Polar M430 Review + Discount | Detailed | GPS & Optical Run Watch

Polar M430 Review – A  Detailed Look

Polar have delivered a nice upgrade for runners and in this Polar M430 Review we will look at their market-leading optical heart rate sensor and fantastic platform for your sports data.

Polar M430 Review m400

M400 (black) and M430 (dark grey) …VERY similar looking beasts, ideally you put them on your wrists, not your shoe.

 

 

It’s pretty enough for a running watch. It feels good on the wrist. It comes from a LONG line of great Polar products.

But is it any good?

Polar’s M430 is a notable upgrade to Europe’s best-selling M400 from late 2014. As an upgraded product it certainly seems to have much less of the niggles present in other newly released products form other vendors. Of particular note is that the M430 now has Polar’s top-end optical HR unit built in. Of course, since 2014, Polar’s general app and web infrastructure has also received significant, continued improvements.

Executive Summary

It IS a good, accurate and featured-packed smart watch for running. If you add in support for other sports and for activity/sleep tracking then it’s a definite ‘BUY’ recommendation. The official price tag of £200$230/EUR230 is a tad high but it is already available for less than that. In some quarters it would be a contender for the best running watch. Let’s see if it deserves that accolade.

For most people I suspect this will be used as their main sports-only watch.

It’s fine, too, at the activity tracking stuff but, personally, I’d go with two devices and also get the rather more beautiful Polar A360/A370 for the activity tracking side of things so making full use of Polar’s great app and web dashboard with the two devices.

The Review

Let’s go.

Polar M430 Detailed ReviewBOX CONTENTS

You get the M430 and a bespoke USB cable. That’s it really.

You also get POLAR FLOW which comprises the following components (all free):

  • Polar Flow web service – online analytical platform (this is not the legacy polarpersonaltrainer.com)
  • Polar Flow app – smartphone version of the online web service.
  • Polar FlowSync – gets the data from your PC to the web service

Setting up the device is fairly ‘standard’ and you can now do it either: online; on the Flow app (2017); or on the device, as explained (here) in a bit more detail.

Here are my experiences with the un-opening and setup:

  • I managed to open the box just as any other. I closed my eyes and thought of Christmas and my box-opening skills came flooding back.
  • Seriously, it was straightforward. I am familiar with Polar Flow and there is nothing different to setting up any Polar product in terms of the general process and experience. Polar Flow appears to be fairly intuitive but, as I say, I do know it quite well already.
  • Pairing any Polar for the first time to my android smartphone always takes exactly 3 attempts. I’ve no idea why. Persevere and the Polar-goodness will flow (pun intended, as always)
  • The Flow app continues to improve and expand. Indeed this was the first time that I used the app to entirely customise my sports profiles for the M430 (a Q2.2017 feature). This goes a long way to enable us to be able to customise sports ‘on-the-go’ without having to fiddle with intricate menu systems and buttons on the device. Of course without your phone or web access you still won’t be able to change all your sports profiles in an exercise ’emergency’.
  • General syncing to the PC with the M430 seems quicker than with earlier models. Maybe I’m imagining it.
  • I would say that Polar do at least as good a job here as Suunto, Garmin, TomTom and a select few others.

Aesthetics & Wearability

I quite like the looks of the M430 for a sports watch. It’s very much function-driven, rectangular and utilitarian. No touchscreens or fancy colour stuff just great sports functionality. I’d certainly use it for sports.

As a 24×7 watch though I would not wear it myself. And that cuts out the usefulness of some of the sleep functionality to me. But you’re different to me and may well love the M430 so much that it becomes wedded to your wrist.

Similar wearability criticisms could be thrown at the V800 (v810 due this year?) and the M200 but I do like the A360/A370 and the M600; I suppose mostly because of the awesome colour screens they have.

Polar M430 Detailed Review

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The watch is comfy when worn. The strap on the previous M400 was strong and perhaps a little too rigid, the M430 has been made more wearable by a more supple and breathable strap.

Polar M430 Detailed Review

M430 left, M400 right

 

Getting Around The Watch

Same intuitive Polar user experience.

It has 5 buttons whose basic functions are:

  • top left – backlight
  • bottom left – escape/go back/stop
  • top right – page up
  • bottom right – page down
  • middle right/red button – the ‘enter’ button or ‘do it’ button or ‘lap’.

The high level menu starts with the configurable home screen – for example showing your daily progress and the time. Then allowing scrolling through general non-exercise stuff like settings, timers, favourites, fitness tests and calendar.

Otherwise, after you’ve pressed the red button and chosen your sport activity mode, then you are good to also scroll through various in-exercise screens showing fully customisable exercise-specific metrics that we will return to later. Standard stuff.

