JUMP TO:

BUY NOW:

  • Amazon.com
  • Clever Training

Polar Vantage M Multisport GPS Watch In-Depth Review

Polar-Vantage-M-Review

It’s been nearly five months since Polar first announced the Vantage series watches, including the Vantage M and Vantage V.  You probably saw my Vantage V review a couple months back. Since then I’ve transitioned to using the less expensive sibling, the Vantage M for the past 2.5 months. Every run, ride, swim, and 24×7 as well. Lots and lots of time – all in the pursuit of this review (and justification for eating more cookies too of course).

The Vantage M is priced significantly lower than the Vantage V – $279 versus $499, making it potentially far more compelling. But it also lacks some of the fancier Vantage V features – such as a built-in running power meter, a barometric altimeter, and Polar’s Recovery Pro metrics. Still, at that price point the offering is compelling – and puts it up against Suunto’s Spartan Trainer Wrist HR. But can it compete on accuracy? And what about the other missing features? Well, I dive into that.

With that, note that I’ve primarily been using a media loaner from Polar of the Vantage M, though I’ve already gone out and got my own via normal retail channels. I’ll be sending back the media loaner one shortly to Polar, like I normally do. If you found this review useful, hit up the links at the end to support the site.

What’s new:

Polar-Vantage-M-Precision-Prime-Optical-Sensor

If you already know what’s new in the Vantage series, then you can likely skip this section. Whereas if you’re just walking up to the bar, then this is a good place to start understanding the unit.

I always like condensing everything down into a single bulleted section of newness. It helps you filter the cool stuff from the marketing fluff.  So let’s dive straight away into it. Fear not, down below in the ‘overview’ section I go through things in more detail too.  Note I’m looking at the ‘what’s new’ from the perspective primarily of the V800 (its sorta predecessor, it’s kinda more of a blend of the Polar M430 and V800).  Also, this list is specifically for the Vantage M:

– Addition of optical heart rate sensor (both for workouts and 24×7 HR), called Precision Prime
– Added electronic skin-contact sensor to validate a human is attached to watch
– Changed GPS chipset maker to that of Sony (same as what Suunto 9 uses)
– Changed max GPS-battery life to 30-hours at 1-second recording with optical HR too
– Training load metrics revamped
– Added both segmented real-time and post-processing of optical HR data to fix quirks (I’ll explain later)
– Made watch round, from rectangular shape previously
– Reduced weight of watch to 45g

The price is $279USD/EUR for the base models in orange, white, or black.

When it comes to the Vantage V, here’s the core differences to the Vantage M (things you won’t have in the Vantage M that are present in the Vantage V):

– No barometric altimeter
– No native running power, as it lacks a barometric altimeter (still works with 3rd party running power like Stryd though)
– GPS 1-second battery down to 30 hours instead of 40 hours (but seriously, that’s still incredible)
– Added swappable straps using industry standard quick release bands (the Vantage V doesn’t have this)
– Not a touch-screen, just buttons only
– No Recovery Pro metrics (but does have other training load metrics)
– Weight is a mere 45g instead of 66g for Vantage V
– Metal buttons/casing on Vantage V, versus plastic for Vantage M

But it’s not all bubbles and rainbows. The following features aren’t available on the Vantage V/M series (but were previously found on the predecessor Polar V800), but are slated to be re-added by the end of February 2019 through a handful of scheduled updates:

– Smartphone notifications (i.e. call/text notifications)
– Back to start navigation
– Route Guidance for waypoint navigation of downloaded routes (Vantage V only – not coming to Vantage M)

Meanwhile, the following features are slated to be added, but no timeline has been specified:

– Fitness test functionality
– Strava Segments

The following features also were on the V800, but aren’t on the Vantage series. There’s no specific/current plans to re-implement in the Vantage series:

– GoPro Action Cam Control
– Reduced GPS recording rate activities (i.e. beyond 40hrs of GPS time, the V800 also supported a reduced recording rate to 50hrs)
– No longer an option to use HR strap while swimming, only optical HR sensor [Older 5hz straps no longer supported]

Phew, got all that? Good, let’s get into things.

The Basics:

Polar-Vantage-M-Activity-Basics

The overall interface of the Vantage M is virtually identical to that of the Vantage V – except one key bit: There’s no touch screen. Both watches have buttons though that allow you to utilize the buttons for complete navigation. And honestly, I actually prefer non-touchscreen watches when it comes to sport and fitness (notable: the Vantage V actually disables the touch screen while in a workout).

On the side of the Vantage M are five buttons – two on the left and three on the right:

Polar-Vantage-M-Left-Buttons Polar-Vantage-M-Right-Buttons

One feature the Vantage M has though that the Vantage V lacks is swappable straps. You can either buy Polar’s straps, or in fact any compatible strap as well. I actually prefer the feel of the Vantage M for this very reason, as you can go in the direction of fabric straps too.  The orange is very Strava/Zwift-esque. I like it.

DSC_0366

Meanwhile, on the back of the unit is the optical HR sensor. It’s got an astounding 9 LED’s on it, including four sets of dual red/green LED’s and one extra solo green LED.  And actually, there’s an unused 10th orange LED. Polar says they might use it down the road, but their testing to date isn’t showing much of a benefit from enabling it (and thus, the battery impact that comes along with it).

Flipping the watch back over you’ve got the various watch face dashboards. The way it works is that the date/time is shown across all faces, but the data around the face rotates through a few different metrics. For example, there’s one with your current heart rate:

Polar-Vantage-M-HR-Watch-Face

Or, you can show one with your current activity status for the day. Or your latest workout. All of which are just accessed by pressing up/down.

Polar-Vantage-M-Activity-Watch-Face Polar-Vantage-M-Workout-Watch-Face

If you select any one of these by pressing the middle red button, then you’ll get more data about that metric, such as detailed heart rate data for the day by selecting the heart rate page:

Polar-Vantage-M-Heart-Rate-Stats

Or for daily activity, you can see that too. Being an activity tracker, it’ll track most of the metrics you’d expect. That includes steps, % against daily goal, calories, and ‘active time’.  Oddly however, you can’t see on the watch your distance walked per day or stairs – both common attributes found in inexpensive activity trackers.

Polar-Vantage-M-Activity-Dash-1 Polar-Vantage-M-Activity-Dash-2

You can see the distance metrics over on Polar Flow – desktop or mobile apps.

image

And here’s how it looks on the mobile app:

2019-02-01 14.33.01 2019-02-01 14.33.04

It’s here you can see your entire day from an activity standpoint, as well as any inactivity stamps. Though, in the last month I’ve somehow only managed to get a single – yes, just one – inactivity stamp. Mind you, as I sit here and type this very review I haven’t moved in nearly 90 minutes. Nor has it triggered on any of the 4 transatlantic/transcontinental flights I’ve taken with flight times in excess of 10 hours.

As part of this, you can enable continuous HR tracking. Polar leverages that massive block of optical HR sensors on the back of the unit to do that. Well, actually, they leverage a portion of them for continuous tracking, and the remainder for sport tracking:

DSC_5819

(Preemptive note: This is a final production unit, it’s simply that Polar generally will stamp all media loaner/etc devices with a variant of ‘Not for Sale’. I also have a regular retail unit that doesn’t have that wording, but just happened to do my photos all on this one.)

Note that you’ll need to enable the 24×7 continuous optical HR tracking in the menus, by default it’s off (to save battery life):

Polar-Vantage-M-Continous-HR

Once you’ve got it enabled you’ll see 24×7 HR data displayed in the app.

2019-02-01 14.42.31 2019-02-01 14.33.01

You can also take an instantaneous HR reading at any time within the watch via the main dashboard menus, as I showed up above.

Next, we’ve got sleep. The unit will automatically track your sleep, inclusive of activity during sleep, as well as the time you fell asleep and woke up. For the most part, it tends to get pretty close to spot-on for me. The wake-up times seem to be a bit more tied to when you get out of bed, rather than when you wake up. For example, this morning I was lying in bed on my phone for probably 10 minutes before I got out, and it reflected the bed departure time rather than the exact wake-up time.

2019-02-01 14.42.59 2019-02-01 14.43.06

For me though, it does tend to be pretty close nonetheless.  All of this is also visible on their online website as well via Polar Flow. On both the site and app you can also plot weekly chunks as well:

2019-02-01 14.43.10 2019-02-01 14.43.17

When it comes to your smartphone, as of present the Vantage M has a very limited relationship with it. Sorta like someone that’s only willing to go on a lunch-time coffee date. Today you can use Polar’s Flow smartphone app (Android/iOS) to sync with the Vantage series. You can also use it to perform firmware updates wirelessly via Bluetooth Smart. There is no known WiFi in the Vantage series. There is no smartphone notifications to your watch either (that’s coming in February according to Polar).

I’ve had slightly better luck with syncing on the Polar Vantage M than I have with the Vantage V. The Vantage M will at least constantly sync my activity in the background, whereas the Vantage V could go days without syncing. That could well just be Polar fixing bugs on the app side more than the watch side. I will note that sometimes I find workouts don’t sync very quickly or right away, and require manual syncing.

To manually sync, simply hold down the lower left button for a few seconds:

Polar-Vantage-M-Manual-Sync

Once those workouts do sync with the phone, they end up on Polar Flow, and then are also synced to any websites you may have authorized to receive the fitness files to – such as Strava or TrainingPeaks:

image

Finally, note that you can change a handful of settings on the watch itself. Generally speaking, companies tend to have you change settings on either the watch, a smartphone app, or via desktop site. In Polar’s case, it’s mostly via smartphone app and desktop site, with a handful of settings on the watch itself. Whereas inversely, in Garmin’s case it’s mostly on the watch itself and only a handful of settings via app. There’s no right answer (ok, there is – allowing both), so it’s really just a user preference thing.

On the watch side first, you can tweak things like the time and whether certain tracking features are enabled, as well as units and language:

Polar-Vantage-M-Settings1 Polar-Vantage-M-Settings2

Whereas on the smartphone app you can tweak sport mode specific settings as well as general/profile settings, plus a handful of watch settings like which wrist you use and do-not disturb:

2019-02-01 14.46.43 2019-02-01 14.45.54

And finally, on the main Polar Flow site you can tweak these same settings as well.  At this point we’ve clicked and tapped on all the things there is to tap on, without getting into the sport-specific modes.  So now’s a good time to actually use the watch for what you bought it for: Sports tracking.

Sport Usage:

Polar-Vantage-M-Sports-Basics

Now that we’ve covered all the basics, let’s head over and get into the sport side of things. After all, that’s likely why you bought the Polar Vantage over a different non-sport watch.

The Vantage M (like the Vantage V) comes with a huge pile of sport modes that you can add to your watch (up to 20 at a time). The point of these modes is to not only provide a bit of a starter template for certain data fields (which you can customize), but also to ensure calorie burn is correct for each activity. Additionally, they set the GPS on status to the correct state. For example, turning it off for treadmill running, but having it enabled for openwater swimming.

2019-02-01 14.50.47 2019-02-01 14.51.16

When it comes to data pages and data metrics, you’ve got customizable data pages (up to 8 pages) with each page supporting up to 4 metrics on it. Additionally, there are some ‘common’ data pages that you can enable or disable, such as time of day, pace, altitude, power, as well as countdown and interval timers.

From a data field standpoint, Polar is roughly in-line with Suunto in terms of available metrics to choose – though, they have quite a few less metrics than Garmin does. Some of the disparity comes in the power realm (primarily cycling), where Garmin has popular fields like Normalized Power (NP), Intensity Factor (IF), and Training Stress Score (TSS). Polar lacks these, as well as the ability for 3rd party developers to create their own custom data fields via Garmin’s Connect IQ platform.

2019-02-01 14.51.54 2019-02-01 14.52.05

Inversely however, Polar has more flexibility for native running power fields, which Garmin somehow still lacks. This means that on Polar it’s easier to natively display and record running power data, especially tied to specific running power zones. That’s messy at best on Garmin (plus requires extra sensors and apps).  But more on running power later. Remember that while the Polar Vantage M supports running power meters (specifically Stryd and RunScribe), it doesn’t have the Polar Vantage V’s built-in running power algorithms (since it lacks the barometric altimeter the Vantage V has).

Here’s a quick look at a handful of data pages showing how the different sizing looks depending on how many fields you have shown:

At this point there is no method to customize GPS recording interval to save battery life. This means that all outdoor activities are recorded at a 1-second rate. This is both good and bad. On one hand Polar is blowing away the competition for baseline GPS 1-second recording durations (up to 30 hours).  On the flip-side, the competition blows away Polar when it comes to ultra-type activities, where Suunto and Garmin can stretch up to a mind-bending 120 and 85 hours respectively in their higher end models. Polar hasn’t announced any changes/plans here for tweaking the software, though, since Polar and Suunto are using the same GPS chipset – Polar could certainly aim to implement similar functionality.

Speaking of sensor type things, if you’ve got Bluetooth Smart sensors, these are paired within the sensors menu in settings.  You can store power meters (cycling or running), cycling cadence sensors, cycling speed sensors, running footpods, and external HR straps.  Note that neither the Vantage V or M support using HR straps for swimming data, because unlike past Polar units, the Vantage series doesn’t support the analog frequencies that can transmit through water (digital variants like ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart can only transmit a few inches at most through water).

Polar-Vantage-M-Sensors Polar-Vantage-M-Sensors-2

On the surface of the issue you’d say that’s logical since they removed the analog frequency support. But where this falls apart is that the Polar H10 has built-in storage for exactly this purpose. But the Vantage series watches are incapable of connecting to that storage (only Polar’s Beat app). Both Garmin and Suunto offer solutions that download swim HR data after the fact, and it seems super bizarre that you have to use a separate app to do it (which is clunky at best).

When it comes to starting your workout you’ll long-hold the red button down, which then takes you to the sport selection menu.  This is where you can pick one of your preconfigured sports. You can press the up/down buttons to iterate through them. If choosing an indoor sport (like treadmill running below), then you’ll see the HR acquisition circle above it, but not the GPS acquisition circle.

Polar-Vatage-M-Workout-Start

If in the event you had a structured workout scheduled that day, it’ll show you that workout first, before selecting the sport mode:

Polar-Vantage-M-Structured-Workout

And a pool swim selected? It’s got a super quick easy access button on the left to change pool sizes. I *really* like this. Far too many watches put this setting deep down. This is one-touch and really well executed.

Polar-Vantage-M-Pool-Selection Polar-Vantage-M-Pool-Selection-Sizes

Once you’ve stopped iterating through the sports, it’ll start searching for your heart rate, and GPS signals. Assuming you’ve been wearing the watch already, the HR acquisition is pretty much instant. In my experience with GPS on the Vantage M, it finds GPS almost immediately every time. At present Polar is only doing GPS+GLONASS, and not doing any form of GALILEO satellite connectivity. The Sony chipset they are using is capable of doing so, should Sony enable that in firmware – Polar says they’ll, in turn, enable it on the unit down the road.

GPS will show as acquired once you’ve got the green circle around the satellite icon. Same goes for HR. If you’ve got extra sensors, then it’ll show lock of those extra sensors as well (such as a cycling power meter as seen below). Additionally, if you’re using an external HR strap instead of the optical HR sensor – you’ll see that here too.

Polar-Vantage-M-Cycling-Sensors

With all that set, off to start your workout you go. The watch will display stats from the workout in real-time as you expect. This is pretty much the same as all previous Polar watches.

