Polar RCX5 GPS Review

March 17, 2012
Polar RCX5 GPS
Polar RCX5 GPS 2Polar_RCx5_Armband 3Polar_RXX5_G5_GPS_Pulse_Monitor-Strap

The Good

  • Simple to get started
  • Low-profile watch
  • Easy-to-read screen
  • Accurate GPS unit
  • Long watch battery life

The Bad

  • Pricey
  • Users may find external GPS unit cumbersome

A feature-rich multi-sport watch that comes with the downsides of an external GPS unit and a hefty price tag. The brains in this device may be too much watch for the casual athlete, but serious athletes will find it worth the cost with its expansive data collection, wide, clear screen and hands-free navigation.


Right out of the box, the RCX5 made an impression – the external GPS unit allows the watch to have a thinner profile than GPS-enabled watches, and making for a very comfortable fit. The satellite hookup comes via the G5 GPS sensor, which is worn in an included armband during training.

Easy to use
Getting started is simple – once you’ve paired the heart rate monitor and GPS sensor, the menu screen (complete with images of a figure running/swimming/cycling) lets you access the main functions without glancing at the manual.

Navigating modes and settings is simple. The bright, big screen made statistics easily readable with a brief glance.

During workouts, the screen view can be changed by swiping the watch over the heart rate monitor unit, allowing users to switch from pace/distance to heart rate/calories burned without taking their eyes off the trail. This feature can be tweaked to perform a variety of tasks, from hitting a lap to activating the backlight. Marking the lap via heart rate monitor isn’t entirely necessary, however – interval splits can be captured automatically via the settings menu.

The G5 sensor found signals quickly and maintained them on overcast days and while running through heavy tree coverage. The bummer is that you have to strap it to your arm, which is acceptably comfortable, but a little distracting and somewhat cumbersome, compared to the GPS sensors embedded in many sports watches now. 

Water resistance
The RCX5 watch is waterproof to 30 meters, and the GP5 Sensor is water-resistant to the IPX7 standard (1 meter of submersion for up to 30 minutes). Both survived rain-soaked runs and ice baths up to 20 minutes. The watch maintained waterproofing through hour-long swims.

In the pool, the RCX5 tracks time and heart rate, but not distance, like Garmin’s Forerunner 910XT. On the bike, the watch can pair up with cadence sensors and use the GP5 for distance info, or it can pair with Polar’s bike-specific G5 GPS sensor.

Battery life
Battery life for the watch itself is about 8 to 11 months, since the battery-draining GPS sensor is separated. When the battery dies, the watch’s back can be opened via coin for easy access to the battery compartment. The G5’s battery lasts about 20 hours and is recharged via micro-USB cord.

As a multi-sport watch, the RCX5 excels the most as a running watch with its sturdy GPS signal and its outstanding ease of use, particularly when compared with other watches in its class. It also works well as a cycling computer, but its lack of a distance-tracking feature during swim workouts can make the $470 price tag hard to swallow.


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