Polar announced the Vantage V2 today, a little over two years since they announced the first Polar Vantage V & M series watches. Since that time those units have received numerous firmware updates (and even a Titanium version). However, earlier this year Polar reported that it was the end of the line for the original Vantage V&M units in terms of new features.
This occurred with the Polar Grit X watch last April, essentially taking a watch from the Vantage series and adding more hiking / outdoor-related features, as well as new nutrition and energy source metrics. Then, it brings us to the Vantage V2, which essentially takes all those new Grit Xs and adds a couple more related to performance testing. Plus, music controls and new watch faces. It̵
I’ve been using it for a while now and have a pretty good idea of how it works. Plus, it helps that it’s virtually identical to the Polar Grit X in terms of the underlying hardware and software – a watch I often compare between lineups (like most of my workouts in recent months). Once I’m done with this Vantage V2 multimedia loan, I’ll ship it back to Polar, like all of the above. Just the way I move. If you found this review helpful, you can click the links at the end to help support the site, or you can become a DCR Supporter!
For one thing, unlike the last time Polar announced the original Vantage series, there are no two versions at this point. Last time there was the high-end Vantage V, and then the mid-range Vantage M (with fewer features, fewer materials). This time around, it’s just the Vantage V2 at the higher price. The slightly cheaper Polar Grit X doesn’t really replace (in my opinion) the much cheaper Vantage M. But more on that later.
To start, let’s talk about what changed between the Vantage V and the new Vantage V2:
– Added running performance test: determine your VO2Max using an increasing RAMP test variant for running
– Added Bicycle FTP Test: Added standard 20/30/40 minute bicycle FTP test
– Added Leg Recovery Test: Designed to determine if the legs have been recovered or not
– Added new test hub in Polar Flow: consolidate online test results
– Added New new dashboard view to show weekly training totals
– Added the ability to customize the dashboard views you see (dashboard views are clock widgets)
– Added music controls for the phone: control the music on the phone (there is no music storage on Vantage V2)
– Added Hill Splitter: automatically counts uphill climbs / descents mid-workout and later in the app
– Added FuelWise: Provides mid-workout nutrition alerts for carbohydrates and hydration (separately)
– Added Energy Sources: Shows carbohydrate / fat breakdown / protein usage after workout on watch / app
– Added Weather: This is a kind of widget that shows the current weather on the clock
– Added 100 hour GPS tracking mode: this power saving mode reduces track points to increase activity duration
– Komoot route integration added: official “turn by turn” navigation, although the definition is a little loose
– Waterproof specification increased from 50m to 100m, to fit the Grit X
– Changed the optical heart rate sensor: specifically by changing the types of colored LEDs it uses, it corresponds to Grit X
– Modified displayed in that of the Grit X, so it’s a little sharper and sharper, with deeper blacks
Uff, got it all? Good. Now, Polar said the following will arrive before the end of the year:
– Power-based training workouts on Polar Flow (to transfer to watch)
– Zone pointer for training based on power / speed zones
Ok, now let’s start using it.
While you’re probably buying the Vantage V2 for its sporting prowess, we’ll start with some of the watch basics here. Things like activity tracking, sleep tracking, new music control, and other usage bits.
The watch has both a touchscreen and five dedicated buttons. The buttons on this follow the same elongated look as the original Vantage series, which is a bit disappointing because I really preferred the better grip texture on the edges of the Grit X. Either way, there’s also a slight flip every time you press a button.
In addition to button navigation, you can also use the touchscreen to navigate the menus. I find the touchscreen acceptable, but hardly the pinnacle of touchscreen technology on a wearable. He often decides to set alarms and airplane mode when I’m in the shower, but I haven’t had any problems beyond that (despite the incessant rain here in the Netherlands). Maybe my shower is just fuller of power.
The Vantage V2 uses a proprietary band design, which sadly means that unlike the Polar Grit X, you can’t just swap it out with whatever old band you want (the Grit X uses standard 22mm bands). Although Polar does offer some replacement colors with the Vantage V2 series, it’s a little odd not to just switch to the same standardized design as the Grit X.
