In this article I will review the Polar Vantage M Multisport watch that I’ve purchased in 2019 for a five-day hiking trip of the Stubaier Hohenweg in Austria. The Polar Flow App for Google Android and the Polar Flow webservice will be covered in this article as well. So you will have an overview of the “complete system”.
I have always been interested to have a complementary device to the Pioneer Pedaling Monitor System, that gives me insights into sleeping patterns and recovery after a cycling training. Since high school I have been using Polar heart rate monitors (remark the Polar Protrainer XT) so the choice for the Polar Vantage M was an easy one to make.
The design of the Polar Vantage M multisport watch is modern, clean and minimalist. I’ve opted for the black version, that has a black casing and a black TPE wristband.
The wristband is pretty flexible and not very rigid. The wristband has a perforated pattern and also a black metal buckle that matches the black casing of the watch. There is also a woven version of the wristband available from the official Polar webstore.
I hardly feel the Polar multisport watch on my wrist, with a weight of just 45 grams. I’ve purchased a matt anti glare screen-protector from Brotect to keep the watch surface protected from scratches.
You will find the watch, the charging cable and a couple of leaflets like the user manual in the box. I normally read those manuals on paper anyway. 🙂
The Polar Vantage M multisport watch has a clean and modern Scandinavian design. The watch has five buttons that are numbered in the picture above.
The more expensive Polar Vantage V has a touch screen, while the Polar Vantage M only can be operated with the use of the five buttons.
- Used to turn on the Polar Vantage M watch back-light;
- Scroll up through the watch menu;
- Select menu item or enter the menu item;
- Scroll down through the multisport watch menu;
- Start a training, back or press and hold to sync the Polar Vantage M with the Polar Flow App;
When you use the up (2) and down (4) scroll buttons on the Polar Vantage M you will go through the following screens with information:
- Daily activity status;
- Training/detraining overview;
- Current heart rate;
- Last training session indicator;
- Latest sleep time;
When you press button (5) you can go through the following menu options.
- Start training;
- Fitness Test;
The most interesting menu options are start training and settings.
Start training results in the selection of a wide variety of different sports, that I will cover in the Polar Flow and Polar Flow App section.
Settings on Polar Vantage M multisport watch
Via the settings menu you can modify Polar Vantage M watch settings in 3 different categories:
- General Settings;
- Physical Settings;
- Watch Settings;
In order to provide you with an overview of the settings I’ve listed all below:
General Settings on Polar Vantage M multisport watch
- Pair and sync;
- Continuous HR Tracking;
- Flight Mode;
- Do not disturb;
- Phone notifications;
- Inactivity alert;
- I wear my watch on;
- Positioning satellites;
- About your watch;
I was slightly surprised that by default the continuous HR tracking is disabled. Therefore I’ve enabled this setting, to get a feeling about how my heart rate changes during the day and during sleep. It is interesting to learn about these deviations.
I don’t want phone notifications on my watch, so I’ve disabled these. I don’t want to get distracted because of notifications on my Nokia 8 Sirocco Android One smartphone.
Physical Settings on Polar Vantage M multisport watch
- Date of Birth;
- Training background;
- Activity Goals;
- Preferred Sleep time;
- Maximum Heart rate;
- Resting Heart Rate;
- VO2 Max;
Most of these physical settings have been entered by this initial set-up of the Polar Vantage M and your Polar Flow account. No shocking settings in this category.
Watch Settings on Polar Vantage M multisport watch
- Watch Face;
- First day of week;
No shocking settings in the watch settings category either.
Polar Precision Prime Heart rate sensor
For me one of the most interesting hardware features of the Polar Vantage M was the Polar Precision Prime heart rate sensor, with its impressive amount of 9 LED’s (4 sets of dual red/green LED’s and an additional green LED). Ray Maker from DC Rainmaker has an additional comment on the 10th LED of the Polar Precision Prime HR sensor:
“And actually, there’s an unused 10th orange LED. Polar says they might use it down the road, but their testing to date isn’t showing much of a benefit from enabling it (and thus, the battery impact that comes along with it).”
If I recall correctly Garmin has about 3 LED’s in its current sensor range.
What is so unique about the Polar Precision Prime HR sensor except for the number of LED’s? In a Polar blog-post you can read:
The Polar Precision Prime’s sensor fusion technology combines optical heart rate measurement with skin contact measurement. What does this mean? […] The reliable wear detection means the HR measurement is activated only when the product with Polar Precision Prime technology […] is properly on the wrist, for training sessions and 24/7 activity tracking.
