Are you searching for a smartwatch to track your fitness goals with the utmost accuracy and precision? You have some tough choices as the market is flooded with several smartwatches with different features and functions.
Although there are several decent brands with top-class fitness wearables, Polar and Garmin are two brands that have pulled ahead of the crowd when it comes to sports tracking.
Both brands manufacture a wide range of formidable and cutting-edge multisport watches across various price ranges. The two brands are behind some of the highly sought fitness-tracking wrist wearables in the market today.
Considering that Polar and Garmin only exude subtle differences, it can be challenging to choose between the two.
However, when you focus on what each brand intends to achieve and the unique attributes in their multisport watches, you can easily decide which brand better suits your lifestyle.
Polar boasts various models that cater to the needs of athletes chasing their dreams and individuals who want to live healthier lives. They’re famed for their advanced heart-monitoring technology.
On the other hand, Garmin watches are designed to aid everyone, from amateurs to professional athletes, who want to chase their passion for training and achieve their personal best. All their wearables brim with state-of-the-art features and are available at different price points.
We have compared Polar and Garmin wearables, highlighting their unique features and functions to help you choose a watch that suits your lifestyle.
Quick Summary on Garmin vs Polar GPS Watches
- Consider your needs and preferences: Both Garmin and Polar offer a range of GPS running watches with different features and technologies. Be sure to consider your own needs and preferences when choosing between these two brands.
- Look at the features and technologies: Both Garmin and Polar offer a range of features and technologies designed to enhance the performance and functionality of their GPS running watches. From heart rate monitoring and advanced training features to music playback and contactless payments, be sure to consider the features that matter most to you when choosing between these two brands.
- Check out the battery life: GPS running watches can be power-hungry, so be sure to consider the battery life of the models you’re considering. Both Garmin and Polar offer watches with different battery life ratings, so be sure to choose one that meets your needs.
- Think about the durability and build quality: GPS running watches can be subjected to a lot of wear and tear, so be sure to choose one that is built to last. Consider the materials and construction of the watch when deciding between Garmin and Polar.
- Don’t forget about the price: Both Garmin and Polar offer a range of GPS running watches at different price points. Determine your budget and look for a watch that fits within it when deciding between these two brands.
- Consider the compatibility with other devices: If you use other fitness devices or apps, be sure to choose a GPS running watch that is compatible with them. Both Garmin and Polar offer options that work with a variety of devices and platforms.
A Brief History About the Brands
Polar dates back to 1977 when a Finnish professor, Seppo Säynäjäkangas, invented a battery-operated fingertip heart rate monitor. Later in 1980, Polar patented this technology and claimed the title as the pioneer of wearable technology.
In 1982, the company introduced the world’s first portable wireless heart rate monitor dubbed the Sport Tester PE 2000.
After this groundbreaking achievement, the company delved into a transformative expedition creating more sophisticated fitness and health tracking products.
Today, the company has evolved into a globally recognized brand with top-class products that rival renowned brands like Apple and Garmin.
Check out our list of the Best Polar GPS Watches
When Garmin was established in 1989, it aimed to manufacture GPS trackers for the maritime market. However, the release of the GPS 100 caught the attention of the US military, who contracted them to deliver various life-saving products.
Today, the company is credited for developing technologically advanced products, such as smart GPS watches, fish locators & locators, smart GPS wearable, and GPS software for PDAs.
Check out our list of the Best Garmin GPS Watches
Polar Watches vs. Garmin Watches: Which Brand Rocks?
Infamous for having a wide range of wrist wearables to choose from, Garmin strikes a perfect balance of sports tracking and smartwatch features.
Polar boasts a more streamlined portfolio than Garmin, but its watches have heart rate monitoring as the core function. However, they still boast a slew of performance functions and a handful of recovery features.
Both brands boast superior build quality, but as for which one is better, we’ll have to find out!
Both Polar and Garmin have clear and easily readable displays. However, the most significant difference between is observed in the display customization.
Polar watches focus more on maintaining clean looks, and their six-screen function can be modified via the Polar App. On its part, Garmin allows users to customize their screens using various widgets.
Some Polar models come with displays that are a bit dimmer and require the backlight often, especially when there’s bright light.
Another noticeable feature is the use of touchscreen technology. All Polar watches utilize touchscreen technology.
While Garmin also boasts models with touch screen functionality, such as Forerunner 630 and Vivoactive, most of its watches use old-school button controls.
