Polar Loop 2 review

Stay in the fitness loop with the Polar Loop 2

If you’re seeking a no-frills activity tracker, the Polar Loop 2 should place on your shortlist.
If you’re seeking a no-frills activity tracker, the Polar Loop 2 should place on your shortlist.
If you’re seeking a no-frills activity tracker, the Polar Loop 2 should place on your shortlist.

Highs

  • Waterproof
  • Tracks everything
  • Long battery life
  • Good app
  • Comfortable

Lows

  • Poor sunlight legibility
  • Can’t track intensity
  • Fiddly clasp tool

DT Editors' Rating

To be in the loop on your own fitness, you need something to track it. Featuring a stylish design, solid activity tracking credentials, and a $120 price tag, the Polar Loop 2 could be that something.

Polar has been around since the 70s. It developed the world’s first wireless heart-rate monitor, and the company has a strong track record of producing sports training gadgets.

It blends in unobtrusively with most casual outfits.

At the expensive end of its wares you’ll find heart-rate monitors and GPS sports watches, but we’ve been testing out the Polar Loop 2, which is an entry-level activity tracker.

It works in conjunction with Polar Flow software, available on Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac, to plot your activity levels, track your sleep, and provide you with target goals that will boost your fitness.

Beating out the competition in this market will take something special. Is Polar’s head start enough to secure the win? It’s time to find out.

Stylish and comfortable

As the name suggests, this device is a loop designed to be worn on your wrist. The design is in keeping with a familiar market style. It doesn’t look out of place next to the Fitbit, Nike Fuelband, or Garmin Vivofit, and you could easily mistake it for the original Polar Loop. But it’s a definite refinement.

The LED display shines through the silicone band, so it looks like a plain band when the display is off. There are two silvery steel highlights that frame the hidden LED lights — 85 white lights in total. They blink to life in response to the capacitive touch button and give you a visual indication of your activity for the day, and a more precise read-out of calories burned, steps taken, and the current time. You have to make sure the band is against your wrist when you press the button, otherwise your touch won’t register.

The display looks great, and the only real issue I had was sunlight legibility, which is quite poor. This may be better with different colors, but I was testing the white band. It’s not a major shock that white lights don’t show up too well on a white band in direct sunlight, but it was annoying.

The spring-loaded clasp is stainless steel with a subtle Polar logo etched into it, and it’s easy to put it on or take off. The Polar Loop 2 is very light and it’s waterproof, so you can wear it all the time if you want to. I didn’t take it off at all for a week and had no trouble with the shower or wet weather.

It’s a fairly good-looking device that’s initially being offered in sorbet pink or powder white, but a black version will be along soon. You can easily forget you’re wearing it, and it blends in unobtrusively with most casual outfits, though it still has the sporty feel you’d expect from a Polar product. It’s not exactly classy — it’s a plastic band, after all — but it’s downright gorgeous compared to the Polar A300.

Getting started on the path to fitness

The silicone band is very comfortable, once fitted. To do so, you measure your wrist using the quick start guide, and then cut the band to size. Polar includes a wee tool to pop the spring-loaded bars out of the clasp. The silicone is divided into marked sections, and you’ll need to cut it on both sides according to your measurements, and then try to put it all back together again. It’s really fiddly — there’s no other way to describe this process. But it’s worth the hassle to get a tailored fit.

You’ll also find a proprietary USB cable in the box, which attaches itself satisfyingly to the back of your Polar Loop 2 via magnets. Hook it to the band and then your computer or laptop and install the Polar Flow software before all else. This step could prove frustrating if you’re keen to get started, but it lets Polar prompt your account creation, install any firmware updates that might be available, and give you a brief look at how the tracking works.

You enter your age, weight, height, and gender, along with an idea of how active your average day is. Polar will set your activity targets accordingly. Because I sit at a computer for most of the day, my activity goals were set quite high. If you work outdoors or spend a lot of time rushing around, you won’t be prompted to do as much extra exercise.

Once set up, you can install the Polar Flow app on your iPhone or Android smartphone and update your progress by syncing over Bluetooth. There’s no need to plug it into your computer again.

