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Few weeks ago Polar announced a new arm optical HR sensor .The Polar Verity Sense is an update to the previous sensor of this type that they had in their catalog, the Polar OH1 .
The Verity Sense is essentially the same sensor as the OH1 (which has always given me extraordinary performance in the several years I've been using it in my reviews). In its renewal Polar has taken advantage of improving some of the aspects in which it had been left behind, adding a dual Bluetooth connection and greater battery life. But they are not the only things that change: increased operating range (for team sports), pool swimming metrics, a new way to operate it and a larger strap.
The unit I've used for this review has been provided by Polar. I've been doing all my workouts with a combination of sensors, comparing with other HR sensors and the OH1 that it replaces. After publishing this post, I'll just send it back where it belongs.
As I usually remind there is no compensation from any manufacturer, so all my opinions are free and without pressure of any kind. If the review is useful to you, please use the purchase links you see on the page, because they are the ones that help maintain this website.
And once I have clarified those details, how about if we see what are those news and how does Polar Verity Sense work?
- Impeccable operation
- Dual Bluetooth connection
- Enough battery life for virtually any activity
- Pool activity profile capable of recording swim metrics
- There's no easy way to know the remaining battery life
- Despite having memory, it does not allow to download data and add it to an activity recorded with a watch
Specs and new features
It may seem like a little update, but there are more things than what you see at first glance. It's not just a new strap design and larger battery; although the sensor looks exactly the same, inside almost everything changes. Below is a list of all the new features in the Polar Verity Sense.
- Increased battery life. The OH1+ advertised up to 12 hours of use, whereas the Verity Sense now offers up to
20 hours30 hours after 1.1.5 update
- More internal memory. Now you can save up to 600 hours of workouts inside
- Two simultaneous Bluetooth connections, being able to connect to a watch and an app at the same time (for example when Zwifting). It still has ANT+ connectivity
- More water resistance, from 30m to 50m
- New swimming mode that captures metrics in the pool (laps, distance, time)
- New control method, thanks to the sensor LEDs it allows us to know in which mode we have configured it
- New strap and bracket design
- This bracket allows for signal amplification, offering a range of up to 150m
- Removable bracelet. The belt holder can now be removed so you can wash it in the washing machine
- Price slightly higher than the model it replaces
Many little things that eventually turn into a good upgrade. Here is a comparison with both Polar OH1 and Polar chest sensors.
What are the most important news about the Polar Verity Sense? If I have to highlight something, it would certainly be the dual Bluetooth connectivity, the swimming profile and the larger strap. And of course, that when using the sensor now changes the way in which we “communicate” with it.
Using Polar Verity Sense
Polar Verity Sense is a sensor that can be used with any other device, simply providing heart rate data. But even if you are not going to use it independently, it is necessary to activate and configure it through the Polar Flow app on your mobile.
Once you have activated and updated the sensor it will be ready for use, both as an external sensor for your device or for independent use, both recording data and in the new swim mode.
This is precisely where we find the first noticeable change with respect to the model it replaces, because adding the swimming profile Polar has had to change the way we interact with it.
These are the available modes:
- Sensor mode — In this mode it works as a standard heart rate sensor, sending data to any other ANT+ and Bluetooth compatible device. The LED blinks blue.
- Independent mode — The Polar Verity Sense will save your workout's heart rate data in its internal memory, and then you can download the workout to your mobile phone using the Polar app. In this mode the LED flashes green.
- Swim mode — This is the new possibility that is present in the Verity Sense. OH1+ added a specific holder for swimming goggles (in addition to ANT+), but it simply recorded heart rate. Now it does record swimming metrics, pre-selecting the pool distance in the app.
In previous models, when you turned the OH1 on you always did so in sensor mode. If you wanted to record the session you simply had to press the button twice, recording from that moment on. I mean, we had full control of when we started recording.
Now this changes. The Polar Verity Sense turns on in the last mode we used, and if we want to switch modes, we have a short time to press the button and select the new one. Once that time has passed, it will start working in the selected mode and we will no longer be able to switch modes unless we turn off the sensor.
That means you can no longer control when you start recording effectively, but it will do so a few seconds after you've pressed the button and selected the mode.
It also has another problem, if you wear the sensor under a long sleeve or jacket you don't see the control LED, so you don't know if it is in the right mode or not. In summer or indoors it is no problem, but these winter days when I went out with several layers I had to remove my jacket, set the mode and put all my clothes back.
