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Polar M430 In-Depth Review

Polar-M430-All-Colors

It’s been a few months since Polar first announced the M430, which builds upon their previously popular M400 GPS watch aimed primarily at the running crowd.  While the M430 is a modest upgrade to the M400, it does bring with it features that enable it to keep up in the marketplace – notably an optical HR sensor.  But the list didn’t stop there, they’ve also added in vibration capability as well as new lower power GPS modes to get longer battery life, plus a slew of smaller changes that I’ll dive into more deeply.

I’ve been using the M430 since April, both in beta and now final production form.  This includes a wide variety of activities, but predominantly I’ve been focused on running and cycling, since it is targeted at the running crowd.  So at this point I’ve got a pretty good idea of what works well, and what needs some tweaks.

While Polar did send me the M430 as a loaner unit to test, I’ll be returning it like always.  From there I’ll go out and get my own for the DCR stash from normal retail channels.  If you find this review useful, hit up the links at the bottom to help support future reviews!  With that, let’s dive into it!

Unboxing:

First we’ll start off with what’s in the box.  It should be noted there are a few colors to choose from – white, black, and orange.  It’s basically Strava orange.  It also makes it really easy to spot the watch in photos or on people’s wrists 300m away.  In any case, we’ll unbox the white version here.

Polar-M430-Box-Outside

Inside the box you’ll find precisely three things: The watch, the charging cable, and some little papers:

Polar-M430-Box-Insides-Plastic Polar-M430-Box-Insides-Wrapped

The charging cable is new on the M430, replacing the micro-USB variant that was on the M400.  That previous micro-USB cable/port, while very much standardized, was a bit of a nightmare for Polar on the M400 when it came to how well it stood up on waterproofing over time, causing tons of support issues.  Actually, maybe nightmare is too strong.  Whatever word you’d use for dropping a gallon container of frozen juice on your balls.  Repeatedly.

The problem with most standardized port designs is that they aren’t great for waterproofing because they tend to attract corrosion into small parts.  Whereas charging port designs that are made with waterproofing in mind usually last much longer.  In any case, it’s new here:

Polar-M430-Charging-Cable

The other side is simply normal USB that you can plug into any USB port you find (except USB-C of course).  The cable does both charging and sync, if you happen to use a computer to sync instead of a phone.

Next, you’ve got the paper junk, which essentially tells you where to wear the watch and how to treat it.  Most notable is this page, which tells you not to place the watch on your wrist bone.  If you take away nothing from this review, take away this singular picture.  It’s the difference between getting crappy optical HR readings versus good ones:

Polar-M430-Wearing-Placement

Finally, the watch itself.  On the back you’ve got that optical heart rate (HR) sensor:

Polar-M430-Back-Of-Unit

While the front you’ve got the screen, surrounded by a black border.  On both sides you’ve got buttons, three on the right, and two on the left.

Polar-M430-Front-Face Polar-M430-Side-Buttons

Ok, with that out of the way, let’s dive into how it all works.

The Basics:

Polar-M430-Basics-Sync-Activity-Tracking

As noted earlier, there are a bunch of changes to the M430 compared to the M400, so it’s worthwhile diving into those first to ensure everyone is on the same page.  In one consolidated list, here we go:

Added optical HR sensor: Polar believes this 6-LED sensor is their most accurate to date
Added vibration capability (alerts): This does however replace audio alerts, which go away
Slightly increased battery: Mostly to maintain battery life with added optical HR sensor
Added new low-power GPS modes: These enable the unit to get up to 30 hours of GPS-on battery time
– High Accuracy Mode: 1-Second Recording Mode: Plots a GPS point every second, HR is every second too
– Medium Accuracy Recording Mode: Plots a GPS point every 30 seconds, HR is every second still
– Low Power Recording Mode: Plots a GPS point every 60 seconds, HR is every second still
Changed the wrist strap design: This was to improve optical HR accuracy by reducing weight and increasing tightness.
Added new watch faces: These can be changed in the menus to float your boat
Enabled Fitness Test with optical HR sensor: This is pretty rare in the industry
Added new sleep algorithms: This will give additional data in the Polar Flow app
Firmware Updates Available via Bluetooth Smart: This unit needs no desktop computer at all.
Added Stopwatch functionality: Pretty straightforward I think.
New connector: This new connector replaces the micro-USB used previously that was a support nightmare
24×7 HR coming this Q3 2017: Currently the unit doesn’t record 24×7 HR, rather, only workout HR. A firmware update later this year will address that.

Got all that? Good.  If I were to highlight the top three features, they’d be:

# 1) Optical HR sensor
# 2) New sleep metrics
#3) Vibration alerts
#3.5) 24×7 HR later this fall (ok, it’s not here yet)

What’s that?  You want a video overview instead? No worries, I put that together too:

With that new features listing out of the way, let’s start with the watch from the beginning – most notably the home screen.  It’s here that you’ve got your watch face to show not just the time, but also your current activity status for the day (towards your step goal).

Polar-M430-Watch-Face

These are changeable, and as noted above, the M430 contains some new watch faces as well:

Polar-M430-Watch-Faces1 Polar-M430-Watch-Faces2

Next, you’ll hit the down button once to access the ‘My Day’ overview, which gives you a circular look at your progress towards your goal.  However, you can then also tap the enter/red button to see any workouts you’ve completed that day.  It’s sorta like a timeline for your day from an activity standpoint.

Polar-M430-My-Day Polar-M430-My-Day-Details

Going down further you’ve got your Diary, which shows you past daily activity and workout stat totals:

Polar-M430-Diary-Day

Polar-M430-Diary-Details

After the Diary there’s the Settings arena, which allows you to change some aspects of the Sport Profiles you’ve configured on the watch (the remaining aspects are configured online), as well as body settings (like height/weight), and then watch-specific settings (like pairing to your phone/sensors, notification options, and unit preferences).

Polar-M430-Settings

Polar-M430-Pair-Sync Polar-M430-TrainingView-Color

Lastly, after that, you’ve got the Fitness Test, Timers, Favorites, and of course workout functionality.  But I’m going to defer all that to the next section on sport usage.

Before we head there though, let’s chat about how activity tracking works on the app  Sure, I already showed the daily step totals within the watch, but let’s look at how they show up on the app. Here’s a look at the main activity tracking page.  It shows you an overview of your day, complete with activity levels throughout the day.  You’ll also see any workouts listed on there in little red dots.  Scrolling down gives you summary information and inactivity stamps.

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Inactivity stamps (which my brain automatically translates to tramp stamps…every…single…time), is when you’re lazy and the unit has to give you a verbal warning.  Actually, now with the M430 it’s a vibratory warning, to get on the move.  It’s similar to what Fitbit, Garmin, and others do to get you moving, though not quite as regularly as those companies do.  With Fitbit and Garmin, it’s super-predictable, but with Polar I seem to rarely get stamped.  Not entirely sure why.

In addition to daily stats, you can also get weekly and monthly stats as well:

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Note that the M430 does not track stairs (i.e. flights of stairs), this is largely because it doesn’t have a barometric altimeter, which is usually required to track stairs.

It does however track sleeping.  You don’t need to do anything except wear it to sleep each night – simple as that.  Afterwards, you’ll see sleep stats on the app.  Note that in my case the stats page may look slightly different than yours.  That’s because I also have the (also) new A370 which contains Polar’s newest sleep metrics platform.  That platform is rolling out to the M430 (via free firmware update), later this year.  Until then it’ll have the regular metrics. If you want to see what these metrics will look like later this year (by the end of Q3, aka September 2017), then check out this section of my A370 review from a couple weeks ago.

In the meantime, here’s what you’ve got.

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Note, the M430 does NOT track your heart rate 24×7.  Meaning, it does NOT have continual heart rate tracking like the Polar A370, or any of Fitbit’s optical HR sensor enabled watches.  It only uses its optical HR sensor for workout usage (which is records), or if you check your HR (but that value isn’t recorded anywhere then). Polar says that’s coming in Q3/2017 (by the end of September).

Looking at bit deeper at the app (available on iOS and Android), you can customize sport profiles from the app.  This includes things like changing the data fields and zone overlays.  It’s actually pretty detailed these days, whereby you can do almost (if not everything) from the mobile app.

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The mobile app also has options to connect to different platforms including Nike+, Strava, TrainingPeaks, MyFitnessPal, and Apple Health.  Some of these can also be configured via the Polar Flow website too.

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This means that after my workouts are complete, the files automatically end up in places like Strava.  It works pretty well and is handy if you utilize those platforms.

