Polar has taken huge steps forward in the aesthetics, fit and user interface of its monitors, also taking care of late to clearly divide its line between products for basic fitness and those for more serious training or athletic use.
The FT40 is clearly a monitor designed for fitness since its workout feedback focuses on calories used, the amount of calories used from fat, as well as time spent in “fitness” vs. “fat-burn” zones. The watch also helps a person stay in a particular “zone” calculated. For this, the user inputs information and “locks in” a heart-rate range – go outside of that zone and the watch sounds a warning tone. And, if you let it, it will even help you determine the right training intensity for a workout session based on your heart rate as well as your heart rate “variability,” which can be pretty loosely described as alterations in your rhythmic beats. Like a coach, it may suggest you work out easier (or harder) because it senses you’re tired (or not).
In other words, what you don’t get with the FT40 are things like lap times, interval timers, recovery zones and all those things more serious athletes may want – which is certainly OK if you are training for fitness and can use a less complicated monitor.
For a fitness enthusiast, its graphical interface is really addictive. It’s a clear square-ish face that automatically shows you the results of your workout after you hit stop – heart rate average and max, total time, time in particular zones, as well as total calories burned and fat calories burned. What’s great about that feature is you don’t have to put your data into memory then go clicking and pushing buttons to find it again if you just want a quick glance. It also clearly, in easy-to-read words, tells you what you are looking at, and a dark dot directs you to the next logical button to push.
When you do want to go deeper into your results, the bar graph clearly shows each past workout and allows you to choose the one you want to see the stats for – no flipping through each workout one by one on individual screens to find the one you want. It also gives a user the ability to see a week’s total of time, calories and the like.
There is one feature that only Polar has that we love to death: If, during your workout, i.e. while the watch is running, you want to see the clock time, all you do is touch the watch face to the transmitter belt on your chest. Bing! The clock time appears on the face for a few seconds in big numbers before it automatically flips back to the running time and heart rate.
The face has a large, clear heart rate reading on it, and we found that it was very easy to glance at this and see it while working out. However, the running time of the chronograph is in silly, itty-bitty numbers at the bottom of the face. If you are in shadows, going in and out of various light conditions, or simply don’t have the best eyesight, it is impossible to see on a quick look. Polar is known as a manufacturer of heart rate monitors, so we realize it wants to emphasis the importance of heart rate, but the sizes of the heart rate and the time on the watch face are so out of balance that it’s laughable.
Also, the buttons are a tad small so a user needs to aim carefully to hit the start button nestled between two others – especially since that button is also the restart if you have hit pause.
There are lots of other features that we can’t begin to detail, such as individualizing what is shown on the watch face in some modes and a “Fitness Test” you can do to track your progress. Plus, there’s an option for users to invest in a so-called “FlowLink” that connects to your computer via the USB port and allows you to upload your workout files for more analysis. We didn’t have this accessory to test.
Basically, the watch looks nice enough to wear all day long, performs well during fitness-oriented workouts, and has a wonderful graphical and easy-to-understand interface. If only the chronograph with running time was actually large enough to see easily!!
SNEWS® Rating: 4.0 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $179.95 (FlowLink option, $54.95)