Friday, September 14, 2018

Polar Vantage V and M Introduction: 14 Sensors Polar to Measure Wrist HR in the V & M, Running Power and Muscle Load Metrics in the V, Battery Life up to 40 hours

Article by Sam Winebaum
Polar Vantage V
On September 13th Polar announced two new multi sport training watches : the Vantage V ($500) and Vantage M ($280).
Polar Vantage M
Both watches promise high accuracy GPS and wrist heart rate monitoring and include Polar's excellent training features and programs. The Vantage V adds advanced features and metrics including barometric altimeter, Running Power and associated Muscle Load sensing and calculation, as well Training and Recovery Load Pro. Spec battery life in training mode are very robust, maybe class leading, but our testing will tell if any GPS accuracy compromises are required for up to 40 hours for the V and 30 hours for the M. And in a departure from prior more rectangular Polar watches they are round in shape!

Polar was the first company to deliver fitness heart rate monitoring way back in the 1980's and as such have been long time sports monitoring instrument pioneers with their watches and training and physiology monitoring platform we think the most evolved and sophisticated of any out there. As heart rate monitoring is at their core, they were careful and deliberate in moving from chest straps paired to their watches to wrist sense Their recent very reasonably priced, colorful, light and rectangular M430 produced excellent results in our testing (RTR review) in part as they did not compromise watch shape for accuracy. In accuracies in wrist heart rate, often manifested by the sensors confusing run cadence for heart rate come from lower blood flow in colder  drier weather, also while clenching , and a mis match of watch shape and weight to wrists- usually thinner wrists such as mine have more issues.

So their move to a more a "stylish" round shape and big display had to balance weight and shape with new technology to maintain accuracy.

The Vantage V weighs 68 g so about 20 grams more than the Garmin Forerunner 935 whose current spec battery life is up to 24 hours although we currently see less than that closer to 20 vs. the up to 40 hours claimed for the Polar (before our testing). It has 1.2" screen touch screen with Gorilla Glass backed by five buttons matching the Garmin Forerunner 935's in screen size and 240 x 240  resolution.
The Vantage M weighs 45 grams, so 6 grams less than the Polar M430 and 4 grams less than the Forerunner.  It has same size 1.2" screen as the V but with a laminated plastic lens and five buttons instead of the Gorilla Glass and touch screen of the V. 
Polar Vantage M
Both Vantage watches feature new Polar Precision Prime monitoring. "This innovation combines optical heart rate measurement with skin contact measurement in order to rule out any motion artifacts that might disturb the heart rate signal and produce unreliable readings."
Polar Vantage V
"Precision Prime, (is) the only wrist-based HR technology that integrates three sensors for faster, and more accurate readings. It incorporates nine optical channels, a 3D accelerometer and four electrode sensors measure skin contact. "  Wow! Nine channels of optical sensing. The most I have seen before was six and that was the Polar M430... This array sounds extremely promising as it is air gaps and motion between wrist and sensor which are thought to interrupt the sensor's detection of blood flow. An I do not know of any other wrist heart rate watches with skin contact measurement sensing. Using all of these sensors Polar is setting out to potentially widen the range of uses of wrist heart rate sensing and its accuracy as their M430 with its 6 LED's was already pretty darn good.

The Vantage V also incorporates Running Power sensing without foot pods or additional sensors, so all done from the wrist.  Power is said to respond to changes in intensity faster than heart rate so useful for intervals and hill sessions. Polar will determine power through GPS and the barometer(altitude changes) and crunch this in a proprietary algorithm.  While I have struggled with both the extra hardware for power monitoring, and its relevance here all on the wrist, all incorporated into a single platform it becomes a metric worth evaluating and following.
But there is more to the sensing of Running Power and a feature actually of greater interest to me. Running Power will be used to calculate Muscle Load accumulated in training. Pure heart rate based measures of recovery such as resting heart rate and heart rate variability do not take into account Muscle Load or fatigue.  Using the excellent Whoop band during sleep I often note very high recovery scores manifested by positive high heart rate variability and low resting heart rate AFTER a very hard race, as body systems based on the heart prioritize that recovery first. Yet my muscles are very sore. Not sure how Polar will pull this off but Muscle Load metrics could be a ground breaker in evaluating readiness for training.

Screens are customizable with up to 4 data fields per screen and up to 8 screens per sports profile. 20 sports profiles can be loaded to the watch at one time.

