Polar Grit X Review
Despite the wholly new name, this Polar Grit X Review finds an effective, new addition to Polar’s mid- to high-end GPS sports watches – the VANTAGE series. With only a few subtle exceptions, there is no need for existing Polar Vantage owners to move to the Grit X for their sports usage.
Interestingly; a few new, focussed features and slightly reduced pricing on the new Polar Grit X are taking the Vantage series into a brand new market segment for Polar, namely ‘Outdoor Enthusiasts’, which cover MTB, Trail Runners and, perhaps to a lesser extent, hikers. Are they offering the right people the right product? Let’s see…
Polar Grit X Review – What’s NEW?
There are several notable changes and additions but let’s start with what has been removed from the Vantage V as that’s a MUCH SHORTER list
What’s been removed from Vantage V?
All that has been taken from the Polar Vantage V is the Recovery Pro and Orthostatic Test. Also missing is the custom strap of the Vantage V. That’s it…kinda.
What You Still Get
The full low-down on the existing Grit X/Vantage common features are here in the highly-detailed Polar Vantage Bible/Review. You haven’t got an hour spare to read that so here is the summary with links to detailed discussions of each feature should you wish to learn more
- 8/10 Extensive, customisable sports profiles and a very good but not exhaustive range of training metrics which cover all major sports including swimming
- 9/10 Excellent structured training support covering training plans and customisable workouts, all of which can be executed flexibly on your watch and supported by in-exercise functions such as laps, autolaps and audible+vibration alerts
- 9/10 Training Load Pro is a super-cool feature too which is perhaps subtly more useful than Garmin’s equivalent but which, in any case, is a great way to track and guide your progress over the weeks.
- 9/10 Sleep Stages Plus – in my experience, this is a VERY GOOD HRV-enabled sleep tracking platform that tallies reasonably well with my perceptions of my own sleep patterns and quality. I like the overall implementation though there is some room for improvement as sometimes too much complexity is shown on the watch.
- Sleep Stages Plus results then calculate your Nightly Recharge or ‘readiness’ score for the day ahead
- 9/10 Adaptive training with Fitspark. Fitspark bases its recommendations, in part, on Nightly Recharge. It is an AWESOME feature which tells you exactly what kind of training you need to do as well as suggesting alternatives that even include guided strength and supportive workouts. It really is good BUT suits athletes completing only 5 hours/week of training (max, approx).
- 8/10 Naturally, you get many “lesser features” such as all the relaxation stuff (Serene), steps, inactivity alerts, smartphone notifications etc.
- 7/10 The low-powered GPS chip is still from Sony and you still have the onboard barometric altimeter (VV) plus a new, improved optical HR sensor. There is no SpO2/blood oxygen sensor which is no big deal.
- 9/10 Polar Flow planning and analysis platform
- 8/10 Strava Live Segments – works well, especially on longer segments, but limited for cycling by the small screen size.
New Specs, New Features
Comparing to the lower Vantage M model, you get EVERYTHING that the Vantage M offers plus Polar’s own running power, plus STRAVA Live segments, barometric altimeter plus basic route guidance. Don’t forget you now get AUDIBLE alerts which the Vantage M does not have.
Then you get all these totally new goodies on the Polar Grit X which neither the Vantage M/V has.
- 100m water resistance (up from WR50) and a MIL-STD-810G durable construction
- Power-save features give up to 100hours of usage by turning down GPS recording or the screen display period and completely turning off oHR. For almost all of us the 40 hours, GPS+oHR will be more than sufficient.
- Standard 22mm watch strap compatibility (Vantage M has this)
- New buttons – I liked the aesthetic of the Vantage V buttons but I’ll be the first to admit the Grit X buttons work better and work better with gloves.
- A weight change to 64g (66g Vantage V, 59g Vantage V Titan, 45g Vantage M)
- Modified Prime Hardware (optical HR) and algorithms to improve the handling of ambient light and motion artefacts (Source: Polar)
- Compass – there is a new magnetic compass sensor and a compass display that’s only available during exercise.
Oh yes. These too 😉 These are the new features appearing on a Polar watch for the very first time
- Weather – synced from your smartphone you get a current hourly weather forecast covering 2-days ahead. The forecast conditions cover wind direction/strength, temperature, humidity and rain/cloud/sun indications. It’s straightforward but useful information. Maybe it could be improved by having a wind-direction data metric that you can place on your favourite workout screen or added to the compass.