You can use either manual laps or auto laps (or both), by pressing the middle red button, which triggers a lap.  Automatic laps can be setup via Polar Flow on a given sport mode basis. One area that Polar has an edge over Garmin on is that you can have both automatic laps and manual laps at the same time. They operate on different time-space continuums.

If you want to pause your workout, you’ll simply press the lower left button.  That’s also where you can long-hold to end your workout and get workout summary details:

Polar-Vantage-M-Paused

After the workout is completed you’ll get summary details about the workout, including time, calories, distance, power (if applicable), and so on. Time in zone is also displayed.

If your phone is nearby, the watch should send it automatically to the Polar Flow smartphone app via Bluetooth Smart. If for whatever reason it doesn’t do that automatically you can hold down the lower left button to force the sync. It usually takes about 30-60 seconds to complete that sync. After which, here’s your workout on Polar Flow mobile:

2019-02-01 15.07.46 2019-02-01 15.07.51 2019-02-01 15.08.09

There’s a few quirks in there though. For example, it shows me as ‘Elite’ with an index of 83. I’m going to go with that being incorrect, no matter how much I want otherwise. Also, you’ll notice the autolap was showing everything at .99mi instead of 1.00mi (the desktop website shows it correct). Again, minor quirks but also certainly annoyances.

And here’s how it looks on the Polar Flow desktop website:

Polar-Vantage-M-Interval-Workout

In terms of differences between various sports during the workout itself – there’s virtually no appreciable visual difference, be it running or cycling, or doing core workouts or what-not. All of this is fairly standardized between the different modes – so what you see above is applicable no matter the mode.

Finally, the last feature to note is Polar’s Cardio Load status, which allows you to see cardio training load that you accumulate. This is essentially a subset of what the Polar Vantage V watch has. To start, the cardio load status is displayed as a watch face that you can toggle into:

Polar-Vantage-M-Training-Load

Once there, you can tap the red button to dive deeper into the status. You’ve got ‘Strain’ and ‘Tolerance’. Strain is the average load over the last 7 days, while Tolerance is the average load over the last 28 days. Also, it’ll give you the current load status as a number in the center of the watch, which is based on TRIMP.

Polar-Vantage-M-Training-Load-Detail-1 Polar-Vantage-M-Training-Load-Detail-2

On the outer edge, you’ll see what are basically zones, the further left you go into the grey and light green zones, the less you’ve been training. The further right you go, the more you’ve been training. If you go too far – you end up in ‘Overreaching’. That can happen when you are legitimately training far too much, but, it can also happen when you take a bit of a break and then may ramp back into it.  in that scenario, depending on how well trained you are – it can overestimate overreaching.

Meanwhile, over on the Polar Flow smartphone app, you’ve got the ‘Training’ tab. This puts it front and center far more than Garmin and Suunto, and makes it easy to find the training related status. On the upper portion you’ll see breakdowns of the last 7 days worth of activities.  And if you scroll down you’ll see the activities themselves as well as the current training status (‘Productive’ in my case):

2019-01-31 12.10.542019-01-31 12.10.58

If you tap the little ‘…’ next to where it said Productive, you can view the current week’s status (swipe left/right to view previous weeks), as well as a bit of a primer on what these status bits mean:

2019-01-31 12.11.14 2019-01-31 12.13.33

The one challenge here for me personally is remembering to start my watch for Zwift and other indoor trainer sessions. Since the watch doesn’t broadcast my HR to Zwift/TrainerRoad/etc, I don’t have much of a use for it. And unfortunately, Zwift/TrainerRoad/etc don’t send that data back to Polar to calculate within the load metrics.  Compounding things, since Polar doesn’t support ANT+ for sensors, I can’t connect the trainer over Bluetooth Smart, since that Bluetooth Smart channel is already used by Zwift.  So for me during the winter, my training load stats are a bit off due to lack of indoor trainer activities.

Ultimately, the training load data you get on the Polar M is a bit better than the competitors at this price point (notably Garmin). However, as you’ll see in the accuracy sections – that advantage seems to dissipate quickly when looking at certain HR and GPS metrics.

Note that the Polar Vantage M does *not* include any sort of route navigation features, which Suunto includes at their $279 price point (same price), and Garmin at their $299 price point. The Vantage M will however shortly get ‘back to start’ functionality later this month, but only the Vantage V will get route/track navigation features.

GPS Accuracy:

There’s likely no topic that stirs as much discussion and passion as GPS accuracy.  A watch could fall apart and give you dire electrical shocks while doing so, but if it shows you on the wrong side of the road?  Oh hell no, bring on the fury of the internet!

GPS accuracy can be looked at in a number of different ways, but I prefer to look at it using a number of devices in real-world scenarios across a vast number of activities.  I use 2-6 other devices at once, trying to get a clear picture of how a given set of devices handles conditions on a certain day.  Conditions include everything from tree/building cover to weather.

Over the years I’ve continued to tweak my GPS testing methodology.  For example, I try to not place two units next to each other on my wrists, as that can impact signal. If I do so, I’ll put a thin fabric spacer of about 1”/3cm between them (I didn’t do that on any of my Vantage M workouts).  But often I’ll simply carry other units by the straps, or attach them to the shoulder straps of my hydration backpack.  Plus, wearing multiple watches on the same wrist is well known to impact optical HR accuracy.

Next, as noted, I use just my daily training routes.  Using a single route over and over again isn’t really indicative of real-world conditions, it’s just indicative of one trail.  The workouts you see here are just my normal daily workouts.

I’ve had quite a bit of variety of terrain within the time period Vantage M  testing.  This has included runs in: Amsterdam, California, Nevada: Tahoe + Las Vegas + Nearby Mountains, Mexico, Canadian Rockies, Cape Town, South Africa and plenty more.  Cities and countryside, mountains, trees, desert, oceans, and open-air. It’s been everywhere!

First up is a run this week on the waterfront in Cape Town. From a GPS standpoint this should be frankly pretty easy, though there are a few spots against some cliffs and in between homes/buildings. Here’s the data set:

image

Along the wide open waterfront, things are good (as they should be):

image

And in fact, up along the cliffs and through the houses area – the tracks are also looking pretty solid. No issues at all on this route:

image

Next, let’s rewind a couple weeks to a run in building-laden Las Vegas. Aside from the mega-buildings of NYC, Dubai, and Tokyo – this is actually super difficult. I find most GPS units struggle at some point on all my Las Vegas strip runs. This was intended to be against the COROS APEX and the Apple Watch Series 4, but the COROS crashed mid-run and lost all data. So only the Vantage M and Apple Watch remain. But, given how easy it is to know exactly where I ran, that isn’t an issue for this data set.

image

At a high level, things look pretty close. But let’s just zoom into a chunk of the Strip:

image

Ahh yes, that’s the Apple Watch I know and love: Cutting every corner like a race bandit. Yup, the tell-tale Apple Watch GPS Swoop! By contrast, the Polar Vantage M actually did quite well on this run, near-perfectly hitting all of the overpasses and other Vegas wonkiness.

It wasn’t perfect of course – but rarely do I find a GPS watch in Vegas that is. But it was one of the better GPS tracks I’ve seen in over a decade of GPS tracks in Vegas. You can see a few bobbles when I was right up against a tall building:

image

Still, I’d give the Vantage M a very strong B+ on this route.

Next, let’s head out for a run through Amsterdam’s Vondelpark. In this case compared against a Forerunner 935 and COROS APEX. Here’s that data set:

image

You can see right off the bat from the view above that the Vantage M is struggling in certain sections of the (mostly wide open) park. Notice how that red track is off in the buildings/woods on both the northern portion, but also offset on the lower southern portion:

image

And towards the Eastern edge of the park you see the red off out of the park, though oddly, when I go and do a loop in a more complex area around the museums, it actually nails that.

image

In fact, in looking at all my Vantage M runs since December – I can’t find any horribly bad tracks, aside from the skewing one above. Just as another quick two-second example, an interval run from this week. Spot-on as I went back and forth over the same spot almost a dozen times:

image

Now, let’s transition to some road riding. First back to the desserts about 45 minutes outside of Vegas. This is interesting because while this entire ride was on asphalt, some sections were on tight and winding bike paths – a great test of GPS:

image

At a high level it looks fine, and indeed, on the roads it was. But it’s those smaller bike paths that things sometimes go off the rails…err…road. For example, you can see this turn here where the Vantage M just cut straight across. Note, this was a low-speed turn (going uphill).

image

And again here where it’s just off the trail a fair chunk. Not like ‘OMG this is useless’, but, not as good as the other units:

image

And then we’ve got one last ride – this time a ride here in Cape Town along the coast on a relatively wide road, but up against some cliffs in some sections:

image

As I departed the city areas, things were pretty solid from the Vantage M. No problems with buildings:

image

However, as I started to head out of town, there were definitely a few spots were the Vantage M sliced the corners a bit (in orange on these charts). Not a massive chunk, but certainly offset from all the others:

image

Interestingly, none of this was very high speed (due to some crazy winds). In fact, it almost seems to handle better in faster conditions than slower.

image

Lastly, let’s look at an openwater swim or two. Here’s one from a few days ago up at a reservoir outside of Cape Town.  From a topography standpoint it basically sits atop a mountain, and has wide open lines of sight – so zero GPS disrupters here! On one wrist I had the Polar Vantage M, while the other wrist had the COROS APEX (both in swim mode). Then, for track reference I had a swim buoy with both a Garmin FR935 and Suunto Trainer Wrist HR in just regular running mode (so they properly track every second, whereas openwater mode would try and apply fancy algorithms to them):

DSC_5748

Ultimately, here’s what that data set looked like:

image

In retrospect I should have just done one loop, because it makes it harder to see. On my second loop I realized this and decided to split the lake down the middle. So let’s remove everything except a single reference track and the Polar Vantage M:

image

I wouldn’t have rated this a ‘great’ openwater swim track compared to past Garmin/Suunto/Polar products, but for whatever reason lately GPS tracks in openwater swimming on all these companies’ more recent products mostly sucks. Thus, by comparison this is a seemingly average GPS track (but still bad). Below, switched to satellite view so you can properly see the edges.

image

Note that the best openwater GPS tracks I’ve seen to date have actually come from Apple. Here’s a video I did back in October – including the Polar Vantage series as well on openwater swim GPS testing:

Oh, as for the other recent swim, it was actually this morning. This is an *incredibly tough* swim for GPS units to track, due to one swimming in a canal (maybe 2ish lanes wide) with 4-8 story buildings on either side of it. Even the reference GPS track struggled. And while the Polar Vantage M track was horrible, the COROS APEX Track was downright useless. The APEX recorded in the (very rough) ballpark of the right distance, but the actual GPS track only managed to connect my start and end points – a mere 50m away from each other (I’ve highlighted it in yellow – that tiny little line):

image

You can see the red line is the Vantage M. Despite being above the water with the green GPS lock, it couldn’t plot a point until almost the half-way point of the swim.

So yeah.  I’ll do more openwater swims as my time progresses here in Cape Town over the next month – including some back on the Fenix 5 series and Suunto 9 series to see how things have improved since fall. But, I’m not expecting any miracles.

Overall as for the Polar Vantage M GPS, I actually found that it performed notably better than the Vantage V did. I don’t think that’s due to firmware updates either, as there’s been no firmware updates between these two points. I think there may be something else as to why it does it better. Openwater swimming aside, for the most part the Vantage M is decent. There’s still a few quirks here and there, seemingly with riding more than running. But I’d say on the whole it’s about the same as most other watches in this price point.

(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy portions were created using the DCR Analyzer tool.  It allows you to compare power meters/trainers, heart rate, cadence, speed/pace, GPS tracks and plenty more. You can use it as well for your own gadget comparisons, more details here.)

Heart Rate Accuracy:

Polar-Vantage-M-Optical-HR

Before we move on to the test results, note that optical HR sensor accuracy is rather varied from individual to individual.  Aspects such as skin color, hair density, and position can impact accuracy.  Position, and how the band is worn, are *the most important* pieces.  A unit with an optical HR sensor should be snug.  It doesn’t need to leave marks, but you shouldn’t be able to slide a finger under the band (at least during workouts).  You can wear it a tiny bit looser the rest of the day.

Ok, so in my testing, I simply use the watch throughout my normal workouts.  Those workouts include a wide variety of intensities and conditions, making them great for accuracy testing.  I’ve got steady runs, interval workouts on both bike and running, swimming, as well as tempo runs and rides. Basically, most everything a typical triathlete would do.

For each test, I’m wearing additional devices, usually 3-4 in total, which capture data from other sensors.  Typically I’d wear a chest strap (usually the Garmin HRM-DUAL, Polar H10, or Wahoo TICKR), as well as another optical HR sensor watch on the other wrist (and sometimes also either the Scosche Rhythm 24, and Polar OH-1).  Note that the numbers you see in the upper right corner are *not* the averages, but rather just the exact point my mouse is sitting over.  Note all this data is analyzed using the DCR Analyzer, details here.

Note that while I’ve been using the Polar Vantage M since September, virtually all of this data is from mid-December until now here on February 1st. All of it is on the latest production/public firmware.

With that, let’s dive into the sets.

Let’s dive right into things, first up with a run from last week. More or less a straightforward run with a bit of intensity shift in the middle as I climbed up a tiny bit, but otherwise pretty vanilla. But we want to start easy and then crank the screws with each successive set. Here’s the DCR Analyzer set if you want to dig in deeper yourself:

image

We see the nice and proper gradual increase in intensity from the HRM-DUAL whereas the Vantage M and COROS APEX don’t quite get it right. The COROS does some weird bobble, and the Polar follows alone slightly under as well. Nearly 3 minutes into my run I’m still at 110bpm according to it.

Beyond that point though, the three sorta agreed – except that we see the Vantage M doing these weird little blips up/above the actual trendline.

image

I’d point out this little bump here:

image

This little spike in HR (only up to 164bpm) is spot-on correct by the HRM-DUAL. It’s when I went a bit harder up a short/steep hill. Not all out, but enough that you notice it. Whereas the COROS APEX and Vantage M missed the boat.

And…time for another run. This one back in Vegas and mostly steady-state on/off road. Same crew – Polar Vantage M (in brown), COROS APEX, and HRM-DUAL. Here’s the data:

image

You see a nice clean build by most of them, but slightly nicer from the HRM-DUAL. Shortly after that the Polar Vantage M completely loses the plot for about 4-6 minutes for some unknown reason. After that moment the dip for all of them is me taking a picture at the ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ sign (so the dip is correct). From there, the rest of the run is pretty much the same for all of them, save a few brief bobbles from the Polar Vantage M.

Next, we’ve got an interval run from two days ago. This had a ton of HR data to look at.

image

On my left wrist is the Polar Vantage M (yellow), whereas my right wrist has the COROS APEX. Meanwhile, I’m wearing the Garmin HRM-DUAL on my chest, while my upper left arm has the Polar OH-1 optical sensor, and the upper right arm the Scosche Rhythm 24 optical sensor. All these are therefore properly separated. There’s no more beautiful HR testing setup I can think of than this.

