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Hands-on: Polar’s OH1 Standalone Optical HR Sensor

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Over the past couple of years, Polar has been continuing to iterate on their optical HR sensor design.  While Garmin and Fitbit (for example) have mostly kept to the same design and slowly iterated and improved it with minor changes, Polar took a different approach.  They made a slew of widely different sensors in a whole pile of devices.  Earlier this year we saw them clearly make a breakthrough with the Polar M430, and its optical sensor HR.  It was among the best I’ve seen in a wearable, handily tracking my HR through most activities.

And thus we get the OH1.  They’ve taken that sensor, ripped it out of the watch, and plopped it on an armband that can be worn with no watch at all.  Or phone.  Or anything really.  It can both transmit your HR via Bluetooth Smart, as well as store it for future workouts.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.  I’ve got one that I’ve been poking at for the last few workouts, so while this isn’t a full in-depth review, it’ll give you a feel for things.  The review will come later this month, once I’ve had a chance to get more activity variation on it.

The Basics:

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My general goal in life with heart rate sensors is not to belabor too much of the basics.  After all, it’s just a small pod that reads your HR.  It’s not a rocket-ship.

The unit comes in a small box with just a few parts: The arm-band, the sensor, and a USB charging doohickey.

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I say doohickey, because it’s like a cross between a USB stick and a charging dock.

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While somewhat clever, I also found it annoying because, with two USB ports next to each other, it doesn’t fit well when something else is plugged in.

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Size-wise, it’s about the size of a coin.  What kind of coin you ask?  Well, if you’re Euro, British, or Swiss, you’re in luck. Sorry Canadians and Americans, I can’t find any nickels around here at the moment.

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How thick you ask?  All those coins worth, and then one more:

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So yes, it’s really darn small.

In any case, the pod will snap into the arm-band when you’re ready to go for a workout. On the side, there’s a small button that you can turn on to enable the sensor, which will then illuminate its six LED’s green once turned on.

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The band is adjustable, though you’ll want it somewhat snug.  You can place it in any number of locations – but generally speaking, I find the upper arm works best for me.  Keep in mind that you usually want something ‘thicker’ to work with.  So a bony spot near your wrist is less awesome.  Some people have had luck with it directly on their forehead in their swim cap.

Obviously, you shouldn’t see these LED’s when you’re wearing it – if so, you’re doing it wrong.  They should face your skin.  However, the side will illuminate a small light allowing you to confirm operation.

One oddity I stumbled into was that it required me to ‘activate’ the unit with the Polar app prior to usage.  I put ‘activate’ in quotes because it’s not supposed to, but no matter what I tried, it wouldn’t broadcast my HR until I connected to the app once.  Polar doesn’t know why this happened; they say it definitely shouldn’t and should work straight out of the box.  So hopefully it’s just a random fluke.

As part of this setup, it’ll ask you where you’re wearing it:

Screenshot_20170904-222254 (1) Screenshot_20170904-222434

Polar isn’t changing any of the data processing/algorithms with this location information, but rather they are using it to better understand where users are placing the device.

With all that setup, you’ve got two basic options with the OH1:

A) Recording + Transmission: Just wear it during a workout, and not transmit to other devices (no watch/phone).  It’ll save/store the workout data for looking at later on.
B) Just Transmission: Wear it during a workout and pair via Bluetooth Smart to a watch/phone/etc.… for real-time HR monitoring

To do option A (recording on the unit), you’ll tap the button twice.  Else it’ll just be in broadcasting mode.  In broadcasting mode it’s slated to get 12 hours of battery life.

In my case, I used it in broadcasting mode.  To really test connectivity across two competing fronts, I paired the Polar OH1 sensor to both an Edge 1030 (cycling) and a Garmin Forerunner 935 (running).  Both of these devices do support Bluetooth Smart sensors.  Of course, you still can’t connect to a single Bluetooth Smart sensor at the same time from two devices (even the OH1, despite BT5 supporting it).

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Note that the Polar OH1 doesn’t support ANT+ sensors.  While I think this is indeed a mistake and does limit their market potential (really, it does, there’s no way around this), I don’t think it’s the deal killer it would have been a year ago.  With more devices supporting Bluetooth Smart sensors, in particular Garmin’s 2017 devices, it means they aren’t as limited there.

Still, for anyone with a Garmin prior to this year, or older Suunto units, or even Zwift using ANT+ on your PC – this won’t work.  You can simply move along to some other exciting post (I recommend one of my shark diving related ones).

In any case, while in the workout it’ll transmit your HR as you’d expect to the paired devices.

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And it’s basically as simple as that.  Don’t worry, I’ll talk about accuracy in a second.  If you did store the data from the workout instead, then you’ll sync/connect to Polar Flow/Beat/Sync and let it do its thing.  It can store about 150-200hrs of training activity.

Here’s what that looks like from an indoor trainer ride on Polar Flow.

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Note that while syncing, the little status light will blink blue on the unit, making it nice and easy to know it’s doing its thing. Sorry, getting both the blue light to capture correctly and the screen is tricky, especially since it transfers so darn fast.  But I promise you, it’s blue.

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Note that for certain Polar device-specific tests that require HRV/RR interval data, the OH1 won’t work.  For example, this includes the Orthostatic test and the energy pointer test.  Neither will work with the OH1.

Finally, the OH1 does allow firmware updates – so expect it to iterate over time with tweaks (either optimizations or bug fixes).

Early HR Accuracy Data:

Now my intent was to have one really solid ride and one nice run to share with you.  So I paired up the Polar OH1 to the Garmin Edge 1030 and then went out for a long ride…five hours of riding.

Except one problem: Apparently while futzing around at the beginning of the ride shooting some video the Edge switched over to my TICKR-X strap (likely when I walked out of range).  As such, I didn’t record squat OH1 data on that five hours.  Shame.

