I walked over 10,000 steps with 3 sports watches – this one was the most accurate (and by a wide margin)

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

ZDNET’s key takeaways

  • The Polar Grit X2 Pro is available for $749 or for $869 if you buy the Titanium variant.
  • The rugged design, vibrant OLED display, accurate GPS tracking, powerful Polar Flow training features, and long battery life make the watch a winner for athletes.
  • It is expensive compared to competitors, the Bluetooth connection is inconsistent, and the user interface needs a bit of work.

GPS sports watches are advanced wearables, as people paying more than $500 for a watch are looking for more than a pedometer. That said, walking is one of the most basic forms of exercise that is accessible to most people, and the health benefits of walking cannot be overlooked. My grandma walked two miles a day for my entire life, and she lived to 100 with very few health issues, always believing that walking was a key factor for her longevity and quality of life.

To test the pedometer functionality of a few devices, I recently wore the Polar Grit X2 Pro on one wrist, a Garmin Enduro 2 on the other with an Apple Watch Ultra 2 in hand, an Oura Ring on one hand, and an Amazfit Helio Ring on another hand. I then walked for five sessions, manually counting my steps out loud because I’ve seen recent articles where even simple pedometers fail, for a total of 10,021 steps.

Also: One of the most accurate sports watches I’ve tested also has amazing battery life

The Polar Grit X2 Pro was the champion with a total count of 10,008 steps, followed by the Apple Watch Ultra 2 (9,930), the Garmin Enduro 2 (9,887), the Oura Ring (9,761), and finally the Helio Ring (9,530). It’s encouraging to know that you can trust the Grit X2 Pro to provide an accurate count when actively walking, but that’s not the full story.

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After waking up, getting ready for work, and then driving to the train station, I noticed that the Polar watch had already recorded more than 1,260 steps at the start of my day when the Garmin on my other wrist showed just 240 steps. It then did extremely well while I actively walked during my counting sessions.


The right side of the Grit X3 Pro (top) and Vantage V3 (bottom)

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

The Polar Grit X2 Pro also showed the largest increase in step count when I was just sitting at my desk working in between my walking sessions. Polar may be converting non-step activities into steps, so while it is extremely accurate for specific walking sessions, be aware that your daily count of steps will be overestimated.

I wore the Garmin Enduro 2, Oura Ring Gen 3, and Polar Grit X2 Pro for a busy morning with errands and yard work. The Enduro 2 showed 5,814 steps, the Oura Ring showed 6,473 steps, and the Grit X2 Pro had me at 12,134 steps. Indeed, you should use the Grit X2 Pro for specific activity tracking and not as an overall daily step counter.

The Polar Grit X2 Pro is nearly the same watch as the Polar Vantage V3 with the same internal specifications, heart rate sensor, and user interface. The Vantage V3 suffered from some heart rate sensor inaccuracies at launch, so when Polar launched the Grit X2 Pro, the company released an update to fix heart rate performance accuracy and reliability. Heart rate tracking aside, the outside case design is the biggest differentiator here, along with some GPS antenna tweaks optimized for the case design.


Matthew Miller/ZDNET

The Grit X2 Pro is built for outdoor adventurists with the first ever Polar MIL-STD-810H certification that also has a 100-meter water-resistant rating, compared to 50 m for the Vantage V3. I personally prefer the rugged good looks of the Grit X2 Pro, but I’m not convinced those good looks are worth the $150 price difference. The Titan version with the titanium case, instead of stainless steel, and the additional leather band would be nice to have, but that is another $120 over the Grit X2’s $749.95 price point.

If you are buying a Polar watch, then you are buying it for sports and activity tracking, areas in which it excels. The Polar Flow website is fantastic, and the smartphone application has been improved over the past couple of years.

Also: The best sports watches

While Garmin and Coros also have useful websites, the Polar Flow customization and details are the gold standard. I love spending time viewing my training, activity, running index, and cardio load reports to check my progress and motivate me to do better. The free customizable training programs are also perfect for runners like me.

Since I live on a hill and every single run includes hills, I love the Hill Splitter functionality and how the hills and my performance on them is shown without any required setup on my side. Other watches require a route to be entered for hill tracking, but Polar uses GPS to detect uphill and downhill terrain. Polar was also the first to launch with running power on the wrist, and it continues to use this metric in its programs.


The left side of the Grit X3 Pro (top) and Vantage V3 (bottom)

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

As much as I love the Polar Grit X2 Pro and the Vantage V3 for the incredible Polar Flow application and website that helps you improve your performance, there are a few small things that annoy me so often I have a hard time sticking with a Polar watch for long.

Here are some examples. Pressing the bottom-left button brings you to a section of the watch with options such as Start training, Strava Live segments, Settings, and more. You can press the top and bottom-right buttons to move up or down the list of options with an infinite scrolling approach so that when you get to the top or bottom of the list, the UI automatically moves through the list again.

Also: Coros’ Vertix 2S may be the most accurate, longest-lasting sports watch I’ve seen yet

Say you then choose Settings, middle button press or a tap on the display. When you are in Settings, tests, or Strava Live, you now have a different experience where the options stop at the top and bottom so you have to press repeatedly to get back to the other end of the list. It’s not a great UX.

I also found that I regularly, every two to three days, have to restart the watch in order to get it to sync via Bluetooth to my iPhone. No other wearable I use has so much trouble syncing reliably to my iPhone. I’m not sure if it is the older Bluetooth 5.1 radio or a Polar software issue that hangs up syncing, but it is an annoyance.


The Grit X Titan, Grit X2 Pro, and Vantage V3

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

Sometimes the Polar Grit X2 Pro misses a night of sleep tracking, which then impacts recovery and other guidance in the Polar ecosystem. You can slightly modify the sleep period of a night, but you cannot add missed days.  

Another frustration is the regular requirement to calibrate the compass. Most watches require that you make figure eight arm rotations occasionally for compass calibration, but on the Grit X2 Pro you have to move a ball around on the display using serious arm gymnastics. Not only have I seen calibration fail a few times, but calibration is required every few days. I like the map/compass home screen widget, but stopped using it due to the calibration requirement.

ZDNET’s buying advice

The Polar Grit X2 Pro is clearly Polar’s best GPS sports watch, especially if you go with the Titan model that has that lovely leather band included in the package. GPS positioning is accurate, heart rate monitoring is consistent in most situations, and the included capability of Polar Flow is tough to beat.

Given that the Vantage V3 offers the same experiences for $150 less, it’s tough to justify the Grit X2 Pro just for its rugged good looks. I would also like to see Polar spend some time on the watch user interface to improve the consistency and usability.

Polar’s Grit X2 Pro is the company’s best sports watch. If you are looking for help with training programs and monitoring your activities in order to improve your health and wellness, then this watch is a compelling option. The vibrant OLED display and rugged design look fantastic, and the battery will last you at least a week, even with regular training sessions and sleep tracking every night.

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