Polar M430 Detailed ReviewPersonalising the watch

Changes to the watch can mostly be made on the app and online in the Flow application. On the whole this is much easier than making changes using the limitations of a small watch’s interface. The problem comes when you are in the middle of nowhere and want to make a change and when the manufacturer’s online web service is ‘undergoing maintenance’ – hopefully a rare occurance

Polar have a nice balance where some, more limited, changes can be made on the device as well as on the app.

Much of the personalisation you are likely to do will be configuring specific sports for your needs. In Polar Flow>(Your User Name)>Sport Profiles you can create, delete or amend the details of how your watch is configured for each of those sports. A ‘sport’ could be an indoor class or a gym session or an indoor version of a sport you also do outdoors such as Ergo Rowing vs Outdoor rowing.

SENSORS – IN-BUILT & BLUETOOTH SMART

I’ll just talk a bit about the various sensors first and then cover the accuracy of them all later on.

GPS 

Polar’s top-end V800 tri watch has a SiRFStar IV GPS chip.

So what?

Well, the V800 is recognised as one of the best performers of GPS functionality across all sports watches on the market and now the M430 shares that same GPS chip (unlike the M400). We’ll cover GPS accuracy later on in a section covering many aspects of accuracy.

Initial GPS signal acquisition is augmented by Assisted GPS (A-GPS) aka “it finds a signal quickly“. This stores future satellite positions on the M430 which can then find the satellites much more quickly when you next turn it on. Initial satellite lock for me has always been WELL UNDER 10 seconds but when the GPS cache has emptied it will take longer. Similar functionality is found with Garmin, Suunto and TomTom.

GPS can also be enabled/disabled for most sports. For example, by default the ‘swimming profile’ comes with GPS turned off but you can quite easily turn on GPS if  you want to use GPS for open water swimming (OWS). Or you could add an OWS profile of course!.

You can also manually set GPS quality to a lower level ie from Best (1s recording) to Medium (30s recording), or Power Saver (60s recording), and this would notably extend battery life.

 

Polar M430 Detailed ReviewBattery

The M400’s Battery is chargeable via a proprietary USB cable (as shown above). The cable and port are similar to those connecting to a Fitbit and to recent high-end Garmin devices. This is a change from the previous M400 model where a standard micro USB cable was used and which experienced some issues over time. The charging cable on the M430 has been reliable and I have some remaining, but minor, concerns over the slightly loose fit of the cable into the watch’s port and also concerns about the port holding water/sweat and potentially oxidising the metal over time. We shall see. So far, so good.

The watch is certified water resistant to 30m and can be used for swimming.

A fully charged battery is advertised to last 8 sporty hours, although that will be lowered with notifications & alerts turned on and with the backlight on.

The battery life for use in sports can be extended up to an advertised 30 hours (thirty) with the GPS power saver mode. A similar, or perhaps even longer, battery life for indoor sports will also be found where GPS is disabled in the sports profile.

The battery lasts MANY, MANY days longer as a day-to-day watch/activity tracker.

ULTRA RUNNERS: The M430 CAN be used and charged at the same time. Although you would have to take the watch off your wrist and hence the optical HR would be incorrect during the charging period as you were running.

Polar M430 Detailed Review optical lineupOptical Heart Rate

The M430 is compatible with Bluetooth SMART/BTLE chest strap heart rate monitors – not ANT+ sensors. This compatibility includes the Polar H7 and H10 models (review) as well as many other non-Polar models like WAHOO. Most likely you’d go for a Polar H10 if chest straps are for you.

However it’s also most likely that you bought the watch because of the optical heart rate sensor ie you don’t need a chest strap. Polar’s strapline used to be something like “Recording every beat” or “Don’t miss a beat” or something like that. The point being that ACCURATE heart rate has always been their ‘thing’. When you buy a Polar you expect and usually get the most accurate sensors.

Polar currently have 4 sports devices with optical HR devices, as shown above. As you can also see they have 2 sensor types, with the top-end M600 and the M430 sharing the 6-LED, Polar-designed sensor. No other optical HR sensor on the market has this number of sensors. Is more better? errrr, maybe. It can’t hurt. We’ll look at the accuracy tests later.

There are many factors affecting optical HR accuracy and the accuracy can sometimes seem to boil down to a personal thing, specific to you.  IF you are looking for accuracy that previous point SHOULD give you some cause for concern when you buy any optical HR device. Below you can see the Garmin 235 and Polar M430; both of their optical  sensors have worked GREAT on me….it might not be the same for you. Indeed I have had real problems with Garmin’s top-end Fenix 5x which, for me, wasn’t as good as the cheaper Garmin 235. Sigh.

