Polar Loop Review
Long before Garmin got into the fitness tracker game and Fitbit made them a stylish new trend, Polar was already in the fitness tracking business. Their company was built on producing heart rate monitors for athletes and their governing bodies since the 1970s. It is only natural that they would eventually make the jump from providing high end heart rate monitors to providing wearables for even novice athletes to enjoy. The Polar Loop presented their first attempt at this as Polar’s very first wearable fitness tracker, and those familiar with Polar had extremely high hope for it. However, every first attempt must have room for improvement as we have seen from every single other brand, but how does Polar stand up with their Polar Loop? Find out in our Polar Loop Review
You can tell at just a glance that the Polar Loop borrows a lot for its aesthetic from fitness trackers that were already on the market. The hard rubber wristband sits innocuously on the wrist displaying an array of red LEDs that make up the display. With the touch of a button, it can activate the display and toggle which screen you are seeing. However, that button is occasionally difficult to find with just your fingers and even then so flat that it can almost be difficult to press. This makes switching or turning on the display while doing for intensive activities, like jogging, a bit more difficult than it should be since it will likely require you to stop or slow down in order to try to find and push the singular, but well hidden button on your wrist.
As for how the band clasps the wrist, it uses the old school metal buckle that folds in and out so that you can secure and remove the band as needed. While the design is nothing particularly stunning, that’s okay. For many who use fitness trackers seriously, the aesthetics of the design usually isn’t such a big deal. However, how the band secures and how snugly it fits can make or break whether the tracker gets used, this is why that old school metal clasp is such an odd choice.
What likely was a huge shock to buyers who don’t read a review first is the sheer size of the Polar Loop band. It is probably the perfect fit for a ham-fisted yeti, but no one else. It is not even a case of the band being designed for primarily men either, you could fit two adult-sized thick male wrists in the default fitting. However, while you can resize the band, you will pretty much be performing surgery on it by removing the clasp and actually cutting off a portion of band before reattaching the clasp. Unfortunately, athletes need to be careful to measure their wrist precisely because if you cut off too much, there is no going back. One nice feature is that Polar does replace the bands for free if that does happen, though.
If you have used other first time fitness trackers from other brands, then you should be pretty impressed with Polar’s first attempt. They packed a lot into the Loop that has only recently been figured out by other models. Waterproofing is the first notable example since even Fitbit only recently got that down in their products. Whether the Polar Loop is waterproof or water resistant, we may never know since the company uses the terms interchangeably, but the Loop is safe to wear in the shower as well as the pool.
For the actual display on the tracker, you have a few modes to choose from. The modes include the time of day, amount of time you have been active that day, number of calories burned, and the number of steps taken. While there are other features, you will have to visit the app or website to see those stats, which is nothing unusual for the LED display fitness tracker models since you can only fit so many LED lights on one wristband.
As for the app, it started off as iOS only, but has since gained an Android version, which is one great benefit of getting an older model. The interface of the app is nice and clean, but it isn’t really a show-stopper. However, one of the best bits of this particular app is that you can set daily goals and the tracker doesn’t just track them, but the app gives you updated suggestions of what you can do to reach those daily goals from any point in your day. It also gives you inactivity alerts, but since the wristband itself doesn’t vibrate or anything this means you have to actually look at your phone.
As well as fitness goal-reaching tips, the app gives you the added function of monitoring your sleep, but you know what is strangely missing from a product made by Polar? A heart rate monitor. They make wearable heart rate monitors for athletes, but they didn’t include it in their first fitness tracker. They did provide the ability to connect with a heart monitor chest strap, but that pretty much doubles the price of the product.
The final feature to mention is the battery life. While the Polar Loop fails in other areas, its battery remains pretty standard with it holding around a five day charge. The less you use the display, the longer the battery will last. However, with the battery life of screened models getting longer these days, how long will it be before five days is paltry?
For a first stab into the world of fitness trackers, the Polar Loop did an admirable job. However, it feels like the brand, one that is already well known for its athletic wearables, was really just testing the waters here. The fact that a company that makes heart rate monitors didn’t include one in their first fitness tracker, but still made it able to sync to one looks a lot like they were just sticking a toe in.