Instead though, I’ve got a run to look at it – along with a brief indoor trainer workout.  The run was a mix of steady state tempo, followed by some short intervals to mix things up.  Here’s a high-level look at the run data:

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In this case, I was recording the following sensors:

Polar OH1 Optical HR Sensor: Recorded on the Forerunner 935
Wahoo TICKR-X HR Strap: Recorded on the Fenix 5
Garmin Vivosport Optical HR Sensor: Recorded on itself
Suunto Spartan Trainer Optical HR Sensor: Recorded on itself

In other words, just a normal run.  Why not use a Polar watch?  Simple: I was out of juice on that watch and was running out of light.  Plus – I like forcing companies to work together, and validating that they do.

So, let’s look at the first few minutes of the run, where all the units disagreed:

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As you can see, a bit of a crap-show. Here’s how I’d rank the first 2 minutes:

1) Garmin Vivosport Optical Sensor: This is the most believable plot, given I started off nice and easy
2) Suunto Trainer Optical Sensor: This started off wonky for the first 45 seconds, but then locked on nicely.
3) Polar OH1 Optical Sensor: This struggled for the first two minutes and measured low, but then locked on nicely.
4) Wahoo TICKR X: This looks like it didn’t find lock till about the 2-minute marker.  My guess is that I adjusted it around that point and then it was happy.

Now, it’s easy to fret about these first two minutes, but here’s the reality: Even chest HR straps struggle sometimes in the first few minutes.  They have for decades (it used to be one of my most popular posts).  So while I certainly like 100% accuracy out of the gate, I usually worry less about the first couple minutes than later on.  So let’s look at the remainder:

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You see here that for the steady-state portion (the next 10 minutes basically) all the units matched.  No real issues.  In fact, we really don’t start seeing any differences until around the 18-minute marker.  We see some issues again with the TICKR, which was definitely positioning.  I needed to tighten the strap on it, as it was sliding down.  The others are pretty close.

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If you look carefully at the set, you’ll notice the Vivosport has a bit of a delay on the recovery pieces, whereas the Polar OH1 nails that perfectly.  As does the Suunto Spartan Trainer.  This is easier to see if you open up the actual set activity here.

For the remainder of the run, the various sensors agreed (again, minus my chest strap slipping).  So overall I’d say things did fairly well here.  And overall, ignoring the first two minutes, the OH1 did nicely.

Next, I decided to try an indoor activity, this time a trainer ride doing some 30×30 intervals (full set here to look at).  Here’s the overall chart (the green one is the Polar):

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The Vivosport struggled a little bit, but it was on the same wrist that I used to pick up my phone briefly at both the points where major oddities occurred.  So that could certainly have something to do with those.

Otherwise, all of them are pretty darn similar – and the OH1 and TICKR and Suunto units all virtually mirrored each other throughout the entire process.  Honestly, not a lot to say there.

Finally, yes, it does claim to work in other activities, such as swimming (not for broadcasting, but to record the data).  I’m aiming to do some of those activities over the next 2-3 weeks, with a plan for a full review later this month.

Wrap Up:

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Overall, not too shabby.  If you’re of the persuasion that’s looking for a Bluetooth Smart only external HR sensor, this is definitely the smallest one on the market I’m aware of that broadcasts HR.  Of course, many readers know my go-to optical HR sensor is the Scosche Rhythm+ (and thousands of you have joined me).  And that too is still very solid with dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart.

Of course, that sensor is a wee bit larger (ok, a lot larger) than this and certainly far easier to accidentally turn on than the OH1.  Also, it doesn’t store any data like the OH1 does either.  So you’ll want to kinda decide what things you value the most.  Pricing wise, they’re both $79.

With that – thanks for reading! Feel free to drop any questions down below.

Side note: The OH1 is slated to ship later this month.  It’s available for pre-order now, and the usual DCR Reader 10% coupon code savings (DCR10BTF) with Clever Training is good here.  Plus free US shipping and of course making yourself awesome supporting the site.  Alternatively, you can order it on Amazon now too.

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152 Comments

  1. Thomas

    That’s an exciting little piece. I’ve been hoping that Scosche would update their model, so it’s great to see competition. My main concern is battery life. Could you indicate what Polar claims or what you have seen during the hands-on?

    • Polar is claiming 12 hours. I can say I wore it for 5-6 hours on a ride a few days ago, and it lasted the entire time. I don’t know what the start/end times were though. But, at least it gets that much. ;)

    • Thomas

      Well, that’s quite a bit more than the Scosche and enough for those rare, but existing really long days. Thanks for the info. Looking forward to the full review.

  2. John L

    Have you checked out the Moov HR? – they built one that measures HR from the temple under a headband – $99 – came out last February. Maybe a better comparison then the straps or bracelets?

    • Brad Davis

      I have both Moov devices (the Sweat and the motion capture one). I tried comparing the Moov Sweat (headband one you mentioned) with the heart rate monitoring from my Garmin 235 and my Garmin 520 + chest strap and came away unimpressed. The Garmin 235 Optical HR and 520 w/ chest strap where much more consistent with each other than the Moov Sweat was. If there is any interest, I can do it again and save the .FIT files from all three and upload them somewhere. I can even do it for a bunch of rides over the course of a week.

      The Moov Sweat seems to be very sensitive to getting it positioned just right, the sensor itself doesn’t attach really well to the headband and it seems to slip a bunch when I’ve used it. I originally intended to use the Moov motion capture + sweat to do the sort of individualized work outs + interval training stuff, but I never got around to it.

  3. Henrik

    Wonder how transferring the data to the polar flow app works when used in combination with the V800? Will those be two separate exercises etc?

    • Robert

      It says in the review, it’ll store workouts if no watch or phone is present, otherwise it’ll work as a traditional hr. Ie it’ll then let the V800 handle the recording = 1 workout

    • Henrik Engert

      I was not sure how it would work when used in the swimming pool. Would it then combine the hear rate with the exercise from the V800…

  4. Tommy

    Is the battery life extended beyond 12 hours when in storage only mode? I assume the transmission mode is more of a power draw.

