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Polar Vantage V2 Review
In this detailed Polar Vantage V2 Review, we take a deep look at Polar’s flagship multisport, performance GPS watch. Is it a real upgrade from the original Vantage? and could this be your first high-end triathlon/running watch? Let’s see.
Here is a quick summary and if you’ve already got the coffee ready, scroll further down for the detailed Polar Vantage V2 Review.
Polar Vantage V2 Verdict
Price - 85%
Apparent Accuracy - 85%
Build Quality & Design - 95%
Sports Features, Including App - 92%
Openness & Compatability - 85%
Polar Vantage V2 Review
My sporting plans for watches in 2021 include the Polar Vantage V2 which I will definitely use for run training with STRYD and probably also for at least one triathlon race. It really is a good sports watch and I prefer its looks to any other.
On the outside, the hardware construction is very good and on the inside, there is the occasional quirky menu interface that I find endearing, although navigating through the menus to find what you want is quick and soon becomes second nature.
Start your workout and the Vantage V2 performs well and gives you the information you need to train and race. After you’ve finished, Polar delivers a nice blend of summary sports information and then the ability to explore it a little further on the watch. If that’s not enough for the data inquisitive, there is the fallback to much more detailed insights on the excellent FLOW platform (web and app).
At first, Polar FLOW appears straightforward but, dig deeper, and there are MANY gems covering the ability to set annual training plans and to create complex, structured workouts. Couple that with your recovery status and training load and you have some great information to fine-tune your training.
The sports profiles you can create for the V2 are generally good and can be nicely configured with the usual data and nicely-presented metrics. The full-screen gauge displays are unusual but fine once you get used to them, especially as those are the ones where you can access other features like the awesomely useful Zone Lock, compass and elevation calibration.
Existing Vantage Gen 1 users will be tempted to upgrade to the faster, lighter V2 model and to get several cool, new features which include weather, fuel source planning and reporting, hill rep functionality, performance & recovery tests, and breadcrumb route support with TBT.
For athletes who are new to the Polar platform, there is too much old ground to cover when looking at the impressive list of existing Polar features that are carried into the Vantage V2. Here’s a quick recap with links if you are new to Polar and need the full detail. Scroll down further for the FULL, detailed review.
- 8/10 Extensive, customisable sports profiles and a good range of training metrics
- 9/10 Excellent structured training support covering training plans and customisable workouts, supported by functions such as (auto)laps and audible+vibration alerts
- 9/10 Sleep Stages Plus – has GOOD HRV-enabled sleep tracking platform although too much complexity is shown on the watch.
- 9/10 Training Load Pro is a great feature to track and guide your progress over the weeks and feeds into the readiness-to-train support
- 9/10 Adaptive training with Fitspark. Fitspark automatically suggests varied workouts that are suitable for you at any given time.
- 7/10 Straightforward smart & health features like Serene breathing, steps, inactivity alerts & smartphone notifications.
- 9/10 Polar Flow planning and analysis platform
- 8/10 Strava Live Segments
- BLE sensor support covering most relevant sensors
- Onboard running power calculations or STRYD support with native running power support
- A mostly comprehensive feature set for tri
- Many novel features including for recovery, readiness, fuelling and hill work.
- End-to-end training solution from creating annual plans, to structured workouts, to alert-based execution through to analysis
- Fitspark adaptive training great for time-pressed athletes and good guided strength/core workouts even for more serious athletes.
- Polar Flow
- Minimal ‘smarts’ – you get notifications but not contactless payments. It’s intended as a sports watch.
- Smartphone Audio Control – #Shrug.
- Only supports oHR for swimming. No cached HR from the H10.
- No custom multisport profiles eg RBRBR
- No ANT+ (only affects Zwift when connected to a single-channel BLE PM)
- Probably needs more data metrics to keep everyone happy (some have been added)
- Synchronisation is slow
Polar Vantage V2 Review – What’s NEW?
The V2 is a mostly-new watch, despite looking similar to the original Vantage.
