Polar has launched two new watches today, the second iteration of the mid-range Vantage offering, now called the Vantage M2, while also launching their updated Ignite fitness watch – the Ignite 2. You’ll remember last fall Polar refreshed the higher-end Vantage V, with the Vantage V2. At this point, Polar has essentially refreshed the bulk of their wearables lineup in the last 12 months – inclusive of launching the trail-focused Grit X last spring, which kinda slides in between the Vantage M2 and V2.
For this review though, I’m gonna focus entirely on the M2. And most of the features that we see it gain are largely ones Polar has previously launched on the Vantage V2 or Grit X last year. In fact, there’s only a single ‘unseen’ feature with this launch, the ability to broadcast your Vantage M2 heart rate to apps like Zwift or TrainerRoad using Bluetooth Smart. While Polar has toyed with HR broadcasting in various devices over the years, it was mostly limited to talking to other Polar devices, and even then, it rarely worked properly. This time though, they’ve revamped the tech to follow Bluetooth Smart HR broadcasting standards. Now, that’s only enabled today in the Ignite 2 – but it’s it’ll hit the Vantage M2, Vantage V2, & Grit X later this year.
Ultimately, the Vantage M2 is aimed at folks who want a full-featured multisport watch – but don’t want to pay Garmin prices for it. And frankly, it does a really good job of that. It’s got connectivity to all the sensor types most need (like cycling power meters), while recording your workouts across a slew of sport profiles – all for under $300. Here’s the quick and dirty in a roughly 8-minute long video, highlighting all the key bits:
For this review I’ve been using a media loaner Polar Vantage M2 (as well as an Ignite 2) – and putting it through its paces. Once I’m done with the unit I’ll toss it in a box and get it shipped back to Polar. That’s just the way I roll. If you found this post useful, consider becoming a DCR Supporter which makes the site ad-free, while also getting access to a mostly weekly video series behind the scenes of the DCR Cave. And of course, it makes you awesome.
In many ways, the Vantage M2 will feel pretty familiar to Polar fans, largely because virtually every feature but one has already been rolled out to recent Polar devices like the Vantage V2 and Grit X over the past year. And inversely, the singular new feature not yet on the Vantage V2 will get an update “later in 2021”, and with that, the Grit X will get the newer features too.
Still, here’s what’s new to the Polar Vantage M2, in comparison to the original Vantage M:
– Added Music controls widget/dashboard
– Added weather forecast widget/dashboard
– Added weekly training summary widget/dashboard
– Added FuelWise – hydration & nutrition reminders based on past workouts
– Added Nutrition energy sources – breakdown of carbs/protein/fats
– Added watch face customization – choose which widgets/dashboards to see
– Added power save modes – increases non-GPS continuous workout time to 100 hours
– Adds new HR broadcasting over Bluetooth feature “later this year”
– New watch colors
– New band design
– New bezel design with etching
– Pricing increases slightly from $279/279EUR to $299/299EUR
Somewhat oddly, the Ignite 2 got new heart rate broadcasting features today, but the Vantage M2 doesn’t have it at launch. Instead, down the road, the Vantage M2/V2/Grit X will get an update for that. Additionally, the Grit X will get the Weekly Training Summary dashboard view, the music controls, and the weather forecast bits in a firmware update. There’s no specific timeline for that other than ‘later this year’.
Also, in case you didn’t see all the updates that the original Vantage M got, remember it received these major features updates before its last feature firmware update about a year ago:
– FitSpark: Essentially suggested workouts on a daily basis
– Race Pace: A virtual pacer option for running to hit a target time
– Sleep Plus Stages: Sleep details including sleep cycles and states
– Nightly Recharge: This uses ANSI data to determine how much you recovery each night
– Serene Breathing Exercises: Pretty much as titled
– ZoneLock: This allows you to focus on a specific HR zone during a workout
– Galileo & QZSS Satellite support: This is atop the existing GPS & GPS+GLONASS options
– Fitness Tests: Determines your Vo2Max using a short test
Again, all of those in this last section were added to the Polar Vantage M (original version) during the timeframe after release. There are more minor updates and bug fixes and such, but those are the big-ticket ones.
