Polar’s New H9 Heart Rate Strap: Everything you ever wanted to know

Polar has announced today a new heart rate chest strap, undercutting slightly their higher-end H10 strap with a less expensive offering that ditches the onboard storage, while still maintaining the trio of connectivity choices (ANT+/Bluetooth Smart/5kHz). Essentially, it’s Polar’s perfectly priced strap to counter the Wahoo TICKR and Garmin HRM-DUAL chest straps.

I’ve been using the strap for the past few days to see how it performs. Though, like most chest straps these days, it pretty much does exactly what you’d expect it to do, and accurately too. Since it doesn’t have any ‘fancy’ features like internal storage or running efficiency metrics, it’s relatively straightforward to use and test, and give you my initial thoughts.

Now one twist on this strap is that like the H10, it actually does retain Polar’s newish SDK functionality. This means that it’s ideal for some of Polar’s B2B partners to leverage for various applications beyond just simple heart rate such as ECG and HRV data. Also, with the 5kHz connectivity, it’ll work with all those gym treadmills and machines that still somehow don’t have Bluetooth or ANT+ connectivity in them.

Finally, I’ll attempt to keep this post efficient. After all, from a consumer standpoint (non-developer) it’s just a strap that transmits your heart rate on multiple frequencies. Sure, it has compatibility with apps like Polar Beat and Polar Flow…but that’s not really any different than any other Bluetooth HR strap.

The Basics:

The Polar H9 strap comes with two components: The chest strap itself and the modular pod that pops into it.  The strap itself is their SoftStrap branded lineup, which most folks find pretty darn comfy (myself included). It’s adjustable in size from really small to pretty darn big. It’s also easily replaceable in case you’re one of those people that go through chest strap bands like I go through cookies.

Note the strap does have some differences to the H10. For example, the H10 includes these grippy dots, whereas the H9 doesn’t. Also, the H10 includes a clip on/off clasp, whereas the H9 you just slide it through a little loop.

Meanwhile, the pod is a starkly different grey color – something I haven’t seen from Polar’s historically black pods. Either way, the color matches the DCR Cave’s photo/unboxing table well.

On the back of the pod you’ll find the small door for opening up the CR2025 battery compartment. This coin cell battery should last you about a year with 1-hour’s worth of daily usage.

After which you pop open the door and pop in a new coin cell battery. Simple as that:

The strap will automatically activate once it detects heart rate signal between the two electrodes. This occurs when you snap the pod into the strap and then put it on your chest. Alternately, you can give the two sensing pads a small massage with your fingers and it’ll wake up the strap. When it doesn’t detect a human, it’ll go back to sleep automatically.

 

There’s no visible lights or such on the strap itself once powered on. Instead, it’ll just start broadcasting concurrently across the three formats:

– ANT+ heart rate (unlimited connections)
– Bluetooth Smart heart rate (one concurrent connection)
– 5kHz analog heart rate (unlimited connections)

The only thing that’s notable here on the Bluetooth Smart side is that the Polar H10 allows for dual Bluetooth Smart connections versus just the singular concurrent connection on the H9. My bet here is this is more of a differentiating limitation by Polar than a hardware one, as I suspect it’s the same chipset. The main use case for concurrent (dual) Bluetooth Smart connections is where you want to concurrently connect your chest strap to something like a Polar watch (which only does Bluetooth Smart for current models) as well as an app like Zwift on iOS/Apple TV (also only Bluetooth Smart). You can use unlimited ANT+ connections with a single Bluetooth Smart connection at the same time.

For most people this is more than enough, but if you’re a big enough geek like me – it’s a limitation I occasionally hit up against.

In any case, to demonstrate the three connectivity options – first, here’s a Garmin Edge series device connected via ANT+. You can see it in the pairing menu, as well as the connectivity type (and, the ANT+ Manufacturer ID Polar is assigned of 123, each company gets their own ANT+ ID).

 

Then, we’ll layer in a connect to Zwift on an iPhone via Bluetooth Smart:

And finally, for the pièce de résistance, I’ll connect to it with my treadmill via analog 5kHz connectivity (showing pulse at 74). My treadmill doesn’t support any of the newfangled ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart stuff.