The straps, buttons, case and screen have changed and the Vantage V2’s features include all those on the Vantage V1, Grit X and Ignite. Some of the new features unlock new analysis functionality in FLOW and there are also a few minor additions to FLOW which other Polar users will get access to. Further below, I’ll also touch on Polar’s planned updates for the coming months.
Totally New Features to Polar
- Music control on your iOS/Android smartphone
- New watch faces
- HRV data export (via Flow)
- New running and cycling tests for performance and recovery. Test Results Hub on Flow
- New ‘last lap’ metrics
- (Power target workouts and more to follow soon ie 2020)
New Features on Vantage from Grit X
- Fuel Wise – fuel source planning and reporting
- Hill Splitter – automatic treatment of hills as laps both live and in FLOW
- Breadcrumb route support from KOMOOT/STRAVA with TBT.
- Several subtle UI animation changes
The Vantage V2 looks similar to the Vantage V. I’d say it ‘feels’ slightly better.
- The strap is the same material as the Vantage V Titan and there is a new pin mechanism to remove it, thus the straps are not interchangeable between old and new Vantages
- A weight change to 52g (64g Grit X, 66g Vantage V, 59g Vantage V Titan, 45g Vantage M)
- Smoother and slightly more rounded full aluminium case that’s now waterproof to WR100
- The new touchscreen seems slightly brighter, slightly more responsive and slightly more sensitive than the VV Titan.
- The edge of the bezel has more subtle ‘seconds marks’
- Buttons have a very slightly softer action than VV Titan.
- New Precision Prime Gen 2 sensor from Grit X with one minor algorithm change, same Sony CXD5603GF GNSS chip, new magnetic compass
- Battery modes that give 40 hours training time and up to 100 hours with battery saving features (GPS recording rate: 1 second, 1 minute and 2 minutes)
So, if you are comparing VV1 to VV2, then it’s actually quite a notable upgrade.
Let’s now turn to the new stuff in more detail
Watch Faces – Polar Vantage V2 Review
The ability to customise your watch outside of sport is important to a significant number of athletes. Polar has now introduced some completely new watch faces as well as the ability to hide other high-level screens. These are ‘nice enough’ changes but the only noteworthy new screen is the Training Summary which gives a visual indication of this week’s time-in-zone training and then the ability to drill down to a little more detail about the current week and previous week’s totals.
Music Controls – Polar Vantage V2 Review
The Vantage V2 allows you to control the volume and playlist of the active audio app on your iOS and Android smartphone. It works well but you must have your phone with you for this to work as there is no music stored on the watch.
New Performance Tests, Readiness Tests & Zone Integrations – Polar Vantage V2 Review
These tests are a move in the right direction for Polar despite some reservations I initially had. Here’s why.
Polar sometimes has bad names for good things…like the Orthostatic test. What does that mean? Well, now they have the ‘jump test’ but..so what? What does it give me? You can guess I was sceptical about this until I tried it. There seems to be some good science behind a very simple test the results of which, when compared to your 28-day baseline, accurately show if you are ready now for a harder, more explosive workout. Personally, I would have called this a ‘readiness-to-train’ test and the great thing about it is that you can perform the 3 required jumps easily in less than a minute before your workout.
After a pretty dire weekend, the Leg Recovery Test correctly ascertained that I was clearly in no fit state to train.
Note: Accuracy here is 6%, benchmark MAT TEST is 5%
Next, we have 3 performance tests. One for cycling and two for running (maximal/sub-maximal – submaximal is an incomplete maximal test). They are structured tests that we should all use periodically to see how we are progressing one being an FTP test and the other being a running ramp-test.
- Cycling – 20 to 60 minutes, guided maximal test whose results update VO2max and, optionally, POWER ZONES
- Running test to determine HRmax (only from the maximal test), MAS and MAP (link to Polar white paper)
- a maximal ramp test where you choose the starting pace, ideally on flat ground, and whose results optionally update the default zones for HR, PACE and POWER.
