Polar M430 review

At first glance, the Polar M430 is an intimidating running watch. Particularly in the bright green hue we tested it in, it’s a world away from the coffee-shop familiarity of a Fitbit.

But we have found this to be a great thing, and the M430 is a watch for those who want nothing but the best tracking and training tool for improving and recording exercise.

What it loses in style, it trumps the Fitbit range in tracking, accuracy, granularity, battery life and coaching. It just doesn’t blend in at a dinner party.

Price and availability

The Polar M430 costs £199.50 direct form Polar in the UK  and $229.95 direct from Polar in the US.

At the time of review, it was discounted, making it an excellent deal considering the inclusion of on-board GPS, heart rate sensor and more.

Design and build

OK, the Fitbit comparisons stop here. This is a product for a different market. Polar is a specialist fitness brand aimed at people who want durability and accuracy when recording their exercise and training up for longer distance running.

This is reflected in the design of the M430, which is not the most subtle. Our lime green unit did not go unnoticed, and we ended up quite liking it, but it also comes in bright orange or more discreet black, blue or white.

The monochrome display is housed in a solid plastic body and screen to keep weight down and the rubberised straps are full of holes again to bring down weight and help your skin breathe.

Five buttons on the body are for input, with backlight, back, up, down and enter. They’re big and easy to press even with gloves on despite not clicking.

The interface is a tad hard to get used to but once you’re familiar with the set up you’ll stop prodding the non-existent touchscreen.

By eschewing the trend for colour displays and touchscreens that jack the price up, Polar has crammed a ton of very good features into a watch that won’t break the bank. It is comfortable enough to wear all day at only 51g, and we even didn’t mind wearing it at night to take advantage of its sleep tracking mode.

You might find it a tad bulky as the unit sits off the wrist at 12mm thick, but the trade-off is worth it for what’s inside. Yet there’s no getting around this is obviously a running watch, and there are social occasions that you won’t get away wearing it to, particularly this green one.

Features and specs

For all its leery looks though, the Polar M430 proves itself to be a quite simple – but effectively simple – device.

It is a watch designed to help you meet your goals and train for longer distances, as opposed to a tracker to simply tell you what you walked that day.

The free Polar Flow app is an excellent hub to allow you to set goals and indeed reach them, and it's equally as good on Android as on iOS. 

Although you can get notifications to the watch, it’s not the best experience and we preferred keeping them off. This is not a smartwatch, and we got the best out of it when we learned it’s best to have on all day and record your activity passively and actively.

It doesn’t automatically record a run, but you’re only two presses of the red enter button away from doing so. The watch quickly finds GPS signal or tells you stand still if it can’t with a subtle vibrate and message. Then you’re off and able to cycle through different info screens.

We really like the little touches, like the thoughtful design of the standard watch face that slowly fills up like a water level to show how close to your daily goal you are.

Runners will get what they expect, but beginners can also use the watch to train up to their desired level of fitness. The M430 auto-records laps (initially set to 1km intervals) and a quick press of the enter button while running sets manual lap times.

More than other fitness watches, the Polar works quietly and seamlessly with the Polar Flow app to present you with information in a clear and easy way. It’s notable that you must manually trigger an update on the watch to sync, but it’s not a big deal.

Wearing the watch 24/7 lets the heart rate monitor work continuously, which allows the app to better analyse your peaks when running, but turns it off while not exercising to save battery.

That battery lasts for ages given the black and white display, and we didn’t need to charge the M430 for five days, running three times with GPS in that time. Polar promises eight hours of power with continuous GPS use.

The proprietary charger is an odd design, so make sure you don’t lose it as nothing else you own will charge it.

The watch face can tell if you’re resting, sitting, or in low, medium or high activity. Looking down at a picture of a person sitting legs crossed is enough of a motivator for us to get up and walk about, and a subtle way the Polar inspired us to move more. That can’t be said of every fitness tracker or watch.