Cool, huh?

Now, at this point that’s basically all you need to know about the strap. It’s now broadcasting your heart rate and doing the things you need it to do. However, you can use it with Polar’s apps. Again, it doesn’t have any storage or accelerometers in it, so it’s purely broadcasting heart rate. But Polar’s apps each have different purposes. Typically Polar Flow is for adding your device in for firmware updates and sync (on other products), whereas Polar Beat is for doing workouts.

If we pair it up to the Polar Beat app, then they’ve got a variety of heart-rate training programs as well as the ability to record your trainings and then sync them with various 3rd party apps. At present it shows up as an H7 strap, but I’m sure by the end of the day it’ll quietly show as an H9. You’ll notice there’s the option to enable/disable ANT+, broadcasting at all, and GymLink (the analog bits). Kinda cool.

  

Ok, with that – I think we’ve covered all there is to know about it connectivity-wise and basic use. After usage, like any other chest strap, I recommend simply washing it off with water. I often just do this in the first minute or so of taking a shower after a workout. Then simply hang it up to let it dry. The entire strap and pod is waterproof to 30-meters.

Initial Accuracy Data:

Here’s data from an initial workout. This was an indoor workout because the weather is miserable here right now and was basically hailing blueberries like an angry tornado yesterday.

First up is the data from the indoor bike. In this case I had a boatload of other sensors onboard, all carefully positioned so that they don’t interfere with each other. In total, I had all the following:

A) Polar H9 Strap (Upper chest)
B) Garmin HRM-DUAL Strap (lower chest)
C) Polar OH1 Plus optical HR sensor (upper left arm)
D) MioPod optical HR sensor (upper right arm)
E) Garmin Vivoactive 4 watch (left wrist)

Phew. Data file extravaganza!

Here’s what that looks like:

As you can see, that’s pretty boring. The Vivoactive 4 accuracy mostly sucked like a drunk pedestrian, but everything else was almost identical. Some minor variances between the two optical HR sensors, but by and large pretty darn similar across all of them. This included a few sprint efforts, and a variety of changes in intensity. The H9 is in teal connected to the FR945 as an ANT+ chest strap, while the HRM-DUAL is in orange connected to the Peloton bike. The other colors are shown to the right.

You can see the entire set of data, inclusive of zooming in and out as you see fit here. Ultimately, it’s pretty boring. There’s virtually no difference between them.

Now, I had plans to have an indoor treadmill interval workout for you this morning as well. Except, I’ve spent the last hour troubleshooting Zwift and Bluetooth Smart sensor connectivity. So, no run now. Maybe later once I finish placing the entire setup underneath a high-speed bus out front of the studio.

(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy sections 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.)

Product Comparison:

I’ve added the Polar H9 strap into the product comparison database, within the heart rate sensor section. That’s got boatloads of heart rate straps in there, though for the purposes of comparison below I’ve slated it against the Wahoo TICKR series, Garmin HRM-DUAL, 4iiii Viiiiva, and Polar H10 – all being chest straps. If you want to compare it against optical sensors like the Polar OH1+, Wahoo TICKR FIT, or Scosche 24, you can do that in the product comparison database too.

Still, to make your life easier, I’ll distill this entire table down to basically three lines:

Polar H9 vs H10: The H10 has storage for workouts sans-device (meaning, it’ll sync them from strap to phone). It also has accelerometer data that you probably won’t ever use, it does dual Bluetooth Smart connections.

Polar H9 vs Garmin HRM-DUAL: The Garmin strap has dual Bluetooth Smart connections like the Polar H10, but lacks the 5kHz analog signal for gym treadmills/equipment. Both are priced the same. Essentially the main difference here is deciding which use case fits you best.

Polar H9 vs Wahoo TICKR or TICKR X: Assuming the base TICKR (not the TICKR X), they’re the same for ANT+/Bluetooth Smart connectivity, but the Polar H9 has the analog 5kHz that the TICKR doesn’t. The TICKR is cheaper. If looking at the TICKR X, it has offline storage like the Polar H10 and a bunch of running focused metrics you might use 2 or 3 times (only with their app).

