Polar M430 Review – The Best Affordable GPS Watch For Cyclists and Runners! [Report]
Since the first time when I saw the Polar M430 I knew that I need to write a review of the unit. Polar announced the device in the spring of 2017 and it’s meant to be a successor of the beloved M400 which is hugely popular among runners and cyclists.
The list of the upgrades is not very big, but the changes are really important and notable. Just to mention some of the things here I have to say HR sensor, vibration alerts, and low-power consumption GPS mode. These are some of the big changes but there are also many small tweaks which I will cover later on in the review.
Polar provided me with this test loaner unit which is in beta and it doesn’t contain a box which is the reason you will not see any pictures of the box itself. Many thanks to Polar for the loaner unit, you are awesome as usual!
So without further ado, let’s start with the Polar M430 review!
Introduction Polar M430 Review
Polar M430 is available in three color options – black, white and orange. I’ve received the white version which is really nice looking. At first, I was worried if this white rubber would get stains and dirt but until today the device still looks white as snow. I should say here that it seems that the quality of the rubber used in this watch is really good. The second color is black which I personally find too dull and not very exciting. Wristband in white and orange are made of silicone which gives really comfortable feeling to the wrist.
The third color variant is the orange one which is amazing at least in the pictures. As many other reviewers and users noted the color is pretty much Strava orange. I really love this color and I always associate it with cycling. If you decide to choose the white or the orange color you should know that the watch is really good looking and it’s easily recognizable on images and people’s pictures. The colors are very vibrant and they spot on practically in every image. I suppose this is an effect which was really desired by Polar. Good job there!
There is also a grey color option which is nothing special but still, if you prefer a watch which blends and doesn’t pop out so much then the grey option is good for you.
Polar M430 is probably not best-looking sports watch and that’s because of the relatively small monochrome display which is the same as in the old M400 model. But the device is really thick and light ( only 51g. ) which is nice especially for the runners.
What’s in the box?
As I already have mentioned the device came to me without any box but if you buy the Polar M430 you will get the standard white/red Polar box. In it, you will find just three things as usual – the watch itself, the charging cable, and some papers for the instructions. Polar packaging is always very straightforward, minimalistic, and without any unnecessary stuff.
The first thing you will notice about the watch itself is that it looks gorgeous in the white color. It’s made almost entirely of high-quality rubber which feels good in the hand. The first impression, in general, is that the device is expensive and very well made.
Probably the second thing you will notice is the new micro-USB charging port. It seems that Polar learned a few things with the old devices which were with standard micro-USB port. They had a lot of issues with the old connector which was used in almost all the old Polar devices. As we emphasized many times the standards micro-USB connector is not suitable for sports gadgets because of the waterproofing. They attract a lot of corrosion alongside the dirt and the sweat.
I know at least for a few cases when the charging port of the old Polar M400 stopped working because of the rust. Fortunately, Polar is changing those ports with the warranty but I guess this is a problem which needed to be solved anyways.
Now with the new micro-USB port, it seems that the problem is gone. The new connector is waterproofed and looks really rigid. I have only one small complaint about it. It connects really very light and if you move the watch a little bit it disconnects. But I have been warned that this is beta and with the final production units, this issue is definitely gone. On the other side of the newly designed connector, you can find a standard USB port which you can use practically on any computer or charger.
Probably the first thing you will notice in the Polar M430 is the new optical heart rate sensor. In the front, you can see the screen which is nicely surrounded by the black border. On the sides, you’ve got the buttons – two on the left side and three on the right side.
What’s new ( compared to Polar M400 )
Most of you are interested in the new features and upgrades of this device compared to the old M400 model. So let’s dive in into the changes. I’ve listed them in order of importance.
1.Optical Heart Rate Sensor
Polar M430 is equipped with an optical heart rate sensor with 6-LED sensors which is probably the best one in the line of all Polar products. It’s extremely accurate and I can really compare the results with the H10 and OH1 models by Polar which are best in class.
With the new model, you can use the new sleep metrics. Polar Sleep Plus tracks seamlessly you sleeping habits and you can get very detailed information about your sleep time, actual sleep time, interruptions, sleeping patterns, sleep continuity and much more.
