Polar Vantage M2 review: sport in style

Polar's mid-range sports watch grabs some top end features and gets a new look
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Polar Vantage M2
By Polar
The Polar Vantage M2 makes some nice improvements on the M and if you've been keen for more in the way of smartwatch features, you do get more on that front here. The features that drop down from the V2 and Grit X feel like the right ones and while the new look won't be for everyone, we think it helps the M2 stand out from the competition around it. If you can live without fuller smartwatch features you get on the Forerunner 245 and the bigger battery life on the Apex Pro, the M2 is a solid mid-range sports watch with plenty to like.

  • New look
  • Generally solid sports tracking
  • Adding FuelWise to the mix
  • Great sleep tracking
  • No navigation features
  • Polar Flow still very busy
  • Heart rate at high intensity
  • Battery drop-off between tracking

The Polar Vantage M2 is Polar's mid-range sports watch successor to the Vantage M, which launched back in 2018.

With the Vantage V2 released last year, Polar has sought to bring desirable features down from its top end watches to make the M2 a more desirable watch to track your fitness.

That includes its smart FuelWise feature, which launched with the Polar Grit X adventure watch, which is designed to help you better manage fuelling on long outdoor training sessions. And there are new watch face and music controls as Polar follows in Garmin's footsteps in offering a more smartwatch-style experience.299

It's also changed up the look to give it more stylish appeal, and move away from the sporty look of its predecessor.

The Vantage M2 jumps to which does mean a jump in price from the Vantage M , which does remain on sale. That puts in the range of the Garmin Forerunner 245 (sans music player) and the solid Coros Apex watches as an option to consider if you don't want to spend big on a sports watch.

We've been living with the Vantage M2 to find out whether Polar has made a good follow-up to the Vantage M. Here's our full verdict.

Polar Vantage M2: Design and screen

Polar Vantage M2 review: sport in style

The design is a big talking point here for the Vantage M2. While the original was undeniably sporty in look, Polar has made the M2 more stylish, lifestyle and a true smartwatch competitor.

In essence, you're getting the same 46mm sized case that measures in at 12.5mm thick and is roughly the same weight. The Vantage M2 has grown to 45.5g (up from 40g) and it's not the kind of difference you really notice. It's fit for swimming and showering, and is water resistance of 30 metres.

There's now a prominent textured stainless steel bezel that sits around the screen, with the same textured finish applied to the five physical buttons sat on the casing.

Polar has gone from offering simple black and white colors options to offering black, gold and brown case colors that can be partnered up with silicone, textile or leather bands.

Polar Vantage M2 review: sport in style

While the exterior might have changed, the screen in the middle hasn't. It's the same 1.2-inch, 240 x 240 resolution display that's an always-on screen and unlike the Vantage V2 and Grit X, doesn't bother with touchscreen support. That's absolutely fine for us. It's not the kind of support we missed and it generally makes for a nicer experience until Polar musters up better touchscreen support.

Polar Vantage M2 review: sport in style

From a visibility point of view, it's been fine both indoors and outdoors, so you shouldn't have issues checking in on your real-time stats or seeing FitSpark recommendations.

The M2 offers something different in the looks department and it generally works for us. It's fine to dress things up as long as it doesn't impact on that time when you have to start tracking workouts. On that front, the M2 design worked just fine.

Polar Vantage M2: Sports tracking

Polar Vantage M2 review: sport in style

In true Polar fashion there's a lot to drill into here, whether it's basic fitness tracking, rich sleep tracking, a multitude of sports modes and its emphasis on training insights too.

We'll start with sports tracking with satellite support here for GPS, Glonass, Galileo, and OSZZ systems to offer wide mapping coverage.

There's 130 different sports profiles with a core base that offers more metrics beyond heart rate and workout duration. That includes running, cycling and swimming (pool and open water).

On the training front, you're getting access to Training Load Pro insights to assess the strain experienced from training sessions. There's also training benefit feedback and access to Polar's great adaptive running programmes for beginner and more experienced runners. Polar has retained its FitSpark mode that recommends training sessions based on training history and recovery.

In terms of what you're getting from Polar's latest top end watches, there's the FuelWise smart fuelling assistant, but you miss out on Recovery Pro support, a barometer, route importing and guidance, Strava Live Segments and the leg, running and cycling performance tests.

And there's now data on energy sources. The Vantage M2 breaks down whether energy is being sapped from your reserves of carbohydrates or fat. This is based on heart rate, age, weight, height and gender.

Polar Vantage M2 review: sport in style

Run tracking compared: Polar Vantage M2 (left and centre) and Garmin Enduro (right)

Its performance as a sports watch feels very similar to what we experienced with the Vantage M. GPS pick up is quick once you've done a few outdoor activities in the same place. Core metrics and GPS distance tracking for outdoor runs were similar to what we recorded on the Garmin Enduro.

