Reviews

Polar Loop Activity Tracker

March 2, 2014

*There’s a new version of the Polar Loop. Read GadFit’s Polar Loop 2 review.

Polar has always had a special place in my heart. My first heart rate monitor was Polar. So was my second. When i eventually became a health education professional, i always leaned towards Polar products. These guys made heart rate monitors for a living and they’ve been the household “gold standard” for heart rate monitors since i was a kid.

loop unboxed

From L to R: Charging cable, Pin removal tool, Clasp pin, Polar Loop, Fitting instructions, Boxed Polar Loop.

With the emergence of so many fitness trackers, Polar became something that’s reserved for those who are serious about training; Ironman, Ultra marathon that sort of things. Imagine my excitement when i knew that Polar was throwing in the gauntlet and releasing a fitness tracker, the Polar Loop. Got my hands on one, been wearing it for a month plus now.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHZUVW_xMnY

LOOK AND FEEL

Polar Loop fitness tracker.

Polar Loop fitness tracker.

A tad too masculine for my liking. It’s also a pretty thick fitness tracking band. The screen screams DANGER. I’m thinking white LED wordings would do the trick but Polar went red for reasons i can’t fathom. The display is bright enough to be seen clearly in the day.

The clasp is similar to what you see on metal bracelet watches.

The clasp is similar to what you see on metal bracelet watches.

Despite the thickness, working on a laptop is actually not an issue. This in part has to do with the clasp which is almost watch-like in fit. The load is evenly spread out over a piece of stainless steel which forms part of the clasp.

Polar probably thought out the fit issues and the Polar Loop came pre-cut. You get the entire length of strap with instructions to size it to your wrist. It’s not rocket science but there’s this fear of over cutting.

Surface of the Polar Loop. The oval shaped print on the right is the main controller to toggle the display.

Surface of the Polar Loop. The oval shaped print on the right is the main controller to toggle the display.

You can toggle through the display with a button which is, i’m unsure of the right term to use, tapped or pressed. There’s no protrusion nor button, just a print on the band.  It took getting used to and i realised it’s easier to toggle the display when the Polar Loop was worn.

Polar has mentioned that the lack of responsiveness of the toggle button is likely due to poor band sizing rather than anything else. So make sure your Polar Loop fit well!

Proprietary charging cable

Proprietary magnetic charging cable. 

FUNCTIONS AND PRESENTATION OF DATA

Currently the Polar Loop works with both select iOS devices and Android smart phones with Android 4.3 or later. 

My Polar Loop synced with an iPhone 4S and a LG Nexus 5 with ease. The Polar Loop also syncs via Polar FlowSync programme on a Windows or Mac computer with a USB connector that doubles up as a charging cable.

Data presentation is functional but needs getting used to due to the sheer volume and potential, particularly on Polar Flow. Let’s take a loop at the web interface first. There are a total of 4 main tabs you can click on, “Feed”, “Explore”, “Diary”, “Progress”

explore

“Explore” display. The first screen you’ll see whenever you log in.

The web interface feeds you updates from people all over the world who uses Polar FlowSync. You can see them on the global map, click on their names, check out their workouts and even follow their training progress in detail. Literally, you can follow the route they’ve taken on the map and relive their workouts while sitting on your arm chairs. Knock yourself out.

Feed tab display

“Feed” display

The “Feed” tab summarises your workout with a connected heart rate sensor; the Polar H7 or H6. You can choose to have your workout shared with public, only to your followers or keeping it private.

Daily progress

Daily summary

The “Diary” tab allows you to see your progress daily, weekly or monthly. Now because the only items to fill up your daily progress is either workouts or inactivity, you’re going to get a lot of empty space. You could be walking, moving around, exercising and so on but as long as you’re not wearing a HRM, it’s not getting recorded.

Weekly summary

Weekly summary. A more informative view. Still a lot of empty space.

Monthly view

Monthly view, probably the most useful view to glance through the month’s workout and if you’ve hit your goals.

I found the monthly view the most useful. At a glance, I’ll know if I’ve hit my daily goals of 18000 steps (the blue bar at the bottom of each day). Also i can see how many workouts i’ve clocked (only while wearing a HRM). The inactivity alerts, represented by the orange triangle, sends a notification to my iOS devices when i have been inactive for an hour. I’ve missed the alert 100% of the time because i’m either at a meeting or i’m not near my phone. Polar should improve this feature.

progress HRM

“Progress” displays your tracked HR.

The “Progress” tab brings up a summary of your tracked workouts with a Polar H7 or H6 heart rate sensor.

HRM play

Analysis of training

You can also analyse your training by diving further into the data captured by Polar Loop and the H7 or H6 heart rate sensor. If you refer to the screen capture above, you’ll see the average HR, calories burnt based on my profile and duration. The HR chart is also displayed at the bottom. Polar Flow works with a multitude of Polar products so some of the the items like cadence, stride length, speed, are not tracked by Polar Loop.

Feed tab display.

Analysis of training II.

