Polar FT40, FT60 & FT80 Heart Rate Monitor Watches – Review

 

 

The Polar FT series (FT40, FT60, FT80) of heart rate monitor watches falls into the fitness and cross-training category of sports watches. This means that this line of watches is mainly targeted for general fitness, and they do not have many of the features of watches specific to running, cycling, or multisport. The watches are great for working out at the gym, spinning, and general cardio workouts. If you are interested in Polar GPS running and multisport watches, check the review section under GPS watches.

There are 3 watches in the FT line; the FT40, FT60, and FT 80. This review covers all three watches, since they are very similar. The FT40 is the entry model in the line, and the FT80 is the top end of the FT line. We are going to first cover the features that are common to the all of the watches, and towards the end of the review we will cover the differences between the three models.

Before I start the review, I want to make it clear that I am in no way connected to Polar. These watches were purchased by Fitness Electronics Reviews, and the watches see daily use as spinning and fitness watches from us and other FER reviewers.

Opening the box – what you see is what you get. The box contains the watch, the heart rate monitor strap, and the manual.

The watch is powered by a CR2032 battery, which, under normal use, provides about 1 year of operation. The battery is easily replaceable; it can be purchased at any drug or grocery store. It only requires a coin to remove the back of the watch, and replace the battery.

The heart rate monitor strap battery is also replaceable, and uses the same battery as the watch.

As usual, for most heart rate transmitter straps, the manufacturer recommends wetting the electrode areas with water before placing the strap on your chest. This guarantees the best electrical connection, and the most reliable operation.

To activate your watch, hold any button for one second. After this, you enter time, date and units, and then your body statistics; weight, height, age, and sex. You will only need to do this once.

The watches fit well, and are fairly thin. Here is a picture to get a feel for thickness and display size:

To operate the watch, there are two buttons on the left hand side, and three on the right.

The top left button operates the backlight.

The bottom left button is the back or cancel button.

The top right button is the up button, which is used as the button to move up through the selections.

The center right button is the confirm selection button, or ok button.

The right bottom button is the down button, which is used as the button to move down through the selections.

Here are some of the features of all three watches:

  • Basic heart rate measuring, with average and maximum heart rate displayed at the end of your workout
  • Displays calories burned during exercise, and total calories displayed at the end of your workout
  • Displays heart rate intensity range on a line graph
  • Review old workout summary data, up to 50 workouts
  • Transfer data from the watch to your desktop with the optional Polar Flowlink® USB dongle
  • Performs a simple fitness test. You can use this to measure your performance improvement
  • Heart rate zone visual and audible alarms
  • Button locking to avoid accidental presses
  • The watch comes in three colors
  • Water resistant to 30 meters
  • The display also shows battery life, alarm active, sound settings, button lock, and heart rate connection.

Right out of the box, the watches are easy to use. Press any button for 1 second, and the watch powers up and is ready to go. The first time you use the watch, you will need to set it up. The watch does a good job of walking the user through the setup process. It only takes a minute to complete this step. After setup, press the center button, and start your workout.

The watch screen displays either fat burn or fitness, depending on heart rate. The EnergyPointer is the heart indicator shown above the line. If the heart is on the left, you are in fat burning mode. If the heart is on the right of the dashed line, you are training in fitness mode. The watch screen also displays heart rate, the threshold heart rate between fat burn and fitness, and total workout time. This screen would be displayed if your heart rate was in the fat burn range (below 140 BPM).

 

This screen would be displayed if your heart rate is in the fitness range (above 140 BPM).  You can lock into either zone, and the unit can be programmed to audibly alert if your heart rate is outside of the zone.

To stop your training session, press back twice. That’s all there is to it. The watch will give you a summary of calories burned, percentage of fat versus total number of calories, average heart rate, and maximum heart rate achieved during training.

You can review your workout in detail on the watch, or transfer your data to polarpersonaltrainer.com, where you can store and graph your data using the optional Polar FlowLink hardware.

So all of the features listed above are common to all three watches. So what is the difference between the three?

