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Polar FT80 + G1 Fitness Computer review




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Polar FT80 + G1 Fitness Computer
  • Polar FT80 + G1 Fitness Computer
  • Polar FT80 + G1 Fitness Computer
  • Polar FT80 + G1 Fitness Computer
  • Polar FT80 + G1 Fitness Computer
  • Polar FT80 + G1 Fitness Computer
  • Polar FT80 + G1 Fitness Computer
  • Polar FT80 + G1 Fitness Computer
  • Polar FT80 + G1 Fitness Computer
  • Polar FT80 + G1 Fitness Computer
  • Polar FT80 + G1 Fitness Computer
  • Polar FT80 + G1 Fitness Computer
  • Polar FT80 + G1 Fitness Computer
  • Polar FT80 + G1 Fitness Computer
  • Polar FT80 + G1 Fitness Computer
  • FT80 Heart Rate Watch


Our Score:


If you're serious about keeping fit and making sure that your body is operating at its maximal performance, you'll no doubt already be aware that a heart rate monitor can be an invaluable tool. And if you're aware of the benefits of a heart rate monitor, it's a safe bet that you've heard of Polar - a company that has been at the forefront of sporting and fitness technology for as long as I can remember.

Over the years I've owned a few Polar heart rate monitors. My current unit is the Polar S720i, which was pretty much top of the Polar tree a few years back when I bought it. I was therefore very surprised to find that the latest models from Polar make mine look like an antique, both in terms of design and features. The FT80 that I'm looking at today sits at the top of Polar's Fitness and Cross-Training range, and is aimed at people who partake in a variety of activities and need to get the very best out of each and every workout.

The first thing that struck me when I opened up the FT80's box was just how good it looks - put simply, the FT80 makes my old S720i look like a brick strapped to my arm. OK, so the FT80 isn't as stylish as a Tag Heuer Carrera, but it's very slim and the strap is completely integrated with the watch, making the whole thing wrap around your wrist seamlessly. Gone is the big red Start/Stop button on the front fascia of previous models, and although this means that it's not quite as easy to set new laps, it's definitely a step forward aesthetically. Not that it's too much of a chore to press the side mounted button for lap timing of course. Oh, and the battery is now user-changeable, which is a definite bonus.

There are five buttons located around the edge of the FT80 - at the top left is the backlight button, while the bottom left houses the Stop/Back button. On the right side are Up and Down buttons for cycling through menus and a central OK button. Despite the FT80 being an incredibly feature rich piece of equipment, Polar has managed to make it unfeasibly easy to use. In conjunction with Polar's Personal Trainer website (more about that later), you can create and customise a training programme to suit you, but the FT80 is so clever that you don't even need to do that.


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 http://forum.polar.fi/showt...

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’m afraid that I didn’t 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’t need the GPS functionality, you don’t 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’ll be buying one of these, which is as good a recommendation as you can get.

@haim - I’ll do my best to get the Omnitrix in for review, but I’m 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’m 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’m wrong, but I’m assuming that if you’re ready to head out and find that the Garmin 405 has a flat battery, it’s going to be stuck at home charging up, while you’re 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’m afraid I completely missed your comment earlier, and didn’t 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 “you cannot view your current heart rate and workout time in the same view” but the default view does just that. In fact the default display shows you current heart rate, workout time, which zone you’re currently in and how long you’ve 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’m 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.

Pearl Elizabeth

September 14, 2016, 8:58 pm


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