When it comes to comparing it to the Vantage V2, the main things the Vantage V2 has that the M2 lacks are:
– Barometric altimeter
– Hill splitter (which depends on barometric altimeter)
– Recovery Pro
– Running Performance Test
– Cycling FTP Test
– Leg Recovery Test
– Route navigation (including with Komoot routes)
– Strava Live Segments
– Built-in running power support (depends on barometric altimeter)
– Longer battery life
– Audio alerts (no audio alerts in M-series watches)
– Higher waterproof spec (100m on V2 vs 30m on M2)
– V2 has a touchscreen
Ok, got all that? Good, let’s get it unboxed.
What’s in the box:
Cracking open the top of the Vantage M2 box, you’ll find the watch sitting atop an upper level, concealing the chargers and extra band below it:
Inside each Vantage M2 box is a standard Polar Vantage charging cable (same as Vantage M/V/V2/Grit X), as well as an extra longer strap. In my case, the default strap was more than long enough for my apparently skinnier runner wrists.
Here’s a closer look at the charging cable:
And then we’ve got the quick start guide that was chilling inside that box:
Here’s a closer look at the Vantage M2, which features a new etched bezel design.
In my case I’ve got the white/gold one, though I personally like the look of the darker colors/etching better. Here are all the options:
You can see the new strap design is definitely far better than previous iterations, and is fairly comfortable too – I like it!
Plus, it lies flat, unlike the original one, which forced the strap around the corners.
The weight of the unit comes in at 44g, exactly the same as before:
Ok, with that let’s start using it.
For most people that get a smartwatch, the purpose is a blend of sports-focused usage with everyday wearability and health tracking. And the Vantage M2 is no different in that respect and its functionality. Sure, it doesn’t have the pretty display of an Apple Watch – but it doesn’t try and be one either. An Apple Watch has a battery that lasts a day, or two if you’re lucky. Whereas a sport-specific watch like the Vantage M2 is gonna last a week or two in normal smartwatch mode. Different things for different people.
For this first section, I’m going to dive into all those day to day usage type aspects, and then we’ll hit sports in the next section. While most of this will be old-hat to those familiar with recent Polar releases, there are some new tidbits in here worth nothing – notably around some of the dashboard views.
To begin, the Vantage M2 is a non-touchscreen watch (whereas the Vantage V2 is touchscreen), instead you’ll use one of the five buttons on the side. And honestly, that’s perfectly fine by me. The last thing I want to deal with is a finicky touchscreen trying to get a lap marker on a track workout (hence, why the V2 still has buttons, in case you were wondering).
Now by most modern standards, the Vantage M2’s menu and user interface is a bit slow. I’m not expecting lightning quick here, but I do feel like Polar probably needs to consider some meaningful performance upgrades at some point for the next hardware version. I’d consider this acceptable for the most part, but you can definitely feel the lag. Note that each time you press a bit you get a nice vibration, which is well executed.
The strap on the Vantage M2 is removable, and you can swap it out for any 22mm strap you have. I still continue to find it bizarre that Polar’s higher-end Vantage V2 is a propriety strap design (though at least swappable), while the less expensive M2 is fully industry standard. I’m not complaining in the case of the M2, but just a thought.
On the backside of the Vantage M2 you’ll see the optical HR sensor. This is used to measure your heart rate 24×7, as well as breathing rate and other sleep metrics. During a workout it goes into a higher power mode for more accurate HR measurement there. Notably however, it does not appear to be the same exact sensor set as the Vantage V2 or Grit X. Both of those used a 10 LED arrangement (5 red, 4 orange/yellow, 1 green), whereas both the Vantage M2 and Ignite M2 appear to have gone back to a slightly different arrangement of 9 LED’s (5 green, 4 red, + 1 unused yellow) – previously used on the Vantage M & Vantage V.
I’ve gotta wonder if this is Polar quietly admitting the Vantage V2/Grit X sensor was actually a step back in accuracy. Myself and many other reviewers found it finicky, often showing small spikes in the HR – and in general being less accurate than the generally quite good original Vantage series sensors. In any case, more on accuracy later.
