When you want to track just your heart rate and self-regulate your workout and progress, the Polar FT1 is your best bet. This simple, easy-to-use heart-rate monitor doesn't scrimp on quality despite its low price.
Simple but solid. The FT1 is the simplest and least expensive of the Polar FT series of heart-rate monitors. While you won't find high-end extras, the unit is equipped with useful features to optimize training. The FT1 displays current heart rate in beats per minute and average heart rate at the end of each workout. It allows users to set their own heart-rate target zone and warns them with a visual and audible alarm if they leave that zone, a rare component among low-priced monitors.
The FT1 also features Polar OwnCode, which creates a coded transmission to communicate between the chest strap and wrist unit. That prevents interference from other signal-transmitting devices. This Polar unit is water-resistant to 30 meters, although the manufacturer doesn't recommend pushing the button underwater. User reviews say the FT1 works well while swimming.
Still, some useful extras you can find on more deluxe heart-rate monitors might be missed. For example, most Polar FT series monitors like the Polar FT60 (*Est. $150) can upload to a computer via an optional Polar FlowLink module (*Est. $50), but the FT1 can't.
One-button operation. Users enjoy the simplicity of the FT1; at Amazon.com one says, "The numbers are easy to read and programming is pretty simple." The unit boasts a larger display and bigger font size than its predecessor, the Polar FS2c. Rusty Squire at HeartRateWatchCompany.com calls it clear and easy to read. One downside is the lack of a graphics display, but that's normally found only on more expensive heart-rate monitors.
A few owners complain about the FT1's simple, one-button interface, but other users and experts find no issues with it. Despite being the least expensive Polar heart-rate monitor, the FT1 is equipped with HeartTouch technology, which allows button-free operation of the wrist unit by simply raising it close to the chest strap transmitter. This is also available on the Polar RS300X (*Est. $100) .
The FT1's chest strap is partially plastic rather than the cloth that's generally found to be more comfortable, although few users complain of noticeable discomfort.
Long warranty, but no user-replaceable battery. The FT1's chest strap contains user-replaceable batteries, but owners must send the wrist unit back to the manufacturer for a new battery (*Est. $13 plus shipping) if the monitor is out of warranty. The battery lasts about two years and Polar includes a two-year warranty.
FT1 owners don't have much to say one way or another about customer service. In reviews of other Polar products, users tend to take one of two views: excellent or slightly unsatisfactory.
1. Triathlon Plus
Review Credibility: Excellent The Polar FT1 earns an overall rating of 4 stars out of 5 from Triathlon Plus magazine, which tests four budget heart-rate monitors. Editors like that the chest strap is waterproof, and say the watch is lightweight. However, there's only one button for navigation, which can be annoying.
Review: Pulse Racers, Editors of Triathlon Plus, November 2010
Review Credibility: Very Good ThatsFit.com gives the Polar FT1 a positive review. Seymour says the watch is easy to use and has a good display, although the initial setup process can be a bit complicated.
Review: Sports Watch Lineup, Kristen Seymour, Dec. 10, 2010
Review Credibility: Very Good The Polar FT1 attracts more than 95 customer reviews on Amazon.com. Most users give the heart-rate monitor either 4 or 5 stars, with an overall score of 4.2 stars out of 5. The quality of feedback varies greatly, although some reviews are thorough.
Review: Polar FT1 Heart Rate Monitor, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of March 2013
Review Credibility: Very Good More than 40 users post reviews of the Polar FT1 here. Only two give the heart-rate monitor less than 4 stars out of 5, and most give it a perfect score. Write-ups are brief, but the site verifies that those who post comments actually own the monitor. The FT1 earns a spot on the site's list of Top 10 Picks, although that's based on sales popularity rather than any kind of testing or review.
Review: Polar FT1 Fitness Heart Rate Monitor, Contributors to HeartRateMonitorsUSA.com, As of March 2013
Review Credibility: Fair In site founder and elite skier Rusty Squire's brief review of the FT1, he emphasizes its positives and minimizes the one negative noted, the lack of a user-replaceable battery.
Review: Polar FT1, Rusty Squire, Not dated