Review: Polar H10, a more comfortable and accurate heart rate chest strap

Polar has recently announced global availability of its new H10 chest strap. Originally demoed at CES 2017, the new product is an updated version of the company’s best selling H7 heart rate monitor.

Most people who exercise will tell you they want to lose weight or simply get fitter. Not many people, however, know what their heart rate is, or where it really should be. This means that often, they are not training in the most efficient way to achieve their goals.

A heart rate monitor can help you stay in tune with the particular needs of your body. This is especially important if you want to push yourself. Too much exercise such as long bouts of cardio, can do more harm than good—particularly to your heart.

Essential reading: Best heart rate training chest straps

But should you be looking for a chest strap or an optical wrist monitor? There are pros and cons to each type of sensor. The current trend may be to move heart-rate monitoring away from the chest, but despite the added convenience, accuracy at the wrist is still questionable. Particularly for high intensity workouts.

If you are very serious about heart rate training, a chest rate strap is still the way to go. It may be somewhat uncomfortable, but you’ll get the best results.

Polar says with the H10, heart rate monitoring is more accurate than ever. I’ve been testing their new chest strap over the past 10 days. Here is what I made of it.

Design
Features and software
Overview

View technical specs


Design

Just like its predecessor, the H10 chest strap is made of a soft fabric that seamlessly adapts to your body shape and is comfortable to wear. There are two sizes to choose from, M-XXL and XS-S.

There is now a new buckle mechanism and silicone ‘slip-preventing’ dots that help keep everything firmly in place during training. The buckle is perhaps a bit tricky to figure out, but along with the rubber dots, it does a fine job in preventing slippage. Measuring 4″ x 1.3″ x 7″, the H10 pod also sports a slightly smaller body and a more modern shape compared to the H7.

The heart rate sensor connects with dual Bluetooth Low Energy v4.2 (SMART) and analog signals to your fitness app or training device. It allows you to monitor your real-time heart rate while you train, review and analyze it during or after workouts. Polar H10 plays nice with all Polar watches and trackers that use Bluetooth to transfer data. You can also pair it with many smartphones, compatible gym equipment and Polar cycling computers such as the new M460.

The H10 provides advanced heart rate monitoring and features an entirely new measuring algorithm. Accuracy is the name of the game here. Polar has built into the strap interference-preventing electrodes that help ensure it captures a clearer heart rate signal.

The H10 also now provides an hour’s worth of internal memory. Built-in storage is something we’ve seen on some of the Wahoo TICKR series devices and Garmin’s HRM-TRI strap, but not on a Polar device. Memory can be handy in situations where you want to leave your phone behind when you go for your training session, for example when swimming, playing soccer or tennis.

Other improvements include GoPro compatibility so you can overlay your heart rate data onto recorded video and over-the-air firmware updates. It also comes with double the battery life – up to 400 hours, which is 16 days of non-stop usage if you are planning an extra long training session…

The CR2025 coin-cell battery can be found in the back of the pod. Its easily replaceable by popping off the little hatch with a screwdriver or scissors. I took the battery out when testing the device and ran into a few problems getting the chest strap to pair again. Thankfully, after a few unsuccessful tries it managed to connect.

Finally, the device is waterproof down to 30 metres so you can rest assured it will survive any swimming session. 


Features and software

To use the strap, start by moistening the electrode area. Wrap it around your chest making sure it fits snuggly, attach the pod and you’ll find the H10 is ready for action. The chest strap is compatible with many fitness apps. I hooked it up to the excellent Polar Beat so its best to keep that in mind when reading the rest of this review.

To work with Polar Beat it is recommended that you register your details with the app or, if you have one, open your existing account. Alternatively, you can open the app without signing in. The benefit of registering is that you get access to the Polar’s web platform which provides more detailed feedback on your training sessions.

Polar Beat’s Smart Coaching feature provides motivating feedback, calculates your smart calories based on personal height, weight, age and max HR and measures your aerobic fitness. You can choose from around 20 different sports ranging from badminton to downhill skiing, rowing, squash and walking.

Polar Beat’s settings allow you to toggle between metric and imperial measures, turn voice guidance on or off and connect to a stride sensor. You can also connect to Apple Health to automatically share your heart rate and workout data.