  5. Samuel

    You may want to replace ‘worth’ by ‘work’

  6. “…and plopped it on an armband that can be worth with no watch at all. Or phone. Or anything really. It can both transmit your HR via Bluetooth Smart, as well as…”
    …for one moment my heart got stuck. Thought ‘ANT+’ will it be the next one. Too bad, not. I guess hell will freeze earlier, than BLE/ANT+ will be part of Polar devices?

    • Adrian Smales

      ANT/ANT+ are proprietary standards owned by Garmin, and as such OEM’s and other equipment manufacturers have to pay a licensing fee to use it. Bluetooth is an open standard. Technically, they are both low power wireless interfaces ANT has a richer feature set as it supports meshed networks (master/slave). The new BT 5 will start to close the gap and provide similar features. It’s rare to find devices that support both, simply because of the additional cost involved with ANT, if you are not a “GPS” based company…

    • Actually, none of what you wrote is true.

      1) The ANT+ fee is rolled into the cost of the chipset
      2) BT also charges a fee too, but that’s actually incredibly high for certification, which unlike ANT+ is why nobody does it. In turn, it’s likely why we see so many issues with BLE compatibility in certain sensor types – namely power meters.
      3) BT5 may eventually do that, but we’re almost a year on and yet nobody has adopted it within sports tech. Not that it mattered, but BT4.1 also had multi-mode capabilities, and nobody used that either (and it’s been 3+ years there)
      4) Again, it’s actually not rare to find companies that use both. Everyone in the fitness sensor space does dual these days, heck, even Garmin now.
      5) If you look at Noridc chips for example, the hardware is the same and you have three choices at a software level to unlock: A) BLE only, B) ANT+ only, C) Dual.

      Polar is free to choose as it wants, but from a pure business standpoint they’re losing money here not doing dual. Same with Suunto. One only need to look any review’s comments for any of those products to see people saying it, especially cyclists with more expensive accessories. Garmin was less impacted previously being ANT+ because all sensors were ANT+. There’s no upside to any company doing single-protocal anymore, and even Garmin knows this (hence why all their 2017 devices now accept it).

      Anyway…

    • @Adrian Smales: There are many devices out there which support both. Good (=user friendly) gear companies integrate both protocols, bad companies only one. Products with support for only protocol will have more and more hard times and not be sold that much.

    • Steven Knapp

      My interest in this went to zero when I saw no ANT+…

    • Tobias

      nobody else except Garmin supports today in watch area ANT any longer, not Polar, Suunto nor TomTom, everybody (understandable and foreseeable) turned away since Garmin acquired Dynastream in 2006 and ruin a superior protocol specificly designed for sport sensors (compare to todays BTLE) with this proprietary move, as Garmin turns in 2017 now a also to BTLE in sensors compatibility it’s a proof that they finally realized this by themselves …

    • You know that when Garmin acquired Dynastream is when companies started using them, right? So the influx to ANT+ actually occurred after Garmin. I probably don’t need to point out that Garmin outsells those companies by a factor of about 50:1 or greater. Like it or not, Polar is losing sales by not adding ANT+. Simple fact. When you have less protocol support you’ve got less potential audience.

      People that have an Edge cycling device, or any Garmin pre-2017 would/should have likely considered it, but can’t.

      Also – I’m not really aware of anyone in the sports industry that believes BLE for sport sensors is actually superior technologically, except perhaps in some areas of channel hopping. But that’s it. Talk to any dev in this industry and they’ll say the same. There is of course one big reason people use BLE: iOS. That’s it.

    • Gary Valan

      @ Ray Maker

      I know a a bit about royalties, having worked at two technology licensing company. It does not really matter if all these other companies have to go to Garmin for a license and pay them a royalty or if they buy the semiconductors and the royalties are part of the cost of the chips, These companies compete fiercely and they hate the notion of handing over money to their competition.

      Having said this I don’t know the particulars of this situation. Garmin may have “from the goodness of their heart” made it a royalty free license…though I doubt it.

      In the case of Bluetooth there could be a lot of licensors in the pool or some of them would have stayed away from the general pool hoping to make more money on their own etc. In any case not one company tends to make a lot of money.

      Gary Valan

    • “These companies compete fiercely and they hate the notion of handing over money to their competition.”

      Sure. But ultimately virtually every major competitor in the space does so, because they know their ROI is massive.

      For example, every power meter company is a member of ANT+, and competes with Garmin on power meters. Yet they do ANT+ because it’s widely adopted.

      This is really a stick in the mud sort of thing with Polar, partially because they led the BT SIG on sports. But it’s costing them significant sales, especially in the cycling and triathlon markets, where they’ve all but lost any appreciable market share.

  7. Till

    How does the OH1 handle the time/date of the workout when in storage mode? Do you have to manually set the time for the workout or has the OH1 an internal clock set gets synced with the Flow App and works as long as the OH1 does not have an empty battery?

    • Janne

      This thing has clock inside, which updates its time each time you synchronize it with your mobile or PC. Thus if you enabled the standalone recording by taking the device in use with cable or bluetooth it will have time set and ready for recording a workout.

    • Janne

      And yes, as long as you don’t completely run out of juice for the device battery the date and time will remain ok (and in case you do run out, getting it back on track just requires synchronization with your mobile).

  8. mack

    You could use the swift app to connect via bluetooth to the swift app (of course that cuts down on the ability to record at the same time via a polar watch), so that is not a real deal breaker.

    I usually use a USB extention cable in a situation like this, to make sure that I can use all of my USB ports.

    Hopefully they will get it working for swimming, it seems that with the record ability you should be able to match it up later with a swim session.

  9. Crispin E.

    Is there any indication from Polar that the OH1 might be capable of reliably recording HRV? (now or future with software tweaked)

    • the5krunner

      Boris’s earlier comment about ‘hell freezing over’ might be applied judisciously.
      I think we need to look at HRV in 2 stages: at rest and then whilst working out.