Polar M430 Detailed Review

TIP: If  you are having problems with your optical HR accuracy (here) are a few tips for improving it.

Just to be clear. The optical HR on Polar’s M430 DOES work for swimming – Garmin’s ELEVATE optical HR does NOT work for swimming. Suunto’s oHR also works for swimming. But also note that, unlike the Polar V800, a chest strap will not work underwater with the M430..well, the H10 will cache the data but the M430 won’t be able to read it from the cache and the M430 does not support the GYMLINK underwater transmission (Source: Polar – you could also use Polar BEAT to retrieve cached underwater H10 HR data if you are particularly keen)

The M430 has a new menu option “My Heart Rate” where you can display your HR without recording a sport.

The M430 can broadcast HR to certain other Polar devices.

The automated & periodic, 247 recording of HR without starting a sport is planned for later in 2017.

Polar Flow App with M200Activity Tracker

There is only fairly basic activity information on the watch. I’d say it’s enough. There’s steps, calories and a fancy main screen showing progress towards the current day’s target. Steps and calories are a few button clicks away on the watch.

Your activity (AND SLEEP) are tracked through an inbuilt motion sensor and the information transferred to FLOW (app/web).  The day-view on the app is shown below and I find the app pretty good at visually conveying sometimes complex information about all your daily activity types. The weekly and monthly trends are also useful and to the point without including too much of the over-analyses that can be found on other vendors’ apps.

 

A misplaced criticism of the earlier M400 was that steps were not shown sufficiently prominently. One reason that Polar opt instead to show your progress towards your daily total is that the daily activity total assigns a higher score to higher activity types and so better reflects a more holistic view of the usefulness of your activity AND the correctness of your progress. But some people still want to know their steps…(that information is on the M430 but it is a few button presses away).

There are several configuration options, here is a flavour:

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Sleep Tracking

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Don’t forget: Sleep is REALLY important. Exercise stresses your body. Your body gets fitter by responding to those stresses to make you stronger/fitter/faster. Those responses or adaptations PROBABLY HAPPEN WHEN YOU ARE ASLEEP.

Polar’s sleep tracking is based on movement and not heart rate. So your movements are used to determine your sleep.

Polar are thus giving a relatively crude estimate of sleep: sleep time; wake time; total hours; disturbances and continuity. But that’s probably enough for most people. AND EVEN IF you go with a different vendor, their stats will probably be based on some sort of detailed fantasy sleep tracking – although they will have commissioned numerous ‘scientific’ papers to prove that I am wrong on that count.

Sleep phases can ONLY realistically be monitored by optical HR on the wrist as chest straps are too uncomfortable for longterm night-wear for most people. But even then optical HR from most vendors, including Polar+Garmin+TomTom, is not accurate enough to get anywhere near the level of accuracy from polysomnography (PSG). And even PSG is not perfect. hopefully you ‘get’ where I  am coming from.

I would say that Polar gives a sensible but basic overview of your night’s sleep. It does NOT, at present, go into the details of sleep cycles. If that’s you thing then go for something like OURA Ring, QS EMFIT, WHOOP or BEDDIT v3 all of which offer much better sleep analysis solutions than any of the sports watch vendors.

So if you want to track ‘how much sleep you had’. The M430 is fine.

Edit: 4July – there seems to be a mismatch between the sleep offering built in to the M430 compared to that with the A370. So I am expecting developments in the sleep functionality soon.

 

Polar M430 Detailed ReviewRunning, Cycling and ‘Other’ Sports

The Polar M430 has the ability to work for very many sports. But remember it’s strength is as a running watch; it only has running-focussed features (and activity tracking). It just so happens that you can kind-of use the running features for other things too.

Indoor running turns off GPS yet still uses its inbuilt cadence and oHR, for example.

Similarly in bike mode you will get GPS-based speed as well as HR but not data such as power from bike power meters. You can get other info such as ascent and altitude which cyclists like.

You could use the M430 for swimming as it’s good to a depth of 30m. But you will be using it only as: a glorified timer; a lap/set counter if you press ‘lap’ manually; and heart rate logger – actually that’s all fine for many people. It won’t log anything else, like pace, meaningfully although you can turn GPS on for open water pace. NB you do NOT get stroke rate/cadence for ANY kind of swimming.

There are lots of sport profiles you can add such as Pilates, Strength Training and Dancing.

There is no sports profile for triathlon/multi-sports. It’s predominantly a running watch and next a single sport watch. Of course for the occasional triathlon you could quite easily use 3 consecutive sports profile rather than buying a more expensive watch.

Polar M430 Detailed ReviewRunning!

