The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Polar M430 HR Review

If you are a runner already tied to the Polar Flow software and have a larger wrist, this watch could be for you.
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Price:  $200 List | $199.95 at Amazon
Pros:  Cool looking, feels like a quality watch
Cons:  Huge, uncomfortable, inaccurate
Manufacturer:   Polar
By Larin McPeak ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 28, 2019
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63
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 11
  • Features - 35% 6
  • Ease of Use - 25% 8
  • Battery Life - 15% 6
  • Accuracy - 15% 5
  • Design - 5% 3
  • Ease of Set-up - 5% 7

Our Verdict

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.


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This Product
Polar M430 HR
Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award  
Price $199.95 at Amazon$499.99 at Amazon
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$499.99 at Amazon$199.99 at Amazon$289.47 at Amazon
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Pros Cool looking, feels like a quality watchLight and slim, tons of features, accurate, great battery lifeComprehensive, good battery life, and excellent app data managementComfortable, long battery life, good value, user friendlyComprehensive, great battery life for the features
Cons Huge, uncomfortable, inaccurateExpensive, no internal music storageHeavy, expensiveNo navigation, no upload-able workouts, not as customizable as a GarminNo on-device heart rate sensor, bulky
Bottom Line If you are a runner already tied to the Polar Flow software and have a larger wrist, this watch could be for you.The Forerunner 935 has a ton of features and long battery life but still offers a comfortable size for most wrists.A full-featured GPS watch with good battery life for every-day use, training sessions, and wilderness navigation.A great value watch that will not confuse the non-techy athlete.A fully featured device for the discerning user.
Rating Categories Polar M430 HR Garmin Forerunner 935 Garmin Fenix 5 Coros Pace Suunto Ambit 3 Peak
Features (35%)
10
0
6
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
6
10
0
9
Ease Of Use (25%)
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
10
10
0
7
Battery Life (15%)
10
0
6
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
8
Accuracy (15%)
10
0
5
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
9
Design (5%)
10
0
3
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
6
10
0
4
Ease Of Set Up (5%)
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
10
10
0
5
Specs Polar M430 HR Garmin Forerunner... Garmin Fenix 5 Coros Pace Suunto Ambit 3 Peak
Main body size 12mm thick 47 mm diameter, 13.9 mm thickness 45mm diameter, 14 mm thickness 45mm, 13.7mm 56 mm diameter, 18 mm thickness
Weight, Verified 51g 49g 85g 49g 87g
Battery Type Recharable lithium ion Lithium ion Rechargeable lithium-ion Rechargable lithium ion Rechargeable lithium ion
Manufacturer-reported Battery Life Up to 20 days Up to 2 weeks Up to 2 weeks Up to 30 days 14 days
Navigation Features? "Back to start" or track-back Follows pre-programmed waypoints or tracks Follows pre-programmed waypoints or tracks "Back to start" or track-back Follows pre-programmed waypoints or tracks
HR Monitor? Yes Yes Yes, optical wrist sensor, with optional chest strap Yes Yes, optional chest strap
Sleep tracking? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Step counting? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Button Lock? Yes Yes Yes N/A Yes
Barometric Altimeter? No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Temperature Sensor? No Yes Yes Yes No
Smartwatch features Notifications only Notifications only Notifications only Notifications only Notifications only

Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison


The M430 offers four easy to read data fields during an activity.
The M430 offers four easy to read data fields during an activity.

Features


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.

Like the Garmin Forerunner 235, 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. Also comparable to the Garmin Forerunner 235, were the training load and recovery features (although they are available in Polar Flow). On the other hand the Garmin Forerunner 35 does not offer any of these features.

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).

Although the M430 does not have a barometric altimeter  it uses GPS to calculate the altitude.
Although the M430 does not have a barometric altimeter, it uses GPS to calculate the altitude.

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. Although the Coros Pace was still the fastest in this department.

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. The Coros Pace was faster and easier but 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.

Battery Life


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.

Here we show the gpx tracks of five GPS watches in our test. You can see that the M430 (dark purple line) was all over the place.
Here we show the gpx tracks of five GPS watches in our test. You can see that the M430 (dark purple line) was all over the place.

Accuracy


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 does not fit smaller wrists at all  which results in a highly inaccurate optical heart rate performance.
The M430 does not fit smaller wrists at all, which results in a highly inaccurate optical heart rate performance.

Design


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 and when compared to our most features-laden watch, the Garmin Fenix 5x Plus Sapphire, the M430 fit worse and felt longer top to bottom. 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.

Best Applications


We recommend the M430 to people who absolutely want to be in the Polar Flow world. More specifically, people who have always used Polars. Although it has many sports profiles, it really is designed to be a running watch. Due to its size, we would really recommend this watch to larger-wristed people only. It is clunky.

Here we show the Polaring swallow the heavy and feature-rich Garmin Fenix 5x Plus. The Polar is so large that it is uncomfortable for most of our testers
Here we show the Polaring swallow the heavy and feature-rich Garmin Fenix 5x Plus. The Polar is so large that it is uncomfortable for most of our testers

Value


Although the price is not all that high, we are not convinced that the M430 is a better value than the Garmin Forerunner 35. There are some features available on the M30 that the Forerunner 35 does not offer, but the 35 was more accurate.

Conclusion


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