The Grit X is the newest – for later reference: released April/May 2020 – outdoor-oriented, multisport watch from Polar.
It is quite interesting that Polar expands into the market of outdoors athletes, but particularly interesting how they do, and don’t, fulfill the usual expectations of an outdoors sports watch.
These things are rather good to know if you are trying to decide if this is a/the watch for you!
Compared to other outdoors sports watches, the Grit X offers one potential big advantage in Polar’s “ecosystem” for tracking, planning, and advice on training.
It has some potential downsides if you are used to outdoors ABC watches (that ABC being altimeter, barometer, compass). Navigation is implemented in a peculiar way that fits well with Polar’s usual approach, but is not the most usual, either.
And if you’re just looking for the latest from Polar, but aren’t an outdoors type of person, maybe you should wait for a bit. The Grit X shows some advances over the Vantage line, even the Vantage V which remains the ostensible top model in Polar’s current line-up. Updates in Polar’s road running/racing and fitness lineup should come, though.
Let’s just start with the design.
Beauty is famously a matter of opinion, and a watch is a watch.
That said, the Grit X manages to strike a good balance. It is ruggedly outdoorsy enough in its appearance, with the prominent bezel and the lugs for the quick-release watchbands, but also clean and simple enough in its design to not be awkward in a business setting.
The Vantage is still sleeker in its looks (as are the current Suunto 9 and, in my opinion, also Suunto 7); e.g. the COROS Vertix or Apex Pro or the Garmin fenix line are rather more outdoorsy.
Polar’s entrance into the outdoors sports world is still a bit odd when it comes to durability.
Overall, the Grit X sounds good. Polar went for the military standard MIL-STD-810G, which has become popular a claim for shockproofing, water and dust resistance.
With resin case, steel bezel, and silicone strap (with other strap options available), the build overall is good.
The oddness is that Polar keeps on going with mineral crystal rather than sapphire glass. It is a version of Gorilla Glass, but that’s better marketing than actual resistance against scratching, compared to sapphire crystal screens.
Similar to the Vantage V, the Grit X also has a transflective touch display.
Visibility is best outdoors, with light shining through the display, not so great in low light. The contrast is slightly improved over the Vantage line, though.
In terms of watchfaces, Polar has mainly gone for the same data as on the Vantage, with the addition of a dedicated watchface for weather forecast.
This watchface shows the forecast for the next hours, for the current position.
Entering into deeper data, the location for which this is done is shown (together with the time of the last update), there’s a touch button to update (which activates the same sync with Polar Flow on the paired smartphone as any other sync), and the weather forecast for the next hours and into the next days can be viewed in detail.
(Data for this only comes from the paired smartphone, not from onboard sensors; which service provides the forecast data has not been said.)
Other watchfaces, other features, are related to (daily) activity tracking, training status, heart rate, training, sleep tracking, training suggestions through FitSpark.
The Big Plus of Polar (Flow and FitSpark)
Polar’s major distinction over other sports watch brands and wearables is that they focus very nicely on training and progress in sports performance.
If you just want to keep fit and need some help with that, you can simply turn to the advice given straight on the watch (and further supported in the app and online) through FitSpark.
This function gives recommendations for what type of training (cardio for endurance, strength training or “supportive” mobility exercises) should be good. It even suggests what duration and in what way this training should be done. And, when starting the training, it also guides through the suggested exercise(s).
A step ahead, if you have a goal such as a marathon race to train for, lie the training plans that can be activated (or input, if you work with a coach or know how to coach yourself) in Polar Flow on the web.
You cannot just go and do a planned workout on a day it wasn’t planned for (which was apparently possible on earlier Polar watch models). Nor can you do phased workouts that are guided by power or a combination of workout guidance and route navigation. These are special cases, though – worth mentioning (and perhaps, looking at closer) because enough people complain about them, but not the usual.
The usual is that you might want to do HR zone-based training, intervals, pyramids, and similar – and those can be set up very nicely or even get suggested by Polar’s training plans. They also include some cross-training, and all the suggested types of sports are automatically put on the watch when activating a training plan.
These training functions above are the same as on a Vantage. The Polar Grit X only adds the automatic counting of hills (ascents, descents, and flat sections).
In the mountains, this function is not particularly helpful, but it is for hill training.
The Limits to Polar’s Outdoorsiness
Where Polar shines when it comes to training progress, there is some shade to throw on the Grit X, too. Compared to most outdoors watches, it does a few things rather strangely – or simply doesn’t do them.
Grit X Navigation
The navigation, for example, is really rather nice when taking the route from Komoot, having unlocked all regions on Komoot, so that turn-by-turn directions are included.
When it works well, it’s nicely helpful without being too obtrusive.
When it does not work quite all that well, however, it can be extremely annoying.
Starting the navigation from the start point rather than mid-route, for example, requires that the start point is based exactly. If you can’t get close enough to it, you’ll have to end the recording and re-start it with navigation from mid-route.
If the watch (GPS) doesn’t find you to be on the route, it will show a “wrong direction” warning for both moving in the wrong direction (or when it recognizes that wrongly) or when off-course.
Zoom? Only Automatic
Going or having to go off-route, there is an arrow pointing back onto the route, but there is no zoom to check how the route goes on, where you are on it or any of the other dozens of reasons why zoom may be good.
(Navigation needs an entry – or a few – of its own.)
The Grit X is also equipped with ABC sensors – altimeter/barometer/compass – but only offers limited access to all of those.
They are used (more or less well; my watch somehow doesn’t seem to calibrate the compass right) only during an activity recording.
Even just to see the compass during an activity, the sports mode used would have had to be customized beforehand to show it on one screen.
How is the Grit X, then?
All in all, it is a nice watch that Polar has built here.
It addresses the needs of outdoors sports people a fair bit more than the Vantage.
It has gained a few more functions – and I didn’t even get into the uses of HillSplitter and Fuelwise here. The Precision Prime sensor, now in version 2.0, seems to have improved, too (as has the display, as mentioned above).
True mountain sports people, however, had better be aware of the downsides in outdoors functionality (ABC and navigation).
For me personally, the Vantage V continues to work well and I still like it a lot for training with a focus on progress – and for data quality, I don’t care about the downsides of its oHR sensor. Either I can live with bad data from that because I will not use that, anyways, or I will wear the heart rate chest strap to get data that is trustworthy.
In terms of GPS reception, I can’t say that I have noticed great differences between the Vantage and the Grit X, not even when it comes to pace (which is a bit untrustworthy on GPS watches, anyways).
Now, if I were in the market for a new watch and wanted to go with Polar because of their web portal and app and watch ecosystem, plus all the functions those offer for training with phased targets and with an eye towards achieving progress… Well, then the Grit X could easily be it over the Vantage V.
That decision would be down to (street) price and looks, with the improved contrast and oHR (and greater feature set) a secondary consideration between the two.