| REVIEW | Polar H10: Quick Review & Comparisons

Polar H10Polar’s new chest-strap heart rate monitor (HRM) is the H10.

I’m going to assume, as I would do with a Garmin or Suunto chest strap HRM, that it’s accurate. Some of Polar’s marketing literature states increased accuracy over the previous H7 model. The H7 has historically been used by Sports Labs as a HRM-of-choice due to its accuracy. For me to say if it is more or less accurate than that I would need to do research to a scientific degree of accuracy. That’s beyond what I do here.

WHAT’S NEW?

The new pod and strap are interchangeable with the previous strap and pod on the H7. But other than the same spacing for the connector quite a lot else has changed.

The strap is visually different. The rear of the new strap has 50 or so circular rubber ‘dots’. These give a combination of: grip from the rubber; and sweat dissipation through the fabric. This reflects the multi-sport intention of the H10. I compared this to Garmin’s HRM-SWIM (swim, not tri, not shown), with the HRM-SWIM the ENTIRE rear of the strap, excluding the sensors, is sticky. That’s great for the water but perhaps less so for running/cycling where the sweat would not be wicked away. So Polar’s H10 is going to be fine for running/cycling BUT is there enough grip for pool swimming?

Polar H10 H7The clasp has also changed. The new strap is great to buckle up but perhaps a little tricky to unbuckle. Or, said more positively, it won’t accidentally come off! One of the more annoying things about the old style clasp which was used extensively by most companies for their HRMs was that different brands had the pointy bit (below) pointing up and down. Whenever you changed brands the clasp buckled up the other way. The new clasp will work either way around. although, annoyingly, with all previous straps the unclasping was at the side whereas now it seems to be at my back, I could twist it around I suppose ;-)

I’ve only recently got the H10 so I am not able to comment on the straps longevity in any respect (strap or clasp).

Polar H10 H7

The final aspect of the strap to consider is the sensor area ie the shiny rubbery bit, below. As you can see the two main sides of the rubbery strip are mostly unchaged BUT there is an extra inch long strip further away from the centre.

Polar H10 H7That’s similar to Garmin’s slightly older HRM3 strap (one of my favourite straps). Although that particular aspect of the strap design was not followed through to the latest HRM4-TRI/HRM4-RUN/HRM4-SWIM.

Why? This is supposed to increase accuracy. Increased accuracy is a somewhat nebulous concept here. Does it mean EVEN MORE ACCURATE for you? or more CONSISTENTLY accurate in a variety of scenarios? or more accurate for certain body types? HR has always been OK for me with Polar HRMs. I suspect that the increased accuracy could mean: that precise HR readings, such as those required for HRV, could now be received more confidently; that HR/HRV will be more reliably received because the strap moves round less; and that HR signals will be more reliably received because of the larger strap area perhaps, for example, better picking up a signal where there is a higher fat content in the wearer. Either way…it’s better !

THE POD

Like the H7, the H10 pod is still Bluetooth SMART compatible meaning that it will work with many smartphones, pieces of gym equipment and Polar’s sports watches/cycling computers. It will not work with older Garmins, or indeed any ANT+ only device. However, with the Fenix 5, it appears that Garmin may be moving forwards to specifically extend compatibility of their 2017 onwards devices with Bluetooth SMART HRMs such as the H10.

The H10 supports Bluetooth Low Energy v4.2 (SMART).

Aesthetically the pods are quite different. I suppose the newer one has a more modern look about it. I prefer the older version but looks don’t matter for a HRM, in my opinion.

Polar H10 H7

When I first heard about he H10 I assumed it had a notably lower profile, below. However they are similar. I’d assumed that a lower profile would be better for pool swimming (it would). But the profile differences seem so trivial as to make little difference to whether or not the strap twists when turning at the end of a pool lane. It’s much more likely that the strap will make the difference there.

Polar H10 H7

I never liked any of the brands that had HRM pods where a coin had to be used to change the battery. Finally Polar have come up with a superior solution in this regard. The CR2025 battery is now VERY easily removed with a screwdriver (or similar), changed and re-inserted.

Polar H10 H7

IN USE

I had a little splash in the pool tonight. Just testing out how well the H10 stayed on. There were no issues with it coming off the chest at all. HOWEVER I WASN’T PARTICULARLY ‘GOING FOR IT’ ON THE TURNS…just a 5m push off. I had the strap fairly tight. It may or may not get pushed off the chest with a more vigorous push-off/turn.

Here’s the HR compared to a wrist based M200 (which you CANNOT assume to be right). I did crank it up towards the end and you can see that the H10 probably nailed those with the M200 lagging somewhat. I was faffing around with the strap at the start to get it comfortable too.