The workout was an interval workout: 10-minute warm-up, then 6x400m, then 2x800m, and then 2x30s sprints, all with 90s recovery between each set. Oh, and a brief cool-down. Let’s look at the warm-up:

image

You can see the HRM-DUAL chest strap struggled to catch onto my heart rate (in blue). Why? Well, that was technically my fault. I had wet the strap prior to departing the house, but by the time I walked down to the waterfront it had dried in the cooler morning air. A key issue with chest straps that has been around for decades. Once I looked down a few minutes into the run and realized this, I applied some spit to the strap and it immediately rectified itself.  As for the Polar Vantage M optical HR sensor (yellow/orange)? It’s completely and totally lost during this until the conclusion of the warm-up when I start walking.

Let’s look at the six 400m sets:

image

Here’s my quick analysis of all six sets:

#1: All good except Polar Vantage M losing the plot briefly
#2: Polar Vantage-M missed the recovery by 20bpm, Garmin HRM-DUAL struggled to find lock, COROS APEX also struggled to find lock, Polar OH-1 blip
#3: Polar Vantage-M good, Garmin HRM-DUAL struggled to find lock, COROS APEX a wee bit delayed, brief Polar OH-1 blip
#4: Polar Vantage-M lost the plot, Garmin HRM-DUAL struggled to find lock, COROS APEX bit delayed
#5: Polar Vantage-M good, Garmin HRM-DUAL failed entirely
#6: All mostly good here, though, a bit of a delay on HRM-DUAL into the recovery.

Hmm. I remember moving the strap slightly on my chest at some point towards the 5th or so interval, and that seems to help the Garmin HRM-DUAL strap from there on out. Check out the remaining 2x800m and 2×30-second sprints:

image

You can see here the HRM-DUAL was perfectly fine, whereas the Vantage-M totally missed both by a wide chunk (especially notable since these were twice as long, so it had twice as long to figure it out). The pace for the 800m was a 6:23/mile (4:00/KM), and the pace for the sprints was around 5:00-5:30/mile (3:00-3:30/KM). So plenty of variety from a cadence standpoint.

I have zero idea why the HRM-DUAL failed here so badly on the first six sets. I haven’t seen that elsewhere. And typically when we see failures in intervals, it’s exceedingly rare to see them for chest straps. It’s almost always optical, not chest straps. Maybe it was something environmental, or perhaps my shirt or something weird (though, it’s the same shirt I’ve run in quite a bit lately).  Inversely, I don’t know why the Vantage M failed on the 800’s. Sigh.

Next, let’s head out cycling– this time out to the desert for a couple hour wander by bike. This one was interesting because the efforts varied quite a bit.  It’s compared against the Garmin HRM-DUAL strap and COROS APEX watch (optical), and it allows you to see how well things work in very cool/dry environments (it wasn’t hot), as well as with a bit of wind. The HRM-DUAL was recorded to the Stages M50 unit. Here’s the data files.

image

At first you might even think the Polar Vantage M was paired to the HRM-DUAL, but when you look more closely you can see the nuanced differences. The Vantage M optical sensor lags a little bit, and in some parts of the ride differs considerably – especially for short burst efforts. All tell-tale signs of an optical HR sensor that’s struggling slightly. Still, on the whole, this is actually one of the best performances I’ve seen from the Polar Vantage M in harder conditions. The COROS APEX meanwhile, is mostly lost.

Meanwhile, on the way back you can see areas in yellow where the Vantage M was significantly behind the chest strap (I’ve highlighted the chest strap below, but you can see the red Polar line offset from each of these). Again, semi-common optical HR lag.

image

I don’t generally like to look at averages across a ride/run/anything, because a unit can be totally wrong the entire time and still get a close average. Nonetheless, you can see the average heart rate between the Stages (which is what the HRM-DUAL was paired under) and the Polar Vantage M was within .24bpm. Not too shabby!

image

Last but not least we’ve got an openwater swim. Actually, I tried to do a few openwater swims and gather HR data, but Polar’s H10 offline caching thing with the Polar Beat app is a hot mess. For my first attempt at it, I didn’t put it in the right mode apparently, and thus it didn’t cache/download the data right. On my second swim, the data came out completely useless. As if the strap was malfunctioning. Of course, all of this strap data downloading should absolutely be built into the product like it is for Garmin/Suunto, but it’s not.

In any case, here’s a look at some HR data I captured earlier in the week during a swim. On this swim, I’ve got the Polar Vantage M on one wrist, the COROS APEX on the other, and then a Scosche Rhythm 24 on one upper arm. I wore the Polar H10, but again, that data was useless. Here’s the data set:

image

The yellow/orange color is the Polar Vantage M. While I’m not entirely sure who is right, I’m going to guess that the Vantage M is correct for at least the first 10 minutes or so. Mostly since there’s little chance my HR was 70-80bpm while swimming.  Then around the 11-minute marker the COROS APEX goes a bit wonky for a few minutes. And by ‘a few minutes’, I mean the rest of the swim.

However, the Polar Vantage M and Scosche are pretty similar. Certainly not as close as we’ve seen in runs or rides, but not totally misaligned.  There’s one point where the Vantage spikes and the Scosche doesn’t.  I’d put this in the category of ‘mostly believable’, but I just don’t know for sure. I’m going to keep trying with the H10 and see if I can make something cooperate there to include in my COROS APEX review.

Of course, if you’ve read my reviews long enough you’d know that for the most part I don’t tend to see a ton of value in swimming HR. It doesn’t align as well to efforts as running or cycling does in my experience, and is usually a bit more cumbersome to view due to having to turn your wrist just right. And for example, the water where this swim was in, was super low-visibility, enough that I could barely make out the numbers on my wrist in front of me.

Finally – to wrap-up HR accuracy on the whole – I don’t see it as good. Something still isn’t right with the HR accuracy of the Vantage series (including the Vantage M). On even simple steady-state runs it routinely spikes/drops the HR for no particular purpose. Polar noted they’ve got algorithms that backfill/correct the data in 60-second increments as you run/etc, which means that the plotted points can actually look more correct than reality.  Though, it’s also possible it ‘breaks’ perfectly correct HR data too.  Which may be happening here – I don’t know.

What I do know is that overall, I wouldn’t be writing home about the Polar Vantage M’s optical HR accuracy.

The Future:

Polar-Vantage-M-Updates

As you’ve probably seen by this point in the review, Polar’s biggest challenge is actually the lack of features. Some things – like smartphone notifications, aren’t officially released yet (though, due any day/week now). But beyond that, if they want to compete head to head with Suunto’s Spartan Trainer Wrist HR (which is explicitly what they noted they want to compete against), they’re going to need to look to expand their navigational capabilities to match that.

Still, here’s the list of updates slated by the end of February 2019 through a handful of scheduled updates:

– Smartphone notifications (i.e. call/text notifications)
– Back to start navigation
– Route Guidance for waypoint navigation of downloaded routes (Vantage V only – not coming to Vantage M)

And in fact, just this morning I got access to a beta version of this firmware to check out some of these. As expected, a quick look at them shows they do work. Smartphone notifications come in as expected from calls/texts/apps, and display once you raise your wrist (a small red dot appears in the lower left corner indicating a missed notification). You can also access them from within a notifications submenu:

DSC_5908 DSC_5909

Additionally, there’s a new sleep-focused watch face that shows you last night’s sleep metrics. Given I just got it a few hours ago after my workout for today, I haven’t tried Back to Start navigation, nor route guidance on the Vantage V. Perhaps over the weekend. It’s not bug free, which is why it’s still considered beta.

Meanwhile, the following features are slated to be added (according to the update page), but no timeline has been specified:

– Fitness test functionality
– Strava Segments

The challenge in some ways that Polar faces is that all of these features are basically just ‘putting back’ features that were found in the Polar M430 and V800 watches. They aren’t actually moving the game forward in terms of the competition.  Even if Polar were to add offline sync for chest HR monitors for swimming workouts (as their competition does), that’d still just be matching what Polar’s own watches have had previously.

I’m optimistic that Polar will aim to update their planned updates page with not just catch-up features, but exciting new features. One might say that’d be tipping their hand to the competitors, but realistically there’s plenty of consumer tech brands that talk about upcoming features 3-6 months out (such as Apple, Google, and more). When Polar is behind the 8-ball here, it needs to do that.

Product Comparison:

DSC_0289-3

I’ve added both the Polar Vantage V and Polar Vantage M into the product comparison tool, so you can mix and match and create your own product comparison charts as you see fit. The tool allows you to compare against other products I’ve reviewed or had hands-on time with.

For the purpose of the below charts, I’ve compared the Vantage V and M against their nearest multisport competitors: The Garmin FR735XT and Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR. One could also make the case that if you don’t specifically need triathlon support, the Garmin Instinct or Garmin Vivoactive 3 series are better competitors to compare against at the sub-$300 price point.

Function/FeaturePolar Vantage MPolar Vantage VSuunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HRGarmin Forerunner 735XT
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated February 7th, 2019 @ 2:14 pmNew Window
Price$279$499$279 ($329 for metal bezels)$349
Product Announcement DateSept 13th, 2018Sept 13th, 2018August 10th, 2017May 11th, 2016
Actual Availability/Shipping DateNovember 2018Late October 2018August 30th, 2017May 11th, 2016
GPS Recording FunctionalityYesYesYesYes
Data TransferUSB, BLUETOOTH SMARTUSB, BLUETOOTH SMARTUSB & Bluetooth SmartUSB/Bluetooth Smart
WaterproofingYes - 30mYes - 30mYes - 50 metersYes - 50m
Battery Life (GPS)Up to 30 hoursUp to 40 hoursUp to 30 hours14 hours in GPS-on
Recording Interval1s1sVariable1S OR SMART
Satellite Pre-Loading via ComputerYesYesYesYes
Quick Satellite ReceptionGreatGreatGreatGreat
AlertsVibrate/VisualVibrate/Sound/VisualVisual/VibrateVibrate/Sound/Visual
Backlight GreatnessGreatGreatGreatGood
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceNoNoNoYes
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)YesYesYesYes
MusicPolar Vantage MPolar Vantage VSuunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HRGarmin Forerunner 735XT
Can control phone musicNoNoNoYes
Has music storage and playbackNoNoNoNo
Streaming ServicesNoNo
PaymentsPolar Vantage MPolar Vantage VSuunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HRGarmin Forerunner 735XT
Contactless-NFC PaymentsNoNo
ConnectivityPolar Vantage MPolar Vantage VSuunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HRGarmin Forerunner 735XT
Bluetooth Legacy (pre-4.0) to PhoneNoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart (4.0+) to Phone UploadingYesYesYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)Feb 2019Feb 2019YesYEs
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)NoNoNoYes
Group trackingNoNoNo
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)NoNoNoNo
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoNoNoNo
CyclingPolar Vantage MPolar Vantage VSuunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HRGarmin Forerunner 735XT
Designed for cyclingYesYesYesYes
Power Meter CapableYesYesYesYes
Power Meter Configuration/Calibration OptionsYesYesYesYEs
Power Meter TSS/NP/IFNoNoNoYes
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableYesYesYesYes
Strava segments live on deviceFuture Update (Date TBD)TBD Future UpdateNoYes
Crash detectionNoNoNoNo
RunningPolar Vantage MPolar Vantage VSuunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HRGarmin Forerunner 735XT
Designed for runningYesYesYesYes
Footpod Capable (For treadmills)YesYesYesYes
Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc...)NoNoNoYEs
Running PowerYes with 3rd party devices (not built-in like Vantage V)yes (built-in)
VO2Max EstimationYesYesYesYes
Race PredictorNoNoNoYEs
Recovery AdvisorNoYesYesYes
Run/Walk ModeNoNoNoYEs
SwimmingPolar Vantage MPolar Vantage VSuunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HRGarmin Forerunner 735XT
Designed for swimmingYesYesYesYes
Openwater swimming modeYesYesYesYes
Lap/Indoor Distance TrackingYesYesYesYes
Record HR underwaterYesYesYesWITH HRM-TRI/HRM-SWIM
Openwater Metrics (Stroke/etc.)YesYesYesYes
Indoor Metrics (Stroke/etc.)YesYesYesYes
Indoor Drill ModeNoNoNoYes
Indoor auto-pause featureYesYesNoNo
Change pool sizeYesYesYEsYes
Indoor Min/Max Pool Lengths20M/Y to 250 m/y20M/Y to 250 m/y15m/y to 1,200m/y17M/18Y TO 150Y/M
Ability to customize data fieldsYesYesYesYes
Can change yards to metersYesYesYesYEs
Captures per length data - indoorsYesYesYesYEs
Indoor AlertsN/AN/ANoYes
TriathlonPolar Vantage MPolar Vantage VSuunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HRGarmin Forerunner 735XT
Designed for triathlonYesYesYesYes
Multisport modeYesYesYesYes
WorkoutsPolar Vantage MPolar Vantage VSuunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HRGarmin Forerunner 735XT
Create/Follow custom workoutsYesYesNoYes
On-unit interval FeatureNoNoYesYes
Training Calendar FunctionalityNoYesYesYes
FunctionsPolar Vantage MPolar Vantage VSuunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HRGarmin Forerunner 735XT
Auto Start/StopYesYEs
Virtual Partner FeatureNo (but can give out of zone alerts)No (but can give out of zone alerts)NoYes
Virtual Racer FeatureNoNoNoYes
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)NoNoNoYes
Day to day watch abilityYesYesYesYes
Hunting/Fishing/Ocean DataNoNoNoNo
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNoNo
Jumpmaster mode (Parachuting)NoNoNoNo
GeocachingNoNoNoNo
Weather Display (live data)NoNoNoYes
NavigatePolar Vantage MPolar Vantage VSuunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HRGarmin Forerunner 735XT
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)NoNoYesYes
Markers/Waypoint DirectionNoNoYesSaved locations only
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)NoNoNoNo
Back to startFeb 2019Feb 2019YesYes
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationNoNoNoNo
Download courses/routes from phone to unitNoNoYesYes
SensorsPolar Vantage MPolar Vantage VSuunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HRGarmin Forerunner 735XT
Altimeter TypeGPSBarometricGPSGPS
Compass TypeN/AN/AN/AGPS
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyYesYesYesYes
Pulse Oximetry (aka Pulse Ox)NoNo
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleYesYesYesYes
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableNoNoNoYes
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableNoNoNoYes
ANT+ Footpod CapableNoNoNoYes
ANT+ Power Meter CapableNoNoNoYes
ANT+ Weight Scale CapableNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Fitness Equipment (Gym)NoNoNoNo
ANT+ Lighting ControlNoNoNoYes
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationNoNoNoYes
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)NoNoNoNo
ANT+ Remote ControlNoNoNoNo
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Muscle Oxygen (i.e. Moxy/BSX)NoNoNoNo
ANT+ Gear Shifting (i.e. SRAM ETAP)NoNoNo
Shimano Di2 ShiftingNoNoNoYes
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableYesYesYesNo
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableYesYesYesNO
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapableYesYesYes (+ Stryd Running Power Meter)nO
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableYesYesYesnO
Temp Recording (internal sensor)YesYesNoNo
Temp Recording (external sensor)NoNoNoYes
Compatible with Firstbeat HR toolsN/AN/A--
SoftwarePolar Vantage MPolar Vantage VSuunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HRGarmin Forerunner 735XT
PC ApplicationPolar Flowsync - Windows/MacPolar Flowsync - Windows/MacPC/MacGarmin Express
Web ApplicationPolar FlowPolar FlowSuunto MovescountGarmin Connect
Phone AppiOS/AndroidiOS/AndroidiOS/AndroidiOS/Android/Windows Phone
Ability to Export SettingsNoNoNoNo
PurchasePolar Vantage MPolar Vantage VSuunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HRGarmin Forerunner 735XT
Amazon LinkLinkLinkLinkLink
Clever Training - Save with the VIP programLinkLinkLinkLink
Clever Training Europe (Save 10% with DCR10BTF)N/AN/ALinkLink
DCRainmakerPolar Vantage MPolar Vantage VSuunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HRGarmin Forerunner 735XT
Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLink

Don’t forget, you can make your own charts though if you want against other watches not included above.

