Polar Vantage M2 full review
The Polar Vantage M2 is the Finnish workout tech brand’s latest multisport watch, falling somewhere in between the more casual and fashion-focused Polar Ignite 2 and the premium Polar Vantage V2.
It sits much closer to the former in terms of price, and it similarly seeks to be the kind of watch you might want to keep on even after your workout has finished. But it also sets out to appeal to a slightly more committed brand of fitness fan, with its rugged, sporty design.
Like the rest of the Polar family, the Vantage M2 only makes cursory nods to mainstream smartwatch features. Yes, you can have your notifications pumped to your wrist should you wish, and you can now control your phone’s music playback from the watch too.
But you won’t be making any mobile payments with a casual wave of your hand, and the display isn’t the kind of vibrant component that you’ll want to spend an awful lot of time ogling. It’s a dedicated fitness tool, and occasional hikers need not apply.
What you’re getting for your £269 is a frankly dizzying array of fitness programmes for runners, cyclers, swimmers, and ball sports players. You’ll get a near molecular breakdown of your recent workouts, full sleep and heart rate tracking, and smart workout recommendations.
Design & build
The design of the Polar Vantage M2 isn’t much changed from its predecessor, the Polar Vantage M. And that’s just fine by us.
This is the kind of rugged-but-not-too-rugged sports watch design that has been appealing to active sorts (and those who wish to convey the impression of being active sorts) for years now. Its circular plastic body is crowned by a ridged carbon fibre-effect band, which frames the display glass.
My model is the muted Black-Grey, but it also comes in a more ostentatious Gold-Champagne, an even sportier Grey-Yellow, and a classier Brown-Copper variant.
The phone’s rubber strap sticks to the ruggedly handsome theme, with a tough textured finish that gives the impression of a hard-wearing canvas. A typical quick-release spring bar pin system ensures that you can swap this out for more or less any regular strap.
This is quite a chunky watch though. At 12.5mm it’s around 30% thicker than the Polar Ignite 2, while a weight of 45g makes it around 10g heavier. As someone with relatively skinny wrists, I was constantly aware of its presence, and while it looks good with normal non-sporty clothes, fitted jumpers are a bit of no-no unless you’re prepared to push those sleeves up, Don Johnson style.
This bulky nature might also pose a problem when taking advantage of the Polar Vantage M2’s sleep tracking facility. If my first few sleeps with the watch were considered poor by Polar, it’s likely because it kept snagging on my quilt and waking me up. But you’ll get used to it.
The Vantage M2’s build is suitably tough. I clipped the watch’s leading edge on a few doors frames during my time with it, but all I was left with was a little paint that could be rubbed off. It’s also water-resistant to 30m, which is just as well given its facility for swim tracking.
The button count and layout will be familiar to those acquainted with Polar’s previous work. You get the same two buttons on the left edge of the casing and the same three buttons on the right. The left-hand buttons provide backlight and back functions, while the right-hand buttons give you your navigation and enter/go inputs.
It’s still not the most streamlined or elegant input setup to be found on a smartwatch, and the lack of a touchscreen may seem slightly regressive to some. But once learned, Polar’s system provides quick and dependable access to key functions even while at a full sweaty canter on a rainy day, which is kind of the whole point.
As before, you get a small 1.2-inch always-on colour display with a 240 x 240 resolution. It’s really not very vibrant, and you’ll struggle to view it in certain lower lighting conditions. The provision of that dedicated backlight button will feel a little prosaic to anyone coming from a genuine smartwatch, but again, it’s functional in a fitness-focused setting, and the key benefit of its modest spec is that you can go virtually a whole week between charges.
Software & features
Like its hardware, the Polar Vantage M2’s UI is robustly utilitarian with the odd flourish.
The up and down navigation buttons will guide you through a series of watch faces, for which your chosen static time readout remains the only constant. The data around this will morph to show things like cardio load status, current heart rate, Nightly Recharge (essentially how well you’re sleeping), and everyday functions like media controls and a weather forecast. You can dive deeper into these by hitting the central enter/go button.
