The Polar Pacer excels at a minimalist design with just the features you’ll need for running, along with accurate GPS and advanced heart rate tracking that leverages Polar’s years of reputation in the business.
- Advanced optical heart rate tracking
- Assisted GPS for more reliable positioning
- Thin and lightweight
- Screen isn’t touch enabled
- Limited support for apps
A runner's perfect companion
Garmin is one of the best when it comes to running watches and the Forerunner 55 is no exception. While it’s optimized for runners, it also includes tons of other sports and activity tracking modes plus other monitoring features that are typical of premium Garmin smartwatches for an attractive price.
- Affordable for what you get
- Can track other activities beyond running
- Great battery life
- Other useful features like body battery
- Custom watch faces and apps via Connect IQ store
- Screen isn't touch enabled
- Might be more than you need
- Older model
Whether you’re into running, or even training for a marathon, a running smartwatch is a great tool to help you track your progress and routes to improve. The Polar Pacer vs. Garmin Forerunner 55 are both great options in this department, coming in at around the same price. But which one is best for you? Let’s delve deeper into how they compare on some of the most important characteristics.
Polar Pacer vs. Garmin Forerunner 55: The aesthetics
At first glance, the Polar Pacer and the Garmin Forerunner 55 look pretty similar to one another. They both have a round face with a digital screen and a silicone band.
The Polar Pacer is made of plastic and comes in four color options: Night Black, Deep Teal, Purple Dusk, and Cloud White, with small or large bands. You can upgrade the band to one using #tideocean material, which is upcycled from plastic waste found in the ocean; a nice touch for the particularly eco-conscious individuals.
The 1.2-inch MIP (memory-in-pixel) 240x240 reflective color display is optimized for viewing in bright sunlight and made from Corning Gorilla Class 3.0, so it’s durable, too. However, it isn’t touch enabled: You can only control the screen using the ergonomic super grip buttons on the side. Depending on how important a touchscreen is to you, this could be a deciding factor in the decision.
The Garmin Forerunner 55 also does not have a touchscreen, with operation via two buttons on the left side. Its face is slightly smaller at 1.04 inches and slightly lower resolution at 208x208 pixels (it’s also an MIP sunlight-visible screen). Available with white, black, or aqua colors, you can swap out the band for third-party options as well.
Through the Garmin Connect IQ store, you can download custom watch faces and data fields to further personalize the look so you can see the information that’s most important to you, like heart rate, distance traveled, and more. Plus, with compatibility with third-party apps like Starbucks and Strava, you can access more from the screen that you could on the Polar Pacer.
Both can also display push notifications from a connected smartphone, including incoming calls, messages, and e-mails.
Battery life is an important issue for smartwatches. You’ll get twice as much with the Garmin Forerunner 55 at up to two weeks per charge, versus just one with the Polar Pacer. Once you activate GPS, however, you’ll get more from the Polar Pacer, at up to 35 hours versus up to 20 hours with the Garmin Forerunner 55. The Polar Pacer also has a power save mode that will only activate the most important functions and provide up to 100 additional hours. It also has a rapid charging option.
Polar Pacer vs. Garmin Forerunner 55: By the numbers
We’ll dig further into the features in a bit, but first, let’s see how these two smartwatches compare by the numbers
|Polar Pacer||Garmin Forerunner 55|
|Compatibility||Android, iOS||Android, iOS|
|Colors||Night Black, Deep Teal, Purple Dusk, Cloud White||White, Black, Aqua|
|Battery Life||Up To 7 Days (Up to 100 Hours in Power Save Mode, Up to 35 Hours with Full GPS + HR)||Up To 14 Days (Up to 20 Hours in GPS Mode)|
|App||Polar Flow||Garmin Connect|
|Heart Rate Monitoring||Yes||Yes|
|Pulse OX Sensor||No||Yes|
|Screen Size||1.2 inches||1.04 inches|
|Screen Resolution||240x240 MIP||208x208 MIP|
As you can see, when it comes to the basics, both of these smartwatches stack up well against one another. However, the Garmin Forerunner 55 has a bit more to offer. Let’s look deeper at this.
Polar Pacer vs. Garmin Forerunner 55: Features for runners
It’s safe to assume that if you’re considering one of these two smartwatches, it’s because you’re a runner, or aspire to be one. Thus, the most important features for you will be what they offer specifically for running.
The Polar Pacer offers advanced optical heart rate tracking using Precision Prime PHR Tech, which is proven to be reliable and accurate. You might recognize Polar as one of the foremost brands when it comes to chest heart rate monitors, so the company has a long history in perfecting its technology in this regard.
Using the Polar Pacer, you can set your running speed, see how far you went, set a lap timer either automatically or manually, adjust the time for a run, set a stopwatch, or even set an interval timer with high and low intensities. Use the Polar Flow app to calculate a pace by entering in your route to determine both a predicted time and a recommended pace to achieve it.
The Polar Pacer boasts a new antenna for even more accurate GPS tracking, great if you want to keep a log of your exact routes, or a new route you might want to replicate in the future. In addition to GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo, it can also access the Q2SS satellite systems to offer the best and most accurate positioning possible. Use a running program to set a goal and run with a specific plan.
You can access a webseries from Polar with running tutorials for some useful complementary content (though these can be accessed by anyone, not just Polar Pacer users). You can also access some running apps, like adidas running, NRC, and more.