Here are images of the FT40, FT60, and FT80:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are the additional features of the FT60 and FT80:

FT60

  • In addition, the display also shows new messages, footpad in use, optional GPS sensor in use
  • Polar STAR Training Program – The watch will actually create a training program for you using your personal information, and it will give you time targets for training each week.  Your choices are to improve fitness or to maximize fitness.Once you have selected your training program, the watch selects your workout time and heart rate intensity.
  • OwnZone checks to see that you are training in the correct heart rate zones
  • The watch has a weight diary, in which you can log your daily weight, and display it on a graph on the watch
  • You can use an optional footpad accessory, available from Polar.

FT80

  • In addition, the display also shows new messages, footpad in use, optional GPS sensor in use
  • Polar STAR Training Program – The watch will actually create a training program for you using your personal information, and it will give you time targets for training each week.  Your choices are to improve fitness or to maximize fitness.Once you have selected your training program, the watch selects your workout time and heart rate intensity.
  • OwnZone checks to see that you are training in the correct heart rate zones
  • You can create up to three workouts online, and then download them to your watch. When you have completed your workout, the FT80 determines your optimal recovery time.
  • You can use an optional footpad accessory, available from Polar.
  • The FlowLink USB data cable comes standard on the FT80.

 

So, would I buy or recommend these watches?

Overall, the watches worked well. They are easy to use out of the box, and work well as your basic heart rate monitor. The display is easy to read, and the backlight works well at night or in a dark spinning class. The watch can be programmed to turn on the backlight by bringing the watch close to the chest strap. This is a great feature if you only have one hand free. The only issue we had with the watches were, occasionally, we would not get a reading from the heart rate monitor strap. This is not unique to Polar, and happens occasionally with almost all watches. This is due to the heart rate monitor strap not making a good electrode contact to your skin. Overall, they worked very well. So, if you are into gym cardio or spinning, I would recommend this as a good watch for you. Also, these watches are basic heart rate monitor watches with additional features. If you are a seasoned gym junkie, and are in it for the long haul, spending more money to get a few extra features is ok. For a little more money, you can be into an entry GPS watch. So, once again, if you are a runner, biker, or experienced athlete who wants to monitor every part of their workout, including distance, I would recommend a GPS watch.

If you would like some additional information, here is a video of the FT40:


And a video of the FT60:

And a video of the FT80:

Enjoy!


  25 Responses to “Polar FT40, FT60 & FT80 Heart Rate Monitor Watches – Review”

  1. i had my polar FT40 since May 2011. Yesterday, the batterys ign showed up. From the manual, it appears the battery has only 10-15% power left. First time changing my battery. After the new battery was inserted ( per all instructions) , a message appeared ” error, contact polar service “. What does this mean? Need to send in for service?

    • Buy a new watch. It may never work again. This is the problem with polar. IT gives you a good run and then….. POOOOF

    • I have had three polar watches.They all worked well. The functionality with respect to calories and HR is not always there depending on the model. IT depends on your need. The problem is battery replacement for this model. I sent mine back to the manufacturer and it has been returned not working.

  2. I had my FT60 for 7 months now. Used it only 35 times so far, due to new job and illness.
    The signal started giving up after 3-4 months, about 20 uses, not more than 40 hours use.
    The front is scratched for having been next to my keys for ONE flight, in my hand luggage.
    The misleading ad regarding “trraining monitoring”, “follow your progress”, “PC link and training software” and other blabla has tricked me: not even a decent graphical display of HR development to see how strenuous the difficult peaks were.

    And you guys recommend this piece of (expensive!) garbage while EVEN DURING YOUR SHORT TESTS THE READINGS HAD SHORTCOMINGS???

    Shame on your “objectivity”. I hope your free promo specimens that you’re advertising here will last as long as mine did.

    • Peter,

      Sorry to hear that your FT60 is not working. If you check your warranty, you will see that it’s 2 years, so you can get it replaced for free:

      This limited Polar international guarantee is issued by Polar Electro Inc. for consumers who have purchased this product in the USA or Canada. This limited Polar international guarantee is issued by Polar Electro Oy for consumers who have purchased this product in other countries.

      Polar Electro Oy/Polar Electro Inc. guarantees the original consumer/purchaser of this device that the product will be free from defects in material or workmanship for two (2) years from the date of purchase.

      The receipt of the original purchase is your proof of purchase!

      As far as heart rate readings are concerned, you can read out min and max heart rate immediately after your workout. You can also download your workout to polarpersonaltrainer.com, and view your complete heart rate versus time on a graphical display.

      As far as a “free promo”, we purchased our unit just like you did, and we stand by our review.

