Polar Vantage M & V – Precision Prime oHR – A Detailed Look and other new HR tidbits

Polar have today released the Polar Vantage V and Polar Vantage M, which are ‘pro’ running and tri watches.

Polar Vantage V Review, Polar Vantage M Review

There’s LOTS of new stuff to discuss about the Vantage models. This post looks specifically just at PRECISION PRIME. Precision Prime is Polar’s name for their optical HR sensing offering.

Setting The Benchmark High

Polar claim that this will be the most accurate wrist-based optical heart rate monitor when it is released and on sale in October 2018.

Bold claims.

Vantage M vs. Vantage V

Whilst the Vantage V is the slightly higher specified model, as far as I can see both models have EXACTLY the same optical HR functionality.

MORE  INFO: You can find all related posts listed in this tag as I add them https://the5krunner.com/tag/PolarVantage.

Claimed Performance Levels

Polar have specifically pointed out that the key issue for accuracy during sports is handling the motion artefacts. In other words almost any company can produce an accurate optical HRM for people who only sit and watch TV. But we are talking about a sports watch for high performing individuals ! 😉

The more wrist movement there is, the more difficult it is to get accurate HR from the wrist. You knew that.

Thus, in strength training, playing tennis and when mountain biking you could imagine that optical HR will have ‘issues’ to deal with. And, to complicate matters further, the motion artefacts will be different for each sport.

The Precision Prime does NOT deliver HRV accuracy. For the waking HRV (Orthostatic) test then a Polar H10 (or H7) is required.

Polar Vantage V Review, Polar Vantage M Review

Issues Affecting Optical HR Accuracy

Polar have had to deal with these issues which all affect optical HR performance

  • Skin Type
  • Skin Temperature
  • Circulation
  • Skin Contact
  • Wrist Motion
  • Wrist Size and Shape

Strategies for dealing with these included

  • LED Colour
  • Sensor bump
  • LED detector distance
  • Physical fit of the wrist band

MORE  INFO: You can find all related posts listed in this tag as I add them https://the5krunner.com/tag/PolarVantage.

A Polar Vantage Review will not follow until late October and that will be with a proper production model not this beta unit.

Precision Prime Design

The headline design elements are 5 GREEN light LEDs and 4 RED light LEDs making a total of 9 LEDs and it looks like there are 4 or 5 sensors that receive the light back.

Polar is not unique in using multiple colours of light and it is well-known that different light colours have different properties and benefits when it comes to penetrating the skin and bouncing back differently. Combining the two LED colours is a sensible approach but, of course, the tricky bit is interpreting and filtering what comes back.

 

Polar Vantage V Review, Polar Vantage M Review

Part of the solution includes the 4 circular metal posts. These ARE charging post that make contact with the USB-based charging cradle but they are also sensors. Specifically the sensors assess the quality of skin contact. I would presume that non optimal skin contact would signal to the HR algorithm to place less confidence in the signals being received at that particular instance in time.

Hopefully you can see on the following image that the Precision Prime optical HR unit is a ‘bump’ on the back on the Vantage – it’s tricky to measure but it’s something like 1mm or 2mm. This ‘bump’ is pushed into the skin and is one strategy to both achieve a better contact as well as to keep ambient light OUT and the LED lights IN the sensor’s active area. This ‘bump’ has also been previously used by other manufacturers and indeed on the M600/M430 by Polar themselves.

Polar Vantage V Review, Polar Vantage M Review

The other benefit of the Precision Prime’s optical sensor is that it should save you a small fortune at Christmas. It can easily double-up as a Christmas tree just with the sheer number of LEDs 😉

If there was a Guiness World Record for the number of LED lights on an oHR sensor then Polar were already the record holder with ‘6’ on the M600 (see image below)

Amazfit STRATOS Review

935 – STRATOS – M600 – optical HR untis, note the size and separation of the sensing components

The M600 still would hold the record for the number of GREEN LEDs but the Vantage V & M have a total of 9 and hence surely become the new holders of that record.

Is ‘bigger’ better? Is ‘more’ better?…maybe. It’s also what you do with it. There could be a joke there somewhere if you look hard enough 😉

Another term bandied about by sports device manufacturers is ‘Sensor Fusion’. RunScribe are doing it in their awesome running pods and Suunto effectively use that phrase for FusedAlti, FusedSpeed, FusedTrack. Essentially it just means combining data from two different sensors to improve the information that is derived from them. But, I admit, it does SOUND impressive 😉

Polar have used sensor fusion with the Precision Prime unit. Specifically they also add in the 3D acceleration data to the algorithms and I wold assume that is how they measure the motion that creates the motion artefacts.

Polar claim to be the only manufacturer that combines: multiple coloured LEDs; 3D acceleration; and sensor-based skin contact data to produce optical HR.