So if there is no proper skin contact, no measurement is performed. 🙂
Polar Flow webservice
All the data that is being measured with the Polar Vantage M watch is will be synchronized with your Polar Flow account.
Polar Flow is basically a web-application where you can upload your training activities and analyze your performance. It is comparable to the Cyclo Sphere web-application of the Pioneer PMS.
So when you login to the Polar Flow web-application you will see a primary menu on the top and secondary menu that shows sub-menu-options. For me the Diary and Progress menu options are the most important ones.
- Training history
- Training report
- Activity report
- Sleep report
- Running Index report
- Cardio load report
The good news is that you can access a lot of the information in the Polar Flow App on your Google Android smartphone or Apple iPhone. Most of the diary capabilities I keep an eye on from my mobile device.
However it can be helpful to have a larger screen available to have a better overview of the data en drill down into a detailed view. That is how I use the report section, and this is where I use the Polar Flow web-application to my advantage. A simple example is monitoring your sleep over a longer period of time, and having an overview of the averages in the timeframe selection.
Polar Flow App for Google Android and Apple iOS
There is also a Polar Flow App available for Google Android and Apple iOS that is the linking pin between the Polar Flow web-application and the Polar Vantage M. The Polar Flow App for Google Android has the following menu structure:
- Nightly Recharge
- Feature Tutorials
- Sport profiles
- General settings
Activity screen in Polar Flow App
The activity screen is the default screen in which the Polar Flow App opens. You simply get an overview of your day with the heartrate curve as well as the sleep and training activity blocks.
In addition you can see turquoise progress bar, showing you the activity percentage that is also visible on the Polar Vantage M smartwatch. You can also switch views to analyze your activity levels per day, per week and per month.
Training screen in Polar Flow App
The training screen in the Polar Flow App has two tabs: (1) calendar and (2) start.
The calendar simply shows you the training activities and cardio load status of that week as well as the detraining metrics and detailed per day views. The start tab is aimed to record a training on your smartphone, an option which I haven’t used.
Sleep screen in Polar Flow App
Sleep is a super important aspect of your health and energy. The Polar Vantage M multisport watch also records a load of sleep metrics. After you sync your Polar Vantage M watch with the Polar Flow App and select the sleep block in the activity-screen you are asked to rate your sleep quality.
- Sleep Structure
- Sleep Amount
- Sleep Solidity
- Sleep Regeneration
After that you can drill down into your sleep structure, which is a summary of your nights sleep. The Polar Vantage M is able to measure the duration, sleep cycles as well as 3 different types of sleep and interruptions during your sleep.
When you scroll down in the Polar Flow App you will encounter the sleep amount block. This is nothing more than the duration, start and end times. The sleep amount is also compared against averages and does show you if you are in your bandwidth of duration or not.
The Sleep Solidity block in the Polar Flow App is marked in yellow, which is in line with the interruptions in the Sleep Structure screen above. The Sleep Solidity block provides information about the actual sleep, continuity and the duration of interruptions compared against averages.
For me the Sleep Regeneration block is super important. I always aim at good regeneration, which is done in the deep sleep and REM sleep blocks. So even when the duration is less than average, you still can recharge well. Measuring and being able to manage these metrics has been crucial in my high performance habits coaching program. I have also seen the impact of Headspace meditation on the quality of sleep.
Nightly Recharge screen in Polar Flow App
Related to the different sleep structure blocks in the Polar Flow App is the Nightly Recharge screen. Here you can see the ANS Charge- and Sleep Charge scores. Below you can read the ANS Charge explanation:
ANS charge gives you information on how well your autonomic nervous system (ANS) calmed down during the night. The scale is from -10 to +10. Around zero is your usual level. The ANS charge is formed by measuring your heart rate, heart rate variability and breathing rate during roughly the first four hours of sleep
To read more about the scientific background, please check out the Nightly Recharge page on Polar Support.
Blog screen and notifications screen in Polar Flow App
The blog screen in the Polar Flow App simply shows the feed with blogposts from the Polar website within your app. I just check this rarely. Same is applicable for the notifications, since I’ve turned these of on the Polar Vantage M smartwatch.
From the buletted list in the Polar Flow App menu I will just cover two items:
- Sport Profiles
- General Settings
Sport Profiles screen in Polar Flow App
Out of the box you can select 13 different sport profiles in the Polar Vantage M multisport watch. Via the Polar Flow App you can customize the different profiles and add new ones up to 20 sport profiles in total. Personally I haven’t done much customization to the indoor cycling, running, walking, hiking and cycling profiles. However you are able set-up the data fields on the watch face in a certain structure that helps you during your activities.