      The former is possible now from other vendors with ohr. I would imagine that this unit could do it (but don’t know).
      whilst the oh1 will be aimed at the gym crowd, a neat move would be to target it a ‘proper’ athletes looking at overnight/hrv recovery info (if it can do it)

      hrv in workouts, I suspect, will be the domain of the chest strap for a while

    • Adrian Smales

      I would question the accuracy of any OHR that provides R-R values… a cardiologist looks at the PQRS complex from the full Captured waveform… the chest strap devices are optimised to look electrically for the “R” peak and provide the msec time intervals… This is very different when you are using blood volume to calculate it. Currently, Motion artefacts render OHR almost useless to accurately determine the millisecond peaks for blood flow to provide R-R interval for HRV logging…

    • Yeah, I’ve gotta dig back up some RR/HRV stuff I did. I know I published it before somewhere – maybe in the presentation I did at the Connect IQ Summit.

      But in a nutshell, even looking at HRV/RR values with a multitude of chest straps at once – they all varied significantly. Hence why in general I think HRV/RR is fine for trending, but I significantly question the validity of many of the measurements as is even on chest straps.

      As others noted, HRV/RR in optical is fine at rest today (again, in terms of resting).

    • the5krunner

      @Adrian. yes me too.

      but look at this: link to hrv4training.com where Marco looked at PPG to extract RR intervals. apparently meaningful from a smartphone camera sensor. whoop claim to record nightime hrv (excuse the self promotion link to the5krunner.com) and pulseon’s latest unit claims HRV (link to pulseon.com). Pulseon were one of the first commercially available ohr devices and even when Marco Altini tested that first one he said it wasn’t too bad.

    • At rest HRV seems like it could provide very useful data from a tracking device that is always on. They already are able to detect end of sleep so why not automatically capture HRV right before end of sleep? That way you can get the data ithlete and hrv4training do manually and attempt to track actual recovery/overtraining.

    • the5krunner

      yep. EMFIT does that (albeit with a different collection mechanism). It’s actually what you suggest but MORE as well. eg I’ve looked at my trending through-the-night hrv for more than a year. v interesting. the change from “going to sleep hrv” to “waking up hev” essentially probably amounts to a quantified ‘recovery’. EMFIT do some integration/maths on that. lots of other metrics too.
      also silly things like how long it takes for a glass of wine to wear off whilst asleep and for the adaptation to start again and that several glasses of wine equals ZERO adaptation (according to hrv) this image gives a flavour of only part of their dashboard link to i0.wp.com there are drill down to each night and longer term trends.

      but the prob with emfit is that it is not really transportable and i’m not entirely convinced on the accuracy all of the time. that’s where the OH1 could come in. I might wear that all night but not a chest strap. I guess the further problem would be that people would not wear the oh1 all night every night, so emfit still wins there (under the mattress)

  10. Wyatt

    Would be curious to see how it compares to the 935’s OHR sensor when you do the full review, if possible. My 935 was great when I first got it, then Garmin messed with the firmware from the sounds of it which caused issues even at steady state effort, but it seems to be working well again for at least the steady stuff (was a little wonky during/after some sprints the other day). It’s really nice when I can skip the chest strap, but still seems like the safest bet when doing intervals to get the most accurate measurements, since affects all the training stress metrics on the device now.

    • Minor FYI: If your FR935 optical went all wonky a few weeks ago (like mine), they released a beta firmware update to fix the issue. Something to do with Connect IQ fields causing the failure. Fixed me right up again.

    • Wyatt

      Yeah, mine went really wonky around that time – – thought I maybe screwed it up after having it on at a hot springs pool (which wasn’t that hot), or all the minerals I apparently absorbed was throwing it off lol. Seems as though it was just a coincidence though, which was a relief ☺️.

    • Aha! I need to check that out – I was wondering why I was getting some wonkiness

  11. gingerneil

    Looking forward to a comparison with the scosche – additional battery, more leds, and software upgradable. Could tempt me away…

    • Yeah, plan to do direct Scosche comparisons. Just had forgotten the charging cable…

    • Matt

      Hey Ray,

      Please do this soon. My Scosche has been a nightmare lately with accuracy. It’s reading 180s+ at 5:40/k for me and just been terrible for my recent runs. (I’ve done the thorough cleaning, etc. and it’s not temp related since it’s been 20C here in Germany). For reference, I’m a 1:22 halfer so 5:40/k is definitely not hard.

      I’ve had the Scosche for just under and year and may just end up buying this if Scosche won’t replace it.

    • One thing to double-check is if one of the lights on the Scosche has died, which can lead to what you’re describing. Also, try just reaching out to Scocshe – they’ll usually happily replace the unit.

    • Matt

      Unfortunately not. All 3 are working fine. I have reached out to them, but it will leave me HRM-less for a few weeks in the middle of training, which is HRM-based.

    • gingerneil

      Sounds like you’re hrm-less already! If you can’t trust it, you surely can’t train using it?

    • Matt

      True. It’s useless to me to right now.

    • Matt

      Well, Scosche has thoroughly let me down. They just stopped replying to me a month ago. I put in another support request and got no response. Sent a couple of emails again to the initial customer service representative and still nothing.

  12. Matt

    How does it compare with the Scosche for coping with muscle flex? I’m lean (arms like Froomey), wear my Rhythm+ on my upper arm, and if I climb and/or sprint on the bike it loses the plot (reads way low). Never had a problem in running, only the bike when I’m pulling the bars.

    Also, can you fit it under a wetsuit? (As in get the wetsuit on and off.) I don’t think I’d have a chance with the Scosche. I put it on in T1, but it usually struggles to find my HR for a minute when my HR is already high.

  13. Paul

    I’ve been looking for an alternative to Garmin’s HR straps as I have found them to fail with 100% consistency (I’ve had about 5 of them) at about the 3 month mark where they start to throw up rubbish data for longer and longer periods at the start of a ride until the whole ride is rubbish. Do you think that a chest strap still a better bet than an arm strap like the OH1 in terms of wearability?