The new model does not have any audio alerts but the vibration alerts are very good and reliable. I’ve personally used the device for my main alarm clock for a few days and I was really impressed how quickly and silently the watch can wake you up. I really don’t miss the audio alerts but it’s definitely a thing that you should consider if the audio alerts are important to you.
Polar claims that the new battery in this device is bigger than the old one. But you will probably get the same battery life because of the heart rate sensor which consumes a lot of juice. But there is also a good news about the battery life. So let’s see the next point.
5.New Low-Power GPS Modes
You can choose between three GPS modes – high accuracy mode, medium accuracy mode and low accuracy mode. The high accuracy mode is recording every 1 second which makes it accurate. This is pretty much standard accuracy. The medium accuracy mode is recording every 30 seconds which makes the device not very accurate. The low accuracy mode is recording every 60 seconds. The heart rate sensor will save your heart rate every 1 second in all three modes.
I guess the low accuracy mode would be suitable for ultra-runners that need every drop of battery life and also they run at a slow pace. For bikers and runners, in general, the high-accuracy mode should be the best.
There are also some minor changes like for example the new watch faces. I personally like only the first one which is introduced with this model. The other watch faces look odd and obsolete to me, especially compared to Garmin and Suunto watch faces. Probably Polar should invest more in development of new watch faces.
Talking about them I have to say that the screen is monochrome 128 x 128 px high resolution. This is probably a big limitation for the designer to make some good watch faces.
When you pair your Polar M430 with a smartphone you will get all your notifications directly on the watch face. Practically every app works ( on iOS and Android ) and you will get everything on your watch. Sometimes those notifications could be annoying so you have to customize what to receive and what not on your smartphone. Especially when you are running or cycling this could be an issue.
But in general the smartphone notifications are made really very good and they work perfectly. The vibration is very smooth and not annoying and you can see what’s happening on your phone even if it’s in your backpack. I had a few issues with the Bluetooth connection between my iPhone 6s and the Polar M430 but I suppose the problem was in the settings. After a few syncs between the two devices, everything was sorted out on his own.
Polar M430 – Activity Tracking
The first week I used the Polar M430 mainly as an activity tracker. On the watch itself, you can see your daily progress which is really nice. What I liked a lot is the reminder that you have to move which appears when you sit or lay down for more than an hour. On the default watch face which I think is the best one, you can see a small icon. There you can see what is the current activity – sitting, resting, running, walking, etc..
Most of the magic happens in the Polar Flow app where you can see all the details. The app is really very good and I personally like it a lot. As you can see in the screenshots below the day is presented as a 24-hour watch with all the activities on it. There is also a heart rate levels graph for your entire day with the lowest point and the highest point. I find it pretty much useful if I want to have a quick glimpse of my heart rate for the entire day.
If you slide down from this 24-hour watch on the mobile app, you will find the daily goal status with a percentage. Below you have more details like daily steps, distance, active time, calories, and inactivity stamps.
Inactivity stamps are when you are doing nothing and the watch has to give you the warning to move. So for example, if you are sitting on your desk for the whole day and you get 5 warning that it’s time to move, you will see 5 inactivity stamps in your app.
Actually, there is one missing feature which you may find odd but the device can’t count climbed stairs. The reason for that is that the device doesn’t feature a barometric altimeter. But let’s not forget that this device is really cheap and the main idea of it is to be affordable for everyone.
As mentioned before the device can track your sleeping. The only thing you have to do to track your sleep is wearing the device. After wearing the device for a week I have to say that the stats are really very accurate and detailed. The only issue for me was the bulkiness of the device which is not very comfortable to wear during my bedtime. But if you are comfortable to sleep with your watch, sleeping with Polar M430 won’t be a problem for you.
In general, the Polar M430 is very good for tracking your activities and if this is important to you then the device should be perfect for you. Polar Flow will show you everything you would ever need ( except climbed stairs, see above ), and the device is just perfect for your daily needs. But let’s dive in into the more important aspects.
