Polar M430 GPS HRM review by Robbe Reddinger
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Gear Reviews

Polar M430 GPS HRM Watch Review

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Polar Watch Review

Six weeks of marathon training, culminating with the marathon.

Polar has done a nice job separating themselves from other fitness and GPS watches by establishing their own look that’s immediately identifiable. That said, not much has changed in the last few years from the parent model of this watch, the M400. The look is virtually identical, save for a new silicone wristband that is now punched with enough holes to adapt to any size wrist. Currently, the watch comes in black, white, or orange options. Unfortunately Polar does not currently offer replacement bands, although third-party ones can be found on Amazon. Additionally, it comes in two sizes (small and medium/large), which is really nice for those of us who have smaller wrists. Unfortunately, my test model was a medium, and I had to lop off the end of the strap.

Out of the box, the watch comes with a proprietary charging cable, which is a severe slip-up on Polar’s part. The M400 used a micro-USB, which is all anyone needs. For some reason, watch companies now think they’re the ones who are going to change the game on micro-USBs, and most of them fail terribly at it. In regards to this watch, the charging port on the watch itself is about twice as large as a micro-USB. Odd. On top of that, if the watch is lightly bumped while charging, the cord will almost always come out. This led to a couple disappointing starts to runs, since my watch had not been charging all night as I had previously thought. It’s just a bad “improvement” all around.

Heart Rate Monitor (HRM)

The main difference between the M430 and the M400 is the addition of an optical HRM. Every watch company is putting out their own proprietary HRM these days, and Polar is no different. I found the heart rate monitor to be very accurate for all my runs, with a gradual rise at the beginning of a workout, and no out of place spikes or flatlines.

The heart rate monitor measures your heart rate around the clock every few minutes (or continuously during activity). If it notices you haven’t moved in awhile, it will pick up to get your lowest heart rate of the day. Hopefully, it isn’t zero.

Another nice feature is the Polar Fitness Test, which uses your heart rate and additional data to discern your VO2max. From there, you can set up and monitor a fitness plan for yourself, and Polar will give you feedback on your workouts, based on a standard set of 20 responses related to your heart rate during your workout. Within the Polar Flow app, it will also give you data on your training load and estimated recovery time.

You can tailor your heart rate zones to your age, for data viewing within the app. Also, you can set your heart rate monitor to pair up with other Bluetooth devices that use heart rate tracking (e.g. gym equipment).

Polar M430 GPS HRM

GPS

The M430 comes with two GPS tracking options: 1) high accuracy recording mode that pings every second, and 2) low-power mode that pings every 30 seconds.

One thing I loved about this watch is that the GPS connection never took more than a few seconds before a run.

Through several weeks of runs and one marathon, I found the GPS to be incredibly accurate. On group runs it consistently matched the distance of those I was running with and looking at detailed map views, it rarely veered far off course at any time.

The GPS features include altitude ascent and descent, as well as running index based on heart rate and speed data.

Another nice feature is the back to start feature, which will guide you back to your starting location, should you get lost at some point in your run.

Battery Life

Polar claims the battery will last 8 hours in high-accuracy GPS mode, which I found to be an over-estimation. Although I didn’t do any continuous 8-hour runs, I did do a 3:40:00 marathon on a 100% charge. After that day, I did not wear the watch again, until I did a one-hour bike ride a day and a half later. At the end of the ride, the battery went into the low-battery mode (less than 10%), at which point it stopped recording GPS data. So I got a total of 4 hours and 45 minutes, with the watch being merely “on” the other two days.

Which brings me to my next point: for the life of me, I do not understand why some GPS watches stop recording at 10%. What other purpose did you think I was using your watch for? Here’s an idea— maybe let the watch record GPS data until— gee, I don’t know— 1% battery life?

I actually wrote Polar asking for an explanation, of which they provided none that had anything to do with the question I asked. Frustratingly, this happened to me on a couple long runs where I had maybe an hour left of running to do (before I started the run, the battery icon looked like it was 75% charged). The watch stopped recording GPS because it was in low battery mode, then proceeded to stay on for an entire DAY until the battery actually died. Incredibly annoying.

Polar M430 GPS HRM

Additional Features

Because Polar was an activity tracker before it was a GPS watch, it still carries those same capabilities. It offers 24/7 activity tracking, with goal tracking and nudge notifications to get you off your ass and walk around the office so you can stop pretending to work for a few minutes.

The watch can be set up with up to 20 different activity profiles within the Polar Flow app. Activities range from your typical sports to ballroom dancing or Finnish baseball because apparently, that’s a thing.

