Polar RCX3 GPS training watch review

A stylish and slim training watch with a separate GPS module and a good array of features makes training easy.

Polar’s new RCX3 training watch offers easy-to-use GPS functionality

The RCX3 from Polar is the Finnish company’s latest GPS enabled watch, sitting below the more expensive RCX5 in the range. It’s a good looking watch with a very slim profile that includes a heart rate strap for monitoring your activity level and a GPS module for tracking your speed and route.

Polar is one of the most recognisable names in the heart rate monitor business; for many athletes they are the go-to choice. Even if you’re not serious about your training but want to inject a little structure over the winter and make the most of your riding time in preparation for a goal, event or ride, the RCX5 is easy to use gives you everything you really need your fingertips.

Unlike the RC3 with integrated GPS, the RCX3 here has the GPS gubbins in a separate module that attaches to your clothing or slips inside a pocket. Why buy a watch without a GPS you might ask? It means that when you’re not using the GPS functionality, you have a slimmer watch on your wrist.

One of the five training screens, this one indicates which heart rate zone you’re in

The GPS receiver has a belt clip, or you can do as we did and store it in the pocket of your jacket or inside your hydration pack. Out on the trail we found it quick and easy to pick up a strong GPS signal and we were off with little delay. The G5 GPS module has a mini-USB port for simple recharging, the battery lasts up to 20 hours. That’s double what some GPS computers offer. That watch itself should last well over a year, and the battery is replaceable.

Data is well presented on the large screen which boasts good contrast and clarity. Four tactile buttons are arranged around the slim case with one round red button just below the screen. This is your ‘enter’ button; the two buttons on the right side cycle up and down through the various menu screens. The bottom left button takes you back a level and the top left button activates the light.

The GPS module runs for 20 hours on a charge.

When you’re riding you have the choice of four training screens that present the various data at your disposal. The cycling mode (you can switch between that and running) makes sure everything is in miles per hour and not minutes per mile. They’ve managed to avoid cluttering each of the training pages with too much training data so that at a glance you can see precisely how you’re doing. You can’t adjust what is displayed on each of the training pages however.

Polar include a couple of useful heart rate features. A Zone Optimiser that automatically adjusts the heart rate zone for a ride or interval session by taking into account your currently level of fatigue, recovery or hydration. It’s a feature unique to Polar and ensures you’re not training too hard when you’re resting. If basically acts like a coach telling you when you should be taking it a bit easier or going harder. The Fitness Test is another neat feature that lets you measure your current fitness level with a five minute test.

A slim and comfortable strap

Uploading your ride data to Polar’s PolarPersonalTrainer.com website is easy enough using the supplied wireless USB stick. Once there, the Training Load feature analyses your ride and tells you how much time you need for recovery. Again, like the Zone Optimiser, it’s akin to having a coach look at your data. This all makes it very easy, certainly easier than other watches, to get the most from your training rides and know when you’re good to go out again.

The RCX3 can be bought on its own for £184.50 or with the GPS module we’ve tested here for £259.50. Polar sell a bike-specific package which includes a handy handlebar mount, if you want to see your data when you’re riding.

Verdict

The RCX3 will appeal to multi-sport people as much as it will to those who only ride bikes. If you want to get serious about your riding and want to use heart rate data to track your progress and accurately scrutinise ever ride, the RCX3 is for you. The addition of the GPS data makes it a very well-rounded and complete package.

Pros

Slim design
Easy to use
Accurate GPS
Battery life
Polar’s training website

Cons

Separate GPS module
Can’t upload to third party websites like Strava

More information: Polar RCX3

Prices: RCX3 £169.90; RCX3 Bike £199.90; RCX3 GPS £279.90; RCX3 Run £249.90

What Polar says abouts the RCX3

For recreational runners and cyclists who want smart guidance while preparing for an event.

  • Training Benefit gives you instant feedback after your session
  • Helps you train at the right intensity with personal sport zones
  • Running Index scores your performance
  • Tracks your route, speed and distance with the optional GPS sensor
  1. louise

    bought rcx3 bike with cadence unit for turbo training- a speed unit was included. I traded in my old polar and got 40% off. Good so far gives mx, av min HR and av and mx cadence as well as others.

  2. BikeDibley

    I use the RCX5 and agree with this review based on my experience with the RCX5. The GPS reciever does pick up signal quicker than my Garmin Forerunner 910XT and the long-lasting GPS signal means I seldom ever recharge which is a real benefit. I don’t like not having the GPS tab included in the watch body, but it’s something you soon get used to.
    The RCX5 doesn’t come with that useful belt clip the RCX3 comes with.

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