[HEALTH TECH] Polar Loop 2 REVIEW

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Following our reviews of Fitbit and Misfit offerings in the wearable fitness tracker market we have now had the opportunity to test and provide our views on the Polar Loop 2.

Build & Appearance

The build quality of the Polar Loop 2 reflects the usual high quality performance look and feel that users have come to expect from Polar over the past 39 years, with Polar celebrating their 40th year in 2017.The look of the Polar Loop 2 seems to have taken a great deal of its appearance from the Nike+ Fuel Band which went out of production a long time ago. An interesting thing about this comparison is that the Polar Loop 2 display is made up of 17 x 5 red LEDs compared to a more impressive 20 x 5 white LEDs with ambient light sensing along with 20 coloured LEDs to provide quick goal progress on the Nike+ Fuel Band. Where the Nike+ Fuel Band had a physical press button to interact with the screen, the Polar Loop 2 has a more advanced and tactile touch sensor.

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The metal clasp, closure mechanism on the Polar Loop 2 is more secure than the press shut or buckle mechanisms on other trackers, but comes at a price as the Polar Loop 2 has to be cut to size before you can start wearing it. Although we used the wrist measurement fitting ruler provided within the quick start guide we had to trim the band a little further as the advised size felt a little loose. Even though the intent of the Polar Loop 2 is to make you healthier by tracking your activities, initial trimming to size is a high stress activity as one miss cut and the Polar Loop 2 becomes a paperweight as it will no longer fit. We would advise trimming as per the guidance rule and then trimming one increment on alternating sides at a time for best fit.

After wearing the Polar Loop 2 for a short time we found that the internal edges of the clasp design can dig into the wrist slightly when the hand is flexed up or when the arm is rested on a surface such that the clasp is between the wrist and surface.

Functionality

As with most fitness activity trackers the Polar Loop 2 uses an internal 3-axis accelerometer to track changes in direction of movement which, thanks to the Polar proprietary firmware algorithm, is equated to activity, calories and steps

Activity

The main positive of the Polar Loop 2 is the activity calculation as things are simplified for the user, displaying a fuel tank showing percentage progress towards the user selected daily activity goal, followed by textural information on the duration of jogging, walking or general activity remaining to achieve the goal. This is the main differentiator for the Polar Loop 2 when compared with other trackers from the likes of Fitbit or Misfit.

  • Low Intensity: Standing work, light household chores and other light activities.
  • Medium Intensity: Walking and other moderate activities.
  • High Intensity: Jogging, running and other intense activities.

The Fitbit product range is primarily focussed on step count, comparing user’s steps with other users to creating step comparison charts between friends, whilst the Misfit product range counts steps, but focusses on ‘Activity’ reporting the remaining duration of ‘Activity’ (Walking, Running, Swimming) required to achieve the user’s chosen Activity goal. The difference between the Misfit focus and that of the Polar is that the Polar Loop 2 focuses on three different activity levels

  • Level 1: If your day includes only a little sports and a lot of sitting, commuting by car or public transport and so on.
    • Low Intensity: 7 hrs 19 mins
    • Medium Intensity: 2 hrs 12 mins
    • High Intensity: 0 hrs 58 mins
  • Level 2: If you spend most of your day on your feet, perhaps due to the type of work you do or your daily chores.
    • Low Intensity: 9 hrs 19 mins
    • Medium Intensity: 2 hrs 48 mins
    • High Intensity: 1 hrs 14 mins
  • Level 3: If your work is physically demanding, you’re into sports or otherwise tend to be on the move and active.
    • Low Intensity: 11 hrs 19 mins
    • Medium Intensity: 3 hrs 24 mins
    • High Intensity: 1 hrs 29 mins

Recorded activity is then broken down into resting, sitting, standing, walking and running.

Calories

Calories relates to calories burnt and is a calculation based on the amount of movement recorded by the accelerometers inside the Polar Loop 2. The movement, or steps, and time between steps is used to calculate activity intensity which is the base for the calorie burn calculation.

Steps

Steps are the basic measurement unit for the movement recorded by the accelerometers inside the Polar Loop 2.

Notifications

In addition to the fitness/movement sensing provided by the Polar Loop 2, it also provides wrist based notifications of phone calls and messages for iOS and Android devices. Although notifications are nice to have we prefer to leave them turned off as battery life is greatly reduced by having this functionality turned on. It is the difference between having permanent Bluetooth connection and low energy ad-hoc Bluetooth LTE connection.

Alarms

As with a number of competing product, the Polar Loop 2 incorporates a small vibration motor, providing a near silent alarm for the wearer. From within the mobile app a daily morning alarm can be set, along with a vibration prompt when you have not moved sufficiently for a period of time. A nice touch with the morning alarms is that, even though the Polar Loop 2 only shows the time and not date the alarm can be set to repeat either every day or only on workdays (Monday to Friday), letting you sleep in at weekends. The only thing missing is the ability to have multiple alarms and separate weekday and weekend alarms.

Mobile App

Rather than just providing the standard measurement trending information along with goal progress provided by other services, Polar add exercise type and duration suggestions along with progress summaries based on the previous day, week or month. In our experience, the post workout analysis information Is second to none providing advice based on the levels of activity recorded over the selected period.

Finally, the Polar Flow app links to Google Fit on Android devices, and Apple Health on iOS devices, enabling collation of data from multiple fitness, health and weight tracking services via the Google Fit hub, which cannot be said for Fitbit although this functionality was recently added by Misfit.

Conclusion

Although we would ideally like to see activity type selection and HRM (Heart Rate Monitoring), these functionalities normally come with higher end products. When we compare the Polar Loop 2 with other devices in the same price range the £89.50 price tag places it in direct competition with the likes of the Fitbit Charge, whilst providing training plans and post tracking analysis rather than statistics. The only note we would make with this comparison is that with a little hunting you could pocket yourself with a Fitbit Charge HR with the inclusion of constant HRM sensing for few extra pennies.

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Verdict

Pros

  • Waterproof
  • Tracks heartrate over Bluetooth LTE from Polar HRM Chest Strap
  • Flight mode settable from tracker (turns Bluetooth LTE sync off) sync over USB
  • Provides activity guidance and training profiles with mobile app.
  • Notification and Alarm functionality

Cons

  • No integrated heartrate tracking
  • Limited data displayed on device
  • No inactivity alarm
  • Only one manually settable alarm (morning alarm)

Scores

Build & Appearance

Build and appearance is high end with the closure clasp and chrome detailing and solid feel. The only real negative is that the clasp can dig into the wrist.

Functionality

Although the Polar Loop 2 has no integrated heart rate monitoring, it is a base end model within the Polar range and as a result does not have the functionality provided in the higher end products. When linked to the Polar Flow app and website you gain post analysis and training plans.

Affordability

With an £89.50 price tag the Polar Loop 2 provides good value for money competing directly with the Fitbit Charge, whilst providing training plans and post tracking analysis rather than statistics.

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