Polar H9 Review | H10 Chest Strap Comparison, Best Polar HRM

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Polar H9 Review

This Polar H9 Review looks in detail at Polar’s new ‘best value’ chest strap. If you just want a chest strap that will work with ‘whatever’, then the Polar H9 is the one to go for. Just get one! If you have more unusual needs like 2xBLE then read on…

Polar H9 Review HRM chest strap H10 oh1 h7
H10 (top), H9 (below)

The much older Polar H7 was superseded in 2017 by the Polar H10 model which was a newer and better chest-strap heart rate monitor (HRM). The new Polar H9 is a pared-back version of the H10 with slightly fewer features and a different strap.

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 that the H10 has increased accuracy over the H9, however that is simply the different strap, not the pod. The Polar H7 of old was historically used by Sports Labs as an HRM-of-choice due to its accuracy. For me to say if the H9 is more or less accurate than the old H7 or H10, would need research to a scientific degree of accuracy. That’s beyond what I do here.

Summary
  • Price - 85%
    85%
  • Apparent Accuracy - 99%
    99%
  • Build Quality & Design - 95%
    95%
  • Features, Including App - 85%
    85%
  • Openness & Compatability - 95%
    95%
92%

Polar H9 Review Summary

Polar H9 Review HRM chest strap H10 oh1 h7

This is a quality strap for a decent price (RRP). You will find it cheaper than RRP on Amazon and through retailer loyalty schemes (offers linked to below)

The Polar H9 is as comfortable as any other strap and will, almost certainly, RELIABLY link to most people’s app or sports watch of choice. All of Polar’s current heart rate monitors are accurate, namely the H10, OH1+ and the H9 we review here. The H9 is going to be my heart rate monitor of choice until the lakes open for open water swimming in the Spring hopefully, by then, my usage will confirm whether or not Polar have fixed the battery life issue of the H10 which required it to be disconnected when not in use.

 

Garmin 945 Sigma id.TRI Polar Vantage
Links to one or more stores in your local geo, buying there supports this site, thank you.

Pros

  • High level of accuracy likely
  • BLE and ANT+ Compatability, 5KHz GymLink too
  • The soft strap has a good clipping mechanism
  • Standard, interchangeable Polar strap
  • Decent, official battery life
  • ANT+ can be disabled to extend battery life.
  • Battery is easily swapped

Cons

  • ‘Only’ one BLE channel
  • No caching
  • Soft strap is supposedly not as accurate as the PRO strap in niche use-cases
  • Clasp on soft strap can twist when strap is tight
  • Longterm battery life as-yet unproven

WHAT’S NEW?

The colour of the H9 pod is different from that of the H10. The strap is different too but that’s because the H9 has the older SOFT STRAP that previously came with the H7 chest strap.

Polar H9 Review HRM chest strap H10 oh1 h7The new pod and strap are interchangeable with the previous strap and pod on the H10. It’s mix-and-match on all Polar chest straps.

Polar H9 Review HRM chest strap H10 oh1 h7The SOFT strap is visually different from the PRO strap on the H10. There are no rubber nodules (to stop strap movement) and the clasp mechanism is different too. What’s quite noticeable is that the sensor area on the H10’s PRO strap is much larger than what comes with the soft strap on the H9. That doesn’t make it more accurate per se though. it’s more that if and when it moves about, there is more chance of reading with the bigger sensor area on the PRO strap.

Polar H9 Review HRM chest strap H10 oh1 h7

The H9’s SOFT STRAP is identical to that on the H7 and so it should have a GOOD lifespan…I’m talking at least two years of 10 hours a week type usage. Hopefully longer.

 

So why isn’t the H9 as accurate as the H10? Polar said to me that the H10 “has additional electrodes to reduce interference and silicon friction dots to keep the sensor in place“, so in fact it is the STRAP that increses accuracy rather than the POD itself. The straps are interchangeable.

 

Garmin 945 Sigma id.TRI Polar Vantage
Links to one or more stores in your local geo, buying there supports this site, thank you.

The Polar H9 Pod

 

The H9 supports one Bluetooth Low Energy v4.2 (SMART) connection and multiple, simultaneous ANT+ connections AND GymLink

Just like the H10, the H9 will work with pretty much anything.

Aesthetically the H10 and H9 pods look identical, apart from the colour.

Polar H9 Review HRM chest strap H10 oh1 h7

When I first heard about the H10/H9 I assumed it had a notably lower profile than the older H7, below. However, they are similar when looked at from the side.