The Vantage M2 adds the newer tweakable dashboard pages found on the V2. These pages are often called widgets by other companies, but basically allow you to get consolidated information in other areas such as sleep, steps, or workout history. And Polar has introduced a few new pages here, as well as the aforementioned ability to select which pages you actually want displayed. Starting in no particular order, here’s the heart rate one. This will show the time/date (and battery too when you raise your wrist) in the main dashboard, as well as your current heart rate. You can then tap it to get more details about your heart rate for the day:
The Polar Vantage M2 constantly records your heart rate to the watch, and then syncs it onwards to Polar Flow via the smartphone app (or desktop app if plugged in). From there you can see it on Polar Flow mobile app, or the website. For example, here’s a look at a day’s worth of heart rate data, including two workouts:
After that, you’ve got sleep tracking. This is essentially subdivided into two pieces: Sleep Plus Stages and Nightly Recharge. The first piece covers things like when you went to sleep and your sleep phases. While the Nightly Recharge bits looks at how well you’ve recovered each night. Nightly recharge takes three days’ worth of data before it starts showing details, and will improve over time the longer you wear it.
You can tap into that page to see more details on both sections:
Alternatively, all of this is also found up on Polar Flow too:
For the most part, I find Polar’s sleep tracking pretty good. I didn’t have any meaningful errors here, with the sleep times within a few mins of when I actually fell asleep or woke up. And recharge bits were relatively close most days to how I felt – though, I have no way of knowing whether or not the sleep phase/stage data is correct.
After that, we’ve got FitSpark. This was introduced back on the original Vantage M watch in a later firmware update, and it essentially gives you daily suggested workouts to maintain your current fitness level. There are different types of workouts such as strength, cardio, and supportive (typically flexibility-focused). And it’s smart enough to generally first offer a cardio or strength workout, and then after you’ve done that, it’ll give you a supportive workout. But more on this later in the Sports section. In this case, I’ve already done a few Cardio workouts for today, so it’s giving me some stretching to do:
And then later on, it tells me I’ve done enough this day:
After that, we’ve got the weather page, and somehow, it’s not raining here in Amsterdam. Don’t worry, just give it a few hours.
You can tap into that, and it’ll ever-so-slowly load expected rain, wind speed, and the forecast for the coming days. It’s some of these detail-heavy pages that you really see the user interface kinda drag a bit.
Next, there’s my weekly training summary, in hours and time per heart rate zone. There’s been a lot of workouts lately.
You can tap this to then get more details on the zones, distances, calories, and activities, allowing you to see each activity that contributed to that weekly total.
Going back to the main dashboard page we’ve got the daily steps. In my case, this is helped by a long meander that afternoon:
And then there’s the training status page. As is often the case when 3-5 products get released on a single day, my Polar (and Garmin) training status will helpfully remind me that my workout load is a poor idea. I helpfully remind them who pays the bills around here. It still taunts me.
You can dive into that to see the exact breakdown and why it’s upset at you.
Now, whether any of these dashboards are displayed can be customized via the Watch Face Views option. You’ll find that by pressing the lower left button and scroll down a bit. You can then toggle which widgets/dashboards you want to see, and which ones you don’t. I mean, I don’t want to name names here, but the dashboard that keeps showing me as ‘Overreaching’ is pretty close to getting the ax.
Off in that semi-settings area you’ll also find the Serene guided breathing exercises. To execute these you’ll sit on a couch and look at bubbles on the watch:
You can configure the overall duration as well as the inhale/exhale lengths, and it’ll walk you through each step until completion.
Next, there’s smartphone notifications. These non-interactive alerts will be sent from your iOS/Android phone whenever apps that you’ve configured on your phone send a notification. They could be Strava, Twitter, Facebook, Tinder….anything. You can’t reply to them though, so it’s just one-way in nature.
New to the Vantage M2 is the music control dashboard. You can either toggle this on as a dashboard, or access it via the menu. This allows you to control music on your phone. You’ll access this by changing your dashboard watch face to the music one, after enabling it. You’ll need to have a music app open on your phone for this to work. The Vantage M2 does *NOT* have any music storage on it. So it’s *ONLY* controlling music already on your phone.