The improved electrodes make Polar H10 the most accurate heart rate sensor in the company’s history. Now, I can’t really vouch for that as its beyond the scope of this blog to test a device to that degree of accuracy, so lets take Polar’s word there. Its predecessor, the H7, is widely considered to be one of the most accurate heart rate chest straps.

The H10 helps you determine whether your sweat session was a fat burning exercise or an overall improvement of your general fitness. When you train, you don’t burn just fat calories – your body burns glucose as well. If you are looking to burn fat, the trick is to train in a way where you are burning the most amount of fat calories possible. To burn the largest amount of fat calories, you need to work out in zones 2-3 for the majority of your work outs. To move your Anaerobic Threshold up and improve cardiovascular endurance you need to train in zones 4-5 a couple of times a week.

Want to work on speed? Pick up the pace. Looking to blast fat? Ease up to drop back into your “Fat Burn” zone. The Polar Beat app makes this very easy and its all presented in simple to understand charts. And most importantly, its all in real time allowing you to adjust your pace. At the end of the workout you’ll be asked if you would like to have the session saved or deleted. You will also receive a short summary of your training effort.

Essential reading: Heart rate zone training with wearables

Heart rate zone training is where heart rate chest straps really come into their own. Even though tracking workout intensity from the wrist is more popular, it is best to assume that at high intensity activity most fitness trackers dish out ballpark estimates of activity levels. Its also worth noting, even if faulty readings from the wrist occur only once in a while, they can still be dangerous because they can cause people to overexert themselves while believing that their pulse is normal.

If you are not a fan of working out with your phone, the H10 can track your training session without your phone on you. Just start a training session in the app, leave your phone waiting and get going. The sensor stops recording your heart rate when you remove the pod from the strap.

The tracker can only store one heart rate training session at a time so you need to remember to sync before you begin the next session. This is done by re-attaching the pod when you are in the vicinity of your smartphone. This will allow it to pair and automatically transfer the data. Having tried this a couple of times, the process worked seamlessly for me. How useful this actually is, its difficult to say. But its a nice option to have in any case.

This video does a nice job explaining it.

 

Polar H10 also works with compatible gym equipment and many other Bluetooth devices. For example, in my local gym I would pair the chest strap with Polar Beat, and the Technogym equipment would automatically pick up and connect to the H10. It surely beats gripping the handle bars on your exercise machine to measure your heart rate.

As mentioned, the tracker is also swim-proof. Thanks to the 5 kHz transmission you can monitor your heart rate even in water but you do need to be connected to a compatible Polar watch. Alternatively, data can be saved on the internal memory for transfer later on.

Finally as the device supports concurrent connections, users can link the Polar H10 heart rate sensor to GoPro HERO4 and HERO5 cameras (and your watch/cycling computer at the same time) via Bluetooth 4.2 and overlay heart rate data directly onto videos. I have not tried this out but the feature has the potential to enhance experience for adventurers.


Overview

Summary

If you want a reliable heart-rate monitor and can live with strapping onto your chest, the H10 is now one of the best options out there.

It takes all the features of the best selling H7 and slaps on better accuracy, an improved non-slip design, the ability to use on two devices concurrently and on-board memory. And lets not forget the water resistance with live data for compatible devices. Link all this to the Polar Beat iOS/Android app, and you suddenly have a coach guiding you during your workouts in real-time making sure you are in the correct heart rate zone to achieve your goals.

Polar H10
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Polar is sitting on a winner here. If you already own the H7, unless you want better accuracy, there is probably not enough of a bump in features to justify an upgrade. If you are in the market for a chest strap for the first time, or if your existing device is nearing the end of its useful existence, the H10 is a great option.

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2 Comments on "Review: Polar H10, a more comfortable and accurate heart rate chest strap"

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ChrisO
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Really awesome article! Very helpful. I’m most interesting in zone alarms for HR zone training. After pairing the H10 with the Polar Beat App is it possible to receive audible alarms if you begin exercising outside of a manually set HR target zone? If I’m listening to music on my iphone (earbuds) will I receive an alarm if I am training outside of my target zone? Much thanks for any clarification you could provide. Again, really helpful article.

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