Polar and Garmin

Two months ago I gave up on my impulse to try a Polar Vantage V, being attracted by the bundle of good looks of the watch and Polar Flow. I was aware of some limitations of the watch (at that moment), but I thought I can live with that and keep it. I wrote some of my impressions here, but the bottom line is that I returned it and stayed with my Fenix 5X+.

I know that wasn’t a complete fair “fight”, since the Vantage V should have been compared with FR935, but that was my situation and I said to myself that if Polar will continue to improve the Vantage series, I might come back – that much I liked the Polar Flow.

Since that moment, I constantly got more feedback from the Vantage users most of them being concerned by GPS accuracy and footpod calibration (at least that was what I was interested – mostly Stryd calibration). With the recent release of Vantage firmware (3.2), Polar claims to have improved the GPS and that was confirmed by some user – others complained that their first activity after the update was worst than those before the update. Anyway, I didn’t see any issue with Vantage V GPS when I compared that with my Fenix 5X+ and the tracks from Vantage looked more clean.

Unfortunately, the latest Polar update didn’t bring the so much expected Stryd calibration capabilities and also I haven’t seen an improvement in the power based structured training. Maybe we will see those improvements over the next months, I know a lot of users are expecting them.

When I started a training plan on Final Surge, I used Polar Flow to define the workouts based on the coach instructions and that worked reasonable, even though I had to manually edit the workouts (truth be said, I also had to do it manually in Final Surge, because their beta platform which has an excellent workout builder was not ready when the plans were defined by the coach). If those kind of plans would be available in Polar Flow, that would make me switch easily … Garmin has the same approach, Connect doesn’t offer other than their training plans, but at least with their integration with TrainingPeaks and FinalSurge (by CIQ apps or their new Training API) they can deliver the workouts from Training Peaks and FinalSurge directly to your device and you don’t have to worry about planning and scheduling the workouts.

When Garmin revealed last week the new Forerunner 945, they also added the Coach Plans for 10k and Half Marathon, which may make the platform more attractive for self-trained people.

Garmin’s new Coach Plans for 10k and HM

Now, with the launch of 945, Garmin also added some more training load data from First Beat – those look nice on the device but they are still not reflected in Connect to allow you to drive the conclusions. Actually, what I always missed in Connect was the focus on your improvement – it was more about collecting pieces of information and displaying them, adding some gamification – in a way similar to Fitbit and driving (purposefully?) the athletes to use other platforms for real analysis of data – that’s how Training Peaks become the tool of choice for a lot of the serious athletes.

Things may change … there are some intentions, but a roadmap is not clear (to me at least) and I can say that at this moment, Polar Flow delivers a much better analysis interface than Garmin Connect.

Garmin Connect structured workout analysis (HR only for now)

Polar Flow is a (large) step ahead, you can focus on the relevant things for you easily – it may be that Garmin will get there, but it will take some time to happen, as they need to change a lot more in their platform.

Polar Flow structured workout analysis

From the analysis point of view (and intuitiveness) Polar Flow would be my tool of choice. For example, even though the beta Final Surge has a brilliant structured workout editor, the analysis tools are not at the same level.

Final Surge structured workout editor – best in class (allows HR, pace and power)

Polar revealed last week a new device – the Vantage V Titan – but left out one of the features I appreciate in my Fenix – the sapphire screen – asking 100 USD/EUR more for that same watch (apparently) is only a marketing effort.

The new Polar Vantage V Titan

So, I’ll follow the evolution of things, but if Polar doesn’t do the so much expected firmware updates and doesn’t open more channels to communicate in Flow (like https://developer.garmin.com/training-api/overview/), it’s hard to keep up the game with Garmin and their long list of devices.

I’ll be back with other rants – don’t be surprised if next month I’ll wear a Vantage V.

Author: Liviu Nastasa

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

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