It's apps need some work, but the Polar Loop is cheap and packed full of features
Pedometer: Yes, Heart-rate monitor: Yes (optional), Display: Yes (LCD touchscreen), Battery life: 6 days
The Polar Loop is the Finish company’s first foray into the ever growing activity tracker market. Despite the fact that Polar has been at the forefront of fitness technology for over three decades, it has taken a while for it to produce an activity tracker, which leads to the obvious question – was it worth the wait?
The beat of its own drum…
Polar has never been one to follow the crowd, instead choosing to innovate and go its own way. That same innovative attitude was clearly front of mind when the engineers at Polar designed the Loop. When the Loop was on the drawing board, Polar clearly looked at what other activity trackers were doing and, more importantly, at what they weren’t doing. Having gathered all that data, Polar then attempted to create an activity tracker that was a bit different.
But while Polar has managed to squeeze an inordinate amount of features and functionality into the Loop, it has done so in its own unique way. From the minute you remove the Loop from its box, you know that it’s not quite like any other activity tracker out there.
Cut to fit
Usually when you buy an activity tracker, you need to make sure that you get the right size for your wrist. Some devices like the Jawbone UP24 have no adjustment, so you need to choose carefully, while the Nike+ FuelBand SE comes in multiple sizes and offers adjustment links in the box. Polar has done things a little differently. When you remove the Loop from its box the first thing you’ll notice is that the strap is large enough to fit an ogre’s wrist. The next thing you’ll notice is that there’s no obvious way to adjust it, but then you’ll realise that the strap can be adjusted – you just need to attack it with a pair of scissors.
To get the perfect fit from the Polar Loop, you literally have to cut it to size, and you better not make a mistake because if you cut it too short, there’s no going back. Polar has tried to ensure that you don’t make such a mistake, but the process is still quite convoluted. The first thing you need to do is remove the clasp from the strap. This involves using the pin extraction tool that comes in the box. The strap is attached to the clasp using spring-loaded pins, much like a normal wristwatch – you need to use the tool to depress the pin so that you can pull the clasp free. Be careful doing this as the pins can “spring” off in a random direction!
Once the clasp is removed, you then need to wrap the paper size guide around your wrist for a comfortable fit. When you’re happy with the fit the guide will tell you how many pin holes you need to cut away from each end of the strap. Polar has been pretty cautious with the size guide, so you’ll probably find that a perfect fit wrapping the paper around your wrist will result in a generous fit on the device itself. This isn’t a bad thing though, allowing you to fine tune the fit without fear of cutting off too much. Once you’ve cut the strap down to size, you slide the pins through the holes in the strap and re-attach the clasp. That metal clasp does feel a bit flimsy, though, and the Loop never sits quite as comfortably on your wrist as the Jawbone UP24 or even the Nike+ FuelBand SE.
There’s a USB charging cable in the box, which snaps onto the four-pin connector on the back of the Loop thanks to an integrated magnet. It’s slightly annoying that the Loop uses a proprietary charging cable, but then the vast majority of activity trackers and sports watches use similar systems, so we’re not going to chastise Polar too much on that count.
Polar quotes six days of battery life from a full charge, but we found that it was closer to four days, especially if you use the heart rate monitoring function (more about that later). On the plus side, though, the Loop charges incredibly quickly – so even if you have to charge it in the middle of the day, you won’t miss much activity when doing so.
The Polar Loop certainly isn’t short of features and functionality. Like the Nike+ FuelBand SE, the Loop has a built-in LED display, which means that you don’t need to get your phone out of your pocket to check your progress. It also means that you can use the Loop as your wristwatch. Pressing the touch-sensitive button on the Loop will cycle through various options – time of day, steps taken, calories burned and activity. The latter is a measure of your daily activity represented as a rectangle that fills up throughout the day. The loop will also tell you how long it will take to hit your activity goal, whether you’re jogging, walking or just awake.
The loop also does a pretty good job of tracking activities other than walking, with long bike rides registering as an equivalent amount of steps – although, as always, that only works on a real bike, not a stationary training bike. Unlike the majority of activity trackers, the Loop is fully waterproof. Not only does that mean that you don’t have to take it off before jumping in the shower, but that you can also wear it while swimming and track those lengths too.
The Loop can also automatically tell the difference between when you’re walking and running, and it does a pretty good job of logging minutes spent running throughout your day. Given that Polar has been at the cutting edge of heart rate monitoring technology for decades, it comes as no surprise that the Loop is also the first activity tracker that will pair with a chest strap heart rate sensor.
The Loop makes good use of its Bluetooth 4.0 functionality by pairing with any Bluetooth Smart heart rate sensor, like Polar’s own H7 sensor. Setup is as simple as it could possibly be – you simply strap on a Bluetooth Smart heart rate sensor, and then hold the Loop to your chest and tap the button.
Your heart rate training session will then begin, and when you want to end your session simply remove the heart rate sensor. While the Loop is no substitute for a proper sports watch, if you’re taking your first steps on the road to an active lifestyle, it gives you that bit more functionality and insight than an average activity tracker, without the expense and complexity of a dedicated GPS sports watch.
|Wearing modes||Wrist strap|
|Heart-rate monitor||Yes (optional)|
|Display||Yes (LCD touchscreen)|
|OS support||Android 4.3+, iPhone 5+|
|Battery life||6 days|
|Price including VAT||£66|