Also optimized for runners, the Garmin Forerunner 55 lets you track time, distance, pace, speed, and intervals. You’ll get alerts if your heart rate is too high or low when at rest. Leverage the Garmin Coach for adaptive training plans with guidance and get suggested on runs that are tailored to you based on your fitness level. Garmin’s Pace Pro technology offers GPS-based guidance for selected courses or distances, and you can even set your distance to get an estimated finish time.
Additionally, you can track your runs and receive cadence alerts on the Garmin Forerunner 55 if you go outside of your range. The recovery advisor will also tell you how long to rest after a workout.
As you can see, both watches have great features for runners. The Garmin Forerunner 55 might be the better option if you’re getting started and need a lot of guidance, whereas the Polar Pacer might be better for those who are simply looking to track their runs and work on improving.
Polar Pacer vs. Garmin Forerunner 55: Beyond running
Even if running is your main jam, chances are you might want the tracker to monitor more than just runs. The Polar Pacer will also do 24/7 activity tracking, including moves and steps and activities like cycling, indoor cycling, swimming, triathlon, HIIT sessions, treadmill, running strength training, hiking, and mountain biking. You can also take a Vo2 Max walking test to check your aerobic fitness before getting started, and do this periodically to check for improvements.
Another interesting feature in the Polar Pacer is the ability to learn which energy sources were consumed during a workout, whether it was carbs, protein, or fat. Meanwhile, Training Load Pro will advise if you’re training too much, or conversely, if you aren’t training enough to reach your goals. You’ll also get daily workout suggestions to match your fitness level.
With the Garmin Forerunner 55, there are built-in activity profiles and sports apps for tracking everything from running to swimming, pilates, HIIT, breathwork (yoga), and cycling. You can not only track steps, but also intensity minutes. There’s also specific run profiles for outdoor track running, treadmill, indoor track running, and virtual.
The Forerunner 55 also offers stress tracking, respiration tracking, body battery energy monitoring to let you know when it’s the best time to work out, fitness age, and women’s health tracking.
If you’re looking for a more holistic picture of your health and wellness, you’ll get this from the Garmin Forerunner 55. For basic tracking of workouts with special features for runners in a minimalist design, the Polar Pacer might be best.
Polar Pacer vs. Garmin Forerunner 55: Other useful features
Both smartwatches offer detailed sleep tracking, with the Polar Pacer offering Sleep Plus Stages that track the amount and quality of sleep, as well as the time spent in each stage. Nightly recharge will also notify you of how well your body recovers after rest, using phrases like "good" or "very good." The Garmin Forerunner, meanwhile, also does sleep tracking with sleep stages and duration.
In terms of additional features worth mentioning that might help differentiate the two, the Polar Pacer offers FuelWise, which offers smart carb and drink reminders as well as music controls. It has up to 32GB of storage.
The Garmin Forerunner 55 has safety and tracking features that can detect an incident and contact emergency persons to notify them. With compatible Android devices, there’s even live event sharing. It, too, has music controls, and you can leverage the Garmin Connect community to compete with others, share progress, and more, which can be very motivating.
Both are water-resistant, so you can swim with them, wear them in a rain, wash dishes, shower, and more.
Polar Pacer vs. Garmin Forerunner 55: Which should you get?
It’s a tough decision when looking at the Polar Pacer vs. Garmin Forerunner 55, since they share so many similarities. It might come down to what type of runner you are.
For someone who needs a lot of guidance, the Garmin Forerunner 55 might be the better option since it has things like Garmin Coach. If you are pretty established and just want something to be able to track your runs and routes, new and old, the Polar Pacer might be all that you need.
However, given that they come in at around the same price, you’ll get more features with the Garmin Forerunner 55, along with better customization options.
With that said, Polar’s expertise in heart rate tracking is unmatched, so if that’s a big part of your training, along with keeping on top of precise GPS routes, especially if you tend to be go off the beaten path, Polar’s strength in these areas might sway you towards that model.
What’s more, the Garmin Forerunner 55 is an older model, so you might want to take that into consideration as well. In her review, Courtney Lynch described the Garmin Forerunner 55 as a “dream come true for most runners,” including those of all skill levels. And that still holds true. But if you’re looking for the latest and greatest, you might want to look at some other options and spend a bit more.
With that said, if you find that neither of these fit the bill, or that having a touch-enabled screen is important to you, check out some of the best running watches for alternatives, the list of which includes the Garmin Forerunner 55 as well as the step-up Polar Pacer Pro model, and others.
Simplicity for runners
The Polar Pacer provides everything you need in a running watch at an affordable price. While the screen isn’t touch enabled, you might easily get used to using the super grip buttons instead. And you’ll get plenty of guidance and accurate GPS and heart rate tracking along your routes.
Running and more
Even though it’s an older model device, the Garmin Forerunner 55 still holds up as one of the best running watches you can buy. You can get guidance from Garmin Coach, update the watch face to your liking, and get useful stats that help you with your training, whether it’s running, another type of workout, or both.
Christine Persaud is a freelance writer for Android Central who has been writing about tech since long before the smartphone was even a "thing." When she isn't writing, she's probably working on her latest fitness program, binging a new (or old) TV series, tinkering with tech gadgets, or spending time with her school-aged son. A self-professed TV nerd, lover of red wine, and passionate home cook, she's immersed in tech in every facet of her life. Follow her at @christineTechCA.
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