Starting with 10th of September, a black Polar Vantage V replaced the Garmin 945 on my hand for every day using and also complemented the 945 for training sessions during September, staying the single device after 1st of October.
Knowing the device from March this year, I didn’t have to invest a lot of time into getting used to it … I knew the limitations but also I enjoyed the looks of it and also the Flow web interface. Several weeks later, I try to summarise the findings and my subjective view.
I enjoy wearing it, it’s a nice device but it’s not perfect – I mean there are certain things missing or not allowing me to say this is the perfect device all-rounder device. That’s not to say that I’ll give up on it, I’ll keep on using it, at least for a while. Two important events happened in the last 6 weeks: I finished a marathon training with a race (obviously) and Polar released their 4.0 firmware update.
The first event and the training for marathon made the analysis from Polar look not very sharp, because in the early days of the 28 days window I had a larger load, now switching to half-marathon, my load is lower and the status is at best Maintaining, with a lot of days of Detraining.
With the 4.0 firmware, which was long waited not only me, I got the following features to appreciate (here is the full list of changes https://support.polar.com/en/updates/polar-vantage-v-and-vantage-m-40-firmware-updates):
- Stryd calibration (works fine for me, giving more consistency in pace/power readings and also distance)
- Battery percentage displayed (it may sound funny for the other watches users, but until FW 4.0 the Vantage was displaying the battery percentage only when you were connecting it to the charger)
- Better sleep analysis (but available in details only on watch or mobile app, the Flow web still doesn’t display all details properly)
- Nightly recharge (similar to Garmin’s Body Battery powered by FirstBeat but only applying to 4 hours of your night sleep – looks nice and reflects what I feel regarding my sleep) – which replaced my morning Orthostatic tests [you can still do that, but you’re not longer required to do that]
- Longer battery life – some optimisation happened because under the same usage stress, my watch battery lasts longer – 1-1.5 days longer, which is fine, coming from the long life of battery of Fenix 5X plus or even 945.
I also discovered during the use of the watch two scenarios when the implementation chosen by Polar wasn’t the best, or maybe I need to spend more time to understand how that works:
- if you have (like I do) a Stryd (or some other stride sensor) associated with the watch, it might be that activities like walking (when you don’t use the sensors) started when you’re near the sensor to look strange .. since the watch connects to the sensor initially (to get distance, pace) but you’re not wearing it. An improvement would be allowing to define in the sports profile also the sensors you would use .. I usually don’t use the Stryd for walking or other activities other than running, but apparently Polar doesn’t know that.
- if you have two (or more) HR sensors – I had one OH1 and one H10 near the watch when trying to start the session, the Vantage was just trying to select one of the two without success – I throw away the H10, to use the oHR because I spend some good minutes waiting for the watch to get constant readings from the H10 – apparently the charging OH1 was messing up the connections ..
About the sleep – I like it, feel like it’s accurate enough – I don’t have something to complain – but I also didn’t feel that Garmin’s sleep analysis was bad. I like Polar’s analysis better, but it’s not that critical.
I still enjoy and praise the Flow web app, it’s focused on data analysis in a way I really like, no fancy staff, intuitive.
With Flow, what I miss is the gear tracking (which is simple to be added, but it’s not there) and the limited search capability in activities – if you have a long history of training (let’s say some years) and want to look over your marathon races over time, I wish you good luck selecting those only using as search parameters the time period and the sport.
There is still as a more fundamental problem the closed system attribute Flow has .. you can export some data (automatically or manually) but you can’t import other sessions (either manually or automatically) – you can only import some sessions as routes, but that’s too limited. An integration with other platforms, to allow import of planned sessions or executed sessions in Flow would be great (at least for me). I’m looking at the integration between Training Peaks and Garmin Connect .. but even the Final Surge and Garmin Connect is usable.
Add to that some small (but useful) things like multiple alarms to the watch and you’ll see that with small efforts, Polar could improve a lot the experience of users like me who are not die-hard fans of a product, but just appreciate the functionality of the device/platform.
For outdoor (hiking) lovers, Garmin’s and Suunto’s offerings are more complete (with various features – starting with GPS points saved on the fly, compass and ending with offline maps for Garmin) – but that’s not the niche for Polar, I get it.
So, I enjoy the use the Polar Vantage V for now and until the end of November (when the next half-marathon is scheduled) I’ll continue to follow the training program and use the device.
Later Edit (like two hours later):
I went to a longer run (as the program says) and managed to get something some people were mentioning after 4.0.11 upgrade – a crash of the watch during a run. At the 10th km mark, after displaying the lap summary (which by the way, could use some improvement), the watch took several seconds more to think just to reset all screen and restart. I lost the session – I reconstructed it from the Stryd offline sync, but that’s not the same. I know that Polar acknowledged the situation reported by the users affected so far, promising a patch, but since I wan’t affected so far, didn’t bother so much.
So far, Polar was releasing less features (even than the previous V800), but they were on time and the quality (stability) was good (compared to Garmin for example) – now we have some features (some new like Nightly Recharge for example), but we have also the instability.
Maybe I should have mentioned the Zone Lock feature released with the 4.0 firmware, but that’s not actually my game – I would have appreciated much more the capability to define structured power workouts, since Polar supports this natively. Maybe in 2020 …