If you are a runner or are into multi-sports, a Garmin or a Polar smartwatch is a great option. The companies are doing a splendid job at refreshing their offering on a regular basis.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
The highest spec device in the Garmin Forerunner line is now the 945. Released last year, it comes with a plethora of updates over the 935 such as on-board storage for music, Garmin Pay, navigational mapping, a pulse oximeter, more performance metrics, new heart rate model, extra battery life and more.
The Polar Vantage V2 is no slouch either. The second generation device overflows with fitness and wellness features. The company says this is its most advanced sports watch to date.
Both the Forerunner 945 and Vantage V2 are geared towards the serious fitness enthusiast. If you’re in two minds on which of these is right for you, read on for a run-down of their differences.
Garmin Forerunner 945 vs Polar Vantage V2: General and design
When it come to looks, these are two very similar animals. They are both round and come with a 1.2 inch (30.4 mm) diameter screen. Vantage V2 comes with a full aluminium case and comfortable silicone wristbands. The Garmin watch sticks to a fiber-reinforced polymer design.
Vantage V2 has an edge in terms of navigation. While both watches come with 5 physical buttons, you can also use the touch-display on the Polar device to find your way around its menus.
In terms of dimensions and weight, the two are nearly identical. Both have a diameter of 47mm with Garmin being slightly thicker, 13.7 mm vs 13mm. Only a couple of grams separate them in weight. Polar has managed to make its watch much lighter compared to the first generation.
An important difference in design is to do with the display. The Garmin watch has an always-on, sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) screen which works well in all conditions. The Polar watch has an always on, color LCD touchscreen display which tends to lose some visibility in bright, sunny conditions.
Battery life is fairly similar at around 40 hours with GPS and continuous heart rate switched on. However Garmin is much better in smartwatch mode. It will keep ticking for up to two weeks, which is twice as much as the Polar. Vantage V2 does come with an option to extend GPS mode by reducing the sampling rate. Tweak this setting and you can squeeze up to 100 hours with GPS switched on.
In terms of water-resistance, any of these watches will suffice. The Garmin is good to depths down to 50 meters. This is more than enough for most people. If not, Vantage V2 offers 100 meters resistance.
On to the sensors.
The Forerunner 945 and Vantage V2 share lots under the hood. They both come with an altimeter, accelerometer, heart rate, barometer and gyroscope. The main difference is that the Forerunner also comes with a pulse oximeter which tracks your blood oxygen levels automatically during the night, and on-demand during the day.
Other than that, the Garmin watch comes with built-in storage for music for up to 1,000 songs, contactless payments and WiFi connectivity. You won’t find any of these on the Polar device. But you do get the ability to control smartphone music.
Here’s a table illustrating the design differences between the Forerunner 945 and Vantage V2. We also threw in the Vantage M, which is the budget version of Polar’s high-end sports watch.
|Forerunner 945||Vantage V2||Vantage M|
|Lens material||Corning Gorilla Glass DX||Corning Gorilla Glass 3||PMMA Lens|
|Case material||fiber-reinforced polymer||Aluminium case||stainless steel bezel, fiber reinforced polymer case|
|Physical size||47 x 47 x 13.7 mm||47 x 47 x 13 mm||46 x 46 x 12.5 mm|
|Display type||Sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)||Always on, color LCD touchscreen display.||Always on color LCD display.|
|Input type||5 physical buttons||Touchscreen + 5 physical buttons||5 physical buttons|
|Display size||1.2″ (30.4 mm) diameter||1.2″ (30.4 mm) diameter||1.2″ (30.4 mm) diameter|
|Display resolution||240 x 240 pixels||240 x 240 pixels||240 x 240 pixels|
|Weight||50 g||52 g||45 g|
|Battery life (base model)||Smartwatch Mode: Up to 2 weeks
GPS mode with music: Up to 10 hours
GPS mode without music: Up to 36 hours
|up to 40 h in training mode (GPS and wrist-based heart rate). Watch mode with heart rat: up to 7 days. 100 hours with power saving options.||up to 30 h in training mode (GPS and wrist-based heart rate). Watch mode with heart rate: up to 5 days.|
|Water rating||50 meters||100 meters||30 meters|
|Sensors||GPS/GLONASS/GALILEO, barometric altimeter, compass, accelerometer, gyroscope, thermometer, heart rate, Pulse OX||GPS/GLONASS/GALILEO, accelerometer, heart rate, barometer, ambient light sensor (ALS), compass||GPS/GLONASS/GALILEO, altimeter, accelerometer, heart rate, barometer, gyroscope, ambient light|
|Music Storage||Up to 1,000 songs||No (only smartphone music control)||No|
Garmin Forerunner 945 vs Polar Vantage V2: Activity tracking features
Most people who are looking to buy one of these two watches are serious about training. The good news is, whatever sport you are into they’ll have you covered. This info dished out will keep even the biggest data geeks busy. In fact, the host of performance and physiological metrics are too extensive to do a detailed comparison here. So lets delve right into the main advantages of each.