For my cycling activities I use the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt cycling computer in combination with the Pioneer Power Meter. Unfortunately I cannot connect the Pioneer Power Meter directly to the multisport watch. So that would kill the triathlon scenario for me. 😉
General Settings screen in Polar Flow App
In the general settings screen of the Polar Flow App you can set some basic watch settings like units, time format, language and so on. But this is also the place where you can manage the connections with partner apps like Strava, Komoot, TrainingPeaks, MyFitnessPal and Nike+. Of course you can also do this within the Polar Flow webservice.
Right now Polar Flow and TrainingPeaks are the backend platforms in which all my data is stored. I need to rethink if I’m willing to use Google Fit as the gateway to other apps and services. For now I’ve used Fitbit for this reason.
Polar Vantage M Firmware updates
The Polar Vantage M already had firmware version 3.2.10 installed. The firmware specific release notes can be found here on the Polar Vantage M Updates Page.
The last major firmware update for the Polar Vantage M is 5.1.8 and dates from 15-09-2020. Given the release of the Polar Vantage M2 there probably won’t come any major firmware updates to the original Polar Vantage M anymore. Just some maintenance updates when needed.
Firmware updates are performed via the Polar Flow app on your smartphone.
After the initial set-up of the Polar Vantage M, the latest firmware update to version 3.2.10 was installed onto the multisport watch. It was a plug and play like scenario where the Polar Flow App matches the current firmware version installed on the Vantage M with the latest available version available. Basically this firmware version check is always done when the M is connected to the Polar Flow App for Google Android.
Would you need some help updating the firmware on your Polar Vantage watch, than simply read this tutorial.
Concluding thoughts and wrap-up
As mentioned in the introduction I’m using Polar products since high school when I conducted a research assignment about heart rate monitoring. The Polar ProTrainerXT was my first heart rate monitor that I used back than, both on and off my bike.
Over the years I’ve seen heart rate monitoring evolving from state of the art professional athlete material, towards a more commodity based feature in every cycling computer or smartwatch. Polar struggled a little to find new business model elements and patterns to stay relevant against competitors like Garmin.
The Polar Vantage M is a lightweight multisport watch that I fully enjoyed for more than a year. It works flawlessly, gives you a lot of insightful data. The firmware update process and synchronization with the Polar Flow App for Google Android works in a solid and robust manner.
- I do own a Pioneer Power Meter on my road bike, which unfortunately cannot be connected to the Polar Vantage M;
- I would love to be able to get the sleep metrics from the Polar Vantage M (and Polar Flow platform) into TrainingPeaks;
- I would love to get the weight metrics from the Renpho Smart Scale (via Fitbit API) to Polar Flow. I can now do so with the Smart Scale Sync service that I’ve reviewed a little while ago;
The importance of sleep and nightly recharge
During stressful times the Polar Vantage M has given me valuable insights into my sleep structure, sleeping patterns and nightly recharge. Getting your sleep and recharge back into a specific bandwidth is extremely valuable. Also being able to connect a certain awareness and feeling in your body with the data the Polar multisport watch provides, has been beneficial in my high performance habits process.
Polar Vantage M or Polar Vantage M2
Polar recently announced a new version the Polar Vantage M2, which builds upon the same foundation but comes with improvements. DC Rainmaker listed the differences between the original and the new Vantage M2:
Still, here’s what’s new to the Polar Vantage M2, in comparison to the original Vantage M:Added Music controls widget/dashboard
Added weather forecast widget/dashboard
Added weekly training summary widget/dashboard
Added FuelWise – hydration & nutrition reminders based on past workouts
Added Nutrition energy sources – breakdown of carbs/protein/fats
Added watch face customization – choose which widgets/dashboards to see
Added power save modes – increases non-GPS continuous workout time to 100 hours
Adds new HR broadcasting over Bluetooth feature “later this year”
New watch colors
New band design
New bezel design with etching
Pricing increases slightly from $279/279EUR to $299/299EUR
Personally I don’t like the new bezel with etching, but that is personal preference and taste. I prefer the clean Scandinavian look from the original Vantage M or the Polar Grit-X.
From an exercise perspective the FuelWise and Nutrition Energy Sources would be nice to haves. And while the other improvements are good, those are less important to cover my needs.
Given the new model the original Polar Vantage M has dropped in price, so you could make a trade off in price or needed new features. My personal conclusion from over a year of use, the Polar Vantage M is a solid piece of technology that I wear 24/7 and has helped me with a lot of useful insights in sleeping patterns and daily activity status. “If you can measure it, you can manage it.”