Finally, there’s smartphone notifications.  The M430 will display smartphone notifications from any notification center capable app (on either Android or iOS).  Meaning you can get notifications from Twitter or the NY Times, just as easily as text alerts and incoming call notifications.  This is notable when looking at watches from companies like Fitbit, who often restricts notifications arbitrarily to just call/native text/calendar (it’s one of my biggest pet peeves, and I’m going to keep hammering them at every chance I get until they darn well change it).

Ok, with all the non-sport goodness out of the way, let’s get a bit more active.

Sport Usage:

Polar-M430-Sport-Usage

Of course, most people by a sport GPS watch to track their workouts, and the M430 builds upon the M400 quite nicely in this area.  One of the more unique aspects of Polar’s product lineup is the ability to more or less add any number of sport modes you’d like to the watch.  Compare this to Garmin, which often restricts sport modes on lower-mid range watches to just those core bike/run type options (though on some of Garmin’s watches they have other sports Polar doesn’t, like a legit golf mode on the Vivoactive HR).  With Polar, you can start by going onto their site (or using the app), and choose from boatloads of sport profiles:

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Of course, there are plenty of default ones already on your watch that you can use and/or customize too.  All these modes allow customization of different aspects like data fields.  The M430 allows up to 6 customizable data pages, each having up to 4 data fields per page.

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You can also get two additional zone related data pages, and one data page related to Back to Start.

This is also where you’ll customize things like auto lap and heart rate views.

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It’s also worthwhile noting that this is where you’ll see the new options to change the GPS recording rate – which can significantly save battery life for long sessions like hiking (of course, it reduces accuracy too).

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Similarly, on the Polar Flow site you can create structured workouts which then show up on your watch under ‘Favorites’.  These structured workouts allow you to build out specific goals for given portions of the workout.

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They also enable training plans to be downloaded to the watch, set for a specific date:

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With that background of sport configuration out of the way, let’s head back to the watch and start a workout.  To do so, simply whack the middle right-side red button.  That will allow you to scroll up and down and pick from one of your predefined sport modes:

Polar-M430-Select-Sport

If your mode is outdoors and includes GPS, then the watch will go off and search for GPS.  Usually, if you’re in roughly the same place as last time, this will only take a few seconds. At worst you’re looking at 15-30 seconds if it doesn’t have the satellite cache.  At the same time it’ll acquire your wrist-based heart rate using the optical HR sensor.  That’ll show an illuminated heart icon on the screen when it’s locked.

Polar-M430-GPS-HR-Lock

It’s really important that for both of these you wait until they’re done before setting out.  If you don’t you’ll get sucky performance.  For indoor activities (like a treadmill), you won’t utilize GPS, but rather the accelerometer in the unit to measure distance.  Note that despite having a pool mode, it won’t track your swim distance indoors (but will track HR).  That function is reserved for Polar’s higher end watches.

Once ready, you’ll press the start button again and the unit will start tracking/recording your workout.  You’ll press the up/down buttons to change data pages.  Here’s a small gallery of some default ones while standing still to see the data page sizing differences:

These will, of course, reflect your current stats during a workout, like below during one of my runs:

VIRB0041 VIRB0038

If you have auto-lap functionality enabled, it’ll give you lap splits automatically based on your settings (e.g. every mile or kilometer).  Or you can press the red button at any time to take a manual lap.  An area that’s cool on Polar’s units compared to Garmin’s is the ability to have both concurrent automatic and manual laps.  So you basically have two sets of laps.  Kinda neat.  They’ll show-up afterwards on the site as well (two different tabs):

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While the M430 will use the optical HR sensor by default, you can also utilize any Bluetooth Smart heart rate strap instead.  For example the Polar H7/H10 straps, or the Wahoo TICKR straps.  It will NOT work with ANT+ straps, nor will it work with legacy Polar straps that don’t have Bluetooth Smart.

Polar-M430-Paird-Sensor

The M430 also will connect to running stride sensors and the Polar balance scale.  Again, like the HR strap, the running stride sensors must be Bluetooth Smart only.

Once you’ve completed your workout, you’ll press stop to end the recording and then show your summary status.

Polar-M430-Finish-Workout Polar-M430-Finished-Zones

From here this data is then sync’d to the Polar Flow mobile app via your smartphone, and onwards to Polar Flow – Polar’s training log site.  Here’s how it’ll look there:

PolarFlow

I personally find the Polar Flow site a bit thin for individual activity analysis compared to what Suunto and Garmin offers, but it’s not bad.  Plus, as seen above you can separate out automatic laps from manual laps – as noted earlier something Garmin doesn’t do.

Also, you get more graphs for the recovery status piece than you might on other sites as well, for example here’s Recovery Status for the last month:

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Finally, as noted earlier, you can also setup connections from Polar Flow to sites like Strava here as well.  This will ensure your workouts end up on those sites immediately after sync:

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Lastly, let me briefly point out the fitness test component.  This test now uses the optical HR sensor and no longer requires a chest HR strap as was the case with past Polar products.  The fitness test is executed while lying down, and will attempt to determine your VO2Max.  This is a heck of a lot more relaxing than doing a hard interval workout to get that VO2Max number.

Polar-M430-Fitness-Test

The entire test takes a couple minutes and requires you do nothing other than just lying there.  Afterwards it’ll return your VO2Max score and offer to update your VO2Max stored within the device:

Polar-M430-Fitness-Test-Results Polar-m430-UpdateFitnessScore

Fwiw – this score is a bit higher than my previous tested scores of about 61 a few years ago.  Obviously I must have become more awesome as I age.

With that overview of the workout piece, let’s talk about whether or not the most important new feature of the M430 is actually accurate: The optical HR sensor.

Heart Rate Sensor Accuracy:

Polar-M430-Optical-HR

When it comes to optical HR sensors, Polar is a bit of a player.  It doesn’t just stick with a single sensor, but plays the field with a small flotilla of different sensors that it’s come up with for different products.  The Polar M430 sensor most closely resembles that of the unit found on the M600, which has six LED’s.  Of course, all the LED’s in the world won’t help you if you’re wearing it wrong or if their algorithms are crap.  It’s give and take, and both sides have to do their part.

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For my tests, I always wore the M430 about 2-3CM from the wrist bone (as in, towards the elbow, not above the wrist bone).  Also, I never wore more than one watch on the same wrist, as that has been shown to impact optical HR sensor accuracy.

However, I would wear in most cases another GPS watch with an optical HR sensor on the other wrist.  In addition, I’d usually wear another sensor or two – such as a heart rate strap or additional optical HR sensor on the upper arm.  Thus virtually all tests have 2-3 other heart rate sensor data points to help me determine which sensor is correct.  Though I’ve been using HR sensors long enough that in most cases I can usually tell you which is correct, even if the majority are incorrect.

In any case, let’s dig right into things.  The first workout we’ve got is a bit of a run on June 8th with some intensity variability in it.  I like variability, as it makes it easy to spot errors.

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Above you can see that the HR strap actually showed some early issues (likely with signal and not being wet enough or something), whereas both the Fenix5 and Polar M430 nailed the initial build.  In fact, they all look great and very similar until about the 24 minute marker. So let’s dig into those variations in intensity there:

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Here we see that the M430 nearly perfectly matches the HR strap.  And the Fenix 5 is pretty close as well, save two odd blips.  A blip like that sometimes indicates a wrist/strap tightening, but I can’t say for certain.  What’s interesting though is you do see how the TICKR HR strap catches the recovery quicker than either optical HR sensor.  That’s fairly normal from what I see across devices.

The rest of the run looks pretty much fine to me:

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Ok, let’s dig into another run, this one in much colder weather.  Colder weather is always tough for optical HR sensors.  This run includes the Fenix 5 paired to the Wahoo TICKR X for the heart rate strap, and then a Suunto Wrist HR worn on the other wrist.  Here’s the overview.

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Now that’s pretty much a crap-show in the beginning.  The TICKR-X strap (which is the Fenix 5 in this case) was clearly having some sort of issue up-front, which I think may have been low-battery issues.  I replaced it afterwards and it was fine following that.  Meanwhile the Suunto Wrist HR optical HR is way off too.  However, the M430 is closest to what I would say is accurate.

At around the 10-minute marker they all got happy.  No logical reason why there.  After that they track pretty closely, including some ups and downs (both in elevation and intensity).  In fact, you can actually see a 360* video I made of this very run, which I started recording around the 12-13 minute marker.

Looking at the portions where there are some intensity changes, we can see the M430 does really good here.  Again, the one labeled ‘Fenix5’ is really the Wahoo TICKR X HR strap data in this set.

