First day with Polar Vantage V

I should start by saying a bit why I’m doing this … because I’m a geek and gadget addicted person – it seems that having new toys increase my drive to move and exercise. Since Polar announced the Vantage line, I was tempted to try one and see how the Polar ecosystem feels like.

Today I started my journey with Polar Vantage V – now that it ticks most of the boxes after the latest firmware update. It should be noted that I used Garmin products during the last 4 years, starting with 920XT and after that switching to Fenix 3, Fenix 5, Fenix 5x+. I know and like the Fenix line, especially the rich feature set and the flexibility in configuring it.

I know already what I’ll miss when using the Vantage V:

  • no maps on watch, some navigation but nowhere close to the Fenix 5x+ capability
  • multiple alarms (I know it may sound weird, but I like this functionality and that doesn’t sound too complicated from the programmer point of view)
  • sapphire screen (hopefully not … because the Fenix 3 wasn’t the sapphire version and it survived without scratches)
  • the looks (?!) – I got used to the large bands (26mm) and the large Fenix 5x+ and looks more manly to me
  • easy exchangeable bands – I know that you can do it with Vantage V if you want – but it’s not effortless like with Fenix (yes, I must admit I have several bands for my Fenix 5x+)

So…it all started with buying the orange version of the Vantage V – it looks nice and it’s very light (compared with the Fenix 5X+). The weight difference is consistent and you can feel it – is 66g (Polar) vs 96g (Garmin); also the thickness – now I can have the watch constantly under my shirt sleeve, unlike the Fenix 5x+ which was sitting proudly outside :). Also, it feels more fragile (but so far I’d like to see it as more as an impression).

I started using it and I was surprised that the backlight is always activated by hand gesture (even during the day) which in my mind is a battery waste. Yes, it’s not longer annoying during the night, because you can define the Do Not Disturb policy, but I think that masks the readability issue the watch has in low light – for example inside the house. The readability issue is no longer valid in sunlight or outside (when there is plenty of light), but inside the backlight clearly helps. Maybe having a white background would help? I hope that Polar would also add this option (like Garmin has).

After adding my personal details and configuring the watch, it’s not a complicated task and can be done on the watch, phone or PC, I added the Polar H10 as a sensor, also the faithful Stryd. Nothing fancy, not to many things to say – maybe the fact that Polar Flow (on phone) is checking the H10 firmware to make sure you have the latest version.

I defined an phased training (nothing fancy – 3 phases) and trying to cope with the constraints of the HR intervals from the 80/20 ranges, I selected the free option like below (don’t ask me why):

When starting the workout I was convinced that I’ll get the usual notification for phases – it seems that I messed up all the definition and I only got a regular running session.

Unfortunately, during the first minutes of the run, I had a abnormal variation of the HR coming from the Polar H10 – really don’t know what happened (I would suspect the need for moisturizing the strap, although most of the people were saying you don’t need to do that with the H10) , the result being like below:

Huge variations of the HR from the Polar H10

The analysis of the run looks nice, I really enjoy the Polar Flow platform – I think this is the best asset Polar has at this moment since it’s focused on your athletic performance and evolution, unlike Garmin Connect which collects all kind of data but does so little with those.

Of course there is a learning curve when switching to a new device (5 buttons used differently) or a web platform – workout definition is a bit different, but you can use to it and the capabilities are strong.

Also noticed that the touchscreen is not my thing .. yes, I can use it, but it’s not something that I need (or appreciate). For example, in the shower, the (warm) water drops on the screen are very effective in changing the screen configuration, replacing your fingers – I see little benefit from this and for the moment I’d say that Polar’s implementation is not yet polished, the scroll is not smooth as butter (or any close to such a experience) – it’s functional and that’s it.

Sleep analysis is OK, but doesn’t go into the details Fitbit or lately Garmin offers (with sleep stages). I don’t take naps during the day, so I don’t know if it recognizes those episodes better than Garmin (which it doesn’t).

Automatic sync is not something that I’ve seen in action for Polar (if that’s possible) – you have to initiate the sync manually from the watch, which is not difficult and may conserve some battery, but it still doesn’t update the phone Flow periodically like the Garmin Connect does.

I don’t care that much about the smartphone notifications – I’ll see about those later, during the next days. I used those with the Fenix, don’t miss them too much so far, I’ll enable them later.

So, for the first day conclusions:

  • Vantage V is a nice watch, light and sits well on your wrist
  • Polar Flow (web especially) is a great platform
  • Pay attention to your heart strap moisturizing before running out
  • I’m not a touchscreen type of guy, but I can live with that
  • Visibility of the watch is great outside in the sunlight, less so inside or when the light is low; that creates the need for gesture based backlight at any moment
  • I can use the alarm that Vantage V offers though mixing vibration and sound is something you can’t change – so if you don’t want to wake-up your partner, you should move fast after the first (light) vibrations
  • the watch is generating a chirp each time you get to the home screen – I need to find a way to disable it, doesn’t help too much in a quiet environment
Tools: 
Polar Vantage V (FW 3.1.0)
Polar H10 (FW 1.2.9)
Stryd (FW 1.1.8)
Mizuno Waveknit R2

The journey will continue .. I plan also on adding the photos of the subject (not me .. the watch).

Author: Liviu Nastasa

Passionate about software development, sociology, running...definitely a geek.

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