    • Dan

      I’ve had probably with Garmin bands — mind you, build enough of anything and someone will have problems. Anyway, I just switched to a Tickr. Optical HR just isn’t accurate enough or reliability enough for me personally.

    • David

      So far so good. The reason why I bought this device is specifically because my Garmin F5x was incapable of dealing with arm flex. When doing push-ups during a strenuous aerobic routine (“Insanity Workout Program”), my HR would register in the 60-80 BPM range, when it was probably upwards of 130 BPM. The OH1, on the other hand, doesn’t show any appreciable dips when arm flexing. The one caveat is that I do wear the device on my upper arm (infinitely more comfortable, IMHO).

      Durability “Test”: I should note that yesterday, when attempting to remove the unit from the wristband, the unit popped out, hit the hardwood floor, bounced several times, and (of course) fell down the laundry shoot–we don’t use this, so it is merely a simple opening to the basement–where it promptly went into a free fall until it hit and bounced several times off the concrete floor of the basement. Fortunately, still working. Takes a licking and keeps on ticking!

  14. giorgitd

    Typos?

    …upper arm works *best*…?

    *One* oddity…?

  15. Andrew

    Is the battery percentage on the app or does it have a warning light at a low percentage?

  16. Armando Serafini

    I’ve been using the Scosche Rhythm+ with my original Vivoactive for a number of years due to your usual thorough review and personal recommendation. I would like to replace the worn Velcro strap. I know replacement straps are available to order. However, I was wondering if you or one of your readers has ever thought of the possibility of retrofitting the Scosche with a buckle type of watch band? It would seem such a set up would be more secure and convenient.

    • gingerneil

      I always found the velcro very poor… So bought some 1″ wide elastic from ebay, looped it through in exactly the same way that the velcro strap goes, and sewed the ends. Now just slips on and off very very easily and quickly and is held with the right tension on the elastic to give a good fit. Cost about £2!

    • Armando Serafini

      Good idea! Thanks for the tip.

  17. Cyrille

    Nice review, as usual, it always anticipates all the questions I am asking while reading.
    Keep going.
    Fully agree with the mistake not to include ANT+
    Just can’t get the jist why Polar acts this way.

  18. John Lutwyche

    Sorry to be impatient but when do you expect to finish the Favero Assioma review/pedal PM comparison? Been waiting for your wisdom :)

  19. Krob

    It might actually also be interesting to see the difference in data with the M430, if its indeed the same sensor, but worn on the wrist.

  20. Dan W

    Hi Ray, just a heads-up, that British £1 coin of yours is the old design and will stop being legal tender on October 15th :-)

  21. Dan

    “Still, for anyone with a Garmin prior to this year, or older Suunto units…” Didn’t the Ambit3 go Bluetooth-only in 2014?

    I doubt think being Bluetooth-only is any kind of problem in 2017.

  22. Dan

    Is there a way to fake the HR sample rates so that the graph legend works better? I went to look at the lag of the Vivosport Optical, except it’s hard to see because the sample rate is different, so as you scrub across the graph it disappears and reappears in the legend.

    • Yeah, it’s annoying. But no, not method to fake it, and honestly we’ve long made a decision on the analyzer to purposefully only display what’s in the files. Otherwise you get into a slippery slope of deciding what fake data to create/implement.

    • dan

      Well, the issue isn’t really the data, but the way it’s displayed. If the legend didn’t drop out the name when there wasn’t a sample it wouldn’t be an issue.

  23. Peter Vanleeuwen

    Just a quick comment. Not sure when you got your Scosche Rhythm+ production unit, but I got mine last year and to turn it on and off is no longer even remotely accidental. It’s a hard press and hold for 3s to turn on and the same to turn off. I have multiple time accidentally NOT turned the unit off and only realized until I took it off and flashed green into my eyes. My only qualm is that he led indicator is not large enough especially in daylight.

    • Peter Vanleeuwen

      PS. I am happy to say I joined the Rhythm+ club on your recommendation.

    • Robert

      I’ve got two, one you only have to look at to turn it on, the other needs a good 3 second press. They can update the firmware of the early units but I can’t be arsed to send it back to America

  24. Matthew

    Can you include durability and washability of the strap as part of your in depth review. For me that is the weakest part of the Scosche.
    Thanks

    • Robert

      The Velcro tabs are the weak point, wait till there about to fall of and dab them with quikbond, been solid now for well over a year

  25. Christian Köhler

    Why would you prefer this over a traditional belt (which still is the most reliable option especially for higher intensities and goes for years on a coin cell)?
    It is an external sensor for your watch/phone/bike computer anyway.

    Yes, you can use it without a watch and analyze data after the fact. But who would do that (no life feedback) and why?

    • I actually think it’s a bit of a misnomer that chest straps are always more accurate. Because for decades we’ve got plenty of evidence showing certain situations/peoples that aren’t more accurate. Very classic things like fall weather (dry, cool), or high speed situations (cycling down hills). Same goes for far too sweaty (hot summer/humid day), with pooling of liquid in the strap. All too often this is forgotten. Heck, you even see this in the tests above.

      Which isn’t to say optical is perfect either. Plenty of ways to introduce failures there too. But there is a reality that a lot of people find HR straps uncomfortable, especially women.

      As for not using another device during a workout, again, plenty of reasons. For example – soccer (aka football) often doesn’t permit watches being worn, as do some other sports. So this allows for recording the HR data during the game and downloading afterwards. Other athletes may want to have the HR data, but not see it during a race, again, a common request.

  26. Adam R

    Any idea if this would work well for weight training, or is this plagued by the same issues as the other wrist-based OHR monitors?

    • I’ve done some ‘general’ weights with the OH1. In my experience the OH1 was pretty good, actually a tad better than the Scosche **FOR WEIGHTS**.
      The upper arm wearing position seems to be what makes the difference.

      If you are going to spend an hour doing bicep curls then maybe those doing more serious weights might have a different experience.