Summary:

Polar-Vantage-M-Zones

In general, I think the Polar Vantage series will continue to be a bit under-featured and under-accuracy compared to most of their endurance sports competitors. However, the Vantage M is in a better spot than the Vantage V from a product to price feature point. As of today it’s still lacking the smartphone notification bits and other pieces, but those are coming shortly – with smartphone notifications set to arrive in just a few weeks. It’s been weird wearing a smartwatch over the last few months that doesn’t buzz when my phone does.

While I (along with nearly everyone) have been somewhat lukewarm on the Vantage series, I think the Vantage M for me performs better than the Vantage V – and given it’s roughly half the price, that makes it far more compelling.

One of the hidden gem strengths though of the Polar Vantage M over its Suunto’s similarly priced Spartan Trainer series though is the size of the Vantage M. Not to mention its screen clarity/size. The Vantage M also has detachable/swappable wrist straps. In general, I find the Vantage M a more comfortable watch to wear than the Suunto Trainer and it does proper 24×7 HR tracking. Plus Polar has detailed structured workouts whereas Suunto lacks that. Though, I find GPS and HR accuracy better on the Suunto Spartan Trainer.

I have no doubt that Polar will continue to add features to the Vantage series as they’ve outlined. The challenge for them will be doing so at a pace that’s meaningful to be competitive. As with the Vantage V, the challenge for the Vantage M is that it doesn’t compensate for its lack of features by solidly nailing accuracy in all categories (like we saw the Polar V800 do). As seen in this review, the Vantage M accuracy (especially HR) is at best ‘meh’, and at worst ‘poor’.

Still, I’m looking forward to seeing where things go. And, if you know what you’re getting into in terms of current and planned features, the Vantage M may check off just the right checkboxes for you and your particular needs.

Wanna Save 10%? Or found this review useful? Read on!

Hopefully you found this review useful.  At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device.  The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love).  As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.

I’ve partnered with Clever Training to offer all DC Rainmaker readers an exclusive 10% discount across the board on all products (except clearance items).  You can pick up the Polar Vantage M (or any accessories) from Clever Training. Then receive 10% off of everything in your cart by adding code DCR10BTF at checkout.  By doing so, you not only support the site (and all the work I do here) – but you also get a sweet discount. And, since this item is more than $49, you get free US shipping as well.

Polar Vantage V (select dropdown for color/bundle)
Polar Vantage M (select dropdown for color/bundle)

Additionally, you can also use Amazon to purchase the unit (all colors shown after clicking through to the left) or accessories (though, no discount on Amazon).  Or, anything else you pick up on Amazon helps support the site as well (socks, laundry detergent, cowbells).  If you’re outside the US, I’ve got links to all of the major individual country Amazon stores on the sidebar towards the top.  Though, Clever Training also ships there too, and you get the 10% discount.

Thanks for reading!

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.
If you would like a profile picture, simply register at Gravatar, which works here on DCR and across the web.

You can click here to Subscribe without commenting

Add a picture

*

180 Comments

  1. Sam

    First line of the second paragraph reads, “significantly lower tan”. I imagine that should say “lower than”

  2. John L

    I have the same problem with Zwift…have to run the watch (I have a Spartan) separate and so I don’t get both power (from the trainer) + HR in either the Zwift report or the Strava upload from the watch. My question is – is this a hardware or software issue? I do know that I had a vivosmart hr+ that could broadcast and was a much cheaper “watch” – so I would think these $300-$500 watches would have the hardware capability?

  3. Yonah

    Ray thanks for this great review. I am considering buying one of these to replace my nearly 5(!) year old polar loop. A couple of questions for you:
    – I have a Polar Balance scale, I know that this doesn’t directly connect to it, but do you know it will still sync the daily activity target based on a weight loss plan?

    – Mulling this vs M600 – but given that the M600 is a couple of years old – is it even worth considering now?

  4. Elena

    Hi, I have the M430 that I might have to replace because the battery barely holds 3 hours of GPS activity. Am not really attracted to the Vantage V because: 1.- It’s quite pricy and I already have have a Felix 5+ on my right wrist almost 24/7 so I don’t need another expensive watch on my left. 2.- the looks. And that’s were my question or questions come. I haven’t been able to see any of the vantages in person, but on the pictures its seems like the most expensive one (the V) its all plastic even the buttons. It’s that right?
    Now on the M it looks like it has a nice looking metal ring around the screen and the buttons even though they look small they look like metal. Again its that right?
    I think that coming rom the M400 and M430 it would be a nice upgrade. So nayaway hope anybody could answer my questions about the buttons. Thanks

    • Tomek

      Polar Vantage V has a steel case and steel buttons.

    • andre

      @Elena: Polar can replace the battery for you. Costs in my country is €25 plus €12,50 shipping.

    • Cindy H

      The Vantage M does have silver metal buttons and a silver metal ring on the face. It is a great looking watch and the changeable wristband compatible with any 22 mm quick release band makes it even more fun for everyday use. I do have a picture posted with my review of the Vantage M at clevertraining.com.

  5. Zoltan

    “The Vantage M is priced significantly lower than the Vantage M”: good to know 😉

  6. Andres

    Should I buy the Garmin Forerunner 935 or a new Polar Vantage M? Will be grateful advice!

    • Elena

      I have several Polar and Garmin watches one can not compare 935 and the Vantage M they’re just very different . If I were you and if you don’t mind the difference in price I’ll go for the 935.

    • flokon

      Unless you have years of training logged in Flow, I’d definitely go with the 935. It’s simply in another league, no comparison. Also, it wears better, has much better day-to-day battery, and most importantly of all is a finished product now after two years of patches.

    • Andres

      Great answer. Thank you!

      Heard some rumors that a new FR 945 is coming in the spring with topographic map, garmin pay and spotify. If money weren’t a problem; Would you’ve waited and got the 945 or bought a 935 with all its patches right now? Will be used for all types of sports.

    • flokon

      To be honest, I don’t like all that casual fluff like music, pay and the likes. The 935 was marketed as a barebones multi sport watch. And as such it works finally. It’s hard enough to reduce bugs as much as possible on basic sport watches, more functions complicate matters unnecessarily. It’s taken Garmin the better of two years of patches to reach a 935 that just works. A new watch with more functions (to get newcomers aboard as well as justify an upgrade for Garmin users) also means more teething problems. Which for some might be not a problem. However, I use my watch for training and need a device that works without hiccups and doesn’t get in the way.

  7. holbythebear

    I’ve been on the lookout for a running watch for the past month. Was using the garmin 230 for almost 3 years, then cracked the screen. It seems that Polar is so close with this watch, but some disappointments. There are very few things that I’m looking for in a running watch. Here the list, and how polar seems to be from reading the review: price (good), build quality (good), lightweight (good), battery life (great), gps accuracy (not good), display (if you could display black text on white background in an activity it would be great). The sony chipsets allow great battery life, but poor gps accuracy.

    There is a trade off with every watch out there. I’m very curious to read your review on the Coros Apex, which seems to be coming along. Spartan Trainer looks close as well, but the battery life and display are not good.

    • Dan G

      I’m not really sure there’s any trade-offs with the Garmins… I’m slightly at a loss as to how big the gap is between Garmin and non-Garmin.

  8. flokon

    Got an M at release (pre-ordered), and used it in Oct+Nov. After countless freezes “oops” with lost workouts in the process, very bad OHR performance despite my OHR-friendly wrists (M430, 935 work close to perfectly), and at best “meh” GPS accuracy in my city, I stopped using it, and went back to my trusted 935.
    A few things that are annoying in particular:
    – Polar’s omitting basic features from older watches like “last lap” data field modifiers. Why Polar scratched them is beyond me. Same with auto-lap summary. It just displays last lap time, number of laps, and elapsed time. No avg. HR, cadence or any of the informative data from older watches like M430 in their auto-lap screen. Also, there is no summary of last phase for phased workouts/intervals.
    – The M wears actually quite bad. Especially when you’re used to a watch like the 935 which just disappears on your wrist, the Vantage M is definitely noticeable. Firstly, the strap connects at the bottom instead of on the sides of the housing, creating a weird aesthetic of a cylinder protruding from one’s wrist. As a result the M keeps catching shirtsleeves, backpack straps, jacket sleeves et cet. It reminds me a bit of those old round skydiving altimeters. Secondly, Polar’s weird (and unpredecented) choice of using a belt buckle for the M’s straps. The “keeper end” of the buckle’s frame, which isn’t needed on watch straps, creates an uncomfortable rocker effect when resting one’s arm on a table, e.g. to type on a keyboard.

    @dcrainmaker You wrote that you get recovery time on the workout summary screen. I definitely don’t get that on my M. Also, recovery time is gone in Flow for some reason, it’s still present when looking at the workout in Beat.

    • I think things generally got better on the Vantage M in the early Dec firmware release (at least for me insofar as GPS performance). Even if Polar themselves don’t note it.

      It’s actually interesting – I prefer the Vantage M straps over the Vantage V straps quite a bit. I do agree that the FR935 strap though is one of the better straps out there, if not the best. No issues with rocker effect on Vantage M strap, though sometimes I do find that it just unhooks itself from the secondary strap holder thingy.

      As for the comment on recovery time, sorry, just brain fart – meant to say zone time (time in zone) there. Fixed.

    • Will

      Did anyone notice any issues with the straps on the black Vantage M. I could not find one in store that didn’t have this fraid/worn edge. And apparently it gets worse.

    • Steven G Deckert

      I’ve had mine since November and worn it every day. No fraid edge. Black.

  9. As always- a great write up! If the Apple Watch had start/stop and lap buttons (or a Bluetooth ring with the buttons), I’m not sure how Polar and Suunto could compete…at least for runners who own iPhones. Fortunately for the Finish companies, the running market is small potatoes for Apple.

  10. steven

    Hey ray,

    Could you also do a test for the altitude on the GPS watches?
    It would be interesting to see how the different watches track altitude via GPS.
    One of my big frustrations after bying the spartan trainer, which just does whatever.
    Hey polar, put the breadcrumb navigation in the vantage M. Pretty please.

    • I usually include GPS tests for barometric based watches, though sometimes I do it for non-baro watches. Fwiw, all of the links to the DCR Analyzer do show altitude, if you want to take a quick look.

    • steven

      Thanks, didn’t know that. Would be interesting dough if you would discuss the altitude precision somewhat. That being said, your data for the spartan trainer was nice and flat for your run along the seine. When I run on a flat road with my spartan it adds up the meters like a motherfucker.

  11. Larry Silverman

    Using a “sport loop” quick fit third party strap on the Vantage M, and wearing in a Scosche forearm position, gives excellent agreement with chest strap HR. Other wrist-based OHR’s, with the exception of Apple Watch 4, is a crap shoot. Even Garmin’s fenix 5’s become more accurate with this configuration.

  12. Stefan Gutehall

    Great review as always Ray.
    Minor adjustment in *the Future* section, *a small red dot appears in the lower left corner indicating a messed notification*. Should be *missed*, I hope?

  13. WishIHadAGPSWatch

    Going to have wait awhile for phone notifications on the Vantage M. Feb2109? Lol

    Good article about the watch. I can’t wait to read it again when I am getting ready to buy a watch. Thanks!

  14. Andrew

    No mention of how it performs when pool lap swimming?

    Typo maybe in “This puts it front and center far more than Garmin and Polar”

  15. Tim

    What about battery life? I have to charge mine every 2-3 days 🙁

    • flokon

      Yeah, I don’t know why Ray didn’t touch that. The Vantages may last for 30hrs, and 40 respectively, in a single activity. However, day-to-day battery life is atrocious. With 24x7HR, sleep tracking and an hour per day of GPS activity, I have to charge my M after 3-5 days. My 935 lasts at least two weeks with the same usage.

    • I’m getting about 5ish or so days. I guess to me that’s about the norm for most watches these days if you’re doing 24×7 HR and an hour or so per day of GPS.

      I’m honestly surprised you’d be getting that much with the FR935 doing 1hr a day plus notifications and 24×7 HR, etc… I could see more in the range of about 7-9 days. I definitely don’t get two weeks on my FR935 and I only use it for runs every other day or so.

    • flokon

      Well, “at least” two weeks is exaggerating a bit, I guess. But 14 days definitely. No notifications, and no constant bt connection to phone. I have wi-fi enabled, but don’t use it like a smartwatch. In the morning I sync for sleep stats but that’s it. Also, I use it out of the box with latest firmware, no 3rd party CIQ fluff.
      Seeing that the Vantage works the same as of now (no notifications, manual syncing), battery life is definitely nothing to write home about.

  16. Henrik Teinvall

    Did you try using a Stryd or any other foot pod or for that matter even a cycling speed sensor with the watch? And most importantly, did you use the, as source of pace? In the V800 you can choose either to use foot pod or gps as source of pace.
    If you did, did you export that session to TrainingPeaks and set to minimum filtering? Polar can’t export pace in TCX format. Pace is correct in flow and CSV export. After three years of terrorising customer support they still not accept this as a bug. Claiming all kinds of dumb excuses. Maybe you have better luck. I have really detailed data showing this error that I did send to them.

  17. Björn

    Sneak peaking on the firmware update: do we finally get manual footpod calibration?

  18. Glenn Levine

    Thanks again, Ray!

    I’m also interested in deeper dive on power-based Running with this watch “and V, which I own w/Stryd. Crossing my fingers to see phased training and zone locks on power…hoping you’ll augment this article.

    Any idea why Polar is so quiet on this?

  19. flowstate

    I’ve noticed the “separate auto vs manual laps” thing has come up a few times when people have switched to Garmin from a competitor.

    I actually wrote a free Connect IQ data field that lets you have separate auto laps (during the activity), with alerts and metrics, while letting the Garmin handle manual laps as usual. The downside is you don’t get the auto laps in post activity analysis, but this can be rectified by viewing the activity in a 3rd party site like runalyze.

    I don’t want to be a spammer, so I won’t link my app or name it unless there’s any interest.

  20. Rob

    Does anybody know if workouts completed on other Polar devices contribute to the ‘Strain’ and ‘Tolerance’ analysis or is it just those workouts recorded on the Vantage?

    • Luca

      Definitely all workouts on any device contribute. It even calculated status for training performed before buying it (A360 and M400 + H10).

  21. Glenn Levine

    Any activity—the Strain and Tolerance measures on the chart are cardio/heart rate only.

    But it’s only one component of Training Load Pro. The other parts provide for tracking of muscle load when you have a running or cycling power meter, and rate of perceived exertion (RPE), a subjective self-determined rating. I believe these other two components figure into Recovery Pro advice—but not the Strain and Tolerance.