Somewhat neat though is that it does pull the correct icon for the app it’s controlling, so you can see the Spotify icon shown there – a nice touch. I can skip/rewind/pause/play on the main screen, as well as tap the volume icon to increase volume:
There are no other options beyond that, such as selecting songs or such. It’s just iterating through what you have – pretty similar to what buttons on a pair of headphones would do.
Oh, and last but not least, you can slightly change the watch face between digital and analog, as well as change the accent colors and whether or not to display seconds. But ultimately, there are very few watch face options here compared to most other watches on the market. This is another area that Polar could probably aim to spend a bit of time, if not for the Vantage series, but likely more so for the Ignite/Unite series.
With all the basics covered, let’s dive into the reason you actually bought this watch: The sports functionality.
Sport Features & Usage:
The Vantage M2 follows the Grit X in many ways, and in fact, one could basically consider the Vantage M2 a Grit X without a baro altimeter or course tracking. Both watches get almost identical new features over the existing Vantage M. And if we look at the total new features on the M2, roughly half of them are sports features (versus the other half being day to day type features). Here’s the sports-focused set:
– Added weekly training summary widget/dashboard
– Added FuelWise – hydration & nutrition reminders based on past workouts
– Added Nutrition energy sources – breakdown of carbs/protein/fats
– Added power save modes – increases non-GPS continuous workout time to 100 hours
First up though, let’s dive into sport modes. To start a workout you’ll either long-hold the middle right button, or tap the bottom left button and select ‘Start Training’. Both options take you here though, which is where you choose the sport mode you want:
The Polar Vantage M2 can store locally some 20 sport profiles, with each profile having customized data fields, calorie burn metrics, and a slew of other settings. These sport profiles are controlled on Polar Flow, either via the smartphone app or website. There are gazillions of sport profiles to choose from. While many of them are similar, the main thing is really calorie burn metrics between them.
Once a sport profile is selected, you can change the data fields and pages you want shown, or the frequency of update rates. You can also change zone limits, as well as automatic laps, and more. These can be changed on both Polar Flow online, or via your smartphone app:
For example, it’s in here that you can tweak the data fields shown on your watch:
These changes are synced to your watch anytime you sync your watch, which can be done via Bluetooth Smart to your phone, or cable to your computer. Usually the sync process takes about 20-40 seconds via computer, or about 30-60 seconds via Bluetooth Smart. It does tend to take longer though if you haven’t synced in a while and it needs to sync GPS cache information, firmware updates, etc…
In any case, back on the watch, you’ll see icons for whether it’s locked your heart rate (via the optical sensor), as well as location (via GPS). Also, if you have cycling accessories like a power meter or cadence sensor, it’ll let ya know whether or not those are locked. And if you’ve got an external heart rate sensor, Polar will change the HR icon outline to blue as opposed to green once the sensor is connected.
Now, I’ve seen somewhat slower GPS reception on both the Vantage M2 and Ignite 2. The Ignite 2 has been far worse for me (as in, like up to 10 minutes horrible). But the M2 is still often taking 1-3 minutes to find GPS, which in 2021 is crazy pants long. Most other units of mine lock in a few seconds. I’ve escalated to Polar to let them troubleshoot.
As for sensor types it supports, it’s the same as before, they are:
– Bluetooth Smart Heart Rate Straps
– Bluetooth Smart Cycling Power Meters
– Bluetooth Smart Cycling Cadence & Speed Sensors
– Bluetooth Smart Running Footpods
– Bluetooth Smart Running Power Meters
Note that the Vantage M2 doesn’t have built-in running power meter support, as it lacks an altimeter. From a cycling power meter standpoint, I’ve mostly been using it with my Quarq DZero power meter, as it’s been fiddly with my pedal-based power meters. Sadly, there’s no support for ANT+ here at all. As such, pairing it to most smart trainers will be tricky, because you’ll need that single Bluetooth Smart connection to likely pair to Zwift/TrainerRoad/etc (unless using ANT+). Only Wahoo supports multiple concurrent Bluetooth Smart connections on their KICKR 2018/2020/CORE/BIKE models.