You still get running power from the wrist, though unlike the Vantage V an V2 watches, you'll need a third party sensor like a Stryd footpod to get those power insights.

One minor irritating element is that when it comes to selecting an activity to track, the animations that represent those modes are very slow to change as you scroll through them. Hopefully it's a little bug Polar can fix though.

Polar Vantage M2 review: sport in style

The addition of FuelWise, which helps estimate the amount of carbohydrates you need to stay properly fuelled during a session or a race. It also offers the ability to set drink reminders. It works in just the same way as it does on Polar's pricier watches and if you want to get a good sense of how it works, give our Polar Grit X review a read.

We'd say it's a feature worth spending some time getting to know to make the most of it. No other watch at this price offers this kind of insight into your refuelling and it'll be a good fit for new or even seasoned half, full marathon and ultra runners who are still trying to nail that fuelling strategy.

Polar Vantage M2 review: sport in style

Cardio Load insights in Polar Flow

When you turn your attention to training insights we found Cardio Load the most useful, where a dedicated watch face gives you a nice breakdown of whether you've been overdoing it or maintaining training. It generally felt like it was in tune with the duration and intensity of logged workouts and there's a nice presentation of these insights in the Polar Flow app.

Polar Vantage M2 review: sport in style

Indoor rowing session compared: Polar Vantage M2 (left and centre) and Garmin Enduro (right)

Taking the action indoors, it's a bit more of a simplistic affair with HIIT, indoor rowing offering basic data. If you've got an indoor bike and the full array of cadence and speed sensors, then you can pair it up to generate those richer ride metrics for your indoor rides.

Polar's FitSpark workout recommendations feels like a real standout feature for Polar here too. After a heavy day of running it suggested doing some supportive work, and offers workouts you can do directly from the watch.

That included core work, doing some mobility exercises or cardio sessions in low heart rate training zones.

Unlike Garmin's smart workout suggestions, this isn't just about offering cycling and running-centric workouts for cyclists and runners. It's smart recommended workouts that in our experience work well.

Polar Vantage M2: Heart rate accuracy

Polar Vantage M2 review: sport in style

To generate a rich array of metrics and insights Polar is using the same Precision Prime heart rate sensor featured on its other Vantage watches and the Grit X. That uses a mix of green and red LEDs and electrodes to improve the accuracy of readings when you introduce movement into the equation, which like all optical sensors is a problem.

That sensor setup promises to continuously monitor heart rate, let you train in heart rate zones, deliver heart rate max data and fuel insights like cardio load, smart calorie calculations and energy sources. So there's a lot here.

If you don't trust the wrist-based sensor to deliver accurate data, you can pair it up with a heart rate monitor chest strap and we had no problems pairing up Polar's H10 and Verity Sense monitors.

Polar Vantage M2 review: sport in style

HR training compared: Polar Vantage M2 (left and centre) and Garmin HRM-Pro (right)

If you're looking to that sensor to provide accurate heart rate data for exercise, we'd say our experience mirrors a lot with what we've seen with Polar's other watches. At times, it can be a little wild with high readings at the start of a workout and in general posted higher maximum readings compared to Garmin's HRM-Pro chest strap monitor.

We used for a mixture of runs, indoor bike sessions, HIIT sessions and indoor rowing sessions and all of those activities left us feeling like you need to grab a chest strap monitor. Even for steady runs and indoor rowing sessions, it posted average and max readings that were off enough to put you into another heart rate zone.

Continuous monitoring seemed a little more reliable, though there doesn't seem to be an obvious way to view that continuous HR over time in the Polar Flow mobile app currently.

When we ramped up the intensity like for the hills session illustrated in the screens above, it generally posted higher maximum readings. This ultimately scuppers the reliability of insights like cardio load, training effect and energy sources, which rely heavily on this heart rate data. Without a chest strap, it should be seen more like a guide. If you want data you can trust, then grab an external monitor.

Polar Vantage M2: Fitness tracking

Polar Vantage M2 review: sport in style

If you care about steps and sleep, then you're covered here once again and Polar seeks to offer more in the sleep department to aid recovery from training and tough workouts. For activity tracking, you can capture steps and distance, receive inactivity alerts and view active time and goals.

You can also see summaries of your activity over time and see how it benefits aspects like heart health. Accuracy-wise, we wore it alongside a Garmin fitness tracker and found step counts were in the same ballpark.

Polar Vantage M2 review: sport in style

Step tracking compared: Polar Vantage M2 (left) and Garmin Enduro fitness tracking (right)

It's not the biggest reason to own this watch, but at least Polar has sought to bring activity tracking feel more part of creating that overall picture of your health and current state of fitness.

