Polar Vantage V review: formidable rival for Garmin, way more advanced than Fitbit

A whole lot of metrics for not a lot of money

polar vantage v review
(Image credit: Polar)

T3 Verdict

With the latest firmware update, Polar brought some much needed features to the Vantage V. The watch is comfortable to wear and the screen is bright and easy to read. The running power and recovery pro features are a nice touch, but the hybrid 5 button/touchscreen navigation can be confusing sometimes.

Reasons to buy

  • +

    Great battery life

  • +

    Loads of running metrics

  • +

    Can track swimming workouts

Reasons to avoid

  • -

    Five button + touchscreen control can be confusing at first

  • -

    No compass, navigation or maps

I was very curious about writing a review of the Polar Vantage V, especially after testing the Polar Ignite a couple of month ago. I liked the Ignite for its features and straightforward nature, so based in that experience, I thought the Polar Vantage V will deliver a good user experience.

The Vantage V is a great fitness smartwatch. Taking into account the price factor, it offers a loads of functionality and gives you a lot of metrics (especially running, cycling  and swimming metrics) to pore over in the Polar Flow app.

If only it wasn’t for the sometimes confusing controls, the Polar Vantage V would’ve scored even better. Having so many buttons and a touchscreen gives the impression that Polar couldn’t work out which control scheme to go with.

Nevertheless, anyone thinking about getting a new fitness smartwatch should seriously consider the Polar Vantage V.

polar vantage v review

The Polar Vantage V has a large display with ample amount of colurs

(Image credit: Polar)

Polar Vantage V review: display and battery

The Polar Vantage V is a handsome yet quirky looking watch. In true Polar fashion, they moved away from the serious look of the likes of Garmin Fenix series but kept the round watch face, making it easier to distinguish from the the likes of the Apple Watch 5 or Fitbit Versa 2.

The 1.2” screen does indeed look sharp and colourful which makes reading the information displayed easier, even in brighter lighting conditions. The screen size and resolution is the same as the Garmin Fenix 6S Pro, for comparison.

A thick bezel runs around the screen, not unattractive by all means, but necessary to counterbalance the size difference between the screen and the casing size. A small screen consumes less battery and the main appeal of fitness smartwatches over regular smartwatches is still the way better battery life.

The Polar Vantage V delivers on this, lasting up to seven days on one charge in smartwatch mode with continuous HR tracking. Even with moderate sport tracking, you won’t have to charge it more than once every five days or so.

polar vantage v review

The Polar Vantage V has a hybrid control system which can be confusing at first

(Image credit: Polar)

Polar Vantage V review: control

The Polar Vantage V has a hybrid five button/touchscreen control system. I liked the Polar Ignite’s user interface, which was similar to the Vantage V but only used one button.

The serrated buttons are easy to locate even without looking and the confirm button is coloured red, so even if you haven’t used a Polar watch before, you can work out the control scheme without having to guess too much.

The button layout mirrors Garmin’s, so you have three buttons on the right and two on the left. The actual functions are not mirrored, though, so be mindful if you are transitioning over from a Garmin.

The Polar Vantage V touchscreen is sensitive enough. No pinch to zoom here and the animation is not super fast, but it is good enough for what it’s for.

There is a slight issue with controls, though. What worked on the Polar Ignite because there was only one button (which functioned as a back button) can be confusing on the Vantage V with five buttons.

Five buttons would be enough to control the smartwatch without the touchscreen and the touch functionality is disabled during workout tracking, so you’ll need to work the watch with the buttons then. But having so many buttons and the touchscreen can be overwhelming and confusing at times, not knowing where to tap or which button to press to get to the desired menu option.

Having said that, it is not a deal breaker and one get used to the control scheme soon enough after using it.

polar vantage V review

Don't have to worry about getting the Polar Vantage V wet: you can even swim in it

(Image credit: Polar)

Polar Vantage V review: fitness tracking and accuracy

Similar to the Polar Ignite, the Vantage V has a million different sport profiles you can choose from. Maybe not a million but more than enough to find the one sport you are pursuing, let it be wheelchair racing or snowshoe trekking. You can store 20 on the watch at any point but can reorder this anytime in the Polar Flow app.

