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Polar M600 Android Wear GPS Smart Watch Review

Polar have made a BIG decision. Bringing in Android Wear as the core operating system for the Polar M600. Yes, they have applied their own tweaks to the top of the system, but is the M600 a true Polar?. Has Polar sold out? Or with one product release have they catapulted themselves over their rivals? Let’s find out!

Polar M600 Android Wear GPS Smart Watch Review

Polar M600

Polar still just about holds my recommendation for the number one running watch to buy with the Polar M400. It is not perfect, and a lot of this is due to the fact that without question, the Polar M400 is a device which is getting very long in the technological truth. Last year, I was hoping for eeat things from the aPolar A360, but came away disappointed feeling it was a flimsy, rushed device. So upon hearing that the company had taken a completely new tac with the Polar M600, wiring Googles technological brain to Polar’s sports and fitness soul, to say I had been anticipating the arrival of my review unit would be an understatement!

So after a couple of months of using the Polar M600, what is the overall response to the M600…. That’s a tough one. But I think it’s fair to say this is probably going to be a bit of a bumpy review. To given you an idea of what I mean, some aspects of the Polar M600, are without a doubt, best in class, whilst there are others bits of the watch I can’t be nearly as complimentary about!

So without more ado! ON WITH THE REVIEW!!!

Device Design

Polar M600

The outside of the Polar M600 looks good, very little doubt what you are getting here. But there is one thing I’m really impressed with on the box (Yes I’m talking about the box, but just hear me out!). Like the coach/training functions on the Polar M600, the box is friendly and encouraging

Polar M600

This is marketing hyperbole, I know that, but anything that gives a person that little extra push, to get out of their couch/seat hammock and do something is going to get my vote!

Polar M600

OK, enough of the Public Health England type thoughts, shall we get back to what’s IN the box?

Inside we’ve the Polar M600 unit itself, the charger, and a bit of dead tree manual

Polar M600

One of my MAJOR bug bears when doing reviews of sports watches and activity trackers is proprietary chargers. Actually company specific chargers I don’t mind so much, but when a company has a different charger for each device, it’s irritating. Garmin, Fitbit, Mio, Polar, all have lots of flat contact chargers, which change, sometimes only in the VERY smallest way between devices but still enough to prevent cross interoperability

I actually started having my charger grump again after having had the Polar M600 for a few days. I had lost the charger. I seem to have enough micro and mini USB cable to knit myself a hammock, but a tonne of devices that each only use one specific charger.

The Polar M600 uses a flat, four pin, IPX8 charging plate

Polar M600

The USB cable has a small magnet in the end of the cable, meaning the two pieces line up nicely and with minimal fuss. That is assuming you can find your list cable

Polar M600So imagine my surprise when rummaging through my cable box, when I find the charger. But not the charger! POLAR USE THIS CHARGER IN OTHER DEVICES!!! Specifically the Polar Loop activity tracker. The Polar V800 can also use the M600 charge cable, but not vice verse due to the clip on the V800Polar M600

So I was able carry on reviewing the m600 – it’s a mini adventure! But in all seriousness surely it would save a company like Garmin money to standardise across their devices?

As well as the charge port, on the back of the Polar M600 is the optical HR ssor. I’m hoping that this unit proves to be better than on the Polar A360, which was a bit…erratico

Polar M600

When I have reviewed Polar units in the past, I have commented at Polar’s preference for beautiful monochrome screens, which in fact gave much better user experience than a poorly chosen colour screen – I’m looking at you Garmin VivoActive HR!

So it was with trepidation that I approached the glass covered colour screen on the Polar M600 – oh by the by, this is Corning Gorilla Glass 3 doncha know!

Polar M600

Let there be no doubt, the Polar M600 screen is not the highest pixel density out there, but it is beautiful in terms of saturations and depth of colour

Polar M600

Polar M600

Under the screen we’ve the Polar Button, this will load up the Polar Flow app on the M600.