    G

    • Steven

      Let’s assume that “metrics” like Recovery Pro does actually work. Are there people out there that really skip a planned training session because the watch tells them otherwise and take a rest instead?
      On the other hand, if you ignore its advice, why bother in the first place and pay 200 euro more over the Vantage M to name one example…
      I once read a comment somewhere from someone telling about his Garmin. It’s was something like: “Well, I don’t watch at it while running. GPS is sometimes off so speed and distance aren’t always reliable”.

      So why using a watch then? You want to watch it right? And you want to be it accurate no?

  22. Luca

    Does anybody know if you can connect the H10 hrm and speed and cadence sensors all at the same time? This would allow full bike stats from the handlebar.

    • Henrik Teinvall

      That should work, since it worked with the v800. But remember, if you planing on using exported data they TCX (TrainingPeaks is one example) Polar will export random numbers around a correct mean value even if the correct data is shown in Flow.

  23. Tim Buzby

    I owned the Vantage M for about two weeks, but had to send it back due to the following issues:
    – display is smaller and dimmer than my Garmin 230. I was hoping for an upgrade but I suspect that this is a tradeoff for the much longer battery life.
    – I could get no HR reading at all on the outside of my wrist, and had to turn it to the inside to get a reading. Even with this the HR was wildly inaccurate during exercise. Full disclosure, I do have poor circulation in my hands, but with other products (Fitbit, Garmin vivosport) I at least get a 24×7 reading on the outside of my wrist.
    – GPS crapped out completely several times in the middle of a long run. Once I paused it 1.5 hours into a long run and when I restarted the GPS never locked again for the remaining hour.
    I really wanted to like the watch and had high hopes due to the 9 HR sensors, but for me it’s just not there yet.

  24. Sandijs

    Ray, thank you for review, but i think that you are a little bit harsh about HR accuracy..
    What i saw in your review and in your other reviews (Garmin etc.) is that OHR accuracy is very similar to other brands, but only in Polar’s review’s summary is that HR accuracy is meh or bad 🙁
    It’s very apparent that you are more critical to Polar than other brands!
    I owned Garmin 935 and it’s OHR was nonusable for me. Now i own Polar Vantage M and OHR is not perfect but good. And of course much better than Garmin 935!

    • While FR935 optical HR may not be usable for you, it’s certainly better than Polar’ Vantage-M is for me. So that’s really the only bar I can go by when I write reviews. I’ve got two months of data, and by and large the results are either poor or ‘meh’. I’ve included countless examples above.

      I’m not sure how else I should write that. It is what it is.

      (Seriously, go back and ready my FR935 review – look at the optical HR accuracy section – and look at the data. That blows away what Polar is doing here, and as I noted in that review, there were still numerous places the FR935 struggled from an optical HR standpoint.)

    • Glenn Levine

      If I can register an opinion here, there’s clear evidence that some of the Vantage HR is “challenged”, but many also report it working as expected. I read a lot of these forums on this device (I’m long-time v800 owner, and now Vantage V), and it seems that most people have missed the point of OHR, and the expectations are out of line with OHR-from-the-wrist technology limitations. Ray, while I have been and will remain one of your biggest (and paying) fans, I think you may have missed it as well.

      Polar openly and very descriptively writes about the physical limitations of all of their heart rate monitoring technologies:

      link to support.polar.com

      link to polar.com

      I hear no one referencing these or the many others in and out of the Polar orbit when complaining about bad OHR.

      Polar could do a better job of getting these articles out there, although one can’t expect them to place this at the top of every marketing piece in big, bold letters. Anyone doing reasonably serious HR monitoring and training should dive at least this deep. Polar knows HR monitoring, if they know anything. And they know and admit what OHR on the wrist does and doesn’t do. And the serious community interested in using high-end athletic wearables should make it their business.

      What’s the bottom line? OHR is physically limited–at least by today’s “state of the science” anywhere you look. Ray’s experience wasn’t great. In the forums, some good, some bad. Mine has been pretty good–at least meeting the expectations following a read of those articles. For the rest I use a strap closer to the heart.

    • “…the expectations are out of line with OHR-from-the-wrist technology limitations. Ray, while I have been and will remain one of your biggest (and paying) fans, I think you may have missed it as well.”

      Thanks.

      I guess the challenge I have though is that other devices aren’t this bad (ok, COROS APEX 42mm aside). Even Polar’s own M430 has performed far better for me as have all of Polar’s past optical HR devices for me, as has almost all of Suunto’s range, and most of Garmin’s range. I don’t think it’s fair to say that oHR is somehow going to be fundamentally worse. There are many cases where it’s actually better (and also some where it can be worse). But to me, this is just a case of poor algorithms in the Vantage series oHR, which leads to the significant variability people are seeing.

      I know for example that I’m one of the easiest people to get good oHR on. I know that mostly from testing tons of devices, but also from plenty of oHR people in the industry looking at my wrists and being like ‘Yup, that makes life easy’. Yet, this still failed on basis.

      To me, these Polar articles are a bit of a cop-out. Even if I were to say that my activity fell into one of the categories that Polar self-describes as problematic (which, they almost all don’t) – it doesn’t cover the fast majority of scenarios where Polar simply isn’t tracking correctly easy things.

      Like why are there weird spikes/drops on a perfectly steady-paced run? Or why On a gradual 10 minute warm-up does it totally miss the entire build?

      Which isn’t to say that it won’t work better on some people (like yourself). To me though that shows the algorithms just aren’t mature yet unfortunately on this device/sensor package. :-/

      Just my two cents…

    • Glenn Levine

      Ray,

      Thanks for the thoughtful and fast response. I think you make a good point about the cop-out–if this is a problem for most users. To be honest, I can’t make heads or tails of the proportionality of the problem reports. I believe I follow 4-5 of the most high-traffic forums on these devices, and the closest I found were 2-3 Facebook polls that show a majority of people without significant issues. It could be the noisy few that have a problem and 80% of people don’t have it, with 15% having bad wrists or conditions and 5% with defective watch. And it could be 20% with awesome wrists and conditions, 75% experiencing a substandard product and 5% with bad wrists. There’s just no real way to tell.

      My experience is good with steady state runs, and expected anomalies with intervals and other quick change and high HR activities.

      I’m personally hoping you’re right, and that it’s bad algorithm–that get corrected later this month. Polar knows how to smoothe their graphs, with the speed, power, and HR smoothing they do it really well. But this HR stuff doesn’t look like just a smoothing problem.

      I guess we’ll cross our fingers and see!

    • Mike

      I think at this point if you still dont believe that Polar has oHR issues with this watch, youd have to be suffering from severe cognitive dissonance. And I agree 100% with Ray in that Polars article is a huge cop out they can use generically for anytime the oHR doesnt work well, and then guys like you link to it when someones oHR doesnt work…brilliant.

      I mean the sheer amount of people that have posted REAL data..not opinions and comparing different watches data…well enough said.

      I for one could not even use the Polar Vantage oHR it was so unusable. I purchased an Apple Watch and the oHR has worked flawlessly since day 1 in ALL conditions the Polar did not. No worrying about wrist position, temperature, what activity Im using it for etc.

      Oh and the numbers you refer to, Ive seen a huge proportion of “happy” Vantage users that still admit they cannot use the oHR in certain conditions, like for intervals, so Id gander that the “no problems” group is significantly less than you think.

    • Glenn Levine

      Mike,

      I’d like to home in on the key debate here. What is the real proportion of people that have problems with oHR? Nobody knows, and nobody even comes close to knowing except perhaps Polar. Unfortunately we probably can’t get that data from them.

      There are about 30-40 actual people I read complaining, they reference “everyone” or “a lot of people” having problems, and there are a few thousand on these groups–which is a fraction of the total ownership, right? I’d venture a guess that each complaining person knows less than 3 people with the watch (outside the 30-40 complainers on the forums)–and also that the average is less than 1. Just a guess. Subtract the trolls and those with unreasonable expectations. Subtract those who don’t know to tighten the watch, not count on it in extreme cold or fluctuating workouts. How many owners of the watch really have OHR that doesn’t meet expectations?

      And then there are the random solicitations asking “who has no serious issues”? And then 10-15 people jump in and raise their hand. I think there was even one Facebook poll that had the majority (close to 100) people saying something like “no serious issues”…I’d have to dig it up.

      That means the number of known people with a watch that has truly misses expectations for oHR is not even close to statistically significant.

      There is simply not much available evidence out there either way…and believe me, I am looking. DCR’s knowledge of the issues is most compelling, but still insigificant as a “control group”. Mine works as expected…I guess I have good wrists. I’m not an apologist for Polar and I’m annoyed about some other things, but not really this. I just think the data isn’t there and the expectations are a little off.

      g

    • Mike

      Glenn
      Quite frankly, I could care less about the number of people having issues, all I can really relate to is my experience. And the pattern with those that do have issues seems to be pretty common. For many, the Vantage 20-30 HR spikes doesn’t even land in the ballpark of “mediocre” its just downright unusable. Trust me, I wanted to make it work and tried various things to get that kangaroo measurement to stabilize.
      So saying peoples expectations aren’t in line with what oHR can deliver I think is an invalid statement. My expectations are actually fairly simple, accurate oHR readings at any intensity level within 3-5 beats. I gave Polar a try and it failed miserably at a basic expectation whereas Apple more than met my expectation after experiencing Polars performance. For everything outside of a pool (as I have not tried it), I have yet to need a strap and Ive run and biked as well as done intervals, regularly checking its accuracy against my actual pulse. Obviously everyone’s oHR needs are very different but not having to use a strap was high up there for me but will also admit, my competitive days are behind me, so its mostly recreational for me.

      I also wont even get into the fact that Polars new product appears to be worse than its predecessors at measuring oHR. I think the product was rushed and has hurt Polar in my opinion as I do not see myself ever going back after this. I just think there’s a ton of apathetic users to Polar because they are so tied into the Polar ecosystem they seem to tolerate its oHR downfalls. That’s a shame when they have paid top dollar for a product that is so mediocre at its main selling point…oHR. My experience and .02 cents

    • FEKETE ATTILA

      I like your writing very much Mike! My VM hase very the same issue. I feel cheated and disappointed because my main reason was for this watch basically the better OHR datas (probably more accurate than RH data of earlier Polar ohr models have). Thanks for your comment!

    • Jeroen

      I couldn’t agree more with Ray’s comments about the heart rate accuracy as it completely matches my experience. On top of that, every single interval in my run results in a heart rate drop of around 20 beats. Even my Fitbit Charge 3 is way more accurate during intervals, so I have no doubt Polar has a very serious oHR problem with the Vantage series. I contacted Polar and they mentioned the upcoming february update in which oHR tracking will be optimized. So, as you are running a beta version of said update Ray, I am very curious if you have experienced any oHR improvements??

    • Fekete Attila

      Thanks Jeroen

  25. Hey Ray, With that Canal swim, I have seen a number of Garmin/Suunto units do exactly the same as the Vantage M on your swim. I am not sure why. I must say, my Polar v800 handles that canal swim the best out of all the watches in our ATC club although I have had some awesome strava segments in that canal which just aren’t accurate. I am sure the Polar v800 does a lot of “route smoothing”.

    • b.t.w. Thanks for the review. I’ve been waiting for this one.
      I think I shall go for the garmin 935 now. My Polar v800 battery is dying a slow death. Pity the battery cannot be replaced. Maybe you can chat to the vendors about why they don’t support battery replacement.
      Or should i wait for the Garmin 935 Plus / 945…. if it comes this Q1/2 2019.

    • Hi Rory-

      Yup, I agree on that canal swim. I’m not really holding that swim against the Polar in any way. I’ve looked at others swim tracks on a few past canal swims, and honestly, if it plots even vaguely in the water on the route it’s half a success. I definitely didn’t take any points away on that one, which is why I only briefly mentioned it.

      As for battery replacement, some actually do. I don’t know Polar’s policies (though, they were swapping V800 batteries for quite some time). Last I checked, Garmin has an out of warranty battery swap price that I think was around $80. Maybe it’s slightly more these days, but that’s roughly what it is.

      In general, I think the purchase of a multisport/running watch in the February timeframe is historically a less than ideal option. Usually we see a flurry of new watches leading up to the Boston Marathon (mid-April), and sometimes spilling a week or two later at most.

      Cheers.

  26. dizpark

    It is somewhat surprising and very sad that Polar struggles with the new OHR in their Vantage series SO MUCH. I am a current user of M430 and I find that its OHR is very solid and dependable (at least for me). OK, it is slower to react to fast changes in HR, compared to a heart rate strap – polarš reading ramps up and down more slowly. But other than that it is trouble free.
    I wonder why Polar went to all that trouble and redesigned the OHR sensor so radically – was the old design very power hungry? (Maybe this info is in one of Ray’s vantage reviews of previews).
    Maybe Polar will eventually get back to M430 level with the new sensors design. I have started using M430 very recently, so I am not one of the early adopters. I wonder if Polar went through a similar period of troubles with regards to OHR accuracy with the M430 back in the day? And if so, how long did it take them to sort OHR out?

    • “I wonder why Polar went to all that trouble and redesigned the OHR sensor so radically – was the old design very power hungry? (Maybe this info is in one of Ray’s vantage reviews of previews).”

      You know, it was funny – I was thinking the same thing on my ride the other day. I totally agree, the M430 optical HR was really very strong. Solid stuff. Here’s what I said at the time of my in-depth review (a couple months after announcement):

      “In fact, I’d even go as far as saying that I think at this point Polar may have the best wrist based optical HR sensor out there with the M430 across a multitude of sports for a mainstream GPS watch. This includes Apple, Fitbit, Garmin, and Suunto.”

      So with that in mind, your thoughts are much the same as mine – why keep radically changing the optical HR sensor each device they release? I’m starting to think that’s hurting their overall efforts. If we compare to Garmin, Apple, and Valencell (for Suunto and many others), the changes between each revision are very minor hardware-wise. Instead, most of the focus is tiny software tweaks. Fixing an issue that might impact 1% of people here, or .5% of people, then rinse and repeat each month. Eventually all of those changes add up to quite a bit.

      All three of those entities have made revisions to hardware, roughly once every 12-16 months, but none drastic like Polar in almost every new device. The one exception was when Garmin went from the Mio/Philips sensors many years ago to their own. In that case they did take a pretty significant whack in optical HR accuracy. But over time they got past that.

      Again – also possible I’m totally misthinking this. But in some ways, the numbers don’t really lie here. For the most part, the vast majority of peoples reviews out there aren’t saying the Vantage M/V is a big step forward in optical HR for Polar (or at step forward at all).

    • dizpark

      Thank you for the response.

      And how perceptions/ expectations change. I remember when Polar announced the new Vantage series, many users were like – yay, this WILL be the DEFINITE OHR sensor (so many different color LED lights!) and given the past Polar’s expertise as evidenced by M430 will be a a huge step forward. Fast forward and the narrative has changed dramatically – is the OHR good enough? can it compete with 935 or should I join the dark side? will it ever reach M430 level?

      I am definitely rooting for Polar and I hope that they will pull this off. Fingers crossed.

  27. Tobias Johansson

    Hello Ray!

    Thank you for the great review. As I am looking for a replacemet for my Suunto Ambit3 Vertical (broken barometric unit for the third time) I had big hopes and expectations for the Vantage M. But reading about the gps and hrm accuracy issues on this device (and many other) it feels like Im better off going for something like the V800 or the Ambit 3 Peak if i just want best possible accuracy. Any thoughts on this?

