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Polar M430 review: A super-accurate running watch

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Polar M430 review
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
169
inc VAT

It’s big, fat and hard to live with permanently, but the M430 is much better when you break it out for running specifically

Pros 
Sensational battery life
Straightforward app
Very accurate
Cons 
Ugly
Uncomfortable to wear for extended periods
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Polar might not have the same brand recognition as Fitbit or Garmin, but we’ve become rather taken with its M430 tracker.

That’s not to say it’s without its flaws. For starters, it has a watch face that only a parent conglomerate could love: a monochrome 128x128 display with a thick, black bezel around the edge, encased in a design that protrudes 12mm out from the wrist. And chunkiness isn’t its only problem: despite being peppered with holes for breathability, the rubber strap could be a lot more comfortable.

READ NEXT: The best running watches you can buy

It’s not a total design bust, however. The control scheme, comprising five side-mounted buttons, is vastly easier to both learn and use (especially in the rain) than any touchscreen-based system, and while the screen is a bit ugly, it can fit a lot of useful data on it at once. If you want more, you can switch between screens with single button presses – simple and intuitive – and we particularly like the multipurpose action button. If you’re running laps, for instance, it can be used to quickly toggle when a lap is complete, meaning you can not only compare your last five minutes but also see how you’re doing compared with your last lap.

Polar M430 review: Battery

Battery life, too, is sensational. Admittedly, the constant heart-rate reading is off by default, but even so, you’re looking at a battery that will last over two weeks, and that’s including a couple of half-hour sessions leaning on the GPS. The official figures say 20 days of normal fitness tracking or eight hours of solid GPS use.

There are a couple of black marks here: the M430 doesn’t give you much of a warning as to when it’s running low, which is annoying when you’re on a long run, and the charger is proprietary, so you might have trouble finding anyone with a spare if you need one in a pinch.

Polar M430 review

Generally, the M430 is pitched at experienced runners (there are cycling and swimming modes, with waterproofing up to 30m, but these are treated as extremely basic extras), though there is one feature that will appeal to newcomers. Fitness Test is given plenty of prominence in the menu and, while this sounds like it’s going to run you ragged for five minutes, it actually asks you to lie still while it measures your VO2 max level.

Of course, this is never going to be as accurate as a lab-conditions VO2 test, which requires you to wear a mask and run on a treadmill until you can run no more, but it does at least give you a general idea as to whether all your hard work is paying off.

Polar M430 review: App

The Polar Flow app continues this simple, straightforward style, neatly dividing things up into activity and sleep. The former gives you more detail of your run than you can get on the watch itself, providing a map of your route and some insights into lap times, pace and cadence. Every run is neatly displayed in a feed, which you can disperse with the result of every fitness test, so you can directly see how effective your regime is proving to be on your overall health.

All this information is also replicated on the web for you to log in and check at any time. This is especially handy for checking running routes on the bigger screen, without the inherent fiddliness of a touchscreen.

It’s also home to a rather neat, if clearly experimental, feature called Relive. You can go to any run, and it will create a short video montage of your run, complete with a jaunty soundtrack showcasing your various statistics blended with the map of your route and Google Street View photos of the sights you saw along the way. We can’t understate its bugginess, though – at one point it somehow placed us not in our actual location in London, but somewhere in Mongolia.

Polar M430 review

Still, it’s hard to find fault with the app, except perhaps for the lack of users compared to Fitbit’s equivalent; if you’re the kind of person who likes to compare notes and progress with others, you might be disappointed at the relatively empty friends feeds. On a happier note, you can link it to other apps such as MyFitnessPal, Strava, Nike+ and Google Fit. Cleverly, you can also add Polar training results and Polar training targets to Google calendar; a smart way of ensuring you can’t escape your fitness goals.

READ NEXT: Best fitness apps

To reiterate, the M430 arguably fails as a day-to-day watch. It’s ugly, it’s bulky, its monochrome screen is far from beautiful and it’s uncomfortable to wear for extended periods. This isn’t like the Garmin Vivosport or Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro, something you can wear all the time without issue, and that makes the sleep tracking, step counting and notifications less useful. If you’re not wearing it all the time, then what’s the point?

Conversely, think of it solely as a running watch, and it becomes a much more desirable device. It’s incredibly accurate for its price (the Mongolia thing wasn’t the hardware’s fault), easy to use while mid-run, can display information well and has a battery that literally lasts for weeks. The extra features, such as being able to tap a button to mark a lap and getting your runs added to Google Calendar, are some extremely tasty cherries on top.

Polar M430 review: Verdict

Therefore, it all comes down to exactly what kind of fitness tracker you’re looking for. If you’d prefer a stylish watch or band that never needs to be taken off, the M430 doesn’t fit the bill. If, on the other hand, you just want a super-accurate running watch for race days and isolated running sessions, this is definitely worth considering.