Presently there are 3 prominent optical HR solutions on the market; Polar OH1, Wahoo TICKR FIT and Scosche Rhythm 24. The Scosche option will only ship in April 2018 so in the mean time, I thought I’d skip a detailed review of the TICKR FIT and do comparison of Wahoo and Polar’s optical HR sensors which may prove more useful for you.
First up, some quick specs comparison. The main difference between the two pieces of optical HR sensors essentially boils down to ANT+ availability, battery duration, water resistant levels, and on board storage.
Here’s a convenient summary for reference. Both devices are priced just a hair below $80.
With 30m water resistant and 4 MB on board storage, the Polar OH1 is practically swim safe and functions independently without the need to be tethered to a mobile device. But it’s hampered by a relatively short battery life of just 12 hours; still mighty long in my opinion.
Users who require ANT+ compatibility would balk at the Polar OH1’s bare-bone Bluetooth Smart connectivity.
The Wahoo TICKR FIT features strongly in terms of wireless connectivity with both Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ so you can easily connect it to compatible mobile apps or wearables such as the Forerunner 935.
It also trumps the Polar OH1 with a hefty 30 hours battery life. Unfortunately a conservative water resistant level of just 5 feet might not bode well for water based activities.
Furthermore, it also lacks on board storage and requires tethering to a compatible mobile device.
No clear winner so far. Now for the optical HR sensor performance.
The optical HR sensors from both Wahoo and Polar were pit them against my trusty Polar H10 chest strap heart rate monitor. And rather than place all 3 recorded HR graphs on a single graph chart which I personally found messy, I would plot a H10 against the OH1 on a single chart followed by the TICKR FIT against H10 on another chart for an identical workout. In this manner, you can see the differences more clearly.
There are 2 activities I have in mind, strength training and intervals (run); both of which will prove challenging for optical HR sensors based on my personal experience with other wearables.
I’m skipping the long runs since optical HR sensors have almost always performed decently in that aspect. But I may add that in the future.
For strength training, I would go about my gym program with the Wahoo TICKR FIT strapped on my left forearm and the Polar OH1 strapped to my left upper arm.
These are the exercises I completed in this order for 12 reps per exercise. For this test, a total of 3 sets was completed ending off with a drop set hammer curl.
- Romanian deadlift
- Dumbbell hammer curl
- Weighted Reverse lunges
- Dumbbell single arm row
- Dumbbell shoulder press
- Tricep pull down
- Push ups
- Seated row
And this is the HR graph as recorded by the Wahoo TICKR FIT (Blue), Polar OH1 (Green), and Polar H10. (Red) All colour coded for ease of reference.
It’s always a challenge for optical HR sensors when it comes to strength training. But I’m impressed with Polar’s OH1 performance. In fact, it’s the single device I use for strength training since chest strap HR monitors can get in the way of bench presses.
The fact that the Wahoo TICKR FIT was worn on the forearm may have a huge part to play in the erratic readings, especially during strength training.
I have to stress the above HR graphs is based on own experience and your mileage may vary.
The next comparison was done on a 200m up slope with the down slope used as recovery. A short warm up of about 1km was completed before the hills intervals commenced.
The graph above should be a good indication how far optical HR sensors have come. Polar’s OH1 graph seemed smoother compared to Wahoo’s HR graph with the latter sporting wiggly peaks.
Nevertheless, both devices performed closely to that as measured by a chest strap HR monitor. Sure there’s the erratic peaks now and then but for a chest strap free experience, the trade-off is basically negligible for the bulk of us.
Wahoo TICKR FIT or Polar OH1 ?
I’ve regularly had great performance from Polar’s standalone optical HR sensor and suspect it will likely remain so for a while. That being said, it all boils down to the individual’s needs and requirements when it comes to choosing a standalone optical HR sensor.
In terms of HR measurement performance, both wearables offer a more than decent alternative to wrist based optical HR sensors and chest straps.
The sufficient water resistant rating also means both devices should weather your sweatiest workouts or the occasional workout in the rain. That being said, it also means the Wahoo TICKR FIT should not be used for swim type activities while the Polar OH1 shouldn’t have any issues with that.
Personally I’m more inclined towards the Polar OH1 for the following reasons:
- I have little use for ANT+ compatibility on a daily basis
- Polar OH1 has on board storage which is important to me
- I can start a workout on Polar OH1 without a wearable for my strength training; those of you who bench will know the issue of wearing chest strap HR monitors.
The other reason why I’d prefer the OH1 personally is because it can be worn on the upper arm where my sleeve can conceal it. I’m frankly not a fan of strapping any wearable to my forearm during my workouts.
The Wahoo TICKR FIT will prove more useful for those with ANT+ compatibility needs (such as cycling computers) and are looking to upgrade from the Scosche Rhythm +.
You can purchase both the Wahoo TICKR FIT and Polar OH1 optical HR sensors from Amazon where there’s usually a small discount, great return policy, and free delivery depending on where you reside. In return your purchase helps to offset the costs associated with the running of this site. Would love to hear your views in the comments section.