- Fuel Wise -The new Fuel Wise features and similar ones from competitors always sound useful to me. I just find that I never quite get around to setting them up and using them as I exercise. My logic is that I tend not to want to trust any manufacturers calculations and then promptly go off on a 3-hour ride with zero nutrition. #Sigh. There are several components to Fuel wise as well as the ability to combine automatic and manual alerts.
- Preparation – ahead of your planned workout, Fuel Wise will give you an indication of the likely carb consumption as a per-serving amount and interval between consumption. A planned workout could simply be your estimate of the likely duration and intensity before you head off. This is one more fiddle at the start of a workout but in reality, it’s a nice PRACTICAL solution as the alternative is to follow a structured workout and many of us rarely do that.
- Workout – During workouts, the carb alert is displayed automatically when needed and based on Polar’s estimation of your calories burned and the likely fuel source for them. So we are looking at estimating the calories from your heart rate/weight and increasing the ratio of carbs used at higher HR levels. Polar has always been, in my opinion, one of the better estimators of calories burned during exercise so providing you get good HR figures from their HR tech and have your zones and weight set correctly, the guidance given here should be actionable.
- Workout – Hydration is certainly also important for longer duration exercise, however, we all have different sweat rates so, yes Polar could have got very clever here by using a combination of efforts and the ambient temperature but they didn’t…and you just get a manual alert which you might have preset as a reminder to repeat every 30 minutes. You’ll probably only need to change this duration as you progress through the demands of different seasons. So if you set all this up ..it’s a nice feature.
- Post Workout – There are also summaries of the Energy Sources at the end of your workouts and in more detail on Flow. You can monitor changes over time or…ignore the data. I suspect the majority of recreational athletes have little idea of their true carb (or hydration) needs and so it might be prudent for many of us to at least consider Polar estimates of our workouts’ fuel consumptions, make some small changes and see if we perform better (hint: you will 😉 )
- Here are two nice charts on the Polar app. First, for a running workout where I did some hard hills, you can see the significant switch to CARBS during the harder efforts. The second one is for a bike ramp test and it’s quite interesting to see Polar’s interpretation of the fairly dramatic switch to carbs (plus a bit of protein)
- Hill Splitter is Polar’s first foray into environmental profiling ie looking at how you perform over differing environmental conditions. This is one of the sports tech areas that we might see coalesce and develop more in the years ahead. I guess you have to start somewhere and Polar has started with hills – which is sensible as hills significantly impact your performance.
- Unlike when cycling and following a route, the big problem with running up a hill is that you typically don’t exactly know what’s coming – in terms of the precise grade and surface.
- Hill Splitter seems, to me, to be designed mostly for running and, whilst it will work on most people’s definition of a hill, it seems to work best for hill reps. Each rep is automatically detected, numbered and recorded. So you get the special Hill Splitter screen when you are going up (or down) each hill, it’s a BIG shame that the Hill Splitter screen cannot be customised, for example, to add a running power metric.
- Hills are effectively recorded as a new series of numbered laps which can be analysed individually in Flow – remember Polar has always recorded multiple lap tyes ie MANUAL laps and AUTOMATIC laps, unlike Garmin. There is some other interesting stuff here too which I will cover separately over the coming days.
- So yes, you can still use live metrics for VAM or GRADE or power on a separate screen but Polar’s new Hill Splitter does add something new to both running and its analysis.
Here is a link to a detailed look at Polar’s Hill Splitter.
- KOMOOT Support & Turn-By-Turn Support – Komott support is already partly rolled out to the Vantage and V650. Just as you can import your favourite STRAVA routes into Polar Flow and onto the Grit X/Vantage then you can now also do the same thing with Komoot. The ‘special’ Komoot support with Grit X is that you can also get TBT instructions thrown in too. Polar need to work on including the forward elevation profile here but apart from that all is cool in a simple kinda way. Komoot is probably the most beautifully presented routing platform, it looks WAY better than STRAVA but the public content (routes) on it are few and far between in my part of London. Putting that to one side, however, on the few occasions I have curated my own routes in Komoot it has chosen sensible options for cycling and, interestingly, when creating a route it shows 3 options by default; one for cycling, one for walking and one for running…this is quite handy when you are planning to cycle somewhere you shouldn’t be. Apparently. Ssssh.
