Just a few years ago, I had my first experience with a Polar product. In the time since then, I’ve used it, alternating with the Garmin that’s also in my workout watch stable. A lot can change for a brand in a few years, so we reached out to the brand, and got a few more items in for review. The first one we’ll be taking a look at is the Polar M200.
Even though the Polar M200 (40g; 14.7mm thick) is in a different series than the prior Polar watch (an A300), in many ways I view it as a successor. For starters, it’s got a built in USB connector (no proprietary cables necessary here) that are exposed from the easily changed (and colorful) straps. The one big change (aside from the shape of the watch itself) is how it captures the heart rate, and the inclusion of GPS.
With the Polar A300, that required the use of a heart rate strap (that communicated with the watch via bluetooth). While this is perfectly functional (and is picked up simply by the treadmills at my gym) it is another piece of equipment to wear – and wash. Well, with the Polar M200, we enter into the world of a wrist-mounted heart rate tracker. AKA, those little green lights you’ll see flashing on peoples wrists with other trackers.
Here, though, the heart rate is only triggered when you’re in one of the workout modes on the Polar M200, and I’m ok with that. Sure, checking the HR throughout the day might be interesting (and you can easily do that, manually, on the watch), but by only having it triggered when working out, you’re helping to save the battery, which, on the Polar M200, is pretty nice – this is not a watch you’ll have to charge every single day.
And let’s not forget about the GPS. This may sound a little silly, but it’s definitely helpful for tracking your distance. On a track or treadmill, that may not be as important. But, if you’re on a rambling hike (or even a jog through the neighborhood) it’s a nice value-add, especially at the price point this watch comes in at (more on that in a bit).
In terms of setting up the Polar M200, it was a pretty simple affair – get it charge, link it to my phone, and finish the setup via Polar Flow. Since I had already been using that app, and had setup which activities I’m likely to track, those all pulled over to the M200 and I was ready to go. It did take some adjusting going from having four buttons to just two on the Polar M200, but it’s easy enough to figure out. The button on the right cycles through choices, and a long press on it makes the selection. The left button backs you up one screen, and puts it into syncing mode when you’re at the main time-keeping screen.
While I didn’t do any strict A-B comparisons between the Polar M200 and the A300, they seemed to get similar results (in terms of HR tracking and calories burned) doing similar workouts, so I was happy. And really, if you’re sticking with a single device, things are directional (ie, did I work harder today or not) unless you’re a serious athlete – in which case, the pure accuracy is of more concern. For me, I’m happy to trust in what Polar has built here.
I did pay attention to what the Polar M200 was recording in terms of step counts, though, as my trusty Fitbit One was still on my pocket. For workouts, they stayed very close in terms of counts. When it came to tracking throughout the day (I wore the M200 as a regular watch as well), that’s where things diverged a bit. Then again, you’re comparing wrist-mounted to something that’s clipped onto a pocket, so they’ll differ. And again, if you use the same device every day, that discrepancy isn’t as important – you can tell how you’re doing day over day.
For me, the $150 Polar M200 is a very nice upgrade to the A300 in my book (yes, there are other A-series ones still, but I’d go for the M200). You get all of the same capabilities, along with the built-in HR tracking on the watch and the handy GPS chip as well. If you are looking for an every day watch that gets you detailed info at the gym, as well as tracking your other steps throughout the day (and can give you alerts from your phone, if so inclined) the Polar M200 is a good choice, in my book. I do wish that the app was a little quicker in its sync, but the device is a great one to have on the wrist, particularly at the gym. polar.com
- Brand & Model: Polar M200
- Price: $150
- Who’s it for? You want a watch that has some smarts, can track your runs (and other workouts) as well as your steps throughout the day
- Would I wear it? Yes – this is a great upgrade / step up from the Polar A300.
- What I’d change: A more detailed sleep-tracking mode (that you could start manually) would be a nice bit of metrics to capture.
- The best thing about it: How light (40g on the strap) and easy-to-use the watch is
- Advanced GPS: The M200’s built-in GPS keeps track of your pace, distance and altitude. After your run, you can see your route on Polar Flow.
- Activity tracking: The M200 encourages you to stay active every day by tracking your steps, activity, sleep and calories 24/7.
- Heart rate training: Heart rate training is one of the most effective training methods. Measure your heart rate from the wrist and see your current heart rate zone on the screen.
- Sport profiles: Polar provides over a hundred different sport profiles which enables you to choose the right one for your training sessions.
- Polar Flow: Plan, sync and share your training using the exclusive Polar Flow online service and mobile application. All data is easily viewable.
- Smart Notifications: Smart Notifications allow you to see notifications from your phone directly on the screen of your M200.
- Individual targets: You can set your own individual training targets and follow your progress using Polar Flow.
- Fun running displays: Compare your current speed with the world record speed for a marathon or check what your Cooper test result would be with your current pace.
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