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Next, let’s look at cycling.  This is always toughest from an optical HR standpoint, primarily outdoors due to vibrations on the road (indoors tends to be easy).  This ride mixes the streets of Amsterdam with eventually the countryside, complete with some nasty cobbles sections at points.  Here’s the overview of this:

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You may be wondering – what the heck is going on here?

Well, for the first 80 minutes or so I rode normally out to a lighthouse.  It’s there that I was doing a bunch of video/etc shoots. So I was mostly standing around with small spurts on the bike testing this.  Then around the 2:40 marker I got back on my bike and rode the 70 minutes or so back to the hotel.  Thus, for the purposes of analysis, I’m only focusing on the actual riding parts, not the standing around/filming parts.

I want to first dig into some of the steady-state riding once I leave the city, starting around the 40-minute marker:

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Above you see things pretty good – all three units happily agree with each other, save brief differences of a couple of beats in most cases.  Just after that though is when I hit a section of fairly nasty cobbles for quite a long ways.  It’s interesting to see the reaction from each unit:

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You can see the Fenix 5 optical HR sensor really struggled initially there, but then seemed to figure it out.  The Polar M430 had no issues, neither did the Wahoo TICKR chest strap.  This is consistent with my past testing on the Fenix 5 for cycling, it’s not that great for optical HR (but is generally good with running).

In fact, as I start moving again after the break you see the same thing when I hit the cobbles, with the Fenix 5 going a bit wonky, though again figuring it out a short bit later.

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Which isn’t to say the M430 was perfect here either.  You can clearly see above it wobbled a bit compared to the chest strap, and you can also see how before the 2:41 marker on smooth pavement all was well with all three, and then once again on smooth pavement around 2:50ish all is well again with everyone.

So where does that leave us?

Well, overall the M430’s optical HR sensor is definitely very much improved from what I’ve seen in the past, even with the M600 that uses the same optical HR sensor.  This is likely due to improved algorithms over time (which usually other products get via software updates too).

In fact, I’d even go as far as saying that I think at this point Polar may have the best wrist based optical HR sensor out there with the M430 across a multitude of sports for a mainstream GPS watch.  This includes Apple, Fitbit, Garmin, and Suunto.  Units that give it a run for its money would be the optical HR sensor in the Epson GPS units (though I wouldn’t buy that watch for other reasons), as well as the Scosche arm-band optical HR sensor (non-GPS).  So well done Polar, well done.

GPS Accuracy:

Polar-M430-Recording-GPS-Accuracy

The M430 received a bit of a GPS chipset swap from the M400.  Some might call it an upgrade, others just a change.  Previously on the M400 they had a U-Blox GPS chipset in there.  For most folks it worked pretty well, though a handful had issues (which honestly, is true of any GPS chipset you select).  With the M430 they went with the SiRFStar IV GPS chip, which is actually a much older chipset and matches what they used on the (also older) V800.

The problem with any GPS chipset discussion is that it’s silly.  As much as folks want a single thing to focus their accuracy praises or complaints on, the reality is that other aspects like antenna placement, watch firmware, chipset firmware, and power allowances play a far greater role in GPS accuracy than chipsets do.  You can put the same exact chipset in two different watches and get two totally different results.  Again, because other factors are far more important.

That’s why I tend to judge each watch by its merits in actual real-world testing.  A variety of routes in a variety of places in a variety of conditions.  You know, like most athletes do. I also take along other devices on the same run/bike/whatever.  That’s because as conditions change you can realistically compare GPS data from one day to another.  At a high level, sure, but not the detail level that these discussions require.

In any case, let’s dig right into it.  Like up above in the HR section, you can crack open any of the files I’ve uploaded to see how GPS compares in more detail and zoom in till your heart’s content (another important aspect of any review discussing accuracy).

Looking at the first run, it’s from a city run here in Paris.  Any city run is usually challenging, though different cities vary in their challenges.  In places like NYC or Dubai you’ve got massive skyscrapers, while in Paris I’ve got itty-bitty city streets barely the width of a car.  In this test, I was comparing it against a Fenix 5 on the other wrist, and a Fenix 3 being hand-held to gather HR strap data.  Here’s the high-level overview:

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Of course, at that level you’re just looking for something odd to stick out, which it does. So let’s zoom in to some bridges.  Bridges are great for picking out oddities as they show up really easily on satellite view.  Here I cross this bridge on my way back:

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Most notably I’m looking at the corners of the bridges where they hit land, to ensure nobody is walking in the water.  Nobody is.  All are within a meter or so of each other, on the sidewalk.

Next, let’s look at the other side – going under a bridge.  Here I’m looking for any GPS unit to properly lose signal, and then regain it without doing wonky stuff.

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In this case all units did pretty good, though I’d say the Fenix 3 and M430 did slightly better than the Fenix 5 here, which added a few extra meters under this and a few other bridges with that mini-zig-zag.

In fact, if you look throughout the rest of the file, the Fenix 5 struggled a bit going around the Eiffel Tower as well, which is somewhat unusual for it since I often run around that and haven’t seen issues.  The M430 showed no problems.

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Finally, if we look at total recorded distances, they’re all within a 50m span (on 11,380m) – or basically, within .4% – yes, one-half of one percent.  That’s pretty damn good.  Of course, do keep in mind that totals are a misleading thing because you can be over in one area and under in another and still end up good – which is exactly what you see above.

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Ok, let’s look at another one – this one in a bit more of the trees.  This was the one above with the 360° video, so if you want to see the trees I’m talking about, watch this video.

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Of course, we’re going to dig into things a bit more, and in particular, I’m going to zoom into the toughest spot:

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In this case I do have a Fenix 5 with me, but it’s actually sitting on a Spibelt on my waist, capturing HR data from the Wahoo TICKR X.  So I wouldn’t judge the GPS data there because it’s heavily blocked.  But you can see that the Suunto and Polar unit do very much agree with the trails throughout everything.  There’s a very minor disagreement right below the wording that says “Voisey’s Brook’, where the M430 cuts the corners.

I found this funny because while I was running this very section I was looking at instant pace and thought to myself that it seemed I was going quite a bit slower than it was saying.  This explains why.

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On the bright side, I haven’t seen that issue happen elsewhere or on other runs on this very section. So hopefully that was a true one-off.

Lastly, we’ve got a ride from a week or so ago in Amsterdam. Or well, it started in Amsterdam and then I went out to the middle of nowhere and returned.

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Zooming right in nice and tight in the city, you can see all units struggled in certain areas, like to the left of the Heineken factory.  In that case, two were offset incorrectly, and one decided to split the difference.  After that though, they mostly agreed in the city.

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Let’s move out into the countryside a bit.  As one might expect, all three units are quite happy here and match perfectly:

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So where does this leave us on GPS?

Well – overall I’m seeing very good things.  A few quibbles here and there, primarily in the city and one in the trail.  But by and large, it’s really good based on all the data I have.

Product Comparison:

You’ll find I’ve added the Polar M430 within the product comparison tool for GPS watches.  You can mix and match it against various GPS watches in the database.  For the purposes of comparison below, I’ve compared it against the Fitbit Surge, Garmin Vivoactive HR and Polar M400.  It’s an imperfect comparison – since each unit offers slightly different price/feature points.  And if I could fit 5 columns here, I’d also add in the TomTom Spark, since that has music too! But again, you can create your own comparison charts here.

