For many people wanting to track their heart rate during workouts or train using heart rate data, the new Polar H9 is likely just what you’re looking for. At $59.95, it costs less than other heart rate monitors (HRMs) that pack
in extra features, but it still covers all the bases. It’s comfortable, waterproof, and washable, and you can pair it with a phone, a running
watch, or any other fitness equipment thanks to support for ANT+, Bluetooth, and 5kHz transmission. Polar’s companion apps
come with heart rate training options, as well as a simple VO2max
test so you can track your fitness progress over time. If you don’t have any
complex or special needs in your HRM, the Polar H9 will leave you
satisfied without asking you to spend too much, earning our Editors’ Choice.
What Makes the H9 Unique?
The Polar H9 is very similar to the Polar H10 except for a few key points. The H9 has a
list price of $59.95 compared with the $89.95 H10 (though the H10 is a few
years old now, so you may be able to find it for less). The H9 doesn’t have any onboard memory, whereas
the H10 can store data from your previous training session, so you can use it without a connected device and simply upload
your workout data later (in other words, you can go for a run without your
phone). The H10 can hold two Bluetooth connections
simultaneously, whereas the H9 is limited to one at a time. And the chest straps
are slightly different.
Beyond that, the HRMs are nearly identical. They
weigh the same. They use the same coin cell battery (CR2025). They’re both
waterproof and safe for swimming. Both use an ECG (electric pulse) for taking
heart rate, rather than the optical method.
Another word on price: A reliable chest strap
without many bells and whistles is going to cost somewhere in the range of
$40 to $60. If you see a brand you trust selling an HRM for less than that, it’s a
Accuracy and Battery Life
I tested the accuracy of the Polar H9 in two
ways. First, I wore the device while sitting still, walking, jogging, and
running to make sure the readings were in the range of where they should be.
Doing this type of test doesn’t tell me how accurate the device is, but it does
give me an indication that it works correctly in a general sense. I know that
while resting, my heart rate should be in the 50 or 60bpm range. When I run hard, it
should climb to 150, 160, or 170bpm. As soon as I stop running, it should fall. The H9 performed fine in all of these basic tests.
Second, I put on the Polar H9 and
simultaneously wore other heart rate monitors to compare their readings. To
make it easy to look at the data, I do this second test while seated. I used
HRM-Dual first. I paired the Garmin HRM to a Garmin watch while simultaneously looking at data from the Polar H9 on my phone.
They gave nearly identical readings that were almost perfectly in sync. When
one of them climbed or fell, the other was right on its heels. I repeated this
same test using the Wahoo
Tickr FIT, an optical HRM. Again, the readings were very
close to one another.
I mentioned that the Polar H9 runs on a coin
cell battery. If you train for an hour per day, the battery should last about a
year. Changing the battery is straightforward if you have a large coin to help
you open the cover. Then you pop it out, drop in a new one, and close it back up.
A few standalone HRMs come with
rechargeable batteries, meaning you can connect them to a proprietary charger
and plug them into a USB outlet, the same way you do with most other smartwatches and fitness trackers.
OH1, the Scosche
Rhythm24, and the Wahoo Tickr FIT all come with a rechargeable battery. All three
are armband HRMs and use optical technology rather than ECG to read your
Comfort and Wearability
Some people don’t mind wearing a chest strap
HRM, and others find it uncomfortable or distracting. It does take some trial
and error to figure out how tight to make the strap to keep it secure, but also
comfortable when you breathe deeply. If you make it too loose, it might slide down as you
sweat, but making it too tight feels restrictive.
The H9 uses a strap that Polar refers to as
its Soft strap. It’s a stretchy black fabric made of four different materials (38 percent Polyamide, 29 percent polyurethane, 20 percent elastane, 13 percent polyester). The side that
touches your skin has a flat panel of sensors that feels like nothing more than
a strip of soft plastic. At one end of the strap is a coated stainless steel hook that you slip into a loop on the other end. In this way, there are
no buckles or loose ends rubbing against your skin.
The sensor is small, measuring 1.33 by 2.56 by
0.39 inches (HWD). It clips into place with two snaps, as is
the case with most chest strap HRMs. You should remove the sensor to wash the
strap, although it’s waterproof enough to handle swimming.
Working Out With Apps and
The Polar H9 is versatile. You can use it with
a wide range of exercise equipment and fitness apps. Because it uses ANT+, Bluetooth, and 5kHz (Gymlink), you can connect it to fitness trackers, running
watches, phones, bicycle computers, gym equipment, and more.
Polar has its own apps that work with its line
of heart rate monitors, namely Polar Flow and Polar Beat, and you can use third-party
apps, too, including Nike Run Club, Runkeeper, Zwift, TrainerRoad, The
Sufferfest, MapMyFitness, and other apps in the “MapMy” family.
To test the HRM, I fired up the Polar Beat
app. I’ve used this app before, and several of the features and options appeal
to me as someone who knows a little about heart rate training but isn’t highly
experienced doing it. When I’m not testing devices, I’ll look at my heart rate
from time to time during a workout to see where it is. At most, when I’m
treadmill jogging, I’ll increase my speed if I realize my heart rate is low and
I’m not working out hard enough. Typically, however, I don’t manage my heart
rate throughout a workout in a planned way—but that’s exactly what you do when
heart rate training.
First, I did a general fitness test to gauge
my current state. You wear the Polar H9 and lie flat on the floor completely
still for about five minutes. The HRM and app calculate your VO2max; it’s OK if
you don’t know what that means because the app puts it in context with a chart,
number, and descriptor. Mine is 40, which is “good,” and one digit
away from being “very good.” You can then set out on a fitness
journey and refer back to that score as your starting point.
The app also tells you how you can improve
your fitness score. For example, I would have to increase the frequency of my
workouts and vary the intensity. The app goes one step further to offer you
workouts that do exactly the kind of training you need.
I did a few runs to improve my heart health.
My favorite one has you warm up for five minutes, then get your heart rate into
a specific range and keep it there for the number of minutes you set, with a
minimum of 30. You do five minutes of cool down at the end too, when the app
gets you to maintain a lower heart rate. The whole time you’re working out, an
automated coach in the app tells you to either speed up, slow down, or keep
this pace. It also reads out basic stats every mile, including total time,
average pace, and average heart rate. For people who are at the entry level of
fitness, these are wonderful programs that give you exactly the feedback you
need to work out effectively.
The app has workouts targeted at more
experienced runners and exercise buffs, too, whether you’re training for a
race, looking to get faster, or trying to improve your VO2max through other
Which HRM Is Right for You?
For anyone new to heart rate training, the
Polar H9 should be at the top of your list of heart rate monitors to consider. Polar has kept
the price lower than some of its more premium HRMs while still producing
a device that’s accurate, comfortable, and easy to use. Some of the training
programs in the Polar Beat app are great for beginners, while more advanced fitness enthusiasts might still
find the H9 does everything they need, too. If you want to track your
heart rate, train using heart rate, or watch your fitness level change over
time with a VO2max score, you’ll get everything you need from the H9. That makes it an Editors’ Choice.
Polar H9 Heart Rate Sensor
The Bottom Line
The entry-level Polar H9 is the best heart rate monitor for anyone with basic needs, with a wide range of compatibility and an excellent companion app.
Polar H9 Heart Rate Sensor Specs