To pair sensors, you’ll head to the general settings menu, and then sensors from there. As one interesting Polar aside, they actually automatically save sensors in your account and pre-pair them to your watch. Meaning, if you’ve got a Polar H10, it’ll actually automatically stick the sensor details into the watch when you turn it on. That’s great in 99% of use cases, but if you’ve lent that sensor to a friend/spouse/dog and plan to workout near them while they use that chest strap, be aware it’ll auto-pair to that. Again, the blue pairing icon on the start screen is your indicator that it’s using that instead of the optical sensor.
Also on that pairing page is a settings icon. This is where you can adjust power settings, including the GPS recording rate (which increases GPS battery time). In general though, the data loss going from normal 1-second recording to 1-minute or 2-minute recording is massive. I wouldn’t EVER recommend that unless you *really knew* you were going to be well above normal GPS battery time, and only in cases where you’re moving super slow.
Oh, in that menu you can also turn off the optical HR sensor to save battery life, as well as turn on a lower screen update rate option to save battery life.
You can also toggle on/off the backlight, as well as select a structured workout from your library. If you don’t have a structured workout saved you can create an interval timer on the watch itself. Like most on-watch interval systems, it’s fairly simple in that you specify either distance or time-based goals, however, there isn’t a way to set a recovery period. So it’s basically just like a repeating timer.
Note that on the Vantage M2 there is no route guidance/course following, unlike the Grit X or Vantage V2 series.
In any event, with all that settled, we’ll hopefully have a lit-up series of sensor/GPS lights, and can get going by tapping the right center button to start the workout. From here you’ll see your data fields as you’ve configured them. Pace, distance, and other sensor metrics update in real-time as expected.
To take a lap, you’ll press the lap button. I like how Polar has both distance-based laps as well as manual laps, and you can blend those two together after the fact in workout analysis.
I didn’t have any issues seeing the display or buttons, all worked just fine for me –and visibility was just fine too – no issues there for my eyes, though, I can see how some would find the display a bit dark in certain scenarios. The backlight solves that, but ultimately it’s no different than previous Vantage displays.
For cycling specifically, I did see some issues with the most recent Garmin power meter pedals, whereby it would drop the connection exactly every 2 minutes. I did not have this issue with the Quarq DZero. And while one might be tempted to assume that’s a Gamin problem, I don’t think that’s the case. Instead, it appears to be a power meter spec/pedal problem. For example, the Vantage M2 won’t even pair with my PowerTap P1 or P2 pedals. So I suspect there’s some sort of difference of opinion here that needs to be sorted out between the two companies. Hopefully they’ll do that.
In any case, after you’re done suffering, you’ll get a workout summary screen with boatloads of data you can dive into. Here’s a quick gallery of all those screens:
And then you can see the workout on Polar Flow, via your smartphone or web. here’s an example of a track workout I did yesterday:
(Note: I effed up and hit pause as opposed to lap at the end of one of my intervals, hence the cut across the grass to the start of the next interval 200m later. My bad.)
All of the splits/lap data is listed down below too, where you can see those 800’s, though, due to the GPS variance on the track, they were more like 840’s and 850’s according to Polar. I’d say it’s probably time for Polar to consider adding in a track mode like Garmin & COROS.
If you’ve got sites like Strava, TrainingPeaks, and others set up, it’ll automatically get synced to them too, the second the workout uploads to Polar Flow.
Now, we haven’t yet covered FuelWise or Nutrition energy sources, so let’s do that now. First, on that just completed workout, you’ll have seen the Nutrition/Energy sources. This is where you can see the breakdown of carbs, fats, and protein in your workout calories:
However, the point of this is to then use it within the FuelWise functionality, which gives you smart reminds for carb refueling. To access that you need to choose Fueling from the main menu (lower left button) *BEFORE* you select a sport. Ideally they’d allow you to add it just like you add a structured workout, from the sport mode, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers. Once in there, you can choose what type of reminder to add:
Then, you’ll specify the estimated workout duration (time), as well as the size of your nutrition’s carb serving (in other words, how much per gel packet).
