Polar Vantage M Review
One of three watches in the Vantage series, Polar Vantage M is a multisport GPS smartwatch designed to track your activities and help you improve your fitness. With a sleek, simple, and lightweight design, it’s comfortable for 24/7 wear. Its most notable features are the Polar Precision Prime technology, which monitors your heart rate using optical and skin contact measurements; and the Training Load Pro which monitors the strain of your training on your cardiovascular and musculoskeletal system. With over 130 sports options to choose from, it is truly made for versatile athletes. It has certain downsides in its heart rate monitoring, screen, and lack of abundant features. However, with a price this good, it’s worth the consideration.
Editor's Pros & Cons
- Training Load Pro
- 130+ sport options
- Changeable straps
- Affordable price
- Sleek and simple
- Inaccurate HR readings
- Not touchscreen
- Fewer features
Before getting too specific about this particular model, let’s first take a look at the company behind it all so that you know what you can expect from their products. Polar Electro Oy - also simply known as Polar - is a manufacturer of technological products for athletes. It was founded in 1977 and is based in Finland. It is well-known for developing the first wireless heart rate monitor in the world: the Sport Tester PE, which came out nearly two decades ago. Besides providing wearables, the brand’s technology and devices are also used in scientific studies and research. It even offers a research co-op program for studies in applied sciences, encouraging new discoveries and continuous innovations.
Released in 2018, the Vantage M is one of three models from Polar’s Vantage series. Compared to the Vantage V and V titan, it is significantly simpler. It is not touchscreen, has no barometric altimeter, and does not offer Recovery Pro metrics or route guidance. It also has a shorter battery life, which is 30 hours rather than 40. On the flip side, this lack of features also allows it to be lighter - a mere 45g compared to the 66g Vantage V - and significantly more affordable than the other two wearables in the series. So you get some, and you lose some. Depending on whether you want all the cool features or just something simple and straightforward to get the work done, the simplicity could be a pro or a con.
Training Load Pro
One great feature that it does offer, however, is Training Load Pro. It monitors the strain of your workouts on your body so that you can adapt your training to prevent injuries and ensure efficient progress. First, there’s the Cardio Load that monitors the strain on your cardio system, comparing your Strain with your Tolerance to estimate the impact of your training on your body. Next, the Perceived Load quantifies how strained you feel and determines how hard a session was in comparison to your average workout. Lastly, if you are using a separate running or cycling power meter, it calculates the Muscle Load value to quantify how strained your muscles were and the kilojoules of energy produced. This last one is great for determining energy output in high-intensity exercises such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or crossfit.
As a multisport wearable, this one really lives up to its name. Rather than having only a few options, they have over 130 for you to choose from, including cycling, outdoor swimming, and strength training. These provide a starter template for data fields, making it easier for you to track your own progress and also ensuring that the calculated calorie burn is correct. Depending on the sport - say, open-water swimming or treadmill running - it will also know whether or not to enable GPS. There is an even a multisport option that allows you to track more than one sport at once, which is perfect for triathletes. On the Polar Flow app (more on this later), you can add up to 20 of your favorite sport profiles onto your watch. You can then customize the settings of each and choose what data you’d like the face to display.
Polar Precision Prime
Another cool technology it features is the Polar Precision Prime sensor fusion technology. It monitors your heart rate from your wrist using two LED colors combined with skin contact measurements to rule out disturbances in the signals that could be caused by motion. In theory, therefore, it provides more accurate and reliable heart rate readings even when you’re in motion. However, based on reviews, it appears as though the heart rate readings aren’t very accurate at all. Reviewers have said that the HR monitor is biased low during exercise, registering a heart rate that is lower than what it should be. They have also reported a delay in measurements. It is possible that the company has since listened to the feedback and tweaked the system to ensure better accuracy, but from what we know, the heart rate monitor is not as accurate as it claims to be.
Like we mentioned already, this wearable is much simpler than the other two in the series and lacks a few features that the other two have. One of them is the touchscreen feature. Though all three in the Vantage series has a full-color screen, only this one is not touchscreen and must be navigated using buttons. There are five buttons in total - two on one side and three on the other. (If you prefer simpler button designs, go check out the Coros Apex, which has only one simple knob). One could argue that touchscreen actually gets in the way of training, but it all depends on your preferred way of navigating through the menus and displays in your wearable. Another downside is that many reviewers said the screen is too dim to be clear when out in the sun, making this wearable inconvenient for those who primarily exercise outdoors.
With its round face and simple strap, Vantage M has a neat appearance. Though it has buttons for navigation, they are placed discreetly on the side of the screen. As a result, the look is clean and not rugged. The straps are also changeable. Polar offers two different types of bands: sports bands made of TPE and silicon, which come in white, black, and red as well as in two different sizes; and woven bands made of recycled PET yarn that come in white, orange, and petrol. The latter is practical for working out while the latter has more of a casual look.
Polar Flow App
In order to better track your progress, the watches in this series are all linked to the Polar Flow app available on iOS and Android. Your workouts are automatically synced up to the app, where you can get more details of what you’ve been tracking. The app can connect to other websites like Strava, TrainingPeaks, and MyFitnessPal. It’s where settings in sports modes and profile settings can be tweaked, and it can be used for wireless updates via Bluetooth Smart. Very few watches out there are actually said to sync quickly and automatically (with Coros Apex being one of the rare ones). According to reviewers, this watch syncs faster than the Vantage V, but it still does not happen right away. You can, however, do manual syncing by holding a button, but the lag in syncing can definitely be annoying.
Like we mentioned under ‘Polar Precision Prime,’ the heart rate monitor doesn’t have a great reputation. Though the sensor fusion technology is theoretically supposed to ensure super accurate readings, in reality, the readings tend to be underestimated during exercise. However, the major downside is not the inaccurate heart rate measurements, but that this inaccuracy can affect a whole string of other features and make them inaccurate also. For instance, one of the factors that help it determine your Cardio Load is your heart rate. Though the Training Load Pro has nothing wrong in itself, the skewed heart rate would skew these measurements as well. On the bright side, the sleep tracker tends to be pretty accurate, and that counts for something.
This is the most affordable watch in its series. This makes sense, as it is designed to be versatile and practical for everyone who’s just looking to track their physical activity and improve their fitness. The other two are more specialized for pro athletes and include the latest tech innovations and premium materials. The affordable price is very attractive and would be great for people who train a couple of times a week and just want something efficient and practical. However, if you train often and are serious about it, or if you prefer to have a watch that includes all the detailed features, we would recommend you spend the extra money to get Vantage V or V Titan.
To conclude, this is a versatile multisport GPS watch suitable for daily activities and casual training. The watch offers heart rate monitoring, connection to Polar Flow, changeable straps, over 130 sports options, and tracks the strain of your training on your body. The main downsides are that the heart rate monitor tends to underestimate in its readings, that the screen is dim and not touchscreen, and that not as many features are included in this watch compared to the other two in the series. Its simplicity can be a pro for casual athletes, however, as it makes it more straightforward and lowers its price. We would recommend this watch to versatile athletes who want to track their workouts and improve their fitness but are not super serious about training or are not willing to invest too much in a wearable.