As for the sensor itself, it is exactly the same as the model that it replaces in shape and size. On the front we find the charging pins (both share the same USB charging cradle).
And on the back we see the same sensor, with just inscription changes that lets you know in which mode the Verity Sense is configured.
And since we are comparing models, here you can see the difference in the size of the band and bracket. Polar has designed both so that, thanks to its wider width, the sensor cannot be easily turned around, something that could happen with the OH1 especially if we were wearing a long sleeve.
Another change that the new strap has is that it can be opened to put and remove the sensor, although truth told is that my use is still the same as in the previous model, sliding it on the arm.
Dual Bluetooth connection
Probably the Polar Verity Sense feature you'll notice most in everyday life is the two Bluetooth channels to connect to two different devices.
The original Polar OH1 (and the OH1+ after) only allowed to pair the sensor with a device via Bluetooth (ANT+ does not have this limitation). If you connected the sensor with your watch via Bluetooth to record a workout, you could no longer connect to any other device or app.
This is especially important for Polar or Suunto users (or other smart watches such as Apple Watch). And of course and more importantly, when it comes to using it with third party apps.
Imagine you want to do some laps in Zwift. With the OH1 you could only send data to a single device via Bluetooth. Now, with twice as many channels, you can record (or simply view data) from the watch and from the app. Or record a treadmill workout with a watch, while you see your heart rate on the treadmill screen.
As an example, here you can see how I paired the Polar Verity Sense in Zwift on the sensor screen.
And I can record that workout from the Polar Vantage V2 as well, which is also receiving heart rate data from the sensor.
Pool swimming profile
If the dual Bluetooth connection is what you'll appreciate most in everyday life, the swim-specific profile is probably what catches your eye.
Polar includes a specific holder for swimming goggles with the Verity Sense. This holder allows you to place the sensor in the temple area, allowing you to record the heart rate of your swimming workouts.
That's something that the Polar OH1 already offered (although for the Verity Sense the holder has been redesigned), the difference is that now the sensor is able to measure swimming metrics.
We will only have information about lengths performed, pace in each of them and heart rate. Obviously there is no information about strokes, because you cannot have information about them. And by not having control buttons we can't pause a workout or mark specific portions for technique exercises.
Therefore, its use is very simple. You get to the pool, place the holder on the goggles and turn the sensor on, selecting the swim mode. There are two things to keep in mind:
- It's better to put the goggles and cap on top, if you put the cap first maybe the sensor will not go to the skin but to the swimming cap
- Depending on how the elastics of your googles are, it can work better or worse. With the Zoggs I have no issues, but with the THEMAGIC5 googles the sensor is not directly on the forehead. Although I had no recording issues, I wasn't really confident that I would end up with valid data.
And with that, you start swimming. The sensor accelerometers will identify when you turn, regardless of whether you are doing a flip or open turn.
Here is an example of the information the sensor captures, second session of my return to the pool after a year without seeing it because of the pandemic.
In general, the record of almost all the laps has been correct. It only had two mistakes, one at the beginning when I had not yet started swimming, and the second half in the middle of the workout. I made the turn and when swimming away I had a cramp (third workout for the day...), so after two strokes I returned to the edge.
It didn't understand that move correctly and it adjudged me to have been able to swim 50m in 14 seconds. It would be interesting if Polar allowed to modify workouts when we detected these errors, not only in poorly measured laps but also those moments at the beginning and the end of a workout in which we carry the sensor, but we are not swimming. The movements we make can induce errors and that in the end can change the total average of a workout quite a lot.
We can change the time and distance data, but that modification does not alter the graphs or laps performed, nor the total average heart rate.
My main complaint about this is that Polar still does not allow the use of external sensors for swimming. What I would like is that we could record a workout with a Polar watch and save the heart rate data in the sensor's memory (both Verity Sense and H10 have internal memory).
Once the workout is finished and before saving the activity, the watch should “ask” the compatible sensor if it has data relating to that workout, which would be easy to find by the GMT time code. If found, combine both activities into a single activity file, having swimming data recorded by the watch and adding the heart rate recorded by the sensor independently.
Polar will probably say that is already possible today because both Vantages and Grit X capture heart rate data with their integrated optical sensor. But what they won't tell you is that that registered HR with the watch is anything but accurate, because the wrist is far from the best place to measure the heart rate when swimming.