A really cool feature that I feel a lot of people may overlook is the training plans that Polar has available through their website. For free, you can select a training plan ranging from 5k to marathon distance, and tailor it to your ability. It will output a pretty legit training plan, with interval, tempo, and long runs, and the time for each according to your fitness level. It even schedules cross training and provides video tutorials on exercises to do for those workouts. For a seasoned runner, this probably isn’t necessary, but for someone entering into the GPS watch market for the first time and just getting into running, this is a great perk.

As with most GPS watches, the display during activity can be tailored to show up to three fields per screen. Scrolling through extra data screens can be done manually with the up and down arrows.

Sleep tracking is also available, with detailed output and analysis within the app. I cannot sleep with a watch on, so I can’t speak to the accuracy of this.

Polar M430 GPS HRM

Polar M430 GPS HRM Overall Impressions

I liked this watch a lot, although I think the standard price point may be a little high. I would put its value closer to $199. The menu navigation within the watch is for the most part really intuitive. For basic functions, I could figure them out without reading the manual. One thing I didn’t love was that for some reason the start and stop buttons are two separate buttons. I could never remember which one was which and would end up pressing the wrong button and triggering the wrong function. This was just a small blip though in an otherwise intuitive setup.

Syncing via Bluetooth was seamless and can be done by holding down the stop button for three seconds after an activity is complete. The watch syncs with the major fitness social networks and the average sync takes about one minute.

The watch face itself isn’t super sexy, even though it has several interchangeable options. That said, the display during activity was more than acceptable. I had no problem glancing at my watch and reading the data.

Comfort-wise, it’s on par with most fitness trackers, but I’ve worn other GPS watches with hinged straps that wrap around the wrist more comfortably.

One last thing I liked about this watch is that your activity goals for the day weren’t just measured in steps but in combined activity. A lot of fitness trackers only track progress by steps, while this watch takes an overall approach, combining all activities into one progress report.

If you’re looking for an affordable and super-reliable watch with accurate GPS reading, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this watch. Especially if you’re new to running, or just want something that is simple and efficient. The M430 will take care of all your needs that you’re looking for, and probably some that you aren’t.

Polar M430 GPS HRM

3 Comments

  1. Originally Polar was purely a heart rate monitor watch. I had my first Polar (branded Polar Electro back then) around 1985 or 1986.

    One thing what I don’t understand is that many reviews are saying that simpler watches are for people who are new to running. Most of the time the light, simple watches like this one is used by professional athletes. Gwen Jorgensen for example is using the Polar M430 and in the Winter Olympics a lot of athletes in cross-country skiing and biathlon had it. Actually M430 and V800 are very popular among pros.

    I’m still using the Polar M400 and it has everything except the wrist HR that one needs. My marathon target is 2:4x and I don’t see why I would need a bigger, heavier, more expensive watch.

  2. I bought my first Polar HRM watch in 1990, when there was no sign of activity trackers (nor cellphones for that matter).
    I’ve been using the M430 for mostly year now (got one at release), and want to add a couple long term observations (from a pure runner) to a good yet (naturally) lacking review in that regard.
    – optical HR is unfortunately far from usable for anything but steady state running. It takes way too much time to pick up changes in HR, which leads to highly skewed results when doing e.g. intervals or strides
    Add that it is quite sensitive to sweat (something one does a lot in quality sessions) despite 6 leds, and it makes a strap indispensable.
    Other shortcomings that influence accuracy of oHR are cold weather, and not wearing the watch in a proper fashion, i.e. behind wrist bone (who wears their watch there?), with an appropriate (not too little but not too much) amount of pressure, a necessity which comes with the nature of how oHR works.
    24/7 HR tracking is another thing that’s not as accurate as I hoped it would be. I have a RHR of <50 but the watch often shows my daily low as 30-33, which I definitely don’t reach (unless I’m sleeping). Again, reason is the nature how oHR works.

    – Synchronisation is lightning fast (much faster than say the M200 that I teste for a couple weeks), but only for a few sessions. Unless you regularly delete recent sessions, snyching takes longer and longer up to a couple minutes, which is not only annoying but unnecessarily drains battery from both your phone and the watch. I’m pretty sure Polar hasn’t bothered to implement incremental syncing, and backup but just has the watch synchronise its entire “diary” every time. There’s no other explanation for the ever increasing time.

    – activity tracking is another quite sensitive function. It is quite often that I’ve been walking for a couple minutes or stand, yet the watch still shows my sitting. Activities like riding a scooter aren’t picked up at all.

    – something positive: The M430 is highly compatible and quick to pair pods, and other devices. It recognises them instantly and integration works seamlessly.

  3. You’ve totally missed the point of the new charging port. The old micro-usb was useless. Not compatible with a watch used in water. I have a M400 that no longer charges to prove it. The new charging port on the M430 is excellent and has no such problems. I love the M430 and would thoroughly recommend it..

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