The Polar Loop is Polar’s entry into the activity tracking market aimed at those looking to track their all-day steps, calories and sleep data. Given Polar’s extensive history and experience in heart-rate tracking it’s no surprise that the Loop also has the ability to pair with a heart rate sensor to double up as a very compact tool for capturing full fitness data.
The ability to connect to a both a heart rate strap and a smartphone (via Bluetooth Smart) takes the Loop into territory currently only occupied by Garmin’s Vivofit and Vivosmart devices.
Polar Loop Review – Opening the Box
I really liked the box and the way it displayed the compact nature of the device in such a well designed package.
Depending on the size of your letter box, this is possibly even a package that would fit through the door rather than having to bother your neighbour or take a trip to the local sorting office for collection after work!
As you can see from the short YouTube clip, it’s a one time only box. Once it’s open it’s open, so be sure this is the device for you before pulling the tab as (and as you’ll see from reading on) once you’ve taken the journey to getting it on the wrist, there’s no turning back.
Inside you’ll find the Polar Loop device, a USB charging lead and a peculiar ‘blow fish’ looking, stainless steel device!
The instruction card soon demonstrates that you’re going to need the blow fish and a pair of scissors to get busy with your own custom fit of the band (see below).
The simplicity of the band and the display makes the device extremely appealing. The two chrome strips contrast beautify with the touch button and also the brushed steel clasp. As the display is only illuminated when touched, the band on its own sits neatly on the wrist without really advertising to the world that you’re wearing an advanced activity tracker.
The charging port sits neatly behind the band in a very compact ‘pod’. Unlike Garmin’s Vivofit the pod contained in the Polar Loop is designed to remain in the band permanently. You’ll notice from the specifications written on the pod that as well as benefiting from Bluetooth Smart device is also water-resistant to 20 metres.
This is how the USB charging cable connects to the device. The other end can be connected to your computer and/or other USB charging devices.
Although it feels slightly wrong to put a pair of scissors to a brand new electrical device, the instructions guide you through the process with relative ease.
First you’ll cut part of the instruction card to form a flexible measure for your wrist. As you can see for the picture below, mine measured 4 & 5 meaning that I was to identify four lines on one side the band and 5 on the other before making the incisions.
Once you have this data you can use the blow fish to pop out the pins from each end of the clasp to leave you with two open ends ready for trimming. The cutting lines can be seen in the picture below as the lines directly over each row of three dimples. Either side of each row of dimples is small hole through the full width of the band to house the clasp pins.
I found that the margin for error on the cutting is quite small, so be sure to cut directly on the line!
After you’ve finished the cutting you’ll use the blow fish to re-attach the pins to the clasp and you should be ready to go. I say ‘should’ as I was a little cautious with my measurements and had to repeat the process with another cut to get the correct fit. It’s best to take that approach as, had it been the other way (i.e. too short), there would have been no way to correct it.
Once I found the adjustment, I was very happy with the fit from both a comfort and a security perspective. I’ve worn the Loop non stop for 4 weeks without any marks to the wrist nor any accidental unclasping. I looks pretty good too!
If you have not owned a one of the newer Polar Devices operating on Polar Flow (i.e a Loop, V800 or M400) you will need to download the Polar FlowSync Software and also create a new profile in Polar Flow. Here’s a little walk through the procedure you need if you have a Mac (The PC/Widows procedure will be similar).
First, make your way over to the Polar FlowSync webpage where you should be presented with an opening screen with a link to download ‘Polar FlowSync’ under the heading ‘Set Up’ (see the middle of the screen shot below).
Next you will be walked through a few screens starting and finishing here.
Following the initial software installation you will be redirected automatically to Polar Flow to either log in or create your Polar account. This process will also assist you with the automatic registration of your device, which will also enable you to determine your product setting. The details required here will be your personal metrics (i.e. age, weight, height etc.) and also whether you are going to wear the Loop on your left or right hand.