While I don’t have the means to compare the Polar Vantage M2’s heart rate tracking, I can confirm that it seems to be on point. The company has a history of being strong in this area, and its latest product is certainly very responsive when moving from sedentary to walking to running. I never felt that it was failing or providing a weird reading.
Polar’s FitSpark function is at the core of the Vantage M2 experience, just as it is with the Polar Ignite 2. It provides custom workout suggestions that improve over time as it learns more about you. The more you wear the watch while you’re working out, recovering, and sleeping, the more effective and appropriate the suggestions, which are provided through a dedicated watch face.
It’ll take a while for the watch to assemble all the necessary data, and you’ll need to wait several days for your sleep figures to even be factored in. Beyond that, you’ll need to provide the watch with a solid month of data to get things like your full cardio load status. This is a watch that really needs to be committed to over the long haul, which involves wearing it around the clock and fastidiously logging all of your activities.
Even if you’re not particularly proactive at seeking out FitSpark’s advice, the Polar Vantage M2 will provide you with a few welcome nudges. If you find yourself sitting static for too long during the day, you’ll receive a periodic reminder to get up and active. At the other end of the carrot/stick spectrum, you’ll receive a joyous intensifying rumble and an animated crescendo when you hit your daily exercise target.
The exercise tracking potential of the Polar Vantage M2 is similarly impressive. You can choose 20 different sport profiles to install on the watch at any one time from a vast list. As someone who prefers to get their exercise from ball sports wherever possible, being able to load up dedicated soccer and tennis profiles proved to be a massive bonus.
Conversely, given the dizzying range of options at your disposal here, I found the ability to remove unwanted fitness profiles to be extremely useful too. It cut down on unnecessary scrolling when I decided to pop out for an impromptu run of an evening.
There’s also a new FuelWise function here that enables you to set up smart reminders to take in carbs at appropriate points, which again is informed and refined by your previous workout data. Any device that actively encourages you to have a snack is alright by me.
You can start training at any point by hitting the back button, followed by the go button, then selecting the appropriate exercise profile. If you’re going for a run or some other route-based workout, you’ll want to wait for the GPS to lock in before selecting that profile, which can take a few seconds. Tapping the back button whilst underway will pause your workout, and holding the same button will manually stop it. You don’t have to log every exercise, so those occasions where you abort your run halfway can be quietly swept under the rug.
Talking of using those buttons, the new media playback controls work quite well in their own limited way. You won’t be able to load any music onto the Polar Vantage M2 itself, but the play/pause and track skip relays work well on both iOS and Android. You’d think Polar would make a more direct or explicit link to its podcasts, though.
Smartphone notifications also seem to work well here - in the case of Android, perhaps a little too well. Every last bleep and vibration from Google’s busy OS seemed to transmit to the watch, so a little notification triage might be in order from your phone’s general Settings menu if you intend to take advantage of the feature.
Apps & performance
In order to really maximise your time with the Polar Vantage M2, you’ll need to download the free accompanying Polar Flow app. I tested it out with several Android phones and an iPhone 12 mini, and the operation seemed similarly solid across all of them. There are also Polar Flow apps available for Mac OS and Windows.
Whatever the phone, however, I did find that the Polar Vantage M2 was a little slow in syncing up. Pressing and holding the back button to manually kick off the syncing procedure can take 30 seconds or so, depending on how long it’s been since you last did it.
The sheer level of often esoteric information that it bombards you with through the Polar Flow app may well flummox anyone new to the fitness game. While the process of setting the watch up is intuitive enough, and most of the tools will automatically do their thing in the background without your direct intervention, actually diving into and interpreting the Polar Vantage M2’s data can involve a bit of a learning process.
Polar does provide tutorials through the Flow app, but these aren’t handled very elegantly. Tapping on this option in the settings menu will boot you out to Polar’s support website, and what essentially amounts to an extended glossary. Some of these help sections contain useful videos, but all in all, I’d like to see better onboarding through the app itself.