However, if a heart rate monitor isn’t among your basic needs of a fitness tracker or you already have a chest strap laying around, since the Polar Loop is older in the life cycle, it has become extremely affordable. If you are new to fitness trackers or even just want some basic functionality with a really nice app to look over your stats, then the Polar Loop makes for an affordable choice.
Samsung Gear Fit 2 Review
With each new fitness tracker that comes from Samsung, you watch them make wonderful leaps in quality and functionality. The Samsung Gear Fit 2 is, obviously, the step up from the original Gear Fit. While it features a similar design, the Samsung Gear Fit 2 is built to impress with even more features to give you optimal fitness tracking without drifting into the overly complicated realms of other sports watches.
At the initial unboxing, well, let’s just say if your wrist needed sunglasses, they would probably look like the Gear Fit 2. You can get the lovely silicone bands in several different colors, but you will always be met with that shiny curved super AMOLED screen that, when turned off, reflects light just like sunglasses. However, that and much of the design hasn’t changed much since the original Gear Fit was released.
What makes the design of the Samsung Gear Fit 2 stand out is the screen after you turn it on. With a 216 x 432 resolution and a superior brightness, you get nice crisp whites and beautiful bright colors. If even has an outdoor mode that lights the screen up even brighter (it is super bright to begin with) so that you can’t miss a thing. However, that mode only lasts for a maximum of five minutes.
As for the bands, while you have a choice in finishes, you also have to choose between and a small and a large size band. Unfortunately, both bands aren’t included to you have to make your best guess at it, and even then, every wrist is different. Thankfully, the clasp on both bands has the ability to make some small adjustments in order to get a more precise fit. While the curved screen can feel a little heavy on the wrist, the fact that it is curved and nestled into the silicone makes the Samsung Gear Fit 2 one of the more comfortable band options around since it can be secured snugly and doesn’t feel bulky if you want to sleep with it on.
It is also worth noting that while the large beautiful screen doesn’t look like it, the Samsung Gear Fit 2 is also water resistant with a rating of IP68. This means you can wear it in water of depths up to 1.5m for 30 minutes. So if you do laps in the pool or want to shower with it on, it is safe to do so.
If you tried the Samsung Gear Fit original, you can expect much of the same features like step tracking, calories burned, sleep monitoring, and distance traveled. However, the Gear Fit 2 amps things up a bit which actually makes the readings much more accurate than the original. One of the biggest changes is the addition of GPS that allows for more accurate distance tracking and allows you to track your route.
Other additions include an optical heart rate sensor on the rear of the band and a barometer inside that can allow you to keep track of the stairs you climb. The GPS, heart rate sensor, and barometer all function well and they actually function almost as well as dedicated fitness accessories for professional athletes. However, like most fitness trackers that sit on the wrist, the heart rate monitoring can occasionally be a little spotty. While your beats per minute may jump up occasionally during exercise, its average heart rate and resting heart rate monitoring are almost spot on.
A nice feature of the Samsung Gear Fit 2 is that it has automatic exercise tracking for running, cycling, and certain gym machines. It also auto-pauses when the activity is stopped for whatever reason. After each work out, the display will also give you a post-workout break down. Unfortunately, it disappears rather quickly, but you can always see it in the app later.
As for the app, all the data of the Gear Fit 2 is sent to the eye-pleasing S Health app where you have access to a nice amount of information, but your simple stats don’t get lost among a hundred different metrics either. Like many other fitness trackers, the app and wristband will let you know if you have been inactive too long, but unlike other fitness trackers, the Gear Fit 2 actually does a nice job of keeping you motivated. It lets you know the small, but motivating details like when you have surpassed your goal or if you climbed more steps than the previous day. Inside the app it also provides nice looking graphs to show marked improvements in your daily activity.
Unfortunately, the Samsung Gear Fit 2 has limited compatibility with 3rd party apps. There are some apps you can get from the Galaxy store, but they probably aren’t what you want. One perk is that it does have a dedicated Spotify app if you don’t want to use the internal storage to put on playlists, but sadly is only works in a few regions. However, as well as being able to listen to music through wireless headphones, it does also have a pretty intuitive interface when it comes to answering calls or sending texts.