Polar vs 4iiii Viiiiva: As usual, the 4iiii Viiiiva gets basically no respect. It’s got more software features than everyone above for about the same price. I personally don’t find the strap all that comfortable though. It doesn’t have dual-Bluetooth Smart or 5kHz, but does have bridging of ANT+ accessories to Bluetooth Smart (including footpods/power meters/etc…). Plus offline storage. I think it also farts Canadian rainbows too.

Make sense? Good. Here’s the table of them all:

Function/FeaturePolar H94iiii ViiiivaGarmin HRM-DUALPolar H10Wahoo TICKR (Original)
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated June 25th, 2020 @ 9:33 amNew Window
Price$59$79$69$89$49
Product Announce DateJanuary 29th, 2020Jan 7th, 2013Jan 30th, 2019Jan 5th, 2017Jan 6th, 2014
Product Availability DateJanuary 2020July 2013Jan 2019Jan 2017Apr 2014
Measurement TypeECGECGECGECGECG
Typical PlacementChest StrapChest StrapChest StrapChest StrapChest Strap
Battery Life1 year200 hours3.5 years1-2 years350 hours
Battery TypeCoin Cell CR2025Coin Cell CR2032Coin Cell CR2032Coin Cell CR2025Coin Cell CR2032
NFC CapableNoNoNoNoNo
HR TransmissionPolar H94iiii ViiiivaGarmin HRM-DUALPolar H10Wahoo TICKR (Original)
ANT+YesYesYesYes (with firmware update)Yes
Bluetooth SmartYesYesYES (DUAL BLE CHANNELS)Yes (dual BLE channels)Yes
Dual concurrent ANT+/BLEYesYesYesYesYes
Analog for gym equipmentYesNoNoYesNo
Usable HR data underwaterYes (with certain older 5kHz watches)NoNoYES (WITH CERTAIN OLDER 5KHZ WATCHES)No
Bridging ANT+ to Bluetooth SmartNoYesNoNoNo
Can record activity in memoryNoyesNoYesNo
Additional DataPolar H94iiii ViiiivaGarmin HRM-DUALPolar H10Wahoo TICKR (Original)
Run PaceNoNoNoNoNo
Run CadenceNoNoNoNoNo
Run Economy/MetricsNoNoNoOnly to RaceFox appNo
Cycling CadenceNoNoNoNoNo
Cycling Power Meter EstimationNoCan pass through ANT+ PM'sNoNoNo
Valid HRV/RR dataYesYesYesYesYes
Configurable Sport ModesNoSortaNoSortaNo
Displays HR ZonesNoNoNoNoNo
Requires Bluetooth Smart Phone for ConfigurationNoYes (for bridging only)NoYesNo
Firmware UpdateableYesYesYesYesYes (iOS/Android)
AppPolar H94iiii ViiiivaGarmin HRM-DUALPolar H10Wahoo TICKR (Original)
Can show workout afterwardsNoYesNoYesNo
Can sync files/workout to 3rd partyNoYesNoYesNo
Amazon LinkLinkLinkLinkLinkLink
Clever Training - Save with the VIP programLinkLinkLinkLinkLink
REI LinkLink
Wiggle LinkLinkLinkLinkLink
More InfoLinkLinkLinkLinkLink

And again, remember you can make your own comparison chart with all the heart rate straps/sensors I’ve reviewed (optical and chest straps) in the product comparison database here.

Summary:

The Polar H9 fits a gap in Polar’s lineup for offering a tri-band chest strap at an affordable price, undercutting the price of their own product (the H10) to put something on the market that should actually do well competitively since it really does stack up well against the Garmin HRM-DUAL and Wahoo straps. Each strap has their own minor differences that you’ll have to ultimately decide which strap, if any, makes the most sense for your specific needs. But ultimately, I’d be more than happy to use any of them on a daily basis.