You will also be prompted to update the device with any firmware releases which will be preformed whilst syncing the data you have just entered. As you can see from the screenshot here, the process can take 5 – 10 minutes. A notification will appear once the process is finished.
After completing this step it’s best to leave the device connected until it reaches a 100% battery charge.
At this point you can get the loop on your wrist and… well… walk about!
All of the images in this review so far have seen the Polar Loop without its red display. To see the visual data you need simply to touch the loop button, which is more of a touch ‘area’ than an actual button to depress. By activating the display you can then continue to touch the button to scroll through to the data you wish to see. As you reach each a title screen i.e. ‘step’ you will then release the button at which point the display will fade downwards to show the number of steps.
At the time this picture was taken I had walked 2077 steps.
The same principle applies to calories. Just keep pressing the button until you see the word ‘cals’ and the display will then show the number of calories for your combined activity so far that day.
Wearing the polar loop means you can also do away with your watch as it does also display the correct time.
Having said that the time may not always be there at a glance as you will need to reactivate the display in order to find out the time function.
A useful feature of the Loop is that it will assist you in reaching your daily activity goal. Scroll along to the title screen ‘active’ and the loop will provide a prediction of the amount of activity still required.
This is achieved by telling you how much walking you may need to do before the end of the day.
In the example here I was being told to walk for 1 hour and 52 minutes if I want to reach my goal.
The loop will also tell you how long you would have to jog for (instead of walking) to reach the goal. Based on the data for this particular day, I would have needed to jog for 49 minutes.
The combined daily features are very simple and easy to access direct from the wrist. If you need to know how many steps you’ve travelled or calories consumed, it’s there at the touch of a button. It’s an added bonus that calculation is provided to inform you the additional activity required to meet the daily goal.
The Polar Loop does differ from other activity trackers (particularly Garmin Vivofit) as it does not provide an on-screen alert if you have been inactive too long. Having said that, however, inactivity alerts are accessible once the data is synchronised with Polar Flow (see below).
Data transfer from the Loop to Polar Flow can be undertaken by one of two methods. Firstly, just plug in the charging cable from the Loop to your computer and Flowsync will open automatically to synchronise the data. This will also double up as a method for charging the Loop should the battery be running low.
The second option and probably the more convenient when you’re on the on the go, is to synchronise directly with your smartphone. The screenshot below demonstrates perfectly how to connect with an iOS (i.e. Apple) smartphone.
Once you have synchronised the data it will be available in Polar Flow whithin both the desktop and app versions.
I’ve already provided a fairly detailed write-up of Polar Flow as part of the review of the Polar V800 Multisports Watch. Much of what is said in that review will apply here to the general workings of Polar Flow from the activity tracking side. I did notice, however, was that as soon as I registered my Polar Loop the addition of a daily percentage could be found at the bottom of each day in the ‘diary view’. As you can see from the screenshot below, on certain days I have exceeded the activity target (particularly when I have also combined that day with exercise) whilst on other days, I have fallen short. This is a useful function as it allows you to analyse the days and patterns during the week/month where inactivity occurs. By the most part it seems my inactivity occurs when I have been working full days at my desk, telling me that I could do with standing up and walking around more or taking a few more breaks.
If you drill down into a particular day you will see a view like the one below. I put in a pretty heavy bike ride late morning but was then told off for being inactive later in the afternoon!
If you scroll to the bottom of the page you will find a pie chart showing the activity overview together with a summary of steps, calories and sleep analysis. This section at the bottom of the page is where most of the useful information is in terms of activity tracking. I particularly like the 24-hour “360 view” as it enables you to look back through the day. You’ll also see that the sleep is broken down into “restful” sleep and “restless” sleep.
Smartphone App (iOS)
Looking now at the mobile app, this is the view you will see for daily activity. This pie chart represents a complete day and is the same day as the one above in the desktop view. The same daily goal status applies – I’ve done particularly well on this day achieving 550%. N.B. This is down to a long cycle ride rather than steps alone.
Scrolling down within the app you get a further summary of the amount of steps and calories etc. Where you see the small red triangle at the bottom right-hand corner of a summary you can touch that area to reveal further detail.