On the back of the Vantage V2 you will find the new optical heart rate sensor. This arrangement is identical to that of the Grit X and is seen as an evolution of the original Vantage V Precision Prime sensor arrangement. With the original Vantage V there were 9 LEDs (5 green, 4 red, + 1 unused yellow). But 10 LEDs are now used in the Grit X (5 red, 4 orange / yellow, 1 green).
Typically, different color LEDs handle different skin colors better. Also, some colors tend to go deeper than others which are better at lower depths. Polar has long been playing around with different LEDs to try and increase accuracy, slightly more than most companies. Unfortunately, as we’ll see later, I’ve seen a regression in accuracy with both the Vantage V2 and Grit X sensors compared to previous Polar sensors.
Meanwhile, Vantage V2 introduces editable dashboard pages. These pages are often called widgets by other companies, but in practice they allow you to get consolidated information in other areas such as sleep, steps or workout history. And Polar has introduced some new pages here, as well as the aforementioned ability to select which pages you actually want to view. Starting in no particular order, here’s heart rate:
This will show the time, as well as your current heart rate. You can then tap it to get more details on your heart rate for the day:
Your heart rate is recorded 24 × 7 on Polar Flow too, so you can dive on any given day and look at the stats there:
Then there is that of sleep. Who apparently thinks my sleep has been compromised. Kind of weird seeing as I mostly slept well, and then doubled that by going back to sleep with a nap for three hours after taking the kids to school.
Again, you can tap to get more details there:
And again, you can dive into sleep metrics from the Polar Flow app too:
In general, with the exception of today, I find Polar’s sleep data quite consistent with how I feel on any given day, as well as consistent with the actual hours I went to sleep and woke up. Unfortunately, like Garmin, Fitbit, and others, Polar doesn’t support napping tracking (and today being the ultra rare opportunity I managed to get one).
Then there’s FitSpark, which basically gives you recommended daily workouts to maintain your current fitness level. There are several types of workouts such as strength, cardio and support (typically focusing on flexibility). And he’s smart enough to generally offer a cardio or strength workout first, and then, after doing that, he’ll give you a support workout. But we’ll talk about it later in the Sports section.
Then there’s the weather page, which constantly tells me how terrible the weather is in Amsterdam. Today was no exception:
After that we have the new weekly training summary page, which specifies the training time by HR zone. In this case you can see it towards the end of my week:
Or here, early next week:
You can tap it to get more details on zones, distances, calories and activities, allowing you to see each activity that contributed to that weekly total.
Then we have the steps. This is quite simple and shows your steps against your daily goal, as well as once you dive into it, your active time for the day.
Finally, there is the training status page. During the new watch release season (as it is now), this remains stuck in “Overreaching”. Once things are settled, it will revert to the productive or other less attractive state.
You can tap to open it and get more on the tension and tolerance aspects (which I will also talk about later in the sports section).
Now, going back from the widgets, pressing the lower left button takes you to a menu to start a new workout, Serene (breathing exercises), Refuel, Timer, Watch face views, Test and Settings.
Starting back, the settings is where we can tweak things like pairing sensors, switching from Nightly Recharge to Recovery Pro (more on this in the sports section), as well as a number of general watch settings.
One of the new options in Vantage V2 is the ability to choose dashboards (or look at the dial views as it’s called here).
This allows you to deselect the items you don’t care about.
Then there’s the Serene guided breathing feature, which gives you permission to sit on the sofa and do nothing. This should realistically be my favorite feature of the watch.
You will configure the overall duration and inhalation / exhalation lengths and walk you through each step.
Rounding home in the basic section are smartphone notifications. These non-interactive alerts will be sent from your iOS / Android phone whenever the apps you set up on your phone send a notification. It could be Strava, Twitter, Facebook, Tinder … anything. You can’t respond to them though, so it’s just one-way in nature.
Last but not least is the new music control feature. This allows you to control the music on your phone. You will access it by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. You must have a music app open on your phone for this to work. The Vantage V2 * DOES * NOT * have any music archive on it. So it’s * ONLY * checking the music already on your phone.
A little clear, though, is that it pulls the correct icon for the app it is checking, so you can see the Spotify icon shown there – a nice touch. I can skip / rewind / pause / play on the home screen as well as tap the volume icon to increase the volume:
There are no other options besides that, like selecting songs or the like. It’s just an iteration of what you have, quite similar to what buttons on a pair of headphones would do.