Polar H9 Review HRM chest strap H10 oh1 h7

Just like the H10, the H9 has a nifty cover that can be opened fairly easily to change the battery. In my opinion, this new design is better than that of the older H7 which I found harder to remove.

Polar H9 Review HRM chest strap H10 oh1 h7

The App

Here you can see the differences in how the Polar BEAT app can treat the H9 and H10. The only difference appears to be that dual-BLE cannot be enabled for the H9.

The first image is for the H10 and it shows how and where you are prompted for a firmware update. The H9 is likely to be identical if/when new firmware is released.

You can see I’ve turned off the visibility of the H9 in the app. I did that after I paired it to ALL the devices it needs to be paired to as my main HRM. the reason I did this is that Polar watches have an annoying habit of auto-pairing to HRMs. thus when I am testing their optical HR I am testing the auto-paired H9…grrr. I’m not 100% sure that VISIBILITY will stop this, but I’ll give it a go.

Polar H9 Specifications & Comparison to H10, OH1

Here are the detailed Polar H9 specifications as well as a comparison to Polar’s two other heart rate monitors.

 

Features H9 H10 OH1+
Price 59.90Eur (£52.50, $59.95 ) 89.90Eur 79.90Eur
HR measurement method ECG ECG Optical heart rate (6 LED solution)
Product placement Chest Chest Arm and temple
Rechargeable No, CR2025 Battery No, CR2025 Battery Yes
Operation time 400 h 400 h 12 h
Waterproof 30 m 30 m 30 m
Strap Polar Soft Strap in sizes XS-S and M-XXL. Polar Pro Strap Armband
Compatible with 3rd party apps Yes Yes Yes
Built-in memory No For 1 training session Up to 200 h of HR training
ANT+ connectivity Yes Yes Yes
Bluetooth Low Energy connectivity Yes (HRV) Yes (HRV) Yes
Two simultaneous Bluetooth connections No Yes No
5 kHz transmission (Gymlink) Yes Yes No
Weight Connector 21 g, Strap 39 g Connector 21 g, Strap 39 g Sensor 5 g, Armband 12 g, Clip 3,5 g

 

Detailed Differences of the Polar H9 Compared to the Polar H10

We don’t know for sure is the Polar H9 is identical to the H10 on the inside. IE we would normally assume that Polar have simply turned off caching and 2xBLE support, however, the significantly different firmware version numbers on the H9 and H10 imply, to me, that there could be more material differences under the cover.

  • The Polar H9 only supports one simultaneous Bluetooth smart connection (the H10 supports 2)
  • At an RRP of Eu59.90, the H9 is cheaper than the H10 (Eu89.90)
  • The H9 cannot cache workouts at all (H10 can cache one workout via the Polar Beat app)
  • The strap is different between the H10 and H9 and, remember, it’s the strap that picks up the heart rate signal and so THE STRAP is the most important for those of you seeking maximum accuracy. The H9 has the older Polar SOFT Strap and the H10 has the newish PRO strap – both will NORMALLY give the exact-same results
  • The H9’s SOFT STRAP has a slightly easier-to-use clip mechanism

 

Detailed Differences of the Polar H9 compared to the Polar OH1+

These products are quite different, notably in the technology used and the body position in which they are intended to be worn.

The Polar OH1+ is the lighter, optical armband, which is rechargeable and which does not support the 5KHz gym standard like the H9 and H10 both do. Both support ANT+ and BLE

3rd Party HRM Comparisons

Competing chest straps are going to be as accurate…until they break. Some non-branded ones break VERY quickly in my experience.

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 an HRM is particularly bad in some respect. I think Garmin’s HRM3, for me, turned the corner in terms 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 (H10, caching) chest traps are all going to be fine. But the H9 will only work underwater with older Polar watches. Even if you use a newer Polar Vantage then you are forced to rely on a degree of inaccuracy that comes from wrist-based optical HR on that device. FWIW I’ve mostly given up on getting accurate HR for the pool and have resigned myself to wrist-based oHR.

From the launch of the Polar H9 (Feb 2020) until the lakes open in April I will almost certainly be using the Polar H9 as my main source of running and cycling HR data. It supports all the options I normally need. (A new Garmin or Wahoo strap might change that). I would have used the H10 more at the back end of 2019 but I gave one away and lost 2! I’ve since found the H10 when I was writing this review, so that gives me an option too but it doesn’t offer me anything extra I NEED over and above the H9

Once I start lake swimming then I will probably err towards the HRM-TRI for that and, as Polar should realise, once you start to use a device you want to keep using it rather than switching between multiple sensors that all do the same, simple thing.

