As you can see on my blog posts, sport is important part of my life – I will write post about this, about big changes in my life, but not now. This post is a Polar Vantege M review – sport watch, which I’ve used from middle of 2019. In effect, it’s long-term review and have information about many, many updates pushed by Polar during last few months. This watch replaced few other devices: my Garmin watch and Bryton Rider bike computer. In short version I can say, that I’m very happy with Vantage M, but it’s not perfect device and not for everyone. If you are looking for nice training device, this post may be for you.
First off all, the question is: why I decided to replace not bad watch (Garmin Vivoactive HR) and computer bike and use only one device? It’s big topic. Last year I decided, that real “sport” is not for me: it’s too exhausting, it devastates my body, I must spend a lot of time for workouts and feel pression about results. I’ve used also power meter in bike, two wheelsets, and a lot of accessories. It was ok, but earlier. Last year, it has become more and more exhausting. In effect, I was losing pleasure for cycling or running, was focused on results instead of life balance. I decided to remove all these gadgets and use only one, simpler, with long battery life and change sport to “fitness” – lighter activities, healthy for body. Also, Vivactive HR was fine but… so ugly in daily usage.
Polar Vantage was still new device in July 2019 – Polar introduced Vantage series few months earlier and many reviews said, that new devices are too simple, had fewer options than older. For me it wasn’t disadvantage, because I’m not professional athlete. Vantage M seemed to be perfect: good looking, compatible with external sensors (but I didn’t plan to use them), with build-in heart rate monitor and very nice price – like low-ends Garmin devices, but much better in many points.
Vantage M has 1,2” display with 240×240 px resolution. It’s clear, crisp and very solid – according to official data, glass has hardened surface and I can’t say anything wrong about that. Several months, daily usage, running, cycling, weight trainings, yoga and showering with watch on my writs: no damages on scratches. Display is very clear on daily sunlight, has also option to backlight: we can run it manually for example for all workout, and automatic backlight when we raise our hand. It works fine, may be problematic only when we go sleep for first minutes – don’t know how it works when I sleep, but probably is disabled then. Rest is also solid, and for me, good-looking: it’s sport watch, but can be used as daily watch without any issues, much better than old, ugly Vivoactive HR. Rubber strap is comfortable and allow to set to the correct level.
Simplicity is the thing, that I really love on Polar. Yeah, it supports notifications from phone, but it’s limited and disabled by default. It doesn’t have payment option, it doesn’t have found my car option, it doesn’t have MP3 storage and can’t connect to headphones – but it’s advantage, because it’s simple. I wear watch all day, and after work, can just change clothes, go outside, start workout… and it’s all. Without many unnecessary options and gadgets, without distractions. I’m from this group of people who think, that “all in one” is not always best approach. Polar is all-in-one in training area, not other matters and it’s fantastic for me. There are a lot of options, but all of them are related to sport, activities, recharge and monitor our progresses. And it’s ok: do the best in one thing, instead of only pretty good in many others.
Traning Load, Running Program
Watch has a lot of options. We can use auto-pause during workouts, we can set time/HR intervals, monitor laps, HR zones and a lot of other data. Many important things are “outside” workouts. One of them is Training Load Pro: device analyzes all our activity and workouts, and can cay: we make progress, we exaggerate and overload our body, or we have regress and should do more. It’s nice, sometimes can it can piss me off, but it’s like a real trainer: he will tell you, you do it wrong. We can also create training program, and Polar with recommend workouts. For example, you are preparing for marathon in three months. During this period, Polar will recommend you next workouts, best options to prepare you most efficiency.
With last update, Polar added one very interesting feature to Vantage: FitSpark. It can use our activity and previous workouts to recommend new ones when we want to do workout. For example it can say: it’s good time to long cardio training, for example running. You can enable it and make workout in predefined HR zones, with warm-up and also cool-down periods. It’s great, maybe not perfect trading plan, but can be very helpful for many users. Other nice feature is Fitness Test. It will analyze your hearth rate in 5 minutes and can calculate VO2max, also will say more about your health and condition. It’s very short and easy to do test, but analyze a lot of parameters and can be used to really check these things.
I can’t say anything bad about GPS accuracy on Vantage M – it’s ok, and results are very similar to other devices. Of course, in city with some big buildings, starting may take some time: phones with many positioning system support and Wi-Fi/Bluetooth additional data are better but… In comparison to other sport devices, it’s ok. I used Vantage on forests, on my mountain’s trips, on Tenerife, and every time accuracy was more than enough. In the beginning, watch supported only GPS, but with one update they added support for other systems. Now we can choose between GPS + Glonass (Russian system), GPS + Galileo (EU) and GPS + QZSS (Japan). After this update, initial searching position is faster, even with many buildings in the area.
