Vantage V Update

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.

29 Comments

  1. Really nothing to add 🙁 , my Vantage is sold and there is lot of used ones now in an Austrian second hand online shop called “willhaben”, if someone likes to get pissed …

    And there’s more from me and others in your forum on this topic: https://the5krunner.com/forum/showthread.php?tid=21

    • That’s not my forum it’s TFK’s 🙂 it’s a very useful resource though since Polar closed theirs down and stopped interacting (listening) with their customers. Forums are something Garmin are gradually learning to exploit for quality purposes it’s a shame Polar went the other way. Don’t get me wrong, Garmin still ignore a lot on their forums but they are getting there. Then look at Wahoo whenever DCRainmaker posts about them, full interaction with every comment.
      Sorry for the rant! Some of these companies make customer support look so hard and it just isn’t

      • I’m really sorry for my mistake, I’m switching browser tab’s too often…

        • Haha it’s OK, it’s great to have a link to them in the comments here so people can find them. I have too many tabs open too 🙂

  2. As usual. Garmin Sponsored. I have this watch and I was running many times and biking, too. If the worst watch on the market (for GPS) wins against a better watch, big fail.

    • Not Garmin sponsored at all. I buy all these with my own money and have complained at length about Garmin in the past. You didn’t mention swimming or treadmill runs, have you tested this watch as thoroughly as I have? Different sized pools indoors and out on every sport? Have you tried both wrists? I’ve done all of these things with all my watches so I feel I’m in some position to make a judgement. I also showed the evidence that Flow tampered with my data today after upload. That’s unforgivable and I won’t apologise for pulling Polar up on it.

    • I have had a lot of (GPS)-watches, and the GPS of the Vantage is pretty good (not as good as the V800, which is still one of the best if not THE best, followed in my opinion by the Suunto Ambit 2 Peak – I never had the Ambit 3 series). I have had the Vantage V and the software is actually crap for swimming. The OHR is as good or bad as the ones from Suunto and Garmin. But Polar should better test their devices before sending them into the wild. As soon as there are major updates to this thing, I’ll try it again, but until then, I’ll keep my fingers away from it. At the moment I’m trying a Suunto 9, GPS is worse that Vantage, no matter if Glonass is on or off, but at least the data is correct. OHR is worse than Vantage, on the same level like Garmin…

      • I’ve got to agree, coming from the RC3 GPS I was annoyed by the Garmin GPS which is to this day worse. I’ve come to realise though that it’s not a huge problem. It may not always get which side of the street I’m on but close enough, and the maps we use aren’t accurate anyway. Ask a cartographer what they think about Google Maps if you want a laugh. Better, ask Google what projection their system uses. Simple truth is their projection is actually borking as many maps into their squares as they can, any way they can. That’s nnot cartography but it’s close enough for most purposes and really has changed the world. But not for accuracy.
        Garmin GPS is only bad for instant running pace in the big picture, and we have other toys to help there!

        • Yep. And for instant pace I switch to a foot pod. BTW: Which device shows REALLY instant pace? On Garmin with the 1s pace CIQ datafield, it did look good, but for Polar and Suunto I’m not that sure…

    • Sorry, that’s just not true. (I’m no Garmin fanboy btw).
      Lusty has been one of those who jumped the “let’s bash Garmin” bandwagon quite often. Without wanting to be offensive: even too often in my opinion.
      I don’t own a Vantage, so I can’t comment if the watch is ok or not ok.

  3. “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.”

    hopefully you’d accept that I said negative things…and positive things. As I state in the review I do get affiliate revenues if you buy from my partners – interestingly there have been virtually zero returns in the USA, althugh there were cancellations because of later delivery from Polar. Hopefully that lack of returns was because everyone was happy with the pros and cons as i laid them out.

    in defence of dcrainmaker (the blogger you are probably referring to) he often puts out full reviews a few months after launch. And he says he has been ill recently. He could totally slate a product and would still get the PR samples next time round. ‘cos people want PR.