Unfortunately the battery of the Samsung Gear Fit 2 comes up a little short, as is often the case with such feature-packed models. On average, the battery will last around three days since you can’t disable the GPS or heart rate monitoring. However, you can increase the charge a little by limiting the amount of apps that ping you throughout the day. While turning off GPS and heart rate monitoring would have been nice, since it has such a large and detailed screen, the charge life probably would not have been much longer anyway.
As fitness trackers get more advanced, sometimes a lot of the basic functionality tends to get lost. However, with the Gear Fit 2, Samsung found a nice balance of beauty, features, and relative simplicity. At no point will casual users feel overwhelmed and even more dedicated fitness enthusiasts can get extremely accurate tracking out of this model.
While the battery life is a little less than desirable, the features that drain the battery give it some of the most accurate readings on the market, making it forgivable. If you want to bridge the gap between your leisurely lifestyle and a more active lifestyle while still getting something that look sleek and lovely on the wrist, the Samsung Gear Fit 2 is one of the better ways to go.
The release of the Polar M400 marked the advent of the now increasingly blurred lines between your standard affordable fitness trackers and the sophisticated workout gadgets that only the most hardcore athletes can afford. As the more affordable version of the Polar V800, a serious sports watch for those really into fitness, you get almost as much of the tracking capabilities and functionality with only a fraction of the price. What they sacrificed wasn’t internal tracking, but rather syncing with a dozen different accessories and other monitors that even dedicated gym junkies don’t use.
While functionality and features look to be completely on point, how does the Polar M400 stack up in the increasingly crowded world of fitness tracker-sports watch hybrids?
The first thing you will notice about the Polar M400 from the pictures is that it kind of looks like a sports watch would have looked like in the 1980s when everything was bigger and bulkier. However, the pictures actually lie. The Polar M400 doesn’t take a great photo because that large display screen makes it look like it sits like a lump on the wrist when, in reality, it is quite thin. It actually ends up more unobtrusive on the wrist than many other GPS-enabled trackers these days.
The screen itself could have benefited from less labeling that gives it a bit of a Casio-esque look and takes away from the display. As for a display itself, the 128 by 128 pixel, 3mm screen could also benefit from not only a touch of color every now and then, but less of the cheesy graphics. Clearly if you are cycling, you know you are doing it and you don’t need the like cyclist on the screen to remind you. Thankfully, most of the time the Polar M400 sticks to the numbers, which is the bit we want to see and the bit that actually looks fine on a black and white screen. It even features not only backlighting so you can see it in the late evening, but you can easily read the screen in direct sunlight too.
The rest of the watch’s interface is fairly straight-forward. It comes with five buttons (up, down, select, back, and the light) on the side and they are not so compact that you have trouble hitting them, but they also are built so they are hard to trigger accidentally as well.On the flipside of the display also sits the micro-USB charging port which is covered by a flap, but even without the flap it is water resistant of up to 30m.
Finally, as for the band itself, there is nothing particularly groundbreaking about it. It is made out of the same polymer of other fitness tracking bands so you get that nice flexibility, but it also feels decently sturdy. The M400 comes with the standard watch clasp which makes for a nice snug fit and so that you don’t have to physical cut and measure the band like some other Polar models
If the Polar M400 was just a fitness tracker, it would be rather unremarkable. However, while it can do much of what fitness trackers do, it also has the great added benefit of being an activity tracker as well.
True to a fitness tracker, you wear the Polar M400 all the time and it tracks your steps, calories burned, how many flights of stairs you climbed, and your sleep. However, unlike many fitness trackers, you don’t need to tell it when you have gone to sleep, it knows. It also senses when you have been inactive for too long and sends an alert to both your phone and your app. It also guilts you in to moving since if you don’t do so within the time limit, it leaves a bad mark in your daily diary.
All of this data is sent into the app, but you can also read it just as easily from the watch interface. The benefit of checking the app is to really see the long-term statistics after daily use so you can make adjustments accordingly. However, while the app is nice, it often feels like it doesn’t go deep enough. There isn’t much reason to check it more than every few days.
