Today I was going to post a response about hardware integration to the recent comments on the site. I was going to explain how hard it is to integrate hardware as complex as LTE into a platform. Oh well, mañana as they say here (that’s Spanish for dreckly for those from more civilised parts).
Instead I’m bringing you another update about the Vantage V. You may have noticed that I’m not really a reviewer. I don’t monetise the site either, and I certainly don’t get freebies to test from manufactures. As such, my Vantage V cost me £499. You take my £499 and I’ll hold you accountable. If the December update doesn’t fix this I’m getting a refund since this device DOES NOT do what is advertised. This is a lot of money. I also recently spent £949 on a Fenix 5 Plus despite already having the Fenix 5. This is a ton of money. I’m not particularly upset by the Fenix purchase. Eventually I’ll sell the old Fenix 5, of course, but the Fenix 5 Plus is definitely giving me value for money so far. I no longer need to take my trusty iPod Shuffle with me. I also no longer have a headphone wire hitting me in the face/chest as I run. What surprised me the most was how happy I was to see a map behind my trail. I don’t use it to navigate, or have not so far, but it has certainly added some value. These are available more cheaply, of course, but I like the metal band for work and the sapphire screen is oleophobic as well as more scratch resistant meaning it’s easier to keep clean and shiny. I like clean and shiny 🙂 As any reader will know, I am not a Garmin fan and constantly complain about their stuff. There are things that drive me crazy which would take one of their engineers an afternoon to fix. Most of these are no longer blockers though, the platform mostly just works and at the very least I do trust it.
So to the Polar. I don’t trust this device. I do trust the M430, that’s a solid little performer and has yet to let me down. The Vantage V though is like a game of roulette. I bought it knowing it was unfinished. I have no beef with the lack of features, and what’s there is certainly enough to make most people happy. There’s a lot of complaining on the web about missing this or lack of that, but ultimately those people are box tickers. Often reviewers will note the lack of a feature simply for lack of anything more productive to say. You see, it’s hard to fill a review when you can’t say bad things. Anyone who has genuinely tested this device will need to say bad things. A very popular blog has been notably absent from detailed reviews so far in spite of always having one ready at launch. He hasn’t been busy, he’s probably just listening to his mum’s advise “if you haven’t got anything nice to say…” as well as protecting the ability to get future review units.
Initially the Vantage seemed fine. A swim was very accurate indeed in a 25m pool and having not changed settings. A run on the treadmill was similar. Then I changed some settings including which wrist I wore it on. Things did not remain good. One treadmill run inexplicably enabled GPS despite recording as a treadmill run. A swim gave such nonsense I couldn’t even work out what had happened. I changed to 50m while on holiday and got somehow even worse data. I restarted. I reset settings. I swapped wrists. I went for a run and it decided that today we would stay at 0.00km until I noticed and restarted the watch.
All the while my Fenix recorded the fun accurately and properly.
You know what made me finally decide to write this post telling you in no uncertain terms to not buy this watch? I need to feel trust. I’ve publicly spoken out against derived numbers for a long time. If you didn’t measure it, you don’t have data you have numbers. “Running power” is one such thing which makes me want to fight the inventor. It’s not a real thing. It’s not measuring power, and some pretty simple tests prove this. So what did Polar do today? Let’s take a look…
Strava shows the same thing my watch did when I finished. 1517m. In a 50m pool. Awesome. I’m quick, but an average of 47s/100m over 1517m is not my pace. César Cielo, the current 100m world record holder only managed 46.91s for his 100m, and I’m pretty darn sure he didn’t then carry on for another 1417m, arbitrarily stopping 17m into a length and climbing out nowhere near a ladder. This isn’t even my main gripe about this activity (btw, my Garmin had only recorded 300m at this point).
In case you’ve forgotten the start of the previous paragraph, let me quote it for you “Strava shows the same thing my watch did“. Yes, when I stopped the activity, the watch showed a summary of 1517m. So did Flow briefly, and certainly long enough to transfer the data to Strava. And then Polar arsed about with the numbers. NOT OK POLAR. You can’t just mess about after the fact. If your instrument measures some BS figure, you can’t later decide to change it. And if you’re going to change it, don’t change it to 2.2km in 11 minutes IN A POOL. I am furious about this. It’s my data, the Polar Flow platform shouldn’t even be capable of changing it let alone actively doing so. How am I supposed to trust a system where the numbers may change at any time? How would a coach trust this, or successfully train an athlete with numbers that change?
These are all software issues, there’s no doubt about that. But there is also a HUGE attitude issue from Polar here; more than one in fact. Firstly, don’t change data. Ever. Just don’t. You’ll go bankrupt with that sort of crap. Secondly, when a customer who paid for your unfinished device contacts support with data showing software issues do not under any circumstances brush them off with a “reset your device”. You need their information to determine if there is an issue, and under what circumstances that issue occurs. Sometimes that customer may work in IT and understand troubleshooting. Sometimes they may be on your side and trying to help you.
FWIW if anyone reading this is unfortunate enough to have a Vantage watch, it seems you can avert some issues with the following procedure:
- Set all settings correctly
- Sync the watch
- Start an activity, select the correct one you want to do
- Stop the activity and discard
- Restart the watch
- Start the activity
- Save the activity
With this procedure I seem to get almost normal results. I do have to do it before every activity though. Realistically I’ve just put the Vantage V in my suitcase and reverted to my Garmin – I’m in the fortunate position that I can choose to do that.