Then once out during the workout it’ll give you reminders dynamically based on your normal fueling requirements from past data. If you go beyond your planned duration (perhaps because the Vantage M2 doesn’t have route navigation and you got horribly lost in the woods for 7 hours), it’ll keep giving you reminders dynamically until you hit stop. Whether or not you have the nutrition on-hand is definitely not Polar’s problem. They assume you can find yourself a 7-11 somewhere.
Shifting to more workout guidance, is FitSpark. This was added back in the original Polar Vantage M/V days, but it’s one of the more important pieces of the Polar puzzle. Basically, the idea behind this is to keep you doing something. First, it’ll skew towards Cardio or Strength workouts, and then after that, it’ll finish up with a Supportive workout (which is core/stretching typically). You’ll see this on your home watch face dashboards:
Each day it’ll give you a suggested cardio workout, and then after you’ve completed that it’ll give you a supportive or strength workout. These aren’t tied to a specific training plan (like building towards a marathon), but rather, aimed at giving you a ‘Workout of the day’ concept. And doing so in a way that doesn’t get you injured.
Depending on the type of workout you choose it’ll give you the specific steps and guidance in the watch itself. There are cardio-focused running workouts with different intensities. And then there are core type workouts too, and for those, it’ll give you the specific moves to do, along with animations and text for each one:
Again, if you’re on a structured training plan towards a specific-season race, this frankly isn’t for you. Instead, it’s for folks who don’t have a specific training plan, but just want to keep active in an endurance-sports focused manner. The watch won’t mess around, it’ll throw-down solid workout suggestions, so don’t think you’re just gonna get a bunch of 30-minute easy-peasy stretching workouts.
Meanwhile, if you’re on a structured training plan, then you’ll probably be using the Cardio Load status portions. But first, you’ve got the Weekly Training dashboard, which shows you your training load each week (it resets at seemingly/oddly noon on Mondays), inclusive of the exact HR zone breakdowns.
However, in concert with that is the actual Cardio Load dashboard. This shows you whether or not your training is productive. On the main dashboard page you’ll see a quick overview:
But once you dig into it, you’ll get the exact details of what it thinks about your workout habits:
Strain is a metric showing the average daily load from the past 7 days. Whereas Tolerance shows your average daily load from the past 28 days. So basically you can look at those two values and see the ratio as part of the number above it, such that it keeps things in check. Go too high, and you’re prone to injury. Too low, and you’re not going to make gains. In the middle, and life is grand.
You can also view this same info on the Polar Flow app:
And this is where we get to the biggest training difference between the Vantage M2 and the V2 – the lack of Recovery Tracking – called Recovery Pro. Though, that does require a chest strap at least three times a week to get the full Orthostatic test and associated recovery data. Still, you can use the Nightly Recharge data on the Vantage M2 (as discussed earlier in the basics section) as a pretty good proxy for recovery.
GPS & HR 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 don’t 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 Polar Vantage M2 activities however, all workouts only had a single device per wrist). 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.
Meanwhile, for HR accuracy testing I’m typically wearing a chest strap (usually the Garmin HRM-PRO, Wahoo TICKR FIT, Polar H10, or Polar H9) as well as another optical HR sensor watch on the bicep (lately the Scosche R2, Mio Pod, Whoop band, and/or Polar Verity Sense). 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.
Ok, let’s dive into it. First up, let’s get right into the more challenging HR aspects, along with both an easy and hard run from a GPS standpoint. This is a track interval workout, thus hard for the heart rate sensor. But I ran to/from the track with the recording on – and that route was trivial for most GPS units. The track of course is hard for GPS due to the challenge of nailing a track shape. Here’s the Vantage M2 GPS compared to Garmin FR745 and FR945, notably, these all use basically the same GPS chipset.
At a high level, these look similiar. Ignore the random slash across the track, that’s just stupid me hitting pause when I meant lap at the end of one of the intervals.
