One of the questions around wearables and watches for sports and the outdoors is always how well they are suited for everyday use, what the basic functionality is. Here now, let’s have a look at the Polar Vantage V from that perspective.
Polar Vantage V Design
Comparing different sports watches, the Polar Vantage V has a sleek and unobtrusive design.
The display, as always with such watches, does not extend quite as far as the design could make one believe. With a very small bezel, as far as it’s recognizable, designed only barely different from most of the watch, it has a very coherent design.
On the Vantage V, this look is further reinforced by the special watchstrap that flows into the watch body near-seamlessly. Of course, that does make exchanging the strap for another one a bit harder, practically and in terms of design sensibility.
Weight and Size
The Vantage V is not the smallest watch, but in comparison to other sports watches, it is on the lower end of the spectrum. It thus fits pretty well under a shirt sleeve. Thanks to its sleek design, this also means that it goes well with a suit. Of course, that all works rather better with the black rather than orange-red version.
The way that the watch band is structured, with fine ridges, had me first fear that it might be a bit uncomfortable.
In practice, however, it just seems to make it measure oHR better by holding the watch so it shakes less.
Neither does it collect more dust, nor get uncomfortable.
For daily wear, the Polar Vantage V has become my usual watch recently. On the one hand, because it wears well, on the other hand, because it gives interesting data on all-day activity levels and training performance. These data items also get stored and presented in the Polar Flow app in a way that I find very nice. – That, however, is a different story.
For the Vantage V (rather than the Vantage M), it should be mentioned that the watch is equipped with both its five buttons and the touchscreen. By and large, however, the touchscreen is just a plaything.
Only to get to the notifications, the touchscreen seems to be necessary: Swipe up to open the notifications. These are only for a planned orthostatic test right now; smartphone notifications are to come with the firmware update planned for February 2019.
Otherwise, the touchscreen can be used to change between the different time displays, choose or change menu items. To actually get to the menus, a button press is necessary; to save menu settings, it’s the same. Exit menus? Only by button, not touchscreen. And training modes deactivate the touchscreen, anyways.
The upper left button is for the backlight and to lock the watch.
The light actually also activates when lifting the watch up, as when looking to read its display (“gesture mode” for the backlight). So far, this cannot be deactivated. Anyways, it is nice to have a button just for the backlight.
Hold this button, and it locks the screen in the current display (or view). This works both in time modes and during training. It is rather nice to have this option, but implemented a bit strangely as it just locks the screen. Even in the summary of the daily activity or seeing training feedback, where one definitely won’t want to have the screen locked to, this works.
Hardly surprisingly, the two buttons on the right, up and down, work to change from one display to the next (in time or training views) or to scroll through a display.
Menu items or values being changed can also be shifted with these buttons.
For all these uses, the touchscreen can also be used. And usually, quite well.
The (red) button mid-right usually serves to “okay” something.
In menus, it is for selecting an entry, acknowledging a change, and similar.
In the time displays, the same button leads to the extended display showing details for the data already on the screen, e.g. about heart rate during the day, activity level, last training sessions or training (load/recovery) status.
This button can also be pressed for longer to get straight to the Training menu.
The button on the lower left, finally, is just about the most important one; it leads into menus and back out from them.
Screens in Time Mode
The Polar Vantage can display either a digital or an analog dial. (And that’s it with “different” watch faces.)
To the time, different data points can be added:
This screen only shows the time, the date (day of the week and date within the month) and the Polar logo.
I call this screen “empty” because it does not show anything else, and since it does not show anything at the bottom (especially in digital display), it looks very empty.
This screen adds a count of daily activity, in percent and with a circular progress “bar” around the edge of the display, to time and date. These all count up to the goal set up for daily activity, i.e. the number of steps chosen there.
Here, the “Okay”-Button leads to a summary of daily activity (so far): percent of target, steps, active time and calorie consumption.
This display shows a symbol and a text, as well as a circular indicator, giving Cardio Load or training recommendations.
That is, does Cardio Load calculate a phase of detraining, maintenance, productive training or overtraining or, when there is enough data for that, what is the training recommendation for the day.
Details, again accessed pushing the Okay button, explain which of these phases (according to the circular indicator) one is in, what the current Cardio Load status is, what the relationship of strain and load looks like. All of that comes with an explanation below.
At the end of this display, having scrolled all the way down, one also gets to a “More” text about the recovery status; pushing the “Okay” button there leads to the latest recovery feedback.
The screen one accesses that way shows the results of the latest orthostatic test, i.e. the recommendation of the Recovery Pro function, which is only available on the Vantage V and using a Bluetooth HR belt such as the Polar H10.
This display shows the current heart rate in addition to time and date.
In the details, it displays maximum and minimum heart rate measured during the day as well as the lowest HR measured during sleep.
As special data field, this display adds the time that has elapsed since the last training session and shows the symbol for the type of sport it was (e.g. running, cycling).
The details one can access through this screen’s extended display is the list of the latest training sessions. Picking one of them gets to the logbook view with details about this training.
The Menu of the Polar Vantage V
A push of the Menu/Back-button leads from the time displays into the Polar Vantage’s menu.
First up is the “Training” menu, but we will talk about that more in an entry of its own (and there are results from its use already).
Timers are one down, since they were introduced with firmware 2.0
There is a stopwatch function (with split times which one can scroll through).
Start and take splits with the Okay button in the middle; end the stopwatch with the Menu/Back button.
Second type of timer is a countdown timer.
It can be set from 5
seconds to 23:59:59 hours.
(Or actually, one could set it up for 1-4 seconds, as well, but this silliness is not really supported.)
The menu for the Orthostatic Test comes next, on the Polar Vantage V (as this is not a Vantage M feature).
Here, one can start the test (with HR sensor, i.e. a chest belt such as the H10), view the last result or reset the test period (i.e., start a new testing phase).
And finally, there are Settings…
“General Settings” include Pair and Sync, (de)activating the continuous HR recording, (de)activating feedback on recovery status, flight mode, setting units (metric or imperial), language and some information about the watch.
Personal Settings are mainly physical values: weight, height, birth date, sex, training volume, activity goal (in three levels: low/middle/intense), desired sleeping time (i.e., duration of sleep), maximum heart rate, resting heart rate and VO2max.
Watch Settings, finally, include the alarm (which can be set to off, once, weekdays or all days). It is not possible to choose the type of alarm (by vibration or beeping). The alarm is very nicely set up to start vibration-only, then start to also beep, and to get more and more insistent and strong.
This is also the place to set the watch face into digital or analog display; set time and date and which weekday is to be treated as the first day of the week.