Garmin models feature a sunlight-readable display, meaning they are visible during the day even without the backlight.
Both Polar and Garmin watches are sturdy and robust and are built from durable materials. Many Polar watches have an upper case made of glass fiber reinforced polymer, while their bezel is either aluminum or stainless steel.
Polar watches’ straps are often silicone, while the lens material varies from one model to the next. Overall, Polar watches are light, sturdy, and durable.
By contrast, Garmin watches use a variety of materials, even for watches in the same model. However, for a model like Forerunners, its upper case/bezel is made of fiber-reinforced polymer and boasts a Gorilla glass lens.
Some of its wrist wearables come with stainless steel, diamond-like carbon-coated, and titanium bezel. For straps, Garmin uses leather, nylon, titanium, or silicone, depending on the model.
Because they integrate several top-quality materials, most Garmin watches tend to be more rugged and bulky than the average running smartwatches.
Heart Rate Monitoring
Both Polar and Garmin watches come with wrist-based sensors that help monitor the heart rate.
However, Polar is taunted as the brand with the most accurate heart rate monitors.
This is due to the fact that heart rate monitoring was the basis of the inception of the prominent Polar brand.
Their Polar Vintage boasts of being the only smartwatch in the market with bio-impedance technology for overriding reading caused by movement.
Garmin also delivers accurate heart rate monitoring thanks to its constantly evolving sensors. Its Elevate v3 optical heart rate sensor featured in most of their latest models provides accurate and highly curated heart rate data.
Both Polar and Garmin continuously update their sensor technology and provide extra accessories such as chest straps to help track your heart rate.
Since Polar has a long history in heart rate monitoring, it undoubtedly reigns in this department.
One of the reasons why both Polar and Garmin are so popular is because they provide more navigational tools beyond GPS.
Polar watches come with an in-built GPS that helps track your location. It also adds other navigational features such as maps and provides GPS data that is more accurate than most brands in the market.
Since Garmin has been making GPS devices since its establishment, they have a lot of experience, and their watches integrate more powerful GPS and navigation features. Their watches allow users to upload maps, download maps, gather data, and even track routes.
Besides offering maps that are easy to upgrade, Garmin watches come with an in-built satellite imagery navigation from systems like GLONASS and Galileo. These actively keep tabs on your global positioning even in the most challenging environments.
The Garmin Fenix series has color topographic mapping, which provides detailed records of your location when scouring new routes. Without any reasonable doubt, Garmin watches are the epitome of GPS tracking and navigation.
Both Polar and Garmin watches connect with iOS, Windows, and Android-powered devices via Bluetooth or USB.
Polar watches are compatible with mobile devices with iOS 10 or later and Android 4.0 or above.
Users must have an internet connection to set up their phones to connect to the Polar watch. They also need to have the Polar Flow app installed on their smartphones.
Once everything is set, the smartwatch connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth or USB.
Garmin watches are compatible with IOS 13 or higher and Android 6.0 and above.
Users need a strong internet connection to set up their phones with the Garmin watch. They also need to have the Garmin Connect app installed on their phones.
While most Garmin watches connect with smartphones via Bluetooth, the latest model has added the option to connect via Wi-Fi.
Both Polar and Garmin have smooth and seamless connectivity.
When comparing battery life between Polar and Garmin, it can differ from one model to the next. And even though the topic is too extensive, we’ll try to cover the basics.
Both brands have put a lot of effort into ensuring that their batteries give runners and hikers enough time to finish their reps.
Polar is given a thumbs up in the battery life department for its Vintage series. Depending on the model, the Polar’s Vantage series can last for 30 to 40 hours on GPS mode.
Its Garmin competitor can last for 24 hours with the GPS mode activated. You can find everything about Garmin watches battery life in a single place.
Besides the Polar Vintage series, no other Polar model can match Garmin watches in battery performance.
For runners looking for a watch with extended battery life, you can’t go wrong with Garmin Enduro. The watch integrates the Power Glass technology, which allows it to recharge once exposed to sunlight. It also comes with top-notch battery saver modes.
Other watches with long battery life include the Forerunner 945, the Garmin Venu 2, and Vantage V2.
For battery life, it’s better to consider the model more than the brand. However, there’s no doubt that Garmin has more reliable watches than Polar.
Besides heart rate monitoring, both Polar and Garmin watches offer a whole heap of sports-specific tracking. Garmin and Polar take pride in having an insane number of training and recovery features compared to other brands.