- a sub-maximal ramp test where you choose the starting pace, ideally on flat ground, and whose results optionally update PACE ZONES and POWER ZONES.
After completing the test, select the test result in FLOW and are prompted to update your performance markers accordingly.
I didn’t complete any of the performance tests to the end, however they are well-made and seem to work fine. My initial reservations here were that it now seems more popular to have automatically-updated zones based on LTHR/LT2 and CP/FTP. The automation comes by interrogating ‘any’ workout for a breakthrough performance, notifying you about the breakthrough and then you authorize the change. Garmin has had that kind of feature for over a year but, that said, it still doesn’t work ‘thoroughly’ (multiple breakthrough points) and has bugs (LTHR reset)!
My hope here is that Polar plans to take this further and that this functionality is a stepping step toward a more dynamic approach.
HRV Data Export
This is a bit of a niche one. You can now export HRV data from FLOW if, of course, your workout was performed with a compatible sensor. The Polar H10 works for this and I would be interested to know if the same can be said of non-Polar straps which have not historically supported Polar’s HRV/Orthostatic test. A new option appears when you choose to export your workout from FLOW, like this:
Polar Vantage V2 Review – Key Features
Here’s a nice overview image for this review from Polar covering their key feature sets on the Vantage V2, add in STRAVA Live Segments and you have a great set of sports-focused tools. The tools cover an analysis of your training and your sleep and their impact on your readiness to train. Fitspark recommends the type of training and specific guided workouts and Fuelwise tells you how to plan and execute the fuelling of that training. Weather, navigation, STRAVA Live Segments and Hill Splitter all aid aspects of your workouts as you perform them. Some of these are longstanding Polar features, so I’ll just briefly cover those for those of you new to high-end Polar watches.
Nightly Recharge, Sleep Plus Stages, Recovery Pro, Training Load Pro
My headline daily stat is usually from Training Load Pro both as a recap of where my training volumes/intensities current are and as an input to what I need to do. Alongside that I might consult the recovery stats from either RECOVERY PRO or NIGHTLY RECHARGE, the former is more precise but requires you to regularly perform an Orthostatic Test (HRV) with a chest strap so I prefer the nightly recharge method (HRV) that is automatically calculated overnight on the wrist. The great thing with Nightly Recharge is that it flags up concerns the minute I wake up, I take that on board when planning my training for the day but tend not to delve any further into the details such as the sleep stages. We’re all different and I know that some of you are fascinated by Sleep Stages and Polar does a good job of summarising this on the watch and a great job of letting you analyse further on the app.
These are complex yet highly useful features. In my opinion, Polar presents the high-level guidance really well but uses too technical terminology when drilling down into the details both on the watch and app.
If you are not following a plan, Fitspark is your daily coach who gives tailored workouts and specific guidance that is suitable for your current readiness-to-train. Many middle-aged triathletes regularly fail to do enough strength work and enough core work. Fitspark will soon be on to you and you can choose to follow it’s animated graphics that take you through individual exercise. Instead, if you want advice on what kind of cardio workout would be best for you today, you get that option as well at any time.
As an occasional coach, I appreciate the complexity that Polar has overcome to present a training ‘solution’ that I’ve summarised in a few, short sentences. What they have done IS highly impressive, it’s limitation is that the advice is best tailored to those training under 6 hours a week (Source: Polar)
Weather & Navigation
If you’re looking for full onboard maps on a tri watch then you will only get that with Garmin. I suspect, however, that few triathletes need full-blown, maps to significantly add to the cost of their watches and so Polar’s routing that syncs breadcrumb routes in from STRAVA and KOMOOT will be good enough for most of us, the added positive twist is that TBT guidance is also synced from the source #Handy. There’s also a fullscreen magnetic compass for display during workouts.
I found the weather functionality useful, especially as it highlights the hourly wind strength and direction which are both important to me when planning a ride, whereas I’d run in most weather. Up to 2-days of weather is synced from your phone.