Finally we are here.

In Polar Flow’s Sports Profiles you can edit the Running profile and set the following:

  • Autolap (manual laps and auto laps are treated separately – cool!)
  • Audio alerts – NO! Not on the M430…these WERE on the M400
  • Heart rate – Zone and other settings.
  • Heart rate – you will see there is an interesting ‘Zone Lock’ enablement. When running you can lock your current HR zone (or pace zone). When you deviate from that zone … it vibrates. Cool !
  • Display Speed or Pace
  • Feedback – Automatically pauses the session when you are stationary
  • GPS – on/off
  • Training Views – you are allowed a whopping 8 screen with the ability to show 4 metrics per screen. That should be enough! You can change each screen to show 2, 3 or 4 metrics.

Polar M430 Detailed ReviewThe training views can accommodate LOTS of metrics. Many you will be familiar with such as LAP HR AVG or LAST LAP PACE. There are also quite a few unusual or novel ones such as:

  • Stride length (TBC: may require cadence sensor)
  • ZonePointer – indicates how much you need to speed up or slow down by to get ‘in-the-zone’
  • Altitude
  • Time of Day
  • Max Running Cadence

There are also interesting ways of displaying some of the data – for example a Z1 to Z5 horizontal arrangement for heart rate zones.

There is a recent trend from many vendors to try to find novel ways to display the same old data. Innovation is good, I suppose.

Other vendors such as Epson, Suunto, Garmin and adidas all have unique metrics. Polar covers all the usual bases as well as having a few unique ones itself.

Polar stack the measures vertically on top of each other with the M400. I think this scans better when you are glancing at it mid-exercise. It works well.

Indoor Running Mode

I didn’t test indoor running.

This is going to be as accurate or inaccurate as every other vendor’s offering on the whole.

A properly calibrated footpod will notably increase distance accuracy, you’ll be getting the accuracy of the footpod rather than the accuracy of the watch in those cases.

Polar M430 Detailed Review strydCadence

Cadence comes from the device and no additional sensor is required.

You could probably get ‘more accurate’ cadence from an external cadence sensor like Milestone or STRYD but the information produced is perfectly good for both looking at your cadence as you run and reviewing it afterwards over longer periods.

The only tiny note of caution here is that the movement of the watch/wrist  is used as a proxy for cadence so if you are holding your watch out in front of you to look at the cadence for extended periods AND your wrist/watch is not moving then the cadence will be incorrect. A quick turn of the wrist and a glance shows the correct cadence.

Actually Running

Yep, it’s great !

The buttons work well and the backlight is great.

Data is clearly visible. The vibration alerts can be easily felt and you can also usually hear the vibration – I’ve got good hearing 😉

The lap button adds a lap and gives nice lap data. Shock horror.

When you have finished you get summary stats and PB/PR notifications if you have achieved them. There is also a nice Zone summary screen.

What more could you ask for?

Accuracy, maybe?

Let’s do it.

Accuracy

There are several aspects of accuracy which REALLY bother some people and yet, to others, they are of no concern whatsoever. Look at the following sections with regard to what really matters to you as I cover the accuracy of: a GPS track; instant pace/pace; elevation; optical HR; and steps.

Accuracy: Heart Rate

I’m not even going to test the accuracy of the M430 with a Polar H7/H10 chest strap. It WILL be near perfect. If anything, let’s say I was testing an optical Heart Rate device, I would test it against the Polar H7/H10 strap – with the Polar as the gold standard.

However, you want to know about the accuracy of the optical HR monitor. Accuracy varies by person and by sport for a variety of reasons that I wont address in this review. That is also true of EVERY oHR device on the wrist. It’s important that you wear the watch properly ie fairly tightly and about 1cm above the wrist bone.

First up we have a steady state run for well over an hour. Perfect enough results for me and just a little more accurate than the much more expensive Garmin 935

clickable, Polar Green, Garmin Blue and the ‘correct’ chest strap is RED

Then this is a pretty good performance running with some high HRs going up to 170bpm. The M430 has not quite nailed it but it’s good. I’d take this performance.

polar-m430-Suunto-smartbelt

clickable, Polar M430 is blue, red is Suunto smart belt

Let’s look again at some intervals, this time bringing a Garmin oHRM back into the mix. This is a short run but with 3 faster bursts, one of them followed by an immediate stop to see how the devices handle the fast recovery of HR. I had the M430 on my ‘wrong wrist’ and it was not sufficiently tight as a result. You can see that this REALLY makes the results unacceptable at the start at around 7 minutes. After I tightened it up it was very good. Contrast that to the top-end priced Garmin 935 tri-watch which missed some of the high and lows of my heart rate. The most expensive tri-watch ever!