Function/FeaturePolar M430Polar M400Fitbit SurgeGarmin Vivoactive HR
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated June 29th, 2017 @ 10:54 amNew Window
Price$229$179$249$249
Product Announcement DateApril 6th, 2017Sept 25th, 2014Oct 27th, 2014Feb 19th, 2016
Actual Availability/Shipping DateJune 2017October 2014Dec 10th, 2014Q2 2016
GPS Recording FunctionalityYesYesYesYes
Data TransferUSB, Bluetooth SmartUSB, BLUETOOTH SMARTBluetooth SmartUSB, BLUETOOTH SMART
WaterproofingYes - 30mYes - 30mATM5 (~50m), but no swimming50 meters
Battery Life (GPS)8hrs regular, Up to 30hrs GPS8 hours10 hours GPS on (5-7 days in time/step mode)13 hours GPS on
Recording Interval1-second/variable1-second1-secondSmart Recording
Satellite Pre-Loading via ComputerYesYesNoYes
Quick Satellite ReceptionGreatGreatSo-soYes
AlertsVisual/VibrateSound/VisualYesVibrate/Visual
Backlight GreatnessGreatGreatGoodGood
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceNoNoNoYes
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)YesYesYesYes
Can control phone musicNoNoNoYes
Has music storage and playbackNoNoNoNo
ConnectivityPolar M430Polar M400Fitbit SurgeGarmin Vivoactive HR
Bluetooth Legacy (pre-4.0) to PhoneNoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart (4.0+) to Phone UploadingYesYesYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)YesYesText and Call notifications onlyYes
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)NoNoNoYes
Group trackingNoNoNoNo
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)NoNoNoNo
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoNoNoNo
CyclingPolar M430Polar M400Fitbit SurgeGarmin Vivoactive HR
Designed for cyclingYesYesYesYes
Power Meter CapableNoNoN/AWith some Connect IQ apps (but cannot record data)
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableNoNoN/AYes
Strava segments live on deviceNoNoNoNo
Crash detectionNoNoNoNo
RunningPolar M430Polar M400Fitbit SurgeGarmin Vivoactive HR
Designed for runningYesYesYesYes
Footpod Capable (For treadmills)YesYesNO, HAS INTERNAL ACCELEROMETERYES (Also has INTERNAL ACCELEROMETER)
Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc...)NoNoNoNo
VO2Max EstimationYesSortaNoNo
Race PredictorCan estimate finish time during raceCan estimate finish time during raceNoNo
Recovery AdvisorNoNo (only if you have V800 too)NoNo
Run/Walk ModeNoNoNoYes
SwimmingPolar M430Polar M400Fitbit SurgeGarmin Vivoactive HR
Designed for swimmingSortaNoNoYes
Openwater swimming modeNoNoN/ANo
Lap/Indoor Distance TrackingNoN/AN/AYes
Record HR underwaterYesNoN/ANo
Openwater Metrics (Stroke/etc.)NoN/AN/ANo
Indoor Metrics (Stroke/etc.)N/AN/AN/AYes
Indoor Drill ModeN/AN/AN/ANo
Indoor auto-pause featureN/AN/AN/ANo
Change pool sizeN/AN/AN/AYes
Indoor Min/Max Pool LengthsN/AN/AN/A17M/18Y TO 150Y/M
Ability to customize data fieldsYesYesN/AYes
Can change yards to metersN/AN/AN/AYes
Captures per length data - indoorsN/AN/AN/AYes
Indoor AlertsN/AN/AN/AYes
TriathlonPolar M430Polar M400Fitbit SurgeGarmin Vivoactive HR
Designed for triathlonNoNoNoNo
Multisport modeNoNoNoNo
WorkoutsPolar M430Polar M400Fitbit SurgeGarmin Vivoactive HR
Create/Follow custom workoutsYesYesNoNo
On-unit interval FeatureYesYesNoNo
Training Calendar FunctionalityYEsYesNoNo
FunctionsPolar M430Polar M400Fitbit SurgeGarmin Vivoactive HR
Auto Start/StopYesYesNoYes
Virtual Partner FeatureVia Race EstimatorVia Race EstimatorNoNo
Virtual Racer FeatureNoNoNoNo
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)YesYesNoYes
Day to day watch abilityYesYesYesYes
Hunting/Fishing/Ocean DataNoNoNoNo
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNoNo
Jumpmaster mode (Parachuting)NoNoNoNo
GeocachingNoNoNoNo
Weather Display (live data)NoNoNoYes
NavigatePolar M430Polar M400Fitbit SurgeGarmin Vivoactive HR
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)NoNoNoNo
Markers/Waypoint DirectionNoNoNoYes (to pre-saved spots)
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)NoNoNoNo
Back to startYesYesNoYes
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationNoNoNoNo
Download courses/routes from phone to unitNoNoNoNo
SensorsPolar M430Polar M400Fitbit SurgeGarmin Vivoactive HR
Altimeter TypeGPSGPSBarometricBarometric
Compass TypeGPSGPSN/AMagnetic
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyYesNoYESYes
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleYesYesContains optical HR SENSORYes - CONTAINS OPTICAL HR SENSOR
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableNoNoNoYes
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableNoNoNoYes
ANT+ Footpod CapableNoNoNoYes
ANT+ Power Meter CapableNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Weight Scale CapableNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Fitness Equipment (Gym)NoNoNoNo
ANT+ Lighting ControlNoNoNoYes
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationNoNoNoYes
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)NonONoNo
ANT+ Remote ControlNoNoNoYES FOR GARMIN VIRB
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Muscle Oxygen (i.e. Moxy/BSX)NoNoNoNo
ANT+ Gear Shifting (i.e. SRAM ETAP)NoNoNoNo
Shimano Di2 ShiftingNoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableYesYesNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableNoNoNonO
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapableYesYesNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableNoNoNoNo
Temp Recording (internal sensor)NoNoNoSorta (Available only in Skiing/SUP)
Temp Recording (external sensor)NoNoNoYes
Compatible with Firstbeat HR tools--NoNo
SoftwarePolar M430Polar M400Fitbit SurgeGarmin Vivoactive HR
PC ApplicationPolar FlowSync (PC/Mac)Polar FlowsyncWindows/MacGarmin Express - Windows/Mac
Web ApplicationPolar Flow (Web)Polar FlowYesGarmin Connect
Phone AppiOS/AndroidiOS/AndroidiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS/Android/Windows Phone
Ability to Export SettingsNoNoNoNo
PurchasePolar M430Polar M400Fitbit SurgeGarmin Vivoactive HR
Amazon LinkLinkLinkLinkLink
Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programLinkLinkLinkLink
Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programLink
DCRainmakerPolar M430Polar M400Fitbit SurgeGarmin Vivoactive HR
Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLink

Again, remember you can create your own comparison charts here.

Summary:

Polar-M430-Sync-Summary

On the face of it, the Polar M430 may not appear that exciting compared to the M400 of a few years ago.  After all, from the front they aren’t really any different.  But it’s what’s inside that counts (or so everyone reasons with themselves), and in this case Polar has really delivered.

They’ve delivered a very solid optical HR sensor, while also delivering very solid GPS results.  Not to mention the minor updates that folks wanted like vibration alerts, longer GPS battery options with extended modes, and sleep tracking.  Of course, not having 24×7 HR out of the box is disappointing, but it’s coming in a few months. And assuming they implement it in the same manner as they did with the A370 last month, it’s pretty solid.  So I’m optimistically hoping that works out.

There aren’t many downsides to the M430, except of course the lack of features that we’ve come to expect on smart watches – like 3rd party apps, 3rd party/customizable watch faces, music control, and just a better display.  Polar would likely argue you can find those on the M600 (which is Android Wear 2.0), though, I’d argue that’s a poor trade-off due to battery life.  I don’t think we’ll see Polar develop a standalone app ecosystem anytime soon though, but maybe we’ll see them split the difference with watch faces.

Still, if you’re looking for a running watch that has an impressive array of depth in its features while still delivering on accuracy – this may well be one of the best choices out there.

Wanna Save 10%? Or found this review useful? Read on!

Hopefully you found this review useful.  At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device.  The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love).  As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take the time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.

I’ve partnered with Clever Training to offer all DC Rainmaker readers an exclusive 10% discount across the board on all products (except clearance items).  You can pick up the Polar M430 (or any other Polar accessories) from Clever Training. Then receive 10% off of everything in your cart by adding code DCR10BTF at checkout.  By doing so, you not only support the site (and all the work I do here) – but you also get a sweet discount. And, since this item is more than $49, you get free US shipping as well.

Polar M430 (select drop-down for colors)

Additionally, you can also use Amazon to purchase the unit (all colors shown after clicking through to the left) or accessories (though, no discount on Amazon).  Or, anything else you pickup on Amazon helps support the site as well (socks, laundry detergent, cowbells).  If you’re outside the US, I’ve got links to all of the major individual country Amazon stores on the sidebar towards the top.  Though, Clever Training also ships there too and you get the 10% discount.

Thanks for reading!

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127 Comments

  1. curious

    Could you comment further on its swimming chops?

    • It doesn’t track swims (i.e. distance/etc..). though you can utilize the optical HR sensor underwater.

    • tfk

      The M430 tracks swims (OWS) if you turn the GPS on, perhaps the accuracy could be improved a little in OWS, I found it a little all over the plce. But for running the GPS and oHR are sweet. It’s a great run watch.

      You don’t seem to get cadence/stroke in swim mode but you do get cadence from the watch in run mode.

      You even get elevation in OWS swim mode. Handy ;-)

      I was more intrigued tho with some of Ray’s GPS track images, above. The considerably more expensive Fenix 5 seems to exhibit a degree of GPS-naughtiness in some of those images. Tut tut.