Both Vantage track activity 24/7, and heart rate at short intervals, with any elevation in heart rate triggering continuous recording.  Sleep Plus tracks your sleep and in prior testing does a fine job.This data along with training activity and the new Muscle Load should help paint a complete picture of your load, condition, and fatigue to better evaluate your status, If they pull it off sort of the holy grail of training systems.

At the initial release there are as of yet no "smart watch" features such as phone notifications  or the often found high end GPS watch feature of navigation by breadcrumbs. As is often the case with an all new platform, these features are likely to follow and we will update the article with more details on these as we have them. This said I am glad that Polar focused on monitoring and training features initially for these new watches as first and foremost it is for training one gets a Polar not for fretting about texts and music! As with prior Polar watches there is every sport mode imaginable available and tons of data produced. I expect these new watches will perform very well indeed as Polar is nothing but meticulous but testing will tell,

Polar Vantage V Product page here
Polar Vantage M  Product page here
Pre-Orders at Polar open Sept 13, 2018.
Author Bio
Sam Winebaum is the Editor and Founder of RoadTrailRun. He has been running and shoe geeking for 45 years. As he turned 60 in 2017 he was thrilled to clock a 1:35.24 half and as he turned 61 a 3:40 marathon to qualify one more time for Boston. Sam runs his roads and trails in coastal New Hampshire and Park City, Utah. He has always been a tech geek and a first adopter of whatever is new.
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Unknown said...

Hello and thanks

Are the data fields configurable?
Also, can more than 4 fields be selected?
Lastly, does the M also have gorilla glas?

Many thanks

Kind regards


Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Pieter,
We hope to have samples soon to confirm details and will ask but examining specs it appears M does not list having Gorilla Glass or being a touch screen. The specs do say "user adjustable training displays" for both but not sure if more than 4 fields can be configured.
Sam, Editor

Unknown said...

Many thanks Sam!

Looking forward to the info. (Context : I need to decide between the Suunto Spartan Trainer and the Vantage M. At the moment the SST seems to bring more capability to the user - smart notifications, 5,7 fields configurable dashboards, glass with certain models, etc)



Sam Winebaum said...

While of course we have not tested the Vantage M we did test all the Spartans while back. If Suunto no question the new S9 is the way to go especially for its long battery life and finally for Suunto very strong wrist HR. We just posted a full review here:
Why do you need 5-7 fields of data? I find more than 4 hard to see.
Sam, Editor

Unknown said...

Hi Sam

Thanks - I will definitely check the review :)

I agree on the data fields (sort of) - 4 fields of equal size (as per M400 I had for years) is ideal as a primary display, period. Going to the Suunto Trainer (which I used intensively for ~ 1y) with the 5 / 7 fields of different size fonts was not as good initially as I was too accustomed to the M400's 4 line display, so my primary screen ended up with the 3 field display (Duration, Ave Pace, Distance) as the 4 field display used too small a font for three of the fields.

However I did configure 5 & 7 data fields as secondary displays and I actually got to use it more than I would like to admit, especially after my initial complaints re the small font.

E.g., my 7 field layout:

Heart Rate : Ave Heart Rate
Pace : Ave Pace
Duration : Altitude

In fact I started to like it so much, to go back now to an only 4 field display is kind of 'meh'. Then there is also the small matter of tracks that can't be imported (yet?), back to start, smart notif etc which need to be address with a SoD. I wonder if 'Estimated End Time' of set distance is even available, as per M400? The claimed battery life also still need to be confirmed as well. I personally do not use oHR (on which Polar seems to hinge this offering) but only the HR strap when I get serious, so what does the V-M actually bring us? Battery life? With the Trainer I could configure recording interval to extend it as well.

So as a Polar fan coming from the S210 way back - I am watching the V-M very closely, especially after waiting all these years. (I even passed my Trainer on in anticipation of the V-M, I just hope Polar will meet us wrt our expectations, otherwise I will (sadly!) revert to the Trainer.



Unknown said...

I neglected to add - on the other hand the Suunto Spartan Trainer is absolutely useless wrt sleep tracking and Movescount does not support any data on sleep either, where (judged on the M400 I had) Polar nailed it almost perfectly including the platform support for it :)

BTW - in the meantime I discovered that the 'End Time Estimator' is not supported by the V or M:

It was quite a handy feature on the M400.

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