Polar watches boast profiles for typical activities, including swimming, track running, cycling. They also integrate training features, such as HillSplitter, which breaks downhill and downhill performance, and FuelWise, which provides intake suggestions. There’s FitSpart, which offers daily workout suggestions, and energy source breakdown.
Polar is also famous for offering unusual physical active features such as CrossFit. It also boasts vast recovery features, including Training Load Pro, Nightly Recharge, and Recovery Pro, among others.
Garmin watches also feature various pre-set training profiles for track running, swimming, indoor and outdoor cycling, treadmill running, and long-distance running.
Garmin training features include running dynamics analysis, onboard adaptive running trainer, automatic blood oxygen saturation measurements, VO2 max estimation. It also features a Body Battery feature, which shows energy levels based on training and recovery status.
Both brands are excellent in workout tracking and recovery data tracking and suggestion. However, Garmin is more preferred for training and Polar for recovery.
Overall Well-being Monitoring
Polar and Garmin boast health monitoring features that will match your overall well-being goals. Both brands offer sleep tracking, track calories, and boast top-notch recovery features.
They also provide fluid intake suggestions and track and analyze time spent on different sleep stages. They also help track sleep quality to help identify issues such as snoring.
Other Unique Features
When it comes to multisport wearables, companion apps are as integral as the watches themselves. They help collect, collate and track your training sessions.
While the Polar Flow app is packed with excellent features, it could benefit from a user interface revamp. The app displays a lot of data, making it challenging for users to know what line represents what metric.
Polar also comes with another intuitive app known as Polar Beat. This app works as an external screen for the heart rate monitor.
Users can begin their training in the Polar Beat app, and once they’re done, the data is automatically synchronized to the Polar Flow app.
Garmin boasts an incredible app dubbed Garmin Connect, which is not only user-friendly but boasts some excellent profiles and layouts.
The app displays all training summaries on the homepage making it easy to use for beginners and pros.
Furthermore, Garmin supports third-party apps but ensures that no data is sent to Google Fit/Apple Health.
Both brands offer highly competitive apps, but Garmin is less complicated and easy to understand.
Both brands have watches fitted with barometer sensors that measure air pressure by calculating altitude changes in the surrounding. With either Polar or Garmin, you can easily predict weather changes in the area you’re training at.
Both Polar and Garmin watches feature an accelerometer that measures the change in velocity and responds to any vibrations associated with movement. With an integrated accelerometer, both brands can accurately track pace, count steps, and provide an estimated overview of the calories you burned.
From our comprehensive comparison, it’s vividly clear that you won’t be disappointed whether you choose Polar or Garmin. The two brands are brim with exceptional features and functions to suit your wellness and fitness goals.
However, the companion app usability, battery life, accuracy, and variety will be differentiating points.
If you want a brand with extended battery life, a user-friendly companion app, and several models at different price ranges, Garmin has got you covered.
For runners who value accuracy and advanced heart rate monitoring, Polar is your best bet. Polar watches have exceptional recovery features that will help you understand how your body is fairing after training.
Marko Rakic is a trail runner and fitness enthusiast from Sydney, Australia. He is the lead writer for The Ultimate Primate and believes the best way to live a happy life is through constantly challenging yourself.
3 thoughts on “Polar vs. Garmin GPS Watches – Which is Better?”
You forget to compare simple features that are not available in Polar flow world (but present in Garmin connect)
For instance :
1) Editing back the ending point of a training session is not available. If you forget to stop your session, thus it keeps recording while heading back home in you car, then you can’t edit…
So stupid and something that should be a Must !
2) importing a .tcx file (fitness file format including heart monitoring as well as gpx info).
Polar lets you export tcx files, but does not let a user import them. Polar lets users manually import a training session (basic final information entered in a form), but it does not count in later weekly/monthly reports.
As an example, if I forget to start my gritx when hometraining (under Zwift). So I can’t import detailed tcx data (from Strava/Zwift) to Polar flow. And again, I have to double record because Polar flow would not synch with Zwift or Strava what’s recorded with Zwift.
I have other stupid stuff in mind
Thanks Manuj for sharing information that can help others in finding the right choice for them. Those are definitely some nuanced observations for more advanced users.
I’m not sure which one I would choose, but I think they both have their pros and cons. I think it really comes down to what you’re looking for in a watch.