Garmin Forerunner 255 vs. Polar Pacer Pro

Garmin Forerunner 255 vs. Polar Pacer Pro

This post is part of the 2023 LITPro GPS Device Shootout series. To learn more about the details of this shootout, including format, devices we tested, and how we determine a winner, go here: 2023 GPS Shootout Intro.

Matchup #5 - Garmin Forerunner 255 vs. Polar Pacer Pro

Fox Raceway Main Track 

Testing was conducted at Fox Raceway in Pala, CA.  This is a Southern California track in a great location for GPS device testing.  There isn’t a lot of tree cover, or mountainous landscape to obscure satellites on the horizon.

NOTE ON THIS SHOOTOUT: In past shootouts, we conducted tests with GPS watches on both the wrist and the handlebar. In this shootout, however, we changed the variables a little because we've already determined from past tests (which you can find on other links in this blog series) that the Pacer Pro is so much more accurate on the handlebars than the wrist. No testing was done on the wrist; instead, we tested the devices on two different types of tracks: a wide open track and a tight track. The Fox Raceway main track is wide open; you won't see a lot of corners that loop back on themselves (180-degree corners). Whereas their vet track is tight, with twelve corners or so, most of them are 180 bowl turns. The tighter track makes a more challenging scenario for a GPS device. 

Garmin Forerunner 255 vs. Polar Pacer Pro (main track-very open)

9:53AM - GPS Watches on the main track (mounted on handlebars)
Lap Reference GPS Garmin Forerunner 255 Polar Pacer Pro Garmin Forerunner vs. Reference Polar Pacer Pro vs. Reference
1 02:19.05s 02:19.00s 02:19.10s 0.05 0.05
2 02:12.15s 02:12.15s 02:12.15s 0 0
3 02:09.60s 02:09.55s 02:09.70s 0.05 0.1
4 02:08.10s 02:08.15s 02:08.25s 0.05 0.15
5 02:11.25s 02:11.20s 02:11.00s 0.05 0.25
7 02:11.60s 02:11.70s 02:11.75s 0.1 0.15
8 02:07.50s 02:07.50s 02:07.60s 0 0.1
9 02:04.65s 02:04.80s 02:04.60s 0.15 0.05
10 02:18.15s 02:18.05s 02:18.40s 0.1 0.25
11 02:06.45s 02:06.40s 02:06.65s 0.05 0.2
12 02:04.80s 02:04.80s 02:04.45s 0 0.35
13 02:04.85s 02:04.85s 02:04.95s 0 0.1
Largest Delta 00:00.15 00:00.35


Reference GPS on fender Forerunner 255 on bars (green) vs reference GPS on fender (red) Pacer Pro on bars (green) vs. reference GPS on fender (red)


Garmin Forerunner 255 vs. Polar Pacer Pro (vet track-tighter)

11:00AM - GPS Watches on the vet track (mounted on handlebars)
Lap Reference GPS Garmin Forerunner 255 Polar Pacer Pro Garmin Forerunner 255 vs. Reference Polar Pacer Pro vs. Reference
1 01:55.10s 01:55.30s 0.2 N/A
2 01:54.05s 01:54.10s 01:53.85s 0.05 0.2
3 01:51.60s 01:51.50s 01:52.10s 0.1 0.5
4 01:50.20s 01:50.20s 01:50.00s 0 0.2
5 01:51.60s 01:51.60s 03:43.80s 0 NA
6 01:52.30s 01:52.40s 0.1 NA
7 01:51.25s 01:51.15s 01:51.60s 0.1 0.35
8 01:48.85s 01:49.05s 03:37.05s 0.2 NA
9 01:47.55s 01:47.60s 0.05 NA
10 01:48.90s 01:48.90s 01:48.95s 0 0.05
11 01:48.65s 01:48.75s 03:38.45s 0.1 NA
12 01:49.20s 01:49.20s 0 NA
13 01:49.35s 01:49.30s 0.05 NA
14 01:48.30s 01:48.35s 01:48.20s 0.05 0.1
15 01:50.50s 01:50.60s 01:51.25s 0.1 0.75
16 01:49.20s 01:49.20s 01:49.05s 0 0.15
17 01:47.70s 01:47.70s 01:47.65s 0 0.05
18 01:50.55s 01:50.55s 01:50.70s 0 0.15
19 01:48.20s 01:48.30s 01:48.10s 0.1 0.1
20 01:47.25s 01:47.20s 01:47.60s 0.05 0.35
21 01:49.05s 01:49.05s 01:49.15s 0 0.1
22 01:51.70s 01:51.70s 01:51.55s 0 0.15
Largest Delta 0.2 0.75


