The Polar FT7 provides a rare opportunity for me to review a heart rate monitor which I have owned for a long period of time, allowing me to not only road test it, but to use it day to day during my gruelling 90 minute AM workouts. This compares favourably to more typical reviews, where I have the device in question for a few days and am forced to crash test it.
I bought my Polar FT7 in August 2012, meaning that I have used the device for over eight months now. During that time, I have religiously used it every other day, when I train cardio, and occasionally on the alternate days when I train with weights.
One thing that I know always interests a lot of people about heart rate monitors is their accuracy, and often their comparability on calorie output with typical cardio equipment from the likes of Technogym and LifeFitness. People get used to the output that’s kicked out of these everyday cardio machines and often judge their workouts on them. I weight around 66-67KGs at 9.7% mean body fat percentage, calibrated with body fat callipers. I am therefore lean and relatively muscular at 5 foot 10. I normally set the calorie counter on the LifeFitness treadmills at Gymbox health club at a bodyweight of 60KG so that it provides a conservative reading. I have found that the FT7 is likely to operate within a 95% range with the treadmill when I train with intensity (average heart rate of 155BPM+ over 60 minutes), however this can fall to around 80% of the treadmills reading at lower intensities (<140 BPM). In all cases, the lifefitness treadmill will over-read the FT7. I have no way of knowing which is more accurate, although I would presume the extra data inputs that the treadmill has should enable it to forecast with more accuracy (e.g. actual speed, incline etc plus heart rate). If that’s the case, the Polar FT7 is probably reading calories slightly conservatively, which if true, probably is not a bad thing. I wanted to touch on this, because so often I hear people saying that this is a big issue for them and one of their main uses for a heart rate monitor watch.
To keep this review quite simple and readable, and to focus my energies, I have divided it into things that I like about the Polar FT7, as well as some of the drawbacks.
What I Like About the Polar FT7 Heart Rate Monitor
- Its definitely affordable, providing a decent range of features for under £100.
- Its exceptionally easy to use. Like a good Apple device, there is no need for an instruction manual
- A good sized screen that delivers the key info without the need for endless scrolling
- The inclusion of your heart beat as a percentage of its maximum, utilising the pre-set data is a useful addition to aid you in measuring those higher intensity sessions as well as helping you to keep within HR zones.
- It synchronises accurately and reliably with both Technogym equipment (tested extensively at Virgin Active) and Lifefitness (tested equally extensively at GymBox). In eight months I have had one session which was interfered with briefly, for around ten minutes out of 90 minutes, but a poor connection between my chest strap and the lifefitness treadmill. No drama in the scheme of things.
- Goof depth of data storage, which allows you to quickly access old data from weeks ago. I would recommend getting into the habit of storing the data in an excel sheet but this is a nice feature.
- As mentioned earlier, its easy to sue and this extends to easy to update. As you drop weight, you’ll need to update your weight on the device to ensure it remains accurate. This is a painless and fast process, again with no manual needed.
- Its water resistant, which opens up the opportunity to measure your heart rate whilst swimming
- Comfortable yet durable, with no noticeable erosion on the strap or the chest strap after 8 hard months of use.
- You can easily change the batteries, but I haven’t needed to
Some of the drawbacks of the Polar FT7 Heart Rate Monitor
- It can sometimes fail to pick up a heartbeat on the first couple of attempts if you don’t wet the strap. Usually it works fine with no strap dampening, but around 1 use in ten it will not play ball.
- The features aren’t extensive – it has the basics but it is no frills. Expect to pay more if you want any additional outdoor features like GPS tracking.
- Possibly under calculates calories at low intensities and over estimates at higher intensities, but as always, you should look for trends and not treat calorie outputs as absolutes.
In conclusion, I feel that the polar FT7 is a very solid performer at a very good price. Whilst its features may be basic by some of the more advanced standards, the simple reality is that most people don’t use the majority of what they pay for when they invest £300 in a GPS watch. The Polar FT7 gives you everything that you strictly need but none of what you don’t. That is not necessarily a bad thing – there’s a lot to be said for efficiency of functions in this over-complex world, and at less than £100, it’s hard to complain.