ALTERNATIVES – Polar H9 Review

Assuming you want an alternative, Bluetooth-compatible chest strap, then you could also consider Suunto’s Smart Belt, Garmin HRM-Dual or Wahoo’s TICKR-X (Wahoo TICKR-X Review). We will probably see a new strap from both Wahoo, and Garmin in 2020, so you could wait for those.

But remember if you want CACHING for team sports, for swimming or just because you leave your app at the side of the gym classroom, then your receiving device/app MUST be from the same company that makes the heart rate monitor. For example, Suunto’s caching strap will only cache data for Suunto watches.

If chest straps don’t work for you then an upper arm based strap might. It should give you accurate results too.

 

Polar OH1+ Review (2019 ANT+ Update) | Arm-Worn Optical HR Sensor

 

 

Polar H9 – IN USE

I would say there is very little to choose between the H10 and H9 in normal training usage both are comfy and seemingly highly accurate. Perhaps I would have a very slight preference for the PRO STRAP in swimming but other than that…meh. They’re effectively the same.

Here is a chart comparing the accuracy of the H9 to a Vantage V Titan (oHR) and an OH1+ worn on the upper arm. As you can see they are all effectively identical and sufficiently accurate for our sporty needs. The wrist-based titan will suffer worsening performance in some scenarios, the OH1 probably won’t and the H9 won’t.

 

Heart Rate Monitors – Getting Accuracy

If you have problems with your current chest strap or optical HRM, try these suggestions…

 

Fix *optical* HR and chest strap HR issues – Troubleshooting Garmin, Polar, TomTom, Suunto

 

INTERESTING BITS

Here are some interesting and unusual points which might answer uncommon questions

  • The H9 will work LIVE underwater with older Polar sports watches – most likely for you, this will ONLY be with the Polar V800. For that to work, enable GymLink through Polar BEAT (‘ON’ by default – check compatibility).
  • The H9/H10 won’t work  UNDERWATER on The Vantage series – neither for caching nor over 5KHz
  • The H9 is firmware updatable (see these instructions) through the Polar BEAT app – the existence of new firmware is checked automatically once your H9 is paired to Polar Beat
  • Even though the H9 only supports one active connection using Bluetooth SMART (v4.2), it CAN be paired with several Bluetooth devices.
  • 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 H9?: 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: H9 Manual.
  • Polar H9, H10 or H7 are required for Polar’s Orthostatic tests on the Vantage and V800 watches. IE non-Polar, HRV-capable, BLE chest straps will NOT work.
  • If you want to pay for advanced HR-related features using the H9/H10 then try RaceFox but it’s $145pa…At the time of writing, the Polar H9 is not stated as being compatible but it likely will be. Double-check first!
  • To extend the battery life I suggest disconnecting the pod after usage, just one of the pins should be enough. You should NOT have to do this but it did help with the previous H10 model.
  • If you are an existing H10 user and your pod has broken. I would keep your ‘PRO’ strap and use it with the cheaper H9.
  • When connected as an ANT+ HRM to some devices, the H9 seems to INcorrectly report a low battery (at the same time via BLE in Beat a full battery is shown (22/Feb/2022)

Polar H9 Review HRM chest strap H10 oh1 h7

OH1, OH1+, H10, H9, H7…I’m just showing off my collection

Polar H9 Review – Future Considerations

Polar’s decision to stick with Bluetooth SMART is the right long-term move. However, in the short to medium term VERY MANY people, like me, use ANT+ devices. So Polar have just had to react and release devices that are starting to support ANT+. I suspect that whatever comes after the Polar Vantage’s firmware v5 will FINALLY support ANT+ as well as BLE sensors.

The need to support BLE has been inconvenient for Polar’s competitors, notably Garmin. This need arises from, for example, the growth of Zwift where Zwift requires a BLE channel for your sensors and your sports watch may also require a BLE or ANT+ connection.

I suspect that the H9 will NOT receive new features going forward. These will, I suspect, be confined to the H10 to justify its higher price. Having said that, if Polar ever introduces running dynamics then the H9 might get that through new firmware. I’m thinking more along the lines of enhancements to caching.

Polar H9 Review – RECOMMENDATIONS

This Polar H9 Review concludes by noting that the H9 is Polar’s best value chest strap to date. For most people, it will give the accurate results you want.