    • Steve

      I’d buy a Spartan Trainer. It does everything you want from the Vantage M, but accuracy is excellent (unless you’re running in central London, at lunchtime…). I have tried a few oHR devices (mio fuse, Scosche Rhythm, Polar M430) and I’ve found the Trainer superior to them all. It’s not a beautiful device, but I love it.

    • Steven G Deckert

      In my experience the optical hr on the spartan trainer was completely useless. On the vantage M, it’s sometimes good, sometimes not. gps accuracy was similar, but I kept the vantage M because the screen is easier to see, it looks better, and battery life is vastly, vastly superior.

      Don’t rely on any optical hrm to be accurate all the time. We’re just not there yet.

  28. Michael

    I tried to use the Clever Training code “DCR10BTF” today and it said it is no longer valid?

  29. Uros Bernik

    I have a V800 with H10 and bought Vantage V, because V800 was starting to die on me sometimes. I have to say in my experience, GPS locks faster, but the accuracy is appaling compared to V800 in terms of elevation. With v800 elevation profile, i could instantly determine where on the lap i was position wise just by looking at it, or the heart rate, while the Vantage V data is very noisy and just incorrect. Here is the comparison (check elevation profiles):

    V800: link to flow.polar.com
    Vantage V: link to flow.polar.com

    Optical HR is pretty much useless still, compared to H10. It lags about 15-20 seconds which is a deal breaker for me, not to mention it is absolutely useless for doing interval training of any kind. Values are way off.

    To me, they took everything that was bad about the previous generation and mostly fixed it, but at the same time, ruined everything that was good. I think i ll be leaving the Polar platform that i really loved for Garmin…

    • Uros Bernik

      Ok… i did another test. Couple of years ago, i did the same training sessions with M400, and i wasn’t so interested in elevation profile at the time, but now that i checked i saw it was also bad. I can therefore make a conclusion that altitude accurracy is bad because both M400 and Vantage M are missing barometers. I don’t know if barometer works alone for altitude acquisiton or together with GPS but it definitely makes the difference.

      That said… i couldn’t resist and went and swapped Vantage M for V and will test it tomorrow!

    • Uros Bernik

      Yep… Confitmrd with Vantage V. Elevation is as it should be. So to me… Vantage M is suitable only if you are a flat area runner or really not interested in stats. If you are…Vantage V is the way to go. Period

  30. Martijn

    So I’m coming off of an original TomTom Spark which is now increasingly showing battery issues.

    Looking to replace with something that isn’t a smartwatch because I really don’t need *more* information input into my brain then I already get.

    Was looking at the comparison chart in the article here between the Suunto, 735xt and the Vantage M. The Suunto is hitting the bargain bin at €160 now. Is it getting replaced this year? This makes it both interesting from a financial perspective but also annoying as I’ve made that mistake before with the Edge 500 when I wasn’t following all these product updates yet.

    Assuming it isn’t going to be replaced any time soon: the Suunto HR misreads when starting activities and the open-water swim inaccuracies that are mentioned in the comments gave me a bit of pause.

    I’m getting more into open water swimming due to several triathlons scheduled this year will have OWS instead of pool swim legs. The TomTom doesn’t have OWS but with the freestyle mode it still get’s it relatively right (25% off, instead of the 150%-200% I read on the Suunto).

    Is the 735xt that much better? I found a sale on that one as well. Still €100 more than the Suunto but as I’m only able to train on HR getting that right is pretty important.

    Thanks for the feedback

  31. Anders Lindell

    Hi

    Does the backlight turn off during nighttime when you have enabled Do Not Disturb (or some other setting you can turn on that turn off the annoying backlight during nights) in the latest FW?

    Anders

    • Lasse

      No. And I have asked Polar if the next update in February will sort this out in some way but I didn’t get a clear answer, of course.

    • Patrik

      From the latest release notes: “Do not disturb lets you switch off all phone notifications. The automatic backlight gesture, sounds, vibration and watch notifications are also off making it a nifty feature for nighttime use.”
      So starting from version 3.0.10, yes.

  32. Paulo Sousa

    Hi Ray. In the user’s manual it has interval timers and you refer that in your chart. I have the last firmware and my VM doesn’t have it (on the watch). Only if I program it on Flow. It will be in the next firmware?
    V800, M400 and M430 had it when arrived to market.

    Keep the good work!

    • flokon

      You have to assign the appropriate training view (under additional views, it’s one of the full screen ones) to get interval timers. They only work during an activity. Outside you just get the Stopwatch as third menu entry.

  33. Tony B

    The Vantage V will turn out to be another V650, I really like my V650 and it could be so much more, it’s a shame Polar abandons its products and customer base with such ease.

  34. Hendrik

    Thanks for the review! I bought this watch a few weeks ago and I’m experiencing some problems. I’ve already received a new one under warranty but still experiencing problems:

    – GPS accuracy is really bad some times. On the map I’m running most of the time besides the road.
    – Heart rate jumping to 180 (sort of equal to my running frequency) all the time. Anybody of you experiencing the same problem?
    – Continuously changing pace during a run. While I’m on a steady 5.00min/km its going up and down between 4.00min/km and 6.00min/km. My running buddy has a Polar M400 and it is showing a way more stable speed. Did you test this Ray?

  35. Scott E

    Can you see more than just what shows up on the screen for the Smart Notifications? For example, if a message or email notification appears, can you select it on the watch and scroll down to read more? I’m coming from a V800 that would only show what fit on the screen.

    • Patrick

      As mentioned in the release notes link to support.polar.com “You’ll get the same notifications on your Vantage that you get on your locked phone screen. Available for iOS and Android.”

    • Ian

      I updated the firmware today and you get the full email or text message. I even got notifications from another app reminding me to drink water.You can then go in and block some apps from sending the notifications if you wish.
      Quite pleased with this update – although, you do have to ensure you not only switch on notifications both on the app and on the watch itself.

      I also like the sleep screen face which better displays previous sleep cycle.

      I just wish the Sports Profile for Kayaking showed paddle cadence – can’t really see why it couldn’t.

      Despite a few limitations, I have been very impressed with this watch – love it

  36. Warren Davison

    Hi

    Ive been looking at the watches and cant decide between the Polar Vantage M and Garmin Forerunner 735xt. They are both priced the same here in South Africa and really cant decide. Ive been with Polar forever but have the old FT7 so both these watches will be a huge upgrade.

    Also im mostly into cycling and then do the odd run/ squash/ swim.

    Thanks
    Warren

    • Jeroen

      I would go for the Garmin. No doubt. I’ve been loyal to Polar for years, but the oHR in the VM is seriously broken. I’ve waited for the 3.0 firmware update before deciding, but after a few runs with the new firmware I can conclude the oHR has not been improved in this update at all! And that makes the Training Load Pro feature practically useless. My heart rate keeps dropping, especially when it should go up during intervals or hills. For me this has been the most disappointing wearable purchase, due to the super inaccurate oHR, in years and I have lost confidence in Polar as I think this sensor is beyond saving.

    • flokon

      Why not a V800? It is a very good watch still, and can be had quite cheap. Its battery cannot compete to modern watches, but that’s because it sports the most accurate GPS sensor from any wearable.
      I have to concur that the Vantages’ OHR are nothing much to write home about (their main selling point!). I shelved my M after update 2, and re-charged it to see what v3 would change. Sadly, except for useless notifications, and somewhat useful DND mode (if you wear it for sleep tracking), nothing. I used it on 5 runs from Mon-Fri, and GPS was mediocre at best, and OHR worse than average. I did 5min intervals yesterday, so plenty of time to adjust, but it wasn’t even able to get my HR right during 5 minutes. My HR would sit between 125 and 160, while the 935+HRM-Run showed – in accordance to my perceived effort – 160-170. Add to that I have very OHR friendly wrists, with my 935, and M430 always getting both avg. and max HR right when I use the M+strap as well, makes it even more inconceivable.
      I’ve also been a Polar user myself, since back in 1998. I think Flow is the best platform out there, and that’s what keeps users there I think, for now. GC is mediocre at best, it focuses too much on casual fluff, and redundant data, with unusable graphs. But at the end of the day, I’d rather have a working device, and use a third party service like runalyze, and TP.
      The 735 is a very good watch (had it before the 935), and if you don’t plan on using CIQ stuff like 3rd party data fields or watch faces (both of which the device lacks oomph for), it is a joy to use. Of course, if you can cough up for a 935 you get what is widely considered the best sports watch right now. Otherwise make sure to look for the bundled 735 (run or tri). The run bundle usually can be found cheaper than just the watch, and makes a huge difference. Not only does it unlock access to running dynamics, but you won’t get a strap that good for that price anywhere else.

    • Warren Davison

      Thanks so much for the feedback. It is greatly appreciated

    • Jens

      Hi Warren,

      Sorry for late reply.
      I have V and the 735. Have yet to try oHR with the V, except for pool swim. Outdoor I use Polar OH1 connected with the V and that has worked really well.
      I like my 735 a lot, although it feels a bit plastic, but is super light weight so that is nice. Its oHR is not horrible for me. Some runs are really good but I also get cadence lock at times. I got the M430 last year for its good oHR and I really like that watch too, only it lacks a really important TINY detail – just like the M does – it has no beep! I am dependant on auto lap beeps so therefor I dislike the M430, just like I would dislike the M. What I really like with Polar though is the ability to add any type of sports activity, Garmin is more limited there.
      Not sure this helped 😉

    • Warren Davison

      Hey Guys, so just an update. I’ve been looking at the Polar Vantage M vs Garmin FR 735xt and just to let you all know, as always, a dark horse (not quite) came in and stole the podium position.

      Today I went out and bought the Garmin FR 935. The look and feel blew the 735xt completely out of the water. Yes it is more expensive and yes it is most probably an over kill for what I need but my goodness does it look sexy. The metal buttons and overall casing gives it a much better real feel compared to the 735xt which is more plastic feeling.

      I have not begun the setup as yet but I sure look forward to it.

      Thanks for all the info surrounding these watches and all the comments, really great insight.

      Kind Regards
      Warren

  37. Brian

    Great review! As I look for a new GPS unit in this price range ($250-300), do you have any suggestions for units that offer a “stopwatch” feature. As a coach, timing laps and such for your athletes is only encumbered if your watch is collecting and then clearing GPS data between timed intervals. It seems that most watches want to enable the GPS connection in order to measure any elapsed timing. Am I out of luck in looking for this feature? From your wealth of experiences, do you have some suggested products or thoughts on this. Thanks again for your very thorough analysis of products.

  38. Glenn Levine

    My friend, Vantage has a stopwatch. It’s not a pro-level model with memory and so forth, but it has basic tenths and laps.

    • Brian

      Thanks for confirming the promised Polar update of a stopwatch. Is that a rarity in GPS units now, or are there other watches that come with that simple feature? I don’t find it on the list of features on the watches I have looked at. Again, thanks for the update.

    • Glenn Levine

      I think basic stopwatches are pretty standard. Garmin 935 and Suunto 9, for example, have stopwatches.

      g

    • Agree, virtually all Garmin watches have them, as does I think all current gen Suunto watches. Apple and others too.

  39. Zeljko

    My first sport is OWS. That is why DC Rainmaker for me No1 views. He swims with watches. Unfortunately my new Polar Vantage M still can not be checked in the sea, it’s currently 10C temp. I can say something about running, in addition to Garmin F. 935, the Suunto Spartan Trainer and my museum example of TomTom. I can not even determine whether runner 1 and 2 – there are only two programs running and running on the bar .
    That old TomTom I watch as a reference clock. 98% show the same height values as Google Maps – or military map on paper – without Glonass. Compared to Polar and Suunto mentioned – I think of the theory of conspiracy – “consider that the height is not measured well without a barometer – but we have better models with a barometer” – buy a more expensive clock . But deviations are unacceptable and the data is useless – if you are running calories, recovery … (hill running) and it falls. There are Polar and Suunto weak. With Suunta you run along the coast (lungomare) and after you see the application that you were at -11 and return to some other depth.
    Thus: Polar is also struggling with GPS, especially at heights, but returning to the same point or the second training at the same point, shows less deviations than the Suunta, but still another level. Point height: Google map 73 meters, TomTom 73/42, Polar 78-79 or other 79.9 and after two minutes 79.1 – Suunto S.T. One other point: Google Folder 97, TomTom 97/96 (running a lot over that point, always the same) Suunto 85, 90, 94, and 98.
    Running by the Sea: A TomTom of 0 but rarely and without a minus value of up to 3 meters (which is objective) the same point is always the same. Suunto od – 11 (same point: -7 -3 … no stability) to the expected plus, Polar M: Something better: 1-3, at some points go to minus (apparently running over the surface of the sea). Once he made a jump at + 11 and he was 2-3 meters. Both Suunto and Polar (the mentioned models) are not uniform at the same points while TomTom rarely shows the difference at the same point.
    So, it can be better and I hope Polar will fix it – I’ve read a lot of praise for the V800 so I hope. The GARMIN F. 935 was visibly better than Polar and Suunto – it has a barometer but its weakness is Windows – it can not install the application. I’ve read that the app can not measure with the Polar app. Suunto app is a nice touch, Polar is superior, and the Garmin 935 (in general Garmin) – IMPORTANT – is not compatible with Windows – look at the Web with installation problems – I discovered it when I bought the clock. The mobile phone is poorly used and it has been judged, but it does not measure the heartbeat in the water. With Suuntom I was swimming all summer and was pleased. But, the moon floats with altitude measures! Sold – judged a poor contrast to cloudy weather and forests and small numbers along with the main data they can not read while I run and do not serve me. While the sun is passing,
    By the way: everyone’s recommendation for OWS – if you often swim the same route, sometimes put your watch under the cap or hang on the mask and you will get a good GPS data. Clock on your hands sometimes cover with foil and protect yourself from entering the water – this will be your heartbeat measure. To run: Run on the hilly terrain from point A to point B and return the same way – the application should give a symmetric line, left and right from the point of return. This shows the precision of the clock in height measurement.
    With this objective review, Polar was a little disappointed.
    Greetings from Croatia.

  40. Tom Gioskos

    Am I better off buying a discounted new V800 than a new Vantage. Presume V800 has had bugs/issues fixed. At what discount does the V800 make sense – in Australia V800 Retail price $699.I currently use M400 (4 years) and has been great.

    • Jens

      Hi Tom,
      I think most people would say you are better off, unless you dislike the rectangular shape and its bulky feeling. I got my V800 including H10 strap at a great discount IMO. Think it was a year ago or so, around €280. I don’t use it that much though as I’m a Garmin user first and foremost, but at times I wear two watches, plus Polar has more activity types than Garmin and some times I can’t use a Garmin due to that. I XC skied with the V800 last night and after having skied with the V for a few months now, I’d say the V800 was so much easier to read but it also depends on the time of day.

      I’ve swum a few times with V800 and Vantage V and so far the V has been much worse, but it could be depending on the type of day I had in the pool. V800 hasn’t been perfect in any sense for me. Suunto and Garmin have been better in general btw. I love the V800 for its ability to show HR in real time while swimming. It’s the only watch using chest strap that can do that.

      At what discount? Good question, it’s a matter of choice. I’ve seen the V800 consistenty for less than €300 for quite some time now. Some stores include H10 strap at that price also!
      Happy watch hunting 🙂 Feel free to let us know the result!

