Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Polar Unite Initial Review: A Complete, Easy to Understand yet Deep Fitness and Well Being Companion with GPS Tracking from Your Phone

Article by Sam Winebaum

Polar Unite ($150)

Released June 30, the Polar Unite represents a big move by Polar to capture a more value and fitness oriented segment of the sports and wellbeing smartwatch market with a light, low cost, stylish new option. 

Polar was the original cardiac fitness monitoring company with experience dating back to the 1980’s. Since then they have continued to evolve their science based approach with extensive in house research. Polar is often used in scientific studies and by elite athletes for its accuracy and deep long term insights into trends in cardiac fitness and training.

With the Unite, Polar seeks to deliver all that deep experience in a simple accessible format to help transform data into simple actionable insights to help users progress, achieve balance, and receive guidance.

Priced at $150, and weighing a mere 32g, it incorporates many but not all of the essential features of the Vantage series and Grit X. 

Nightly Recharge is about not only sleep quantity and quality but ANS data ( heart rate variability, nightly HR lows and average, breathing rates, beat to beat intervals) all analyzed on the watch when you wake up and presented as simple scores with deeper data below, no app synch required.  As with everything Polar data is compared to a 28 day average. My wife and I are big fans of Nightly Recharge scores. 

In the screens above I got  a “Poor” Recharge after a hard run, a beer, two whiskey drinks, and a glass of white wine compared to a mellow workout and single beer the next day. You can easily learn what produces or doesn’t produce a good Recharge from this information. You can also go very deep into the data if you choose. I find the Nightly Recharge information on Polar watches, including the new Unite to be among their most valuable and unique features.

 Sleep Recharge

ANS Recharge

There are dozens and dozens of available Sports Profiles, although with fewer available data fields and no sensor support beyond pairing to a Polar chest strap. Configure in the Polar Flow app, synch to the watch to create your data screens  Below are the available road run data fields.

Adaptive Fit Spark is workout guidance based on your data and efforts. These include choices of Cardio, Mobility Dynamics, or Core. I have as of yet no tried Fit Spark exercises. 

Over in Favorites, accessible from the Training view,, you can also load your own workouts to the watch from Polar Flow. So for example I have a 6 x 5 minute interval workout I created always available and ready to use on the Unite.

Serene breathing exercises can be accessed on the watch to reduce stress 

Features and Specs

The lightest wrist sports watch we have tested  (tied with the Garmin Forerunner 45S at 32g). I can say after wearing it for 24 hours it is incredibly light on the wrist, not noticed at all.

it is also the thinnest watch we have tested at 10.4mm. 

Yet it has a substantial 43.4mm diameter screen.

Note how svelte the Unite is and how bright the screen is compared to the Polar Grit X in indoor light, where the Unite screen really “shines” ,with the tables turning outdoors.

The watch bands are easily replaceable with other colors as shown above.

But, and this is important, the GPS component of run and other outdoor activity tracking is via your phone with the GPS data transmitted to the watch by Polar Flow app for display. There is no GPS chip active on the watch itself.

For those who run with their phone, as I do, this should not be a problem but clearly the tiny weight and price comes with some compromises. The watch and my iPhone 11 Pro have connected flawlessly so far for outdoor activities using GPS but you must be outside for the connection to take place,


It is a single button watch using a touch screen for navigating the displays  During workouts the swipe to see the next screen worked well during my first fairly sweaty run. Cleverly, while the  start of a workout is by touch of the live Sport Profile you have chosen, pause and finish is via the button exactly as on other recent Polar. As of yet I see no in workout auto-pause option. .

The screen is a color touch display (IPS TFT) with ambient light sensor (ALS) with a resolution of 240 x 204. Similar to an AMOLED (such as on the Apple Watch)  the IPS TFT LCD display uses backlighting to illuminate the screens. As such, the indoor dim light visibility is stunning, Trans reflective screens such on Garmin use reflection of ambient light to help increase visibility while reducing battery life and perform better in bright sun as I found out during my first run.

Clearly during my first run which included a darker tunnel the Unite was spectacular in its visibility. I assume the light sensor kicked up the “volume” while in very bright sunlight it was sadly less visible as shown below.

In bright sun I will limit to one to two data fields per screen. 

Charging is via a standard USB port clip. Actually kind of clever, if a bit old school, as we all have charging bricks for phones. 

The GPS (linked to phone) and wrist HR battery life spec is 50 hours with the all day use 4 days (to be verified in our testing). The Unite is waterproof to 30 meters so fully swim worthy,.

First Run Data Wrist HR

After an early rough start as the watch was too loose on my non dominant wrist and quite frankly adjusting the strap if best done pressing the watch against a firm surface, I moved it to my dominant wrist and tightened. After that heart rate data was very steady and consistent with effort and a Garmin 945 on my other wrist which averaged 137 bpm while the Unite had 134 bpm. The occasional dips where for stops including to photograph a magnificent buck deer on a ridge.

First Run Data GPS Accuracy

The phone based GPS tracking was very close to my route’s path in open country and ended up at 5.85 miles with the Garmin 945 at 5.63 miles. Generally, this route measures between 5.63 and 5.7 miles with multiple watches including the Polar Grit X so I am as of yet not sure what is the cause of the difference on the first run.

Where does the Unite fit in? 

For the more recreational athlete and those seeking a 360 view of their well being, guidance to fitness and sleep progress, value, and who carry the phone while running it is a great new option

For the hard core athlete, and especially Polar fans seeking a sleek modern adjunct to the more traditional heavy duty sports watch ,  it can serve as a 24/7 powerful, stylish fitness training trends and wellbeing primary monitor. 

We will continue to test and update this review as we learn more.

The Polar Unite is available from Polar now HERE

Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was a provided at no charge. The opinions herein are the authors'.
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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Anonymous said...

I would rather see they put some effort on software updates for their high end watches than releasing these fitness crap devices. Vantage V is still missing some basing training screens from V800 to make it a proper running watch. They advertise their Vantage series as pro devices for training but you can`t see basic stuff like average HR per lap not to mention dreadfully awfully instant pace detection. Shame on you Polar.

Francesco said...


Do you know if this watch supports Stryd Integration?


Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Franceso,
It supports Strava integration as do all Polar. No problem.
Sam, Editor

phl0w said...

Hey Francesco,
Sam must've misread your post for Strava. No, the Unite does not support Stryd, nor any external sensors (besides HR straps).
@anonymous: Agree. As a Vantage V owner I am VERY disappointed in how Polar handled the Vantage line-up. They kept releasing updates with useless fitness crap, and neglected the bread and butter functions. They marketed the Vantage line towards pros (especially the V) but in the end catered to the athleisure/lifestyle crowd. Sure, they're a larger audience BY FAR but they definitely lost a lot of satisfied RS/V800/M430 users from back when Polar actually made devices for athletes. After two decades using Polar I'm now using a FR935. Granted, Garmin devices carry a lot of fluff and gimmicks that I never use but at least you can set them up as barebones as you want, and still have all the basic functions.