Recently the Heart Rate Watch Company conducted a side-by-side comparison test of the Garmin Forerunner 910XT GPS watch with the Polar RCX5 G5. Both watches are outstanding products for triathlon but there are some subtle differences that might lead athletes to favor one over the other.
The Garmin Forerunner 910XT is bigger and bulkier weighing in at about 3 ounces and measuring 2″ x 1 3/4″ whilce the Polar RCX5 weighs 1.75 ounces and is 1 1/2″ x 1 3/4″ dimensions. The Garmin you would not wear as an every day watch but the Poalr RCX5 you could. Of course the external battery for the Polar weighs about 2 ounces, so the weight difference is splitting hairs but the weight difference of the wrist unit is considerable.
The Garmin does laps and strokes in the swim plus mapping while the Polar does not, however the Polar gets heart rate in the water while the Garmin does not, this is due to the transmission frequency differences between the two products. The Garmin is waterproof while the Polar is water resistant.
To us while it is nice to know intesity in the swim and laps and strokes when you are training in the pool the metrics in the races are meaningless because you can’t look at them and the hitting and kicking in a tightly spun pack make it difficult to do much but get it over with.
We’ll call the swim a draw since heart rate is nice data to have, but so are laps and strokes for training.
The Forerunner 910XT has a quick release kit that allows you to seamless transition to the bike with no wasted time. For the Polar you can either use a bike mount, which takes about 10 seconds to get done or you can roll your wrist occasionally in the aero bars to see what is going on, but this is not ideal. We give the Garmin 910XT the edge in T-1 speed over the Polar.
On the bike the Garmin provides you with speed, distance, pedal cadence, a barometric altimeter, power output, heart rate and all the data you would expect from a high end bike computer, plus it will work with the new Garmin Vector power pedals to provide left/right power balance.
The Polar provides all the same data with the exception of power output and both watches provide a race pacing feature so, for this reason, we’ll give a slight edge to the 910XT for the bike.
Once again the Garmin 910XT with the quick release band, which is an option, comes seamlessly off the bike mount and onto your wrist taking just a few seconds to attach. The Polar you either have to undo from the bike mount or, if it is wrist bound you can do nothing. We give the transition edge to the Garmin.
Both watches get speed, distance, heart rate, do auto laps at miles and cadence with an optional cadence sensor. Polar is more accurate than the Garmin for calories and we like Polar’s heart rate features better than Garmin’s.
Both watches also contain the ability to set up drink alerts but the Garmin has a vibrating alert which we prefer to audible alerts. Both watches also work with foot pods to deliver cadence.
The Polar has an external GPS sensor but with the new clip it easily attaches easily on the side of running shorts without much bother. For running we give the edge to the Polar RCX5 because of the better heart rate features and more accurate calories.
Both watches are really fantastic triathlon products and the very best available on the market today. For us, the differences between the two would hinge on 3 major issues: 1.) Do you need watts output for the bike (then it is the 910XT by Garmin), 2.) Is heart rate in the water important? (If so, then it is the Polar), and 3.) Which of the two brands of watches are you used to? (There is no sense going up a new learning curve if you do not have to).
They are both superb watches and if you really want to talk to an expert then just call us at 866-586-7129. We test this stuff, use it, ride it, run it and are personally involved daily. Train smart and good luck!