Serene, Night Recharge, other features
This tracker has some additional, nice features. One of them is Serene: breathing workouts, like meditation. It should provide us more peace and reduce stress. In that mode, we set time for inhalation and exhalation (for example, 5 seconds) and… just breaching to the rhythm of watch vibration. I think, it’s great option to start meditation and “awareness” time. There is also Nightly Recharge: a function, to monitor our sleep, our autonomic nervous system (ANS) during night and recharge quality. It requires minimum three night with four or more hours, to display with information: how long do we really sleep, how long is deep sleep, REM, how long is shallow sleep. This information is then used in Training Load, to optimize our workouts and rest. For me, it’s very nice feature. Last time I slept worse than before and Vantage allows me to understand, that is because too small amount of sleep.
Watch has also some standard features like alarm clock (I don’t have to use alarm on my mobile phone anymore!), countdown time and stopwatch. It supports notifications from phone, but I really can’t say anything about that, because I’ve never used that: in my opinion, sport watch is for activity, and I don’t see sense in smartwatches, which just duplicates many phone features. Notification for phones also means more distractions, and I really don’t like such things. I can only say, that Vantage can notify you about incoming calls, incoming messages and calendar events. If you want to try this, just enable and sync with your phone using Bluetooth. Probably enabling this option will drain battery slight faster, but it should not be a problem.
Internal and external sensors
Vantage M of course supports additional sensors and we can simply pair it with them. I tested it with power meter and two HR straps (Bryton and Kalenji) – without issues. Or maybe with one… If you use HR strap, but still have watch on your wrist, there is no clear information, what sensor is used: build-in, or external strap. We can add many other sensors to Vantage like cadence or speed, but there is small important issue: this watch uses Bluetooth Low Energy and only this one. If you have ANT+ sensors, sorry, you will be not able to use them with this Polar. It’s big drawback, because for example Garmin or Bryton had been compatible with both standards and it was comfortable for me: it didn’t matter, what sensor did I choose.
About build-in HR monitor: Polar says, that new sensor (Prime) is better than sensors used in older Polar devices. According to many reviews and other users, it may be not true: many users are disappointed about HR monitor quality. I can’t confirm that, because I hadn’t other Polar devices before. I can only compare it to HR straps mentioned before and… I think it’s more than ok. Results are very, very similar – it’s difficult to see differences when you analyze full workout. One thing is few-seconds delay between strap and wrist-based HR monitoring. Strap can see you changes instantly, wrist will be always slower, and depends on temperature: but it’s normal in such monitor. Overall, I think this wrist-based HR in Vantage M is more than enough for workouts.
There is one more problem – Polar supports HR broadcasting, it may be helpful if you for example train stationary cycling and want to record your HR by another device. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work with non-Polar devices so in many situations, it’s completely useless. I found this out when I tried to use build-in HR sensor with Zwift on my computer (my trainer also uses Bluetooth and I don’t have ANT+ hub for computer). It was impossible, watch was not visible by Zwift. It’s a crap and I think, Polar should change this to broadcast for all devices, not only to another created by Polar. It’s much more important because of other system limitations, but I will write about that in next paragraphs.
Like many other devices and companies, Polar also has platform to store and analyze our workouts, it’s Polar Flow. You can use it from mobile device and also from website. It’s clean, nice and simple to use, but has some disadvantages. Polar Flow can connect with some external devices and automatically sends your workouts to Strava or Endomondo, but you can’t automatically import your activities into Polar Flow. I use Zwift now, and it’s problematic, because my workouts are on Strava, but not on Flow: so my device can think, that I don’t do anything… It breaks whole Polar training plans and force me to use both: during Zwift workout, I also start cycling training on Vantage M to save it on Flow. Then, I must remove duplicate from Strava (because there will be both trainings: from Zwift and from Vantage)… It’s so stupid and not user friendly. Probably Polar tries force users to use only their platform, but it’s wrong option. This convinced me, that removing Strava account is bad idea: yeah, it’s not perfect, but it’s independent of other platforms. I can always copy my Strava activities to many, many other platforms without issues.
Few words about battery life, because it’s very important to me: I think, watch should not be charged every day or two days, it should be reliable much longer. Polar says, that Vantage M can provide about 30 hours of training with enabled GPS support: it’s amazing and… I think, it’s true. Long, full-day cycling trip was any problem and I don’t charge watch even whole weekend with a lot of cycling. In daily usage, it depends. If you use 24/7 tracking activity, heart rate monitor and Nightly Recharge, it will work about 6-7 days with 5-6 hours of workouts with enabled GPS. If you decided to disable monitor and don’t use Nightly Recharge, it can work about 2-3 weeks with 14-15 hours of enabled GPS. These results are amazing for me and I think, it’s great advantage. With Vivoactive or Vivoactive, I must charge watch every 2-3 days, and they could not work on a very long trips (like my 300 km in one day). With Polar, I don’t have to worry about that.
After few months with Polar Vantage M, I can recommend this sport watch. Of course, it isn’t perfect, it isn’t for people, who like gadgets, want to have all-on-one device (with ability to listen to music and make payments), it can sometimes generate issues, but… It’s simple but have a lot of option in the same time. It’s very difficult to combine these both features. It doesn’t look like “super professional” device but allow me to make great workouts and progresses. It motivates me and doesn’t bother me in daily usage. It’s just ok.