Testing the Polar M430

A look at Polar's latest mid-range GPS training computer that includes optical pulse measurement on the wrist.

| November 8, 2017 | GEAR

Photo >Hersteller

The new Polar M430 serves as an activity tracker as well as a fully-functioning GPS watch. Every time you move a little figure on the watch moves along with you. The watch will help you achieve your activity goals, but does it have enough GPS and fitness functionality to keep harder-training triathletes happy?

The activity of our tester during a work day at the Ironman event in Frankfurt: White is the sleeping time, blue are the different activity phases.

The activity of our tester during a work day at the Ironman event in Frankfurt: White is the sleeping time, blue are the different activity phases.

Photo >Lennart Klocke / spomedis

Solid running features

As is typical with Polar watches, it takes a bit of time to get the GPS signal on the M430 - it can take up to a minute at times, especially when you are in between buildings or have made a big change of location.  Once you've got it, though, the the connection remains very stable and the distance and altitude data are very accurate. Heart rate is captured by the M430 through an optical sensor on the wrist. The signal is quickly found and remains stable while running. The sensor on the back side of the watch reacts slightly slower than a chest strap, but if you want maximum precision, you can pair a Bluetooth chest strap. You can also pair a foot pod from Polar. We were pleasantly surprised to see how easily the M430 detected the Stryd foot sensor (even though Polar does not record any wattage), allowing you to track your stride rate.

All relevant data is displayed in the Polar Flow app after a training session.

All relevant data is displayed in the Polar Flow app after a training session.

Photo >Lennart Klocke / spomedis

Multisport capable?

For cycling you can use the GPS functionality for speed and distance, while also getting your HR data. There's not much more you can do - navigation functions or syncing with a power meter isn't included. We also took the M430 for an open water swim, but we found it measured a few hundred meters long on a 1.5 km course. You can certainly swim with the watch, but it's not going to match the performance of a high-end triathlon watch.

This device is designed primarily for running and this is where Polar products typically shine. While training you can view speed, distance and heart rate. The operation with the five buttons will be familiar to anyone who has used a previous Polar models, but even if it's a new brand for you, you'll likely pick up the operations quickly.

Optical HR monitors are becoming much more common in running watches.

Optical HR monitors are becoming much more common in running watches.

Photo >Hersteller

The M430 is available in three colors. The bracelet is made of a comfortable plastic and it looks very good. The black and white display is easy to see both during the day and night. The time is displayed in a large font and you can choose between five different display designs. Other functions include a fitness test, which calculates your VO2-Max, a timer and the current heart rate. Within the calendar function the device can also load training plans, which can be created in Polar's web service, Polar Flow.

Connectivity

We really liked the connection to the "Polar Flow" app on the M430 (which we tested on an Android smartphone). The synchronization took a relatively long time, but was very reliable. One thing to note is that when the app runs in the background it synchronizes itself with the clock, which you can only switch off by deactivating Bluetooth. One great feature, though, is that you can use the M430 to display smart notifications from your phone to your watch.

Whether you want to get mobile phone messages, alarms or training tips, you can set the M430 to vibrate rather than make any noise. (A welcome options in meetings.) To charge the watch you need to connect it to a computer or to a (not supplied) plug with a USB cable. The Polar doesn't use a mini-USB connection, which we would have preferred. That's a bit of a surprise since some other Polar devices are charged and synchronized via mini-USB.

Conclusion

The M430 is a fantastic running watch: The GPS is good and the pulse measurement is more than accurate enough for most runners. The US $230 / €230 price tag is very reasonable, especially considering the fine workmanship and the attractive design. The functionality is excellent for runners, not too much and not too little. Triathletes can use the watch if they can live without extensive bike functionality, but the M430 does not have a multisport mode.