- I thought this needed a premium account with Komoot to work (it doesn’t AFAIK). You should get a 30-day freebie with the Grit X but I haven’t enabled it and all seems to work fine. #Confused. I did unlock my local region for free on Komoot which you can do once, maybe that was it?
- The breadcrumb route navigation already supported from STRAVA routes is basic. Komoot routes are just another source for displaying in exactly the same way, the Grit X just about does the job for simple routing needs. Yes the TBT arrow helps a little bit but I was a bit disappointed not to see street names in the TBT instructions.
Here are screen images of the Grit X showing some of the new features, most of which are self-explanatory.
Polar Grit X Accuracy
Despite the modified Precision Prime sensor, I haven’t noticed any material difference to the accuracy from the Vantage running the latest Vantage firmware.
The following post gives some accuracy feedback with the latest production firmware. Perhaps the most interesting thing in there is my first formal test with GPS+GALILEO which had normal-good results (Garmin-equivalent accuracy)
Polar Grit X Specifications & Resources
Here are the Polar Grit X specifications which are mostly hardware-related, plus a link to the manual once it goes live.
Note the initial specs on Polar’s site are not fully correct.
- Measurements: 47 x 47 x 13 mm
- Weight: 64 g with the wristband, 44 g without a wristband.
- Materials: Extreme high strength stainless steel case (looks great). Glass fibre reinforced polymer back cover (looks less great).
- Display: Always-on colour touch display. Laminated Gorilla glass lens with anti-fingerprint coating, protected with extruded stainless steel bezel with lugs. Option to have backlight always on.
- Display Size 1.2”, resolution 240 x 240.
- Battery: 346 mAh Li-pol battery. Battery life up to 40 h in training mode (GPS and wrist-based heart rate) or up to 7 days in watch mode with continuous heart rate tracking. Multiple power save options available.
- Processor: Unknown, however, the Grit X feels faster and smoother to use than the Vantage V Titanium.
- GPS & Barometer: Integrated GPS, GLONASS + Galileo (yep). Assisted GPS for fast fix times. Barometric altitude, incline, ascent and descent.
- Connectivity: Bluetooth Low Energy. Custom USB cable for charging and data synchronization. No ANT+
- Watch: Time and date. Alarm with snooze.
- Sensors: Compatible with all standard BLE heart rate sensors and running cadence and power sensors as well as cycling speed, cadence and dual-LR power bike sensors.
- Wristbands: Durable and comfortable silicone, options for fabric. Supplied one is nice.
- Sizing: S: wrist circumference 130-190 mm, M/L: wrist circumference 145-215 mm
- Compatible with standard 22 mm quick release watch bands (this is not strictly true as the pins vary between manufacturers eg my Coros strap fits Polar but my Amazfit strap does not and they are all 22mm)
- Durability: Operating temperature: from -20° to 50°C. Temperatures below -10°C may affect battery life and performance.
- Durability: Tested against military standards (MIL-STD-810G).
- Onboard Temperature Sensor – Vantage has one too, records data to Polar FLOW, influenced by body temperature. Not taken from weather forecast info AFAIK although STRAVA can add this if you like.
- Water resistance: officially now WR100, up to 100 m (elsewhere Grit X is quoted by Polar as WR50 but it is sold as WR100)
- Magnetic compass (only available during a workout, requires frequent, annoying calibration)
- The barometric altimeter is automatically cross-calibrated by GPS within the first couple of minutes of a workout. Altitude can be manually calibrated from the fullscreen altitude training view. Altitude is corrected when reported in Polar Flow.
ie It’s a Polar Vantage V on caffeine.
Note that the Grit-X/Sony GPS chip also supports and uses better positioning from SBAS and Galileo, even though it’s not yet mentioned on the official specs.
All sensible BLE sensor types are supported. I’ve not checked this but I would assume that dual-sided bike power meters still support LR balance (not the case with Suunto). STRYD is supported via BLE and STRYD running power overrides Polar’s own power calculations if present. STRYD can accept a manual calibration value. Polar still always automatically pairs nearby BLE sensors, even if you remove them it pairs them again.
Resource: Polar Grit X Manual
Well, I Never Knew That
Here is a whole post full of Polar Grit X and related trivia. You will learn something new in there somewhere.
