Polar Loop 2 vs Fitbit Charge HR: The Fitness Tracker Showdown
Fitbit and Polar are two big names in the fitness tracker industry, thanks to their well-made trackers, name recognition, and dedicated fans who love their products, and they each have a highly regarded tracker in this $100 price range. We’ll take a look at them in this write up: it’s the Polar Loop 2 vs Fitbit Charge HR. You’re probably not going to buy both, so which is best? Let’s see how they compare.
Fitness trackers in the $100 range are immensely popular for several reasons. They tabulate enough health and activity data for casual athletes, but are easy enough to use for tech novices who just want to see how they’re moving and sleeping. Additionally, $100 seems to be a price point that many users are comfortable with: enough so that you know you’re getting a decent device, but not so much that it breaks the budget.
Polar Loop 2 price when reviewed: $71.92
1. Polar Loop 2 vs Fitbit Charge HR
At first glance, the Fitbit Charge HR and Polar Loop 2 may seem strikingly similar. They both track steps taken, calories burned, and distance traveled. Additionally, they both automatically track sleep and offer data about sleep duration and quality. There’s also a vibrating alarm on both of these trackers so you can wake up with a buzz on the wrist rather than an obnoxious alarm clock or ringtone.
And, neither tracker has built in GPS, though that’s to be expected at the low $100s price point. Beyond the basic tracker capabilities, though, both of these devices have some noticeably different features.
The biggest difference is how the Fitbit Charge HR and Polar Loop 2 measure heart rate. The Charge HR has an optical sensor on the back to continually monitor your heart rate, which is a feature on more and more trackers (and a feature that more and more consumers are interested in). The Polar Loop 2 can track heart rate, but not on its own; to do that, you’ll need to purchase the Polar H7 heart rate monitoring chest strap and then sync it with the Loop 2.
Polar as a company seems to be insistent that a heart rate monitor on the chest is substantially more accurate than one on the wrist, and that’s a big reason why the Loop 2 — and all of the Polar trackers and sports watches — don’t have optical heart rate monitoring.
Your mileage may, of course, vary, but this is a big difference between the two devices.
Fitbit Charge HR price when reviewed: $98.91
2. Small But Useful Displays
One feature that elevates both the Fitbit Charge HR and the Polar Loop 2 above trackers in lower price points is the fact that they each have a display. They’re small, mind you, and not full color, and not anything like what you’d find on, say, an Apple Watch, but they do give you some basic information about your activity and some smart notifications right on your wrist.
On the Charge HR, you get a small window of an OLED screen: the 0.83 inch width of the device and about a third of an inch high. It’s enough to show you the time of day and, when you toggle the display using the side button, details like steps, calories, and more.
The Loop 2, on the other hand, has an 85 LED display, which is slightly larger and considerably cooler and nicer looking than what you’ll find on the Charge HR’s more ordinary display. In addition to showing you the same sorts of details, the Loop 2 also offers some coaching and motivation on the wrist so you can meet your daily goals; this is feature that the Charge HR does not have.
Additional Reading: The Best Polar Watches, Trackers And More For Your Active Lifestyle
3. The Looks and Design Department
Keeping with the aesthetics of most fitness trackers, both the Fitbit Charge HR and the Polar Loop 2 are rugged and sporty looking, but not overly conspicuous. The Loop 2 is a bit thinner than the Charge HR, though it does have a noticeably higher profile. Interestingly, Polar bills the Loop 2 as “the stylish activity tracker,” and you can see why: it’s fairly sleek looking, with metal accents, and on a woman’s wrist it could even be mistaken for a bangle with a more industrial-type design. The Fitbit looks like a silicone wristband — not bad, but nothing to get excited over. They are, however, both lightweight and comfortable to wear all day and all night.
As for sizing, the Fitbit Charge HR comes in three sizes, all of which have a buckle lock like you’d find on most wristwatches. The Polar Loop 2, however comes in one size; to size it to your wrist, you have to cut it down — literally cut it down. As in, with scissors.
It’s a little strange to take a pair of scissors to the device you just plunked down $100 for, but that’s what you have to do. Once you’ve got the band sized properly, you just need to reassemble the clasp and pins with the included tool. The initial set-up is a bit of a hassle, especially compared to the Charge HR, but once you have it sized properly, you shouldn’t have to fiddle with it again.
You’ve got your choice of colors with both of these trackers. The Fitbit Charge HR is available in black, plum, blue, tangerine, teal, and pink, while the Polar Loop 2 comes in black, white, and pink only. The white Polar Loop 2 with its white LEDs is especially sleek looking.
4. Sizing Up the Apps
Both Fitbit and Polar offer apps for iOS and Android, plus web tools, and Fitbit also has an app for Windows Phone. Syncing via BlueTooth is simple and automatic with both devices. Like the trackers themselves, both apps are, on the surface, quite similar. Both offer visual readouts of your personal data, and both allow you to compete with, challenge, and motivate friends who have similar devices. However, the difference is, once again, in the details.