Cycle into the menus of the monochrome display and you find handy stats. In the app you set your move goal for the day, and the watch can tell you how much of a certain activity you need to do to meet it. So for us, at 16% completed for the day, 48 minutes jogging would get up to 100%, but it’ll differ depending on your health data and personal set goals.

The calendar function is a quick way to view your fitness achievements, and the M430 steers clear of smartphone notifications as a function. It can receive them, but we preferred to keep it strictly as a tracking and motivational device and felt warmer towards it as a result.

Training is the best part about the M430. Using the Polar Flow app, you can select the event you’re training for from 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon, and you’re given a training plan to help you train to run the distance.

Using your personal details, the programs can range from nine to fifteen weeks, and you can even pre-train before that using the app if you’re cautious of your abilities (as we most certainly are).

The features are endless with speed, distance and running cadence all recorded thanks to Bluetooth tech on-board, and you can view data on your heart rate zone, speed/pace zones, calories burned and more either in the app or as you run.

With WR30 water resistance, support for many languages, a backlight, support for firmware updates as they go live and top-level GPS read outs in the app, this is a fully featured watch for the price.

One thing missing is presets for tracking sports aside from running such as weights, cycling or swimming for example. It does have sport profile settings where you use the Polar Flow app to define settings for the sport you want and what you want to track, but it’s a bit of a hassle considering how seamless it is to use for running.

Having said this, while other watches claim to be able to identify specific sports, the M430 can do it too – it just doesn’t have the presets.

Polar also sells accessories like a more accurate chest strap heart rate sensor, but you won’t need to bother as the wrist based one on the watch is very good. A Bluetooth stride sensor is more value for money if you need it as will record better than the watch.

Polar M430: Specs

  • Integrated GPS with SiRFInstantFix™ satellite prediction technology
  • 6 LED optical heart rate sensor
  • Activity sensor
  • Manual and auto laps
  • Vibra alert
  • Waterproof (suitable for swimming)
  • 8 MB Flash memory
  • Rechargeable 240 mAh lithium polymer battery
  • Up to 8 hours of training time with GPS and optical heart rate and up to 30 hours of training time with low power GPS mode
  • Custom USB cable for data sync with PC or Mac
  • Bluetooth Smart with mobile and sensors
  • Polar Flow web service compatibility with Mac OS X 10.6, OS X 10.7, OS X 10.8, or later, and PC Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8, or later
  • Polar Flow mobile app compatibility
  • Updatable software
  • UI languages: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Dutch, Japanese, Chinese (Simplified), Polish, Russian, Turkish, Czech, Indonesian
  • Integrated GPS with SiRFInstantFix™ satellite prediction technology
  • 6 LED optical heart rate sensor
  • Activity sensor
  • Manual and auto laps
  • Vibra alert
  • Waterproof (suitable for swimming)
  • 8 MB Flash memory
  • Rechargeable 240 mAh lithium polymer battery
  • Up to 8 hours of training time with GPS and optical heart rate and up to 30 hours of training time with low power GPS mode
  • Custom USB cable for data sync with PC or Mac
  • Bluetooth Smart with mobile and sensors
  • Polar Flow web service compatibility with Mac OS X 10.6, OS X 10.7, OS X 10.8, or later, and PC Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8, or later
  • Polar Flow mobile app compatibility
  • Updatable software
  • UI languages: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Dutch, Japanese, Chinese (Simplified), Polish, Russian, Turkish, Czech, Indonesian

SHOULD I BUY POLAR M430?

The Polar M430 is an excellent combination of no-frills simple yet completely fully featured. It is unobtrusive in the simplicity of its hardware yet can act as a personal trainer daily in training for something as demanding as a marathon.

It takes a few days from first use to tweak the app to suit your use best, but once we did, we preferred using the Polar M430 to running watches with colour screens and more advanced design. 

It’s a running watch in its purest form at a good price.