Polar recently launched a new series of sports watches, the Polare Vantage M and Vantage V. The Vantage watches are the successors of the wildly popular Polar M400 and M430. Recently we had access to the cheaper version, the Polar Vantage M. I ran, cycled, skated, swam, kite, sailed, skied and walked with it in the mountains. At first I was enthusiastic, but not 100% convinced of this watch. But after using the Vantage M for a longer time, I have to adjust my opinion. Partly because I got to know the watch and the App better, but also because the various updates to the software have made the watch better and more reliable. The Polar Vantage M is in my opinion a really good sports watch, especially if you look at the price-quality ratio. Below my experiences in depth.
I am an old fashioned multi-athlete. I have been using Strava for years, but I use it mainly as a log of my sporting activities. For years I have not listened to my body properly and especially trained hard. When I woke up tired, I often just went for a run because that gives me energy. Until I started noticing that rest before a competition was perhaps the best training. The Polar Vantage M has recently given me that insight into training and above all into rest so that I have really taken steps and improved my performances.
Specifications Polar Vantage M
The Polar Vantage M is available in 3 colors; red, white and black. The watch weighs only 45 grams and is very nice and comfortable with the standard supplied silicone wristband. If you have charged the watch 100%, you can use it for approximately 30 hours in training mode (with continuous GPS and heart rate measurement). If you wear it as a normal watch, it will last around 5 days. Be careful when charging, because the connection between charger and watch is very subtle and the slightest movement disconnects the two. The Vantage M is WR30 waterproof. This means waterproof up to 3 bar / 30 meters. Great for sailing, surfing or swimming, but not suitable for diving. The Vantage M also has a Precision Prime™ optical heart rate monitor, GPS, GLONASS (the slightly more accurate brother of GPS), always-on color display and a motion sensor. Furthermore, the user interface is available in 16 languages, including Dutch and all other – most common – languages. The Vantage M does not have a barometer (handy for altimeters in particular), which is in the more expensive Vantage V. The Vantage M does not have a touchscreen, while the Vantage V does have a touchscreen. Furthermore, the watches are very similar, although the Vantage V is a lot more expensive (Vantage M € 249 versus Vantage V € 425).
Interface and use
The Vantage M unfortunately has no touchscreen, but is operated by 5 stainless steel buttons on the side of the watch. It takes a little getting used to in the beginning how the watch exactly works. The interface is not illogical, but it needs some attention, especially since we are used to touchscreens in these days. But after a short time you understand how it works. Especially during exercise it is nice that you can constantly see your heart rate, your speed, the number of kilometers traveled, but also always receive a vibrating signal with every km traveled. There are different interface designs to choose from, so something for everyone. You can also easily switch between screens with different parameters during your training. You can also see your daily activity goal on the watch. Here you can choose from Level 1, 2 or 3, which says something about how much physical activity you normally have per day. This way you always see how much % of your daily activity goal you have achieved so far. In the beginning this sometimes went wrong. When I was cycling on my mountainbike all day, I was forgotten to track my sports session with the watch. Because of this the heart rate monitor and GPS had not registered anything. At the end of the day I saw that I was at 88% of my daily activity goal, while in reality I had cycled 5 hours and probably achieved about 700% of my goal. The GPS & GLONASS is doing very well. On different bike rides in the Ardennes, the GPS results were much more accurate than, for example, Strava on the iPhone and very similar to the Garmin Edge 1030 that we used at the time.
Precision Prime ™ heart rate monitor
This heart rate monitor consists of 4 sensors and 10 LEDs that are located on the bottom of the watch. The LEDs send a light signal to the skin and the sensors measure the signal that returns. This type of heart rate measurement is less precise than when you use a chest strap, but it is a big step forward compared to the optical heart rate monitors that were used in sports watches a year or so ago. My experience is that the heart rate monitor is very accurate in sports where there is a certain rhythm, such as running, skating, hiking and cycling. But the watch found it more difficult to determine the correct heart rate for mountainbiking and kitesurfing and other sports where either the heart rate suddenly rises very fast, or when the watch shakes unexpectedly.
Polar Flow App
During and after exercise you can of course see what your performance is on the watch. This way you can keep track of your heart rate, speed, distance, altitude meters etc during your training or competition. To go more in-depth you need to synchronize the Vantage M with Polar Flow, the platform from Polar that provides insight into both training and rest. Polar Flow is available online, but also in an Android and iOS App. By pressing two buttons the watch synchronizes with the App and you can study all your performance in training and rest – down to the smallest details – on your phone. For the athlete who is seriously engaged in his sport this is really a must. The App gives a lot of insight into how your body is performing, although you will not receive an update if you have posted a PR or other achievement. You do, however, gain much more insight into your sleep. Every night’s rest is recorded and analyzed. This gives a lot of insight, and is sometimes really confronting when you sleep poorly for a while. I do have to say that the watch sometimes does not fully understand whether you are really sleeping. For example, when you are in bed and cannot sleep (but lie very still), the watch will register this as sleep. Via the App the watch can be easily linked to Apps such as Strava, AppleHealth, Nike+, MyFitnessPal and TrainingPeaks. Partly due to the clear App, I really see the watch as my “personal on-board computer”. At first I thought I sometimes knew better, because who knows my body better than I do? But after a while I found out that sometimes I can listen better to the watch and the App when my body still isn’t fully recover from a previous workout. There are also 130 different sport profiles in the App. By indicating what your favorite sports are, your watch saves these sport profiles. When you start a session, you select the right sport and the watch understands much better what you are doing. Running on the road is really different from trail running or running on a treadmill in the gym. It is also very nice to do a combined swimming and cycling / running training with the watch, or to go sailing or kite surfing.
The Polar Vantage M is really a perfect sports watch for the multisporter who wants to have insight into his performance and does not want to spend € 500 for a sports watch. The watch is relatively easy to use (although it has no touchscreen), is very comfortable and gives a good impression of your performance. The Polar Flow App on your phone and the simple synchronization with the watch make the Polar Vantage M really suitable for the modern multi-athlete for whom “measuring = knowing” applies. The built-in heart rate monitor performs very well for an optical heart rate monitor, and the GPS is also very accurate. Polar has carried out many updates in recent months and has several updates planned for the coming months. These updates really make the performance of the watch better and more accurate. With an average purchase price of € 249, Polar has a really good price-quality ratio. In my opinion, the Polar Vantage M is an absolute must!
Polar Vantage M
Retail price: € 279,90