I'm still hoping that Polar will, someday, add it. Although as the years go by it all seems further away.
Holder and signal amplification
Polar has significantly expanded the use range its sensor, up to 150 meters away from the device receiving the data. It is not something that most regular readers of this page are going to take into account for the type of sport practiced (endurance), but still I think it is worth talking about it even briefly.
This extended range can be useful in team sports, allowing the heart rate sensor signal to be received from a terminal located in the sideline. So, a coach could be getting heart rate data from all players in real time (and see if there is one that is slipping...).
Polar sells its sensors as part of equipment solutions, so Verity Sense is going to be an important part of its offering.
How did Polar achieve that extended broadcast range if the sensor is the same as the previous one? Modifying the sensor holder. On the inside of such bracket we can find an antenna that amplifies the transmission signal of the sensor itself.
That is, the design of the internal antenna or its size has not changed, but it is the strap that allows to expand the signal.
Naturally, this also had to be tested. I didn't think most of you give too much importance to this aspect, but there will always be particular cases.
Within the different options I thought about to do the test (none of them good at all, in fact quite dummy), in the end I chose to go on a deserted road and start walking away in a straight line, marking a time code as I moved away from the starting point.
I was wearing the Polar Verity Sense on my arm, and the recording was done with an iPhone 11 Pro and the Polar Flow app. This is the result, where you clearly see the point at which it stopped receiving signal from the sensor (and where it have recovered it again).
According to the notes I was taking, the signal was lost about 40 meters away from the watch. Well below the 150 meters announced by Polar.
As for the turn, with the sensor facing the phone, the signal recovered it at a greater distance. I don't have the exact data but I guess it would be about 120 meters, away from the theoretical 150m but quite a distance considering that we're talking about Bluetooth.
As a reference, a Bluetooth headset begin to lose connection 15 meters away from the playback source, and at 20 meters there is no hope to still listening something.
Do you want to see the time points on a map? Well, I got it too. This is the point where I lost the signal when I'm separating from the phone. As for reference, I walked away a total of 160 meters.
And this is the point where it recovered the signal on the way back to the original point (as I say, this time with the sensor facing the phone).
Do not forget that the test performed is very rudimentary and not at all technical, but it serves to give us an idea of the capacity that the sensor has with its antenna. It does not reach the maximum theoretical 150 meters announced by Polar, but honestly the 120 meters already seem to me a surprising distance for what is usual in Bluetooth.
Optical heart rate performance
Let's go with the important part of a heart rate sensor, which is simply to see what the performance of the sensor itself is like. For the test I have simply carried the Polar Verity Sense along with other devices during my last workouts, including in all of them easy periods along with pure intervals of both running and cycling.
In all of them I wanted to compare it with the Polar OH1+ for several reasons:
- This is the model it replaces (although the previous one is still on sale)
- Polar says that additional battery life comes from improvements in the operation of the sensor and its algorithms, and not from a larger battery. That can mean a performance drop because the processor now becomes less powerful
So, still hoping to find good results (at least as good as those of the OH1), what I want to check is if there are issues that may come from a reduction in processing power.
I will start with this workout in which I do two 5,000m intervals, in which before I hit the main target I have done a gentle and progressive warm-up.
Overall we see that the performance is frankly good, but still I have pointed out four zones that I want to comment on an individualized basis.
If you know how an optical sensor works ( here I explain the operation of optical sensors ) you will remember that while the sensor on the chest measures , the optical one estimates from an algorithm. Therefore it is common to find slight delays in heart rate ups and downs, such as those that happen when we are doing intervals.
The first circle I marked points to a peak in the workout, below you can see it zoomed in.
The rise and drop of heart rate recorded by the chest sensor and that recorded by the Polar Verity Sense is virtually instantaneous. The Polar OH1 has had some delay.
When I start the first of the two five-thousanders, the same situation is repeated again. The Polar Verity Sense and the Garmin HRM-Tri are virtually neck and neck on the uphill and downhill, but the OH1 is again slightly behind.
There is even the situation that at the end of that first five thousand the Polar Verity Sense is the most accurate of the three. In addition to the slower heart rate drop OH1, it adds that HRM-TRI is slightly lost at that point, with a strange peak that does not correspond to the reality of the workout.
Which does not mean that the Verity Sense was absolutely perfect, in fact at the break of the second five thousand it has an erroneous peak, but it is a matter of seconds.
