Polar Vantage M Review
Updated: Aug 12, 2022
Like many athletes, I began training with basic watches. I'd record some workouts on my phone, or manually upload to Strava. I tried a Garmin Vivo Fit 4, then an Apple Watch and I ended up using a combination of platforms. While this got the job done, I always felt I was missing out on the advanced settings that came with a GPS watch. I also began to dread switching between various watches and devices for different workouts. The Polar Vantage M seemed like a surprisingly affordable watch compared to pricier watches like Garmin, yet still offered the features I was looking for. For me, the goal has never been to have the most expensive and technical watch, but one that had integrated GPS, allowed me to analyze my data, record a wide variety of sport activities, including triathlon, and capture other features like heart rate. I've been using Polar Vantage M for a month or two, and I'm not disappointed. With that said, I still have some opinions:
As a petite woman, I didn't want a bulky watch that felt heavy on my wrist. This watch is surprisingly light for the good-sized watch face it has, and I like the option of a white wristband (a little more "stylish" in my opinion). You'll want to know how to light up the screen (press upper left button once) because it's pretty dim and in certain lights hard to see. The generous diameter of the watch face gives it it a sleek and luxurious look (not to mention highly practical to see!). While it isn't touch screen, the 5 buttons make it really easy to navigate between all the features and there's really no room for confusion. It didn't take long for me to feel comfortable with all the settings.
I was really shocked with the battery life. I kept looking at my watch expecting it needed a charge like other watches I've used. There's nothing worse than working out, realizing you forgot to charge your watch and having it die on you. If it's not on Strava, did it really happen? On the website, they mention battery lasts up to 30 hours but I actually experienced longer since I wasn't using GPS features at all times. It's safe to say this watch has a long battery life.
The GPS and heart rate seem really accurate. And, instead of offering a basic "cycling" category, this watch gets specific, with indoor (trainer) cycling or road options (and of course mountain biking). While I'm out on a ride, I can just glance down at my wrist instead of pulling out my phone periodically... which I used to record with (which obviously isn't very safe). I also don't own a fancy GPS head unit for my bike, but I don't feel I'm missing out because I get the data I need through this watch.
For running, it again seemed accurate in distance and pace. I was initially concerned that the wrist-based heart rate monitor would not be accurate, because I've heard this type of monitoring doesn't hold up compared to a chest strap. So, this was a nice surprise. I set an automatic split based on distance and it functioned fine. I've set it up to capture my own splits, and that's fine too. To program a workout, though, it gets a little more complicated. It's also slightly difficult to change the modes just before your run and not able to sync with your phone or computer. With that said, it's a completely adequate GPS running watch. I also like how you can change the watch face, configuring it on the Polar Flow App (more on this later). Seems good on trails too, tracking elevation accurately.
A major plus with this watch is that it automatically pauses when you stop swimming. It senses this and measures the time spent stopped, then automatically starts up again when you resume swimming. However, in a 25 yd pool, the distance doesn't seem to be accurate. I tried another way by hitting the “lap” button, but the format didn’t come through properly on Strava. When I went to Polar Flow app, I still couldn’t tell where my swim intervals were. Perhaps I’m missing something. It also doesn't pick up drills well. On a more positive note, for the first time, I was actually measuring heart rate during swimming! From what I could tell, the averages seemed plausible.
Polar Flow App:
You'll have to download the Polar Flow App, which is where you can keep track of your training, analyze your own data, and track other lifestyle behaviors/injuries/mood/sleep, etc. I recently discovered you can create an entire training schedule or have Polar develop one for you, which could be useful for some. However, how personalized this is to you, your fitness level, your background, previous injuries, etc. is up for debate. I'd always recommend training under the guidance of a coach to get it right. I don't have any issues with the watch syncing automatically, but if you do need to sync it manually it's not hard to do. You just have to press the back button (holding down) while the app is open. As someone who loves data, I geek out over the comparison of distance, heart rate average, pace average, pace max, heart rate max, etc. There's a whole lot more on the app like blog posts, your training calendar, and of course basic things like step count and calories. My favorite aspect is the variety of sport profiles to pick from. While some might just use the standard swim, bike, run, strength, and triathlon settings, I've also used the options of yoga, skiing, water running (good for injury), duathlon, roller skating, surfing, etc... the list goes on. This is truly a watch for any kind of sport-lover!
The Polar Vantage M is a great GPS watch with lots of features, especially for the price. I think most athletes looking to analyze data and improve their training would love this. Some multi-sport athletes might feel there are other watches out there that offer a different user experience. All in all, this watch does the job and I'd definitely recommend it.