Tracking everything

The Polar Loop 2 will automatically track your activity based on your movements. It knows when you’re standing, walking, running, or sleeping. It can also pick up on various sports and other calorie burning activities like cleaning or gardening.

The Band can track your steps and extrapolate distance; it then tells you how many calories you’ve burned, based on the personal data you entered during setup. It tracks your sleep and divides it into restful and restless periods. It also sets an activity goal for each day, which is displayed as a meter that gradually fills as you exercise. It’s a good at-a-glance indication of how close you are to your activity goals, and it’s followed up by suggestions of what would get you over the line, such as 30 minutes of jogging or an hour of walking.

If you were to use the Polar Loop 2 with the heart-rate sensor — a band that you wear around your chest — it would track intensity and pick up on exercise sessions that don’t involve moving your wrist, such as peddling on an exercise bike. You can enter these sessions manually, but only through the browser-based Polar Flow diary, by hovering over a day, clicking the Add button, and then choosing Training result. It’s not obvious and I had to ask to find out about it. I was also disappointed to find that the sessions I added weren’t counted against my daily activity goals.

It would be nice to be able to add a session through the phone app, and you naturally expect them to count towards your activity goals. But it’s a relatively new feature, so it’s a work in progress and there’s obviously room for improvement.

It sets an activity goal for each day, displayed as a meter that fills as you exercise.

The Loop 2 itself gives you a basic readout of your activity, calories, steps, and the time. You cycle through by tapping the capacitive touch button. The phone app gives you a great deal more detail with your training diary and all the charts and breakdowns than you could possibly want. The online version is the most detailed, and it includes more analysis options and a map where you can review other people’s training sessions, but much of it is redundant without the heart-rate monitor.

As far as I could tell the Polar Loop 2 tracked my activities accurately, and its ability to track sleep is something that’s missing from some of the competition. The software is very good. I never had any trouble syncing, it’s well laid out, and you can dip in for an overview or really dig deep to analyze your fitness and measure the effectiveness of your training regime over time.

It has a 38 mAh Li-pol battery inside that’s supposed to be good for around eight days between charges. I got a battery warning after five days, telling me to plug in. When I did, the battery was at 20 percent, and that’s with pretty heavy usage, so battery life is good. It takes around half an hour or so to recharge.

Some handy extras

There are a few additional features that might tempt you to snag a Polar Loop 2. The band has a gentle motor in it that can vibrate and flash to warn you if you remain motionless or sitting for too long. It’s like a friendly tap on the shoulder to encourage you to stand up and stretch your legs for a moment, which is great for desk workers.

Polar Flow
Simon Hill/Digital Trends
Simon Hill/Digital Trends

The vibration can also be used as an alarm to wake you up in the morning or remind you of something. It’s quite gentle, so it may not suffice if you’re a heavy sleeper, but I found it worked well.

iPhone users can also get some smart notifications: vibrations on incoming calls with caller ID, as well as alerts about incoming messages and calendar reminders. They’re handy if you have the headphones on for a workout. There’s a do not disturb option if you want to turn these notifications off, too. Unfortunately, the smart notifications don’t work on Android just yet, but Polar assured me they are rolling out in September. Until the smart notifications arrive for Android this is definitely a better prospect for iOS users.

[Update 9-26-2015 by Simon Hill: Notification support for Android has now arrived. You can get vibrations and scrolling text alerts for calls, messages, and calendar reminders, making the Polar Loop 2 just as good a prospect on Android as it is on iOS.]

Conclusion

You could bemoan the lack of GPS, or the extra $80 you’ll have to pay out to snag a heart-rate sensor, but for $120 the Polar Loop 2 offers a pretty good range of features. Its automatic nature makes it suitable for anyone looking to boost their fitness levels. While the accuracy and in-depth software are great for serious fitness fanatics, without the heart-rate monitor, this is obviously being pitched at a more casual audience – the kind of person who might buy a Fitbit.