I’ve really got no complaints about the H9. Sure, I’d love to have seen two Bluetooth Smart connections like the H10 – but that’s product differentiation for ya. And sure, I’d love to have seen storage of workouts like the H10 – but I’m not actually a fan of how Polar’s H10 workout storage functionality works logistically. So that’s not a big loss (I find it cumbersome compared to how others work). I’d note the Polar OH1 Plus’s offline functionality is awesome – and one of my daily testing sensors out there because of that simplicity.

As for accuracy, things look pretty good at this point for what I’ve tested. More to come there. While my treadmill workout as planned crapped out, I did actually start the workout before I ran out of time – and within that realm things were matched up 1:1 against the HRM-DUAL. Again, hopefully this afternoon I’ll be able to win the battle against electronic devices and get that workout knocked out for real, with more juicy running interval data.

Until then – as I said up above – this seems like a nicely landed product by Polar. Good price, good functionality, and based on their longstanding success of existing chest straps that the vast majority of people seem to really like (myself included).

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 H9 Heart Rate strap (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.

Polar H9 chest strap
Polar H10 chest strap
Polar OH1 Plus optical band

For European/Australian/New Zealand readers, you can also pickup the unit via Wiggle at the links below, which helps support the site too! With Wiggle new customers get 10GBP (or equivalent in other currencies) off their first order for anything over 50GBP by using code [Currently Disabled] at check-out after clicking the links below.

Polar H9 Chest strap (EU/UK/AU/NZ – Wiggle)
Polar H10 Chest Strap (EU/UK/AU/NZ – Wiggle)
Polar OH1 Plus optical band (EU/UK/AU/NZ – Wiggle)

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!

DC Rainmaker:

View Comments (95)

  • Will it work with previous Polar HRM soft straps? I have a bunch so would be good. It looks the case from the pictures and previous Polar history

  • I am really disappointed in the HR sensor in my Apple Watch series 5. I have been considering a strap. Would I be able to use this one with the Apple Workouts app on the watch or will I be forced to use the Polar app to get the strap data?

    • Thomas, the H9, H10, OH1+ will all pair to your Apple Watch and you can use any fitness app as long as it has HR functionality

  • I used polar HR sensor for many years and loved all of them. Used with old polar watches, then he M400 and then with my ambit3 and also wahoo bolt. Always worked perfect!
    Unfortunatelly I lost it and I decided to buy a suunto strap. Liked it because it was confortable and very light but never worked correctly, return it under warranty and got a new one,
    it worked for some time but after that again a lot of problems. After that I bought a wahoo tickr it's kind of big and looks cheap but it worked ok for a time... but died just after a year. Then I bought a tickr x ( ok
    bought a tickr but clever training like me and send the X ;) ) working ok for a time but lately a lot of reading problems.
    I think I will go back to polar and buy this one

    • I also would like to know. My 3 year old HRM-Tri strap has seen better days, the amount of electric tape and staples holding it together can attest to it. I haven't bought a new one since after the HRM-DUAL I thought Garmin might come out with a newer Tri/Swim whatever version. I do like the onboard memory and sometimes use running dynamics so kinda holding on to the purchase for now.

    • I’m on the same boat. My good old HRM Run 3 seems to be done. I bought a new (Polar) strap recently but my heart rate keeps going up to 180 when in reality it’s just 130/140. I don’t think it’s strap since it’s fairly new. Maybe the problem is the pod itself.. But yeah, there was a rumor for the HRM-Pro last year. It even got listed on Garmin’s Brazilian website for a few hours. Still nothing.

    • I had the same question since my HRM-Tri had been slowly dying. After I finally went and bought a new one today, Garmin will probably announce the replacement model tomorrow.

    • Yeah, I didn't buy a strap during the thanksgiving timeframe since I had read about the HRM-Pro rumours and my strap still had some life in it. It still does, but the structural integrity of it has started going down hill severely :)

    • Quick update. After reading some old DCRainmaker's posts about HR straps issues, I bought the suggested electrode gel to improve the conduction during the cold winter runs and guess what? It totally fixed the abnormal HR readings. Amazing. I'm super happy to have it back. I can now wait and see what Garmin is going to release. Until then, I will keep using the HRM-Run 3 with the Polar soft strap. Thanks Ray.