All that is pretty standard, but when you press the center button on the Polar M400, that is where it really shines. From the menu, you choose an activity, press start, and the built-in GPS signal from the watch logs you until you stop. Why is this so special? This feature allows you to get the most accurate calorie readings on your body as well as track routes and other metrics in the app. Since the Polar M400 takes things like height, weight, and gender into consideration, it easily gives the most accurate calories-burned estimates of any fitness tracker
The one downside of this? You need to have the Bluetooth HRM strap in order to get those beautiful accurate calorie readings. The fact that Polar, a company that makes heart rate monitors, wearable ones at that, comes with GPS, but not a built-in heart rate monitor is almost kind of insulting. While you won’t get the same accurate calorie count, you will still get activity-specific metrics like how many laps you swam or how far and fast you ran, which is nice, but it still feels like you are getting half a product.
Finally, the battery life is a major boon considering that so many screened, GPS-enabled models can drain down so fast. If you are using the GPS non-stop, you have about eight hours of battery life. However, without ever turning the GPS on, you have a very solid 24 days on one charge. For people that go for long or multiple runs, swims, or cycles per day, the battery might need daily charging. However, as a fitness bracelet, it has some superior battery life to it.
If you are going to throw down the cash to get a fitness tracker-sports watch hybrid these days, there are some things you expect. Once you get above a certain price range, you expect heart rate monitoring and GPS. What you shouldn’t expect is to buy an accessory for one feature to work. That is the real major pitfall of the Polar M400.
It is a great fitness tracker, and it could have been an amazing one if you didn’t have to throw down extra money to make it complete. It is likely the external chest strap makes it so it can get its extremely accurate readings from the way it sits on the body, but even without it this fitness tracker would still likely get it pretty close.
Those into fitness trackers know the big names like FitBit and Jawbone, but even those that have no idea what a fitness tracker does know the names of Apple and Samsung. Both companies are the pinnacle when it comes to the high profile manufacture of smartwatches with fitness tracking abilities like the Samsung Gear S3 and Apple Watch Series 2.
Yet, the question still stands. Which smart watch is better? Did Apple finally get things right with the Apple Watch Series 2 or does the Samsung Gear S3continue its feature-laden streak of victory in the market?
Design and Display
When comparing the Apple Watch Series 2 and the Samsung Gear S3, which design wins out is probably best left up to preference. As you would expect from multi-billion dollar companies, the designs are both beautiful. The Apple Watch Series 2 is smaller and lighter compared to the Gear, but it takes a sleek modern route in its design. However the Gear S3 goes the complete opposite direction and features a design that could easily be mistaken for an expensive wristwatch.
For as great as the Apple Watch’s display is, that victory will have to go to the Gear S3. A number of fitness trackers feature that crisp OLED Retina display that is given a vibrant edge through the use of color like the Apple Watch. However, it is not every day that you see what, at a glance, appears to be a classic wristwatch transform into a GPS map the next. What the Gear S3 can and does display is something that truly shows how visibly powerful the AMOLED screen is and why the bigger size was a necessary choice.
However, in terms of usability, while they both have touch screen functionality, for the most part you use the bezel on the Gear and the crown on the Apple Watch to flick through apps. This is a great alternative to the all touch screen functionality that damages the screen more often than not.
In terms of features and sensors, the Apple Watch and the Gear S3 go toe-to-toe. The Gear S3 has built-in GPS, an accelerometer, a heart rate sensor, altimeter, barometer, and a gyroscope. This is basically everything you would get with other Samsung fitness trackers like the Samsung Gear Fit2, but without the beautiful interface, enhanced interconnectivity with your phone, and built-in speaker.
Alternatively, the Apple Watch Series 2 features an accelerometer, built-in GPS that is supposedly “instant”, gyroscope, and heart rate monitor. It lacks some of the other tools like altimeter and barometer, but both are excellent choices for fitness.
However, if you are a swimmer, Apple is the easy choice. Not only can the Apple Watch track indoor and outdoor swimming (the Gear S3 has no such function), but it is water resistant up to 165 feet. The Gear S3 can only withstand five feet of water for about 30 minutes.
When it comes to compatibility with various apps, both fitness and otherwise, both smart watches excel. However, as it typical with Apple products, the Apple Watch Series 2 still comes with one fatal flaw – you can’t use it with Android phones. The Samsung Gear S3 is compatible with both Android and iOS, meaning that no matter what phone you have, this watch will likely work with it, older models notwithstanding.
