Polar Vantage M2 review TL;DR: a capable mid-range multisport running watch with decent sport- and smart features and easy-to-understand controls.
We liked the original Polar Vantage M as much as the next person, but it was hard to tell the difference between that and the Polar Vantage V. Thankfully, it's much easier to tell the Polar Vantage V2 and Vantage M2 apart this time around.
Better still, the Vantage M2 is an excellent triathlon watch, maybe even a better option than the flagship model, especially if you're on a tight budget and not super keen on the touchscreen operation. The Vantage M2 was certainly one of the best Polar watches when it was released.
How does the Polar Vantage M2 fare against Polar's flagship wearable, the Vantage V2? We pitted them against each other to find out, and you can read all about it here: Polar Vantage M2 vs Vantage V2.
[UPDATE May 2022: Polar released the Pacer and Pacer Pro watches, effectively replacing the Vantage M2. Read our Polar Pacer Pro review to find out why.]
Polar Vantage M2: Price, availability and what's in the box
The Polar Vantage M2 is now available at Polar US, Polar UK and Polar Australia for $299.90/£269 /AU$449. The Polar Vantage M2 is available in Black/Grey, Copper/Brown, Gold/Champagne and Grey/Yellow colourways. In the box, you'll find the Polar Vantage M2 watch itself, wristbands (both size options included), charging cable, Polar Vantage M2 user manual and the information note.
Polar Vantage M2 review: Build quality and ergonomics
The Polar Vantage M2 is similar in size to the Vantage V2, but it feels much lighter. As a matter of fact, the Vantage M2 is 6.5 grams lighter than the Vantage V2, which might not sound much, but when taking the overall weight of the watch into consideration – it's 45.5 grams with the wristband – one can see just how significant the difference is.
It might be lighter, but the Polar Vantage M2 is definitely not a flimsier watch. The case is made of glass fibre-reinforced polymer, while the bezel, buttons and buckle are stainless steel. There are loads of little holes on the silicone wristband, which allow air to get to the skin easier, so wearing the watch all day is not at all uncomfortable.
The Polar Vantage M2 has an 'always-on' colour display, protected by a hard-coated PMMA laminated lens. The display is 1.2” across and has a resolution of 240 x 240. The contrast is great, and there is also an option to illuminate the screen using the top left button.
Talking about buttons: thankfully, the Polar Vantage M2 ditched the hybrid 'touchscreen & five buttons' navigation scheme and uses the latter only, which not only speeds up page transition times but also makes navigation more straightforward overall. The button layout is similar to other Vantage models: top left – toggle the light on/off; bottom left – access menu, move back; top and bottom right – move up and down; middle right – enter/confirm the selection.
Polar Vantage M2 review: Features and user interface
The Polar Vantage M2 is a mid-range running watch, and Polar tailors the functions accordingly. Gone are the Vantage V2's running/cycling power tests, and the Vantage M2 isn't capable of performing the Orthostatic Test either. It can still measure VO2 max through its 'fitness test' (this doesn't require any external sensors either), though.
Other features found on the Polar Vantage M2 include Nightly Rechange, Training Load Pro, FitSpark training guide, FuelWise, Serene, etc. As you can see, despite not having every single feature Polar has to offer to athletes on board, the Vantage M2 has a really good selection of them, more than enough for most non-professionals. We found the smaller number of features a positive thing: the Vantage M2 takes away some of the data beginners to intermediate athletes can't use anyway, which might make it easier to understand the metrics provided by the watch.
That said, there is plenty of information to pore over here, both on the watch and in the Polar Flow app. For example, the Polar Vantage M2 can show you what energy sources you used during the training session (carbs, proteins and fats) that can help you put together a more effective nutrition plan. Also, there are over 130 different sports modes available on the watch: it's likely you'll be able to track the sport you do using the Vantage M2.
Polar Vantage M2 review: Activity tracking and precision
We keep on harping on about wrist-wearables not being precise enough in every review we write, but this just seems to be the case. Until technology is available that takes precise readings regardless of skin tone, sweat and fit, we won't be able to fully rely on optical heart rate sensors to determine exact heart rate. Most algorithms, especially ones used by Polar, Garmin and other big-name fitness wearable manufacturers, alleviate the inaccuracy effect by matching heart rate with historical user data, but even so, that's just a close approximation and not an accurate observation.
However, the Polar Vantage M2 does a great job in trying to give you accurate heart rate readings, courtesy of its Precision Prime optical heart rate sensor and the aforementioned Polar algorithm. It has some weak moments, especially at the beginning of the workout while it calibrates itself and during lower heart rate/slower sessions, but overall, it's accurate enough to be used for training.
The Polar Vantage M2 has an integrated GPS chip and uses a multi-system to track position outdoors. It has access to GPS, GLONASS, Galileo and QZSS data and also has an assisted GPS, so it picks up signals fast. During testing, we didn't encounter big issues with the GPS despite it being used in an urban environment. The Vantage M2 picked the signal up quickly, although we do recommend moving away from tall buildings (if possible) and standing (not walking) while the GPS signal is being picked up.
The workout summary screens have a bunch of useful data, including the energy sources breakdown we mentioned earlier. For those who need a bit of extra support, following the Training Load Pro suggestions and the FtiSpark guide is a good starting point. We found the training load indicator a bit too cautious: after just a few sessions, it stayed in the 'overtraining' part of the gauge, despite the training background set to 'heavy' and the activity goal 'Level 3'. But if you are completely new to workouts, it's best to take it easy until you're used to doing fitness regularly.
Polar Vantage M2 review: Verdict
Should you get the Polar Vantage M2? We would certainly recommend so: it has an ample amount of features, both sports and casual ones, and despite all its good qualities, it still doesn't cost the earth. Although fitness wearables are never an investment, we reckon the Vantage M2 will serve its users well for at least a good few years.
Is there a reason why you shouldn't get the Polar Vantage M2? Admittedly, if you need a hardcore running watch, you might find the Vantage M2 a tad bit too fashion-watch-like. Just to clarify, it really isn't one, but Polar is certainly trying to make the Vantage M2 more appealing to smartwatch users by offering certain colour variants (looking at you, Champagne/Gold Vantage M2). However, under the hood, you'll find an adroit – but not Android, thankfully – multisport watch that can effectively help you get better in whatever sport you practice.
Polar Vantage M2 review: Also consider
The Garmin Forerunner 745 is more expensive and a slightly more serious triathlon watch compared to the Polar Vantage M2. Perfect for those who need a bit more data but find the myriad of features of the Garmin Forerunner 945 confusing and/or overwhelming.
The Coros Pace 2 is cheaper and lighter than the Vantage M2, but the brand is less-known than Polar. The Pace 2 can measure running power on the wrist without any external sensors, just like the Vantage V2. A great watch for the price-conscious athlete.