At that point the OH1 reconfirms that, compared to Verity Sense, it is slower reactions.
Next we have a 8×1000 workout (in which i missed the last because of too much fatigue in my calfs), preceded by a warm-up and short intervals to get the body ready to run fast.
During warm-up we can see a usual failure in chest sensors, especially in winter. Having not started to sweat and with the cold and dry environment conductivity is not as good as it should, which results in erroneous readings. That's what you can see on that first arrow.
Let's go with the first short intervals. They're blocks of 20 seconds, except in the first one my brain blocked and I wasn't very clear what I was doing... (the things about doing interval workouts at 6 in the morning).
If we take the chest sensor graph as valid (in these cases it does not usually fail) we can see how these short intervals make optical HR sensors choke. Even in this case the Verity Sense responds with a little more delay than the OH1.
However, in such short intervals, it is not that heart rate is important.
The 1000m intervals are all very similar: during the interval the measurement is perfect by all three sensors, but the rise and drop shows the limitations of optical heart rate sensors.
That is an example of the diminishing intensity at the end of one of them.
These are just a couple of examples of running workouts I've been doing lately. Beyond the slight delay in HR ups and downs (something I don't care about, it's how technology works), performance is at least as good as OH1, or better in some cases.
But let's ride a bike, which is where we're going to find the most impressive graphs. If you are regular reader of the page and have a few reviews read under your belt, you'll know that optical sensors don't get along too well with cycling. At least those integrated into the watches.
The reason is simply because of its location on the body, which is not the most ideal when it comes to riding a bike. The Polar Verity Sense allows us to wear it on your arm or forearm, an area that withstands much less vibrations and also offers better performance for data estimation (there is more “meat” and less bone).
Thanks to that we can enjoy the accuracy of a chest heart rate monitor, but wearing it more comfortably on your arm. The performance of the sensor is so good that I won't even bother to zoom in the graph of any of the workouts I have done.
For example these five 8-minute intervals rising to Z4 threshold. In this case the sensor I carry on my chest is the Polar H10.
It can clearly be differentiated what is the initial warm up, where I have performed intervals (and their breaks) and when I went into cooling.
And beyond that, they are three perfectly aligned graphs, without any odd spikes or reading and with total accuracy on the part of the three members of the comparison.
That workout is done with a road bike. We might think that, having good asphalt, there are no problems with vibrations but it can be more complicated in the mountains.
Then next I have another example, this time doing gravel riding. Mix of asphalt, roads and trails and even some areas with quite large stones.
Finally we have swimming, a sport for which there are not too many options when it comes to recording heart rate. This time I compared it to Garmin's specific swimming sensor, the HRM-swim .
I have pointed out several points to comment. The first, in the circle, is the area that 'bothers me' from a cohesion point of view. That's what I've commented above, since I start the sensor until I start swimming, it takes a long time (almost 2 minutes). I would like Polar to allow you to edit the activity to trim parts that we are not interested in, not being relevant to the workout.
As for the arrows on the graph, it's the same as in run workouts. The sensor has a slight delay in heart rate ups and downs, which is perfectly normal considering how the technology works. But leaving that aside you can see how the measurement has been correct throughout the workout.
I think the graphs speak for themselves. Outstanding performance and that in many respects can be a substitute for a good chest heart rate sensor such as the Polar H10. The improvement in battery has not led to a reduction in performance.
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Polar Verity Sense opinion
Knowing how I know the Polar OH1 I didn't expect the Polar Verity Sense to be very different. Same as the previous model, but improved at the points that needed to be updated.
For almost the same price (there are only 9€ difference in official price) we have a sensor with greater battery life and dual Bluetooth connection, something that everyone who rides on a trainer will appreciate.
Just with that alone I would be more than satisfied. It is likely that the triathletes in the room will not make use of the sensor independently in the pool, but it is another possibility that opens to us. That is one of my few criticism, that despite having onboard memory Polar have not yet developed the solution to be able to download data to a watch, and thus have the workout done with your Polar along with heart rate data.
It's something Suunto and Garmin already do, each with their specific sensors. Polar has all the hardware that allows it, only one firmware would be missing to accompany it. Other than that, I would just like to have a way of knowing what the remaining battery is.
Bottom line, an excellent performance sensor at a competitive price for everything it offers.
And at this point... thanks for reading!