  • Any experience with this Powerlabs strap? https://amzn.to/2O66Ow4

    CleverTraining needs to fix their search function for "HRM Strap"...the only thing that shows is the Garmin Swim HRM at $100. Dig a bit and Running has a bunch of straps but NOT the standard Garmin Dual. I had to really dig to find that one.

    It should not be that hard.

    • Sigh...search. Agree.

      As for that strap, no experience. To me though just looks like a normal dual ANT+/BLE strap. I don't see any special features beyond that.

    • If you have a Decathlon in your area then they have a dual Ant+ / BLE strap as well. Goes for about EUR 35

      Seems to do the job quite well in Zwift or Sufferfest.

    • The quality of a HR sensor is judged by it's ability to detect RR timings accurately. RR timings are really important for the propoer function of HRV applications. From those the heart rate is calculated and filtered. Becuse a filter is applied it means that you have differences in dynamics and you may see differences in response but the difference as such is more related to the choice of design and filters and having a stable reading for the customer. The right reference when comparing HR sensors is medical ECG/Holter.

      Niclas

  • Why is HR data from Garmin watches during workouts so poor compared to dedicated optical straps. It's basically unusable riding outdoors or indoors on the ERG and only OK for directional data on the indoor trainer or treadmill (but completely useless for hard intervals anywhere). Is it purely the location on the arm as I am assuming the sensor tech is not that much worse?

    • I'm actually surprised at that ride - usually it's mostly passable for me for indoor rides.

      The dedicated optical sensors that are further up the arm is simply a much better place to measure it. I can just about guarantee if I strapped the watch up there, it'd be just as good. It's just a really good place to measure HR.

    • Just wearing my Garmin further up my forearm gives me nearly identical data to my chest strap. Wearing any watch on my wrist (just above the wrist bone) is hit and miss. I always thought my Scosch Rhythm just had better sensors. But when I started wearing my FR245 at the same location on the arm, they are basically identical.

  • Any plans to ever evaluate the Whoop strap, or is that outside of your normal wheelhouse? I love mine, but would love to see you put it through your paces. I know you mentioned it the other day, but I've never seen an analysis of it.

    • Definitely. Might even make it onto my wrist tomorrow if I remember. Been sitting on a shelf since summer when I bought it.

  • Ray,

    You may have answered this question from a previous post. Is there any difference in Bluetooth vs. Ant+ when it comes to signal strength? Does one have a tendency to drop out more than the other? I suppose hardware and signal strength can differ unit to unit so it can be a "it depends" kind of answer. I ask this because with Garmin supporting Bluetooth connections and more units supporting Bluetooth is there a noticeable differences between the two formats?

    Thanks!

  • Do you think the Polar brand still has a marketing edge when it comes to heart rate, or are consumers largely unaware that Polar has been doing this for decades more than everyone else, that they work with pro sports teams, that they're the only wearable company that does their heart rate metrics in house instead of licensing, etc.?

    • Polar was late to the Ant+ scene so Garmin took over and Wahoo is making headway. I do not know about anyone else but I find BT to be flaky and limited in distance and connections.

      Polar made a bad business decision.

    • Technically speaking either can be about the same range. Heck, some drones are even doing some crazy Bluetooth control these days. Meanwhile, I've seen some ANT+ tests across an entire football field too.

      However, practically speaking it'll vary wildly on the exact implementation on both devices for transmission and reception. Between the HRM-DUAL and H9, I haven't seen any material differences in normal usage. Perhaps I'll drag out the NPE WASP and take a look at signal strength. But since I've lost over an hour of my day already to fighting other connectivity issues, I'm kinda over that for this Wednesday. :)

    • Ant+ is (IME) much more robust. BT may or may not connect. I have an Apple 4(?..latest) TV and it has trouble locking on my Snap much less my Tickr (when it worked) at 20 ft. Plus the limited connections...

      Note: Standard setup is laptop w/Ant+ (usb dongle) connected to Zwift+Snap(G1)+Garmin Speed Sensor+PowerTap P1

      I double the connections to my Fenix3.

      I would be interested in a BT scenario that can duplicate my current setup.

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