Tracker Showdown: Polar Loop Vs Fitbit

Polar and Fitbit are both top-rated fitness tracking companies. And they have many different types of products on the market. In fact, their product lines tend to overlap somewhat in the features that they offer.

So for this article were going to go ahead and compare the Fitbit Flex to the Polar Loop. These devices are both very similar in terms of price point and features so it can be very difficult to decide which one to buy. Each one has strengths and weaknesses, and the type of device that you purchase will depend entirely upon your needs. Read on to see my take on the polar loop vs Fitbit activity tracker debate.

Side Note: The Fitbit Flex is a newer version of Fitbit's earlier unit, the Fitbit Force. The Force was recalled product due to users complaining of skin irritation. 

Features

Flex: The Flex allows you to track your steps, distance traveled, and daily calorie burning/active minutes. The device does not have a heads up display and instead offers a system of 5 LEDs on it which act as a simplified goal tracking system. You can set a daily goal, and the LEDs will light up to give you an overall idea of your percentage for the day. For instance, 3 LEDs are about 60%.

The Flex comes with an auto sleep function, which kicks in the moment you lay down and does not need any user interaction. You also get a silent alarm which is essentially a vibration function.

The Flex also syncs wirelessly via Bluetooth and supports Apple and iOS devices. It is also The flex is waterproof up to one ATM, which means it splash and sweat resistant but cannot be fully submerged. And the battery life the Flex is rated at 5 days, but I found that I averaged around 6 to 7 days. This may just be the manufacturer being conservative.

The Flex's memory can hold around 7 days of motion tracking data, and it can store your daily totals for about 30 days.

Polo Loop: The Polar Loop has an LED heads up display that will display (only in red, unfortunately) helpful messages and a progress bar to track your daily goal. The bar will fill up based upon how long you been doing an activity, and will also change depending on your workout intensity.

The Loop is able to track your total steps taken in your distance traveled. It is also able to track up to 5 different preset activities in the form of running, cycling, walking, and swimming since it is waterproof. It comes with an inactivity alert alarm which will go off after a certain amount of time, which is user controllable. You can also add alerts in the form of active breaks to change up your daily routine.

Polar has seen fit to add its smart calories algorithm to the device. Smart calories are basically how many calories you're burning in a day based on certain proprietary metrics such as weight/height gender and the overall intensity of physical activity during the day. And as far as calorie tracking, the Loop also has "active time" which is similar to Fitbits active minutes. Basically this is a fancy way of saying that it tracks and differentiates your high intensity activities. The device reportedly is able to differentiate between high intensity exercise and moderate exercise activities like walking.

The Loop also has automatic sleep detection and tracking. Additionally, the Loop also supports Bluetooth Smart 4.0 and is compatible with android and iOS devices. Unique to the loop however, is its ability to pair with Paul Lars H7 heart rate sensor. While this does not come with the device initially and must be purchased separately it will add a whole new level of functionality in the form of a chest based heart rate monitor.

The Loop's battery life is around five days. In my trial I got this much as well. The Loop is also waterproof up to 5 ATM, and the manufacturer states that it's completely safe to be used when swimming. 

Winner: The Loop and the Flex have almost identical features. However I feel that the Loop comes in slightly ahead at this point due to the fact that you're able to add and a heart rate monitor into the mix., thanks to its bluetooth connectivity.

Even without the heart rate monitor, the Loop comes it and slightly ahead due to it its increased water resistance. If water resistance and heart rate monitoring are features you can live without, then the Flex would probably be a better pick simply for the fact that it is a little more sleek and comfortable to wear.

Functionality And Aesthetics

Fitbit Flex: The Flex comes in two sizes: small and large. The smaller is about 5 1/2 to 7 inches long and the large one is around 6 1/2 to 8 1/2 inches long.

The wristband is about half an inch wide and comes in a soft rubbery textile that is very pliable. The Flex weighs about a quarter of a pound, which is a little on the heavy side for such a slim device.

The Flex comes in many different colors and you can swap out the band at any time simply by removing the unit and putting it into another band. Fitbit has also entered into it deal with Tory Burch, the jewelry designer. This allows them to offer a number different jewelry like bands which may appeal more to a female demographic as it makes the device look like a bracelet rather than a fitness tracker. Indeed, there seems to be no end to the types of bands that are coming out for the Flex. Some can even turn the device into a necklace.

Polar Loop: The Loop does not come with an adjustable band and needs to be cut which is somewhat of a pain. However, this does allow for a large variation in the size making a more customizable. The smallest it can go is about 6 inches and the largest is almost 9.