Below that are the holes for the speaker and microphone respectively

Polar M600

On the LEFT of the unit is the power/return button which will bring you back to the watch face.

Polar M600

Looking at the Polar M600 strap, the band is a pleasant chunky affair, with a little give in the strap to allow for a good skin contact with the optical HR strap. Around the bottom, and completing the loop is a two pin buckle

Polar M600

One issue with the soft rubber, as seen on many such devices, is that the texture of the rubber starts to wear smooth after only a few weeks, which does cheapen the design somewhat

Polar M600

As a slight saving grace, as it appears we are stuck with the easy-wearing rubber on optical heart rate devices – as they need the give from the softer rubber – the Polar M600, as with the A360 before it, is actually a module which slots into the strap. It has to be said, the strap holds the M600 internals very well. I have not had even the hint of a possibility the core might come out.

Polar M600

At this point you can see some of the gubbins which allows the Polar M600 to work

Polar M600

Specifically, the speaker grill on the RIGHT, and the microphone on the LEFT, in the centre is the previously mentioned central button to bring up the Polar Flow app

Specification

Operating system

Android Wear

Battery type

500 mAh Li-pol rechargeable battery

Operating time (Android)

2 days / 8 hours of training

Operating time (iOS)

1 day / 8 hours of training

Operating temperature

-10 °C to +50 °C / 14 °F to 122 °F

Charging time

Up to two hours.

Charging temperature

0 °C to +40 °C / 32 °F to 104 °F

Materials

Device:

Corning® Gorilla® 3 Glass
Polycarbonate/acrylonitrile butadiene styrene/glass fiber Stainless steel
Polymethyl methacrylate
Polyamide

Wristband:

Silicone Polycarbonate Stainless steel

GPS accuracy

Distance ±2%, speed ±2 km/h

Sample rate

1s

Heart rate sensor

Optical heart rate measurement with 6 LEDs

Sensors

Accelerometer, Ambient Light Sensor, Gyroscope, Vibration motor, Microphone

Water resistance

Suitable for swimming (IPX8 10m)

Memory capacity

4GB internal storage + 512MB RAM

Display

1,30″, 240 x 240 pixels, 260ppi transmissive TFT display

Weight

63g

Dimensions

45x36x13mm

Manual

The Polar M600 manual is available here

Using the Device

Polar M600

Once the Polar M600 is charged – it comes with an empty battery in the box – it’s a case of downloading the Android Wear app and getting the Polar M600 paired up to your phone.

You do have to pair your phone to the Polar M600. You could technically use the Polar M600 without but, you’d be using a crippled device. I’m not talking about the smart watch functions there, more the Polar Flow features, as the software has at least one odd choice right out of the box.

Once you are paired up, the watch will give you a quick guided demo on how to use Andriod Wear

Polar M600

Let’s be clear right from the get go, from a software side of things, the Polar M600 is a pure Android Wear device. It is only the hardware, a scattering of custom watch faces and the Polar Flow apps where the Finns have made their mark

Polar M600

Once the setup with your phone is done, you need to move over to the computer. This is a bit of an irritation. From the sports watch perspective, the Polar Flow app  on the phone is merely a way of syncing to and with the cloud. There is very little functionality in the app in terms of adjusting the Polar M600.

This is one of the few major failings of the Polar M600, to my mind, as to get the best out of the Polar M600, you are going to have to make some changes via Polar Flow to the default sports profiles

For some daft reason, the running profile ships WITHOUT being able to show you your current pace by default!

You need to log into Polar Flow and select sports profiles

 Polar M600

Here you will be able to see any profiles that the Polar M600 comes pre-loaded with

 Polar M600

You click the edit bar, to allow you to look at the specifics of either profile. The standard training profile for running gives you “Heart rate, HR ZonePointer, Duration.”

 Polar M600

There are default summary screens, but none give you crucial information such as current pace! However you can add that data on via the frames shown below on the Polar Flow page.

