Polar Vantage V3 Review
More: Polar Vantage V3 Review
On paper at least, the brand-new Polar Vantage V3 puts the company’s headline product on the same footing as its main competitors.
Polar adds an awesome 1.39″ AMOLED screen with a scratch-resistant Gorilla 3 lens whilst significantly increasing the battery life compared to its second-gen predecessor. The GPS capabilities are boosted to include accurate dual frequency reception and the optical HR sensor also moves to a new generation whilst adding new sensing abilities for SpO2, ECG and skin temperature
Offline maps are added that use the boosted 32Gb of storage
On the software front, we find a smoother, faster interface and hints of further new features including stroke power. Of course, alongside the maps, there is a raft of newly enhanced route features including track back and turn-by-turn directions from Komoot.
Polar Vantage V3 Highlights
In more detail, these are the highlights according to Polar and my thoughts on each. TL;DR – It’s updated hardware plus maps and an AMOLED screen…which is still a pretty big leap.
- Polar Elixir:
- More accurate HR for a wider range of people would be exciting; ECG, SpO2 and wrist temperature are necessary catch-ups. But PAT is a novel addition and is linked to artery health and Blood Pressure.
- I suspect that Polar will use the consumer-grade ECG as part of its recovery algorithms rather than claiming serious medical uses.
- Dual-frequency GPS:
- The Sony GNSS chip can be excellent but can also falter depending on how it’s integrated into the watch (aerial/software).
- Offline Maps: This will be exciting. This feature is intended for the next generation of Grit X, which is fine. It’s great Polar adds it today to the performance sports watch.
- Turn-by-turn only works with Komoot routes, so this is a restrictive feature both because of the subscription cost and the fact that you may use another route provider.
- 32GB of storage: The offline maps have to go somewhere. There’s not enough space here for offline music
- The maps appear to be merely map images with no intelligence. Meaning that your GPS position or breadcrumb track is simply overlain on the map image. The trackback feature appears to be intelligent but merely reverses your route.
- Increased CPU speed: The 275MHz processor claims to be 129% faster. Faster is always good but ultimately an underpowered watch reveals its ugly head a year or two down the road. Let’s hope Polar stays pretty.
- Onboard thinking memory is increased to 37Mb from 0.64Mb
- Bluetooth 5.1 is used to connect to sensors and there is no ANT+ support
- The AMOLED display is 462ppi (454x45xpx) glowing at 1,050 nits which is 35% brighter than the previous model and 3.6x the number of pixels (240x240px)
- The watch is slightly bigger (I think because of the lugs), deeper (1.5mm) and adds an extra 5g in weight.
- Bands are now industry standard 22m and no longer require the fiddly and proprietary Polar connectors
- The new glove-friendly buttons are still fairly flush with the case
- Long battery life: Up to 53 hours of training time with each charge, or up to 8 full days of display time and up to 140 hours of training time when in power-saving mode.
- This must be more than enough for almost everyone. Certainly, everyone understands that AMOLED screens and dual-frequency chipsets use more juice. There are alternatives if you want longer battery life.
- The battery capacity is improved by 41% (488mAh from 346mAh), combined with more efficient components which accounts for the increased battery life.
- 140 hours of power-save recording and 288hours as a watch
- USB-C to proprietary charging: No, no more USB-A ports that everyone has. I have millions of every kind of cable and USB-A wall sockets, everything apart from the new standard which seems to be USB-C. I guess I’ll have to go and buy some more cables and adapters. Thank you Apple, Garmin and now thank you Polar.
- The 2-hour recharging time is OK but a little longer than offered by the competition
- Also added are Voice Guidance, Walking Test and the Work-Rest guide that we saw in Ignite 3 (which was Polar’s first AMOLED watch)
- There are several other improvements in swimming that I’m trying to get a definitive list of. These include stroke power for swimming and improvements to the open water GPS algorithm that leverages the barometer to detect when the watch is out of the water.
- A comprehensive suite of training, recovery, and sleep tracking tools including Performance Tests, Recovery Pro, Nightly Recharge, Sleep Plus Stages, and SleepWise. These are all great but could be packaged more appealingly.
- Polar Flow: It’s a good ecosystem for your exercise and sleep data. The app now looks a little dated but I still like it. The web interface is very dated but I love it!
Polar Vantage V3 Comparison to Garmin Forerunner 965 and Suunto Race
In many ways, both Suunto and Polar have closed the gap significantly on Garmin, at least that’s true for sports. Garmin remains the choice for committed and serious triathletes, Polar should be considered by runners, and Suunto scores highly for aesthetics and outdoor usage.
If I had to be negative, I would wish Vantage 3 had come a year earlier.
I’ve liked the broad visual aesthetics of every iteration of Vantage, so it’s no surprise that I like what I see here. What stands out to me today is the AMOLED display, AMOLED is going to be a deal maker for many high-end watch buyers over the next few years and Polar has made the right move to adopt it. Garmin, Apple and others are already committed to that space whereas Coros has mistakenly decided not to compete, at least for now.
Despite a few quirks of the software side of things (some screen designs), I can’t fault the looks. If I had to be critical I would say that the black ring/bezel still looks a tad too large despite Polar’s claims that V3 has the largest-ever display for the company.
The performance claims are also exciting. If Polar has achieved a sustainable level of 53 hours of GPS recording time I am impressed, that is a good GPS recording time for an AMOLED watch.
MISSING: MIL-STD accreditation is no longer current and water resistance is reduced to WR50 from WR100
Whilst Polar’s claims for the capabilities of the Elixir sensor are good, we would expect the company to say no less. Interestingly, its patent application for the same technology is more wide-reaching in biomarkers that can be sensed. Perhaps this is truly a next-gen sensor just throttled back until its algorithms are refined? Or not. Maybe it’s just playing catch-up with similar sensors that have been around for a year or so.
I would consider a top-end Polar watch like this or a top-end Suunto watch as an alternative to Garmin. Were it not for the requirements of running this blog I’d probably use a Polar Vantage as my main training watch alongside a Wahoo bike computer.
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