Hands-on Gear Review

Polar Loop Review

Price:  $120 List | $39.95 at Amazon
Pros:  Great Heart Rate sensor
Cons:  Bulky strap and finicky setup
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   Polar

Our Verdict

The Polar Loop is Discontinued as of November 2015
The Polar Loop is this company's entry product into this field. As an activity tracker for day-to-day use it is remarkably unremarkable. Other companies have been at it much longer and deliver more polished products. However, as a hybrid day-to-day tracker and device for monitoring dedicated gym and running sessions, the Loop steps into a tighter niche and delivers a strong performance. In our review, the closest comparison is to the Garmin VivoFit 2. Both the Loop and the VivoFit monitor sleep, daily activity, and can be configured with a separate heart rate band to track dedicated training sessions. The Garmin, being a second generation product, is a little more polished, but the Polar is a viable alternative. If you are already a Polar user, or like the options they offer for upgrading and complementing the Loop, its drawbacks are easily forgiven.

Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Jediah Porter

Last Updated:
Friday
November 27, 2015

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With the Loop, mega fitness tracking company Polar validates the entire wrist-mounted step-counting tracker market. Polar has led the heart rate monitoring field for decades, and now enters the day-to-day fitness tracking market with their own heart rate sensing technology as an option.

Performance Comparison


Polar Loop and associated heart rate band. Polar has led the field in chest-band heart rate sensing for decades. The band that comes with the Loop is comfortable and effective.
Polar Loop and associated heart rate band. Polar has led the field in chest-band heart rate sensing for decades. The band that comes with the Loop is comfortable and effective.

Interface and Data Management


The Polar Flow online and app-based data management is robust and comprehensive. Polar has developed this platform for use with their dedicated athletic training tools and this shows. Unlike the more "lifestyle" focused data management of something like the Fitbit Charge HR or Jawbone UP3, the Polar is more numbers driven. Like the Connect platform used by the Top Pick Garmin VivoFit 2, the Polar Flow interface is clean and motivating for those with more strict athletic agendas. In our review, the Polar Loop and Garmin VivoFit are closest competitors, mainly because of their respective chest strap heart rate monitoring but also because of their compatibility with bigger, existing data management platforms.

Athletic training and recording of that training has always suffered a little bit from the difficulty inherent in quantifying non-training stressors. Outside of our gym and running workouts we also move around. There are other non-training stressors too, primarily stress- and psychology-related. These are even harder to quantify. With both the Polar and Garmin devices one can now complement the data gathered with dedicated training devices with day-to-day "non-training" information and organize it all in one place. If you use a Polar device for monitoring your running, swimming, or cycling, the Loop can be an excellent addition to your arsenal. Even if you don't yet train with a dedicated device, the Polar Loop is an excellent "entry level" product. You can monitor your sleep and daily activity, and add the heart rate belt for dedicated gym or running workouts.

The standard "home" screen on the Polar Flow app. The display takes a little decoding  but once one is familiar it is clear and efficient.
The standard "home" screen on the Polar Flow app. The display takes a little decoding, but once one is familiar it is clear and efficient.

In comparing these two close products, in terms of data management and interface, Garmin gets the nod primarily because of the VivoFit 2's "move bar" that shows up on the device when the wearer has been inactive for a set amount of time. The bar only disappears after the wearer has tallied enough activity. This single attribute is of great value to motivate even the most active desk worker. We love this feature of the Garmin, and that alone tips the balance in this metric away from the Polar.

Depth of Data


  • Sleep Tracking
Polar sets the Loop up to automatically switch into sleep mode as it senses your movement patterns shift accordingly. This is fast becoming the bare minimum of sleep tracking technology. Then, every device seems to process nocturnal movement in different ways with slightly different thresholds. In comparing one device to another, over the same night's sleep, the output can suggest quite different qualities of rest. However, in comparing one night to the next and long term trends all with the same device, comparisons are more apt. The Polar is no exception in this department. Once one is accustomed to interpreting the sleep data output, it is readily compared to other nights to gauge sleep quality.
  • Heart Rate
Only the Garmin VivoFit compares in Heart Rate data quality. In our test, three additional products monitor heart rate to some degree. These other three, including our Editors' Choice Fitbit Charge HR, all use optical, wrist-mounted sensors to extrapolate heart rate. This method is far less accurate and reliable than the chest band of the Polar Loop. It should come as no surprise that Polar, a heart rate monitoring specialist, would use the absolute best technology available. The only catch is that a chest strap is annoying and uncomfortable for sleep or day-to-day activity.

