Image source: Polar

Review: Polar Loop 2 – a tracker that does the basics well

Polar Loop 2

7.3

Design

7.0/10

Ease of use

8.0/10

Use of information

7.0/10

Motivation

7.0/10

Pros

  • Stylish design
  • Customised fit to the individual
  • Designed for all day use
  • Excellent battery life

Cons

  • Display can't be seen under strong day light
  • No heart rate monitor
  • No GPS

 

Polar has been around for nearly half a century now. The company specialises in heart rate monitors, so it was only natural for it to move into health and fitness activity tracking.

Polar released its original 24/7 activity tracker the Polar Loop around two years ago.  The device plots your activity levels, tracks your sleep, and provides you with target goals that help boost your fitness. Now Polar has come out with version 2 of its band, featuring vibrating activity reminders and smart phone notifications for both iOS and Android devices.

Design
Ease of use
Use of information
Motivation
OverviewView technical specs

Design

Polar Loop 2 soft and flexible wristband is custom fit, very light and waterproof, so you can wear it all the time if you want to. There are two versions – a TPU and a silicon version. The changes from the original version are subtle – a thinner clasp and the removal of some grooves on the inside of the strap.

The device retains the old-school retro sporty feel and blends in unobtrusively with most casual outfits. You can easily forget you are wearing it. It’s not too dissimilar in size to the likes of the Fitbit Charge HR and Sony Smartband 2 but looks and feels chunkier.

The Loop 2 features a screen composed of 85 individually placed LED lights. The device makes use of its screen well, managing to deliver just the right amount of easy to read stats and updates. The display shines through the band, so it looks like a plain band when the display is off.  Sunlight legibility is, however, quite poor, especially with the white band.

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Image source: Polar
Loop has retained the original device’s controls. There is a single capacitive button that is used to control the Loop. The use of a virtual ‘touch’ button means there are no lumps or bumps on the tracker so it retains its smooth simple look. However, responsiveness is an issue, and you may find yourself making two or three attempts before the tracker registers a press. The controls are, however, more responsive compared to the original band.

When Loop 2 is first out of the box, you do need to put in some work and cut the band to size. The silicone is divided into marked sections, and you’ll need to cut it using a wrist sizing tape and scissors, and then try to put everything back together again. Polar also includes a small tool to pop the spring-loaded bars out of the clasp. You do need to make sure you get a good fit and the process is rather fiddly. But it is worth the hassle to get a perfect fit, although if you are not careful, you could render your device useless. So don’t get it wrong!

Polar also makes a heart rate monitor that is designed to work along with the Loop. This is something however that you need to purchase separately.

The device has a 38 mAh Li-pol battery inside that has enough juice for around eight days between charges. This is with 24/7 activity tracking and 1 hour per day training. The included USB charge/sync cable magnetically attaches when aligned properly. The device doesn’t actually show battery levels except when it is charging. However, when the LED screen is dim, you will know the battery is at around 20%. And you will get a message on the screen when its down to only 10%. The device needs only a few hours worth of charge time every few days so the battery life is quite decent.

The hardware is embedded within the thicker portion of the band, secured in place by four hex screws. This design allows for the activity tracker to be water-resistant to 20m, so it doesn’t need to be taken off in the shower or when you go for a swim.


Ease of use

Before you start using your device, you will need to use the proprietary USB cable included in the box, hook it to the band and your computer and install the Polar Flow software. You then enter your age, weight, height, and gender, along with a choice of activity level.

Below is a ‘get started’ video from Polar.

Polar will then set your activity targets according to your personal information. The Loop 2 tracks steps, calories burned, distance, sleep and automatically tracks your activity based on your movements. It knows when you’re standing, walking, running, or sleeping and can pick up on various sports and other calorie burning activities such as for example doing yard-work.

Sleep tracking is automatic, so rather conveniently there are no buttons to press to indicate you are about to bunk off. The mobile app will show you a breakdown of sleep in terms of restful and restless sleep as well as an overall sleep total. Sleep patterns are analysed using the Polar Flow app rather than on the band itself. The presence of a vibration motor allows idle alerts and silent alarms to be set. To turn off the alarm, long tap the Polar Loop 2 touch button.