However, what concerns me is the running on the straightaway – and honestly, more at the end of the run than the beginning. Look at how far off the Vantage M2 is, wobbling over in the swamp/canal (in green). Now, the FR945 did however undercut this final turn significantly. Though, it’s also the only time it did so.
But its the number of errors the Vantage M2 made that’s less ideal. For example, going under the highways, it wobbles way off course:
Or further along this path, the Vantage M2 is clearly deep in the canal. Yes, the FR745 is a bit off track too for a short period, but a much smaller chunk than the M2:
Same goes for this turn. Nobody is saying the FR745 is great here, but the Vantage M2 is very much not great.
Now, when it comes to the track itself, the Vantage M2 actually did quite well for not having a track mode. Track mode was enabled on the FR745 (in purple), but not on the FR945 (in teal). So you see that the purple is ‘snapped’ to the track, save the two points on the right side when I got too close to the track running past it on the path during the warm-up, and it ‘snaps’ to it. Normally you only enable track mode once you arrive at the track, but in most cases you can get away with it otherwise. As noted, the single slash across the infield is simply hitting pause for 200m of my recovery, instead of lap.
So, for not having track mode, the track consistency isn’t bad. Though, each 800m set was coming up as about 850m (+/- 10m), which is semi-substantial.
Switching gears on this run, what about heart rate? For that I’m comparing the optical HR sensor of the Vantage M2 to a Polar Verity Sense band, the Garmin FR745 optical sensor (other wrist), and the Garmin HRM-PRO chest strap.
You can see above that simply put – the Vantage M2 basically nailed these 800m intervals – virtually perfect. In fact, all of the units were pretty solid on the intervals. The FR745 optical sensor had a rough go of the first 5-6 of the warm-up, but then was fine all the way till the 6th-8th intervals, where it wobbled a bit at the top-end.
Looking at the final intervals, it’s really interesting. Basically, we’ve got three sets of responsiveness to these 200m sprints. You can see the Garmin HRM-PRO chest strap responds first each time, as expected. Then with about 2-3 seconds lag is both the Polar Vantage M2 and Polar Verity Sense optical HR sensors, followed then by the FR745 optical HR sensor. And by ‘followed’, I mean, sometimes.
You’ll notice how the HRM-PRO ‘drops’ faster after each interval, again, normal that a chest strap would lead there, while the optical HR sensors are a bit laggier. Still, the main work portion is very close – just delayed. Meaning, things like total training load wouldn’t be appreciably different/impacted here. Thus, I’m pretty darn happy with the Vantage M2 on this interval.
Next, let’s look at a road ride. This one is pretty straight forward, but includes some in the woods sections, some sections near bridges, and some nice loops around a cycling track to test repeatability. Here’s that data set, and you can see the exhaustive list of units below. The Vantage M2 on one wrist, Ignite M2 on the other, and the FR745 on the handlebars.
Frankly, there’s nothing wrong with this GPS track- it’s really good across the board. About the only time I could quibble is a single turn where it went a bit wide into the intersection (upper right of the photo below):
But otherwise it’s great. The Ignite 2 was a bit more wobbly in some cases, but not a huge deal. Road ride is generally pretty easy for GPS. So, let’s look at optical HR instead:
Compared to a Whoop strap, Garmin HRM-PRO, Polar Verity Sense, and Polar Ignite 2 – we’ve got plenty of data to look at. Obviously, that yellow line is the Ignite 2. Clearly, this was not its favorite ride. It takes a special kinda luck to do worse than the Whoop strap, but it managed.
However, the Vantage M2 in purple is actually pretty darn good for an optical HR on a road ride. Outdoor cycling tends to be challenging for wrist based optical HR sensors due to the positions of your wrist being tight holding onto the handlebars. And while there are some minor quirks, it’s overall quite good.
Let’s switch over to a mountain bike ride. This is virtually entirely in the forest, and tons of constant turns and twists. Given the Dutch don’t have much in the way of hills, they make up for it with the most drunk-route possible through the forest – as if a blind man is shouting left & right as fast as they can back and forth. Here’s the data, which, at a high level doesn’t look too bad.