Polar M600

Once you have made your changes, you need to sync them back to the M600, for which it’s best to sync from the Polar Flow app manually

Polar M600

From the site you can also add in any of the 120 different profiles in this part of Polar Flow, which does sound very impressive, BUT this is where the Polar M600 comes unstuck slightly as a multi-sport device.

Polar M600

For although you can select these sports, the actual the data the watch can record for each of those profiles is limited, partially as you can’t connect anything other than Bluetooth HR sensors. In fact there is no dedicated sensor page, just a poppup if an unpaired sensor is usable and detected

Polar M600

No cycling cadence or power here! There may be a sports profile for indoor biking, but all you’ll measure here is time and heart rate.

Polar M600

This greatly reinforces my opinion the M600 should be considered only as a running focused watch. Ok, in which case ,how does it fair as a running watch??

Running with the Polar M600

 Polar M600

You access running profile, by pressing the central hardware button on the M600 to load up the Polar Flow Training app. Within that simply scrolling down through the available sports to the running symbol.

When you top on a sport profile, two circles appear on the right of the screen. To the top RIGHT is your pulse from the 6 LED optical HR sensor, whilst on the bottom is the GPS lock. The GPS lock here seems surprisingly slow. Like year-2000 slow. My Garmin Fenix 3 would find a GPS lock within ~10 sec, M600 would have me waiting for up to 1 minute! Irritating when you want to get going.

When you have a GPS lock, hit the running man in the centre and you are off!

There are three default views on the Polar M600 – the training view, this is the set of fields you can customise, with additional data being displayed vertically for you to scroll through

Polar M600

There is a brief 8 sec video showing the how the scrolling works through the training screen

Swiping to the RIGHT brings up the lap functions (you can set auto lap as well if you prefer), giving timing, pace and HR over the lap. Again using the scrolling function you can look down all of the laps during a session

I couldn’t actually grasp until I was using the M600 how effective the scrolling function was. It is so intuitive. When using buttons on a watch, especially on a run, you can miss the data field you want, by pressing too many time with a button, then normally having to continue all the way through the data carousel, or swap to a different button to get back. On the M600 you just flick, and it makes running with this watch a breeze!

Polar M600

Scrolling to the RIGHT further is the summary screen, giving an overview of everything you have done during your activity

Polar M600

Because of the enormous virtual screen real estate the vertical scrolling gives, this allows quite a lot of info to be displayed, such as teh detailed break down of your HR whilst on the run – information which would normally be a relatively poor use of screen space

Polar M600

To end your run, swipe to the left, tap and hold the pause button for a 3 sec count down and you are stopped. Only a minor point, but I’m not utterly keen on this approach. I tend to prefer a physical hardware button to stop an activity, but didnt have any issues with the screen detecting my fingers been on cold runs.

Polar M600

When the run is over, you are left with the summary screen again, but assuming you’ve have trained for over 10 minutes, at >50% of your max HR, you will also be greeted with real world language Training Benefit Summary at the end

Polar M600

Polar M600

Optical Heart Rate Accuracy

Polar M600

I’m going to focus here on the running side for the optical HR sensor – with a short 3km loop around Nuneaton.

Polar M600

This test was run against the optical function of the Garmin Fenix 3 HR, and a straight forward chest HRM monitor, using the 4iiii Viiiiva’s internal recording

Polar M600

At the start of the run, about 8 deg C outside, the Polar M600 takes a few moments to get into it’s stride, and continues nicely, until I do a couple of 30 sec sprints. The M600 did adapt, just a too aggressively. However when I do the next sprint for a strava segemnt, the tracking is spot on.

Polar M600

For the rest of the tracing, if we look a little closer, all three units are running along nicelyPolar M600

Any blips seen with the M600 seem to be when running outside within the first 2-3 mins as the unit seems to warm up, other than that, the HR seems reasonably reliable.

Activity Tracking 

Polar M600

Viewing your activity data during the day is done through the “My Day” section of the Polar Flow app.

