Polar RCX5 Heart Rate Monitor Review

Polar RCX 5Rating: 4.5 stars

Polar were the first manufacturers of portable and wireless heart rate monitors and they’re still the best in many people’s opinion. The RCX 5 is one of their most flexible and useful models, designed with runners and triathletes in mind.

It’s much more than a heart rate monitor, offering all the feedback you could need for tracking and planning your performance. But what do you need to know before you buy? Let’s take a look.

Polar RCX5 Feature Summary

* Designed for runners and triathletes
* Easily switches to different sports
* Works in water
* Race Pace function measures your performance against targets
* ZoneOptimizer acts as your personal training coach
* No recharging: uses a lithium battery
* Night Mode activates the backlight when any button is pressed
* Choose from downloadable endurance training programs to improve and optimize your performance
* Includes RCX5 training computer, WearLink+ Hybrid transmitter, DataLink data transfer unit, and Getting Started Guide
* Compatible with Windows and Intel-based Mac
* 2 year manufacturer’s warranty

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RCX 5 Heart Rate Wrist Watch Review

The RCX5 is a multisport watch with a huge number of features. It’s set up for run, bike and swim, but you can easily add other sports if that’s your thing. You get up to 6 pages of customizable data for each sport, with 4 data fields per page, enough for any data geek. And if you’re more into simplicity, you can turn off pages that you don’t use.

For tracking distance and pace when running, you can use either the S3+ stride sensor or the footpod. It’s good to have these options because different people prefer different methods.

The running data is excellent, tracking your heart rate, distance, pace and other data reliably. It’s very easy to use while running too.

The ‘Race Pace’ function tells you if you are ahead or behind your target speed for a set distance. This is obviously useful if you’re training for races, but you can also use it to compare your performance today to past performance or your goals.

You can set it up so it shows your most important data when you bring the watch up close to the transmitter during your run (the HeartTouch feature). This means you can avoid most of the button-pressing that diverts attention from your run with other monitors.

Once you’ve set it up for a particular sport, there’s a simple start/stop button to track your run or training session. You can also set up automatic lap intervals so you don’t have to keep pressing the lap button.

We love that you don’t have to recharge it. It uses a regular CR2032 lithium battery which Polar say will last for at least 8 months if on for 1 hour per day. There’s also a ‘battery low’ indicator that shows you the life left in the battery, so you can switch it out in time to avoid having it give out on you mid-session. When you change the battery you do have to re-enter your basic settings, but any complex data is saved, so the whole operation is very quick.

So the Polar RCX5 scores high on ease of use. It’s also very wearable. It’s lightweight and comfortable for long sessions or even all-day wear. It’s stylishly slim too, not like some of the huge chunky HRMs you can get. In a choice of black or red it goes as well with day clothes as with running wear.

The WearLink+ acts as an excellent heart rate monitor and is also comfortable to wear while running or cycling.

What You Need To Know

Overall we’re very happy with the performance of this heart rate wrist watch but there are a couple of things you should know before you buy, to prevent disappointment.

First, this model is mainly designed for runners and triathletes. You can use it on bikes – you can set it for two different bikes so you can return to the same settings quickly – but if you’re looking for a HRM to use exclusively on bikes, there is also a Polar RCX5 Bike Heart Rate Monitor which is the dedicated model for serious cyclists.

Equally it works fine in swim mode and is waterproof, but you don’t get detailed swim metrics and it’s difficult to keep the strap in place for heart rate data while you’re swimming, unless you have a swimsuit that covers your chest. Swimming and cycling are secondary training activities on this watch. If you swim a lot, take a look at our article on the best HRM for swimming.

Second, there’s no integrated GPS sensor. You’ll need to use the separate G5 GPS sensor or get the Polar RCX5 G5 bundle. You have the option of either wearing the GPS sensor in the provided armband or carrying it in your shorts or backpack which has worked fine in most tests, but we think Polar should have built this in. That’s why we’ve dropped our rating from 5 stars to 4.5 for this HRM. Having said that, the amount of data, coaching settings and flexibility will easily compensate for this for most users.

The Verdict

If you’re a runner, triathlete or somebody who likes to vary their sports, the Polar RCX 5 could be the best heart rate wrist watch for you. It’s comfortable, flexible and tracks a huge amount of data. It works equally well in the gym, on the streets or on a running track. The only downside is the separate GPS sensor and for most users, we think the feature range of the RCX5 will more than make up for that.

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