service. Specifically due to the limitation that Komoot will allow you one geographical area for free – generally an area around a city or district. If you want to venture outside of your chosen area, you'll need to pay for individual regions (around Β£3.99), region bundles (Β£8.99) or spend Β£29.99 for all regions.

The other issue with using Komoot is that setting it up with the Grit X can be somewhat tricky, so don't expect to turn the watch on and head our for a trail run straight away.

We test the Polar Grit X – A rugged watch designed for outdoor adventurers

Navigation during an activity is limited, with no TOPO maps to cover detail. What you're getting is a clear, simple breadcrumb trail that does the job but isn't going to compete with something like the Garmin Fenix. For most people, that won't be an issue, and we had no problems using it to navigate some long hikes.

Polar Grit X: Health and fitness features

Fitspark isn't necessarily a feature you'd expect to get on a device predominantly built for the outdoors, but training and fitness is all part of the adventure lifestyle, it so it's a welcome addition. It's a tool that you may have already seen on the Polar Ignite that deliverers supporting training guidance. It does an impressive job of it as well.

You'll find a selection of cardio, strength and mobility workouts delivered according to your current training level and recovery requirements. Training Load Pro will also give you insights into the current state of your training and how it's affecting your body. Classifications that include detraining, productive, maintaining or potentially over-reaching.

We test the Polar Grit X – A rugged watch designed for outdoor adventurers

The nicest element of this feature is the way that Polar displays data and it's one of our favourite interfaces for delivering detailed information in a quick and digestible way. You'll find easy, nicely designed read-outs after you've completed workouts that tell you the level of effort you put in and how that looks as part of your overall training.

There's also the Polar Nightly Recharge feature which offers one of the best examples of sleep tracking that you'll come across. However, although the information displayed is detailed and even incorporates some nice overnight Autonomic Nervous System recovery insights, there are accuracy issues when you're just resting and watching TV as opposed to actually sleeping. We found that on some occasions where we probably had around 8 hours sleep, it would attribute at least an hour of inactive time to the total.

Polar Grit X: GPS and heart rate accuracy

We've tested the Polar Grit X in a number of running situations, from short distance urban training runs to long distance efforts in the countryside. That includes a 1km loop around West Ham stadium multiple times.

We've found that the accuracy on the watch delivers consistently in every use case, often beating both the Garmin Fenix 6 pro and Garmin Instinct in areas with tall buildings. When tested around the stadium, the Grit X delivered significantly more accurate tracking than Garmin, which tended to be short on ever test.

When setting up for a run we also found that the Grit X picked up a signal on average between 15-30 seconds.

When it came to heart rate tracking the Grit X also delivered very well, which isn't surprising considering it has historically been the area where Polar usually excels. When compared with a chest strap and the Garmin instinct on interval training sessions it picked up the majority of the peaks and dips in heart rate. It wasn't quite as accurate as the Instinct and we often found that it took a couple of minutes for the heart rate sensors to catch up with the activity, but overall we found very little issues with the tracking across a range of training types.

Polar Grit X
Left to right: Polar Grit X, Wahoo Chest Strap, Garmin Instinct

Polar Grit X: Battery Life

As with any watch designed for the outdoor market, battery life is a major factor and the Grit X claims to provide 40 hours of GPS battery life in full tracking mode which you can extend to 100 hours by opting for less GPS frequency.

We've found that those suggested times are fairly accurate, although the numbers are, as always, the best case scenario. Based on our testing you'll probably end up a few hours shy of the claimed battery life in most cases, which is actually very impressive and should cover most users for any outdoor activities. In contrast, the Fenix 6 claims 36 hours battery life and that is pretty much on the money. Whilst testing both, the Fenix 6 delivers for longer in GPS mode.

In normal day to day use, we've found the watch generally holds up to about 7 days before needing a recharge. That's with one workout session a day and without customisation any of the battery functions. The Fenix 6 holds on a fair bit longer, normally needing to be recharged at the end of a two-week period.

Speaking of battery customisation, you can modify power modes for each sports profile, allowing you to extend the battery life based on your type of activity. In addition you receive information about how much battery you have left before a workout, letting you know if you should think about charging it before you head out of the door.

Polar Grit X: Overall

For Polar's first entry into the world of outdoor watches, the Grit X really is an impressive piece of kit. At Β£379 it's not cheap, but it does offer a mid-range alternative to something like the Garmin Fenix 6 and comes with a similar range of features. As with most Polar devices, there's heaps of data and analytics to trawl through both during and after an activity, and the Polar system is one of the simplest and most intuitive we've come across. It's not without its flaws though. We'd like to see Polar improve the Hill Tracker tool and the fact that you also have to pay out money to properly utilise the Komoot maps is also a big negative aspect for us.

Tags:    Running
Tagged    Running