    Keep up the good work

    PS Strava changes your data all the time 😉

    • It’s not Strava that changed here it’s Polar. As I said, the watch had the Strava number at the point I hit save and on the review screen.
      I think Ray is probably waiting for the December firmware, he has a history of giving companies a chance to fix before review. Hopefully December update will sort out the Vantage; polar need to be more open about updates and timelines. Another great thing about the Garmin forum is the betas are very interactive and open usually.
      I’m not sure I’ve read your detailed review yet but you’re usually quite balanced.
      I think a lot of people defending Polar have yet to push the device. It’s winter in the northern hemisphere after all. Even I may not have noticed all the issues had it not been for my holiday and the awesome pool facilities. And running. And cycling. And drinking (it’s my birthday so please nobody comment for a few hours or you’ll get drunk ramblings back!)

      • As TFK noted, I’d loved to have this review out a month ago, but things don’t go the way I wanted. As noted, I was sick the vast majority of November. One can easily look at my Strava profile to see that. Or just look at how little I posted in November about much of anything. Your call.

        In the last 10 days, I wasn’t waiting for any particular firmware, rather, just waiting to have enough recent data to ensure the opinions I’ve formed during my Sept/Oct testing were still valid. I’ve got the December firmware update on it as of a couple hours ago, so we’ll see (though, it doesn’t appear to address GPS accuracy issues based on the notes I have).

        • I’m guessing that’s pre-release at the moment as I can’t see the December update yet. I certainly wasn’t being negative about the lack of review, I think it’s a good thing that you sometimes work with vendors to get things right. Hope you’re feeling better now and looking forward to your review. I don’t see accuracy issues so much as completely random behaviour. Sometimes it works great and sometimes it just doesn’t do GPS at all and sometimes it records GPS on a pool swim. I’m very much hoping it improves though as I love the device and interface I just don’t trust it yet enough to leave the Garmin at home.

  4. I like my Vantage V. The best watch ever. I have no problems at all. Ok. I must not change my wrist every day 😂💪

    • Yes that would work. Unless you need to run indoors and outdoors. Then you’ll find these bugs more frustrating. But it does appear that if you get your settings right and then factory reset and never change anything you might be ok. Of course, even cursory testing would have revealed these issues so who is to say what else lurks within the code. Did they test the HR or recovery algorithms with more rigour? Let’s hope so.

  5. I can only comment on Vantage M, not V. It is also a mixed bag. My findings after a few weeks are:

    – OHR is the best so far for resting HR (last firmware solved the spiking problem). No watch got this right for me so far, including FR935, VA3, M430 and several Fitbits. Since I’m spending more time non-training than training, this is a biggie for me.
    – OHR sometimes underreports HR for running type activities. So I’m back to a chest belt again. Sigh. I hope they get it fixed.
    – Cardio load works great after about 3 weeks. Much better information and in-app-guidance than FR935’s Firstbeat Training Load feature. Since there is no Training Effect feature on Vantage M, a real-time Cardio Load data field would be very welcome.
    – Not so sure about Muscle Load and Perceived Load feature, though. But at least the Vantage M is one of the cheapest current watches with native Running Power support (I’m looking at your quirky and unflexible data field solution, Garmin).
    – Separate resting HR for sleeping and awake time is great and works fine like on M430.
    – I didn’t have any major quirks yet. But still the Vantage M feels like an unfinished product in too many ways (data-sparse interface, missing features)

    • Agree the load data settled after a few weeks. You need to keep using the watch all the time though and for that it needs to not be buggy. My recovery data is borked for the month now due to shoddy run and swim sessions so the value has disappeared from that one overnight. As I’ve hopefully put forwards the Vantage would be my favourite platform by a long way if it worked/when it works. I’m more annoyed that Polar seems indifferent to quality I think. I tried to help them with info and got very poor support/response. That suggests this is v800 all over again. Great concept but execution fail. If they would listen and take feedback, integrate with customers, iterate and fix bugs then maybe. I see no signs of that sadly. Like watching a really slow car crash. We can see it; the driver can see it; nobody has hit the brakes though

  6. “Firstly, don’t change data. Ever. Just don’t. You’ll go bankrupt with that sort of crap.”
    just sayin’ strava probably changes every upload you make with gps. eg elevation

    • Strava isn’t the original copy and they have good reason to standardise data which is used for comparison of people not personal training. It’s a fine line but Strava are the right side of it.