Finally, just for the sake of clarity, there are currently no NFC payments on Polar Vantage V2. I say “currently”, because quite interestingly this is the very specific wording that the Polar PR team used when they discussed it – specifically saying (an exact quote) “No, there are currently no payment solutions included in Polar. Vantage V2. “, While on other questions related to music storage, it was a much more definitive” No “.
However, it would be incredibly difficult for them to implement contactless payments without having a partner of some kind doing the leg work, and they are not aware of any mainstream / mainstream partner who is not already tied into exclusive agreements with other wearable companies.
When it comes to the sporting and training aspects of the watch, the Vantage V2 is the culmination of everything in the original Vantage V series, combined with the new features of the Polar Grit X. This means that you are previously only acquiring Grit X functions such as Hill Splitter and Fuelwise, but you will keep Vantage V series specific features like Recovery Pro, which are not present in the Grit X.
In this section I will mainly focus on the main training / workload / recovery monitoring functions. While for the new features of the performance test type, this is in the next section. In the meantime, for the features that were introduced with Grit X, I’ll cover them briefly here, but I’ll dive into things like FuelWise and Hill Splitter in much more detail in the Grit X post. Nothing has changed with the Vantage V2 in this regard. .
To start a workout, press the lower left button once or long-press the middle right button. Regardless of your route, you will eventually come to this page showing one of the many sport modes (and current sensor / satellite status).
The Polar Vantage V2 can store up to 20 sport profiles in it, each with their own set of customizations, things like data pages or
Sports personalization covers everything from exact data fields and the pages you want to show or the frequency of refresh rates. You can also change the zone limits for pace, power and heart rate. Plus automatic spins and more. These can be changed in Polar Flow online or via the smartphone app:
For example, this is where you can change the data field shown on my watch or, later, the GPS and altitude settings.
These changes are synced to your watch each time you sync your watch, which can be done via Bluetooth Smart on your phone or wired to your computer. Usually the synchronization process takes about 20-40 seconds via computer or about 30-60 seconds via Bluetooth Smart. However, it tends to take longer if you haven’t synced in a while and need to sync GPS cache information, firmware updates, or Haribo stock levels.
Back on the watch, once you select a sport mode, it will turn off and find GPS (if an outdoor sport), as well as block the optical HR (if using the optical HR sensor).
The Polar Vantage V2 supports the same types of sensors as the Vantage series. These are:
– Bluetooth Smart heart rate straps
– Bluetooth Smart Cycling power meters
– Cadence and speed sensors Bluetooth Smart Cycling
– Footpods Bluetooth Smart Running
– Bluetooth Smart Running power meters (also includes one integrated)
From a power meter perspective, I’ve tried a few different ones. I’ve had (mostly) success with both a Quarq DZero power meter and an Elite Tuo trainer, but strangely I haven’t been able to pair it with a PowerTap P2 pedal board. A Tacx NEO 2 was impractical and would not have found a 2018 Wahoo KICKR. Polar has a list of guaranteed power meters, but realistically that list is far less extensive than their competitors. There is no support for ANT +.
However, you can easily pair more types of sensors with the watch via the sensor menu. This way you can effectively save the sensor configurations of multiple bicycles or multiple heart rate straps, etc …
If you hit the top right button while on the sports screen, you’ll get a sort of settings mini-menu. This is where you can select courses, go back to start navigation, add countdown / interval timers, or load structured workouts. It’s also where you can configure power saving settings to get 100 hours of longer GPS battery life.
Go back to the sports main menu even if you have the sensor status menus, which will turn green when it locks the optical heart rate and satellite, as well as any paired sensors will also change color (like a paired HR strap or power meters). Above time will show how much GPS time is left for battery power and current settings.
To start recording, tap the middle button on the right. At this point you can now scroll through your data fields to see various metrics of whatever workout you are doing. So if you are outside you will see things like speed / pace, distance, etc … More or less all the usual goodness you would expect from a GPS watch.
