A capable fitness watch with some ‘smart’ features.
Not long after I got my iPhone 7 (almost 2 years ago), I started wanting a watch to go with it. My dad has an Apple Watch and I thought for a long time that I wanted one to match his. That was before I was introduced to the Polar M430 Advanced Running Watch. As it turns out, it ended up being the perfect pairing for me.
The Polar 430 Advanced Running Watch is referred to as a ‘triple threat’ by Polar’s website. It’s got a state of the art running metrics, advanced GPS, an optical heart rate technology integrated inside the watch body. The wrist-based heart rate sensor uses Polar’s proprietary heart rate algorithm and 6 LED optical sensors for a more accurate measurement. No chest strap is required for a heart rate reading because of the internal sensor. With the advanced GPS and accelerometer technology, you can track your speed, distance, and pace no matter where you are running. The Polar watch also has ‘Smart Coaching’ available that’s scientifically-validated to provide tools that you need to achieve training goals.
The wristband is designed to perform. It’s lightweight, soft, and breathable. In addition to the Smart Coaching feature, the M430 also features a portfolio of timing features such as interval timers, stopwatch, and finish time estimator for athletes and coaches alike to analyze your training efforts. The M430 also includes Polar Sleep technology which automatically detects the timing, amount, and quality of your sleep. Even though ‘running’ is part of the product’s name, the M430 offers over one hundred different options for training to choose from.
Even though the primary focus of this device is to keep you moving and active, the Polar M430 will also connect to your phone via Bluetooth so that you can view smart notifications on your watch face.
Getting the M430 set up with my iPhone was actually pretty easy. I made sure the watch had a charge and then started up the Polar Flow app. The first thing you have to do is start your Polar account. Once you have that setup, you can pair the watch to your phone. The app will automatically recognize the M430 as long as it’s within range. When the app recognizes the watch, it will send a pairing request to the device and a code will appear on the face of the watch. To make sure your experience is as accurate as possible, make sure that you complete all the settings requested by the app. Once you have, tap sync and save and your personal settings will be synced to the watch. That’s pretty much it for set-up. After that, you just let the watch record your training data and manage it in the app.
You have the option of reviewing your activity data on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis in the app. The Feed will show you a snapshot of your progress and allow you to share any of your experiences on social media. You can sync your data to Apple Health and also sync Apple Calendar or Google Calendar so that targets and exercises can be created for you in your preferred calendar app.
Even though the set-up pretty simple, I felt as though some features were missing. What I mean by that is, the following items are what is defined when you set up the watch.
- Time format: Choose 12 h or 24 h. With 12 h, select AM or PM. Then set the local time.
- Date: Enter the current date.
- Units: Choose metric (kg, cm) or imperial (lb, ft) units.
- Weight: Enter your weight.
- Height: Enter your height.
- Date of birth: Enter your date of birth.
- Sex: Choose Male or Female.
- Training background : Occasional (0-1 h/week), Regular (1-3 h/week), Frequent (3-5 h/week), Heavy (5-8 h/week), Semi-Pro (8-12 h/week), Pro (12+ h/week). For more information on training background, see Physical Settings.
- Ready to go! is displayed when you’re done with the settings, and M430 goes to time view.
This seems like a complete list of settings except that there are ‘smart’ features that the watch can do, but aren’t part of the initial set-up. Since having smart notifications sent to a watch was a big reason I wanted a smartwatch, I was a little taken aback when it wasn’t part of the set-up from the app. I soon found that in order to enable smart notifications, you have to manage that from the watch itself. This is something that I wish was more universal — between the watch and app. I would prefer to see the same set-up available on the watch and the app so that the user had the option to work from either interface. It’s not very easy to navigate through pages and pages of settings on the watch face so having the option to move through the same features on the app would be brilliant.
The Polar M430 did a pretty good job of tracking my movements, but I did notice that it was a little slow to react to me. For example, when I would sit down or stand up the watch didn’t automatically say ‘walking’ or ‘standing’. It would remain ‘sitting’ for about 5 minutes before switching to an active state. The same was true for when I would sit down. I do like that you get a gentle vibration reminder when I’ve been sitting for too long. As far as the GPS and running features, I did take a few runs while I was testing the M430 out and thought it did a good job of keeping up with my location and physical condition while I was training.
One thing I want to note here — make sure your watch and app are syncing properly. As I was finishing up this review, I found that for a period of about a week, the app had not synced the data to the app. As it turned out, there was something wrong with the pairing of the two devices and I had to turn to Polar’s support information to get them talking to each other again. The solution involved unpairing and repairing the devices from each other. And, since there was a considerable amount of data missing, the sync took quite a bit of time to complete. The data was stored on the watch and just had to be transferred over to the app on the phone. I’m grateful that unpairing and repairing the two devices solved the problem because the next step was to do a factory reset of the watch which would have caused me to lose all the data.
The Polar M430 is a really nice fitness tracker with smartwatch features. Is it really a ‘replacement’ for more advanced wearables like the Apple Watch? Not really — but it does a lot in addition to being an incredible fitness tracker. I wish that it had a touchscreen on the watch face, but also know that would make it more expensive. If you are looking for a really tough, well-made fitness watch, the Polar M430 is a good option. It’s easy to read and does a good job tracking activity.