Clearly the M430 is better for oHR on this run, although with room for improvement with a couple of unexpectedly high readings even when the strap was tight enough.

clickable. Green is correct and Polar is blue and Garmin 935 is red

Overall my personal experience with running was that the M430 displayed very accurate HR results for steady runs and usually accurate-looking results for intervals with the odd blip. Certainly pretty much on-par with the best oHR watches on the market. COOL !

For Cycling it was also pretty good. Not as good as for running but if cycling was an occasional sport for you then it would probably be OK. Here’s an interesting example when I was on tri-bars for 90 minutes. You can see that when I change wrist position sometimes (but not always) the M430 flat-lined. That’s not great. You can see that in the first hour of the workout the Garmin 935 performed better. But then the 935 was rubbish for the last 20 minutes warm-down – and the Garmin is SUPPOSED to be designed specifically for triathlon/cycling!

Optical HR does not often like cycling there are too many vibrations from the road and movements of the wrist all of which cause potential inaccuracies.

Here’s another cycling chart, this time including over bumpier terrain. A few moments of madness but excellent in the parts that count.

polar-m430-hrm-tri

clickable, blue is HRM-TRI, Red is Polar M430

For swimming the M430 was variable and here it is in open water compared to a Suunto smartbelt (Suunto is correct). This performance is poor for the M430 in salt water.

clickable

In the following freshwater example it’s OK, although I’ve had some worse performances than this and some better performances too. This is probably representative. It’s better than Garmin’s offering…because Garmin don’t support oHR at all when swimming.

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I would also add that, from my thrashes around the local pool, the performance there was not great with readings seeming to be regularly on the low side, similar to the salt water example (above).

But overall I would say the M430 excels where it needs to with great running oHR performance. I was a little disappointed with the swim performance as the M600 and M200 have given good experiences there, the former with the same sensor.

Accuracy: HR Accuracy – 2 Alternatives

You can get improved HR accuracy either from a Polar H10 (Review) chest strap or from a Polar OH1 (Review) arm strap.

Polar H10 Review & Comparisons, Polar’s Greatest HRM

and here is the arm strap

Polar OH1 Review | Optical HR Sensor, Arm-Worn

Accuracy: GPS Accuracy in the Polar M430 Review

My formal GPS-route testing process covers a difficult 10 mile circuit; difficult in GPS terms. This has helped to standardise some aspects of GPS performance and my results are continually updated. Obviously I use this in conjunction with many other ‘real-world scenarios’. I have found the M430 to be ‘pretty good’ and it scored 75%.

That’s good in a normal sense and in line with other comparable devices such as the Garmin Forerunner 235 which it might have slightly out-performed. The M430 scores higher than the M400 (different GPS chip) and higher than the top-end Fenix 5X and higher than the top-end Garmin 935 – although broadly similar scores to each of those devices’ performances.

Here is an example of great performance compared to the GPS accuracy-leading Polar V800 on a very tricky part of my test route – 270 degree turn under a bridge, under dense tree cover near several-story high buildings, 180 degree switchback’ , under a bridge again (but a different arch). Nice performance.

clickable. V800 red

The GPS accuracy when cycling in the Polar M430 Review is pretty good too.

However the algorithms do not seem to work for open water swim GPS accuracy, as shown below. The red line for the Garmin 935 ‘about right’:

Garmin RED, Polar M430 in blue

 

Accuracy: Distance in the Polar M430 Review

Over reasonably long distances, say 10km, I find almost every devices is accurate to +/- 1% of the correct distance. For example, I can’t remember ever having a recorded distance of over 5050m for a properly measured 5000m parkrun.

From a personal point of view I’m not particularly interested to know if I’ve run 30.5 miles or 30 miles. However I appreciate some of you ARE VERY interested to know what distances you run.

Based on a small sample size of measured runs the M430, to me, looks to be accurate to +/-0.5%. I class the M430 as ‘very good’ in this respect.

If you want some advice: buy a footpod and calibrate it properly to get the most accuracy for distance.

Polar M430 Detailed Review stride sensor footpod

Following on from the GPS track fro swimming shown in the previous section, the distance recorded for openwater swimming is inaccurate. Again I draw your attention to the Polar M430 being a RUNNING watch. you get the accuracy designed for running.

You will get much more accurate distance measurements using a footpod such as the Polar one shown above or a cheap option is the Milestone POD Review

Milestone POD Review & Lots of Usage to follow

Accuracy: Speed/Pace

‘Correct-enough’ overall distance measurement will give a ‘correct-enough’ average/lap pace. However these averages mask second-by-second variations in the accuracy of short-term distance measurement/estimation. Such short-term variations can be VERY considerable and can give wildly inaccurate instant/live pace figures.

