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Polar FT80 + G1 Fitness Computer


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The FT80 can be purchased by itself, or with the G1 GPS receiver and if you're planning on doing a fair bit of outside exercise like cycling or running, the G1 is well worth the extra cost. The G1 uses GPS technology to measure speed and distance during your workout, and transmits that data to the FT80 on your wrist. This is nothing new, but this Polar system is just that little bit more refined than similar setups I've used in the past.

First up, the G1 is powered by a single AA battery, so it's simple and cheap to replace. Polar estimates around 30 hours of use from a single AA cell, which is pretty reasonable. The G1 also gets a satellite lock very quickly, and manages to hold onto it even when riding underneath tree branch canopies - an environment where many GPS receivers have struggled in my experience.

The G1 isn't the smallest of units, but it comes with a wide, adjustable, elasticated band for wrapping around your upper arm. Once the strap is adjusted correctly, you barely notice that the G1 is there. There's a single button that powers the G1 on and off, and indicators for satellite lock and battery condition. The beauty of a two part system is that it allows the FT80 to be so slim, while also giving a choice to consumers, some of whom may not need the GPS functionality.

If you partake on a lengthy cycle ride or run equipped with the FT80 and G1, you'll be rewarded with a plethora of useful information at the end of your training. The FT80 will record all the data from your workout including average and maximum heart rate, average and maximum speed, the length of time spent in each of your three intensity zones, the distance travelled, the overall time of your training session, how many calories you burned and the percentage of those calories that were fat. You'll also get a brief summary highlighting how that particular session has affected you, whether that be improved fitness, increased maximal performance or improved fat burning.

The FT80 can store a significant amount of data, allowing you to compare days and even weeks of training information anytime and anywhere. But of course you're going to want to offload all that data for reference and analysis, and here Polar has made another big leap forward. On my old S720i the only way to get the data off was to use the built-in infrared port, which works well enough, although it's getting harder to find notebooks that even sport IrDA ports these days. So, Polar has done away with that archaic data transfer method and come up with FlowLink.

FlowLink is an undeniably cool feature, and Polar should be congratulated for bundling this kind of technology with the FT80. Being that the FT80 sits at the top of the model range, it comes with FlowLink in the box, rather than it being an optional extra. What you get is a FlowLink pad that connects to your PC via a USB cable, then when you want to synchronise your FT80 you just take it off and place it on the pad - it really is that simple! I haven't encountered this kind of proximity dependant data transfer in a retail product before, although I've seen lots of similar technology demos.

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June 4, 2009, 1:08 pm

Hi Riyad,

I too just about have owned most of the top end HR monitors from Polar specially whenever they came up with a new model packed with features and this one seems truly a notch up the rest.

I bought the Forerunner 405 when it was released, although for the past few months am so tempted to upgrade it to the 405CX. Not being able to count calories when using it for indoor activities unless a footpod is used with it for running only is such a disadvantage that I hadn't even realised that it was lacking until I started using it and couldn't get the calories to count. That means that for other cross training activities indoors then I dont get calories count. Just couldn't understand why they wouldn't use the variables of heart rate and weight and age to have calorie counts.

So it seems that the 405CX has that facility now.

But reading now about the FT80 looks like its a feature packed sports watch and certainly looks more modern in design compared to the 405.

I am sure I read on TR somewhere a review about the 405 so what is your opinion about the FT80 compared to the 405CX? Pricewise also seems that its possible to get a 405CX for around £280 and that comes with incorporated GPS module. Well, I guess its a little bulkier than the FT80 but still sits pretty well on the wrist and with just the right size buttons.

Would be interested to hear what you and other members who use these type of gadgets think about the comparison of these two.




June 4, 2009, 1:31 pm

How does it compare to the Garmin Forerunner 405?


Hamish Campbell

June 4, 2009, 1:43 pm

Whoooah, that Polar branding on the top of the watch just sucked be right back to the 80's.

Other than that I'd love to try Ben 10's watch (ok hands up parents to small boys).


June 4, 2009, 3:05 pm

I've used both the Polar FT80 and the Garmin 405cx in the last few weeks. For me, the lack of integrated gps on the FT80 is the small chink in its armour. For running outside, I prefer to be as laden-free as possible, and as I already run with my ipod strapped to one arm, the thought of a gps unit strapped to the other meant that the Gramin 405cx just pipped the FT80. Also, for me, the garminconnect website is more user friendly than the polarpersonaltrainer website, although they are both very good. I have to say, though, that the FT80 is a very cool looking watch, unmatched by any other sports watch.