Now with Vantage V2 you’ll get running power natively from the wrist, just like with the original Vantage V series (and the Grit X). Use the accelerometer in the watch on your wrist to do those calculations. This has its pros and cons as I outlined above. This will automatically show up as a data field, as well as later in the training data files (shown as watts below – 522w in one of my track’s training intervals):
Now, if on a run where hills are involved, you can use Hill Splitter to keep track of each repetition of the hills. The way Hill Splitter works is that it automatically detects when you are going up or down a hill and will give you the time of ascent / descent as well as the length of the ascent / descent. Every ascent / descent will also count. You will see it on the screen every time you go up / down, as summarized later on the watch and then on the app. If you’re on flat ground (as I am for 99.99% of my runs here), here’s what it looks like:
This page is not customizable, but can be added to the watch. When you start to climb a climb, once you reach around 8-10m of elevation indicator, a climb will trigger and the screen will switch to the screen below showing how far you have run / ridden / walked to that climb point as well as the duration. And obviously see what number it is (eg First ascent). Note that Hill Splitter does NOT refer to the saved trip / trip data. It is simply a bracelet-style hill count. This has its pros and cons. It’s great for weekly impromptu training sessions where you simply need to pick a hill and start repeating without creating / loading a course. On the contrary, it’s not very useful in the Alps or something where you have huge climbs and you want to know how much climb is left – it won’t tell you.
Now, I dive into all the pros, cons and nuances of Hill Splitter here in my Polar Grit X review with an entire section devoted to it.
Speaking of routes, however, it is possible to transfer routes to Polar Vantage V2. These can be created on Polar Flow itself or via Komoot. Although keep in mind that with Komoot you will need to have that region activated in Komoot (the point where the path begins), which may involve paying for Komoot depending on whether you have already activated other regions.
Assuming you’ve solved everything, here’s what the routes look like in Polar Flow using the sync option, you can see the Komoot ones with icons in the center, and then on the right which ones are synced to my watch:
Note: the Strava icon you see above is for Strava Live Segments and unfortunately not Strava Routes. However, if you scroll down, you can see those synced segments:
In total you can sync 100 “things” with Vantage V2. It could be a combination of segments, courses or workouts.
To access Courses or Workouts (called “Favorites” in the Polar watch menus), you will open a sport mode and then press the settings icon:
You will then see the list of Routes (or Favorites) above and you can choose one. After selection, it will be displayed on the left side of the sport mode screen:
For routes, they are displayed as breadcrumb trail data. There are no maps or terrain data shown inside Polar Vantage V2 for routes, just your route line. As you approach a turn, you will see an arrow indicating that a turn is on the way and the direction of the turn. And if you go off the track you will get a warning.
Now, once you are done with all your heavy breaths and finished the workout, you will get a data summary screen and, in the case of this particular running workout, that also includes running power from the wrist:
You will also notice the new energy bits coming from the Polar Grit X, showing the breakdown of energy consumption during this workout:
If you then work backwards in things, you can use the refueling features (also added by Polar Grit X) which give you smart or manual carb alerts, as well as drink reminders:
For example, with Smart Carb Alerts you specify the duration of the workout and the details of the gel pack, and it will understand and remind you how often you should take it:
I dive into the FuelWise & Energy sources in far more detail here in this post section.
In any case, all of the workout data is loaded to Polar Flow online (both smartphone and online website):
Further, it’ll automatically be synced to various Polar Flow partners, like Strava or TrainingPeaks, depending on how you’ve got your account configured.
Next, let’s say you can’t decide what workout you want to do – Polar’s got FitSpark for that. Basically, the idea behind this is to keep you doing something. First it’ll skew towards Cardio or Strength workouts, and then after that it’ll finish up with a Supportive workout (which is core / stretching typically). You’ll see this on your home watch face dashboards:
And when you open it up it’ll give you different options to suffer through. Now, these aren’t tied to any specific training plan. It’s just a variant of ‘Workout of the Day’, with the singular goal to keep you moving, but ideally doing so in a way that doesn’t get you injured.
Depending on the type of workout you choose it’ll give you the specific steps and guidance in the watch itself. There are cardio-focused running workouts with different intensities. And then there are core type workouts too, and for those, it’ll give you the specific moves to do, along with animations and text for each one:
Again, keep in mind the goal of this function isn’t to be an endurance trail running coach. It’ll suck at that. Instead, the goal is actually more applicable to date: To keep you fit and push you slightly with mostly varied workouts across disciplines (such as flexibility and strength).
However, if we want endurance side of things you’ll want to look at the training load bits. You’ll remember earlier on we saw the new weekly training summary, right?