    • Yeah, it doesn’t have any OWS algorithms, so it ends up being just the whole constant loss/gain satellite fiasco. So pretty crappy results.

      The F5 did seem to have some odd struggles on a few of those (both HR & GPS), in one case though I tried to re-iterate that it was on a Spibelt, so that doesn’t much count there. But the others were interesting and hence why I called them out too.

  2. Jan Vanderwegen

    Ray,
    in the comparison chart you mention both vibration and sound alerts for the M430 whereas in the video you stated only vibration… Which one is correct? Thanks again for the ‘usual’ (but unusual for other tech reviewers) quality!
    Jan

  3. Dave

    Great review, thanks Ray!

    Do u think/know if there’s any chance/plans of Polar adding music control via a software update in the future?

    It’s like a show stopper for me :/

  4. David Chrisman

    How is the battery life if you are using more as an activity tracker? Days or weeks?

    • Weeks would be my guess. I have a few units floating around, and thus I tended to use one (orange) mostly. Thus the others sat in just time mode and went many weeks. Typically speaking the accelerometer hit is negligible for these wearables. You’d get more of a hit though for smartphone notifications/etc…

  5. Paul

    Polar’s M430 GPS and oHR accuracy + Suunto’s Sport WHR screen + Fenix 5 looks and features = the sports watch I want.

    • tfk

      I might agree with that if you removed the part-phrase “looks and” ;-)

      But then maybe you describe the replacement to the V800? if, indeed, such a thing exists.

  6. Thierry

    Thanks for the nice review!

    The m430 looks very promising.
    Still doubting about this unit or the older v800 black hr version.

    The 430 is newer and has the wist based hr. The v800 looks nicer, not unimportant for al Day wearing.

    Can you tell me wich is the best choice?

    • Stefan Gutehall

      Thierry, I have just the same thoughts as you. I still have almost decided to go for the M430.
      First of all, for functionality V800 does not have any more functions that i REALLY need, while the optical heart rate in particular makes it very convenient to bring M430 for travels. I also value the (as it seems future) 24/7 HR tracking – under the understanding that it will indeed keep track of resting heart rate just as the A370 does.
      Just as you, the looks of V800 vs M430 is the second large factor. For now, i have solved it by making my M400 ny to-go watch even for daily work situations. Im not 100% happy about it, but while wearing a shirt its usually covered anyway, and its ok, at least its a fully black one. If i need to dress up either for meetings or for evenings I use a nicer watch, but put on my Polar Loop on my left hand instead. Guess im coming of as a bit obsessive here, but using Loop and M400 interchangeable is working to 95% seamlessly.
      M430 will most probably be my next one in a few weeks – just waiting for this review and keeping a n eye out for any child issues.

    • Thierry

      Dear Stefan,

      I am also thinking about trying the 430 but after after an dissapointing expierence with the fr235 i am a bit confused.
      Indeed, the v800 doesnt have much more (interesting options) vs 430.

      Its optical hr vs looks :)

      After this review i have more faith that this optical hr will work better, at least at steady runs.

    • Petter

      I have both, the M430 and the V800. Pros and cons:
      – Both have very good GPS’es (fast and accurate)
      – The convenience of optical HR is enormous for every day use :-)
      – The M430 is a lot lighter than the V800 (makes a significant difference for me)
      – The M430 syncs automatically with phone regularly and when you finish an activity (much more convenient than I thought). On the V800 you have to start the syncing manually.
      – The M430 lacks barometer :-(
      – The M430 doesn’t support multisport sessions (I don’t use that anymore)

      So all in all I have stopped using my V800 on a daily basis. The V800 will probably be used for longer trips like hiking, climbing and skiing in the future. So I would go for the cheaper M430 until the successor of the V800 comes – in 5 years or so…

  7. Steve

    Hi Ray,

    Thx for the review. Might have missed it but does this model have a “race pace” feature under favorites in the watch menu (like v800) ?
    I use this a lot and my v800 died last month.

    Greetings from Bruges

    • Mike@PolarUSA

      The M430 does not have the Race Pace feature, rather it has a ‘Finish Time Estimator’. As it’s name would suggest, you input the distance you’re going to run and will estimate your finishing time based on your pace. -Mike@PolarUSA

    • Steve

      Hi Mike,

      Thx for chiming in.
      What a pity, I think the way the race pace feature is executed on the v800 is one of its most underestimated features.

    • Paul

      Hey Mike,

      Any indication when we can expect V800 successor?

      Thanks,
      P.

  8. TIm S

    Is it suitable for open water swimming? Your comparison table says it does not have a swimming mode. I am only interested in distance covered, time and the upload to Strava and TP. Thanks.

    • tfk

      @TimS
      I have used the M430 for both saltwater and freshwater OWS. The distance accuracy was not great in those scenarios. Although I support the many other comments here that general accuracy of the M430 elsewhere IS generally Garmin-beating.

    • It’s important to note that the M430 simply doesn’t have an openwater swim mode. So there’s no OWS algorithms within it to handle loss of GPS signal each time your wrist goes below the water.

      Typically only multisport watches have that, usually higher-end watches.

  9. Janne

    Thanks for the great review, I have really waited for it. Your review confirmed my decision to buy m430, it seem that finally someone has managed to develop ohr that works well enough in most of the situations.

  10. Tom

    Aside slight difference in price, I see no good reason to buy the polar over 1-year old Garmin Vivoactive HR.
    VA HR has several features the Polar lacks — indoor swimming for one, battery life

    • JR

      Vivoactive lacks structured workouts. M430 has more physical buttons and a better optical heart rate sensor. No question the vivoactive has a lot of bells and whistles, but for many people, those are irrelevant. Polar seems to have nailed it with a relatively simple, just-works, sport-first offering. Exactly what a lot of message board posters have been crying for, especially since many manufacturers have neglected core functionality in recent years in favor of glitzy features (M600 debuting without a lap button!).

    • Tom

      structured workouts – I missed that.

      BUT, I do not think you can say m430 is “sport-first” when:
      * no support for swimming (simple feature of accurately counting laps is a must have)
      * no speed/cadence sensor detection for cycling

      I am the typical consumer for the 430-VA-Apple watch range of products — I want a $200-300 device to record my swim-bike-run (and other) activities and am not so serious to get the 500+ triathlon watches. Polar should know this, their competition and have come up with something that really distinguishes it from the year-old competitor.

    • JR

      I suppose I should have said “running first,” which is what the vast majority of consumers want or need. If you’re a real multi sport athlete, it’s a very different proposition. The 430 isn’t supposed to be a multi sport watch. My sense (and obviously people in the business have real data) is that fitness swimming is very niche, and that anyone who has so much as a bike cadence sensor is already in the upper echelon of cyclists (from a market perspective,not from a competitive perspective). So the 430 adequately covers pure runners and runners who cycle a bit but only want to track speed and distance. I suspect that’s a huge swath of all GPS watch buyers.

  11. TK

    The first picture in the review looks like the watch has black strap and no red line around the screen.
    All the other pictures at Polar’s website has a grey strap and a red line around the screen. Is it just the angle of the photo or does Polar have a black version of the watch also ?

  12. Steven

    Not particularly a watch-specific issue: I am using Flow app 3.2.4 currently with M400 and refusing to update the app (if it ain’t broke). In your screen shot, the Connect options doesn’t list Google Fit. What’s up with that? By enabling Google Fit (“Android steps”), I sync my steps with my employer’s wellness program (Virgin Pulse). Separately at the flow.polar.com site, my account syncs with Strava. App 3.2.4 has no Connect options other than Google Fit. Did Polar drop sync with Google Fit from the Flow App?

    • I’d defer to Polar for that.

      As for why my screenshots don’t have it, it’s because I was on an iOS device – so Google Fit wouldn’t show up there (inversely, Apple Health wouldn’t show up on Android).

  13. JR

    The concurrent auto/manual lap data is a fantastic feature that I’d use all the time. On longer runs, you can track splits with auto while dividing up stages of the run. In long interval workouts you could get intermediate splits like quarters while manually recording the full rep time.

    Which set gets sent to Strava?

    • Stefan Gutehall

      I do not use the automatic lap feature in My M400 since Polar flow can do that afterwards and i do not have use for it during my runs.
      I have two separate runs i checked and when i used manual laps, it was exported as manual laps to Strava. When I did not use laps, Strave imported (or added its own) 1km laps.
      Thats all Ican tell form my experience.
      Oh, it also seems that if you use phaced targets for interval training, the markers for the intervals are not exported to strava.
      This is just my observation, so if anyone else want to pith in you are welcome

  14. John

    Hi Ray,

    Did you have bluetooth connections issues, specifically with android phones? Thanks

    • I generally use an iPhone as my day to day phone. I used two iPhones during this. An older iPhone 6 that had some BT issues, but it has BT issues with every device I use (hardware issue), and then a newer iPhone 7. Since switching to that it’s been flawless.

