Polar WearLink BlueTooth Heart Rate Monitor Review

Many of you will probably have gone for a run and, if you’ve got a smartphone, there’s a good chance that you’ve made use of a running app or two. While they’re a great aid for training, if you want to know how hard you’re working out you’ll need a Heart Rate Monitor.

You could opt for a stand alone HRM, but if you like to keep track of your activities with software or on the running app’s website, it’s better to have that information in one place. That’s where a BlueTooth HRM comes in useful.

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The Polar Wearlink HRM is Bluetooth v2 rather than the newer, more energy efficient Bluetooth 4.0, which was essential for me as I intended to use it in conjunction with a Sony SW2. The only running app that worked with the SW2 is Runtastic, which was only compatible with BlueTooth 2 HRM at the time of purchase. My smartphone is compatible with either, but that could vary from phone to phone and something you’d need to check.

Connection to the phone is painless. Pair it up with your phone by using the default PIN as stated in the manual, then do whatever you need to in your chosen app and it should then be there to use as soon as you start running.

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The transmitter connects by studs to the chest strap sensor, which is easily replaced, and it’s recommended to disconnect one of these to break the circuit and preserve battery life. To get best use, as with all HRM chest straps, it’s best to moisten the sensors where they come into contact with the skin. Once you’ve got moving, sweat will ensure that there’s enough conduction for the sensors, but you’ll need some good old fashioned spit or for those who like to spend / the squeamish, electrode gel that does the same job.

The strap is comfortable, though the sensor does stick out a bit much compared to a regular Garmin HRM, but not so much as to be obtrusive.

In comparison to the Garmin, which we put head to head for over a month (see our Death match) – the Polar was largely as accurate as the Garmin, and good enough for our purposes. For example, on one run both HRMs were a bit off initially, with the Polar being too low and the Garmin too high. Once wetted at the 1km point, they both then behaved impeccably, usually within 1 or 2 bpm max. This made was corroborated when the overall averages worked out at 148 for the Garmin and 147 for the Polar.

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The Garmin is the upper image, compared to the Polar below.

At £65 (or less if you shop around), this is quite an investment compared to some options out there, but still considerably less than a proper GPS running watch. You can get dedicated HRM watches with chest straps for less than this, but it’s arguably more convenient to log your activity data in one place – e.g. on your smartphone – than having your time and route in one place and the HRM data elsewhere.

This is only recommended where you really have to have older technology Bluetooth 2, but if you can use the newer Bluetooth 4.0 then those models are cheaper and more battery efficient. If this is your only choice, then you’ll just have to pay the extra.

Dave Roberts

Dave Roberts founded Walk Eryri in 2004, with the aim of providing routes that are off the beaten track. Walk Eryri is now part of Mud and Routes which continues to provide more off beat routes and walks in Snowdonia and beyond. Dave has been exploring the hills of Eryri for over thirty years, and is a qualified Mountain Leader.
Dave also established Walk up Snowdon, Walk up Scafell Pike and Walk up Ben Nevis just to mention a few.

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