Is Polar M430 Any Good For Cyclists?
OK as you probably have noticed this website is all about cycling. So we have decided to test the Polar M430 on the dedicated cycling mode. By the way, you can configure all sports modes so you can get whatever you want on your screen. The device is really very light and wearing it is super comfortable on any long ride. Not wearing a dedicated heart rate monitor on your chest is really a relief and with the Polar M430, I almost forgot that I wear anything at all.
Of course, I have to admit that having a look at your watch while cycling is not as easy as looking at your bike computer. Using the device for your shorter rides is perfect and you don’t have to put your heart rate strap and to mount your dedicated bike computer. For the long-distance rides, I still recommend using a dedicated bike computer.
To start a workout you will only have to push the big red button on the ride. That will allow you to choose between the predefined sports modes. As mentioned before you can customize them or add new sports as well. If you scroll down you will see road cycling which I personally use for my rides.
When you push it the Polar M430 will instantly search for GPS signal and your heart rate. The device pickups the GPS signal quickly and it somehow remembers your last position. So if you are roughly in the same position as last time it will pick up the signal for just a few seconds. If you are in a different place it will need probably around 10-15 seconds which is really good. So you will have heart rate and GPS signal in roughly 10 seconds and you are ready to go.
The only thing you have to do now is to push once again the big red button in the middle of the right side of the watch. Once you push it the device starts the recording of your workout. As the device is Bluetooth Smart you can use any Bluetooth Smart power meter or heart rate strap. Unfortunately, it can’t connect to any ANT+ devices but this is normal for Polar and we are OK with that.
In my opinion, you wouldn’t need any heart rate strap because the heart rate sensor in Polar M430 is really good the and the performance will be similar. Talking about the heart rate sensors we all know that Polar is one of the best brands. This watch comes with 6 LED sensors which are the same as in the M600.
As you can see in the image below ( tests made by DC Rainmaker ) the optical heart rate sensor used here almost perfectly matches the result from the HR strap.
In general, the optical heart rate sensor is very good and the readings are very accurate and reliable. If your heart rate is really an important metric for you and you hate the chest straps then Polar M430 would be a very good choice for you.
Running with Polar M430
As this website is not dedicated to runners I won’t get into many details here. Polar M430 is made mainly for running so everything is perfect here. It’s light, easy to wear, accurate and the GPS and heart rate sensors are best in class which is important for the runners. You can track practically everything you would ever need in most sports watches. You have some nice running programs which are dedicated to the achievers. You can train with them for a running event with a personal training plan. You just have to choose your target, for example, 5k, 10k or marathon event.
You have also more software features for runners like for example running index. If you run wearing the watch regularly you will see how you running is developing over time. It will tell you also how efficient you are and what you can achieve.
If you are looking for an affordable GPS Watch for all your sports activities including cycling you should definitely consider the Polar M430. It’s a real upgrade over the old Polar M400 adding a lot of useful features. The optical HR sensor is best in class, and the GPS results are very good as usual for Polar.
In my opinion, the Polar M430 is perfect for day-to-day use as an activity tracker and a watch. If you want to track your short bike rides to work or maybe some of your short training and you don’t want to mount your dedicated bike computer, then the Polar M430 would suit you perfectly.
The device is really cheap and for this price range, you won’t find any reliable and rigid products like this one. Especially if you are cyclists who run occasionally and want to track everything in one place ( Polar Flow ) probably you don’t have to look any further.
Some of you might say that the watch is not very good looking because of the old-looking display but this is not true in my opinion. If you buy the device in orange or white you will see that it gives a very sporty look to your wear.
What I found as a nice benefit of using the device the whole time is that It somehow gave me the idea that I have to move more and stay less on the desk or watching TV. Using the original watch face with progress bar motivated me to make a few more walks or climb the stairs instead of using the elevator. This is definitely something that my body will appreciate if I wear the device every day. I guess this is the whole idea of the technology these days.Buy Polar M430 on Amazon
About the Author
I'm a passionate cyclist and an adventurer. Writer and editor of Yes Cycling.