Polar, in their words, is in the business of making sports optimized performance products for the performance athlete. And they’re known for making some of the best heart rate measurement tech, along with being able to use and present that data in meaningful ways. To that end, the all-new Polar Vantage series ups the game for wrist-based heart rate tracking and provides some nifty bonus features, too.
The Polar Vantage series introduces Precision Prime, a new wrist-based HR system that uses nine different optical sensors -five green and four red- to get really deep skin penetration and work with a broader range of skin colors and types. They say it also helps it work better in cold weather, too.
The watches also build in inertial sensors to detect wrist movement, which offsets motion artifacts that could otherwise reduce accuracy. Alongside the lights are four bioimpedance sensors, which tells the watch when it loses contact with the skin, which lets it then tailor the feedback from the lights based on which ones have optimal contact.
Combined, it delivers a much better HR solution for training accuracy, but also for 24/7 all-day heart rate monitoring.
Power measurement from the wrist?
The Vantage watches bring several unique and improved features to the category. First, there’s Running Power from the wrist, which factors body movement, speed, high resolution altitude, and mass of the runner to calculate running power.
Over the past couple years, various startups like Stryd have developed shoe- and foot-based power meter pods and inserts designed to give you power output. Polar took a different approach, keeping it all in a single component to simplify capturing that metric. They’ve been testing it for a while and have figured out how to make it predictable and repeatable, regardless of which shoes you’re wearing. This provides more consistent data, too, as opposed to switching sensors around or switching to a different system. (Like cycling, you want to stick with a single brand/system over time as each brand and unit can interpret power slightly differently. So, the only way to truly gauge your progress is to use the same system and parts for your entire training career. Or at least your entire season.)
What’s your Training Load?
Training Load is improved, too, now called Training Load Pro. It’s a much more advanced version that adds RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) and Muscle Load. The orthostatic test is also updated to give you better feedback using HRV (HR Variability) and RHR (Resting HR) along with the change in HR between your resting state and standing.
And it gets better over time as you continue to use it and it establishes a baseline. They say it takes about two weeks to get the minimal baseline, then like any good training partner, it just keeps getting to know you better.
Shared technical features
Besides heart rate, they also have GPS/Glonass tracking of your route, and will capture power and other data from BLE sensors (including power meters from Stages, Cycleops, Rotor, etc…a full list is on their website, but most any modern PM that transmits in Bluetooth should work). There is no ANT+ antenna in the watches, which they say was a choice made to due to lack of space, and Bluetooth allows it to connect to phones, too.
A bike handlebar mount is sold separately, in which case you’d pair it with the H10 or OH1 BLE HR chest straps if you’re looking for the most accurate HR data while training. Or if you’re wearing it over your clothing in the winter. The H10 strap also lets you measure HRV “better” during activity, though the watch will do it just fine while you’re resting.
They look good on the outside, too, matching a more traditional watch aesthetic so it’ll blend in at the office. Which means you’ll have to get that Ironman tattoo somewhere that’s not covered up by your clothing, because how else will everyone know. (Trick question, they’ll know because you just dropped that into your conversation about how when you were doing that Ironman last year, zoning out on those TPS reports got you through the last 6k of your run, which you totally crushed).
It supports running, cycling and swimming, and even tracks HR during swimming, with an admitted averaging of the data as opposed to super detailed real time data, and can provide the same motion and training data
Polar Vantage V specs & details
The flagship product is the new Polar Vantage V, Battery Life to size/weight ratio is good, too, which is a boon for those endurance athletes (you know who you are) who neglect to work out your upper body and have spindly little arms.
Weight is just 68g, but still packs 40 hours with full HR and GPS (aka “training time”) per charge. They say if you’re using it for about 2 hours of training per day then wearing it for 24/7 continuous HR monitoring, it’ll last for a week. Just need it as a watch? You’ll get a full month out of it before it needs to be recharged.
Retail is $499 and it gets a full color 1.2″ always-on touchscreen with 240×240 pixel resolution. On the sides are traditional buttons to control it when necessary.
Polar Vantage M specs & details
The Vantage M is the littler brother. It shares the same screen size and resolution, but loses the touchscreen capability and drops the barometric altitude sensor. Otherwise it provides all the same sensor and data capture capabilities and gives you 30 hours of “training time” per charge with slightly less overall battery life.
It’s lighter, though, at just 40g, and retails for $279 and has the option of replaceable wrist bands, with various colors and textures.
Polar Flow for Coaches
Launched a couple years ago in Beta mode, they’ve been collecting the data and tweaking it. With Polar Flow (their online dashboard that records your training sessions), you can choose to share your workouts with your coach and have them review it. Now, your coach can create an entire annual program and provide it visually with target events and the workouts leading up to it.
It also adds the ability to “bank” your training sessions, so the coach can create individual workouts and multi-workout sessions and save those events, then drag and drop them into any of their athletes’ calendars…as opposed to having to create them all from scratch each time.
The training plan, whether your coach creates it or you do, will then be synced to your watch and show you what to do. The watch then tracks your actual performance and uploads that over the plan to see how you did and lets the coach (or you) adjust as necessary.