June 4, 2009, 3:08 pm

I've owned four heart rate monitors in the past, with the Polar S625X and FT80 being my most recent. There is/was a major problem with synchronizing data which is more than a week old on the FT80 (i believe Polar has created a new firmware to address this but you'll have to send your watch back in!) - see the post

The FT80 is a very comfortable watch to wear - I often forget that I have it on ... with the S625x, i was always aware of it's bulk.

There are a couple of annoyances, one being that you cannot view your current heart rate and workout time in the same view. It also doesn't have the recovery rate function of previous watches which I liked.

Would I return the watch if I still could, probably ...

James Morris

June 4, 2009, 3:27 pm

Both the Polar FT80 and the Garmin 405 are less bulky than the Omnitrix. However, I couldn't find a setting on either to make me an alien, which is a shame as I'm sure my exercise results would be better if I was able to become one when working out.


June 4, 2009, 3:48 pm

@amin - I&#8217m afraid that I didn&#8217t review the Forerunner 405, but having spoken to James about it when he was reviewing it, it would appear that the FT80 is a far simpler device to use, despite being so feature rich.

Personally I prefer not having the GPS unit built into the watch. It means the watch can be less bulky, and also means that if you don&#8217t need the GPS functionality, you don&#8217t have to pay for it.

The Garmin 405CX does look good value, but if you do a bit of searching around the web, the FT80 with G1 can be found for roughly the same price, which in my opinion, tips the balance in favour of the Polar. I will try to get my paws on a 405CX though, just to see how it compares.

At the end of the day, as I said in the review, I&#8217ll be buying one of these, which is as good a recommendation as you can get.

@haim - I&#8217ll do my best to get the Omnitrix in for review, but I&#8217m not sure that young Mr Tenison will be willing, or able to lend it to me! And I have two daughters - no boys :)


June 4, 2009, 5:07 pm

I remember when i just used to just stick on my trainers and go for a run.

Nowadays what with my pager, computer watch, gps unit, phone, mp3 player, isotonic sports drink, energy bar, shades and cap just getting up off the sofa is the equivalent of a 6 mile run.

I'm thinking about glueing a TomTom to the end of my nose so I can see where I am in 3D.


June 5, 2009, 12:23 am

Riyad - The review on the FT80 you did is a fantastic indepth one and I can really see how much you have explored in detail the full functionality of the gadget. Great review as always.

No wonder I am hooked to the TR site and for years now all my gadgets starting from the simple ones to the most intricate and expensive ones TR site is where I come to aid in my buying decisions. Got my first Vaio because I read one of your reviews and got convinced that its the one to go for and never regretted it, and it has been years since that first purchase. And when I decided to take my first steps into the world of DSLR just a few months ago it was TR that steered me to go for the Pentax K20D and I am still over the moon with the camera and have already spent a bomb in lenses within a few months :).

So when you get your hands on a Forerunner 405, the CX version more precisely I have a slight impression you might really like the 405CX due to its great settings features.

What I love most about the Forerunner 405 is the ability to set it up to diplay the details that you really want and the number of fields being 3 it really is fantastic. And then at any moment at the touch of the bezel being able to alternate it while running it means you end up with being able to check any combination of fields (one with larger display and two smaller) at any moment and time while running, and even at night when its dark. That fantastic feature that you can just touch the bezel with two fingers and the light comes on is really helpful while running at night.

In my view the only thing probably that the Forerunner 405 lags behind compared to other HR monitors such as FT80 for example would be the slight bulkier size, specially for someone who has slim writs. But compared to the Forerunner 305 its a world of difference. True I dont think I would be able to wear the Forerunner 405 as a normal day to day watch, but again I wouldn't do the same if I had the FT80. For some reason I feel that I dont want to waste it or ruin such a great gadget that aids my training by wearing it on a day to day environment :). But hey, that's just me and my silliness, :) others might not take the same view on this.

Nevertheless, would be nice to hear your views Riyad, after you had a go at the Forerunner 405CX. Who knows after hearing your experience with it might be upgrade time for my gadget and wh knows I might end up convinced that it should be the FT80 rather than the Forerunner 405CX :).