    • Zhivko Nikolov

      Hello, I am using the M430 since a week, I have Galaxy S7 phone. Sometimes the sync failed at the first attempt but after one or two additional attempts it synced fine. Had a nasty issue two times – it seems like M430 can’t see the phone device any more! Strange but fact! The cure is – delete the phone inside the Pairings menu on M430, delete the M430 inside the Bluetooth menu inside the phone. Restart both devices. Open the Flow App on phone and make a pairing again – voila, it works again.
      DO NOT FORGET to make the pairing INSIDE THE FLOW APP!!! They can’t pair from the phone’s Bluetooth menu.
      This behavior happened twice on the first week. The cure is fast, no big deal.

    • John

      Thanks Ray(also got your reply in the Hands On page). I ended up returning the watch over this issue. Over the last weekend I had it, I did a factory reset. Both Monday and Tuesday I was on the phone with Polar tech support where I did at least one other factory reset. The next day when the problems continued, I had had it. It should not have been that difficult and I do wonder if there is an android issue with this. I also noticed that Google Fit would only sync some but not all data. For example, I played tennis for close to 2 hours and Google Fit showed me taking around 73 steps. I liked the watch, but I am not sure if I am willing to try it again, even at the discounted price.

    • Shane

      Hi I had the horrible syncing/data issues but they sorted themselves out. A firmware upgrade and app upgrade & the sync (data) problems returned. Deleting from the watch and phone & re-pairing through the app didn’t help as did restarting the watch. After John’s post, I changed from S5 to onePlus2 (didn’t update app) & re-paired watch to the plus2. It’s works perfect now. Maybe it’s a Samsung problem (or the updated app).

    • Zhivko Nikolov

      Today the sync problem appeared again. Just restarting the phone and putting the watch in Flight mode solved the case, No need to repair. After phone restart and watch Flight mode – off made the sync working again,

    • Tim

      I have been wearing the Polar M430 for about a month and overall really like this watch. I formerly had a Fitbit Charge 2 which was fine and I chose the Polar after going back with the Garmin FR235.

      Syncing with my LG G3 was pretty seamless and I do not recall any issues, but I started using a Google Pixel two weeks ago and have continual issues with getting the M430 and my phone to sync. It works for a few days and then I find myself going through a ritual of unpairing…deleting the Polar Flow app…repairing…and then, typically after some swearing it all seems to work. No idea whether it is the phone or the device, but it is really frustrating.

      On a separate note I am having no luck getting the M430 to sync with my iPad. Is it possible to pair the M430 with two different devices? It shows up in the Bluetooth device list, but that is about it.

    • Jeff

      Hi Tim..think the m430 can only pair with one device at a time….Tried to synch it with my iPad this am..had same problem you did (did not pair)…and then noticed it had paired and synched with my iPhone in the next room

  15. Andrew

    Is the screen size and resolution the same as M400? The large black border is the one feature I dislike compared to the FR watches.

  16. Devi

    Hi Ray,

    You state that it does track HR during swimming. How is the accuracy of the HR in the water, compared to for example with the HR of the Garmin Swim-HRM?

    Thanx for the review.
    Devi

    • I didn’t do any comparative data plots for that unfortunately. I know that the The5KRunner has been testing it in the water, so perhaps he’ll have some comparative data to share.

    • tfk

      hi just saw this.
      It’s not great.
      Probably fine for ‘casual’ usage.

      The M600 seemed close with swim HR accuracy. But the M430 seems further away. then again you won’t get it on a Garmin at all…

  17. Joe Drury

    It is interesting that they didn’t put Android Wear on this device. Sounds like what I want is a mash up of this and the m600. And I agree with your final point on the compromise not being great. Any chance Android Wear comes to this device? Alternatively, can we expect to see an m630 soon?

  18. Anders

    Thanks for the review!

    One question, how strong is the vibration? Compared to eg Polar M600? On the M600, they’re as you noted, really weak. Would the M430 be usable as a alarm clock? (For instance, the Fitbit Charge has a more than stron enough vibration to easily wake you up).

  19. John Dalton

    Will the unit transmit HR via BT Smart to other devices during a workout – is this what “HR visible to other devices” setting means? So it could be used as an HR sensor for cycling (accepting the usual wrist based cycling issues).

  20. Thijs Rieken

    Hi Ray, did you do any checks on instant pace accuracy? If that’s anything near not-crap this is certainly the watch I will consider when I need a replacement…

    • Yup. I actually did some filming of it. Let me try and dig that up – shot it about a month ago. It was reasonable for the most part.

    • Zhivko Nikolov

      Hello,
      The instant pace accuracy is much better than my old Polar RCX5 watch. The old G5 GPS unit is a 6-7 years older technology of course.

  21. Jim

    Hi Ray,

    Thank you for great reviews!

    As for this one, which would you recommend to buy Polar M430 or Garmin Vivoactive HR? In sports gadget recommendations 2016-2017 you said the best is Vivoactive HR, but it was the end of 2016 and M430 wasn’t released yet.

    Jim

    • Tim

      FWIW I went back and forth with the Vivoactive, FR235, and the M430 opting eventually for the Polar. As a daily wear item I thought that the Polar looked best and I preferred the Polar Flow app over Garmin Connect.

  22. Peter Parfitt

    Seems like Polar have hit the sweet spot here, as a long time M400 user I jumped ship at Christmas to a Garmin Vivoactive HR, partly because I thought it looked better (and I had the charging port replaced on the M400 and it doesn’t sync via USB any more so updates to firmware are tricky, still charges OK) might have waited to get this but the all day HR monitoring was a desire.

    May well wait until M430 has 24×7 HRM, by which time the V830 may be here! I still prefer Flow to Connect, although syncing via wifi for Flow would be good as it can be hideously slow via phone.

    My heart is still with Polar, even if my dollars aren’t, but good to see them doing solid products. Especially if the price drops a bit (paid under £100 for my M400) so need to see this at £150 or so

    • Yeah, a V800 successor with 24×7 HR tracking is something I’m definitely looking for.

      I have a solid history with both Polar and Garmin. Polar has an even better history in HR based devices, but missed the optical “ship”.

  23. Ray,
    How would you value the Polar M430 against the Garmin Forerunner 935 (when the 430 has 24×7 HR tracking). I’m still in doubt what platform for an allround watch (scales, etc.) I would choose.

    • I think they’re kinda totally different units (and of course, one is twice the price of the other). My preference is for the multisport functionality of the FR935, as a multisport athlete. It’s also for the looks of the FR935 as well as the more detailed data and app capability.

    • Thanks for sharing your view ! ;-)

  24. Claudio

    I thought I would share my own HR comparison between the M430 and the Polar H7 (linked either to an M400 or an iPhone 5S) in three interval workouts a bit harder that those Ray did in the review. I hope that’s ok Ray?

    I think the description of the workouts is quite clear. They are shown in chronologial order and the accuracy seems to get better somehow? In the middle workout the HR drops during the 5th interval (something similar to what I experienced consistently with a Garmin FR 235). I tightened the wrist strap one more stop and it then tracked the last one nicely.

    My conclusion from this exercise is that altough the optical HR in the M430 is still not as good as the H7 chestband for hard workouts (due to the slight lags and weird behaviour here and there) it is definently getting very good and appears to be better than the Garmin FR235. I will keep using the H7 paired with the M430 for some workouts, but I am quite happy with the optical HR in the M430 and the watch in general.

    Hope this helps someone.

  25. Tim

    Hi Ray,
    great Review.
    Which running watch would you buy if instant pace is the most important feature for you? Currently searching for a new GPS watch. Thanks!

    • Robert Black

      If instant pace is your thing, as it is mine. If your on a budget I’d suggest a m400 and a calibrated MilestonePod. If budget is not a problem any watch that will work with the stryd power meter will do, the bonus is that doesn’t need calibration. The Stryd works with both the M400/M430 as a footpod, on the V800 it works as a power meter too, although there is a bug issue at the moment, but I’m sure it’ll be fixed soon.
      Sorry I don’t rate instant pace, there are work around suggestions on this site, like setting are shorter autolap etc, should come up on the search page.