Well, atop that there’s the Polar Training Load Pro. There’s basically three components to this: Training Load, Cardio Load, and Muscle Load.
Starting with Cardio Load Status, which shows you whether you’ve got too much or too little load. You can see this from the watch face, and then dive into it to get more details:
Strain is a metric showing the average daily load from the past 7 days. Whereas Tolerance shows your average daily load from the past 28 days. So basically you can look at those two values and see the ratio as part of the number above it, such that it keeps things in check. Go too high, and you’re prone to injury. Too low, and you’re not going to make gains. In the middle, and life is grand.
You can also view this on the Polar Flow app:
Now, when it comes to Recovery Tracking, you’ve got a binary choice between using ‘Nightly Recharge’, which is mostly focused on sleep tracking, or using Recovery Pro. You have to select one. By default it’s Nightly Recharge, but you can change it in the settings:
However, selecting Recovery Pro means that you’ll need to break out that chest strap at least three mornings per week and do the Orthostatic test. The chest strap is required for more accurate HRV related data that’s used for making the recovery determinations.
Somewhat handily, you can even specify exactly which mornings it’ll prompt you to do this:
In my case, I just used the Nightly Recharge function – though that too will require at least three days of activity before it starts giving you results. So just keep that mind. I showed those bits up in the basics section.
Ok – with all of the core sports functionality covered, let’s talk about the new performance related tests.
New Performance Testing Tools:
With the Vantage V2, there are three new performance tests included, and one new platform to consolidate all the tests Polar offers. The new tests are:
– Running Performance Test
– Cycling Performance Test
– Leg Recovery Test
This is in addition to the previously existing tests of:
– Orthostatic Test
– Fitness Test
We’ll just dive right into them, with the Running Performance Test. This test technically has two components to it, but both are geared towards determining more accurately your VO2Max. While previously (and still currently), Polar has the Running Index score it gives you after each run, this is apparently a bit more accurate.
To begin the test you’ll want a flat place that’s ideally without any obstacles/obstructions/stoplights/etc… In other words, you don’t want to stop, and, as I noticed during my test – you really want to avoid any sharp angles, as it’ll impact GPS accuracy a bit which in turn could cause issues in the test. To select the test you’ll open the ‘Test’ menu, and then choose the Running Performance test”
The test begins with a 10 minute warm-up. While Polar specifies Zone 1-3 on the screen, in reality the app is only programmed to work for Zone 1, so it alerts you constantly that you’re annoyingly out of zone during the warm-up because you’re not still in Zone 1.
Then, you’ll start the main portion of the test, where basically it ever so slowly makes you go faster and faster. This section should last about 10-20 minutes, but needs to last a minimum of 6 minutes. You can adjust the starting pace for this portion of the test, otherwise it starts you off pretty slow (16:00/mile – basically a fast walk).
On the upper portion of the screen you’ll see the current target pace, below that your current actual pace, and your heart rate in the lower left. In the lower right are the current sub-maximal and Max HR targets.
The thing simply keeps marching faster and faster until you break. Remember, it’s less about the pace (or that point in time pace), but about your heart rate for that pace, and the build into that pace. So while my test yesterday ended at 5:48/mile, that’s because at that point I’d been running at an ever-increasing pace for 12 minutes. You can see the warm-up (WU) and test portions below, with the cool-down after that – and the build into it.
Afterwards it’ll give your running VO2Max score:
And some additional data related to that:
Now, a few things notable here. First, on my other runs last week using the Running Index scoring system I scored 63 for my VO2Max scores:
So, that’s quite a drop (way more than would normally be seen). Of course, 63 is higher than my highest ever actual lab tested value. Meanwhile, at the same time as I ran the VO2Max test with the Polar Vantage V2 (score 58), I also had a Garmin FR745 tracking my run. And it gave me a score of 57, without having to do any fancy test. That’s pretty consistent with what it gives me each workout (sometimes 58).
I’d say both values are in-line with my current fitness levels, maybe 1 or 2 below how I’d do on a well rested day (which, as you saw earlier in this post, this day was apparently not well rested according to the Vantage V2).
Next, there’s the Cycling Performance Test. Which, is basically an FTP test, and requires a power meter. In this case you can pick your poison of 20/30/40/60 minutes for the core test portion. Like any other FTP test, if you select a lower time, it’ll use an algorithm to extrapolate that to the full 1-hour timeframe.
