A flagship that can record and monitor your daily activities, sleep, sports-specific training, and provide feedback throughout the process. It is elegantly designed and comfortable to wear. But it’s not without its disadvantages, and Garmin has more customizable offers.
- Great metrics for runners particularly
- Wide sport-specific support
- Polar Flow system in general has great parts
- Comfortable to wear
- Running training programmes are great
- Wrist-based HR gives dubious results
- Much of the goodness hides on the website
- Lacks customisation options
- No support for music or payment
- Basic notifications support
The Polar Vantage V is at the helm of Polar, a company that has long been involved in heart rate monitoring before it was possible to incorporate a heart rate monitor into any handheld device. However, Vantage V was not long in coming: the company’s V800 appeared to be in the flagship position for a number of years, with rival Garmin refreshing and refreshing its ranges.
A false start followed. We started reviewing the Polar Vantage V eight months ago. At the time, it seemed inaccurate, lacking in smartphone connectivity, it did not deliver what it had promised. So we waited and waited until the Vantage V really got going after a software update. Was it worth the wait?
Rethinking heart-rate tracking
- Wrist-based heart rate tracking
- Chest strap in the box
Our first Polar device was a simple heart rate tracker. It was something that we adopted when we first used it in the University Lab in the late 1990’s to monitor chest heart rate.
It was 2015 before Polar switched to wrist detection while the Vantage series introduced a new system. Precision Prime uses optics, 3D and electrodes to record data on the back of the watch using three different sensor groups.
Polar says it’s the most accurate wrist-based system, but here we really struggled to get on board with the new setup. The results showed all the symptoms of inaccurate monitoring: consistently lower or above-average results, a slow start, where the first 10 minutes of the run looked like they were warming up, and irrelevant results.
A software update has improved things, but after battling through some cold winter runs with inaccurate results and testing different tightnesses, licking the sensors and so on, we do not have much faith in the system. In the heat of spring, we still found that the measurements with the manual carotid pulse were not accurate. If you blow up your gut and find that your heart rate is 20 bpm lower than you expect, this raises questions.
Whether this was our example or an error in the system, we do not know – but we know that we are not alone with these inaccuracies. It’s not just that we got these inaccurate results, it’s also that it was not consistent – on other days it would work as expected.
The salvation for us was that our Vantage V was delivered with a H10 chest strap in the box. This is comfortable, adjustable and gradually universal – because it can also be combined with Garmin devices. We also found it solid in performance. Yes, we’ve seen a ghost result, but most of the time it’s quick and accurate to respond – a much more reliable training tool than the wrist-based alternative.
This is important because heart rate is the basis for measuring intensity. Heart rate is a variable that can be measured. If it is inaccurate, all other metrics that are computed algorithmically from these data are also inaccurate. You can buy the Vantage V without a chest strap or combine it with an existing harness if you already have one.
Three cheers for a round display
- Measures: 46 x 46 x 13mm / Weighs: 66g
- Stainless steel and polymer body
The first Polar device we owned was round before a trend arose, producing square displays. We’ve always blamed the Garmin Forerunner 101 – this beast was the size of a brick, but one of the first GPS devices worn on the wrist. Polar had square displays on many devices, which in many cases led to a more square body.
The Vantage V looks much better than previous devices, as it merges into a rounded body. It is beautiful and sporty in design. Great, yes, but if you’ve worn the equivalent of Garmin like the Forerunner 935, look about the same size. It measures 46 mm above the face, which is crowned with Gorilla Glass.
The case and bezel are made of stainless steel – although there is now a premium titanium model – while the back is made of polymer. It all feels solid and we are impressed with the workmanship as it has withstood scratches and wear in the last eight months: it still looks as good as new, except the thong which naturally has attracted various chunks inside ,
The strap is soft but strong, flexible and conventional, though the two loops are a problem to pick up the excess as they have tabs that snap into the strap and hold things in place – which means it can sometimes be difficult is to bring everything to the right place.
In all of these heart rate sensors, the back of the watch reveals a distinct beat, leaving four indentations in the skin thanks to the electrodes. After we had decided that the chest strap should be absolutely necessary, we solved the clock a little.
Control and connection
- Five buttons and touch
- PolarFlow smartphone app
There are five buttons arranged around the clock and a touch control. With Touch, you can scroll through the screens for a clear summary of some statistics – activity, recovery status, and sleep data. In each screen, you can press the red button to see more details. For example, you can click the recovery status and view the values for your training load and basic tolerance.
