I’ve been a big fan of Suunto watches ever since I bought the Suunto Core watch in 2011. I replaced the Suunto Core with a Suunto Ambit 2 in 2014 and currently I’m using the Suunto 9 Baro. When I bought the Suunto 9 watch I also purchased the Suunto Smart heart rate monitor. I do various sports from hiking to cycling and thus a heart rate belt was a necessity for me to track my workouts. Wrist heart rate monitors don’t provide good enough accuracy for sports where you often clench your fist such as cycling and weightlifting. You can read more about this in my article How accurate are wrist heart rate monitors.
So, when I got the Suunto 9 watch and Suunto Smart heart rate monitor I immediately started using both devices for various sports. Quite quickly I figured out that the watch sometimes doesn’t detect the heart rate belt. If that happened, I unpaired the heart rate belt and paired it again. That always fixed problem. It was a bit inconvenient but not a major deal breaker. However, a year later I started noticing that the heart rate measurements just didn’t add up. My first thought was that the battery in the heart rate belt is dying. I replaced the battery, but the heart rate measurements still seemed incorrect. A couple of weeks later the heart rate belt simply died. I could no longer connect it to the watch. As a replacement I bought a new chest strap (without the transmitter) for around $35. However, the new chest strap stopped working within three months which was indeed very disappointing.
That’s when I started checking for an alternative to the Suunto Smart heart rate monitor. The Polar H10 seemed like a great option. It had many positive reviews and according to various online communities it was compatible with my Suunto 9 watch. Priced at $90 it wasn’t inexpensive but considering that the lifespan of my last Suunto chest strap was only three months it has been a good purchase. I ordered the Polar H10 heart rate monitor approximately five months ago and since then I’ve been using it almost daily. Below I explain why I think you should use Polar H10 heart rate monitor with your Suunto watch. I also point out the shortcomings of using the H10 with a Suunto watch.
Why use Polar H10 heart rate monitor with your Suunto watch?
It pairs seamlessly with Suunto Bluetooth watches
Pairing the Polar H10 heart rate belt with a Suunto watch is very easy. You moisture the electrode/pad on the chest strap and the put the chest strap on. On the watch you navigate to Settings -> Connectivity -> Pair sensor -> Pair HR Sensor. After 10 seconds or so the Polar H10 will be paired with your Suunto watch. Note that the Polar H10 is only compatible with Bluetooth-equipped Suunto watches. It won’t work with older Suunto watches such as Suunto Ambit 2. These watches use ANT technology instead of Bluetooth and are only compatible with ANT heart rate belts like Suunto Dual Comfort.
I was really surprised how easy it was to pair the Polar H10 with my Suunto 9 watch. I also haven’t encountered any problems connecting the belt to the watch later. The watch immediately finds the belt when I navigate to Exercise and choose the activity I want to do. That for sure wasn’t the case when I was using Suunto’s heart rate belt.
It’s incredibly sturdy and durable
When I unpacked the heart rate belt, I immediately noticed that it’s sturdy and made with high precision. The fabric is of high quality and unlike most other heart rate belts it has only one electrode which stretches all over the front side of the chest strap. The connectors that hold the heart rate monitor on the chest strap are big and made of high-quality metal. The actual heart rate monitor is a bit bigger than Suunto Smart sensor but also sturdier and more robust. I was also very satisfied with the quality of textile. I’ve been using the chest strap for almost half of a year now and it still looks like new. The Suunto chest strap looed all beaten up already after a couple of months.
You can connect it to a mobile app
You can connect the Polar H10 HRM to the Polar Beat app which is available for both Android and iOS devices. The Polar Beat app not only enables you to record activities, but also allows you to run various fitness tests, change settings for heart rate monitor and see how full the battery of the heart rate monitor is. Settings-wise you can enable/disable the following: GymLink, ANT+, 2 receiving Bluetooth devices and visibility of the device for Bluetooth connections. I’m really happy that I can see the battery level in the app because this will allow me to replace the battery before the heart rate monitor stops working. However, at the moment the battery is still full, although I’ve been using the HRM for almost half of a year.
What are the shortcomings of Polar H10?
You’ll lose the memory functionality for swimming and team sports
An advantage of using the Suunto Smart heart rate monitor is that it has a memory chip where it saves heart rate recordings. If the connection between the watch and the heart rate belt is lost, the recordings will be synced to the watch once the connection is restored again. This is very convenient for sports where you don’t want to wear a watch such as swimming or playing football, basketball etc. You connect the heart rate monitor to the watch and then leave the watch in the locker room. This will interrupt the connection between the watch and the heart rate monitor, because Bluetooth connection has a maximum distance of around 10 meters. However, when you come back to the locker room the heart rate monitor will send the saved heart rate measurements to the watch.
Polar’s H10 of course also has a memory chip which saves heart rate measurements. However, Suunto watches won’t retrieve these measurements from it. I’m not sure whether Polar doesn’t allow this data to be retrieved by third party devices or Suunto simply doesn’t want to retrieve this data. In any case you won’t be able to get heart rate measurements to your Suunto watch if the connection between the heart rate monitor and the watch is lost while you’re exercising.
A way around this is to instead record your exercise with the Polar Beat mobile app. The Polar Beat app of course retrieves heart rate measurements from H10 even if the connection is interrupted during the exercise. However, if you rely on the Suunto app, you will have to manually insert the activity in the app because activities from Polar Beat app can’t be synced to Suunto app automatically.
It’s slightly bulkier and heavier than Suunto Smart
The Polar H10 is for sure not the lightest or slimmest heart rate monitor out there. The receiver is double the size of Suunto Smart sensor and the chest strap is also heavier. The Polar H10 is even heavier and bigger than the old Suunto Dual Comfort belt which is compatible with Suunto watches without Bluetooth such as Suunto Ambit 2.
However, I really wasn’t bothered by its size or weight of Polar H10. As matter of a fact, I found the heart rate monitor very comfortable. I was also very satisfied with the fit. The strap provides just the right level of elasticity and since it’s a bit wider it doesn’t chafe you.
The bottom line
So, why should you use the Polar H10 heart rate monitor with your Suunto watch? Well, primarily because the Suunto Smart heart rate monitor has a lot of issues, including durability and if you’re buying a third-party heart rate monitor, you might as well buy on of the best heart rate monitors on the market. The Polar H10 pairs seamlessly with Bluetooth Suunto watches and provides incredible durability. I was also very happy that it can be connected to Polar Beat mobile app where you can change its settings and see the battery level. Unfortunately, you will lose the “memory” functionality of Suunto Smart heart rate monitor but there are ways around thar as explained above. Another downside of Polar H10 is that it’s a bit heavier and bulkier than many other HRMs. Nevertheless, I’m extremely happy with it and the only thing I regret is that I haven’t bought it earlier.
Which heart rate monitor do you use with your Suunto watch? What’s your experience with Polar H10 and Suunto Smart heart rate belt? Share your thought in the comments below.