-Distance/Step Count
The Loop has satisfactory distance and step counting sensors, processing, and data display. Polar also emphasized activity data as a percentage of your goal. This may save some users some math throughout the day. Some find it easier to know that they're 75% done than that they have 2700 steps to go.

The step count  or any data  view on the Polar Loop is only available with a button push.
The step count, or any data, view on the Polar Loop is only available with a button push.

-User Entered Data
Polar and the Flow app mainly collect hard and fast activity and heart rate data. However, they also allow the user to make a simple, daily record of overall impression or overall mood. From a bank of cartoon faces the user can choose something that best represents his or her mood. Overall trends and correlations can then be deduced.

Accuracy, Durability, and Construction Quality


In assessing overall construction quality we examined step count accuracy, battery life, wrist-mounted security, and general physical integrity. In terms of accuracy, the Polar scored right in the middle of our tested devices. Of the award winning devices only the Misfit Shine is less accurate. The battery life on the Polar is consistent with that of the other rechargeable devices, requiring a recharge about once a week. It must be noted that the Garmin VivoFit 2 comes with a non-rechargeable battery that is claimed to last one whole year with no charging or changing. The Polar has a sort of expandable, somewhat "old-fashioned" clasp. It is mainly secure, but seems unnecessarily complicated and rigid. Again, the Garmin has a far cleaner and simpler wrist attachment. Finally, we had absolutely no failures of the construction of the Polar Loop.

The Polar Loop and associated charging cable. It is a nitpicky thing  but the cord that comes with the Loop doesn't need to be so long. All of the other rechargeable devices in our review came with cords a fraction of the length of the Loop.
The Polar Loop and associated charging cable. It is a nitpicky thing, but the cord that comes with the Loop doesn't need to be so long. All of the other rechargeable devices in our review came with cords a fraction of the length of the Loop.

Ease of Set-up and Use


In terms of the app and electronics, use and set up of the Polar Loop is fairly straightforward. We do have some feedback on the hardware setup and use. We found the initial band set up to be cumbersome and time consuming. In short, the user must cut the band permanently to achieve a satisfactory fit. Polar provides a tutorial and template. The template measurements aren't entirely accurate. Fortunately the error is biased to making the band too big, from which the user can simply cut the band further. This is committing, as once band is cut to a size, it will never be any bigger. Assembling the clasp in the process of initial set up is a little fiddly, requiring the manipulation of tiny springs and a special tool. Finally, in terms of hardware, the charging cable is very long. In travel and computer bags everywhere, cord proliferation is becoming more and more of a problem. All the other rechargeable devices in our test have cables less than six inches in length. This makes them far less obtrusive in a bag with other cables. The Polar is a few feet long and requires management.

Initial set up of the Polar Loop requires permanent modification of the band. If you cut it too short  it will always be too short. Set aside 45 minutes to figure it all out  and proceed cautiously.
Initial set up of the Polar Loop requires permanent modification of the band. If you cut it too short, it will always be too short. Set aside 45 minutes to figure it all out, and proceed cautiously.

Portability and Wearability


Once configured, the Polar seems mostly secure and clean. It is, however, quite rigid. The more flexible bands, especially that on the tiny Best Buy Misfit Shine are far more comfortable and unobtrusive. We wish the Polar was more compact. Close competitor Garmin VivoFit 2 is not the most compact device in our test, but it is far more flexible and compact than the Polar Loop.

Best Applications


The Polar Loop is a great tool for existing Polar fans to track their day-to-day activity. With the optional chest band it is a great entry to the Polar ecosystem of activity and athletic tracking.

In dedicated training  only the Garmin VivoFit 2 surpasses the Polar Loop. These two are set apart by their compatibility with chest strap heart rate monitors. Wrist-mounted heart rate sensors are convenient  but not nearly as accurate as a chest strap.
In dedicated training, only the Garmin VivoFit 2 surpasses the Polar Loop. These two are set apart by their compatibility with chest strap heart rate monitors. Wrist-mounted heart rate sensors are convenient, but not nearly as accurate as a chest strap.

Value


Without the heart rate band, the Loop is near the bottom of the price chart in this review. With the band, which is among the best in the business, the Polar Loop is the most expensive product we tested. If the attributes fit exactly what you need, the Loop could be great. If you are on the fence about this sort of Fitness Tracking, one of the less expensive products is probably a better bet.

Conclusion


The Polar Loop is a solid product. Its creation, coming from a long-standing, traditional manufacturer, is an endorsement of this category of product. If a company like Polar sees room to enter the market, it must be a viable product sector.
Jediah Porter


OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: November 27, 2015
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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