And like the running test, it starts off with a warm-up period, although this one is 20 minutes. And also like the running test, while it says in the descriptive text you should build intensity and do some sprints, it never actually gives you any guidance for that.
Eventually you’ll get to the core of the test – the part that matters. Note that with both the running and cycling test, this won’t automatically start until you press to begin this section. That’s handy if you’re trying to get to a clean spot sans traffic lights or distractions. Once ready, you begin:
It’ll give your current power, as well as the average power for the time.
And unfortunately, this is as much as I can show you.
I’ve now taken the FTP twice in the last few days, and both times it failed. It, not me. The first time I paired it to a Tacx NEO 2 trainer, and as I started the main portion of the test dropouts occurred via Bluetooth Smart, and eventually it ended the test due to lack of data. Other units I was using weren’t seeing dropouts (via ANT+).
So on Monday I tried the test again. This time at the office (as opposed to home, in case wireless issues were a problem), and with a different bike on a different trainer. This time I paired it to the Quarq DZero power meter (which is on the approved list), and began. I completed the warm-up and began the main chunk of the test without issue:
Then, some 13 minutes into the painful part of the test, the connection dropped out, and the test also forcibly failed.
This sucked, because FTP tests are no fun – and further, you’ve set aside time for doing it, time away from a normally scheduled workout (including the lead-up to it).
Maybe this was a one-off, I don’t know. Polar says they haven’t had any reports of this happening elsewhere, and they’re digging into it. So, for the purposes of discussion – let’s just set that aside. Let’s say it’s a ‘me’ problem. Ok.
But here’s the thing: In 2020, both for this and the running test, most platforms are moving away from doing frequent one-off testing. Most platforms are moving towards leveraging your actual workout/training data to do that analytics for you, so you don’t need to take off time in your schedule for a test. We’ve seen Xert doing that, Today’s Plan doing that, and Polar’s watch/bike computer competitors just giving you those values in real-time as you complete workouts.
Sure, others like TrainerRoad do include a monthly test scheduled within most of their plans – but even that is a RAMP test, which is far more common these days than setting aside 60 minutes as per the Polar routine (20 mins warm-up, 20 mins core test, 20 mins cool-down). The RAMP test is over in 20 minutes total.
The other somewhat silly challenge I realized here is that I still need *another* non-Polar device to actually do the test on a trainer (which, is what Polar and everyone else recommends for FTP tests). That’s because the Polar Vantage V2 won’t control your trainers resistance. So in my case I had to use a Garmin Edge device to control the trainer and set the target wattages. And that gets even more complex if your using your trainer as your power meter for the Polar device, since all but the Wahoo KICKR only allow for a single concurrent Bluetooth Smart connection (and the Vantage V2 doesn’t connect via ANT+).
In any case, moving onto the last item, the new Leg Recovery Test. This test is designed to help you determine if your legs are fatigued, by performing three standing jumps in a row.
These three jumps are then measured to centimeter accuracy by the unit and compared against a rolling baseline for the last 28 days. If the deviation is more than 7% lower, it’s determined that your legs aren’t full recovered. Interestingly, that data is actually fed into FitSpark, for deciding on which workouts will be given. So that’s a good example of using the data to drive decisions.
Finally, Polar has started rolling out a new Test Dashboard on Polar Flow, which consolidates all your tests into one spot:
You’ll see all the testing types, as well as drop-down filters for each type. Now, given this feature has only rolled out, and I’ve only got a few jump tests and a successful running test (my failed cycling tests interestingly don’t show up here), the data is kinda slim. Still, long term I like the dashboard look:
Ok, wrapping things up – as I said earlier, I think the tests are useful to some, but in general it’s not the direction the industry is trending. Also, for cycling, I’d really have preferred they’d included a RAMP test in there. But hey, I suppose there’s always room for improvement.
For the jump tests related to leg recovery, those are indeed quick and easy tests to do that take a few seconds and can easily be done each day without impacting your normal training load/recovery, so those actually make quite a bit of tests.
GPS & HR Accuracy:
There’s likely no topic that stirs as much discussion and passion as GPS accuracy. A watch could fall apart and give you dire electrical shocks while doing so, but if it shows you on the wrong side of the road? Oh hell no, bring on the fury of the internet!