My advice to the tech-savvy beginner would be to ignore this and to simply start using the watch as much as possible. As long as you’re properly signed up and linked in, all of the information will be feeding into the app, and patterns will soon begin to emerge. You’ll also notice that there are little ‘i’ buttons dotted around the app offering brief explainers and jargon busters to get you up and running. You might not fully understand every term, but you’ll hopefully grasp the gist.
Cut through the chatter and the Polar Flow app offers a fairly simple set-up and structure. The side menu offers access to your overall activity, your training status, your sleep quality, and your Nightly Recharge status; as well as access to the Polar blog, sports profiles, settings and the like.
It’s through the Polar Flow app that you’ll be able to review your runs, including the precise route that you took (assuming you were patient enough to wait for that GPS to engage). You can even use the Training tab as an exercise journal of sorts, and you’ll find that you’re frequently asked how you feel or how strenuous you found a particular workout. It’s entirely up to you how far you engage with this more personalised angle, and there’s still plenty to benefit from if you choose the bare minimum of interaction.
Perhaps appropriately, the Polar Flow app is a fitness tracking tool that rewards endeavour. Put the miles in and learn how to parse its extensive data sets and multicoloured graphs, and you’ll gain an unusually thorough understanding of your own fitness, from gauging whether you’ve had sufficient sleep to warrant a more intensive workout, to finding out if you should really be pushing yourself harder.
You can also use the Polar Flow app to connect with other fitness apps, such as MyFitnessPal, Strava, Nike+ Run Club, Komoot, and Google Fit. It’s pretty comprehensive.
Polar claims that you’ll get five days from a single charge of the Polar Vantage M2, which is an estimate based on the assumption that you’re going to be exercising quite a bit.
With my own moderate exercise habits - a few runs a week plus one or two games of five-a-side football - I was able to get through a whole week before I felt compelled to take it off and plug it in. This would suggest that Polar’s estimate is on the money, or even a little conservative for the more frequently activate audience it’s targeting here.
It’s worth pointing out that the Vantage M2 has a much larger battery than the more form-conscious Polar Ignite 2, at 230mAh versus 165mAh. This would appear to tally with our general experience across the two, where the chunkier Vantage M2 seems to have superior stamina.
When it comes time to recharge, the power is supplied through a bundled magnetic USB cable, though you’ll need to supply the brick part yourself. This shouldn’t be a problem, as any old regular USB plug will do.
Price & availability
The Polar Vantage M2 is out now, having been made available from 24 March.
It’s priced at £269/€299/US$299, which is about £70 more than the Polar Ignite 2.
In terms of its rivals, this price is £30 more than the Garmin Vivoactive 4/4S and £30 less than the Fitbit Sense - though the latter isn’t a true multisport watch.
Like its predecessor, the Polar Vantage M2 is a comprehensive multisport watch available for a reasonably low price. You get accurate heart rate tracking, sleep monitoring, and a whole host of fitness insights allied to a handful of useful smartwatch functions.
It’s ruggedly built and sufficiently easy on the eye to warrant being worn around the clock, which is precisely what Polar wants you to do given the extent of its insights. It has the potential to last a full week between charges too, which further adds to its potential as a 24/7 health and fitness aid.
The level of detailed information that Polar provides through its Polar Flow app is dauntingly extensive, and may well prove too much for casual runners and those simply looking for a little incentive to get more active. But if you’re looking for an extra level of feedback, such as the effect that sleep is having on your workouts, or what you need to do to kick your body to the next level based on your recent efforts, it’s a very accomplished option.
Polar Vantage M2: Specs
- 1.2in LCD screen, Resolution 240x240
- Always-on colour display
- Hard-coated PMMA laminated lens
- 130–210mm silicone strap
- A-GPS, GLONASS
- Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
- 230 mAh Li-pol battery
- Magnetic charging USB cable
- Typical usage – 30 hours of continuous training time
- Basic watch mode – 5 days
- Supports iOS 13.0 or above, Android ‘Varies with device’
- Waterproof 30m (ISO 22810, suitable for swimming)
- 46 x 46 x 12.5mm
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