But which one is better? Which one should you choose? In this post, our primary intention is to help you make that decision.
To kick things off, let’s unpack the most important differences right from the get go.
What are the main differences between the Suunto 5 and Polar Vantage M?
- The Polar Vantage M is about 50 dollars cheaper than the Suunto 5.
- The Polar Vantage M has a brighter screen and a better optical heart rate monitor
- The Suunto 5 can track your stress levels
- The Suunto 5 has navigation functionality built-in.
- The Vantage M is better for runners, mainly due to Polar’s customized training plans and the amazing data you get through the Polar flow app.
Suunto 5 vs Polar Vantage M - Key Similarities
Suunto 5 vs Polar Vantage M - Key Differences
Reasons To Choose the Polar Vantage M
World Class Wrist HRM
The Polar brand was originally built on the back of their heart rate monitoring technology. Polar fans will be glad to know that they have continued this lineage into the optical (wrist-based) heart rate monitor packed into the Vantage M.
Now you might be wondering why Polar’s wrist-based HRM is so impressive. The main reason is because it has significantly more LED measurement points than the Suunto 5 does, and it also has 4 skin contact detectors. This helps the Vantage M decipher when you are actually wearing the watch, while the large number of LED’s gives you an averaged out reading which can be more reliable than a standard optical HRM.
Please note – Even though the optical HRM in the Vantage M is about as good as it gets, it still can’t compete with the accuracy of a chest strap. Polar openly admit this.
It's more affordable
Obviously prices fluctuate over time, but for the most part, you can expect to pay about 50 dollar less for the Vantage M.
Given how similar the watches are in terms of overall functionality, this could easily be a deciding factor. The biggest thing you lose by choosing the Vantage M over the Suunto 5 is breadcrumb navigation and stress tracking. This may or may not be important to you. Personally, I have no need for the navigation functions, but if you’re into trail running, mountain biking or hiking, the Suunto 5 might be a better bet.
The better choice for runners
If running is your primary sport, it’s hard to go to far wrong with the Vantage M.
This is mainly because of the strength of Polar’s Running Program. This technology essentially builds customized training plans for 5k’s 10k’s, half marathons and full marathons.
Moreover, the data from your watch is fed into the Polar Running Program (inside Polar Flow) which then recalibrates the training program based on your perceived fitness levels.
All in all, the Polar flow app and the Polar Running Program (a sub-component of the app) are extremely well suited to people who specialize in running. The Suunto 5 doesn’t have anything quite as sophisticated from a running perspective.
It has a lot more sports modes
If there’s one area where Polar are basically untouchable, it’s the ridiculous number of sports modes to choose from. With the Vantage M, you literally gain access to over 130 different sports modes, which is the same as you would expect to find in the Polar Vantage V (it’s more expensive sibling).
This is not to underplay the power of the Suunto 5 in this regard. With 80 sports modes in total, the Suunto 5 will still have you covered for just about any endurance sport that you can think of. Even so, the Vantage M still gives you an extra 50 sports, so if you want the watch that can track just about any endurance activity, the Vantage M might be a safer bet.
The Vantage M Has A Brighter Screen
The screen of the Vantage M is perfectly adequate for a mulisport GPS watch with a pretty decent battery life.
Sadly, the same cannot be said for the Suunto 5. You need only take a quick glance at the reviews on Amazon to see this feedback surfacing from an alarming number of Suunto 5 owners.
Reasons To Choose the Suunto 5
The navigation features of the Suunto 5 make it closer to a Garmin Fenix 5 in terms of overall functionality.
You don’t get 3D TOPO maps, but you do get highly visual breadcrumb navigation that will do the job perfectly fine in most scenarios.
This is a compelling reason for trail runners, hikers, mountain bikers and adventure racers to opt for the Suunto 5 over the Polar Vantage M.
I’m not 100% sure why Polar don’t offer stress tracking in their watches, given that it’s become a key selling point for both Suunto and Garmin in recent years.
By opting for the Suunto 5, you get stress tracking and advanced sleep tracking. With the Polar Vantage M, you only gain access to the sleep tracking component of this particular equation.
So, if stress tracking is a key priority for you, the Suunto 5 will better suit your needs. Personally, I wouldn’t let this particular feature sway my decision, but that’s just me.
Super Fast GPS Connectivity
This might not seem like a big deal, but slow GPS connectivity can become a ball ache if you run, cycle, or swim outside consistently.
The Vantage M is perfectly fine in terms of the time it takes to connect to GPS. It’s just that the Suunto 5 is really fast compared to most GPS watches (and especially Garmin watches).
Ultimately, the convenience of fast GPS connectivity adds up over time. You spend less time waiting, and more time training, which is the primary point of investing in a good sports watch (together with improved physical performance of course).
So which one should you choose?
Even though this battle is close on paper (especially when you look at the comparison tables near the top of the article), if you read between the lines, a clear winner emerges.
In my opinion, the Vantage M is the clear victor for the following reasons.
- It’s better value for money
- The screen is brighter and performs better during everyday use, especially in sunlight
- It matches the Suunto 5 in every respect as a triathlon specific watch
- It’s the better option for runners due to Polar’s running program and the quality of data that you get through Polar flow
- The optical heart rate of the Vantage M is a touch better than the Suunto 5 (admittedly neither is perfect)
- The Vantage M is the better choice for extremely dedicated endurance athletes
The only fundamental advantage that the Suunto 5 has over the Vantage M is navigation capabilities. For this reason, I can accept that hikers, trail runners, mountain bikers and mountaineers might be better served by the Suunto 5. But for everyone else, the Vantage M is probably the better call.