The inclusion this time around of a vibration engine means the Loop 2 has the ability to provide notifications, enabling it to act as a smart notification centre for a connected iOS or Android phone. You can choose between a visual preview with vibrate, just vibrate, or you can choose to opt out altogether in order to preserve battery life or not be disturbed.

For incoming messages, the word MESSAGES flashes on the screen, while upcoming calendar events also show, with CALENDAR. The display only shows 4 and a half characters at a time which is not exactly ideal. For phone calls, the screen scrolls the name of the caller while continuously vibrating. If you miss or ignore the call, the Loop 2 repeats “missed call” and vibrates four times before stopping.

The app makes pairing a simple process. So long as Bluetooth is enabled, the tracker will periodically sync data regardless of whether the Polar Flow app is active or open. It will do this in short bursts throughout the day. The frequent syncing keeps the data up-to-date. Opening the app on your mobile device always triggers a hard sync right then and there. You can also sync manually if you choose to do so.


Use of information

Polar Loop tracks steps, distance, calories and sleep. As mentioned, there is no heart rate tracking, but the Loop pairs with an H7 heart rate sensor. By wearing a compatible Polar heart rate sensor with your Polar Loop, you’ll get more accurate information about your activities – especially non-step sports such as cycling – and also get heart rate training analysis.

The device features no GPS, so your distance measures are taken from movement sensors. This means they offer an approximation of your steps and distance covered, rather than a precise measurement. This is, however, the case with pretty much with the majority of fitness trackers today, as most do not include a GPS. Smart Calories are worked out based on the personal data you entered during setup and the intensity of activity.

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Loop 2 sets an activity goal for each day – based on more than just steps. This is a feature carried over from the original device. The goal is displayed on the device as a meter that gradually fills as you exercise. Loop 2 categorizes your activity with five intensity levels: resting, sitting, low, medium and high. The higher the intensity, the sooner you meet your goal. This means you get a more complete picture of your daily movement. You will get little updates throughout the day that tell you how much of a certain kind of activity you need to do to hit your daily goal.

The Loop 2 itself gives you a basic readout of your activity, calories, steps, and the time. You cycle through by tapping the capacitive touch button described above. The LED display automatically shuts off after a couple of seconds.

The phone app provides you with more details including your training diary and a host of charts and breakdowns. The mobile app offers more suggestions on what can be one to fill up the Activity bar. Polar Flow is a well built app that was designed to work with the company’s more sport-focused wearables. It now incorporates your Polar Loop data as well. For even more detail, head off to the online version. This includes more analysis options and a map where you can tap into the social aspect and review other people’s training sessions and leave comments if you choose to do so.


Motivation

Finding time for fitness can be challenging, but the Polar Loop 2 helps with motivating feedback and individual guidance. At the tap of a button, Loop 2 displays the time, your total steps, calories burned, daily activity goal and tips to reach it.

We like that the Loop 2 customizes a daily activity goal for you based on your personal settings and provides motivating feedback on how to reach it. The device also helps you stay active throughout the day with vibrating inactivity alerts. If you’re sitting longer than 55 minutes, Loop 2 will encourage you to move.


Overview

The verdict

The Polar Loop 2 is pretty much the original Loop with a few minor features added. The device is a simple activity tracker, that does what it was designed to do rather well. So as long as you’re up and moving, the activity tracker counts it all.

Having said that, although it has come down in price, the device is probably not the best value for money tracker that you can buy right now. The Loop 2 doesn’t do much more than any of the others in its field. It doesn’t include a heart rate monitor, GPS or an altimeter for tracking floors climbed. While there are smart notifications, they will not show you the content of the message or calendar event, just the notification. Also, the screen is rather basic. And there is the visibility problem under strong sunlight.

All in all, the Polar Activity Loop 2 is a decent, accurate activity tracker that delivers good results but it has some tough competition. For people who crave simplicity or if you are new to fitness tracking, this is a solid fitness tracking device that does the basics very well.

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Polar Loop 2
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Polar has recently come out with the A360 – its first fitness band with a built in heart-rate monitor. The device also features a full color TFT display with capacitive touchscreen.

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