    • Robert Black

      Doh should have typed Instant pace provided by gps

    • tfk

      yep. what RB said

  26. Alberto

    Hi:

    I was wondering. How well is this watch for Hiking?

    I now use a Garmin FR 235 with dwMaps App (or Hiking App).

    I see there is a Hiking activity, but that is not the main use for a “hiking” watch, but the maps.

    Is there any way to add maps to it?

    I know this is not the main focus of the site, but, it would nice to know if you found maps on your use of the watch.

    • Alberto

      PD: I read the table that says “Maps: No”, but the FR 235 doesn’t have maps, but the VivoActive HR says “Maps: No” also and has the dwMaps app.

  27. Eric

    Tangential question – are we entering a time when it will no longer be possible to buy a running watch *without* the optical heart rate sensor? (Excluding old stock of past models, of course.)

    • Robert Black

      Probably for the majority of watches, as that’s where the damand is $$$, if I go down to the gym to do a lactate test it’s heaving. Most times I do a ten mile run I never cross another runner, I digress. I hope it’s not the end, I love m430 but probably won’t wear it for my marathon, I prefer a looser watch. And what about winter layering issues? That’s where the scosche comes into its own

  28. vincent

    Thanks again for the great review. Quick question: have you tested whether the GPS altimeter on the M430 is accurate enough? Thanks!

    • Memphis

      Hi Vincent,
      I’ve tested this feature on two occasion commuting 12 km by bike.
      Known climb is 50 m (barometric cycle computer). M430: shows 15 and 25 respectively.
      My FR235 showed between 45 m and 55 m in the past (corrected elevation on Garmin Connect).

      I also wore the M430 along with by FR235 on a 33 km mountain run with an officially stated total climb of 1200 m.
      M430 registered 1190 m which seems incredibly accurate. Actually it is not: the Polar is just so slow in updating elevation, thus avoiding most peaks that the meandering GPS would otherwise generate on the sloping terrain.
      Smaller, shorter changes are simply ignored. A short climb of 50 m for example is reduced to 20 m.
      The Garmin on the other hand updates elevation constantly, which results in exaggerated totals in the end: 1600 m.
      Depending on what you focus on , the result could be useful – or not.

  29. Ivan

    Can it broadcast heart rate to other devices such as the wahoo Elemnt?

  30. TOm

    So now question is : when will the V800 be updated with this new (and nice) OHR + wifi + follow me + all other “new” functionalities found on 935 / F5 ?

    • tfk

      V800 replacement will probably will never have all those IMO.

      Polar seem to be focussing on accuracy. Garmin don’t seem to be.

  31. Moe

    You stated that the M430 “also will connect to running stride sensors”. With your use of the plural “sensors”, do you mean any Bluetooth sensor regardless of brand or is Polar still limiting pairing to the their own stride sensor?The PDF manual from their site is vague on this. I have the M400 and although it does track cadence on its own, I’ve always preferred to have a shoe sensor. However, Polar’s is huge when compared to those of other brands so I’ve never considered it. This could be a selling point when I update next year. I would appreciate if you could clarify this.

    • Robert Black

      It’ll works 100% obviously with Polar’s stride sensor, it works with the much cheaper MilestonePod too, once you’ve signed up to their beta firmware program. This is ending soon so will be a standard feature. The only caveat is auto calibration does not work, no problem for me as I have a track close by. But I’m not you. Then you have the option of the super expensive Stryd power meter that just works, but would be overkill as this watch can’t yet use the power data. Beyond that I’d avoid all other Bluetooth sensors. All will pair with various missing features, either cadence, pace or stride length.

    • Robert Black

      Just a note, the MilestonePod will work with you M400, with the same caveat.

  32. D-man

    I’m choosing between the m430 and the fr35. Want a good basic running watch with optical hr that I can use 24/7.

    The m430 is around $70 more where I live. Is the m430 worth the extra $$?

    • TonyBaloney

      Thanks a bunch for this awesome review (and a handful of your other awesome reviews I’ve read)! I’m looking to get my first watch and have been researching what option would be the best for me. I’m a grappler, and do trail running, HIIT, and weight training for conditioning. I’m a data oriented individual, and am looking for something to provide concrete information on whether I’m progressing/plateauing in workouts, as well as insight on when I need more recovery. HR info and sleep tracking were my main original concern , and when research showed how crummy most OHR sensors were,I nixed pretty much all fitbit products from my list of possibilities and started to focus on the Garmin FR 35, 235 and Vivoactive HR. Now I read this review and have another contender :). I’m leaning towards the m430 based on this review, with hopes that the 24/7 HR tracking arrives as scheduled.The “fitness test” of the m430 sounds a bit gimmicky, but would be awesome if it could actually be used to compare my conditioning on a monthly basis. Any thoughts that could help push me further in the corner of the m430, or one of the other watches out there?
      Thanks!

    • Christian Köhler

      I don’t think the vo2max values calculated by the Polar watches mean that much.
      For example, RCX5 and M400 both give me a vo2max of 68, someimes even 70 and put me into the “elite” category.
      I am 39yo, my PBs are 44:37 (10k), 1:39 (HM), 3:40 (Marathon). IMHO these are decent results for a hobbyist, but certainly not what I’d call “elite”.

    • TonyBaloney

      Yeah, it seems like it would be a tough metric to compare people. Do you think the vo2max values would have value to compare your own results over time? I.e. using monthly test results an indicator of progression?

    • I don’t put a ton of stock in them. Plus, in theory your VO2Max shouldn’t actually change much over time once you get a baseline level of fitness. It’s more of a gauge of your capacity than your current fitness.

  33. Alec

    Thanks for the review, excellent as always, but was just wondering what kind of battery life were you getting when just using the watch casually without GPS activities?

  34. Helena Bradley

    Do you have a favorite activity watch one that you think is worth the money ??? I am thinking about getting m430 I currently have the fitbit blaze which I love but I want to use my HR chest strap from my older polar watch while I exercise for more precise numbers. I also love everything the 430 does and has to offer for tracking I can go a few months without 24/7 hr tracking for now. I am also wondering if you can change out the straps these type of straps tend to crack.

  35. John

    You can’t change the straps. I spoke to Polar. You would have to send Polar the watch for them to replace it.

    • Robert Black

      You could change the straps if you had a link pin removal kit, problem is they are not on the open market. So yeah, as John said, it’ll need to be returned to Polar, when they replaced my M400 strap it only took 3 days

  36. Very nice review! My only gripe with the M430 is its lack of proper swimming metrics.

    Do you think it would be possible for Polar to implement a software update which enables us to manually input pool lap length in the swimming sport profile? Why? If we could put in the pool lap length, we could manually tap the red button during swimming every time we complete a lap. This way at the end of our swimming session we would have recorded: 1) average heartrate, 2) duration, and 3) distance swum.

    Right now we only have average heartrate and duration. That’s rather incomplete without actual distance swum.

    How do you tackle this?

    • Godunow

      Would it be possible now to use red lap button to count laps and then update distance manually on Polar Flow/Strava basing on number of laps?

      I know it is far from perfect but maybe good enough for occasional swimmer (like me).

    • Technically possible, yes, but also very unlikely.

      It’s essentially a runners watch. So Polar would like you to spend more money to get a tri/swimmers/etc watch.

    • Hi Godunow. I consider myself to be an occasional swimmer too. Your suggestion is exactly what I am doing right now, but alas Strava doesn’t allow to manually edit distance after the training has been synced. So my swimming sessions, recorded by the M430, are once completed instantly synced to Strava without first being able to quickly edit in the distance via the Flow app. So Strava is populated with only duration and average heartrate. A pity.

      I did however contact Strava tech support on Twitter and allegedly being able to manually edit distance in sport sessions is a frequently requested enhancement and apparently it’s on their (neverending most likely) todo list. No time estimate was given of course. :-/

    • Hi DC Rainmaker, thanks for replying.

      At first I used a simple Polar Loop 2 with H10 strap combined with the Polar Beat app to log all my workouts. Then I decided I wanted something easier. Something better and faster without a strap. I really liked the V800 because it seems to offer so much, but alas it needs a heart rate strap and for me personally even more important it lacks the advanced sleep analysis which recently got added to the M430 (albeit a bit wonky right now).

      Contradictory to your article (correct me if I’m wrong) I do get advanced sleep metrics with my M430, but sometimes it just doesn’t show data for some days in the weekly overview, even though the data is available if you look at it in diary view. See my screenshot for an example of what I’m experiencing.

      You might have an idea about this bug?

      Also: the M430 would be a really perfect fit for me if only they improved the swimming metrics, but I understand from their business side that they need to make other products attractable too, but so far the V800 can’t win from the M430. Maybe its successor can.