Polar H9 PRICE & AVAILABILITY

Polar’s premium heart rate monitors are usually discounted by 10-20% once enough retailers have them. However, the H9 will be different with a floor being set below the price of older Garmin models; the Garmin HRM-DUAL is currently $58 and so I doubt you will be able to get a Polar H9 for $49.99 or less for a LONG time.

 

Features H9 H10 OH1+
RRP Price 59.90Eur (£52.50, $59.95 ) 89.90Eur 79.90Eur
Typical Amazon price/Target Price 53Eur, £49, $49 70Eur, £65, $74 62.90Eur, $71, £54

In the USA, the H9 is available with a 10% discount from PowerMeterCity (checkout code: the5krunner10) and you help this blog and this Polar H9 Review in a small way by purchasing from there. Thank you. 

 

Links to one or more stores in your local geo, buying there supports this site, thank you.
Summary
  • Price - 85%
    85%
  • Apparent Accuracy - 99%
    99%
  • Build Quality & Design - 95%
    95%
  • Features, Including App - 85%
    85%
  • Openness & Compatability - 95%
    95%
92%

Polar H9 Review Summary

Polar H9 Review HRM chest strap H10 oh1 h7

This is a quality strap for a decent price (RRP). You will find it cheaper than RRP on Amazon and through retailer loyalty schemes (offers linked to below)

The Polar H9 is as comfortable as any other strap and will, almost certainly, RELIABLY link to most people’s app or sports watch of choice. All of Polar’s current heart rate monitors are accurate, namely the H10, OH1+ and the H9 we review here. The H9 is going to be my heart rate monitor of choice until the lakes open for open water swimming in the Spring hopefully, by then, my usage will confirm whether or not Polar have fixed the battery life issue of the H10 which required it to be disconnected when not in use.

 

Garmin 945 Sigma id.TRI Polar Vantage
Links to one or more stores in your local geo, buying there supports this site, thank you.

Pros

  • High level of accuracy likely
  • BLE and ANT+ Compatability, 5KHz GymLink too
  • The soft strap has a good clipping mechanism
  • Standard, interchangeable Polar strap
  • Decent, official battery life
  • ANT+ can be disabled to extend battery life.
  • Battery is easily swapped

Cons

  • ‘Only’ one BLE channel
  • No caching
  • Soft strap is supposedly not as accurate as the PRO strap in niche use-cases
  • Clasp on soft strap can twist when strap is tight
  • Longterm battery life as-yet unproven
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flokon

I still use my H7 strap for my H10 pod. I went through two “pro” straps within 3 months. The larger sensor area means more break points because that’s the weakest part of the strap. I’m a skinny runner so the pro’s extended sensor area would wrap well around my chest which puts a lot of stress on a material that’s not meant to bend that much. As a result two pro straps cracked at the exact same location within few months.
There’s a reason why Garmin’s HRM have only two sensor patches and Polar’s non-pro straps have such a short sensor area. It’s not needed for accuracy while reducing accuracy of fit.

ChrisTexan

Regarding the sensor straps, as someone who is “not thin” (6’2″, 210-215# depending on dinner the night before, LOL), the Pro strap is a must for SOME workouts. I’ve used polar’s previous (H7 gen) straps for years fine with biking and running, where it fails is “CrossFit” style workouts. Anywhere where you are flexing forward/back on the chest (pushups/burpees are a good example) can (does for me) cause the strap to largely “float” across the front. In the older strap, I’d have quite a few (5-10 at least spikes/dropouts caused by the losses of contact, in a 20-40 minute workout cycle. With the extra width of coverage in the “Pro” (H10, been using it since shortly after it’s release) that number has dropped to between 0-2 per workout (and likely overall some of the readings were glitchier before than now, without being totally obvious spikes/drops that are double/zero readings). So YMMV on the straps, the new one is def better for swimming purposes. I also mentioned on DCR a “use-case” that I have for H10 v H7/9. Our crossfit workouts often are “indoor-only” and I don’t need GPS. But sometimes they include long runs where I want GPS. Flow only… Read more »

Greg

“CONS: It’s a shame that neither the H9 or H10 can save battery for ANT+ users by disabling BLE.”

Well. Let’s assume you can do it. You will do it via…. BLE actually. And then, you will get a ANT+ only pod forever as you will never be able to re-enable BLE as you need BLE to do it…. My 2 cents 😉