June 5, 2009, 4:36 am

@amin - I almost forgot - the other thing I like about a two piece system like the FT80 over a GPS integrated device like the Garmin is battery life. The battery in the FT80 will last well over a year, not just a matter of days.

And, if I&#8217m about to go out for a ride and I notice that the G1 GPS module is out of juice, I simply slot another AA battery in and off I go. Correct me if I&#8217m wrong, but I&#8217m assuming that if you&#8217re ready to head out and find that the Garmin 405 has a flat battery, it&#8217s going to be stuck at home charging up, while you&#8217re out training and not recording any data.


June 5, 2009, 3:53 pm


Ahh, did you have to remind me of that? :) getting ready to go out and finding that the forerunner 405 was out of juice? :) that wasn't a fair knock Riyad :), I am trying my best here to convince myself that I have the better watch and playing games with features list, and must admit, once it happened to me exactly what you described when I was about to go out for a 10 mile run and found the Forerunner 405 out of juice. I was so frustrated. Good thing I have the Blackberry 8310 with a nice trendy application called bbTracker which I activated and came back with a sort of similar file for pace/distance etc, but no HR, so it was ok.

So from now on as I get home I just attach the USB clip on it straightaway and it remains there. And as I don't like to use my gadget for day to day use it remains there.

I hear you say "shot on your foot again" because had it been the FT80 you have the ability to wear it anytime anywhere".

Ok, I think I just need couple of more features where the FT80 beats the Forerunner 405 so that I can feel the overall 10 score was well deserved compared to the 9 for the Forerunner 405. As I said, a gadget upgrade is overdue, just need to find a way of getting around the wife first lol.

But I still believe that the feature settings in the Forerunner 405 particularly on displaying the data while running, and the touch bezel facility is absolutely fantastic. So there is still a minor inclincation that Garmin might get my money with the CX version :).

Have I convinced you to get hold of a Forerunner 405CX as soon as possible to try it out? Once you master and set up those displays and go for a run, and include that virtual partner as an optional rotating feature and you will want to come back and revise the FT80 :)

James Morris

June 5, 2009, 7:52 pm

@amin The Forerunner 405 is supposed to last 8 hours of use and two days in power save mode. However, I have found that it doesn't always go into power save when you'd expect, so the "out of juice" scenario is a distinct possibility. The solution, as you say, is to leave it plugged into power until you need it.


June 6, 2009, 8:11 pm

@fooey - I&#8217m afraid I completely missed your comment earlier, and didn&#8217t reply, sorry. I was aware of the firmware issue, but that was some time ago, and the unit that I received was (unsurprisingly) equipped with the correct firmware version.

I am however confused at one aspect of your comment. You say that &#8220you cannot view your current heart rate and workout time in the same view&#8221 but the default view does just that. In fact the default display shows you current heart rate, workout time, which zone you&#8217re currently in and how long you&#8217ve spent in that zone during the current workout.

What I do find strange is that the FT80 only works with the G1 GPS sensor and not the G3 that also does route tracking. Not that I&#8217m bothered by that, since I have a GPS route tracker hanging from my camelback whenever I go for a ride, but it does seem a little odd nonetheless.

Paul 30

January 13, 2010, 3:09 pm

I'm thinking about buying this but have a couple of questions.

How much data can it handle in one session? I would like to wear it for 24 hours to check a full day's data. Is this possible?

Also, what's the lowest heart rate it can handle? My resting pulse is quite low (34pm last time I measured) so I need to know it can handle this, and maybe even sub-30bpm if I wear it while I'm sleeping.



January 17, 2010, 6:16 pm

Great product except for the technical issues. I have had three watches all with the same issue; the watch works fine for a couple of weeks and then after your workout the stats for the week switched to 255 sessions, 65535 calories burned and 99:59:59 hours of exercise. Anyone familiar with computers will realize the significance of these numbers - it looks like the entire data slot got corrupted.

Polar weren't helpful which is a real shame considering that this is their "Rolls Royce" heart rate monitor. I finally got a refund after two replacements.


September 15, 2010, 8:22 am

Hi Amin, very good review, it was very useful, I just wonder if the FT80 is suitable for swimming? I couldn't find anything about it on the net... I need also a watch capable of being used in the pool, press the buttons under water etc... Would you recommend me this model? or which one? Thanks in advance for any tip. Best regards.


September 15, 2010, 8:24 am

Wow, sorry Riyad, I missread and confused your name in the previous message. My apologies.

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