The Polar Vantage V is famous for the amount of sensors it has to track HR accurately. Most manufacturers, like Garmin, use four or six sensors tops, but not the Vantage V, it uses no less than nine sensors for monitoring metrics on your wrist. It also has four little knobs around the sensors too which are there to detect skin so the watch can only try and get readings when the watch is contact with your skin. This is to conserve battery life more efficiently.

Heart rate is tracked accurately, I tested it against the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro and the average heart rate readings were pretty much identical (153 bpm on the Polar Vantage V and 152 bpm on the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro). Max heart rate was different but I most usually don’t take that into account, since all it takes is the watch to be slightly off the perfect position for a split second to get a wrong reading, and with wrist based readings, that’s pretty much unavoidable.

The Polar Vantage V uses a GPS-GLONASS combined system for position tracking and it is reasonably accurate. On an 11k run, pitted against the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro, which picks up GPS signal in a matter of seconds and was tested against official chip times on a half marathon, it only measured an extra 150 metres, which is pretty good. IT takes a few minutes for the Polar Vantage V to pick a signal but once it’s locked on the signal, it keeps hold of it firmly.

Running power can also be measured by the Vantage V. Running power can be measured by other fitness smartwatches too, but the Vantage V is the only one where it requires no external device, just the watch itself. Measuring mechanical work Arte during your runs adds an extra dimension to your running metrics and can improve your performance over time.

The Polar Vantage V is great for triathlon athletes too, since it can read heart rate under water, as well as your swimming style, distance, pace, strokes and rest time. Works in open waters as well as pools too.

Please note: the orthostatic test, a feature unique to the Polar Vantage V, wasn’t tested. It requires a Polar H10 heart rate monitor chest strap which wasn’t available for the time of the test.

polar vantage V review

The Polar Vantage V sports 9 sensors plus skin contact detectors

(Image credit: Polar)

Polar Vantage V review: other features

One thing I really liked about the Polar Ignite were the extra features, like the Serene breathing exercise and the Fitness test. So when I first learned that the Vantage V had none of these, I was a bit disappointed. But luckily enough, Polar just rolled out a firmware update, with another one scheduled for December 2019, which included these features, among other updates as well.

Serene is a guided breathing exercise where you can set the duration for both the exercise and the breath in/out times, and it gives you a score based on how accurately you followed the tempo.

The Fitness test measures your VO2 max, your blood’s maximum oxygen uptake capacity. This is a good indicator of your general fitness levels. To do the test, you just have to stay motionless for a few minutes and breath naturally.

The Nightly Recharge feature measures your sleep quality and tells you how well your body regenerated from last days stress.

Recovery Pro is part of Polar’s recovery ecosystem, which adaptively measures your performance and suggests recovery time as well as type of exercises you should do on the day, based on your body’s readiness.

Training Benefit will give you feedback after each exercise session and points out in what way the session was most beneficial to you.

Polar Vantage V review

Use the Polar Vantage V for all types of sports

(Image credit: Polar)

Polar Vantage V review: verdict

The Polar Vantage V is a great multi-sport smartwatch.

The 1.2” screen is bright and colourful and also touch sensitive. The silicone strap is pretty long but also comfortable, and comes in four funky colours too.

The battery life is really good, not as good as the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro or the Suunto 9, but will go between two charges for up to a week. Even in tracking mode, it can last for 40 hours, so it will be able to track even ultra marathon distances.

Controlling the watch can be a bit confusing at first. There is the touchscreen and also five buttons, making it challenging to find the right button to press during workouts. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to control the watch and after a short trial-and-error period, you will be able to get around the menu fairly easily.

Both the heart rate sensor and the GPS tracker is accurate, especially considering first-based monitoring. Heart rate was on par with other high-end fitness smartwatch models from competitor manufacturers and GPS was only ever so slightly off.

Extra functions like running power, breathing exercise, Nightly Recharge and Recovery Pro make the Polar Vantage V a great options if you ever want to step up your fitness efforts (or doing it already). Taking into account the price and that the watch doesn’t require external monitors to measure a wide variety of metrics, the Polar Vantage V should up there among the top choices for your next running watch.

The Polar Vantage V recommended for: triathletes and runners (mid-to-long distance).

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