Both of these watches come with upgraded heart rate monitors. The 945 with the new ELEVATE heart rate module, Vantage with Polar Precision Prime which fuses three different methods to improve heart rate tracking. Both watches will also track heart rate under water. While top of the line for wrist-based fitness devices, the readings are not however chest strap quality.
Some runners purchase the Vantage V2 because of a metric called Running Power. This is a single digit that accounts for terrain, form, and fatigue and tells you how hard to move. It helps you tweak your pace allowing you to go strong without hitting the wall. The 945 can also measure this but it requires an external sensor such as Stryd. Vantage V does all the calculations natively from the wrist, no need to connect it to any sensors.
The Polar device is also better at assessing your readiness to train. Its Training Load is more comprehensive than Garmin’s because it combines muscular load, perceived load and cardiovascular load into a single number that lets you know how hard you are working out.
In addition to this, Polar has Nightly Recharge, Sleep Plus Stages and Serene to the Vantage V. Arguably the most interesting of the lot is Nightly Recharge. This is an overnight recovery measurement that shows how well your autonomic nervous system calms down during the early hours of sleep. The info is tied in with your daily activity stats to let you know whether to take a days rest, train as usual or push harder. You even get raw data on heart rate variability, beat-to-beat interval average and breathing rate.
The Garmin is no slouch either. The Forerunner’s list of performance metrics is quite long and includes: Anaerobic Training Effect, Real-Time Performance Condition, Calories Burned, Training Load, Tgraining Status, Training Load Balance, Workout Labels, Recovery Time Advisor, Quick Stress Level Test, All-day Stress & Recovery, Heat and Altitude Acclimatization, Body Resources, Race Predictor and Respiration Rate.
Some of Garmin’s advantages include the Pulse Ox sensor which you will not find on Vantage, longer battery life and support for maps. Garmin also has a more comprehensive software platform although some prefer the zone/color coded reporting and layout of Polar Flow. The 945 should be better at syncing with the app as it can also tap into a WiFi signal.
Garmin Forerunner 945 vs Polar Vantage V2: The bottom line
These are both high-end fitness smartwatches that offer some of the most comprehensive fitness tracking around. Which ever you choose, it will have you covered 24/7.
In terms of looks, the two are very similar. The Polar watch has a more premium metal design with touch-screen functionality that holds up to all manner of daily use and bashing around.
In terms of activity stats and performance metrics, both have plenty to offer. With Nightly Recharge you can use Vantage V2 to view your heart rate variability and readiness to train. This makes its recovery metrics much more useful. Plus there’s Running Power, detailed sleep statistics and more. Its explanations and insights are also easier to understand.
The Forerunner 945 also has a few things going in its favor. This includes the Pulse Ox sensor, on-board storage for music, contactless payments and longer battery life. Does this justify a $100 higher price? Perhaps. But if you’re after more bang for your buck and are not bothered about these features, you won’t be disappointed with the Vantage V2 (check price on Polar).
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