Sleep monitoring though is clearly where Polar is trying to connect the dots between training and recovery. Like most trackers, it'll automatically record sleep duration, break down sleep stages and dish out sleep scores.

Beyond that, it breaks down long interruptions during sleep, sleep continuity, and pulls out sleep regeneration insights based on REM sleep.

Polar Vantage M2 review: sport in style

Sleep tracking compared: Polar Vantage M2 (left and centre) and Fitbit Sense (right)

The key feature here is the Nightly Recharge recovery measurements. This looks at how your body recovers from stress and training and offers tips if it's been compromised. You get quite a comprehensive breakdown both on the watch and the Polar Flow app and crucially, it felt reliable and held up on the accuracy front with a Fitbit Sense smartwatch.

We'd say it's up there with some of the most insightful, useful and accurate sleep monitoring features you can find on a watch right now. The one downside is that it comes at the expense of battery life. It's not a huge drain, but if you're playing with a small percentage of battery overnight, you might well end up with a message that your battery is low or it's switched off when you wake up.

Polar Vantage M2: Smartwatch features and Polar Flow

Polar Vantage M2 review: sport in style

Until recently, Polar had seemed reluctant to go down the route of bringing smartwatch features to its watches. Clearly, that stance has changed and while it's unlikely to admit it, this feels prompted by the popularity of the Apple Watch, which is a strong a sports watch performer and Garmin taking a similar approach.

With the M2, Polar is bringing in features it's rolled out to its Grit X and Vantage V2 watches. So along with the existing notification support brought over from the Vantage M, it's added weather forecasts, music controls and the ability to better customise watch faces.

Of all those new features, the watch faces feels like the most welcome addition here. Notification support works much in the same way as it did on the M and the weather and music features work just like they do on the V2 and Grit X.

The weekly summary watch face uses a simple colour-coded look so you can quickly get a sense if you've been getting a good balance of all the aspects that this watch can track.

Polar Vantage M2 review: sport in style

The watch faces views will let you adjust the data on show like daily activity, continuous HR tracking data, weather, music controls and few more elements. It's a simple thing and by no means a groundbreaking feature, but something that we're glad to see on Polar's watches in general.

The M2 won't give you payments, apps, actionable notifications, a music player or smart assistants, but if those are the kinds of things you can live without, then you'll be happy here.

When it comes to reviewing data or setting up features like notification support, then you'll need to head to Polar Flow. Much like Garmin Connect, it feels like a place that's still trying to best optimise its platform for that smaller display. It's certainly better than it was a few years ago, but it will still feel like an overwhelming place for newcomers.

All of the navigation is still done from the dropdown menu where you can move from checking activity tracking progress, training, sleep and nightly recharge insights. There's some nice UI touches on how some of that data is displayed, but it still feels crowded and you'll get a nicer experience using the web version of the Flow app.

Polar Vantage M2: Battery life

Polar has stuck to using the same 230mAh capacity battery packed into the Vantage M that promises to give you up to 5 days in watch mode with continuous heart rate monitoring in use. GPS battery life is the same 30 hours while using GPS and heart rate.

To put that into perspective, the Garmin Forerunner 245 offers up to 24 hours with the same features and the Coros Apex will get you 35 hours. So it's in and around the competition.

There's now also the same power save option featured on the Vantage V2, which gives you 100 hours of at the expense of accuracy.

We'll say that our battery experiences with the M2 have been interesting. It lasted for around 5 days, tracking a mix of outdoor and indoor workouts each day and using continuous heart rate monitoring and sleep monitoring.

That's all very normal, but the the way the battery drops off isn't so. Generally, overnight there was a 5% drop off in battery and it's clear the advanced sleep monitoring features (you cannot turn off) have a big impact.

With an 1 hour and 40 minutes of running with the battery at 100%, it didn't drop at all. Yet a few hours later after the run, it was down by 2%. Odd.

Ultimately though, you're going to get 5 days based on our experience, but it's a shame you can't scale back the level of sleep monitoring, which clearly would get you a bit more time.

TAGGED Sport Running

How we test

Michael Sawh


Michael Sawh has been covering the wearable tech industry since the very first Fitbit landed back in 2011. Previously the resident wearable tech expert at Trusted Reviews, he also marshaled the features section of T3.com.

He also regularly contributed to T3 magazine when they needed someone to talk about fitness trackers, running watches, headphones, tablets, and phones.

Michael writes for GQ, Wired, Coach Mag, Metro, MSN, BBC Focus, Stuff, TechRadar and has made several appearances on the BBC Travel Show to talk all things tech. 

Michael is a lover of all things sports and fitness-tech related, clocking up over 15 marathons and has put in serious hours in the pool all in the name of testing every fitness wearable going. Expect to see him with a minimum of two wearables at any given time.

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