    • Hmm, definitely seems like some sort of bug – though honestly not sure where the origination of the bug is. Maybe the Polar folks can validate (they follow here).

    • I’m in contact with Polar tech support via mail / twitter. Their explanation (mail vs twitter replies) is not aligned unfortunately and contradictory to their own product description. I was told by one employee the M430 does not even support the Polar Sleep Plus metrics, even though it’s clearly written on the Polar Sleep Plus product page: link to polar.com (the M430 is listed as supported device, right next to the A370). Also the employee could see my screenshot too where there are some days with detailed metrics and other days without metrics. If it wasn’t supported there would be 0 days filled in. So it does work, just not every day.

      That kind of tech support kinda gets on my nerves and that’s why I thought you might have some additional insights as you’ve tested the M430 yourself extensively.

      Any feedback is really appreciated in getting the sleep analysis consistently tracked daily so my weekly overview is populated 100% with data. Last week now looks incomplete like in this attached screenshot.

    • Yeah, I’ll poke someone.

      The sleep details/functionality was slightly different/more on the A370, which is why I’m under the impression it’s not fully there yet on the M430.

    • Thank you. I appreciate this.

      I did notice you mentioning the A370 and making refeence to your review of that device to see some info about its sleep metrics. I did look at the review (just double checked again right now) and I don’t see anything I did not yet see with my M430? Maybe I’m not looking well enough?

    • It was more the on-device pieces. For example on the A370 it would ask me each morning how my sleep was, whereas I was never asked on the M430.

    • Zhivko Nikolov

      Hello Frederik Claes
      I am using the M430 since 22.06.2017. The second night of use ended like you show here – no sleep data. I remember when I open My Day first in the morning watch asked “Press OK to see the sleep data” (as it asks every morning), So I pressed OK – nothing happened, pressed a few more times – nothing. Pressed BACK and try to open My Day again – the message was not there any more. And no sleep date recorded for that night.
      I remember that night – went on bed on time but in the middle of the night went to kitchen for a glass of water, watched a TV for 20-30 minutes and went to bed again. May be such a behaviour interrupts the M430 sleep tracking algorithm somehow.
      9 days later no such problem any more.

    • @DC Rainmaker

      Aha my watch never asked this indeed. The Polar Flow app on my iPhone however does ask this, but again not all the time.

      Maybe their Flow back end service is buggy. Well I hope someone from Polar can give some conclusive advice on the matter. Maybe an official acknowledgement of sorts.

    • Hi Zhlvko

      Thanks for chiming in. Glad I’m not the only one with missing data. How many consecutive days of correct sleep analysis do you currently have?

    • Zhivko Nikolov

      Hello again Frederik,
      I have 10 consecutive days of correct sleep analysis already. I had some issues with LOOP2 sleep analysis in the past – missed some nights with no logical reasons. Just a few times for a year of usage.
      Do you see Sleep time and Actual sleep data on the M430 screen for these days that are missing in the WEB service?

    • Hi Zhivko

      As a matter of fact I didn’t check that yet on the watch itself. I just did, but let me first tell last night’s sleep again has not been recorded in the weekly overview.

      In 1) and 2) I’m referencing the Polar Flow web desktop browser view.

      1) Sleep from sunday -> monday:
      – M430 device: My Day shows sleep time and actual sleep time
      – Polar Flow: Diary -> Activity: fell asleep and woke up symbols are visible/logged however
      – Polar Flow: Diary -> Sleep: weekly overview: all metrics are visible

      2) Sleep from monday -> tuesday:
      – M430 device: My Day does NOT show sleep time and actual sleep time
      – Polar Flow: Diary -> Activity: fell asleep and woke up symbols are visible/logged however
      – Polar Flow: Diary -> Sleep: weekly overview: NO metrics are visible

      Attached screenshot shows the Polar Flow iOS app where I remark Tuesday 4th of July does not have the little bed icon depicted in the daily activity ring. It seems like Flow doesn’t recognize that time window as actual sleep like it did the night before. It’s odd because in the Polar Flow web version you can see the sleep/woke up timeframes marked, see: link to imgur.com

      Confusing!

    • Zhivko Nikolov

      Hi Frederik,
      It is the same with my M430, for that ‘strangely not recorded night’ – just like you describe here. I suppose you did the last weeks M430 firmware update – the actual version of the watch firmware is 1.0.28.
      Seems like the watch is not recording or detecting sleep properly. May be a HARD RESET could help (I don’t know if POLAR provide such an option) . There is a RESET button, hidden in the options inside PolarFlowSync software for Windows – you can see it when the watch is connected to USB sync cable. Could try it, it will make the watch ‘out of the box state’ – tried this with my LOOP2 band once. After the first sync the watch will take all your profile settings from the service so no need to reconfigure anything. Hope this helps.

    • Thanks for the suggestion. I will try a restart first, if that doesn’t help I will do a factory reset. Both procedures are detailed here: link to support.polar.com

      Not really sure it will help, but I can at least try and report afterwards. Some Polar representative could benefit from the test results.

  37. Alberto

    To solve that problem I either upload to Endomondo and from there I sync with Strava using Taapirik or upload to my PC and edit in Golden Cheetath and export a tcx file that I upload to Strava.

  38. Daniel

    Thanks for the review Ray!
    Do you have any idea how well the smartphone notifications handle Unicode, whether just different alphabets like Cyrillic, or even right-to-left languages?

  39. jeff

    really great review…appreciate the details…fyi, I have an RS 400 with a s1 pod and h1 heart rate sensor (plus a USB infrared adapter to download watch data to polar protrainer) so as you can see pretty ancient stuff…and now need to move on.,,can’t crazy glue the watch band together anymore

    so you answered nearly all of my questions…and the m430 seems a good replacement…but missed the part regarding accuracy of the pace/distance/speed without a foot sensor and on a treadmill …..obviously gps won’t work…but does polar use some other approach when no foot sensor is present…and is it accurate….would love to hear your POV…thanks again cheers

    • Zhivko Nikolov

      Hi Jeff, you could buy Milestone Pod – half the size and the PRICE of the Polar’s pod. Real time metrics: cadence, stride length, pace, distance and duration and tons of other metrics after syncing. Small review here: link to geekontrack.com

    • Mike@PolarUSA

      The M430 utilizes the internal accelerometer to provide speed/distance when running indoors.

      Regarding the data your M400 has recorded with the ProTrainer software, you’ll be able to export that data to Flow should you chose to make the jump. – Mike@PolarUSA

  40. The HR data from the optical sensor looks fine to me

  41. trailrun the woods

    Hi Ray,
    thanks for another great in-depth report.

    This being (one of) the best wrist HR watch, how are you feeling about the scosche rhythm?
    Still using the scosche or did it become redundant with the HR of the Polar M430 being solid ?

    On the same topic, personally I would very much appreciate a “Sports Gadget Recommendations” twice a year :)
    When will you publish the next one ?

    Regards from the Netherlands

    • I think the Scosche still has a very important place in life, especially for cycling but also all the other devices out there that don’t have a good (or any) optical HR sensor.

      As for a new gadgets recommendations guide, yeah, I agree, I probably need to do it more frequently. :(

  42. Alberto

    I think a section called “indoor run accuracy” would be good on future “in dephs”

  43. B

    I bought my M430 from cleaver training.

    HR sensor does not work correctly.

    The device says heart rate not found and will not read HR when worn on top of wrist. I get some readings when worn on the bottom of my wrist (palm side up.)

    Polar says they are working in a firmware update to fix the issue. (See comments on amazon)

  44. Michael

    Does it come with some tennis mode? If yes – how does it work?

    • Mike@PolarUSA

      There is a tennis sport profile that can be created for the M430 allowing you to track heart rate, calories, time, training load….there is no tennis specific metrics however that it will record. – Mike@PolarUSA

    • Michael

      What does training load show? Can that created profile count also steps?

    • Mike@PolarUSA

      The tennis sport profile would not be able to capture the number steps taken during a match. The accelerometer within the watch that is running in the background however is and those steps taken (while not broken out for the activity itself) will be added to the total that it records during the day.

      Training Load is an estimation of the cumulative physiological effect an exercise session has upon someone. With Training Load is a recovery estimation which helps prevent overtraining. – Mike@PolarUSA

  45. mw

    Hi. Thanks for the great review. I’m moving from a rcx5 with gps tracker to the M430. However, I live in a cold country, which means jackets most of the year. How will the gps on the M430 fair with clothes on?
    Anyone know?