The 2 slider bars at the bottom allow you to zoom in on certain periods of your workout and Polar Flow will display the average HR and duration for the period you chose. In the screen capture above, the average HR for the entire workout is 145 but based on the period i chose (highlighted in pink) the average HR is 162. Might be useful for those who need to know if you’ve been working hard enough. In my case, i normally spend the first 10 minutes and last 5 minutes of any workout warming up and cooling down. This feature will prevent the skewing of average HR.

I would have loved to see the number of steps taken during the training period. Unfortunately that function is not available.

MOBILE APP DASHBOARD

Mobile app dashboard

Mobile app dashboard. The heart symbol indicates when a workout was clocked with a Polar H6 or H7. Tapping on the left screen brings up the right screen display that shows the total active time for the day. The categories at the bottom are colour coded and duration indicated. 

The app dashboard display is pie-chart like. Clicking on the pie chart will display the active duration for the day which by Polar’s category means anything that is bluish. There is a lot of information just looking at the app dashboard. Looking at the mobile screen capture above:

  • Slept from about 1130pm to 530pm.
  • was pretty active throughout the day
  • Had a Polar H7 heart rate sensor tracked workout at about 3pm
  • Did not wear the Polar Loopfrom about 830pm to 11pm.
Night and day. The mobile app display changes with the time of the day.

Night and day. The mobile app display changes with the time of the day.

The mobile dashboard also displays the time of the day in the background. It’s a cool trick but something you get used to after a while.

Weekly and Monthly summaries.

Weekly and monthly summaries. 

At a glance, you can view the weekly and monthly progress. If you see more blue, it’s a good sign. Strange that the Polar Loop display is frighteningly red but the app display is soothing blue.

HR chart on mobile app

HR chart on mobile app

I can also see the HR chart whenever i log a work out with the H7. Though useful, the training benefits advice is repetitive. So there’s a high chance i see the same advice day after day.

Summary and Sleep score.

Summary and Sleep score.

The Polar Loop also tracks sleep. There’s no button to push, tracking just commences automatically which is pretty impressive. I suspect the restful sleep score is merely the duration of restful sleep over the entire night’s sleep. As to what constitutes restful sleep, i have no idea.

FUNCTIONS

  • Steps
  • Time
  • Activity level and requirements to fill
  • Calories
  • Real time Heart rate monitoring and recording with H7 chest strap transmitter
  • Sleep tracking

The activity bar on the loop actually tells you how much more i have to “RUN” or “WALK” or “UP” to hit my target. Polar explained that UP means low intensity, WALK means medium intensity and RUN means high intensity.

If you’re thinking of getting the Polar Loop, you should seriously consider getting a H6 or H7 heart rate sensor.

Make sure you get yourself a Polar H7 or H6.

Make sure you get yourself a Polar H7 or H6.

ANYTHING ELSE?

The Polar Loop is waterproof. Although it does not track your swim strokes, your HR can still be captured with the Polar H7 heart rate sensor. Fancy a swim?

The Polar Loop is water-proof

The Polar Loop is water-proof.

water

Here I’ve worn my Polar H7 heart rate sensor and the Polar Loop is picked up my HR just fine. At this low HR, Polar Loop tells me i’m in my fat burning zone.

IN A NUTSHELL

Pros:

  • Decent step count accuracy
  • Waterproof
  • Decent battery life with advertised 5 days continuous use.
  • Pairs with H7, H6 heart rate sensor to track and record real time heart rate.
  • Calories based on profile
  • No pre-set sizing. User to determine fit.
  • Tells time.

Cons:

  • Proprietary charging cable
  • Red LED display not aesthetically pleasing
  • No Windows app as of publication
  • No weekly emails or achievement badges etc.
  • Inactivity alert easily missed.
  • No heart rate training zone functions.
  • Repetitive “advice”
  • No vibration
  • No GPS function
  • Battery level not indicated in mobile app. Only appears when Polar Loop is low on battery or when plugged into USB port

Given the wealth of experience that Polar has, i would assume the Polar Loop would be a full fledged heart rate monitor with activity tracking functions but it ended up a fitness tracker with heart rate tracking capability. There seem to be that lack of synergy in the tracked data. For example, i would love to know how many steps i clocked when i’m engaged in a work out with the heart rate monitor. Maybe even indication of HR zones.

If you’re into heart rate training zones training, skip the Polar Loop and go for a dedicated HRM; something that shows if you’re in zone. Or even dedicated GPS, again something that does not require you to bring your phone when you go for you ultra runs. M

Make sure you get a H7 or H6 chest strap. In my opinion, that’s the most important function of the Polar Loop over other fitness trackers.

It's a good day.

It’s a good day.

I still wear the Polar Loop occasionally when i’m going for my runs but there’s just not enough to draw me to wear it 24/7. Polar has a dedicated Polar Loop website if you would like to know more.

Listed price: $109.95

Colours: Smokey Black, Blackcurrant, Misty Blue.

loop_three_colors copy

From L to R: Blackcurrant, Smokey Black, Misty Blue.

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