Competitor Price Comparisons
RRP prices are about right, perhaps even on the ‘good’ side of right at US$429/GBP379/Eu429 incl. 30-days free Komoot premium. Compare this to $499 for the Vantage V and $279 for the Vantage M
With the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro coming in at $700rrp and the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus at $750rrp then they, perhaps, represent the next step up in terms of bundled mapping features. The F6 Pro/F5+ have onboard MAPS and I wouldn’t recommend the earlier Garmin Fenix 5 ($499) which is perhaps more of a directly-comparable device to the Grit X with no onboard maps. Garmin is simply more expensive.
The sensible choice, if you can afford it, is ‘somewhere in between’. The Garmins are well-featured but too expensive and the Sigma Sport id.FREE/id.TRI just doesn’t have the durable hardware format and platform as offered by Polar.
‘Somewhere in-between‘ includes the Suunto 7 (or any Wear OS watch) or the Apple Watch 4/5. You DO get full maps on those watches when there is an appropriate app installed but the plummeting battery life will always be on your mind and further decimated whilst displaying a map AND simultaneously navigating.
That leaves Coros and also the Suunto 9 ($499 currently reduced to $349) or 9-Baro ($549) or maybe even the smaller Suunto 5. I really like the Suunto 9-Baro but you might bemoan Suunto’s new, improving app platform despite being impressed with its superior hardware package. Polar simply delivers more on the sports-insights than Suunto and it does that on a better platform. So Finally we have to consider the Coros Vertix at $599, which is perhaps priced too high but worthy of your consideration.
So, Polar Grit X is priced sensibly compared to the competition. If you haven’t already bought the Vantage will the new features convince you to try the Polar Grit X?
Polar Grit X Review – My Thoughts
Grit X: It’s impressive. I like it. For my personal usage I’ll stick with the Vantage M/V which suits me as a triathlete. If you buy one you probably won’t regret it for the money.
In some ways, I am glossing over what Polar has already delivered with the Vantage series. There is much AWESOME, existing functionality that is now on the Grit X too. The unspoken advantage of the Grit X is that it seems better-powered and more smooth than the Vantage.
The new features are generally nice with scope for further enhancements. I think the issue with them will come from existing Vantage owners asking “Why can’t the Vantage V Titanium show me today’s weather on my road bike ride” and “Why can’t the Vantage V Titanium show me nutrition alerts in my race“. Those are good questions that Polar need to answer, although buying the Grit X is an answer in itself. Vantage owners should note that they already get Komoot support (just not TBT), so that should keep everyone partially happy and similarly, whilst interesting, the post-workout hill-splitter stats bring little new to the in-exercise experience in reality.
Many reviewers underestimate the importance of battery life to Ultra Runners. I probably underestimate it too…but Polar clearly have listened to that target market and we’ll have to wait for ultra runner feedback on the Grit X to see just how good the extended battery life modes are in real-world usage. Tentatively their spec looks good.
Many reviewers also over-hype the full onboard maps on competing Garmin watches. In my opinion, they’re not as handy as you might expect. I wish I could entirely disable the maps on my Garmin 945 but even when I try to use them, it’s difficult with relatively poor (free) maps on a small watch format. Thus Polar’s Grit X compromise with STRAVA breadcrumb routes and KOMOOT TBT routes is probably a fair one that will be useful for some. If you have the Strava/Komoot apps on your phone in your pocket then you can get a new route to your Grit X if you NEED to. Although, having said all of that, the beauty of a routable map on your watch is that it can route you back on course…Grit X can only do that via the /Strava Komoot smartphone app.
I also am reticent to recommend ANY watch-based solution for navigating on an MTB, a dedicated LARGER-FORMAT bike computer on the handlebars is clearly better. However, the Grit X is a nicely-durable and good-looking watch that certainly complements the trail biking experience.
Polar Grit X Review
Polar Grit X Review - Summary
Polar Grit X Review Provisional
So there we have it. The Polar Grit X nicely supports serious athletes and committed adventurers, perhaps not extreme explorers. That description fits MOST of us. Go on…you know you want to try one 😉 The Grit X looks great on the wrist and the Polar FLOW platform is great for athletes and active people alike.
Order / Pre-Order
You can buy the Polar Grit X for US$429/GBP379/Eu429. General availability to purchase from Amazon, Wiggle, REI and many others from May 2020 onwards.