The GPS signal and a clock is used to work out speed/pace between points when outdoors in normal circumstances.

Generally an average speed/pace or lap speed/pace will give what seemed to me to be an accurate estimate of speed/pace.

However instant/live pace with the M430 was a bit ‘hit and miss’. When in the open and running at relatively constant paces the instant pace accuracy was very good. However as soon as buildings or tree cover got involved then the instant pace was varying between 40 secs/km slower and 10-15 secs faster than the actual (constant) pace. That sort of difference is too great to make the feature usable in those circumstances. HOWEVER every other sports watch is pretty much the same under those same conditions.

You need to buy a footpod for accurate instant pace – true for ANY GPS running watch. Milestone is a cheap option and STRYD (see STRYD Review is the most accurate option.

 

STRYD REVIEW | Running Power Meter, Accurate | Footpod |

 

 

Edit: 4 Juily 2017 – there is currently some beta software functionality in this area with footpod pairing about to rollover into the live firmware. The M430 will support stride sensors other than their own indeed it can now currently be paired with STRYD and STRYD CAN be set as the source of speed rather than GPS. I’ve not tested the accuracy of that or that in particular (see STRYD review) for the purposes of this review.

On the occasions that I looked at bike speed on the M430 it looked OK. Again, that’s in line with other findings with other watches because: roads tend to have a better line of sight to the sky as they are wide; the bike is not really swinging backwards and forwards like your wrist; and also because the actual speed is generally easier to model. It will still have inaccuracies, though a bike speed sensor might help but really you’re probably buying the M430 as a running watch.

Conclusion: Accurate enough for me.

ACCURACY – ELEVATION

The chart below compares the ‘correct’ elevation derived from the GPS track and an SRTM database in blue. As you can see the Garmin (green) is Ok with the ascents/descent, albeit over small rises. I would say in this example the Polar’s accuracy is OK, you will find better accuracy on higher-end running devices and you will usually find better elevational accuracy with a barometric altimeter.. However you would have thought that a top-end Garmin cycling computer would be notably superior…it wasn’t – albeit with limited sample sizes. (Please ask below if you need more info, I have lots of data on this I just haven’t trawled through it and presented it here).

The M430 uses GPS altimetry not barometric.

clickable

ACCURACY – ACTIVITY STEPS

Accurate enough. Rudimentary tests showed that the M430 might underestimate a Garmin by no more than 1%. It’s quite hard to display steps that count as you walk with the M430 (someone please let me know if you find a way to do this better…thank you!)

Polar Fitness Tests & Other Stuff In The Polar 430 Review

The Tests include Polar’s version of VO2max (Polar Index) and their Running Index; the latter being a measure of efficiency. The former, VO2max, is pretty useless on the whole; although it is a great measure of your current potential so, over time, it is a good measure of YOUR progress with YOUR fitness. It’s pretty useless to compare to other people for a variety of reasons I won’t go into and similarly it may well fail to predict your race performance today for a whole host of other reasons. However the great thing about this test is that you do it whilst lying down AND YOU CAN USE THE OPTICAL SENSOR – so quite a few of us might actually do it! 🙂

The Running Index is more useful as it looks at changes to your fitness as well as technique. This needs to be done at speed for around 12 minutes. The great thing with this is that it is calculated automatically during your run sessions.

Polar also look at: fairly standard HR zones; Training Effect; and claim to have the most accurate calorie calculator available in a GPS watch. Good stuff.

What else does it Have?

Quite a few things are worth a mention in this Polar M430 Review such as

  • The 5 button interface is superior to touchscreen
  • Structured workouts
  • Polar’s personalised running program
  • Stopwatch
  • Lightweight at 51g
  • PBs/PRs
  • Endtime estimator
  • Auto stop/start
  • Smart notifications – limited, sufficient
  • Training targets
  • Training Diary
  • Training Load/Recovery Status (Flow)

 So What’s Missing in the Polar M430 Review?

This is a tricky one for a sub-£200 GPS watch. What exactly do you expect for that kind of money? You won’t get everything, that’s for sure.