Reference GPS on handlebar

Forerunner 255 on bars (green) vs. reference GPS on fender (red)

Pacer Pro on bars (green) vs. reference GPS on fender (red)


Head to Head Results:

#1 Top-down visual ranking Garmin Forerunner 255 vs. Pacer Pro (subjective):

The winner in this category is the Garmin Forerunner 255. The Garmin does a tremendous job of sticking with the reference device, the Racebox Mini S. You'll notice it seldom shows any deviation from the reference route lines. You can quickly and accurately distinguish between inside versus outside lines in the corners. With the Polar Pacer Pro, you can't see inside vs outside line selection. On areas of the track where we weren't intentionally doing inside versus outside and always took the same line, there is still a wide variation. You can't tell inside versus outside on any of the corners and, really, that's to be expected now from the Polar Pacer Pro.

Also, on the wide open main track, you can see the Polar Pacer Pro performed much better than on the tighter vet track layout. This is because on a more spread-out track a GPS error of some kind can be overcome with our software algorithms a little better. On tracks where the lines are running in parallel and are near each other, it is much more difficult for our algorithms to make sense of poor GPS data.

In short, we prefer the clean and accurate GPS data coming from the Garmin Forerunner 255 (and any of the Garmin watches in this GPS chipset generation, which includes: Forerunner 255, 265, 955, 965, epix Pro gen2, Fenix 7, and Taxtix 7).

#2 Timing accuracy Garmin Forerunner 255 vs. Pacer Pro (non-subjective ):

The winner of lap time accuracy is also the Garmin Forerunner 255. As you can see in the chart, the Polar Pacer Pro was a lot more accurate on the open track than on the tight track, as we would expect. If you're riding an open track, you won't see quite as much of an advantage with the Garmin Forerunner 255 over the Pacer Pro, but if you're in that tight style of motocross track (like the FoxRaceway vet track), you really will have a significant advantage with the Garmin 255. In a lot of cases, the Polar Pacer Pro GPS accuracy was so poor it ended up combining/miscounting laps because it didn't cross all the gates and our algorithms failed to make sense of the errors.

In short, from a lap timing accuracy perspective...

On the wide-open main track: the Garmin 255 stayed always within 0.15 seconds from the reference GPS device (this is excellent!). The Polar Pacer Pro stayed pretty close but had a peak delta of 0.35 seconds. This isn't too bad!

On the tight vet track: the Garmin Forerunner 255 maintained high accuracy staying within 0.2 seconds. The Polar Pacer Pro really fell apart here with several laps not even getting counted, and for other laps that were counted the peak delta was 0.75 seconds!  This is not acceptable in our opinion and to be honest, to the extent we can detect this we don't even allow this kind of poor accuracy to appear in our track leaderboards (we actively reject bad laps in our track leaderboards).

Wrap Up Summary:

The Garmin Forerunner 255 does a phenomenal job of tracking the most important metrics for motocross style riding. You can distinguish inside versus outside lines in corners, even on tight tracks, and lap timing accuracy is really high. That's not something you get with the Polar Pacer Pro and on tighter tracks it sometimes even has poor enough accuracy that laps get mis-counted.  The Polar Pacer Pro is just not good enough, especially on tighter tracks. 

NOTE: Garmin watches in this generation and newer are considered (which as of this writing include: Forerunner 255, 265, 955, 965, Epix gen2, Fenix 7, and Taxtix 7) to have equivalent GPS accuracy. Any of these we expect to yield the results we report in this test.

 Garmin Forerunner 255 vs Polar Pacer Pro route line comparison

The winner of this round is the Garmin Forerunner 255!

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1 comment

When can we start using the “Motocross” activity again on the Fenix 7?


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