GPS accuracy can be looked at in a number of different ways, but I prefer to look at it using a number of devices in real-world scenarios across a vast number of activities. I use 2-6 other devices at once, trying to get a clear picture of how a given set of devices handles conditions on a certain day. Conditions include everything from tree/building cover to weather.
Over the years, I’ve continued to tweak my GPS testing methodology. For example, I don’t place two units next to each other on my wrists, as that can impact signal. If I do so, I’ll put a thin fabric spacer of about 1”/3cm between them (I didn’t do that on any of my Polar Vantage V2 activities however, all workouts only had a single device per wrist). But often I’ll simply carry other units by the straps, or attach them to the shoulder straps of my hydration backpack. Plus, wearing multiple watches on the same wrist is well known to impact optical HR accuracy.
Meanwhile, for HR accuracy testing I’m typically wearing a chest strap (usually the Garmin HRM-DUAL or newer HRM-PRO, but also the Polar H10, but or Polar H9) as well as another optical HR sensor watch on the bicep (lately the Whoop band and/or Polar OH1 Plus). Note that the numbers you see in the upper right corner are *not* the averages, but rather just the exact point my mouse is sitting over. Note all this data is analyzed using the DCR Analyzer, details here.
To begin, we’re actually going to go with my Running Performance Test from yesterday, taking a look at both HR accuracy and GPS accuracy. For GPS accuracy, the test started off mostly in the trees for the warm-up, since GPS accuracy was less important at that point in the test. This is compared against a Garmin FR745 and a Fitbit Versa 3. Here’s that data:
At a high level we see some slight differences. So zooming into a few spots during the warm-up we see some slight variances from all three. In general the FR745 is on the path the most, with the Vantage V2 close behind, and the Fitbit Versa 3 a bit more variable.
As we hit the straightaway (but under tree cover), the Polar and Garmin are pretty much a wash, whereas the Fitbit is generally off deeper in the trees picking mushrooms or something.
Making a 90* turn, the Polar nailed this one, with the Garmin & Fitbit devices undercutting the turn. Interestingly however, despite taking this turn at speed (and that it then goes downhill slightly), the actual pace displayed on the Vantage V2 did noticeably drop, which was of particular note given it was in the middle of the VO2Max test and started giving ‘behind pace’ type alerts.
However, after that point in the wide open bike path with nothing on either side, the Polar was off by quite a bit – more than a two-lane roadway away, the Garmin spot-on, and the Fitbit just very slightly off:
Meanwhile, taking a look at the HR accuracy during that run tells an oddly similar story. Here’s the Polar Vantage V2 vs Polar OH1 Plus (optical arm band) vs Fitbit Versa 3, and then the HRM-RUN chest strap.
As you can see, the HRM-PRO had the most correct and gradual build-up of data at the beginning, but the optical HR sensors were too far behind. The Polar Vantage V2 stuttered at the 2-minute marker for a bit. The slight stutter from purple line of the HRM-PRO was simply me adjusting it at the 3-minute marker. It’s been interesting to see how much more visible the adjustments of the strap is on the HRM-PRO than other chest straps.
We see that for the most part for the first 10 minutes the units are fairly close, though around the 8-9 minute marker during one of the sprints I did as part of the warm-up that it caused the Fitbit to struggle, and then slightly caught the Polar Vantage V2 off-guard. The Polar OH1 and HRM-PRO were basically identical there.
While the Fitbit is mostly a mess as the intensity gets higher, the Polar Vantage V2 isn’t perfect either. In fact, you can see numerous spikes throughout, something I’ve consistently seen on the Polar Grit X since launch (I frequently use it in testing):
And just before the VO2Max test ends, we see the biggest difference here, with the Vantage V2 overestimating m at 194bpm, versus the chest strap at 182 and the OH1 at 187. Meanwhile, the Fitbit Versa 3 is at 169.
So overall on that one, it’s not terribly good, in particular at the height of the VO2Max test, which might impact my results for that test actually. While the HR got back into line just as the test ended, did that incorrect spike impact things? I don’t know.