  7. Garmin forum is a big win (They’re not afraid to surface issues even despite the huge selection bias) as is their app ecosystem. It caters for fitness and general outdoors stuff. All I get from Polar Vantage is very specific (and unproven) running stats.
    GPS accuracy, well the 5+ has given me some very good results and some middling, nothing really bad yet. Suunto….sort out the app(s) please

    • Haha yes Suunto need to ditch the new app it just creates unnecessary confusion and adds almost nothing I can see.

  8. I’ having problemswith the gpsdata from the vantage v. The gps graph seems to be ok but it doen’t start counting distance untill minute 9-10 of any running activity.
    After claiming Polar Care, they answered me that they know this issue and will launch an unpdate between this or next week.
    I like the watch, and in my case compared with the suunto 9 and forerunner 935, the ohr is better. The gps data is regular not too diferent from suunto or garmin…but the lack of functionalities and reliability will make me switch to other device.

  9. Thanks for a very interesting read.

    My trusty Garmin 630 didn’t like being taking into a pool with a cracked screen and has died in a big way. So im looking for a replacement…

    I’m not a big athlete, only do a few runs a week. No swimming and really only use my wahoo turbo. But i do run ultras and considering a 70+ mile one this year (along with a host of smaller other ultras). Running is my thing even if im crap at it (a busted lung tends to do that).

    I need reliable, accurate, durable and a decent battery. I also like data.|

    My choice boiled down to Suunto Baro 9 but discounted it due to the software environment being poor. I like fenix 5+ but probably has way to many fatures taht ill never use. The other was the Polar Vantage V. Having read DC Rainmakers review’s and the 5krunner’s, i knew there were some issues with the Vantage but this update discussed here and the other commentators have left me in a state of ‘aragghhh!!!’.

    How hard is it for companies to produce something that works and does it well.

    Thanks for the info and throwing me back into the ‘dont know what i want to get now’ sea.

    • Yes it’s a complex one. The Forerunner 935 is a good trusty device for reasonable money. Not sure on battery for your big runs but otherwise it’s great. The Vantage has quirks which stop me recommending it. If these were fixed I’d say it will suit you well given your activities. You did say reliable so that’s a no there right now. I’ve yet to see huge problems from Suunto. The 9 reportedly has GPS quirks, but the Spartan Trainer I have is great for what it does and very reliable.

  10. What a bad article. I‘m using my Vantage everyday. It works like a charm. Ok. I do not change wrists and so on. Ok there must be some bugs. But that’s not the point.
    In normal use cases it works very good.
    Payed by garmin?

    • You may not agree with it, but that doesn’t make it a bad article. The reality is that lots of people are having these same issues as demonstrated here and on the TFK forums among other places. As I said in another comment, some of the bugs require that you do more with your watch than a daily run to spot them.

  11. I own a Polar vantage M and do crossfit. Having tested the watch for running, cycling and swimming the watch works great for these sports which is Polar’s core sports they are historically aiming at. However the vantage watches are aimed at ALL athletes across 130 sports. Note their heavy marketing material focues on crossfit guys also hence I thought I would ditch my fitbit versa after 4 months and buy this. Mistake. The OHR is very in accurate for many crossfit movements, assault bike, burpees, wall balls and thus any other exercises combined with these exercise. Polar sent me a H10 chest strap to track the data on the strap vs the vantage M and it confirmed that the strap for instance would show my HR around 170/180 whilst the watch would hover around 130/140 so way over 40 beats off. For the assault bike workouts the OHR on the watch hovers around 119 beats, yet the strap shows it around 170+ which means all the training load data is completely in accurate. In fairness to Polar they have sent out a replacement watch but the results are the same. Polar have confirmed they have other complaints from other regions on the accuracy of the vantage M on an assault bike. They appreciated the testing but said that the M must be used with the H10 for some crossfit activities. Polar agreed that they did not advertise the watch like this (that you have to buy a H10 also) but also said whilst future releases may improve the OHR accuracy they cannot guarantee if or when it would be fixed. Im still deciding what to do in terms of returning but whats disappointing is that Polar advertised the watch as a crossfit watch per the vidoes, but in actual fact it CANNOT track some of the exercises OHR and they cannot even say if or when they will look at a fix. Disappointing. If you do crossfit – don’t buy this watch unless you wear a H10.

    • It’s not just during exercise. Do an orthostatic test and you’ll see the huge jump in HR value when it swaps to the H10. And that’s when lying on a bed!

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