by Anura Guruge
Click to ENLARGE.
‘Polar Vantage V’ & ‘Garmin Fenix 5 Plus’ Side-By-Side On My Wrist.
Price-wise they are $50 apart at Amazon (today), the new Polar Vantage V at $500 and the Garmin Fenix 5 at $450. [The Fenix 5 Plus is more expensive.]
In November 2018, when the Polar Vantage V came out, I was lucky enough to be given one to evaluate. I kept it for two weeks and wore it, ’24×7′ (bar charging time) for 11-days straight. Since I own a Garmin Fenix 5 Plus, and upgraded to that from a Garmin Fenix 5, I am pretty qualified to compare the two.
I have to say I was excited to get the Polar Vantage V. The early promotional matter made it very compelling. I was fairly convinced that I was going to ‘buy’ the evaluation unit and keep it.
The Polar Vantage V, with its bright, multicolor, touchscreen, 4-field display, is the perfect training watch. It really enhanced my running experience. I could see my heart rate, color-coded, at a glance, relative to its expected range – along with my pace, distance and time. Then using the up/down buttons I could quickly get altitude, ‘power’, heart rate data as well as the time-of-day. At the end of an activity (in my case a run), I was treated to a chock-a-block ‘training summary’ which included: distance, calories, heart rate zones, cardio load, pace/speed, speed zones, altitude change, power zones, cadence, etc. etc. It was like having a training COMPUTER on your wrist. And all of this on the watch – independent of the phone or computer APP.
It was pretty awesome. A level of (shareable) training data unmatched by any other watch I have used and I am no stranger to high-end Garmins, Fitbits and Samsungs.
As a sport watch the Polar Vantage V, in my experience, is in a new, crème de la crème, class of its own. Its GPS and heart rate data is consistent with what I have seen with my other high-end GPS watches – though its overall ‘step count’ appears to be about 20% too generous (probably because you can’t customize your actual stride length). That said, if you are a serious, dedicated athlete training for competitions, marathons, triathlons, Ironman or the Olympics, this very well might be the perfect watch for you.
The Polar Vantage V has two very different personalities – a ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ watch!
When in training-mode it is superlative. Probably peerless. THE watch to have. Period.
But, when in pre-training mode, i.e., when you are not training, it is a pretty pedestrian watch! In pre-training mode it is a pretty basic, uninspiring watch that does not tell you much. That is the rub. Hence, the need for very careful consideration. When not in training-mode it is a very boring watch!
That Polar does not call it a ‘smart watch’ is no accidental, oversight. The Vantage V is not a smart watch even by 2017 standards – let alone those of 2018 or 2019.
In pre-training mode it is insipid! There are no customizable, third-party watch faces with ‘bells-and-whistles’, nor widgets or APPs. There is no ‘ABC’ (i.e., altitude, barometer, compass), weather, sunrise/sunset, temperature, calendar or smart notifications from your phone. And I won’t even mention maps, music or credit/debit card payments. Oh, it also does not count/report floors climbed (i.e., altitude changes) when in pre-training mode.
While it does measure sleep time, there is no analysis in terms of whether it was REM or Deep. That is frustrating since I am used to getting that from Garmin and Fitbit. It is possible that Polar might add this ‘deep analysis’, at a later date, with a firmware update.
I thought about this long and hard.
On a scale of 1-to-10 determine the role and importance of training/fitness in your life. If you rate training/fitness at 7.5 or less, the Polar Vantage V might not be the right watch for you. If on the other hand, training/fitness figures as an 8.5 or above, definitely think about getting the V V. It would be a marriage made in heaven.
Another way to approach this is to determine your ‘training’ vs. ‘pre-training’ ratio, in terms of waking hours. If the ratio is greater than 50:50, in favor of training, the Polar V V very well could be the watch of your dreams. If on the other hand, training only accounts for 20%, or less, of your waking hours, you might want to consider a different watch — i.e., the all-round Garmin Fenix 5 (Plus).
The Polar Vantage V is possibly the ultimate sport watch currently on the market for pro athletes. Therein, however, lies the rub. If you are not a pro athlete this might be overkill for you. Get the Fenix 5 instead and you will be very happy.
So, the choice is straightforward. If training/fitness is a dominant feature of your life check out the Polar. On the other hand your life is more balanced wear a Fenix 5 with PRIDE.
by Anura Guruge