Looking at the closer twists and turns, you’ll see it’s actually all pretty similar. The FR945 is a bit offset, but that makes sense as I had mounted it on the top-tub against the stem. It was just there collecting HR data from a strap, and power meter data, not so much for GPS data.
Heart rate data here is kinda rough on the Vantage M2, but that’s kinda to be expected given the tense pressure of holding mountain bike bars with optical HR sensors on the wrist. The Garmin Enduro on the wrist is roughly similar here. One could argue semantics which one was more imperfect, but it’s probably a wash. The Enduro did better on the first half, while Vantage M2 did better on the second half. However, neither was horrific.
Ultimately, the heart rate on the Vantage M2 is largely quite good running, cycling indoors, and even mostly good road cycling. For mountain biking, it’s not ideal (but rarely are wrist-based optical HR sensors), but probably passable for most people that are fine with ‘good enough’ data there.
For GPS, it seems fine for road cycling and mountain biking, but I’m pretty disappointed at my last run before publishing my review. For this timeframe, I was more heavy cycling rather than running. Sometimes it’s the opposite. Ultimately, it’s a multisport watch – so doing different activities makes sense. But it really shouldn’t have struggled on the run as badly as it did. Granted, that’s just one run – but it does seem to align with the struggles other reviewers had with GPS accuracy. Hopefully it’s something they can sort out.
(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.)
Overall this is a good update model from Polar. It’s not drastically different, but does keep things fresh – similar to what they did with the Polar Vantage V2 last year – and, more importantly, incorporates almost all of the features from that watch and the Grit X (at least, those that didn’t depend on a barometric altimeter. While there is that slight price increase from $279 to $299, I think that’s more than fair – especially since Garmin is mostly leaving this price range entirely to Polar and COROS – a mistake that I think will eventually flower as Garmin’s prices seem to continue to rise for multisport watches specifically. COROS has their Pace 2 watch, which is fantastic. However, it doesn’t have anywhere near the level of platform or app polish that Polar has, nor the depth in some of the features like the training load bits. Of course, it’s also $100 cheaper.
Still, while the optical HR sensor accuracy improved on the Vantage M2 for me compared to other recent Polar watches, the GPS wasn’t as strong. Perhaps that’s something they can sort out, but it is a bit of a bummer. Moreover, as one who enjoys an occasional track workout, I think it’s time for Polar to look to add a track running mode, akin to what Garmin & COROS both have – that would also have the side benefit of probably covering up some of the GPS stability issues on the track too.
Nonetheless, despite the minor quirks – it’s overall a very good option, and with the external/bezel/strap design refreshes, it looks less like a cheaper plastic watch and more like a premium sports watch. Add to that the heart rate broadcasting option rolling out to it later this year, and it fills in some of the indoor training gaps that Polar has had as well.
With that – thanks for reading!
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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.
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And finally, here’s a handy list of accessories that work well with this unit (and some that I showed in the review). Given the unit pairs with just about any Bluetooth Smart sport sensors, you can use just about anything though.
Speed sensors are primarily useful for offroad usage. I don't find much of a need for one while road-cycling, but for mountain bike trails they can help alleviate speed/distance issues with poor GPS reception in dense trees.
This is a strap I often use in testing/comparisons. It's dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, but it also supports the 5kHz analog heart rate transmission for older gym equipment. Also, it has workout storage/recording in it and supports two Bluetooth connections.
This is a great strap, especially if you're going to the gym. It's dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, but it also supports the 5kHz analog heart rate transmission for older gym equipment. Note that it only accepts a single Bluetooth connection, versus dual-connections for the Polar H10.
I'd argue the Polar OH1 Plus is the best optical HR sensor out there. So while it might seem odd to get this when your watch also has a optical HR sensor, this one is just better most of the time. Plus, it also has workout recording storage. Dual ANT+/Bluetooth.
The Polar Verity Sense is the newer variant of the Polar OH1 Plus. And while it might seem odd to get this when your watch also has a optical HR sensor, this one is just better most of the time. Plus, it also has workout recording storage. Dual ANT+/Bluetooth.
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Thanks for reading! And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible. And lastly, if you felt this review was useful – I always appreciate feedback in the comments below. Thanks!
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