All-in-all the Polar Flow app is extremely comprehensive in the amount of data displayed. I like the user interface and that it can be updated extremely quickly via connection from the Loop to a smartphone via Bluetooth.
If there is only one thing lacking from the data analysis its the inability to sync the data with MyFitnesPal to see full calorie input (i.e eating) and output data. This is only a minor thing though as if (like me) you use both, it is not difficult to switch between apps on your smartphone etc.
Heart Rate Capture
Pairing the loop with a heart rate strap is as simple as bringing the Loop into range with a compatible device whilst it is active on your chest. In my case I used the polar H7 Bluetooth heart rate strap that came with the Polar V800.
The display in beats per minute (BPM) is very clear on the screen. You’ll know it’s active by seeing the heart symbol pulse slightly and the BPM adjust in real time.
Whilst walking around or during low-level activity the Loop will tell you that you are in ‘fat burn’ mode. It is quite amusing that the two words are split and fade in over two separate displays!
Below is a screenshot from the desktop version of Polar Flow showing an activity I completed using the loop as my main method for heart rate capture. I thought that I’d perform a long gym session with a mix of cardio and strength work as this is possibly the kind of workout that a gym goer might use with the Polar Loop.
Based on what I was doing that day the heart rate capture looks entirely consistent with what I would expect. It’s a very detailed analysis back in Polar Flow.
Accuracy & Comparisons
I’ve worn the Polar Loop literally non-stop, 27/7 for 4 weeks leading up to this review. Also on the same wrist, I’ve worn the Garmin Vivofit in order to make direct daily comparison for steps and calories counted. Granted, the two devices will use different algorithms for each function, but its interesting to see how the devices perform benchmarked against each other on the same human being.
Here’s a table of the results for 7 days I chose for comparison.
I was pretty blown away (and it is testament to both devices) that the steps data was consistently within 150 or so steps over each 24 hour period. You’ll see that the Vivofit was always showing slightly more steps but then a lower rate for calories. As mentioned above, this will be down to the algorithms used and it is not possible to know which one is entirely correct (unless I counted each of my steps manually!). The fact that they are both within similar ranges is a good assessment.
Battery Life & Water Resistance
From the day I put the Loop on my wrist I did not have to take it off to charge for a further 5 days. That cycle seems to be about consistent for my unit which I’ve been fairly happy with, particularly as the charging time is only about an hour.
There’s not too much to say about the water resistance other than it works really well. On the time it’s been on my wrist I must have swam at least 15 times and showered everyday. No issues at all.
The loop has an impressive list of functions both on the wrist and back in Polar Flow. From wearing it non-stop for a month I’ve not encountered any issues whatsoever and it has been comfortable throughout. Comfort alone is an important factor, particularly for a device that is also designed to analyse your sleep (and therefore be worn constantly). The data is accurate and the user interface on the both on the Loop and in Polar Flow is intuitive. Whilst on the wrist you have access to the steps and calories already travelled/consumed and also some guidance on how to meet your daily goal. I would have liked to have seen a prompt here and there for inactivity on the Loop itself but this can be easily found after syncing with your smartphone. Other than that, it’s pretty much ideal as a wrist worn activity tracker.
- Interaction with Polar Flow
- Bluetooth data transfer
- No inactivity alerts on device
- Cannot sync with MyFitnesPal
Polar has achieved something pretty impressive with the loop. It really does do what it says on the tin and performs consistently 24/7. Steps and calorie information are at your figure tips at any given point with vast amounts of further detail available in Polar Flow. The ability to pair with a heart rate monitor is a huge benefit, particularly for those looking to use the Loop as a gym partner to understand their heart rate data in an all in one device. If you want to track activity you can’t go far wrong with Loop particularly at its current price point. I would also say that it’s one of the best looking activity trackers available today.
I want my reviews to be as independent as possible. On that basis, I thought a link to Amazon would provide the most impartial method of you looking at other user comments should you be considering a purchase.