I recently won a Polar M430 watch in a competition during a chat hour by the fantastic UKRunChat Running Community on Twitter. If you’re looking to invest in a GPS watch or looking to upgrade your existing watch then hopefully this is in some way helpful.
It’s been years since I last owned a Polar watch and when I started in the fitness industry, a Polar HRM was a must have. It was a statement of credibility. It was a nice surprise when I won this and I was curious to see how Polar has evolved over the years especially among great competition and also to see how it would compare to the Garmin watches I’ve been using. I currently switch between the 620 and Vivoactive (both HRMs).
I don’t know about you but I’ve always been like the kid who wants to take the toy straight out of the box, play with it and look at the instructions later. Once it was charged and set up, the shoes were on and I went for a wee run to test it. It found a signal pretty quickly and I like how it tells you how the signal search is coming along in %. Starting it is pretty straightforward with the big red button on the right side of the watch. The downside is that the same button is a lap button and doesn’t stop the watch so if you’re running without reading the instructions first, you could end up spending the same length of time trying to stop it as you do running. The stop button is on the left side for some reason.
It has an app and a dedicated diary-based website to connect to and get a full breakdown of your workouts and access training plans that you can download to the watch and be reminded each day what your workout is to be. Apparently, you can create your own plan that you can install on your watch but it’s not obvious how to do it.
One of the more interesting features is the Optical HR Sensor which picks up your heart rate from the wrist. What that means is there’s no need for the good old chest strap. Unfortunately, it would seem that the heart rate using this method isn’t accurate so I wouldn’t discard your chest strap (if you have one) with wild abandon just yet.
The app and website have an Activity Tracker so you can get the info on all activities from the day and night, including quality of sleep It’s got all sorts of other features for measuring your heart rate while you do a class or workout in the gym. It has profiles for the various Les Mills classes (Body Pump etc) so you can use it in them but then I would see that as being more of a general fitness watch rather than the running one that it’s billed as.
Up and running
There are several data screens to choose from once you’ve pressed start and you’re heading out for your run and you can track everything from pace & distance to heart rate, heart rate zones and altitude while you run. This sounds great but I can’t help feel that much of the information available is unnecessary during a run. That might be just me though.
The alerts are vibrate only, which is good and certainly a fine way to know when you’ve gone through each mile etc. There is a flaw with this though. If you’re running to heart rate and you have the zones set up then you may end up with the watch vibrating a lot if you’re going outside your zones at either side and also when you go through a distance marker. There is also the case where you’re crossing a busy road or there are other distractions around you, there’s a good chance that you’ll fail to notice the alert, which can be a pain if you’re changing speed during a run as I did last weekend when I ran every 3rd mile faster.
What I like about it
It’s a good watch and there’s something to be said for the simplicity of sticking on the watch, getting a quick signal and heading out for your run. There’s a lot of information that would satisfy the geek and both the app and website are well designed. The activity tracker is good to measure your overall activity and not just steps. The downloadable programs and the profiles for various fitness classes make it an appealing watch.
What I don’t like about it
I can’t help but feel that it’s too complex for its own good between the different buttons for starting and stopping an activity, the different data options during an activity and the number of different profiles installed on it, which dilutes it as a running watch. If you want to set up an interval workout, you have to go into the web portal, create it there and download it onto the watch. That’s all fine except with the Garmin 620, I can set up the same workout directly on the watch. The most frustrating thing is the time it takes to sync after a run. You press the stop button for a few seconds then wait for it to connect to the device and it only connects in a wi-fi area whereas Garmin syncs with Bluetooth. On one run, I got an alert to say there was an hour left of battery available and when I finished the run, around 10mins later, it wouldn’t sync until the watch was charged. Again, Garmin does this instinctively within seconds.
Who would I recommend this watch to? I would recommend it to anyone who has worn Polar before and to runners who love doing fitness classes or fitness class attendees who also run. Would I buy it if I hadn’t already won it? No. It’s a good watch but you can get many of these features on a Garmin for less money and be easier to use.
For a more thorough review of the Polar M43o, I would recommend this one by DC Rainmaker.