The Polar FT4 in Review

   

There she is ladies and gentlemen.  The FT4 comes in a couple of different colors, but this happens to be the color I got, so that’s what you get to look at.  Could be more stylish, but I think she’s pretty easy on the eyes.  I wouldn’t wear it every day, but that’s because the screen is so big (it has a lot of info to display!).  otherwise the color and everything are fine.

What’s in the box?  You get the watch, the chest strap, the transmitter, and a  basic instruction manual.  I say it’s a basic instruction manual because in it, it advises you to look up the full one online.  I find that kind of annoying, but whatever, the basic one has everything you need to know.

When you first take the watch out, you have to push any button on it to activate it.  Apparently once you activate it, you can’t shut it off.  I like this, because it means the battery hasn’t been wasted as it sat on the shelf.  Once activated, it starts to try to get to know you by asking questions.   How old are you?  M/F?  Birthday?  Height?  Weight? Those kind of things.  I imagine it’s like signing up for an online dating site.  Using that information, it calculates your heart rate training zone, and then asks you if you think that’s a good zone.  If you’re a more advanced user, you might want to tweak that.  Us regular old fatties are probably okay leaving it where it is. 

Time to don the chest strap!  The chest strap is comfortable, and I like it.  It’s mostly cloth and the transmitter snaps on and off.  It adjusts to fit a wide range of people, and I had no trouble adjusting it to fit me.  Once it’s on, you hit the start button on the watch and it begins to track your heart rate.  You push start again to officially start your workout.  You can toggle the screen to show your heart rate in large print, the number of calories it estimates you’ve burned, the duration of your workout, the current time, and a cool linear scale the shows the bottom of your zone at one end and the top on the other end.  Your current HR is shown with an arrow along that line, showing you at a glance how close you are to the bottom or the top of your zone.  Your heart rate can also be shown as a percent of maximum if you like.

I used it while I did some step aerobics and found that it worked pretty well.  Even though I don’t put much stock into these things, I have to say that the number of calories it estimated I burned was fairly accurate, when compared to going to a website like TDP and asking it how many calories I burned.  TDP would tell me that doing 20 minutes of step I might burn 400 calories when I know that’s nonsense.  My FT4 estimated 150 which I think was much more accurate, given that I didn’t think I really worked all that hard.  Obviously this thing uses a more sophisticated formula than most websites or even older gym machines that attempt to tell you the same thing.  I like.

There is a pause function if for some reason you want to pause your workout.  Since at the end it tells you how long you were in the zone, I suppose you might want to pause it if you walked to the drinking fountain or something and let your HR drop….I dunno.  Hit that button again and it stops your workout and gives you a summary.  Total duration, how long you were “in the zone”, # of calories burned, average heart rate, and maybe min/max HR…I can’t remember now.  It also stores this info so you can check your workout stats for the week, month….whatever you want. 

Overall, I like it.  It’s not the most high-tech HRM out there, but it’s not a good step up from the basic ones. 

Pros:

  • good looks
  • lots of interesting and useful features
  • accurate
  • easy to use
  • comfortable

Cons:

  • Price.  It’s expensive.  Order it online to get a decent deal on it.
  • The watch has kind of a short wrist strap.  Fits me okay but if yours is much bigger than mine…it might not.

In my opinion, this would be a great HRM for the first time user, or someone looking to step up from the basic one that only measures your heart rate.  My old one was like that.  It told the time, gave your heart rate (continuous), and had a stopwatch function.  That was it.  This FT4 is a lot more fun.

What about the FT7?  Well, the FT4 was expensive enough.  The FT7 looks like fun but I figured I better try to keep the financial bleeding to a minimum.  If you have the cash for the FT7 I’m sure you’d like that one too.

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