  • Colour Screen – The M430 might also ‘need’ a higher definition colour screen. I suspect Polar will point you towards their M600 (which is the best AndroidWear sportswatch IMO) if you want that sort of hardware.
  • Navigation – You can’t expect this sort of functionality at this price point. Back to start functionality is, however, included. Again the M600 has great navigation via AndroidWear 2.0.
  • Livetracking – Is missing on this watch and some competitor products do have this. I’m never really sure how many people use this functionality. I know a fair few people do and most of them are cyclists. However for those super-important race days it is VERY useful to have a livetracking position of you available for support crew (friends!).
  • wifi upload – The M430 already has Bluetooth upload to your phone. I think that is sufficient at this price point, although wifi upload will be nice for many but even then it is hit and miss with many vendors. Again the M600 has wifi upload.
  • Tonal alerts – to me these are important. From the simple countdown to the end of an interval on a noisy/windy day to alerts that my pace has dropped too much. The M430 DOES HAVE VIBRATION ALERTS but also having tone would be great
  • Music – I part-hoped and part-expected that the M430 would have music. Once again Polar would point you towards their M600
  • Barometer
  • GLONASS – no big loss there, really.
  • Lap counting for swimming
  • Changeable straps – straps cannot easily be changed.
  • Apps – I think Polar have partly-missed the boat on this one. And partly been strategically brilliant. I don’t think they can deliver an app infrastructure across their entire product range. Even Fitbit (far more financially resourced) had to acquire a company to do this. In any case, once again Polar would point you towards their M600 which has EQUALLY the BEST app store of any watch other than the apple watch perhaps 😉 ie AndroidWear

Alternatives To The Polar M430 Review

There are comparative prices below to finish off this Polar M430 review. But you might also want to look at the Garmin 235 (replacement 245 overdue) and the TomTom Runner 3/Spark 3. Maybe even a Lezyne Micro GPS Watch if you want to be different. Suunto’s upcoming SPARTAN TRAINER might also be a competitor at this price point but little is known about it yet.

The Epson SF-310 and Polar M200 would be lower models to consider.

COMPARISON: To previous model the Polar M400 (here). and the higher M600 model (here)

Polar M430 vs M400 Vs M600 Specifications & Comparison

COMPARISON: Link to the top sports watches in each category

Best Running Watch 2017 | Top 10 | GPS Review, Recommendations & Comparisons

Recommendation

Q: Would I recommend the M430?

A: Yes. Very much so.

Why?: It has almost all of the ‘proper’ running features you need and it has generally more accurate components than much of the competition.

Would I buy the M430?: If I just did running then, yes, I would. I would probably go for the M430 over any other watch at this price point and I would buy it rather than the Garmin because of the rectangular screen! Oh! And because it’s more accurate! Having said that the Garmin 235 supports STRYD POWER data which might tempt me towards that but I strongly suspect that Polar will announce STRYD compatibility later in 2017/8 (I have no inside information on this point).

If you want a good GPS/oHR running watch then the Polar M430, to me, is a great choice. The heart rate and GPS components are solid and the smartphone app and web software are very good. Instant pace from the GPS could be improved, so consider a footpod if super-accuracy is your thing – Milestone’s pod is the cheapest and STRYD’s is the best (link to STRYD Review & discount)

It is a great, high-spec GPS running watch with optical HR, ‘other sports’ usage and activity tracking

In other words, “it’s a ‘proper’ running watch”.

PRICES, DISCOUNTS & AVAILABILITY

power meter city

10% Discount Coupon ‘the5krunner10’ or 10% store credit with Garmin

It comes in grey/gray, white or orange. No black model this time around.

There is 10% off most Polar devices at Power Meter City with the coupon / discount / promo code: the5krunner10. If you buy anything from there you help keep this blog running and the 10% discount will usually make it cheaper than the regular Amazon prices . Thank you.

Here are the latest UK/US/EU prices on Amazon. If you are in another country and would like to support this blog, please click your country’s flag in the top right hand corner.

28 thoughts on “Polar M430 Review + Discount | Detailed | GPS & Optical Run Watch

  1. Thanks for all the details about nuts and bolts of Polar M430 and I take your review as a base to buy this workhorse and I hope I will like it. I have good reputation for polar but they must present good looking watches too due to dual role of a activity tracking and a running gadget.

    I certainly expected 3 important improvements over M400, 1. Good resolution cool display ( easy for heart zones etc) 2. Barometric Altimeter 3. Changeable wrist bands. I would have happily paid asking price of $230.

    • fair comment.
      I hoped for the screen improvement too
      however that may come for the V800 replacement and as I said in the review Polar would respond by asking you to buy the M600 instead (which actually I really like). tho I accept a ‘pro’ runner would not go for the m600

  2. Thanks a bunch for this awesome review! I’m looking to get my first watch and have been researching what option would be the best for me. I’m pretty data oriented, so I thought having a tracker would help motivate me by giving concrete feedback on whether I was progressing/plateauing in my workouts. I’m a grappler, do trail running, HIIT, and weight training for conditioning. It seemed like all the fitbit products were’nt accurate enough or waterproof enough, It seemed like the Garmin FR 35, 235 and Vivoactive HR were the best choices for me (based on $ and functions), but I just became aware of the m430 and am now favoring it. My biggest hang up is the lack of 24/7 HR monitoring. I’d really like to have that info, and have heard that Polar is planning to include this on the m430 in a couple months with a software update. I don’t have any experience with the company–do you have a feel for whether or not this is a release date I could have confidence in? Or, if I buy the m430, am I likely going to be waiting for a year before it does 24/7 monitoring? Any other thoughts you have that could help me decide between them? Thanks a ton!

