The Grit X as Polar’s outdoors-focused watch comes with improved navigation, mainly through the turn-by-turn directions made possible by the integration with Komoot… and if that sounds a bit complicated, that’s because it has its peculiarities.
Here’s what one needs to know about the navigation with the Polar Grit X, especially as compared to how other watches aid in finding one’s way outdoors.
First thing to know may be that Polar Flow shows routes under the Favourites, but the Grit X shows them under Routes, further down in the (cog wheel) options menu for workouts. On the watch, the Favourites entry comes higher up, but it’s not where the routes are to be found.
What the Grit X Does Well
As long as you have “unlocked” the region where you want to navigate, on Komoot (ideally, by just getting the world package), you can save and create routes in Komoot, set them up to be synced to Polar Flow*, and use them in your watch.
(*This is a bit of a mis-explanation: As soon as you have set up the sync between Komoot and Polar Flow, routes you create or save in Komoot get synced to Polar Flow automatically.)
Getting routes by way of Komoot gives you turn-by-turn directions, i.e. not just the route as a line to follow, but also hints for the times when you have to turn left or right, or even (sometimes) when you need to continue straight at an intersection.
When this works well – and because this sounds so critical, let me immediately say that it tends to work well most of the time – it is a very nice feature.
The turn / continue notifications popping up 30 meters before the point in question are pretty useful while running on unknown terrain; they usually work well, too.
(In running, at least; people have complained that they come too late when on a bike, where the speed is higher. This sometimes happens in running, as well.)
Turn notifications also come up on the top part of the display when in screens other than navigation, which can be extremely helpful.
The feature strikes a pretty good balance between helpfulness, unobtrusiveness, and ease of use for Polar’s typical user, in my opinion.
Who Needs to Check a Route?
Polar’s typical user, however, is not a person who’d go outdoors for the fun of an exploratory run, apparently.
Whether just following the line of the route (when there are no notifications about turns) or getting the turn-by-turn directions through Komoot in addition, the navigation only works as it does.
It automatically progresses as one moves, but stays at the same zoom level throughout.
There is no zooming in and out or shifting the view around to see how the route would progress, how much longer it looks to be, where it would come close to the present position again.
There is the line ahead, the distance to the end point along the route, direction notifications when they pop up – and that’s it.
Deviate from the route and the watch warns of a “Wrong Direction” and starts pointing directly to the nearest point where you could re-enter onto the route (with an indication of the distance there), but that’s about it for adjustments.
Route Elevation Profile? Route Change?
There is no route elevation profile on the Polar Grit X.
HillSplitter is active (if it is active in the chosen sports mode) and sounds a bit like features that help with running in the mountains, but works independently of any route navigation.
It is one of the features that, I’d say, show Polar’s focus on training support: HillSplitter is nice for trail running training on hills, but doesn’t really do anything for you when you are out in the mountains for fun or in a race.
Stick to Your Route… or Restart
What I found extremely annoying is that no change can be made to navigation while a recording is in progress.
You forgot to activate a route, you have to re-start the whole recording.
You start navigation “From start point” and then find out that this point lies somewhere off anywhere you can actually walk past, and you have to re-start the whole recording (with “Start mid-route”).
Oftentimes, even the “start from mid-route” requires a walk back to some point that you have already passed before it starts showing the line of the route – and I have no idea why this should be the case or what point this is using.
Alternative Route? Restart!
Want to save alternative routes to your watch in case your plans need to change?
You can do that, but if you want to start a new (different) route, you will have to end the current recording and start a new one with the route you have decided to use now.
(The only different navigation that can be added while on a move is the “Back to start” screen, which would show the heading to the start point and the distance there, by direct line-of-sight.)
Reverse Route? Set It Up Long Before!
In fact, if you are using a route that you have created with Komoot, you cannot even follow the route in the reverse direction.
The turn-by-turn directions are only set up and synced to the watch the way you have set up the route; if you want to go the other way, you have to set the route up in that other direction in Komoot.
(You can go in the reverse direction along routes that you only imported to Polar Flow on the web as a GPX-file, but then you don’t have the turn-by-turn directions.)
The whole automatic routing, directions from Komoot, no shifting or zooming, shows its downside on routes that intersect with each other.
Round courses work pretty well.
Courses that cover the same section(s) more than once confuse the Grit X.
For example, I have one section on my standard navigation testing circle where the Grit X always shows me as going in the “Wrong Direction”.
Only problem: I have to go on exactly that track, in exactly that direction, so I’m not sure what the problem is, at all. (There is a chance that the confusion comes about because this section parallels the route I just came, it’s just off to the side after a 180-degree turn.)
This section is also passed twice, and the first time I pass it, once the “Wrong Direction” issue has disappeared, the Grit X navigation acts as if I were already passing it the second time and starts to point me towards the end point.
Only once I’ve passed the turn that would go to the end of the route and gone the other way for a bit, after one or two “Wrong Direction” notifications (or none, sometimes), does it change back to showing everything correctly for the route I want to be following.
No Intervals on Unknown Routes
This is just a little something, and I actually find it quite sensible, but phased trainings and navigation cannot be used simultaneously.
You either do a phased training, such as intervals, or you navigate.
Not sure if this is a bug in general or only on my watch (or due to something I’ve not set up right), but my Grit X does not seem to save compass calibration correctly, most of the time.
While on the move, this is no problem as GPS is the source of both location and direction readings, then. When I stop, however, the Grit X tells me to keep moving and offers a shortcut (middle-button press) to get to the compass calibration.
Once that is done, the heading shows even while standing still… but only for a short time, until it’s gone again.
The compass on the Grit X is also a peculiar thing because the standard displays set up for sports modes (even hiking) do not give access to it. A compass screen is available, but it has to be set up by customizing sports mode displays.
You don’t set it up beforehand, you don’t have it.
Energy Savings and Navigation
Curious issue also with the energy saving options that the Grit X offers.
The GPS fix time can be extended from every 1 second to only every 1 minute or only every 2 minutes.
For battery savings, this could indeed be very nice – but Polar leaves the navigation running as always, even as it only gets location data from GPS, and with battery saving settings active, only every 1 or 2 minutes.
In effect, if you turn on energy saving settings for the GPS but have (leave) navigation running, you still get turn-by-turn directions… in all the wrong places, most of the time.
In the example photo above, I need to be turning right, but navigation still has me… honestly, I have no idea where it has me. The last turn to the left on this route is a while (and at least one turn to the right) back, if the turn was even supposed to be shown there.
All in all, then, the Grit X is still more of a Polar – i.e., a training – watch than it is an outdoors watch.
The navigation with turn-by-turn directions is quite nice, but only when it was set up perfectly and the course can be run exactly as planned, too.
Polar is still very much for making a training program, now also making a plan for where to run, and then doing exactly that.
It is not good for going outdoors with some aid in navigation to have fun exploring, at times when plans may well need to change.