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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…

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The much older Polar H7 was superseded in 2017 by the Polar H10 model which was a newer and better chest-strap heart rate monitor (HRM).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

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.

 

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.

The 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.

The 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.

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.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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

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.

Buy 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 buy 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 to buy 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. 

 

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Affiliate Disclosure: All links pay commission
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

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.

 

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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