  41. Alejandro

    Hi,
    Currently I’m an owner of a vivoactive hr and I want to change the watch, but I’m not decided. I’m between this and the suunto spartan sport/trainer. I’m running and swimming indoor and outdoor (summer) every week. Can you advise me?
    Cheers from Spain.

    • Tobias Johansson

      Im hoping that u get a good answer to the question. Im in the same position as u are. My Ambit 3 Vertical should never have been released, and now its broken for the third time. Suunto is offering a discount wich makes the Sport whr baro at roughly the same price as Vantage M.
      One of my concerns is that the Spartan series is quite a bit older. Will Suunto keep updating it or is it already abandoned? Polar has a good reputation of keeping their watches updated.

  42. Tiago Fidalgo

    Any updates on GPS accuracy?

    Official info from POLAR:

    POLAR VANTAGE V AND VANTAGE M 3.1.7 FIRMWARE UPDATES
    27.02.2019

    There are new firmware updates available for both Polar Vantage V and Vantage M.

    This release brings Japanese and Simplified Chinese languages to your Vantage. If you want to use the watch in these languages have look at this document for detailed instructions: HOW TO CHANGE THE LANGUAGE ON MY VANTAGE M/VANTAGE V INTO JAPANESE OR SIMPLIFIED CHINESE.

    We’ve also added support for most common emojis in phone notifications, so your messages won’t be missing any smileys or hearts anymore.

    Additionally, in this release we’ve fixed the most commonly reported bugs and crashes.

    Update your watch on your computer via FlowSync or on your mobile via Flow app.

    Version number: 3.1.7

    Release date: February 27th, 2019

    Related products: VANTAGE M, VANTAGE V

  43. SharonE

    Looking to upgrade from my Polar A300 with H7 chest strap. I bike, swim, kayak, and hike. My priorities: HR accuracy, water sport safe, battery life as I do multi day bike trips and hiking adventures. and I like the recovery coaching. I would like to get away from the chest strap required i don’t care about music or smartphone stuff. Do I stick with Polar – which model? Switch to a Garmin 735? Switch to a Suunto? Or, just spend $100 or so on a Charge 3. Don’t want to spend more than about $300. Advice?

    • Steven Deckert

      If you really care about HR accuracy, you need a chest strap. None of the optical sensors are as good as a chest strap. Vantage M OHRM is very good when hiking (for me)as long as I wear it tight, but not for cycling or running. Battery life of the vantage M is far and away better than a 735 or Charge 3. The only watch that has measurably better battery life is the really expensive suunto 9.

  44. David

    Your job is of great help. I mainly do gym sports from Monday to Friday: Crossfit, HIIT, Indoor Cycling and Indoor swimming. I don’t have a sports watch right now but I’m about to. I’m interested in a watch that can tell wether my training is productive or not and keeping a track of my progress, vo2 max, heart rate from the wrist when training and when swimming, etc. Data reliability is important for me when it comes to HR. Reps miscount is not that important.
    I like the Vantage V but to be honest I find it to be quite expensive so I am considering Vantage M as an alternative but I can also get a suunto spartan sport wrist HR with a discount. Which one would you recommend in my case? Please, don’t tell me Garmin Fenix 5. 😉 Sure, you can tell me Garmin Fenix 5 if that is your best option. Thanks.

  45. Jason Ellis

    I just got my Vantage M today. Can the brightness/backlight on this thing really not be adjusted? Where can I find that setting??

    • Fredrik

      @Jason Ellis

      At this time you can´t adjust the backlight. Polar has communicated they will make that option available at an unspecified future time.

  46. Jonathan

    I’m looking into the Vantage M with my use case being pairing it with Stryd and using my Apple Watch for music, podcasts, etc. My main question with this is what is the battery life like on the Vantage M when paired to a Stryd? I do like the Apple Watch (S4)/Stryd combo but the battery life may end up too short for my longer runs and races.

    • Steven G Deckert

      Battery life with stryd is superb. In my experience VM is better than the 935 in the battery life department unless you’re using the OHRM. Which, if you’re concerned about accuracy, you won’t be. Multiple bluetooth connections don’t affect the battery much (I use a cycling power meter, stryd, and the wahoo tickr hrm).

      You could easily do an ultra when paired with stryd. Maybe not a 100, but you can charge while wearing and doing so isn’t too obtrusive.

  47. Marta Baffigo

    Hi!
    I have read all the comments with great interest.
    I have always been very loyal to Polar. Tried Garmin once but abandoned it very soon as i could not programme training (probably one of the first models). I had M400 and was very happy. Was able to programme interval trainings and tempo runs and sound alert was my secret weapon to meet my targets.
    One day M400 stopped charging and I bought M430 (also reassured by all positive reviews) while I got M400 repaired. What a disappointment. No sound alerts but also serious ups and down in speed recording which makes training with speed limits useless. Went back to M400.
    Now my dear M400 has really come to end of life and I need to buy a new watch. I must admit all these comments do ont reassure me. I am afraid Vantage M will have the same problems as my experince with M430 and from what I have read Vangate V is not worth the money.
    Any recommendations?
    Does anybody know whether Polar plan to include sound alerts in M430 and Vangate M?
    Thank you!

    • Steven G Deckert

      Vantage M doesn’t do sound alerts but the vibrating can be both felt (obviously) and heard audibly. The instant pace is slightly better than M400. Neither are as good as the v800 or tomtom.

      If you really care about instant pace, get a stryd footpod. No gps watch is going to be accurate all the time. Vantage M works really well with Stryd.

    • Jens

      I hear you Marta,
      I (am mainly a Garmin user but use Polar too) have the M400, didn’t use it so much but it worked well. Got a V800 which was cooler and I didn’t get that until early last year sometime when it was at a good discount. Then I got the M430 for the OHR which works pretty well, but I was REALLY disappointed that it didn’t have the audio alerts. I kept missing the auto laps almost every time since the vibrate wasn’t so noticable while moving. Now I have the Vantage V also and have not used OHR on that yet but so far I like the watch.
      I would almost suggest you get a V800 though, unless you want the new modern design of the Vantage V and want to spend more money. I’m sure you would miss the audio in VM, so it feels like you shouldn’t get that. V800 is at very good price nowadays. Some stores also include the H10 chest strap at this discount. That’s what I got 🙂
      Just my 2 cents 🙂 Good luck!

    • Marta Baffigo

      Thanks Jens. is the vibration alert better (more audible) on Vantage V? My M430 even stops vibrating after some kms. Really not useful.

    • Marta Baffigo

      Hi!
      i have already tried footpod with M430. It was impossible to calibrate it with M430. do you have expeirnce calibrating it with Vantage M?
      is the viration on Vantage M improved compared to M430?

    • Jens

      I wouldn’t say it is perfect. I miss it at times when xc skiing but I also miss it on my Forerunner 935 so it’s not worse at least😉 I think it’s discrete. If you run next to cars on a road you will miss it! Not sure the vibrate is very noticable but that might be a very individual subjective thing…My Suunto Spartan Ultra has better audio alert and vibrate IMO.

  48. Martijn

    FYI: The Clever Training link goes to a Suunto 9 watch.

  49. Andrew Weyl

    Bought the Vantage M in March and I’ve had a couple of weeks with it. Coming from the M430 I can say the M is “different”.

    Pros:

    I really like the way the M does notifications. It’s much more functional vs the M430 where I had them shut off as I found them borderline useless as it truncated messages etc. The M is a much more stylish watch for general wear, I don’t feel like I’m wearing a clunky rectangle like the M430. Being able to toggle through sleep, activity, training load on the wrist is very helpful. Battery life is wonderful and because I like the look so much better than the m430 and I wear it more I’m getting better 24/7 HR and Sleep data.

    Unfortunately that’s about all the good things I can say. As for the negatives I’ll start at the top:

    GPS accuracy is completely wonky. I can go from being at 7:45 per mile and turn a corner and the pace will JUMP to 9:00 per mile and vice versa. You can also see a massive difference in GPS tracks where I’ll run an out and back and be on completely different sides of the street. After doing a bunch of runs and being off badly on pace/distance, I started looking to see if my GPS settings were off, but there’s no way to change the rate that the Vantage M takes GPS readings!(At least I haven’t found it). I’m wondering if in order to increase the battery life, Polar decreased the frequency of GPS readings slightly which may account for the wobbles in pace/accuracy.

    Heart Rate has been just ok. I haven’t seen any major spikes or drops, however it does jump between 4-5 bpm sometimes which coupled with the lack of GPS accuracy is frustrating to say the least.

    Now the part where I’m going to absolutely kill Polar. How does your brand new watch not integrate with any of your older products? For example, I’ve got the Polar Balance scale, and loved the fact that I could jump on the scale, hit the sync button on my m430 and record my weight. It’s a simple, elegant bluetooth transfer. Now with the Vantage M I have to get my phone, drag it to the bathroom, open Polar Flow, go to Balance, hit a button and THEN my weight can sync up. We aren’t talking about something complex here, its a simple bluetooth sync and it boggles my mind that both of the “top of the line” Vantage models can’t do this.

    Same goes for footpod support. On the M430 you can manually calibrate your Polar footpod. Can you do the same thing on the Vantage M? NOPE! This makes the watch basically useless on the treadmill, I’ve gone back to just using a chest strap, footpod and Polar Beat app for indoor training.

    There could be a small novel written on the Vantage series missing features vs the older models, so I’ll just highlight a couple of ones that I”m shaking my head about.

    Zone Lock. Both the M400 and M430 had the ability to “lock” a HR zone on the watch. So if you were doing a training session and wanted to make sure you stayed in Zone 2 you could have the watch alert you if you dropped low or went high. Vantage M omits this feature for some reason. Now the only way to train in zones is to go into Flow and set them up previously. Which is super frustrating because you have to do this in the web browser version of flow. You can’t really edit a training session in the phone app. So if you’ve screwed something up and put the wrong time or training zone in you can’t fix it without a hassle

    I also can’t seem to find a way to keep the backlight on during night workouts. Yes I know it will light up if I bring the watch up to my face but I don’t always want to do that while I’m running at night!

    In conclusion, I’ve basically relegated the Vantage M to my “lifestyle” watch. I’ve bought a fancy watch band to dress it up a bit more and it’ll stay on my wrist until its time to train. If I had to make an overall generalization, it would seem to me that Polar got stuck in the middle. Instead of refining and advancing the m430/800 as a high end training watch or doing a Polar style Apple Watch/FITBIT for the general public they split the difference and failed in both respects. If the Vantage series had things like custom watch faces, bluetooth music and NFC payments I’d be able to look past some of its flaws as a high end training device. The fact of the matter is that it’s not as accurate as the M430 for workouts and it lacks MANY of the useful features that the M400/M430 already do. The Vantage M is also $50 more expensive then something like the FITBIT Versa Special Edition or Garmin Vivoactive 3 which have a more robust set of non-training features. When I factor in Vantage’s poor GPS accuracy thus far I’m not sure I can justify the $50 difference.

    Hopefully Polar can get some of the kinks worked out in Firmware updates but they really need to decide what the Vantage series is supposed to be first and go from there.

  50. Zhivko Nikolov

    @Andrew Weyl – I am in your exact situation – come to Vantage M from M430.
    In addition to your toughs – I am missing the DIARY of the M430 so much. It is ridiculously cumbersome to be able to start your yesterdays planed training session today- you should move the training plan inside FLOW WEB and sync the watch again. It is so horrible design in that aspect.
    They have a bug in the FLOW ANDROID app that makes it almost unusable for rearranging training targets. See my video here: link to youtu.be

  51. Emily

    Hey great review!
    Got a question about the vantage m, is it really suited for swimming? The specs show its the minimum for swimming 30m and that you shouldn’t press the buttons underwater, which is kind of worrying for someone as clumsy as me.
    I swim indoors at least 3 times a week, do you think a vivoactive 3 would be better?

    • Jens

      Hi Emily,

      I might not be the best person to answer but I have to comment. I am an obsessive sports watch tester I guess one could say lol. Lately I’ve started swimming indoors more and now it’s 2-3 times a week. I don’t know what it is but for the past 3 swims, when I have swum 2000m in a 25m pool my Vantage V counted 0m – ZERO METERS (the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus on the other wrist counted 2000), my M600 counted 0m (my F5X Plus counted 2025m) and my V800 counted 625m (F5X Plus 2000m). I usually swim and run with two watches now since I want to compare brands. For the past months I have done freestyle swim. ONCE, during the past Xmas holidays I swam 2000m breast stroke with my VV and then it counted 2000m. That was with older firmware, but I don’t know if that matters. On Tuesday this week I swam 2000m freestyle with F5X Plus and TomTom Adventurer on each wrist. They counted 2000 and 1994m respectively. I would not recommend VM for swimming but maybe that’s just me. Sorry to say. Of course VM might behave differently than my VV but Polar and pool swim just doesn’t work for me.

      I DO wear the VV very snugly and I’ve tried both with right and left wrist, so it must be something with the algorithms for turning that differs in Polar and seems not to suit everyone.
      I haven’t tried Vivoactive 3, but my two recommendations for lower priced watches are TomTom Adventurer and Suunto Spartan Trainer which both have worked well (more times than others). Haven’t swum so much with my Forerunner 735 to be able to comment on that.

      Suunto Spartan Ultra is another alternative because there are good discounts now, unless you think its 50mm size is too large. That is very sensitive in the pool so just by having to move some leftover toys in the pool with one arm or sometimes changing lanes will trigger a length, but has worked well for me. Also it has thermometer so you can see the temperature in the app after the swim, or whilst swimming for that matter lol.

      Just my 50 cents or more 😉

    • Jens

      Hi again,
      Sorry for the spam… Today I went swimming with a friend and I let my friend use my VV. She did freestyle and for her it worked like a charm!!! Not sure if I’m happy or sad when I saw this 😉 She has a different push off the edge after turns, so I guess that makes all the difference.
      I was mighty surprised anyway. So at least my watch isn’t broken…
      If you have the same push I think the VM is a good buy unless you – like me – require a watch that can beep.

    • Emily

      Hi Jens

      Thanks for the reply I hadn’t considered Suunto, there are way more options than I thought.

      It’s good your VV work though, it would be better if it could learn about different ways to turn.

    • Steve

      You can try to re-invent the wheel Polar, but a watch without beeping…
      Doing intervals with only the vibration signal, won’t work for me. So you push me towards the Vantage V (that has the sound), but that’s, concerning the price a no-go compared to the American brand. Especially when your product is not finished and updates are rolled out only weeks after the launch.

    • Martijn

      I’ve tried pool swim first time last week and will use it again this evening. Found that when doing my warmup the lane count was off due to switching stroke within the 25m (due to “traffic” for example).

      When I was just doing my normal 1000m front crawl session it was spot on.

      Now to get the watch to correctly do a 7×50 interval session with 30sec rest……..
      I don’t mind vibrate only reminder but whereas with my old TomTom I could set up an interval session from the watch now with the Vantage M I have to set it up in Flow and sync to the watch. It wasn’t doing what I expected to when I got to the pool and then ofcourse you have no way of changing it.

  52. Pat

    Awesome review! As some one who strictly runs (trail, roads, ultras, anything), would you recommend the Polar Vantage M over something like the Garmin Instinct? Both really caught my eye due to the price, but the barometric altimeter and “rugged” build of the Garmin are kind of making me lean towards that one…

  53. Andy

    hey Ray, do you think the vibration is noise enough to wake man up in the morning ? im currently on M400, and using sound alarm every morning, but not quite sure if the vibration on VM would do the same for me..