Fitbit’s app shows your numbers in an easy to read format, with horizontal readouts for each day. It’s all quite simple — a bit too simple if you’re trying to push yourself to exercise more and improve your endurance. One helpful feature it does have for runners, though, is that it can sync up with your phone’s GPS for accurate distance information and routes. (You’ll have to keep your phone with you when you run, but you’re probably going to do that so you can listen to music anyway.)
Polar’s app, on the other hand, seems to be more directed at people who take a proactive stance toward their fitness goals. Instead of just showing you basic measurements, there are more in-depth stats for time active versus time sedentary on any given day, all displayed in a clock-like format. Plus, the big appeal of Polar’s app and devices is the included coaching features. If you’re the type of person who needs a push to do more activity, Polar will certainly help you in that regard.
5. Power and Compatibility
Both the Fitbit Charge HR and Polar Loop 2 are similar when it comes to battery life and charging. You’ll get about four or five days on a single charge with the Fitbit, and up to a week with the Polar, less if you turn on smart notifications, and both should charge from dead to full in under two hours via its own proprietary USB cable.
A friendly word of advice: do not lose that cable! If you do, you’ll need to order a new one from the manufacturer so you can actually use your tracker.
And, because many people use a more complete fitness app to aggregate their data, compatibility with other apps and platforms is important. Polar works with Google Fit, Apple Health, MyFitnessPal, and MapMyFitness; according to the company’s website, more third party compatibility is in the works. WIth Fitbit, you get considerably more integration; it works with apps like MyFitnessPal, Strava, Endomondo, Weight Watchers, MapMyRun, RunKeeper, Withings, LoseIt!, and even Alexa on Amazon Echo.
6. Improvements Over Previous Versions
Manufacturers of tech devices that have been in business for at least a year or two are always improving upon early iterations of their products, and Fitbit and Polar are not exceptions. The earlier version of the Fitbit Charge HR is the Fitbit Charge, a device that’s similar in every way except the one that changed its name: the Charge has no continuous heart rate monitoring.
The Polar Loop, however, is lacking several useful features that are now on the Loop 2. For starters, there are no smart notifications on the earlier version, nor is there a smart alarm or smart vibrations. The overall look of the band is slightly better on the Loop 2, but that’s negotiable. And the Loop 2 is 10g lighter than the 48g Loop, making it a bit more comfortable for all day wear.
7. Pricing Them Out
Here’s where things get a little slippery. You’d think that pricing on fitness trackers would be a fairly straightforward proposition, but bear with us while we explain.
If you want to buy a Fitbit Charge HR, it will cost you $129.95. If you want to buy a Polar Loop 2, it will cost you $99.95. So the Loop 2 is cheaper, and if you’re on a tight budget, that’s the one you should choose, right? Well, sort of.
The issue is, the Charge HR can monitor heart rate, but the Polar Loop 2 can monitor heart rate only if you buy the Polar H7 Heart Rate Sensor, a chest strap monitor that will run you $79.95. This means that if you want the Loop 2 to give you heart data for zone training, your total cost is $179.90 — 50 bucks more than the Fitbit. I told you this wasn’t straightforward.
Advantage: Fitbit Charge HR?
Let’s lay out the case in favor of the Fitbit Charge HR. In addition to tracking the basics, this device can also track elevation, or floors climbed. It has a stopwatch feature, which the Polar Loop 2 doesn’t have, and it has that neat GPS phone syncing ability that we discussed earlier.
The Fitbit app also has some advantages, like logs for food and water intake; it’s more of a total health app than the Polar counterpart. You can also tweak the wrist alarm more than you can on the Polar app, and it integrates with more fitness tools and apps as well. Finally, Fitbit does offer a Windows Phone app, whereas Polar does not.
Advantage: Polar Loop 2?
Of course, we can just as easily make a case in favor of the Polar Loop 2. There are the little things, like the inactivity alert if you’ve been sitting too long, a somewhat longer battery life, and the more robust smart notifications. The Loop 2 is also water resistant to 20 meters, meaning you can shower and even swim laps with it, two things you really shouldn’t do with any Fitbit.
The big appeal of the Loop 2 is that it’s got training features, both on the app and on the device itself. Tap the corresponding button, and the Loop 2 can tell you about how long you’ll have to walk or jog to meet your daily goal — an incredibly helpful feature to have right on your wrist. Ultimately, we think the Polar Loop 2 is best if you’re a bit more proactive about your fitness than someone who just wants to track steps and see how many calories they’re burning.
The Bottom Line
In the case of the Fitbit Charge HR vs Polar Loop 2, it’s not so easy to pick a winner. Ultimately, the best tracker for you is totally dependent on your priorities: how much you want continual heart rate monitoring, how much you want to spend, how much you’re going to use the app, and which tracker looks the nicest to your discerning eye.
On paper, we think the Fitbit Charge HR comes out ahead in terms of what you get for your money, and it’s widely considered by many tech professionals and consumers alike to be the best fitness tracker on the market today. However, that’s not taking into account the accuracy of wrist-based heart rate monitoring; if you want highly accurate heart data and can afford the $50 difference between the two trackers, the Polar Loop 2 is probably going to be the tracker you want.
Whether you choose the Fitbit Charge HR or the Polar Loop 2, though, you can be assured that you’re getting a high quality tracker from a respected company. The rest comes down to your own personal needs and preferences.
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