Next, let’s look at a track workout. Cause everyone likes a track workout for both GPS testing. This time against the Apple Watch Series 6, Garmin FR745, and Fitbit Versa 3. In this case, I was using the Vantage V2 with the Polar OH1 Plus for the heart rate portion, so we won’t be evaluating that aspect as part of this set.
As the test began, all units correctly managed to mostly plot the route down the middle of the tree lined path:
And they all kinda-sorta made it out of the massive pile of bridges/tunnels/overpasses without any massive incidents. Not perfect by any means, but the Apple Watch was definitely the winner here.
Meanwhile, over at the track things were actually pretty good. You’ll see a single red line across the infield – that’s my fault. After one of the intervals I hit the pause instead of lap button, and then realized it about a 100m later. But everyone actually stayed roughly in the track, which is good.
The FR745 was in running track mode, so it’s even scarier how close it is. It only shows the exists/entrances, as I was curious if I could start it off-track (the answer is yes, but you just can’t quite get too close to the track on the arrival, or it snaps in like it does below).
But overall, the Polar Vantage V2 did pretty good here – no complaints. Also, for fun, while I wasn’t using the Vantage V2’s optical HR sensor, I was using the Polar OH1 Plus sensor paired to it. No drop-outs or such. And just in case there was any doubt on accuracy (or, lack thereof in one units case):
Moving along again, this time to an easier run. I don’t really need to re-hash all the details on this one, it’s pretty obvious that the units are fairly close, except the Vantage V2 does suffer briefly around the 3 minute marker. While the Fitbit Versa 3 spikes a few times around the 21 and 26 minute markers, both times after stopping at lights/etc and resuming running again.
From a GPS accuracy standpoint, all units were actually pretty good on this city run. With only the Fitbit Vera 3 struggling occasionally (although, not hugely):
They all correctly managed to plot their way through the Rijksmuseum building underpass, though the Fitbit and and Polar units did hose up slightly a turn shortly thereafter back into the park – both of them going off into the water and buildings.
Changing scenery again, what about an outdoors ride? Well, that’s a hot mess. So, I made the Polar Vantage V2 hot pink to illustrate that. Note the sections between the two lines are when I realized I had a conference call, so I stopped to take it on the side of the road.
I could analyze all these sections, but you can see pretty clearly it’s bad. Really bad. Which, is basically what I saw with the Polar Grit X as well.
On the right side, GPS accuracy was perfectly fine:
For this route I was over at an outdoor cycling track, that loops around and around. So it’s a good test of repeatability, and things were spot-on then.
Finally, as for an indoor cycling workout – heart-rate wise that handled much better:
Ok, with that – wrapping things up a bit, I’d say that HR accuracy was basically what we saw with the Grit X, which makes sense as it’s the same sensor there, though, unfortunately that means I don’t get as good of accuracy as the original Polar Vantage series sensor.
For GPS accuracy, things are pretty much par for the course with what I see from most GPS watches these days, no major outliers (good or bad) in any of the data sets, nor in any of my daily commutes I recorded here and there either (mostly through the city). So all good and acceptable there.
(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy sections were created using the DCR Analyzer tool. It allows you to compare power meters/trainers, heart rate, cadence, speed/pace, GPS tracks and plenty more. You can use it as well for your own gadget comparisons, more details here.)
Overall, the Polar Vantage V2 is a modest upgrade to the original Vantage V unit, incorporating the largely software-driven updates of the Grit X from this past spring, with weight reductions and changes to the optical HR sensor. The new performance testing features may be useful to those that are looking to chart more specifically their progress in cycling or running, or perhaps figure out if their legs are recovered in the gym.
I think the Vantage V2 may be challenged in that it doesn’t really have a ton of features that are going to draw existing Vantage V owners to it. Sure, some will – especially those that may have held out on buying the Grit X, despite wanting those new features. So for that crowd, this helps basically gives people what they want in terms of the extra training/recovery focused elements.
But, I don’t know if those new testing components are enough to draw away new sales from competitor – that’s a much tougher pitch, especially when compared against both what COROS has at a substantially lower price point, or Garmin has at the exact same price point. It puts Polar in a bit of a tough bind with this offerings.
Still, Polar has at committed to more firmware updates throughout the remainder of the year, and then perhaps we’ll see additional feature upgrades beyond that, just as we did with the Vantage Series for the first 18 months or so.
With that – thanks for reading!