      John

  3. John,

    first of all, my apologies for the rave, it just does not seem like a fair thing to do to recommend a product that shows shortcomings during first try and dismissing it as a minor, irrelevant issue.

    Quote:
    “This is not unique to Polar, and happens occasionally with almost all watches. This is due to the heart rate monitor strap not making a good electrode contact to your skin.”

    Still sounds like a sales talk to try to rationalize the negative effects of this occurrence.
    While actually, it is not even as simple as that: if you care to browse the web for user reviews, many have the issue of bad transmission. About a dozen solutions are offered regarding the strap (assuming that’s where the fault lies), which work for some, but not for the other: washing/rinsing thoroughly, wetting sufficiently, tightening properly.. Still, in many cases it just does not work out.

    Of course, I should bring it back, BUT.. I cannot. Why? Because due to the scratches due to simple wear&tear, the obvious answer from the manufacturer would be “Improper use” and the assumption the watch got “damaged” in the process. From then on, I can not prove whether the fault is with the strap or with the watch (Honestly: I don’t know right now either and will probably not find out by spending even more money on a second watch or strap..).
    Either way, sending back the strap deprives me for quite some time from use, on top of the fact that the result is well-known among many who did this: even replacement does not solve the problem..
    So getting back to your assumption: how could you be so sure that it’s the “minor” problem of a snug fit and sufficient sticking, while it might as well be a software failure? Have you been using many Polar watches? Maybe you have a preference for them?
    Without me assuming more, many consumers get mislead, even if you have the best of intentions.

    Lastly, stating “You can … … and view your complete heart rate versus time on a graphical display” I find again a bit misleading, or maybe you have not understood my original statement well: a “graphical display” of a single column in either of the three zones is not what I call a “graphical display”. A graph should show the beat-by-beat (or at least every few seconds) HR development throughout the session. The issue is that it does not record on a beat-by-beat basis, it just takes an average of a whole session.
    The min/max HR after workout does not help much to serious users: it does not show graphically beat-by-beat, which would be essential to know the peaks, the periods of a long MTB ride (2-3 hours) with terrain difficulty causing HR peaks/lows, which is the only reason why I spent almost 150 EUR on this watch. Even a German Beurer watch of 50 EUR that I had for years was able to do that.
    Having the average HR is like having a GPS that shows one arrow only in the direction of your destination, but does not show the turns. 😉

    Oh, and one thing I forgot: registering on the website actually implies giving your personal data, as well as the registration number on the watch, no stand-alone possibility. The amount of private data is just ridiculous, I felt like getting on a police record! It might be considered normal in the US, but here in Europe we do not like being monitored 24hrs a day, including our heartrate and physical condition..
    Of course this can be dismissed as well by “many other products do this”, but that does not take away the crux of the problem: accepting a bad situation and misinforming the public that it is “normal” is not objective journalism.

    Anyway, good luck with yours, but as far as I’m concerned it’s an overpriced and badly designed watch (or strap?..), with a poor service delivery.

    cheers,
    Peter

    • Peter,

      First of all, let me say we want to hear all comments – good and bad about products and reviews. The more input we get, the better and more accurate our reviews are going to be.

      As far as bad transmission, I have that problem with many of the straps we test, so Im’ not sure this is a lame excuse. I always wet mine thoroughly with water. With some straps that we test, especially in winter, we use a gel to make a better contact with the strap. We use Parker Labs Tensive Conductive Adhesive Gel, 50 g Tube, which can be purchased off of Amazon for around $8.00 a tube. The tube lasts for a really long time. There are many other products out there, but we like this one.

      I would think that just general wear and tear on a bezel would be covered under warranty. Why don’t you contact Polar and see if they can help? It doesn’t hurt to ask 🙂

      You are correct saying that the watch does not display a running average of heart rate on a graph versus time. The watch displays current heart rate. If you want to know your average heart rate for the workout, you can get this at the end of the workout. If you want to see a plot, you will need to upload your data and view it online after your workout.

      Once again, I know it sucks to get a product that doesn’t work to your expectations. Give Polar a call and let us know how it goes.

