Modern shoppers are spoiled for choice when it comes to fitness trackers. Samsung, Fitbit, and Garmin all offer great devices for a wide variety of budgets. Even modern smartwatch brands are in on the action, as well, with the Apple Watch Series 3 providing good fitness tracking in a smartwatch shell.
But with all these options readily available, does a dedicated fitness tracker from industry veteran Polar stand a chance? With limited options for smartwatch-style notifications, but a huge suite of fitness tracking tools, the Polar M430 makes a compelling case for deserving a permanent home on your wrist. To truly test it of its competence, we spent a few weeks putting the M430 through its paces. Perhaps Polar’s place is more secure among its peers than we thought.
It’s clear from a glance that Polar wasn’t intending the M430 to be a pillar of fashion. The design calls back to an older breed of GPS fitness trackers, and it’s not afraid to show it. If you’re looking for something that’s subtler and could pass for a regular watch, you may want to look at options like the Fitbit Versa or the Apple Watch Series 3.
The entire watch looks formed out of a single piece of elastomer, and while the straps can be removed and replaced, it’s not the same kind of easily-changeable wristband you’d find on the Polar A360. The way the elastomer forms around the top and bottom of the watch also means it’s impossible to lay on its back — which can make charging the device more of a pain. This is made even worse with the exceptionally short proprietary charging cable.
It’s clear from a glance that Polar wasn’t intending the M430 to be a pillar of fashion.
That said, this isn’t a device that’s meant to spend hours on a charger, and despite its plastic construction, it’s very comfortable to wear. Aside from the hardened top and bottom, the straps are soft and shouldn’t cause discomfort, even when tightened for physical activity — something Polar recommends for accurate heart rate tracking. During the day, it was easy to forget it was even there.
Bigger is better
The M430 is an enormous device, though. It’s 12 millimeters tall, and stands proud from your wrist while being worn. In other words, its size is notable on normal-sized wrists. Polar sent us its new green color, and while we like the aesthetic, that particular color makes the watch even more obvious. While wearing it as our out-and-about watch, strangers never hesitated to comment on the fact that it wasn’t exactly normal-looking. They weren’t wrong — it isn’t a normal watch. Though the black or white options would likely make it less of an eyesore, it’s still not a device that hides itself well.
Polar M430 handlebar angle
Mark Jansen/Digital Trends
The 1.3-inch display is running a monochrome 128 x 128 resolution, and you’ll also find buttons for navigation and the backlight on either side of the watch. If you’re looking for a colorful, touchscreen device, then you’ll definitely need to look elsewhere. Regardless, it’s clear and we had no trouble seeing it even in bright sunshine.
The back of the watch features an optical heart rate sensor, and while optical sensors get a bad rap, this one fared well enough with manual testing. However, it’s always wise to take optical sensor readings as a ballpark estimate. The M430 does sync with chest-bound heart rate sensors such as the Polar H10, but we found the watch’s sensor to be worthy enough to avoid spending money on an extra accessory. Polar recommends you tighten the M430’s strap before exercise to ensure the sensor can get a good reading, but this seems to be a precaution, as the sensor performed well for us even when held on a looser fitting — something we’ve noticed on other fitness trackers like the Suunto 3 Fitness.
The M430 is fully waterproof to a depth of 30 meters which makes it good for swimming. It’s worth noting, however, that the optical heart rate sensor loses some of its accuracy when used in water. That’s unlikely to be a huge issue unless swimming is your primary exercise — in which case it might be worth looking at another product better suited to swimming, like the Fitbit Ionic or any other waterproof Fitbit wearable.Polar M430 | Excellent Fitness Tracker
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