  27. Scott

    I’m recently on my 3rd 910XT (Garmin has replaced it twice due to the altimeter breaking). Would have been great if this supported ANT+. If you have a newer BT compatible wrist-worn device, isn’t it likely to have an optical HR sensor built in anyway?

  28. Riazm

    Any chance of a review of the lifetrak zoom hr? It’s another stand alone optical tracker but it’s also meant to do ant+, hrv, step tracking etc?

  29. Joey

    i actually decided to buy Polar H10 and then they announced the release of OH1. Now i am torn between this two as this will be my first fitness tracking device. I would appreciate if you could let me know how’s the accuracy of OH1 compare to Polar H10 / H7.

  30. Charles Morgan

    I agree that the omission of ANT+ is a mistake. I have the Polar H10 chest strap. It works great for both Bluetooth and ANT+. I have multiple exercise machines and thus need both protocols because each machine has its own needs. For example, my Concept2 rower uses Bluetooth and my VersaClimber uses ANT+.

    I would like being able to wear an arm strap instead of a chest strap but I won’t get this new Polar because of its limitations.

  31. Alexander Trinh

    link to the-gadgeteer.com

    hey Riazm,

    do you mind to check this review out?
    This thing look better than Polar OH1 but a bit bulky I think.

  32. Denis

    hello ray This polar sensor is a valid alternative to be used in bike exits instead of the classic cardio bands that put me to the chest? is the Scysche RHYTHM + more accurate than this polar?

  33. Brett

    Looks interesting, but as I have an original Fenix 3 it looks like I will have to go to a Sochse as a replacement HR strap in lieu of the garmin.

    Ray, do you know if there are any plans to make the Sochse smaller?

  34. Benoit

    Hi Ray,

    Thanks a lot for this hands-on. Once again, it’s very interesting :-)

    I’ve been using classical HR strap with my Suunto watches for 5 years. With the Ambit2, the ANT+ HR strap was nearly flawless in my own experience… but since I’ve moved to the Spartan Ultra model (I think I was one of the very early first users), it has been way less reliable.

    I’ve bought a Scorsche optical sensor for my wife and was considering to use it as well… in your experience, what is the most convenient way to wear it? Wrist? Thanks a lot for the tips!

    PS: For the record… about the HR issues with Suunto. Even now that the Firmware is much more stable (at last, one year my god… that was so long!), I still have a lot of issues with the 2 Bluetooth HR Strap I have (they sent me a new one a couple of months ago) like this weekend… I was running a 33K trail race in super rainy conditions. The watches lost the HR signal several times, the measures were sometimes accurate sometimes completely not (one seconde I was at 220bpm and then at 119bpm)… That’s really weird because I have the issue with both straps. did you experience something similar at some point?

    thanks a lot!

    • Marius Eggerud

      I have the same issues with my SSU and my two Suunto HR monitors (Suunto sent me a new one). I have been in contact with Suunto in Norway. According to them and what the developers in Finland told them, this is an known bug that will be solved in the October release.

  35. Cristian

    Can you please let me know if the HeartTouch feature works with this?
    HeartTouch = Touching the Polar chest sensor with the Polar watch to see the time of the day.
    (link to support.polar.com)

    Thank you!

  36. Simon Boycott

    Will the OH1 be usable underwater? If so do you anticipate it having the same accuracy issues as other optical HR sensors underwater?

  37. Dirk

    Thanks for the first look at this interesting oHR-Strap.

    One question to all: Does anybody know if there is an app for iOS that mirrors bluetooth HR signals, so that it would be possible to connect the OH1 to the iPhone AND to send the reflected data to a V800 by the iPhone? So that the V800 things that the iPhone is a HR-strap. Or is this impossible at all?

  38. Ingo

    I never understood why Scosche never released an updated version of the Rhythm+ with increased battery life. They would be selling boatloads. Can’t be rocket science to go from 8h to 12h, can it? And my Rhythm+ even goes 9.5h so the gap isn’t really too big – but secretly I’d hope for something with16+h because 12h just gets you through a gnarly mountainous 50 miler or maybe a road 100k and that’s just where ultra running begins…

  39. Pedro

    I have the meo link, band h7 and I was thinking about buying polar0H1.
    I would like to know the behavior of the new model in crossfit training and speed 100m, 50m.
    As this polar to use in the arm may be more accurate the readings than my link that in the crossfit drills and speed of the big mistakes.
    Where do you advise to use the polar on the wrist or on the arm?
    thank you

  40. John

    Received the oh1 today, it doesn’t work with any of the Polar v800’s fitness tests. Although the sensor pairs and works in every other mode get the message “couldn’t find heart rate when selecting either test from the wrist unit. I refuse point blank to purchase this functionality from the polar beat app when I’ve spent £350 on the v800 and oh1 (plus I’ve lost my hr strap) :(

    • So I dug into some documents I had from Polar on this, here’s what is says there:

      “Fitness test can be done with limited devices. For start this is implemented in Beat app. M460 will follow.”

      My guess is because they (foolishly in my opinion) locked the Fitness test down to the Polar branded HR straps years ago, and then this probably has a slightly different model number they didn’t envision, so now it breaks that. I’ll ask what the plan is for the V800.

  41. Costi B

    Hi Ray, using this section to ask about link to elitehrv.com
    I’m using their app since 2 years with a Polar H7 and it’s been great.
    Do you have any knowledge/info about their new product?

  42. Stephan

    Can anybody confirm if the OH1 work’s with Suunto’s Spartan Ultra ?

    Thanks,
    S.

  43. Thomas Sneddon

    Received my OH1 today, some comparisons with Scosche show very similar HR results, however I am very disappointed that they did not put more effort into the strap. It’s the standard cheap elastic and isn’t wide enough to spread the load. When I got to the end of my circuits training I realised it had managed to flip itself over during the class! Presumably swimming will have similar results when pushing off.
    It’s a shame that a technologically advanced piece of kit can be let down by practicalities, hopefully they come up with a premium alternative solution or I’ll be attempting a DIY.