    • Tim

      I used to wear a V800. The noise of the vibration definitely won’t wake you up in the morning, but if you’re wearing the watch, it is a quick, reliable and relatively pleasant way of waking up. My Spartan Trainer has an audible alarm and vibration and I can’t turn off the sound. It’s a much less pleasant way of waking up as I’m trying to stop the noise asap too avoid disturbing my wife. I hope that helps.

    • Andy

      Hey Tim, thanks for this ! I went to Garmin, only because of VM lacks the sound alarm.. dont like wearing the watch during the night so I guess I made good decision, however I start to think Polar Flow web and some of its functionalities are much more athlete oriented than Garmin Connect

  54. Ferenc Kumin

    I don’t know if it’s only my issue, but since the last major android update i don’t see the caller ID on my vantage M. When i have a call, it’s buzzing, but the screen is empty. Any clue how i can fix this?

  55. Kai

    Hi, DCR!
    Any thoughts/feedback on the latest GPS update on April 29th?

    • Steve

      If I can jump in…
      I had the M and the V for testing and even after the two recent updates, I’m not over the fence (again). I’m a Polar user from back in de late ’90s. At that time we had to transfer the data from the watch with audio over a mic to a computer by sound waves.
      I left Polar the day the design went off and thought with the Vantage I was back in. Design wise that worked but on the software side, I don’t know yet. Seems like there is still a lot of room for improvement. I bought the new Garmin 245 and I feel I’m good to go for another 5 years. Updating my 235 that still would be my pick, even over the 245.
      The Vantage V however, is a better build than the Garmin but is that even a thing? I run with the watch, I don’t build a house with it.
      Something I don’t read a lot but seems an issue for me and that’s the weight. For some reason, the weight of the V (65 grams) feels really “heavy”. But I’m a small build. I know this is a M thread and that the M is almost in the same weight range as the Garmin. And in terms of battery life, really, I don’t care if the watch is 30 or 40 hours. I don’t do ultra stuff and only just runs up to marathon distance. So for me the 245 ticks all these boxes. But back to your question: I would say: “No”. Nothing substantial is better then before the updates. Even more, the functions that came with those updates should be there from the start in the first place.
      No offence but don’t launch your product (certainly not after 5 years of development) when it’s not finished and wait for customers to give you suggestions and then try to solve those with updates. I know Garmin is “sick in the same bed” but still.
      There is only one company recently that showed me how to do it and that’s Wahoo, with there Bolt cycling unit. Good from the start.

    • Steven Kelly

      Agree on comment about Wahoo. I was an early adopter of the Elemnt. While it wasn’t perfect from the start the devs were fantastic at providing support and fixing bugs, updating features. They actually talk to the early adopters as human beings, when no other companies were doing this. I sincerely wish Wahoo made a watch.

  56. Bossey

    Hello, I am thinking of buying Vantage M, but in the same moment Garmin is having some changes
    245 is announced (but more expensive)
    235 is discounted (cheaper than vantage M, thats what concerned me)
    even M430 is very cheap ( but i dont think i will choose)
    can you give me suggestion what to choose based on overall running feature? (mainly vantage M vs 235 / 245)
    I thinking I will use mostly on running, and sometimes with other training workout. Also it will goes with my first Marathon in November.
    One of a senior runer in my group using 235, and he recommended me to buy Vantage M rather than 235 just because Vantage M is newer and should have more updates coming,
    I am quite confused after so much research.

    • Jens

      Hi Bossey,

      I have some quick comments: If you want a watch that beeps, don’t buy the Vantage M or M430. Neither beeps at autolap for instance. I have an M430 and it’s a good watch but am very disappointed it doesn’t beep.
      If you need direct sync with Runkeeper, don’t buy Polar.
      A lot of people prefer Polar’s Flow web analysis over Garmins Connect, so that might be something to consider.
      For anyone syncing with Strava I am surprised the elevation gain from Vantage V is not correct, always much more than in Polar’s Flow. Garmin’s elevation in Strava is always the same as in Garmin for some reason. I think that’s a bug in Vantage.

    • Steve

      I think, if it’s good for Julien Wanders, (EK record holder on the half marathon and 10k)

    • Bossey

      Jens, thank you for your comment, the lack of sound is also my concern, but I think it wont bother me. How about sync with Nike+? Do you know?

    • Bossey

      Steve, what do you mean of him? I only saw a Garmin in his instagram.

    • Steve

      Check his Instagram (stories). He’s on a Vantage M for a month now.

    • Steve

      he used a Garmin 235 (red) before…

    • Jens

      Sorry no idea about Nike+!

  57. Glenn Levine

    If you are going to run + another sport, 235 and 245 are not the right products and you should buy a Vantage M or other device with “multi sport” mode. It sounds like a simple feature, but it does put the Vantage M in another category.

  58. Colette Willemse

    Hi
    Does the Vantage M pair with the OH1 during training for more accurate heart rate readings?

  59. Ed

    Thanks for the review. I purchased the M after my V800 gave up the ghost. For swimming in a pool – the M does not record in yards, even if it is set to yards. It records in meters and then converts it to yards, which gives the wrong distance. This was confirmed by Polar as an issue they are looking into. My V800 recently started doing the same thing. Super disappointing to have a basic thing like record the swimming in a 25 yard pool not work. Other than that – so far so good.

    • Scott E

      My workaround is to set the length for a 25y pool to a custom length of 22.9yd. Distances are still screwed up because of Polar math, but at least my laps are multiples of 25 when I’m swimming.

  60. Bossey

    I have been using Vantage M for a week, so far so good, except the elevation gain
    I did all my run in a standard sport ground, standard and flat course, and every time it showed both ascent and descent of 50-100m, which my friend using M430 doesn’t has this problem.
    Is the vantage M has bug or it has a terrible elevation measurement?

  61. Christoph Lindner

    route guidance only for V and not for M???

  62. William Goldstein

    Hello!

    I did not find any on/off feature/button on this Polar Vantage M. Is that correct?

  63. Håkan

    I have tested it for 3 months. Great for running and cycling, with good GPS and HRM. But my piece was really bad at indoor swimming, freestyle stroke laps was not detected at alla and breaststroke was sometimes accurate and sometimes 3-4 times off – I’ve set many world records in 200m breaststroke now according to the watch.
    Pair this with a very bad support and I’m now going to other brand. Polar has not given me a single useable answer in 2 months, and the service department returned my watch without doing anything at all.

  64. Ad

    Hi I’m completely new to polar. I’ve been using my Advantage M for about 7 weeks and the index predictions are minutes slower than my actual training. Also I go from something like ‘productive 1.2’ one day to ‘maintaining 0.8’ the next. I thought that after 6 weeks it would be changing and more accurate? Am I doing something wrong or is this normal? Thank you

  65. Donby

    Does it make sense to use the vantage m with the OH1+? And would that work for swimming?

    • Jens

      Yes it does make sense 🙂 The Polar OHR can be very good I have to say, but OH1+ is much more reliable. Unfortunately neither Vantage can use OH1+ for swimming, they only use wrist HR.
      I use OH1 with Vantage V all the time, except for swimming. You need V800 with H10 or H7 chest strap for that.

    • Donby

      Thanks, Jens for your answer. One more question, if you don’t mind… For example, if I play basketball… And wear the oh1+, if connect with the vantage m, how far away can be the distance between oh1+ and the vantage? If I place it outside the field at the middle, I would never be more than 15 meters out of reach…

    • Jens

      Hi Donby,
      So you mean you’re not wearing the Vantage while playing? Ok I am no expert on the BLE range. Quick google search tells me it is possible. It seems to depend on interfering objects that block free sight between sender and receiver also so it could be a problem if people are in the way, but from what I googled 15m should be fine! Hoping someone else can enlight us with more details 😉
      Try googling BLE distance range 🙂 These are high tech questions lol.

    • Andrew

      You can record HR on the OH1+ so no need for Vantage M.

    • Donby

      Thanks for the answer. As I haven’t used the Oh1 not yet without phone, I am not sure if the starting and ending time will be added later in flow. So there wouldn’t be a need to manually add later anything. Is my thinking right?

    • Donby

      Thanks for your answer.
      Well, I will just test it. Would be also interesting if the Bluetooth range from oh1 to phone is bigger and more stable than to the vantage m.
      I will get the vantage maybe in the middle of next week, so after testing I will report. Have a nice weekend.

  66. Bob

    I bought and returned (next day) the Vantage M. I simply cannot believe how bad the screen is even in bright daylight. There is a distinct lack of contrast worse than the Suunto Spartan Trainer and definitely a lot worse than Garmin devices that use a similar display type.

    In 2019, how Polar product management can look at this display and deem it OK for users is beyond me.
    My Polar M430 has much better legibility and much larger fonts.

    • Glenn Levine

      Bob,

      Polar is keenly aware of this challenge–which is not to be underestimated with all of the competing priorities for a specialty watch of this type. Nevertheless, they are introducing an option to improve visibility during session in the October update “v4.0”. They have been spot on with all roadmap promises since launch.

      “Constant backlight setting for training: you can choose to have the backlight always on during training sessions.”

      link to polar.com

      g

    • Bob

      Thank you but they could just allow me to invert the display (like Suunto does) and this would solve the problem while not wasting battery with the backlight.

  67. Leon

    Hi, I have been using M400 for 4 years now and I recently bought Vantage M (updated it to firmware 3.2.10). Although I like the additional recovery and training features, the accuracy is just disappointing. I understand that the OHR is not that accurate but even the pace was next to useless due to fluctuations. In the photo attached the terrain was a bit difficult for GPS, lots of trees and a fence along the way, but the performance is bad even compared to M400. Has any of you guys had similar problems? It seems to me that a smoothing function is missing or speed fusion with an accelerometer. Cheers

  68. Andy

    Hi,

    I have a question. I’m looking for a watch to improve my basic endurance (running and cycling) and I’m not sure what I need. Looked at the vantage m, m439, forerunner 935,645,245. But I have the feeling, that they have to much functions I don’t need.
    Can you recommend one? It would be great if the data could be used offline, without a cloud.

    • Glenn Levine

      Andy,

      I believe the Polar m430 and Garmin 235 have to come off your list if you are going to combine sports in series–i.e. run then bike in the same session. This is the “multisport” function that mostly higher end watches have. The Vantage M is an exceptionally low-priced option in that regard.

      Both Vantages are arguably less feature-filled–manifest both in the watch and eco-system. Garmins, for example, have much busier interfaces, mobile payments, music players, etc.

      Polar is more “direct and to the point” and does most key functions well. If budget is an issue and/or you’re averse to “features you don’t need”, then you can’t go wrong with a Vantage M, but I would check the features you might miss when compared to a V and the others to be sure. DC Rainmaker does a nice job of this with his product comparison tool.

    • Andy

      Hi Glenn,

      Thanks for your fast answer. I’m beginner and I’m sure that I won’t mix the sports. One day cycling, another day running is fine for me ;). I’m also sure that I will use a chest strap, because I want accurate HF measurement.

  69. Donby

    Well, I ordered the vantage m for a great price.It will arrive these days, so I could sell it without a loss…
    Normally I wanted , as I own an oh1+ also a polar watch, but in general I would prefer a smaller one than 46mm. The ignite has an inaccurrate gps, so that’s out, but now I saw the Forerunner 45…and I like the design really.
    Now the question is, if I don’t drive better with the fr44. I go running and do a lot of other sports like fitness, rope jumping, tennis, fighting. I know I can track that all with both watches, but I would like to measure HF 24 hours and get good data about stress level, recovery level, sleep level etc… Would then the FR 45 be an even better watch for me?

    • Donby

      Well… I answer now by myself after 3 says testing the vantage m,lol. Concerning GPS and hr accuracy, I am totally happy and I will keep it. I’d like a smaller and slimmer watch but wouldn’t give away that superb battery life. Also manual laps and always on display I wouldn’t trade for the ignite. Especially the coming updates will bring in the analytics that I’d like to have…minus fitspark, but that is not so important for me.
      Thanks for the great review, @dc rainmaker!

  70. Anders

    Weird problem: Using the Wahoo TICKR heart rate monitor for running with my Vantage M caused the GPS to malfunction. I was getting around 1/10th of the distance. No problem during cycling. Have all the latest firmware on both the watch and the TICKR. Guess I’ll have to get the Polar H10.

  71. Zotmund

    Quick question, not specifically related to the Vantage M. (I have a Vantage M)

    Is it not possible on ANY watch to set pace AND speed within a sport profile? I learned that you can set speed OR pace as a watch screen but both won’t work. I understand this is the same on Garmins and basically any watch.
    Any reason behind this? (probably has something to do with math and how the watch calculates)
    It may not make sense to see both in most of the sports, but why the hell not see pace AND speed when hiking for example or even riding a bike.

  72. Donby

    As I don’t like the feeling of the original strap, I bought a cheap (10€) nylon strap which is for me more comfortable and doesn’t look that bad. It’s very easy to adjust and the skin can breath way better. As I have to put it off often at work (physical therapist), it’s very practical for that reason, too.

  73. Paul

    Ray mentioned that he “wouldn’t be writing home about the Polar Vantage M’s optical HR accuracy.”

    As a recent buyer, I had hoped that this had been improved by Polar during the recent months, unfortunately it seems to me that are still issues with the optical heart rate even with latest firmware.

    A comparison from an outdoor ride indicated that the OHR on my Vantage M still struggles in comparison to my V800 with H7 – needing almost 10 minutes to “warm-up” and nevertheless completely missing the last quarter.

    Other issues with the OHR of my Vantage M surfaced on the comparison from an indoor spinning session (see picture) – quite some delay and missed bursts / recovery in regards to the Polar V800 with H7 strap.

    I am wondering if this does look more like a specific problem with my unit or if it is more an indication of the current situation with the OHR on the Vantage [M] series?

    Any help appreciated!

    • Glenn Levine

      Paul,

      I am a Vantage V owner, and long-time Polar users (happy v800 for 3 years). This article may help you with appropriate usage scenarios:

      link to support.polar.com

      Polar and the rest of the industry is under no illusions about the limitations of the technology used in OHR, although it seems Apple has the leading edge here.

      OHR works pretty well for me, although I have and use a chest strap for workouts. I get pretty good use out of OHR for 24×7 monitoring, when I forget my strap, or my strap has battery issues. I find little performance difference for steady state activities, but high-intensity intervals show more difference as your chart does.

      If you have precision needs for HR analysis of your workout, and/or want to use Recovery Pro and HRV-based analysis, then there is no substitute for a strap

      As for usage guidance, tighten it one or two band notches when in a session for best performance, and also know that some wrists don’t respond well to OHR due to characteristics and location of your blood vessels.

      If you don’t like a chest strap and OHR on the watch doesn’t do it for you, you’ve also got the OH1+ option (with Polar).

      Best,

      g

    • Paul

      Glenn,

      thank you for your kind reply. I am also a long-time (and mostly happy) Polar user, however I had hoped for better performance with the latest OHR “precision prime” technology.

      I had also tried the Polar Ignite, but my results were even worse for OHR and especially GPS.

      I might give the Polar OH1(+) a try, but then I probably might even stick with the H7 strap – and my good old V800 (which has just lost some of its plastic cover but despite that is still running flawless).