Because of their history and our experience with other Polar devices, we were really hoping to be blown away by the M430. Worldwide they are famous for offering some of the most accurate GPS and heart rate monitoring watches on the market. And Polar is known as being the first company to offer a wireless heart rate monitor for sports training. However, although it had many cool surprises, all in all, the M430 was one of our least favorite watches in the review.
Polar M430 HR Review
Cons: Huge, uncomfortable, inaccurate
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Our Analysis and Test Results
As the M430 is one of the more affordable watches in our review, we did not expect it to have as many features as a watch that costs twice as much. And it doesn't. That said, there were a few very cool feature curve balls from Polar.
All of the watches we tested measure VO2 Max by taking you through activities. The M430 is different. It measures VO2 Max while you relax. Polar calls this the OwnIndex Fitness test. You just lay down and stay still. Five minutes later, the M430 gave us our VO2 max. VO2 max is an excellent indicator of your fitness level and charts can be found online that can clarify what your score means.
The M430 offers the Back to Start feature on the GPS function. This is a great safety feature in that if you get lost on the trail, the watch will direct you back to your starting point.
The M430 also offers the Polar Flow software world, which has some of the same attractive features that Garmin Connect has. In Polar Flow you can set up time/speed/heart rate targets, download them to your watch and get alerts to inform you that you need to, for example, speed up or increase your heart rate. This is a super helpful way to make sure your workout is correctly optimized to provide the best benefit. Polar Flow can also give you advanced analyses of your running development, predicted race times and data export possibilities (e.g. to Strava, TrainingPeaks, etc).
Ease of Use
Watches with fewer features are usually easier to use because they have fewer menus. The Polar M430 fits this description. The buttons are easy to press during an activity and, although they are not labeled like the Garmin watches are, we had no problem quickly figuring out which button did what. There are not too many settings and menus available so scrolling is not an exhausting process.
The Polar Flow website and App have a clean look. Although they take some getting used to, similar to Garmin Connect, they manage to balance an unbelievable amount of features with a user-friendly interface. We also found that syncing to the Polar Flow App was usually faster than syncing the Garmins to Garmin Connect.
Ease of Set-Up
The customization of the M430 is limited so the watch itself took little time to set-up. It had a charge out of the box and from starting up to downloading the Polar Flow App, syncing the new firmware and being ready to go, took about 20 minutes. All in all, we found that setting up the M430 was headache-free and smooth sailing.
Setting up and getting used to Polar Flow took us a bit more time. It is a very feature-laden platform, so we needed to spend some time playing with it before we could figure out where some information and settings were located.
We tested two metrics for battery life — normal use and activity use. We define normal use as running an hour or so every few days and using smart notifications and watch features daily. Activity use means that we tracked our route via GPS during a specific activity.
For normal use, the M430 got over two weeks of life. For activity usage, there are three separate battery settings you can use. We got over eleven hours in running mode while using the medium setting. This means if you are willing to sacrifice some GPS accuracy, this watch will easily last ultramarathons. It could also be charged during the activity without interrupting it, so you can make it go longer with an external battery. We are sorry to say, however, the charging cable is difficult to insert into the watch and falls out if it is not perfectly connected, which was hard to determine.
The M430 surprised us negatively here and we cannot entirely explain our results. Frankly, the GPS accuracy was very poor, regardless of which battery setting we used. The distances were pretty far off all of the other watch distances and when we looked at the mapping, we were always swimming in rivers instead of running over the bridges. It looked like we ran through buildings sometimes. The GPS was the most inaccurate of all tested watches. Given the history of Polar and its reputation for producing some of the most accurate GPS watches, we were quite surprised by the performance of the M430.
We also tested the heart rate monitor. Specifically for the M430, we tested the resting heart rate. We did this because, on some of our testers, the heart rate data seemed pretty good, on others, it was measurably off. After testing the resting heart rate, we think we figured out the problem. Because the watch has such a poor fit for people with smaller wrists, the optical heart rate monitor was highly affected. Testers with small wrists could never get an accurate reading.
One of the most important aspects for an optical heart rate monitor is that it is sitting on the wrist snugly without outside light entering. On a smaller wrist, the design of the M430 made that impossible. The resting heart rate was taken laying still on a bed, so there was no motion and the watch could just sit on the wrist, enabling a good contact.
The M430 looks pretty cool in an old school way. Unfortunately, it was the least comfy watch for every tester. For the lead product tester, it was almost pointless, as she is very petite. None of our testers could fit it under their tighter running jacket sleeves. This resulted in a lot of testers banging it against things during daily wear. We would certainly not recommend this watch for a small wrist, nor for daily usage, even on a larger wrist.
For all these issues, the positive is, the face is very easy to read. In fact, it is the easiest to read of all the watches. We can highly recommend the M430 to people with eyesight issues. It also felt like a high-quality watch. The buttons are metal, not plastic and were very easy to use during a run.
Although the price is not all that high, we are not convinced that the M430 is a great value. For a similar price, check out our Best Buy Award winner, the Garmin Forerunner 45S.
If you are a large-wristed runner that specifically wishes to utilize the Polar Flow software and you are looking at a more affordable watch, we can recommend the M430. If you do not fit into this very specific niche of users, we recommend you look at some of the other watches in our review.
— Larin McPeak