The Fitbit Charge is probably the closest competitor in terms of features. It’s around the same price, too, but it’s only water-resistant, not fully submersible like the Loop 2. You may also want to look at the Xiaomi Mi Band, because it ticks a lot of the same boxes and costs a lot less.

Ultimately, the Polar Loop 2 is a solid activity tracker. Once you get the past the fiddly set up, it’s a pleasure to use, and it will definitely help you hit your fitness goals. It looks good, it’s comfortable, and it works well — but in the race for your affections it never really breaks away from the pack.

Highs

  • Waterproof
  • Tracks everything
  • Long battery life
  • Good app
  • Comfortable

Lows

  • Poor sunlight legibility
  • Can’t track intensity
  • Fiddly clasp tool
Deals

Walmart drops prices on Apple Watches and other fitness trackers

Smartwatches, fitness trackers, and wearable heart rate monitors from Apple, Samsung, Fitbit, and Garmin are popular gifts. Wearables are smarter and more capable than in earlier years. We found the best wearables deals on Walmart.
Gaming

Hey, Sony! If you make a PS2 Classic, it needs these games

158 million PS2 consoles were sold worldwide during its lifecycle, making it the most successful video game console of all time. It was hard, but we narrowed down the PS2's vast library of games. Here are the best PS2 games of all time.
Wearables

Our favorite fitness trackers make it fun to keep moving

Looking for your first fitness tracker, or an upgrade to the one you're already wearing? There are plenty of the wrist-worn gadgets available. Here are our picks for the best fitness trackers available right now.
Mobile

Google Fit app finally gets a widget, among other new features

Google Fit hasn't received any new features since its redesign. This week, the company is rolling some new tools; users will be able to add a widget to their Android home screen, adjust the intensity of their workouts, and more.
Outdoors

Crush your next workout with the best Fitbit for every activity

Fitbits are amazingly helpful tools for setting fitness goals and tracking progress. However, different activities require different metrics. We've gathered a list of the best Fitbits for running, swimming, biking, and other activities.
Deals

Check out the best Green Monday deals for those last-minute gifts

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, but that doesn't mean you've missed your chance of finding a great deal. We're talking about Green Monday, of course, and it falls on December 10.
Mobile

New Apple Watch begins saving lives one week after getting EKG feature

The Apple Watch Series 4 was updated almost a week ago with a new feature that allows users to take electrocardiogram tests -- and already it seems like the new feature is saving lives.
Cars

Best Products of 2018

Our reception desk has so many brown boxes stacked up, it looks like a loading dock. We’re on a first-name basis with the UPS guy. We get new dishwashers more frequently than most people get new shoes. What we’re trying to say is: We…
Wearables

These are the best smartwatches for everything from fashion to fitness

Tempted to buy a smartwatch? If so, then the growing number of great models available means you've got plenty to choose from. But which one should you pick? Here is our list of the best smartwatches.
Wearables

How to use the ECG app, set up irregular rhythm notifications on the Apple Watch

The Apple Watch Series 4 is the best smartwatch iPhone owners can own, and it just got even better with the addition of the ECG app and ability to identify irregular heart rhythms. Here's how to set it all up.
Home Theater

Common AirPods problems, and how to fix them

Apple’s AirPods are among the best fully wireless earbuds we’ve seen, but they’re not perfect. If you’re having trouble, take a look at our guide to the most common problems and what you can do to fix them.
Mobile

The LG V40 ThinQ, G7 ThinQ, and Watch W7 are discounted for the holidays

LG announced a series of deals for the holiday season where you can buy the company's two flagship phones, the V40 ThinQ and G7 ThinQ, as well as its latest smartwatch, for between $150 and $200 off, depending on the device.
Wearables

The best Wear OS watches

There are a ton of different Wear OS watches out there, but which one's right for you? No matter what you're looking for from a smartwatch, here are the best Wear OS watches out there.
Deals

The best Apple Watch deals for December 2018

The Apple Watch has surged to prominence in recent years. If you're in the market for an iOS wearable, we've sniffed out the best Apple Watch deals available right now for all three models of this great smartwatch.