    • 24/7 is scheduled for SOON. they’ve already introduced it on the A370 so it WILL come
      you will find *ALL* oHR products will struggle with ‘weights’ -type activities ie where there is lots of wrist movement. it affects blood flow and hence the hr reading will be out.
      thank you for buying through the amazon links or PMC (USA….discount is waiting 😉 )

  3. question to pair stryd-sensor with m430. In which intervals will the power-datafield refreshed?
    Every second or every few seconds (3, 5,?). How accurate is power data comapred to pace?
    Is it possible to let show pace via stryd-sensor and record own training/track simultaneously with gps?
    Thanks a lot!

    • stryd can be paired with the m430 as a footpod
      power does NOT YET show on the m430. there is no power datafield
      you can probably make power take over the cadence field (I’ve not tried that).
      advice: if you are going to train by power then buy a watch that properly support running power.
      on the m430 for stryd you can set: calibration (automatic, etc); choose as a sensor for speed (yes or no…later being gps)
      data will be updated at least every second. however if/when power data arrives what will be displayed will be a moving average…I think that is something like 5 seconds.

      • Thanks. I run mainly in hill area (climb up/down) and like to use power instead of pace. I allready use the m400 and like to buy another polar and a stryd-pod if it’s sensful to use. Pace doesn’t help much. Power should work better than hf and should also work in power-zones, so I can create my custom workouts with power instead of hf. That’s what I like to do. The stryd-sensor works well without calibration, isn’t it??? Thanks for your help!

          • ok, would you prefer power instead of hr in my case? Do you think stryd is a substantial advantage?
            Thank’s a lot for your advise.

          • HR is lagged by 30 seconds approx. and is reasonably OK. power from stryd will be more accurate and will be an advantage if you are able to act on it.

            “SUBSTANTIAL” advantage…I doubt it

          • Thanks a lot for the input. I will go inside myself, checking polar updates for m430 firmware updates and collect further user reviews about stryde. Polar v800 is too heavy as device. Maybe there come something new soon; if not, then m430 is not bad@all. 😉

  4. Polar L2. A Bluetooth heart rate sensor, with USB connectivity. The designs looks like a strap?

    • That’s what I was thinking, hopefully it’s just an accessory for other watches like the scosche and mio, and not a means to stretch another two years out of the V800, yes I’ve a M400, M430 and V800 but I want a new toy now, then I’ll sell the older pair of watches, honest I’m not addicted

  5. Which devices will receive the broadcast hr data? Where is the info from that it is only Polar devices, as the manual suggests ‘eg gym equipment’?

  6. On mine, it is impossible to use Medium Accuracy GPS – High accuracy and Powersaver work, but, if you set the settings in Profiles as Medium Accuray, it gives a “Powersave GPS in use” message when you start the recording. Polar say this is a “generalised software problem” – why they are still selling them with this known fault is beyond me

    • I’m not sure there are any bug-free sports watches. I appreciate it’s SUPER annoying when one of the bugs is one that affects you. I guess this is a MATERIAL bug as one of their selling claims is about the extended battery life modes compared to the M400 and extended battery means lower powered GPS.

  7. Thx for the indepth review. I ha e a question. When using medium or low GPS, how does it affect the accuracy? How accurate will it be and what will be affected. I am looking for a watch thqt has between 8 and 12 hours GPS and am comparing the M430 and Garmin 235. The M430 suits my budget slightly better. Thank you

    • I don’t ever use those modes. well virtually never. I only use them to extend battery life on long rides. But then it affects navigation (as location is compromised) and my long rides tend to rely on navigation.
      it will also affect what your pace/speed is displayed as. probably more of an effect on INCREASGING inaccuracy on distance/speed on more complex winding routes.
      obviously it also positively affect sbattery life.

      some of the extended gpd mode just turn on gps every 30 or 60 seconds. you can imagine that is not accurate.

      consider: charging a battery on the go as an alternative eg not wearing the watch for 20 minutes while it charges at a lunch break
      most of these (but not all) units will charge on the go and all you lose is optical hr (as it is not next to your skin)

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