Polar Unite Review: More surprised us than just the affordable sports watch's sensors
Equipment and operation - Fitness tracker without a GPS
At just 32 g, the Polar Unite is super light. Even the compact charging clip weighs only 3 g and is hardly longer than a USB stick. When traveling, it hardly takes up any space; as a result, you need to be careful to make sure you do not lose it somewhere.
The glass-fiber reinforced polymer housing of the watch is waterproof to a depth of 30 m since it complies to ISO 22810. The plastic wristband has two different length options. The white version of the wristband in our review sample does not look very high quality, but it is comfortable to wear. Polar offers four different wristband colors as well as additional replacement wristbands made of silicone, recycled PET fibers, or leather. In addition, 20 mm third-party wristbands can also be used with the watch.
The color TFT display regulates the brightness automatically with the help of an ambient light sensor, and it can still be read even in direct sunlight. However, the Unite does not have an always-on display. With the exception of exercise recording, during which the display can always remain on if desired, the display is activated by pressing the stainless-steel button on the side or, with a slight delay, after you raise your arm.
The 3D acceleration sensor responsible for recognizing a user raising their arm is very precise. The Polar Unite supports assisted GPS via an attached smartphone (A-GPS) but does not have its own GPS. If the smartphone stays at home, then the 3D sensor determines the distance and speed the wearer has moved - and it does this surprisingly well, as the test will show. The third sensor, an optical heart-rate monitor, constantly logs the wearer's heart rate.
Setup and use - Polar smartwatch also works without a smartphone
You can use and set up the Polar smartwatch without a smartphone. That said, this will prevent you from getting firmware updates, adding new exercises, and receiving the additional planning and analysis help that Polar provides via its associated apps and web portal flow.polar.com.
If you connect the watch to an Android smartphone or iPhone via the Polar Flow app, you will need a user account. The smartphone app can manage several Polar smartwatches at once and can switch between them, but it can only connect to and forward smartphone notifications to one at a time.
Alternatively, the Unite can be connected to a Windows or Apple computer using the supplied USB clip and the FlowSync app - this is the only way to reset the watch back to the factory settings.
There are no different display themes for the watch. The only thing that can be changed is the color of the watch and whether it is displayed in an analog or digital format. A downward vertical swipe pulls down a quick access panel that contains settings like turning on the lock screen, which will make the display not turn on with movement. An upward vertical swipe lists the smartphone notifications. You can react to them to some extent, but answering them is not possible. Polar Unite alerts you to incoming phone calls and lets you either reject or deny the call. When you accept the call, the call is done using the smartphone, not the watch.
Horizontal swipes rotate the display through five screens that contain information about sleep, heart rate, exercise history, activity, and FitSpark, a training program from Polar.
You can return to the main watch screen using the stainless-steel button on the watch. The button can also open a menu with additional functions such as a timer, stopwatch, and a breathing program. In exercise mode, the button also starts and ends the workout. Polar does not offer weather information, music playback, or a "Find smartphone" function on the Unite.
Health and Fitness - Sleep tracking and fitness analysis
The Finnish company, one of the leading manufacturers of wireless heart-rate monitors, proves its prowess in the health and fitness sector.
Extended sleep analysis
Like many current smartwatches, Polar also evaluates sleep, but it goes beyond just analyzing the various sleep phases (REM (Rapid Eye Movement), light sleep, and deep sleep). Alongside the exercise history from the last few days, Polar analyzes how well the body recovers from exercise at night and, based on that, determines what exercises the wearer can do the next day.
FitSpark Exercise Program
Based on the sleep analysis and exercise history from the past few days, the FitSpark exercise program creates a daily list of suggestions with up to four different workouts. They can be based around cardio, strengthening, mobility, and core (which focuses on strengthening body stability and coordination). For example, it could suggest a 20-minute cardio workout with guided exercises, strength training, or an hour of running.
If you want to record your workout route, you have to take your smartphone with you, as the Polar Unite does not have its own GPS. Even without GPS, though, it determines distance moved and movement speed quite well using its 3D accelerometer. We used both a Polar Unite on its own and a reference smartphone using the Komoot app to simultaneously record our path along two different routes. The difference between the two recordings was almost zero on the first route and around 220m on the second.
The watch also shows an analysis of the workout after the exercise:
You can choose from more than 100 exercise profiles, and the watch can use up to 20 of them to influence its exercise selections. Targeted exercise programs or interval exercises can be planned with the app and then synchronized to the watch.
The Polar Unite is waterproof up to 3 ATM since it complies to ISO 22810. When it comes to swimming sports, Polar differentiates between swimming, lane, and open water swimming. Unlike the Polar Grit X, the Unite only records the duration, heart rate, and calorie expenditures from swimming, not swimming styles and distances.
You can use the Polar Flow app on your smartphone to connect your account to Adidas Exercise, Adidas Running, MyFitnessPal, Endomondo, and the Nike Run Club.
According to the manufacturer, the built-in 174 mAh battery lasts up to four days while continuously monitoring the wearer's heart rate. In training mode, the Unite uses a little more than twice that much energy. So if you do about an hour of exercise a day, you can still get by with a single charge on the Unite for a good three-and-a-half days.
Conclusion - Good price-performance ratio
Our expectations for the cheap smartwatch that does not have GPS, music, or space expansion options were not very high before the test. That said, it surprised us with its analysis abilities and precise tracking, especially during the endurance run. The FitSpark workout suggestions based on exercise history and regeneration during sleep also seemed well done. Those who run a lot may still enjoy a watch with GPS more, and those who swim may enjoy some of Polar's other offerings like the Polar Grit X more.
The Polar unite, a lightweight smartwatch that works well during everyday use, may be a good choice for all-rounders who want to get fit through exercise and sports.
Polar places the Unite in its fitness and cross-training category. It meets the expectations of this category perfectly, and you cannot complain about the RRP of 149 Euros (~$176) for the attractive watch, especially since its software is also decent.