      Thanks,

      John

  4. I have to say that I have used my XTrainer Plus for 9 Years now (running and cycling), and the only issue I have seen is the small rubber keeper for the strap became brittle and fell off.
    I did recently upgrade to FT60 (red screen) as the old serial interface PC Link is no longer supported by my laptop but had to move to the FT80 as the red screen FT60 is too difficult to read in low light.
    I will keep hold of the FT60 as with it’s dark chrome bezel and deep red display it still makes for a very nice day to day watch.
    Having tried two Garmin forerunners and a Sigma, I much prefer the Polar units.

  5. my polar doesnt work either. the monitor does not pick up my heartbeat, if it does its for about 15 seconds and then goes blank. I was so disillusioned with it after buying it a year ago that I just put it away and was p***ed off. Ive taken it out to see if I can fix it but same again. so I looked for help and found you. Then I read confirmation of it not working for others. I will try and get a replacement as its only been one year and never even used as I couldnt get it to work.

  6. I have a polar ft 80. It is about a year old. My heart rate monitor works fine, but my watch will not pick up the signal. Does anyone know how I can fix this?

  7. I would like to know if the “average” HR is just an arithmetic average between lowest and highest HR, or is modulated by various ranges of HR and the time spent in those ranges
    (for example, 10 min in 112 are not similar to 60 seconds in 112)

    thanks for your answer

  8. If I buy an H7 Sensor is there any reason or benefit to get a watch as well if I just want to get a better readout on my treadmill (the built-in handle sensors are very inaccurate) and am ok reading everything on an iPhone app?

  9. I have had a Polar FT40 for a few years now. First time changing my battery. New battery has triggered an ”error, contact polar service“ message. I am very worried because this is exactly what happened to John Lang (see his post above). Do Polar watches only last what their first battery does? I have no warranty but after seeing this site and experiencing what happened with my watch, I will get a watch different than Polar.

  10. I just got the FT40 for Christmas this year and I was hoping to upload my workouts to my online profile, however I can’t seem to find out how. Does the watch/sensor up load to the app via Bluetooth? I can’t get my app to read the sensor if so. Any ideas?

  11. Has anyone tried both the FT60 and M400, And If so which one would you recommend and why?

  12. I can not recommend the Polar FT60. I had mine for not quite 4 years, before it completely died. I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t want to face reality. The heart rate would show 214 bpm when
    just put on, or it would not register at all for length of time in the middle of a workout. Changing the batteries didn’t do it. It stopped working while in my gym bag, battery was only 5 months old. Battery tested fine, new battery failed to bring it back. I’m done with Polar.

    • Yes, I have had the same problem with two different Polar watches. The HRT will display 199 or 215 or any other out there number…it also goes down to 84 when jogging which is not accurate at all. I get a 00 reading many times…feel the pulse just pumping away as it reads “00”, thankfully! I’ve had all kinds of heart tests due to these Polar watches…I wish I could find an accurate and reliable HRT monitor…someone please, help me. 🙂

  13. FT40 – After replacing the battery for the first time it displays: “error Contact Polar service”

    • Same here as 3 others. FT40 – first time changing battery. Watch worked well just had the battery low indicator and the screen a little faint. Changed battery and when it came back on it says “error contact polar service” Obviously it works if it can display that screen bright and vivid. How shitty that just changing the battery causes it to go bad. Why would anyone invest in a Polar???
      If you want to capture the market, make the battery proprietary or something. Don’t make everybody go out and buy a new watch cause they ain’t gonna buy yours !!!

  14. Same here as 3 others. FT40 – first time changing battery. Watch worked well just had the battery low indicator and the screen a little faint. Changed battery and when it came back on it says “error contact polar service” Obviously it works if it can display that screen bright and vivid. How shitty that just changing the battery causes it to go bad. Why would anyone invest in a Polar???
    If you want to capture the market, make the battery proprietary or something. Don’t make everybody go out and buy a new watch cause they ain’t gonna buy yours !!! – See more at: http://fitnesselectronicsblog.com/reviews/369-2/#comment-279193

  15. Will the FT60 calculate mileage? If it does. how & where do u see it?
    Thank you

  16. The video for the FT60 does not work

  17. The video for the FT60 does not work

  18. I have had two Ft60s and they work great for me until it’s time to change the battery. After installing repeatedly 7 or 8 times, the watch will sometimes works. Most times the screen stays blank like there is no power. Checking and adjusting contacts doesn’t help. A watch repair shop sometimes has more luck, but they too, complain it’s a mystery why it’s so hard to get them going again.

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