Published on September 17th, 2013 | by Greg0
Track Workouts With Polar’s RC3 GPS Sports Watch
There is a lot of buzz about smartwatches and wearable technology. Apple might just jump into the ring soon, and Google has been working on their Glass project with the aim of bypassing the wrist entirely. But the wrist is a natural location for a device to be worn, as has been the case for a hundred years. Especially when you’re exercising, there are few better spots on the human body to look at naturally.
The Polar RC3 GPS Sports Watch is a wonder of technology- it’s hard to imagine this compact device existing even a couple of years ago. Aimed at most fitness users, this model can be used for any sort of activity on your feet, as well as for biking with Polar’s sensors, but is specially tailored for runners and joggers. Those who want a swimming watch, triathletes, or those focused on other forms of fitness might want to look elsewhere. For marathon runners or those who want to track their fitness program, this is one of the best all-in-one options that also includes a GPS. If you don’t want to carry your phone with you, or worry about some external unit, this unit offers a built-in GPS system that tracks your route and makes the data easy to see and work with.
It’s not a small watch, so seems aimed more at men, though is technically unisex. Women who can do without the GPS functionality should take a look at the FT40 we reviewed a bit ago, it’s a great watch that has held up well. We were impressed at how slim it is, but the face is fairly wide. IPX7 rated, it’s totally waterproof and safe to wear in the shower or get really sweaty while wearing. Unlike some models, this one doesn’t use an internal heart rate monitor, but includes an H3 chest strap with a sensor. You’ll need to connect it and pair it with the watch, which can take a bit and does require reading the instructions. The upside is that chest strap models are more accurate, especially when moving fast, though it is something else to remember to grab, and a bit of an annoyance to get situated correctly. You could also opt to add a stride sensor accessory- Polar’s s3+ slides on your shoe and connects to your watch as well.
Note that to get a good GPS fix, you’ll need to wait a couple of minutes perhaps, and be out in the open. We found mixed results indoors. But those jogging through Central Park can leave everything but their keys at home and just take the watch. It will track laps, pace, distance traveled, calories burned, and all of the cool stuff that a GPS enables more readily, like your altitude. You’ll need to set up a profile- age, gender, weight, and a few other pieces of information are key so it can estimate correctly. Some of the more advanced features require the use of their web-based service, which is a little cumbersome and less than exciting to use. But data transfer is fairly easy- simply plug in the included USB cable and attach to your Mac or PC. You can create a diary, complete and compete in challenges, and much more as well.
We found the GPS readings to be fairly accurate outdoors, even in the city. And it’s hard to argue with a solid two-year warranty. It takes a little bit of tweaking and some time reading the manual to get everything working together, but when it does, the Polar RC3 offers tons of data at your fingertips. The ZoneOptimizer function helps you hit your target intensity, whether you’re aiming for weight loss or other to boost endurance- and the immediate feedback, based on your heart rate, is nifty. Available now online and in stores, expect to spend around $230 for one of their top models.