  44. Joe

    I’ve purchased OH1 and so far I have found it very under-whelming. Only performed two sessions, one on a bike where it took over 8 mins to find heart rate and once in a Battle Ropes session and it definitely didn’t cope with the movement of the arms. I’m a Polar fan too.

  45. Kevin H

    Now that it was released today…. we really could use your review of the OH-1 for real time broadcasting HR data WHILE swimming (vs the BT,H7,H10, and original non BT T31 straps and H2 from Polar. ) I want to be able to see HR while working out- which is why the Garmins are useless.

    Currently still using the RCX5 and T31 for consistency, life, but not cheap with non replaceable batteries and still not great fit.

  46. Alan

    Does this work while swimming?

  47. Walt Milligan

    Based on Ray’s review I bought the Polar M430 Watch/HR/GPS 2 months ago. I have been very happy with this watch. I had been a polar chest strap dude for about a decade before that.

    I just bought the OH1 so I could record my ice hockey goalie workouts, ’cause the watches really suck underneath my chest/arm protector and they get re-set and life is not worth living . . . . or not! Back in the old days I had the chest strap and a watch.

    Today I strapped on my M430 on my wrist and the OH1 on my forearm, and I cut the grass for an hour.

    Results:

    M430: HRmax/123 HRavg/112 HRmin/93 Cal/539
    OH1: HRmax/123 HRavg/112 HRmin/93 Cal/531

    Can you say “spectacular”?

    • Walt Milligan

      By the way, I did not pair the M430 with the OH1. I ran the OH1 as a standalone data recorder. It does look a little sketchy that the numbers are so close.

      The sensors are the same. The watch is on the scrawny side of my wrist, the OH1 is on the meaty inside high part of my forearm.

      I gotta’ say, Polar scores on both of these.

    • Walt Milligan

      Also, in response to an earlier comment:

      When I synced the M430 and the OH1, they recorded the same
      “workout”. Both showed up in Polar Flow with the proper start times and finish times. So the data shows up and you can decide what to do with it.

      Again, Polar scores.

  48. Rui

    Just bought myself an Oh1. It syncs ok to polar Beat but that’s not my choice app. I like to run with my phone using Runkeeper /strava. Both apps can’t use the oh1 has a heart rate monitor unlike the wahoo. Anyone has the same experience? Tried this on both an Android phone and iPhone. Polar Beat app detects the oh1 so it is not a phone hardware problem.

  49. DT

    Ray, I do 70.3s normally and I cannot find a HR monitor that does not annoy me (chest straps) or falls (scosche, which I love for training). Do you think this one has a strap that will hold it for a 70.3? I wear a Garmin Chronos by the way. Thank you for all you help us!!!

  50. Briggsy

    So I bought this yesterday and did a combo hiit with strength training session and I love this device. Unobtrusive and accurate , if it had ant+ capability I’m pretty sure I’d never use anything else.
    I’m obliged to be in polar ecosystem, as my gym has classes issuing polar club (oh1 works with). I prefer Garmin hardware- I just don’t think the current polar lineup compares. Had the 235 for two years and likely will switch to va3 for golf addition. I’ve used apple health to allow the two systems play nice. Odd to be stuck in two ecosystems- but oh well.

    • Briggsy

      Went for a bike ride with the oh1, it was flawless…… Really impressed with this.

    • Briggsy

      Two more workouts with oh1- both at my gym and using polar club. What a hot mess, didn’t seem like the same device. A spin class and boxing, and it was useless. Has to be something to do with polar club because why would an outdoor ride be flawless and spin be 180 degrees different. Very disappointed.

  51. David Ruskin

    The one big problem I have with the OH1 has nothing to do with the sensor, itself, but rather with the strap. You see, the strap is not waterproof, nor is it even water resistant. It absorbs human persperation like a sponge, and it, hence, absorbs everything associated with perspiration, namely odor. I am not a smelly guy, by any stretch, yet, wearing the band on my upper arm (i.e., close to my armpit) resulted, the very first time I wore it, mind you, in a persistent noxious BO smell emanating from the OH1. End result is I have to walk the arm band daily or suffer the consequences. A water-resistant band would have been far preferable.

    All that being said, as far as heartrate monitoring goes, works extremely well.

    • DT

      Do you think the strap will hold it in an Ironman? The scosche doesn’t specially in the swim.

    • There’s no doubts it’ll hold during an Ironman, whether or not it holds facing the right direction is really the issue. Still, since the vast majority of Ironman events (except Kona) are wetsuit legal, once you do get it on properly, then it’s going to stick. At T1 you’d want to validate it’s still facing the right way (since the band can roll over on itself easily). But from that point forward you’d be good.

    • DT

      Great. I appreciate all you do!!

  52. Michael

    Lookig forward to hear about the swim results :-)

    • @dcr’s earlier comment about the wetsuit holds.
      I’ve done pool and ows (admittedly not a tri) and the accuracy is very good. I would tentatively say BEST ever optical hr in water.
      I thought that pool swimming would flip the band. I had a real deliberate go at doing that the other week and failed ie it didn’t flip. I ‘m a reasonable swimmer so perhaps some better and more powerful swimmers out there WILLmake it flip.
      Personally I wouldn’t use it under a wetsuit for fear of ripping the suit – I HAVE used the oh1 under a wetsuit and DIDN’T rip it..i just worry about these things

      the oh1 sensor unit is excellent.

      the band is the weakness (for reasons outlined above and elsewhere) as it was with the scosche (which can’t cache for swim). but the scosche accepts a 1″ wide strap and so is quite open to ‘customisation’, indeed I’ve heard of people doing their own thing with its band. the oh1 is only about 3mm narrower BUT the cradle it sits in will only allow a relatively thin strap whereas the scosche will allow a VERY thick one (say 2-3mm THICK). so making your own OH1 strap may be trickier

      there maybe an opportunity for @PolarMike and co to make a slightly wider sports strap (see @smellyDave comment above…sorry dave just joking ;-) ) both to adhere better and to reduce bacteria.

      is there a sufficient market for that?
      the jury is out.