MORE  INFO: You can find all related posts listed in this tag as I add them https://the5krunner.com/tag/PolarVantage.

Signal Filtering and Enhancement

These are the steps that Polar go through with Precision Prime to delve what they hope will be a market-leading optical HR reading. Hopefully the sub-headings and images are explanation enough.

Capture Raw Signal

<Edit: Image redacted>

The original image showed a super fuzzy signal of the raw data for over 100 minutes. Imagine something fuzzy and then make it twice as fuzzy.

 

Filetering

<Edit: Image redacted>

This image showed what could be discerned as a HR track but super fuzzy

 

Apply Sensor Fusion

<Edit: Image redacted>

This iamge showed prfection as the OHR track matched that from an ECG.

I’m assuming this was what happened in relatively benign HR capturing conditions.

Leading us onto this clever way of refining the signal furhter in realworld scenarios…

 

Selective Post Processing

This last process is interesting and perhaps novel too.

During your sport you will see live HR based on the first 3 stages I’ve described above. However in more challenging sports Polar will be periodically applying post-processing logic to the HR track every minute or so. You won’t necessarily see this corrected HR (although it might feed through to lap HR data and things like that) but it will be saved into your Polar FLOW data and will be used as inputs to the various physiological algorithms.

The key thing to remember here is that you MUST use the correct sport profile. The sport profile you choose absolutely will affect the quality of oHR you see. I know, in the past, I was sometimes guilty of selecting the wrong profile (eg to make Garmin devices work whilst swimming). I now know not to do that.

<Edit: Image redacted>

This images showed the correct HR track and the oHR track. Both were similar but the oHR track more spikey. The post processing recognised the highs and lows but smoothed and ‘puffed out’ the spikes to give a slower progression to individual peaks in HR.

Other Tidbits

I’ll update this section as I trawl through my numerous notes

  1. Precision Prime filters out HR above 220bpm (same with H10)
  2. Polar also pointed out the 5KHz signal that was previously used for swimming is now no longer supported by the Polar Vantage. ie the ONLY choice you have for swimming is the optical sensor. Supporting 5KHz would have required extra work on the internals of the Vantage and, in any case, there were issues especially with pool-based turns.
  3. Polar told me that the optical HR results in swimming will not be as good as other sports. It’s important to wear the device tightly.
  4. Training load, training effect/benefit feedback and calorie calculations based on what Polar Precision Prime can deliver whilst swimming are claimed to be sufficiently accurate for that intended purpose

My Results FROM BETA HARDWARE/SOFTWARE

Here are some HR tracks IN BETA

This is a maximal effort (ramp test) on a turbo trainer – few motion artefacts

Polar Vantage V

Clickable

Here was a bumpy MTB trail ride but at a very low effort level.

Clickable

The swimming results I have so far are not great.

Summary

Innovative and cool. Let’s hope it delivers awesome results when live

MORE  INFO: You can find all related posts listed in this tag as I add them https://the5krunner.com/tag/PolarVantage.

 

Price, Availability & Discount

The Polar Vantage M retails at $260/GBP250/Eur280,

The Polar Vantage V retails at $499/GBP439/Eur499

The Polar Vantage now has general availability. There do not seem to be widespread discount yet in the EU. I’ve included the Amazon international link below but you will find a better deal at New Running Gear and Power Meter City. New Running Gear (NRG), below, were also bundling in GBP50 of running freebies. Help support this blog with the great deals below:

Polar Vantage 10 % off discount coupon promotion code

Click http://geni.us/PolarVantage to buy in UK/Eu/USA

Best Amazon price is linked to. Prices could fall below existing level from 2019 onwards £249/$259/Eu279. Buying from Amazon supports this site.

Best Amazon price is linked to. Prices could fall below existing level from 2019 onwards £439/$499/Eu499. Buying from Amazon supports this site.

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Mirko Surf&Run
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Mirko Surf&Run

“Polar have had to deal with these issues which all affect optical HR performance

Skin Type
Skin Temperature
Circulation
Skin Contact
Wrist Motion
Wrist Size and Shape”.

I sweat a lot and I see that the Garmin Elevate optical heart rate sensor goes crazy when I begin sweating. Sweat in the wrist is maybe not common, but I sweat a lot especially when I stop after an interval (no air that refresh the skin). Garmin advice is to clean and dry the sensor before running, but it doesn’t say anything about how to deal with sweat.
Now optical heart rate of Polar functions also in swimming, maybe is better also with sweat.

Mirko Surf&Run
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Mirko Surf&Run

Maybe the problem of the sweat near the optical heart rate sensor of the Garmin FR35 is to blame also on the form of the watch or of the bands. With the armband Scosche Rhythm+ optical sensor I never had problem of bad reading even when I’m sweating.
Maybe Garmin has solved this problems in the new watches.