Why I (reluctantly) came back to the Polar flock

Today I placed my order for a Polar V800. Not that I think it’s necessarily the best training watch, or Polar the best web environment for workout analysis. But … they do a few things right I think are important for training. I’ll go into that in my ultrasubjective review of tracking apps and watches – soon to come on this blog.

polar_v800_01

Polar V800 (photo from polar.com)

The story: About 8 years ago I moved away from Polar because I found the Suunto T3 to be more innovative. Their unique „training effect“ function gives you real time feedback on your workout in a way no other tracking app or watch can do. Unfortunately, my device kept giving – sporadically, but often enough – way strange HR readings. Suunto support was friendly but possibly inefficient: Instead of digging for the reasons they kindly kept giving me warranty replacements. After about three years, when even the third unit proved unreliable, I deposited the watch in the trash can and bought a Polar RCX3.

Two years later, the Polar also began to show strange HR figures. At times my heart would seem to beat at over 200, or then around 60 in the midst of strenuous exercise. Today I think it might be an issue of belt not being moist enough. At the same time I developed an allergy to the belt. Also, synching the RCX3 with polarpersonaltrainer.com was always a pain, would often only work after 3 or 4 tries and take forever. So when the battery ran out, I decided it was time for a change.

Next step: Mio FUSE with optical HR sensor. Since the Mio tracking app was no good, I paired the FUSE with Runtastic Pro (around CHF 50 a year). It felt great to run or cycle without an HR belt and the heart beat readings seemed correct. The Runtastic app and web service were great fun, with maps, photo integration, voice feedback etc. However, I soon missed two elements I had come to like on the RCX3: Cumulated time in HR zone and training load (shown in the web service). Something similar – or even better – was provided by the Suunto „training effect“ function. As far as I can see, this is fundamental for targeted HR workouts. See article here: http://shop.sports-tracker.com/heartrateguide.

You’d think such essential information would be provided by most watches or tracking apps. Surprisingly, that doesn’t seem to be the case. After countless hours of searching the web, reading reviews and specs and writing to support staff, I came to the conclusion that only Suunto and Polar showed training intensity during the workout. All others would – if at all – only give you analysis after the run.

So, back to square one: I’v ordered my fourth Polar watch in 20 years. I’m going to pair it with the Mio FUSE or a Polar H7 Bluetooth belt I already have. Hands on report to follow on this blog some day. The alternative would have been a Suunto watch, but I didn’t want to buy into their world again.

Why reluctantly? Well … I dislike Polar’s approach to reserve functions that worked in entry level units to top devices. Example: Training load was something I liked on the RCX3. Today, the similarly priced M400 doesn’t support it, reason why I spent twice the money on a V800.

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