Polar has stepped up their game with their entry into the GPS sports watch market. The RC3 GPS is designed for recreational runners and cyclists who are looking for more information and guidance than the more general Polar fitness models provide (which are great for folks new to exercising or who perform non-distance based exercise).
RC3 GPS is a little bigger than most sport watches, but for good reason. As the instructions point out, this is a training computer. Capable of more watch-based metrics than others, RC3 tracks route, distance, speed, altitude, heart rate zones (if you're using the heart rate monitor), and more during your session. It also provides training guidance for your workouts.
I gave it my out-of-the-box test (putting it to use without reading the manual) to gauge its ease of use. Operation was mostly intuitive, but exploring the various features are best done once you have an understanding of the watch—otherwise you may find yourself scrolling through menus with no end in sight.
Polar’s heart rate monitor is infinitely more comfortable than their old models and those still produced by competitors, which consist of a hard plastic piece in the front with elastic around the back. Additionally, Polar’s heart rate monitor and GPS sync up faster than any other GPS-enabled sport watch I’ve used. This quick link means you’ll hit the road sooner, without standing around waiting for a signal. (Maybe Polar has something to teach cell phone companies…)
The Training Benefit, delivered immediately after your workout, provides a useful analysis right on the watch. This is an extremely helpful feature when assessing your workout. Being able to compare performance metrics with your individual post-workout assessments helps set the stage for your next training session.
Polar’s RC3 GPS sport watch has a few less-than-desirable features. The watch is hard to read in certain lights levels. There is a built in light which helps in low-light situations, but the screen’s black back fill with light text is not favorable for quick glances during a running or cycling workout. There’s also an alarm tied to heart rate monitoring that I haven’t figured out how to adjust—in fact, I’m not sure if I can turn it off, which I’m not thrilled about.
The instruction manual doesn’t explain the various features and screens—there are eight different screen views you can choose during the workout—so you’ll have to familiarize yourself with the Polar website to learn more about your sports watch. In addition to the Polar support site, you’ll also want to visit Polar’s free web service to sync your RC3 GPS allowing further workout analysis and planning. The web sync is quick and easy, especially considering that you’ll need to plug it in to your computer in order to charge the watch—the RC3 GPS does not come with a power adapter. However, the included USB cable can be used with any USB power adapter.
All in all, Polar’s RC3 GPS sports watch provides a wide range of useful features with reliable performance. It would make an excellent addition to the training arsenal of any runner or cyclist who desires to increase their performance or just track workouts to maintain fitness.