Polar Vantage V (short) review

After more than two weeks of using the Vantage V, I need to decide (for myself) if that’s going to stay on my wrist and replace the Fenix 5X+ or not. At least, the review below will give some insights for those that are considering the Vantage V.

Hardware: It’s a nice device, light and unobtrusive – only 66g compared with 96g (Fenix 5X+) – and you’ll feel that, I mean for example that I could wear the watch under my shirt sleeves :). In terms of (perceived) durability, I was a bit concerned about the Gorilla Glass 3, which as resistant as it is .. it can’t match the sapphire from Fenix 5+ (or Suunto 9). For people with smaller wrists, this is better suited with 46mm diameter against 51mm (Fenix 5X+) – for me it wasn’t a problem, it looked smaller but not too small; the band is nice and has grip, comfortable to wear – no issues at all. You can find other colors than the standard three – it’s not complicated to change the band, though not that easy as it is for Vantage M or Fenix 5 (5+).

The Vantage V has a touch screen that’s usable, but my personal opinion is that the touchscreen doesn’t add too much in terms of better UX, while creating some potential issues. For example, even though the screen is (pretty) responsive and you can do your tasks with the touch, you could also use the buttons for this purpose. On the flip side, when showering, the warm water drops tend to change the screen setup, interacting with the screen – so it’s better to lock the screen (which you can do) and that’s annoying. I only can imagine doing that when your going in the pool, but don’t start a workout…you’d have to remember to lock the screen?

When working out, the touchscreen is automatically disabled, and that’s a good thing in my mind, as I don’t see myself scrolling (or starting/stopping) with my sleeves during an intervals workout.

Side by side Fenix 5X+ and Vantage V

Firmware: I started with 3.0.10 and stayed with that for 2 days, then the new 3.1.7 was live and I updated to the latest version. The watch was stable for me, didn’t have any issues or hiccups – connected well with sensors (Stryd, Polar H10) and phone (iPhone X). The features can be improved, but that’s a process and so far, for the first rounds, Polar delivered (https://www.polar.com/en/vantage/updates) on time. It would be nice to have a more transparent view for the next firmware versions 4 and beyond .. also timing.

Platform: In a few words – Polar Flow is great, it’s highly intuitive and focused on the athlete (much more than Garmin Connect for example). You can do a lot of things, customize and particularly analyze your workouts – that’s in my view the strongest asset for Polar. It’s not perfect as for the moment, it’s only allowing data to go outside (for example to Strava or other platforms), but you can’t import too many things. Even the connection with MyFitnessPal which was collecting data from my Aria scale was only in one direction – to MFP, you had to edit the weight yourself. That’s not the way it works for example in Garmin Connect, which takes the newest data from MFP as well. If Polar would think of allowing other data to be imported (automatically or not) and analyzed in the platform, that would be a great plus. Also allowing to purchase and import training plans in your platform would be great (TrainingPeaks does that with great success, also FinalSurge – unfortunately neither Garmin Connect or Polar Flow allow that).

24/7 daily usage: Polar Vantage V is a great device to wear every day, the data tracking and collection looks nice and effective. It measures your activity and converts it into steps – I like the concept a bit more than Garmin’s steps focus.

The smartphone notifications are working fine…obviously it’s not a smart watch like Apple Watch, but in line with the others (Garmin, Suunto). Since I haven’t used that too much, I can’t comment too much.

Sleep analysis seems reasonable to me, not too detailed (like Fitbit or Garmin lately), but reasonable and nicely displayed. I would have appreciated the possibility to define multiple alarms, but I could live with one as well. The alarm implementation is interesting – you don’t have too many customization, but it’s effective – it starts with short vibrations and gets louder and more powerful after several moments…it’s increasing the intensity without being too strong from the beginning or soundless – that’s a nice touch in my opinion.

Polar sleep analysis – not very detailed, but just fine
Garmin sleep analysis – a bit more detailed

GPS tracks & accuracy: this is usually a hot subject for any gadget addicted.

Battery life: In my experience, the real life between two charges is 5-6 days, depending on how much you train or use the smart notifications. In my experience, with 4-5 hours of GPS based training per week, I had 6 days before the battery level went to 9%, and I haven’t used the smart phone notifications. In a GPS session the battery consumption is not very high, from what I can tell .. I’m not in the position to comment the 40 hours of GPS claimed by Polar. One small (weird) annoyance is the fact that you don’t know the charge percent of your watch until you connect it to the charger, which may be strange – now it’s OK, you’ll get a notification when the going below 20% and another one when going below 10%. Under 10%, you won’t have the continuous HR monitoring.

What I liked about Vantage V

  • it’s a light and nice looking watch
  • easy to use and intuitive watch
  • good looking GPS tracks
  • excellent recovery and workout analysis
  • good oHR (similar to Garmin Elevate, in my experience) – has limitation when pushed in interval training
  • Polar Flow is very intuitive and athlete focused – workout analysis is second to none
  • very good structured workout support – nice screen outside

What I didn’t like (that much) about Vantage V

  • you don’t have an option for sapphire crystal screen
  • just one alarm (!?) – it might be useful to add some more options there
  • limited customization – you can’t change too many things about the watch or even mobile Polar Flow such as:
    • Stryd calibration missing
    • Altimeter calibration missing
    • back-light ON/OFF/Gesture and intensity
    • sensors ON/OFF options (other than removing and adding the sensor – for example Stryd)
  • limited navigation capabilities (for those used with latest Fenix at least)
  • Polar Flow doesn’t accept automatic (input) sync with other platforms (for example MFP for weight) or import of activity files
  • Polar Flow doesn’t allow build-in route creation (maybe it’s just me)

There were some issues that will be fixed by next firmware versions, I’m confident that Polar will do it, though they should be more transparent – at this moment, the next 4.0 release timing is uncertain and not very clear what it will include.

Conclusion: For me it’s not yet there, so the Fenix is going to stay, but I value Polar’s efforts and I might reevaluate my decision at a later moment, depending on the firmware updates from Polar and also the evolution of Flow. Obviously, I’m not doing Vantage V a favor comparing it with Fenix 5X+, maybe the right comparison would have been with FR935 – that’s why I don’t mention music, payment, maps.

On the other hand, if I would have started now the quest for a sports watch (like I did some years ago starting from Fitbit Charge HR), Polar Vantage V is a very good option and I would choose it over other options any time – I wouldn’t pay that much for a Fenix 5 plus, if 85% of what I usually do is properly covered by Vantage V.

So basically, if Vantage improves and checks more of my boxes, then I’ll gladly come back to Vantage V, as I really liked the ecosystem and the potential of the watch (I don’t need that much music, payments in my watch).

For me, it wasn’t the payment or music convenience, but more the maps and the ability to use the sturdy Fenix in outdoor activities (hiking, mountaineering) – create routes easily, follow them and don’t be afraid that you’ll scratch the screen.

If you already have the watch, enjoy it … if you don’t but you’re looking for one, please consider also Vantage V (and even the sibling Vantage M).

Author: Liviu Nastasa

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

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