No one should have to get a new phone just to go with their smart watch.
To be honest, the battery life on both models is terrible. The Apple Watch takes an honest route and estimates around 18 hours while the Gear S3 estimates around four days, but that is only with the always-on function turned off.In truth, the battery lasts closer to about two days. However, since the Gear S3 is always-on and the Apple Watch is not, the fact that they have such comparable batteries is actually pretty terrible on Apple’s part.
So Which is Better?
Both the Apple Watch Series 2 and the Samsung Gear S3 have their advantages just as sure as they have their downfalls. While the Samsung Gear S3 looks to be the winner with its beautiful display, number of fitness features, and the fact that you can use it with both Android and iPhones, it does lack majorly in battery life, water resistance, and a nice small size on the wrist.
Similarly, the Apple Watch Series 2 is small, light, has a colorful display, and it the best choice for swimmers. However, it has a dismal battery life and can only be used with iPhones.
If none of the failings of either smart watch are deal breakers, then it ultimately comes down to what you want the watch to do, and which style you want around your wrist.
Fitbit are probably the most recognizable brand name in the wearable fitness tracker game and have produced models to meet most needs. However, it seems strange that they have never produced a genuine Fitbit for swimming. Until now. The Fitbit Flex 2 is the successor to the hugely successful Flex, with the added bonus of it being waterproof so that you can swim or shower whilst wearing it.
As the Flex 2’s tracking module is 30 percent smaller than their other products, the Flex 2 sits small and thin on the wrist. This is a nice change of pace for people that want to wear their fitness tracker for comfort and purpose rather than as a fashion statement.
However, that extra size was shaved off by removing the display from the device, helping give the Fitbit Flex 2 an extra dimension; waterproofing. Aesthetically, the out of the box design is functional. Luckily, the modular approach allows you to camouflage your fitness tracker in a design that is slightly more appealing, like a bangle.
You will need to spend the extra money to find a band design for the tracker you like and there are plenty of options available including pedants, necklaces and different colors of band via third party sellers or Amazon. Without a screen, you’d never guess it was a fitness tracker at a glance. However, one of the best innovations to the design of the new Flex 2 is the clasp.
In Fitbits, the clasp has always been where the product lost some points because it never felt like the bracelet would stay in place. However, because this is a model for swimmers, they either had to change their clasp style or release a bad product because water rushing under a loose bracelet on the wrist would greatly affect the accuracy of a number of the tracking features while in the water. This time around, they added a clasp that keeps things tight to the wrist. Once it is on, good luck trying to yank it off. It is this innovation that we hope makes it to the bands of other Fitbit models because it is snug, yet comfortable. However, the clasp can make it a bit of a challenge if you want to get it off quickly.
Features of the Fitbit Flex 2
The biggest advance in the Fitbit Flex 2 is full waterproofing and swim tracking capabilities. It is approved for depths up to 50 meters, which includes saltwater use. This also means that even non-swimmers don’t have to worry about hopping in the shower and ruining their expensive fitness tracker.
Whilst there are other swim-tracking fitness trackers available that give you a lot more focused metrics specific to the pool, the Fitbit Flex 2 still does a decent job of measuring your swim. It can give you an overview of how many calories you burned swimming, how long you swam for, distance, pace, and stroke monitoring for freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, and butterfly swimming. All great stats to monitor if you like to keep track of if your swimming is improving.
On the downside, the SmartTrack feature of the Flex 2 has issues tracking your strokes if like me you are not a strong swimmer. As the tracker requires continuous motion to track effectively you will still get accurate calories burned, time, and distance, but the strokes count maybe a little bit out.
While the new swim functionality is the major selling point of the Fitbit Flex 2, unless you are a mermaid (or merman), you will be using the Flex 2 for more than just tracking your swimming. The lack of a display means you can’t visually see your numbers or even tell the time on the Flex 2. Instead it goes back to the original Fitbit design by showing your progress in a series of LED lights. Each light that is lit up represents a portion of whatever your daily step goal is. A neat simple and effective way of showing your progress.