What you do not get is something like Garmin Connect IQ, which offers much more customization and customization for what the clock offers. So it feels like Polar is not as flexible as Garmin when it comes to the platform.
That leads us neatly to the next important point: connectivity. If you do not connect to a smartphone these days, you basically do not have it. Fortunately, the Vantage V with Polar Flow syncs to Android or iPhone devices, and the sync and pairing process is much more reliable than it was a few years ago.
Once you’re connected to a phone via Bluetooth, you can sync data and view your stats. However, the layout seems to be tailored to the fitness tracker set rather than the sports performance set. It is more about daily activity than about core statistics. In many ways, the Polar Flow website is a much better resource where you can actually check your data, rather than just seeing if you were active enough throughout the day.
One of the additions to Polar Vantage V since launch was an update that added smartphone notifications. It was almost criminal that the watch did not offer this from the start, but this has now been fixed so you can see who can call, see messages and notifications – but you can not really respond. Of course, you can cancel a call, but there is no support for Android instant answers for messages available on Garmin.
Performance and sports measuring
- Dedicated sports modes
- Supports multisport events
- Running power from your wrist
What you support is a whole range of sports. Many will buy the Vantage V primarily as a running watch, although it has a wide appeal for multi-sport athletes.
Running is probably the mainstay of Vantage V’s work, and you get a lot of metrics here. We mentioned the heart rate separately, but when it comes to distance and pace, we found that the results are accurate compared to similar-level devices and on-road measurements.
The GPS is pretty quick to find your location, and although we’ve started some runs with a cold start, you’ll soon find that it’s catch up and your distance is accurate. It can also provide you with a return. So if you are traveling in a strange place, you can find your way home – ideal for business trips or vacations.
The running metrics also focus on another measurement: performance. The idea is to give you something else in addition to speed and intensity (of the heart rate). Runners used to need an extra sensor, but the Vantage V has it all in the clock.
The goal is to measure this force based on speed, incline and force. The latter is applied through a laboratory-tested algorithm to get a number in watts that you can understand. It takes into account rapid changes in speed and / or altitude at which you reach or exceed your aerobic threshold, where your heart rate is not directly related to your activity.
Mileage can show that you become stronger through training. This may be a repetition on hills, it can also be done by working in the gym, but in the end, running power should show you that your training helps you to produce more power. So you do not have to judge this from the heart rate alone and the stopwatch.
Mileage is also fed into the training load system, which we’ll talk about in a moment. For a runner with advanced needs, there is essentially another training metric available.
There are clever metrics for a number of other sports. Swimming in the pool, for example, automatically increases the distance based on your turns, automatically recognizes the stroke – with one break per session – and our favorite feature gives you a rest time that starts as soon as you stop. When you swim, you do not have to rely on the frequency of the pool, which is great.
You also get SWOLF – a common measure of stroke efficiency. Wait, you’re a swimmer, so you always work on your technique.
Each of the training sections has several pages, and although you can not customize all the pages like a Garmin, you’ll get the information you need here. Cycling, for example, gives you speed, distance, and heart rate on the main page, while the second page tells you the current altitude, how much you climbed, and how much you’ve sunk.
The Vantage V also records multisport events. Instead of being pre-defined – for example Triathlon or Dualthon – you line them up to form the entire event. For triathlon you would choose, for example, multisport – outdoor – swimming – cycling – running. Each time you press the end session key, you are put in transition mode. Then you have to select the new sport and press Start again. The first screen displays a timer for this route. A later screen displays a timer for the total duration. It’s a bit fiddly, but it means you can put together any kind of event you like from any sport.
The battery life of the Vantage V was also pretty good. When this watch was new, it was not so good, but after software updates, that has improved. We have about two weeks of operation – with plenty of monitoring – and then it’s a quick charge with the included magnetic field.
It took a long time for us to reach the point where we would like to join this review. The Vantage V did not have a flying start, as it had problems with the clock-based heart rate measurement and some functions were not yet available. But this watch has become more extensive and accurate since the launch – so there is much to love now.
The problem facing Polar is that Garmin is running away with features like customization, payments, and support for offline music that the Vantage V device has not nearly reached. This draws a line in the sand and forces you to make a decision, because even so this clock is not cheaper.
The Vantage V is a flagship. He can track and monitor your daily activities, your sleep, your sports-specific training, and give you feedback throughout the process. It is elegantly designed and comfortable to wear. It’s not without its disadvantages, but it is still a very powerful device.