I don’t think too much can be drawn from this as a chest strap needs to be compared to a chest strap in a pool. I can’t really do that sensibly. I might update some more usage with it over time. Let me know if you specifically want to see anything.

m200-v800-splash

INTERESTING BITS

The H10 will work LIVE underwater with your existing Polar sports watch, such as the V800, providing GymLink is enabled through Polar BEAT (‘ON’ by default – check compatibility). The H10 does not need to cache data as an old analogue frequency marketed under GymLink is used for transmission (5KHz band) and the signal travels far enough through water to reach the device on your wrist. Bluetooth SMART and ANT+ will only travel a centimetre or so and hence Bluetooth/ANT HRM straps do not work LIVE with wrist-based devices – caching is required by Garmin & Suunto’s straps fro underwater use.

However, the H10 also caches data. It says on the box that it will cache one exercise. That one exercise can be 65 hours long and data is stored on a per second basis. Hmmm.

The Polar FLOW app is the smartphone gateway to the internet for Polar’s sports watches. The FLOW app doesn’t record a session itself. The Polar BEAT app uses your smartphone as a recording device and you pair the H10 within the BEAT app.

I recorded a session with Polar BEAT and the H10. No cached data was received by the BEAT app. ie there were gaps in the HR track.

Hmmm.

I tried again this time noticing the ‘Save HR with sensor‘ option in the top right hand corner. Ah yes. that worked. A strange and seemingly incomplete implementation. Very UN-Polar.

I then tried to pair to my V800 and it wouldn’t pair. Ah. The reason why was because the Bluetooth pairing with the smartphone was CLOSE BY AND ACTIVE. Turning off Bluetooth on the smartphone and the H10 was very quickly paired to the V800

I recorded a session with a V800 and the H10. **No cached data was received by the V800**. ie there were gaps in the HR track. The only track was from when the H10 was ‘in range’ ie about 5m.

So I guess caching for watches hasn’t yet been enabled or is saved for future Polar watches

The H10 *is* firmware updatable (see these instructions) through the Polar BEAT app – firmware is automatically updated, once paired. So lots of nice bits of internal hardware could be enabled by a new bit of firmware. NB Not tested as I have the latest firmware so the option did not appear.

Even though the H10 is Bluetooth SMART (v4.2) it CAN be paired with several Bluetooth devices (Source: Polar). However it can only be used concurrently with 2 devices and one of those must use Bluetooth and one must use the GymLink/5KHz frequency.

Compatibility is good for Polar devices and will go back as far as the RCX5. Supported devices listed (here). Compatibility excludes W.I.N.D.-only devices.

Something wrong with the H10?: Unpair and forget every connection (double check EVERY connection you’ve made is unpaired) then reboot it by taking out the battery and putting in a new battery (CR2025)

Here is the manual, that’s always interesting: H10 Manual.

RAMPANT SPECULATION

It seems to me that the trend in HR measurement is towards optical HR on wrist-based devices. Perhaps somewhat strange then that Polar have released a new caching HR strap when they already have a swimming solution.

OK the fitness/gym/class market is growing and maybe people want to start the app at the edge of the room and do the class wearing the strap. That makes sense. Although many of those people will be moving to optical HR on bands or on sports watches.

Polar’s new team sports shirt, I believe, includes an H10 module. The players do their stuff on the training field and then at the end the coach syncs data from all the shirts. This could be the prime driver in itself behind the new H10. (It’s not!).

The conspiracy theory is that the H10 is actually much more wonderful than it is letting on at present. I understand that it has motion sensors (Source: FCC filing) ie an accelerometer. From what I’ve described so far these are probably only of use in the team sports’ shirt. Clearly, with an onboard accelerometer, some form of running dynamics is on the cards.

The description of how caching currently works, above, also seems quite restrictive.

My strong suspicion is that the H10 is destined for greater things this year or next, with a new generation of running, triathlon and maybe cycling watches. We shall see.

COMPARISONS

For running/cycling it’s hard to get excited about which strap to use unless they have some really special feature like the 4iiii Viiiiva. It only becomes a talking point when a HRM is particularly bad in some respect. I think Garmin’s HRM3, for me, turned the corner in temrs of the elimination of spikes and troughs on earlier models. Until then the Polar HRMs were always seen as the gold standard but I think Garmin caught up with the HRM-TRI.

Under a wetsuit Suunto, Garmin and Polar are all going to be fine.

For pool use I’m erring towards wrist based oHR. I even use the Polar M200 just for the ease of it and take a slight hit on the accuracy. I’m looking forward to the Suunto SPARTAN Sport WHR (Wrist HR) which should be here imminently. That might turn into my “goto” pool watch. We’ll see.

Back to straps.

My personal favourite is the HRM-TRI which I have only once had problems with (lost cached session but recovered it). I don’t like the HRM-SWIM as the strap is too rigid for my liking and hard to adjust. The Suunto is pretty and nicely small; it needs an improved, stickier strap for pool usage.

The H10 seems ‘solid’ to me. Early days.

UPDATE

As of 14April2017 I’ve used the H10 about 4 times each week with a Suunto SPARTAN for ‘normal’ usage as a HRM. Absolutely no problems.