    • Adam

      But how about recording the HR data for the swimming session? Does it work with V800 and show the data as one workout in Polar Flow? I’d like to use it instead of the H7 which works very well but only under a swimsuit or trisuit so it does not flip.

    • ade

      HI

      Where did you place the OH1 to get best results for swimming? I am currently testing it with an elite program and getting very sketchy results ….. often HR just doesn’t record. Not sure if think amount of water is disrupting the sensor??

      Any help greatly appreciated!

  53. Pedro

    top top, works on all sports with certain medications,
    I use on the top of the arm just below the shoulder of the arm top.

  54. Christine Elliott

    I have a Garmin Forerunner 220 which uses Bluetooth Smart to pair with my phone so why can’t it use that to pair with the OH1? Confused!

    • garmin did not design the 230 that way.
      the 230 is only compatible with ANT+ sensors (unlike newer, high-end Garmins)
      maybe it has the hardware to support such a BLE connection but it won’t ever work and pair with a BLE
      sensor.

  55. DT

    Ray,

    I bought the OH1 from CT. I have a Garmin Chronos and I can not pair it to save my life! Any tips? I have other HR monitor pairing perfectly with the Chronos but not the OH1. Thank you for your help.

  56. Gary Valan

    I don’t remember if I read in this website or another tech site that the OH1 does not give accurate readings on darker skin and Polar was going to fix it in a software update. Anybody here has real-time experience with such a problem or heard about it?

  57. gingerneil

    Apologies if I have missed this in the comments…. Its getting cold in the UK now, and my Scosche often picks up cadence in the first mile before I warmed up and the blood is pumping. Is the OH1 any better in these conditions, or does it suffer the same ?

  58. Hi Ray,
    Just wondered whether you have any info on pairing this with an Apple Watch (2nd gen) as I’m not 100% sure that my OH1 is connected to my watch? There’s no obvious info in the instructions about putting it in a paring mode.
    In the watch’s bluetooth settings I ‘health devices’ appears to have paired with something, but unlike my headphones which appear with their name, there’s no specific info telling me what it’s paired to. I’m therefore not sure, when I view the hrm app, whether the watch is using it’s own sensor or the OH1 to measure my heart rate.
    I was hoping to use with with my trust Fenix3, but only realised it wasn’t ant+ after i’d bought it and then hunted out this mini review… uff.

  59. Steven Leonard

    I tested out my OH1 (upper left arm) last night to compare it to my usual Fitbit Charge 2. It was a usual fitness circuit with a wide range of exercises spread across many stations during the class.

    The OH1 was in standalone mode and the Fitbit was run as per usual on my left wrist. Session lasted 58 minutes long with both devices started and stopped within seconds of each other.

    The Fitbit reported 443 calories burned and the Polar reported 665 calories burned. Both Fitbit and Polar have my age, gender, weight and height set correctly.

    I expected to see some difference, but over 200 calories an hour difference seems a bit excessive.

    The polar did record a higher heart rate than the Fitbit in terms of max heart rate as well as average heart rate and was obviously higher up on the arm than the Fitbit device.

    Would that alone account for such a big difference or is there more to it than that?

    • Pedro

      by experience, the result of oh1 must be the right one, in the wrist the heart rate is rarely and surely.
      Exercises in circuits too much movement in the wrong pulse frequency.

    • Steven Leonard

      Just completed another test…. This time at rest.

      Ran the Charge 2 and OH1 together again while relaxing at home for an hour.

      Average heart rate was within 1bpm of each other with fitbit recording a higher peak by about 10bpm. Fitbit calorie burn was 78 while polar gave a result of 92

    • Calorie calculations is mostly a dark art by mostly people from Finland. It’s a very small circle of people, not unlike a small town. Everyone knows everyone, and everyone has usually worked with everyone at some point. That’s why when you look at Garmin/Polar/Suunto – those numbers tend to be very close (when leveraging HR).

      Where things get messy is when the underlying HR falls apart. So while you can end up with semi-similar average HR numbers, if the fluctuations aren’t accounted for – that can definitely impact calorie calcs.

    • Steven Leonard

      I got the OH1 for use when I can’t wear the fitbit, but now I’m questioning the accuracy and wondering if the truth lies in the middle or more to one side.

      I would think the OH1 should be closer to the truth since it is placed higher up (inside bicep) and the activities I do tend to involve rapid movements… But I didn’t expect this much of a difference

    • If I was gambling, I’d happily wager a lot of money the OH1 is right and the Fitbit is wrong.

    • Steven Leonard

      Guess that means I’m burning more than I thought all this time and I should be eating even more (when I got the fitbit I figured out I was about 20% under fed just for existing).

      At least I now have a sensor I can use in combat sports and other situations where I risk breaking the fitbit.

      Since most watches are running focused and the new vivoactive 3 retails for more than I want to spend out here, I’m going to have to stick with the fitbit activity tracker.

      I just wish they could talk to a proper sensor and would play nice in terms of data sync

    • Steven Leonard

      Had the chance for a nice comparative last night and the Polar is definitely on the mark and the Fitbit is useless for the type of activities I do.

      The hour consisted of 8 sets with breaks, but sets 3+4 and 7+8 were combined into one serving. The Polar graph clearly shows all sets and breaks and you can see the longer sets compared to the single serving one. The Fitbit is totally off the mark and the heart rate plot basically shows nothing.

      With the exception of the (extremely disappointing) strap, I am very happy with the polar device as a stand alone offline recorder.

  60. Guido Del Giudice

    Will the OH1 pair with an iPhone 6 and work with the Cyclemeter app?

  61. alexander

    hello great review
    i would like to know if we can pair the polar oh1 with suunto spartan ultra and ambit 3 vertical
    best regards
    alex