Polar Hill Splitter & STRAVA Live Segments
In a sense, these are both similar performance-focused features that give you more actionable information about your progress on parts of your outdoor training. If you are a STRAVA subscriber, I’m assuming you already know about STRAVA Live Segments.
Polar’s Hill Splitter was introduced for the Grit X and automatically identifies and breaks out individual hills during your workouts. It shows live stats for the hill and stores each hill rep as a lap for you to analyze later in Flow. It works well for runners.
Here are two links to more detailed info on each of these topics.
The final major feature for the Vantage V2 is Fuelwise which offers guidance and insight to fuel and hydration before, during and after your workout.
For any workout over an hour, you will consider hydration and fuel needs. Fuelwise can work on many levels ranging from a simple, time-based reminder to have a drink, through to automatically alerting you to take carbs at the appropriate point in a ride based on the intensity of your exertions to that point. Before the workout, you can use Fuelwise to determine exactly what fuel to take with you and after the workout, you can start to get an understanding of how you need carbs. Then, with the analyses in FLOW, you can see the stark change in how your body starts to use proportionately more carbs as you leave HR Zone 2 (ramp test image below).
Polar Vantage V2 Review – Accuracy
My Polar Vantage V2 Review unit performed fairly well in accuracy tests across the triathlon sports and accuracy is improved over the first generation Vantage. Its main weakness was shown in the last few open water swims I managed this year where both HR and GPS were lacking compared to Garmin who also seem to have stepped up a notch in OWS over the last year or so. Most GPS devices tend to do well at cycling and the Vantage V2 is no different. However, the hardest tests for accuracy are when running. The Polar Vantage V2 matched what typical Garmins deliver with running and, other than an occasional wobbly with oHR, there was little to separate a normal Garmin oHR/GLONASS performance to a normal V2 oHR/GLONASS performance. I repeat a GNSS test for every running-capable watch and the V2’s best score was an acceptable 75%.
Subscriber-Only Content: Here is a detailed accuracy analysis. This takes a LONG time to put together and most people are only interested in the summary…which you’ve just read.
Polar Vantage V2 Review – Future Firmware Additions
More power-based functionality is set to be delivered in Q4.2020 according to the Polar V2 roadmap.
- Power-based training targets (see current: polar.com)
- Zone pointer for power and speed
If these work for both running power and cycling power then they will be useful additions that I know some people want. It’s also likely that we will very soon see more swimming functionality for the VV2 as Polar inadvertently left a ‘swim drill mode’ option in the released version of their Polar Flow app.
Polar Vantage V2 Specifications
Here are the Polar Vantage V2 specifications which are mostly hardware-related, plus a link to the manual once it goes live.
- Measurements: 47 x 47 x 13 mm
- Weight: 52 g with the wristband.
- Materials: Aluminium case.
- Display: Always-on colour touch display. Laminated Gorilla glass lens with anti-fingerprint coating, protected with extruded stainless steel bezel with lugs. Option to have backlight always on during exercise.
- Display Size 1.2”, resolution 240 x 240.
- Battery: 346 mAh Li-pol battery. Battery life up to 40 h in training mode (GPS and wrist-based heart rate), up to 100 hours with battery-saving modes, or up to 7 days in watch mode with continuous heart rate tracking. Multiple power save options available.
- Processor: Unknown, however, the Vantage V2 is faster and smoother to use than the Vantage V Titanium.
- GPS & Barometer: Integrated GPS, GLONASS + Galileo. Assisted GPS for fast fix times, SBAS to increase GNSS accuracy from ground stations. Barometric altitude, incline, ascent and descent.
- Connectivity: Bluetooth Low Energy. Custom USB cable for charging and data synchronization. No ANT+
- Watch: Time and date. Alarm with snooze.
- Sensors: Compatible with standard BLE heart rate sensors and running cadence and power sensors as well as cycling speed, cadence and dual-LR power bike sensors.
- Silicone Wristband Sizing: S: wrist circumference 130-190 mm, M/L: wrist circumference 145-215 mm
- Compatibility with Vantage V Gen 1: No
- Durability: Operating temperature: from -20° to 50°C. Temperatures below -10°C may affect battery life and performance.
