Nearly five years after Polar’s last multisport watch, the V800, comes the Finnish company’s next-generation version: the Vantage M. Visually, it’s evolved from an antiquated square face to a slick round number, but what truly separates it in an ever-congested market?
The key sell is what Polar call ‘next-level wrist-based heart-rate monitoring’. We’ve long been disappointed with optical-sensor numbers before but this is good, partly because Polar’s loaded the optical sensor with nine LEDs, but there’s also a neat retrospective tool that recalculates inaccurate readings in 60sec blocks. So you might be sprinting along at 160bpm and then, for no reason, it’ll climb to 202bpm. The Vantage M recognises this and smooths out the data for accurate analysis later on. Arguably it’s a concession that optical sensors are flawed, but we were impressed. Apart from the swim that is, but that’s currently a leap too far.
With that more accurate data, the Vantage M assesses several metrics that monitor progress over time. These include Cardio Load, which is calculated as training impulse (TRIMP), a commonly accepted method to quantify training load. You’re also given a load based on the rate of perceived exertion (effort from one to 10). It’s an appreciated addition as it recognises the psychological, emotional aspect of working out and not just the physical.
There’s also Muscle Load, but you’ll need a power meter for that. If you’re really interested in delving deep into your physiology, it could be useful as you’ll be able to measure the strain on your muscles during high-intensity sessions like intervals or hill sets. Yet that’s presuming both the power meter and Polar’s algorithms are accurate, which we can’t vouch for without hitting the labs.
GPS covered 130 sports including swim, bike and run, though proved erratic during our test period. Polar, like Suunto, have switched to a Sony chipset, and it didn’t hold up too well in built-up areas. Hopefully, these erratic issues will be ironed out come the next upgrade. Talking upgrades, our Beta version didn’t include usuals like smartphone notifications, fitness-test functionality and back-to-start navigation. Polar has pencilled these to appear during 2019 but, in our experience, you can live without them. All the info syncs to Polar Flow, which is essential to tap into the Cardio Load Report. You can also wirelessly send info to Strava.
Finally, the multiple features are navigated via five buttons and, like all these tools, accuracy improves over time as data’s gathered. You can tap into power metrics with the top-end Vantage V (£439).
Verdict: a clear contender in the competitive £250 tri watch category, 82%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk
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