The Loop is a little on the thick side at about an eighth of an inch thick. The device weighs about 10 ounces which is surprisingly light given its thick profile. The loop is composed of a durable rubber that feels a little bit like plastic and is a little more rough than the Flex's band. This is a good thing, as I feel the Flex is a little to flimsy on my wrist at times. Additionally, the Loop as an irritating locking mechanism. It tends to be a little on the thick side and is very noticeable when it's on your wrist.

The Loop only comes in 2 colors: a light black and a light blue.

Winner: The clear winner here is the Fitbit Flex with one exception -  its lack of a heads up display. If you need a little more detail than just five LEDs than the Loop is a much better tracker for that purpose. However, it is quite bulky and easily measures among the largest of fitness trackers that I've ever used. It doesn't feel very comfortable on the wrist when used for long periods of time. However I'm very sensitive to this these types of things so your mileage may vary here.

App Support

Flex: Fitbit is no stranger when it comes to fitness trackers and they have been at the game for a long time. The Flex app is fairly intuitive and has gone through many iterations and updates.

The dashboard is very simplistic but I kind of like it because it allows easy access to all of the important metrics. It is able to track steps taken, miles traveled, and has a calorie counter coupled with active minutes in a graph that will show you how close you are to your goal. It will tell you when you last linked to the app which is handy but not wholly necessary as the Flex will automatically sync to your phone whenever you're in range. Auto sync is a convenient feature that many Fitbit trackers have. I wish more manufacturers would include this in their products.

The Flex also allows sync to the web via Fitbits cloud app. The cloud app is a slightly more detailed version of the mobile version that will allow you to track a few extra things, namely water intake and sleep. and the Flex has very basic sleep tracking: in the detailed breakdown will only give you moments of restfulness and log your awake periods.

Speaking of logs, the app allows you to add your exercise routines in manually, and does not have a running or swimming preset. It will however aggregate your data over a three month period and throw it into a graph. I found this very handy for tracking my weight gain/loss.

Lastly, one of the major upsides to having a Fitbit is that it is compatible with many third party apps. This is because Fitbit is so well known in the tracking industry. It pairs well with apps like Strava and Mapmyrun which is what I usually use.

Polar Loop: The home screen has an interesting layout that is shaped like a clock. This is Polars unique take on the usual daily activity graph and it's kind of neat looking. The clock interface will show you your different workouts for the day and your levels of activity, and any activities which are marked by hearts or light blue and dark blue lines respectively. Clicking on the center of the clock will show you your active time.

Since the Loop has a few activities preset into it you'll get it detailed breakdown when you focus on tracking one activity. Clicking on running will give you a basic breakdown such as distance, average heart rate, running index score, training benefit, and a detailed graph that will show you your heart rate over the time of your run. The app allows you to map out your run and expanding on this will show you basic information over time, mostly pertaining to your heart rate.

The sleep analysis is very basic just as in the Flex. You only get restful sleep and restless sleep which is presumably tied to how much you move around during the night versus how much you lie still. If you want to track sleep accurately it is probably better to use a dedicated solution. Since the Loop is parable with a heart rate monitor a more accurate app will give you much more detailed breakdown of your sleeping patterns provided you can live with wearing a bulkychest strap to bed.

The Loop is unfortunately very limited when it comes to app support. Besides the manufacturer supplied apps it is not compatible with anything else. This essentially means that the loop has no third party app support. The upside to this is that it allows you to use your phone's GPS function to give you a very basic map of your running and cycling.

Winner: The clear winner here is the Loop. Especially with the heart rate monitor, the Loop app support is very decent.

The flipside to this is that the apps that the Loop comes with are a lot more detailed in certain areas than the Flex's app. However the loop is limited in the form of third-party apps support. If you have a favorite app that you use with all of your trackers the Fitbit may be a better choice.

Final Verdict

In terms of raw functionality, I would have to say that the Loop wins hands down for the simple reason that it includes the ability to pair a heart rate monitor. It also has the Fitbit beat in terms of price, especially if you opt not to purchase the heart rate monitor. Without the monitor it is about half the price of the Fitbit Flex. If you purchase the heart rate monitor with the loop the price is about equal. This is the reason that we wrote the review with a slight slant towards the Loop since you kind of need a heart rate monitor to get the most functionality.

The Loop is also waterproof and a little bit more durable than the Flex, but this comes at the cost of more bulk and a slightly less comfortable fit.

Overall, I would have to say it comes down to two things: do you require a tracker with good third party app support and value comfort over features, or is heart rate monitoring and waterproofing in a must?

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Alex Fischer