Polar just announced its new sports watches, the Polar Vantage M and Vantage V. With those, the M600 and V800 get their new and modernized successors – and Polar is going in a very specific direction.

By the looks of it, the brand is focusing very much on what it does best, heart rate and metrics based on that.

The “Disappointment” of Growing Products

The early beta “reviews” disappointed many people who were waiting for the announcement with great anticipation and wanted everything they had ever hoped for.

Some features have been announced as coming later, some features from the predecessor models will not be there, some work remains to be done.

Notifications (from a smartphone) will be added around the time of the actual availability of the watch or a bit later, for example. Navigation has been taken off and only basic “back to start” has so far been announced as coming back…

To the critics who love to complain loudly on social media, it sounds a lot like the release of the Suunto Spartan Ultra. That watch did not provide all the functionality of the Ambit line it succeeded, either. Nor did it get everything that was in the marketing materials when it was announced. It did, however, develop rather nicely…

We will see how things will turn out with the Polar Vantage watches over time.

That has become the usual approach to all such electronic (computerized) devices: Release them when ready-enough, squash bugs and add functionality over time.

Polar is far from the first, or last, company to take that path. And with a mixture of development according to customer feedback and according to company decision about the direction to take, it is working quite well.

Focus on Your Forte

Critical though I like to be, I find the approach that Polar is taking here quite good, actually: They focus on what they do well, heart rate and training metrics.

Polar Vantage Precision Prime sensor in real life

Polar Precision Prime oHR

The Precision Prime oHR sensor’s looks, with its several LEDs in different colors/wavelengths and electrodes for skin contact measurement alone tells of how serious Polar is in wanting their sensor to be different. Its recognition of whether the watch is being worn or not alone is likely to improve HR data quality.

In light of this overbuilt sensor, it is all the more interesting that Polar does not just advertise the capability to recognize any kind of heart rate variability-dependent metric with the Precision Prime oHR.

In fact, not just for the inbuilt orthostatic test (which gives an indication of recovery status to prevent overtraining) but also for the Recovery Pro functionality, the Polar Vantage V will require the Polar H10 heart rate sensor (a chest strap).

The Vantage V will be (is being) sold either alone or in a bundle with the H10 sensor; the Vantage M will not offer these features.

The Target Audience

Bringing in all such training load and recovery metrics – alongside straight-up training features, of course – makes it pretty clear that Polar is focusing on athletically-minded people.

In fact, it’s even more obvious. After all, the marketing materials advertise the Vantage V as the sports watch for “pro-level athletes” and those who want to train like them, and the Polar Vantage M, quote, “is not for goofing around either.”

Features

Like most current sports watches, the Polar Vantage V and M will serve as both training devices and activity and sleep trackers. Much of the functionality looks to be the usual, but there are some noticeable points, too:

Activity Tracking

By the sounds of it, a Polar Vantage will not only track an overall activity level (and record workouts separately). Rather, taking a cue from dedicated activity trackers, it will record phases of elevated heart rate (and more vigorous movement) automatically as well as classify daily activity into different “intensity levels:”

  1. Resting (sleep and rest, lying down)
  2. Sitting (sitting or other passive behavior)
  3. Low (standing work, light household chores)
  4. Medium (walking and other moderate activities)
  5. High (jogging, running and other intense activities)

Of course, there will also be steps and distance tracking, calories, and also (if desired, I should hope) an inactivity alert.

The data will be synced to and viewable in the Polar Flow app.

This is something I must admit to missing from the Suunto watches I use most. They track steps and they give a lot of information about recorded workouts. All the time I walk every which way does not otherwise figure into my overall activity tracking; to get it anywhere other than in the steps count, I would need to record it as a workout…

Polar Vantage V compared to Suunto 9 Baro
Suunto 3 Fitness compared to Polar Vantage V

Sleep Tracking

For sleep tracking, Polar says that the Vantage watches will track duration as well as quality.

Sleep quality here will not be based on HRV (the way the Suunto 3 Fitness does it), but rather on wrist movements, counting “restful sleep” with little movement versus “restless sleep” with interruptions to get at a score of “sleep continuity.”

Sleeping patterns will again be visible (and therefore available for long-term monitoring) in Polar Flow.

Basic running HR screen on Polar Vantage V, photo ©Polar

Training

Training features are, of course, going to be the major focus of the Polar Vantage V and M.

They range from a multitude of sport profiles to user-adjustable training displays, from GPS tracking and speed and distance measured via wrist movement to running programs (training plans), heart rate / speed or pace / power zones, Polar’s Running Index (their interpretation of VO2max), altitude and ascent/descent, and on…

Marketing material photo ©Polar showing the Cardio Load screen

A feature that sounds quite interesting and different is their Training Load Pro meant to indicate cardio, muscle and perceived load.

Polar Vantage V and M Differences

To note is how the Polar Vantage V and M differ in training features:

The Polar Vantage V will offer Recovery Pro features and orthostatic test  (both requiring the H10 sensor!) as well as running power from the wrist. (The Vantage M supports running power from a Stryd or other power pod.)

These are very few differences; one only needs to note that the M is also lighter (at 45 grams versus the Vantage V’s 66 grams) and has a shorter battery life at 30 (versus 40) hours in training time.

(The Vantage V also has a touch display, but from my short time with the watch, this seems seriously underutilized so far; in training it will be disabled to prevent accidental “presses”, anyways…)

Running power screen on Polar Vantage, photo ©Polar

“Conclusion”

Given that I could only spend a few minutes with the Vantage V in the offices of Polar Austria, I cannot offer more yet.

At the current state, the (beta) “reviews” are not the most sensible anyways; the watch is sure to improve quite a bit until it actually ends up in stores.

Let’s see if I can get my hands on one around that time to check out how it works and show you how you can make it work best for you!