- Onboard Body Temperature Sensor – Records data to Polar FLOW, influenced by body temperature. Not taken from the weather forecast.
- Water resistance: officially now WR100, up to 100 m
- Magnetic compass (only available during a workout, calibration during workout)
- The barometric altimeter is automatically cross-calibrated by GPS within the first couple of minutes of a workout. Altitude can be manually calibrated from the fullscreen altitude training view. Altitude is corrected when reported in Polar Flow.
Sensor support – most BLE sports sensors, STRYD and these power meters. Polar’s own power calculations used if STRYD present. STRYD can accept a manual calibration value. Polar still always automatically pairs any Polar BLE sensors you’ve used before – even if you remove them it re-pairs them.
Try these FAQ’s – some are simplistic but other tidbits of information come under the ‘I never knew that‘ category. 😉 enjoy
Polar Vantage V2 Review – My Thoughts
The Polar Vantage V2 is a proper triathlon tool. It’s probably the only proper triathlon tool that isn’t made by Garmin. I call it a ‘tool’ as it is designed almost entirely to match athletic needs. It simply doesn’t get too carried away with smart functionality (NFC, streaming music, maps) and the pursuit of ever-higher price tags. That said, it’s not cheap either.
I personally DO like the Polar Vantage V2 and it would rank as one of my favourite watches that I’d wear because I want to and not because I have to because of this blog. If I was just focussing on occasional casual wear, training for duathlons and triathlons, and I had the Vantage V2 then, from a personal perspective, I would NOT be tempted away to buy a Garmin 745/FR945/F6. Conversely, if I had one of those Garmins, I don’t think there’s much in the Vantage V2 that would tempt me to switch to Polar – I’ve got used to Apple/Garmin’s conveniences of WiFi, ANT+ and NFC. Garmin does every aspect of triathlon functionality well but the only stand-out aspect of that would be SWIMMING. The swimming piece is just better on a Garmin but then again in a triathlon, how often do you use the swimming stuff? And when you’re training in the pool do you really use all the fancy metrics…I don’t, I usually just want the cached HR and a timer! When on the bike, a Polar Vantage V2 on the wrist is not that different from any other watch…a bike computer format is simply better. So that just leaves running. High-end Garmins and the Vantage V2 have the right buttons in the right places and show me the right kind of screen with the right kind of metric, both support STRYD differently so all is good for me. Plus in some ways, I prefer Polar’s Zone Lock for running power that Garmin’s implementation.
I train fairly seriously but I know some of you train very seriously. You’re probably so good that you can accurately ‘feel’ how hard you are running/cycling/swimming and you only really need a tri watch for the sponsorship money. However, I bet you can’t tell how recovered you are. And even if you think you can, are you sure? So then we come to the whole training load, recovery and readiness-to-train piece. It’s probably important for all of us if we train more than 6 hours a week and it’s perhaps important it’s correct if we train more than 12 hours a week. Mostly all the recommendations in this area come from HR/HRV and you need to be sure that your HR sensor-of-choice is accurate for this to have a chance of working. I’m obviously aware that Garmin/Firstbeat has a massive budget here and that Polar has ALWAYS been heart-rate focussed, but I have this nagging doubt gnawing away at my sporting soul and telling me that Garmin/Firstbeat is not always sufficiently correct. I’d err towards Polar on this one.
Buy Polar Vantage V2 Discounts, Price & Availability – Options
Until the end of October 2020, this will only be available to buy directly from Polar. The likes of Wiggle and PowerMeterCity then should get stock before it becoming more widely available for you to buy. The red POLAR banner should have the updated outlets where you can buy one now.
- US$/Eu499.95/£449.00 for just the VV2 or VV2+H10 bundle (US$/Eu549.95, £489.00)
- Black, Grey-Lime and Green straps. Other strap colours can be bought separately at 34.90€/$
- Large/Medium strap or an extra US$/Eu9.90 for a small strap