This Polar H10 Review looks in detail at the new functionalities introduced into Polar’s flagship heart rate monitor/chest strap.
Polar H10 Review
Polar’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.
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?
The 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).
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.
That’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 !
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 / Fenix 5 Plus, 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. ie it WILL work with the Fenix 5 series as a basic HRM.
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.
When I first heard about the 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.
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.
I had a little splash in the pool tonight as part of my Polar H10 Review research. 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.
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 for underwater use.
However, the H10 can also cache data (to the Beat app). 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.
Edit (2018): Interestingly the H10 can smultaneously pair to two BLE devices using BLE when the appropriate setting for that is enabled in the Polar BEAT app.
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.
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. Edit: see below. this is no longer true..in a nice way. 2 bluetooth conenction ARE simultaneously supported (I’ve done it!)
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.
Edit: Comments below suggest that HRV/RR data is NOT cached and is ONLY transmitted live. I have not tested this.
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 fro the Polar Vantage series.
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. Indeed I expect some form of running dynamics to be introduced into the Polar Vantage series in 2019. We shall see.
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 – Polar H10 Review
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 – Polar H10 Review
To extend your watch‘s battery life on loooooong exercises, why not unpair the H10? then use Polar Beat to initiate and cache the HR for that really long hike/ultra?
Use Polar BEAT to change a setting on the H10 that allows it to simultaneously PAIR AND BE SIMULTANEOUSLY ACTIVE with 2x Bluetooth devices (yep, not 5Khz).
ALTERNATIVES – Polar H10 Review
Assuming you want a BLE chest strap as an alternative to the Polar H10 Review ed here, then you could also consider Suunto’s Smart Belt.
or Wahoo’s TICKR-X (Wahoo TICKR-X Review)
Another great alternative is Polar’s OH1 optical arm band. (Polar OH1 Review)
But remember if you want CACHING then your receiving device MUST be from the same company. So Suunto’s caching will only work with their watches.
- If your old strap/pod has broken 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. You can only have the one active Bluetooth connection but you might be able to sneak the other GYMLINK frequency onto another device.
PRICE & AVAILABILITY
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