To communicate to you, the Flex 2 use its lights and a series of vibrations that seem like they would be easily differentiated, but aren’t. However, the fact that it only vibrates when you achieve a goal or receive a phone call or text isn’t really an issue as it is easier to tell the difference by looking at the color of the LEDs.
It’s easier to remember that blue stands for calls or text rather than trying to feel out how long the vibration was.
The LED display model limits the amount of information you can see, but you can easily open the great tracking app on your phone to get more specific numbers and plan the rest of your day accordingly. One of the more awesome new features that come with the app that was included in the release of the Flex 2 as well as the Charge 2 is something called Adventures.
Adventures are basically challenges that can motivate you to go further and do better. For example, if you want to hike a particular trail in your nearby National Park, the app finds out how many steps it takes to walk that. So if the trail takes 15,000 steps and you walked 15,000 steps that day, it feels like you walked that trail just going about your day. You can even challenge multi-day trails like Hadrian’s Wall or the Appalachian Trail for long-term challenges. It is a pretty fun motivational tool if nothing else.
Aside from its new motivational tool, the app comes with all the standard features that you would expect. It tracks your calories, steps, distance, and sleep tracking like other models and provides you a wide array of metrics so you can view and compare your data over the days, weeks, and months however you would like and adjust your goals accordingly.
Finally, let’s discuss the battery. You would think that the lack of a screen and the use of only connect GPS would extend the battery life, but it seems this isn’t the case with only a five-day battery life. If you are used to wearing screened models, this is pretty much the standard. However, with the lack of what are referred to as “power drain” features, that much battery life is a lot less than you would expect.
The original Mi Bands by Xiaomi were the type of fitness trackers you couldn’t really say no to. They lacked a lot of the extra features that the high-end models have, but they were so affordable that it wasn’t really a problem. However, the problem became that other fitness trackers, the ones that had a number of other features, began to get cheaper. That is when Xiaomi introduced the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 Activity Tracker, which not only came with a small increase in price, but all the features that would make it competitive. While it is the most expensive Xiaomi fitness tracker. it is still one of the most affordable waterproof fitness trackers on the market.
In terms of design, the Mi Band 2 keeps things simple with a basic all-black design, although you have the option to change out the bands for other colors. The band itself frames the small screen in silicone that not only keeps it from being damaged from sweat, but likely lends to its IPX7 waterproof rating, meaning you can keep this sweet little wristband submerged for up to 30 minutes if you want to.
The screen itself is a small scratch-resistant OLED affair. If you demand absolute crispness in your display, this probably isn’t the fitness tracker for you. The picture is slightly blurry, but as it only displays the time, your steps, how many calories you burned, and your heart rate, you will never find it hard to read.
While the display is supposed to turn on automatically when it detects an increase in heart rate, it also comes with a small touch button on the screen so you can turn it on and flip through all the display functions.
Features of the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 Activity Tracker
For features, the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 has most of the function of all those other overpriced models, and does them fairly well. Not only does it track your steps, but it also has accurate sleep tracking, heart rate monitoring, and has the ability to recognize when you stop taking a leisurely stroll and start running.
While it doesn’t track the distance you walk over a period of time, it does connect to your phone via Bluetooth where it can show you incoming calls or notify you when you have a new message. It also syncs up with the Mi Fit app in which it stores your statistics on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. However, the app is pretty basic and the Mi Band 2 doesn’t have any connectivity with any third-party apps. Essentially what you can view on Mi Fit’s dashboard is your sleep logs (including waking times), your heart rates and last heart rate streak, calories burned, and steps taken. You will also be able to manually monitor your weight in the app, but it requires you to actually put in each change and that’s kind of useless.
The best part of the Mi Band 2 is actually the battery life. It boasts 20 days of standby, but if you activate Bluetooth and sync it to your phone notifications, that goes down to more like 14 days. However, 14 days on one charge is great. It is way better than your pricier FitBit, anyway.
Overall, the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 Activity Tracker is one of the very rare cases where you get more than you pay for. As one of the most affordable bands on the market, you would expect functionality to still be bare bones like its predecessor. However, while it has some hiccups, you get a product with a number of great features for a price you can’t really say no to.