As of 26 June I have had to replace my H10’s battery. That is sooner than I expected. I have had the strap always on my desk and it is possible that being knocked frequently caused it to turn on and consume battery

TIPS

To extend your watch’s battery life on loooooong exercises, why not  unpair the H10? then use Polar Beat to cache the HR for a really long hike/ultra.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • If your old strap/pod has broke then why not get the newer one? No reason, other than price, not to.
  • If you want the increased accuracy then that will come from the strap and not the pod. If you have the H7 then your H7 is compatible with the new strap. Go for it. (You might as well buy the new pod at the same time).
  • Unless you use an app there is no reason to upgrade for the caching or (hoped for) running dynamics.
  • I always found the Garmin HRM3 strap to be good. That’s probably cheaper than this new polar strap (I’m just talking strap and not pod there)
  • If you want to use two devices concurrently I am not making a recommendation as I have an inherent mistrust of Bluetooth on more than one device.

PRICE & AVAILABILITY

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28 thoughts on “| REVIEW | Polar H10: Quick Review & Comparisons

  1. I just ordered me one of these. I love the HRM-Tri and its been my go-to strap for everything, but when i’m doing things that involve lots of movement, it slides all over the place. I don’t think it is messing with the signal all the much just becomes annoying when I am doing things like burpees or jumps and the thing starts making its way down to my stomach.

    In these cases all I am looking for is an accurate HR report and the Polar is known for giving that. I’ll just use the Tri for runs/cycles and the H10 for the workouts. Plus, it’s nice that I can machine wash the strap.

  2. how does the M200 track your heart rate in the pool? I didn’t think any wrist based optical would work well in the water. I use T31coded with Polar A300 now. And H7 for my land based exercise, usually linked to Beat App iOS or the A300.

  3. Thanks for your review. My only interest in Polar H10 is due to its advertised support for two concurrent Bluetooth connnections, e.g. iphone and Apple Watch. You say H10 supports two concurrent connections if one of them is Bluetooth and the other gymlink. Have you tried two concurrent Bluetooth connections (not with GoPro camera)?

    The duration of exercise cache is 65 hours??? Is that correct?

    I read the Bluetooth range is below average. I wonder if H10 is upgradeable to Bluetooth 5.

    • if I wear it with one suunto showing hr it will NOT pair with another. just tried it.
      65 hours. Source Polar. as said it will only save one exercise and that one exercise can be 65 hours.
      range: don’t know. at least 5m. But use the cache??
      h10 IS firmware upgradeable. if to v5, I don’t know. I would have thought so,

  4. I heard a rumor that Polar is announcing something today or tomorrow? Do we have any advanced information?
    Thanks
    Alan

  5. Hi, I’m a HR newbie, and deciding between purchasing the H7 or the new H10. As far as I can tell, there’s very little difference! It will be used to record squash, netball and gym sessions. What is really confusing me however, is the whole “caching/recording” business. I do not own a smart watch, I will use it with the Polar Beat app – so does the phone need to remain within 5m of the chest strap at all times during the session?! Is there a difference in this between the H7 and the H10?

    Thanks!

  6. How do you get that data out and plot it to make the nice graph you showed in this review? I am trying some data collecton experiments with H10 and can’t figure out how to get the data out of Polar beat.

  7. I have the M400 with H7 sensor, and I’ve been happy with it. But I occasionally do a swimming exercise (indoors) and wanted to record them. I couldn’t do it, since even though the H7 can transmit with both bluetooth and Gymlink, the M400 doesn’t have a Gymlink receiver. So I bought the H10 to record the swimming sessions. Note that it’s actually cheaper to buy the M400 and buy the H10 separately, than buying the V800. However, if you are doing triathlon, the M400 + H10 is not a viable solution, since the H10 alone won’t record gps and speed. It’s only good for indoors swimming.

  8. I have H7 strap and pod. the strap is really worn out from many exercises. Would the H10 strap work with H7 pod?

  9. Hi, I’m a HR newbie and currently going through the pros and cons for the Polar H10 vs the Wahoo Tickr X which seems to be more and more popular. The reason why I’m considering the Tickr X is that I’ll get the Wahoo Elemnt Bold as well and I think they would work well together since it’s a one brand solution. However, I’m a little concered about the accuracy, since Polar has been around for years and it’s pretty much the gold standards when it comes to HRM. Do you have any thoughts or recommendations on that?

  10. This is an excellent review, thank you for it. So I used to have an H7. I liked it a lot before it was stolen, and am contemplating on getting the new H10, however, I tend to use it mostly in the gym, specifically with a class that pairs with the H7, but they have no news on whether or not it will work with the H10. It would kind of suck to get it and then have it no pair.
    Any thoughts? Do you THINK it will still work, seeing as it is still an app that functions with polar equipment?
    (Class is called BRZone (from Body Renew))

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