I’ve been asked this question so many times I figured I’d dedicated the first “Versus” series in my blog to Polar and Garmin, both whom released their respective in house optical heart rate activity trackers for the first time in history. So here goes, Polar A360 versus Garmin Vivosmart HR. Let the battle begin!
Heart Rate Measurements
Both devices were compared against the Polar H7 on seperate occasions and here are the HR graphs. The Garmin Vivosmart HR does not read HR every second.
The exported data from Garmin Connect shows that the Vivosmart HR reads heart rate ranging from once per second to once every two seconds and even up to once per seven seconds during exercise tracking. The Polar A360 samples HR once per second.
In terms of optical heart rate measurement accuracy, I can’t say for sure which is the more accurate of the 2 but I can dare say both devices provide very good estimates of heart rate during activity tracking.
You can scrutinise the 2 heart rate graphs above and see which is the one you can live with. Presently, neither Polar nor Garmin has come out to lay claim that their heart rate measurements are ECG standard.Personally I’m more leaned towards the Polar A360 simply because HR sampling is done once every second throughout activity tracking.
24/7 Heart Rate Measurements
Vivosmart HR’s stats display during activity tracking can be customised and the orientation set to vertical or horizontal.Polar’s TFT coloured display is gorgeous under low and normal lighting but though readable, was a stretch under bright sun light. Display stats can be chosen and there are a few watch faces to choose form.
During the review, both units lasted about 5 days with smart notifications switched on and about 30 minutes of activity worth of activity tracking daily.
Polar has indicated that the A360 is able to go up to 2 weeks if smart notification is switched off. Similarly for Garmin Vivosmart HR, I believe it could’ve lasted much longer had I switched off the 24/7 HR monitoring and smart notifications.The Polar A360 charges from a micro USB port which makes it really convenient to find another of such cable should you lose the one that comes with the tracker.
The Vivosmart HR utilises a proprietary charging cable so if that is damaged or lost, you’ll have to purchase another.
New exchangeable strap options for the Polar A360 will arrive in 2016. The tracker unit is removable so down the road, there might be alternative straps from 3rd party accessory vendors as well.The Vivosmart HR is built into the strap and there are only 3 colours to choose from; black, blue or purple.
The Polar A360 is water resistant to 30m while the Garmin Vivosmart HR is water resistant to 5 ATM or the equivalent of 50m.
You are able to read and expand smart notifications on the Vivosmart HR though this function works erratically based on my personal experience with the tracker.Smart notifications on the Polar A360 are truncated and there are no options to expand and access full messages.
Phone calls can be picked up from both devices though you’ll need a smart phone to answer or return messages.
Transmission of HR data to other devices
Polar A360 is compatible with Polar Club but it does not transmit HR data to other devices or 3rd party apps for now. It’s a pity because this feature would have been great. Basis was able to do it with the Peak fitness watch so one can only wonder why Polar is not enabling this function.
Garmin’s Vivosmart HR broadcasts HR data via ANT+ to compatible Garmin devices such as Edge or VIRB action cameras.
24/7 Activity Tracking
Polar’s smart coach offers advice on how to meet the target for the day while Garmin’s Vivosmart HR counters with additional tracked metrics like floors climbed and all-day heart rate. When it comes to idle alerts, both Polar (55 minutes) and Garmin (1 hour) have their vibration alerts that informs the user to get up and move after prolonged sitting .Garmin’s mobile app is filled to the brim with tons of information while Polar’s tried and tested (unchanged) mobile app interface keeps things concise.
While the Polar A360 versus Garmin Vivosmart HR key features have been discussed, I thought I’d also cover unique features from both devices.
The Polar A360 is able to receive HR readings from compatible chest strap HR monitors such as the Polar H7 Smart Bluetooth HR monitor. Once paired, it will receive readings from the chest strap and the device becomes a screen on the wrist. With the Polar H7, the A360 can also administer fitness tests and eventually provide a fitness score using Polar’s OwnIndex. Like the Garmin Vivosmart HR, Polar’s A360 received an update in April 2016 hat allowed it to estimate distance and pace based on the in built accelerometer.
Garmin’s Vivosmart HR utilises the accelerometer to estimate distance during tracked runs. While the accuracy is about 10-15% based on my own reviews, I figured this was better than nothing for a GPS-less device. You can also use the Garmin Vivosmart HR as a remote control to play music on the connected smart phone device or VIRB action cameras.Both devices wear comfortably and have straps that are slightly stretchable; the Garmin Vivosmart HR more so that the Polar A360.
Polar A360 versus Garmin Vivosmart HR Verdict
While some of you would likely pick the Polar A360 due to the per second HR sampling, you’ll have to understand that HR readings from a chest strap HRM is still the gold standard to beat during multi fitness activities. What optical heart rate sensors are trying to do is merely chase that elusive standard. In my opinion, both A360 and Vivosmart HR are indicative of the high quality of activity trackers we can expect in 2016.
As a recreational runner whose workouts are mainly outdoors, both devices hardly meet my needs. The device I have in mind is something the likes of Garmin’s Forerunner 235. If Polar releases an optical heart rate enabled M400, I would seriously consider that too. Between these 2 devices, I’m personally leaned towards the Garmin Vivosmart HR.
Before you decide on either, you’ll also have to ask yourself if the multitude of features in Garmin Vivosmart HR are of any use to you at all or whether Polar’s A360 per second HR sampling can justify the price tag given it doesn’t transmit HR data to 3rd party devices or apps unlike a Scosche Rhythm+ or a Polar H7. What type of activities would you be tracking? Most importantly, would you be willing to put in a bit more money for GPS capabilities?
If you need more details, you can check out the in depth reviews of both devices on my blog. Thanks for reading!