You’ve got your activity bar, step counter, distance walked and calories burned on the initial part of the screen

Polar M600

If you scroll up, you’ll also get a brief overview of the last workout you did

Polar M600

Smart Functions

Polar M600

This has been my first foray into Android Wear and apart from the battery life – and I like it.

The smart notifications are great! You get very detailed notifications, heck you can read a whole email on the M600, which makes my Fenix 3 look rather old school!

Polar M600

But one feature I’ve been particularly impressed with is that you can block notifications from the watch!

Polar M600

For example, I don’t want to be troubled by a particular app – as soon as the notification comes up, I swipe RIGHT and block further notifications coming from my phone. Lovely!

You can select the different smart watch functions from the watch directly as well. These are all standard Android wear affairs apart from a few custom Polar faces, which I opted to use for the entirety of the review for the activity tracking monitor

Polar M600

Being an Android Wear watch, you get the inclusion of Google voice assistant by yelling “Ok Google” at your watch. Maybe more than once.

Polar M600

Apart from trying to get Google to find me a shop in Birmingham, and navigate me to it, I really didn’t value, nor using the ability to shout at my wrist much – (although Amy found it a great source of humour!)

Polar M600

I have always viewed the smart functions as additionals on many devices. Yes they may be enough to cause one purchase over another, on that note, the smart notifications are TERRIFIC on the Polar M600, but that is due to Android Wear. The simple running software is fantastic on the Polar M600 too.

If you are not looking for cadence, gait analysis etc. Just a good running watch that does it’s job well, with the inclusion of smart notifications, this is a great bit of kit… apart from the battery, and I think I know a big reason why!

Always on screen

Polar M600

The watch backlight is unfortunately ALWAYS on.

Polar M600

All the way through the night. It’s just an excessive battery drain – as a result I found I’d get a battery life of about 3 days, based on one run about around 25 mins, and the back light set to always on. Which is actually more than Polar suggests connected to iOS, and more in line with Android. However, this is mainly just using the watch as a smart watch, and not for things like “Ok Google” commands etc

If you do decide to switch the toggle off, you are going to save significantly on the battery, this mainly due to the fact that the wrist movement detection isn’t that great. When you are on a run, bringing your arm up to view the screen, several times due to lack of activation is really irritating!

But the battery life irritation goes further. I have on several occasions now missed any “battery low” warnings, and have found myself half way through the day with a dead watch on my wrist.

Polar M600

Almost turning that argument on its head though, the Polar M600 does have ways of using it’s exceptionally bright screen. Directly in the operating system is a torch function, which isn’t half bad!

Polar M600

The below two shots are entirely unedited shots from the top of my stairs, taken with my iPhone. The Polar M600 is positioned about 80cm away from the bannister, first with the regular watch backlight

 Polar M600

Second with “torch function” engaged

Polar M600

I’d say that’s a noticeable screen backlight!

Conclusion

PLEASE PLEASE POLAR, use the same design approach to creating an V900, give us a better battery life and more control over our own sensors, and you will have a device to take on all comers. From this I think you can tell that I’m a fan of the Polar M600

It is NOT a multisport watch. It is not even what I’d term a great training watch. What it is, however is a good running watch. No faff, and off you go. There is a major down side to this however, no cadence data either, which I feel is a major oversight on Polar’s point, especially at this price point. But I cannot get over how easy it is to run with the Polar M600, the simple swipes, a with so much space to display data are wonderful to use.

Current battery life issues make the Polar M600 a solid 3/5 device, maybe at a stretch 4/5, but it’s hard to over look the cadence absence. That is something which I found terribly hard to write the core of the  Polar M600 almost the best running watch I have tested. The screen implementation on an activity is such a breath of fresh air, but that alone isn’t enough to completely compensate for some of the M600 short comings

To say the least I am DESPERATELY waiting for the next few firmware updates to see if Polar can improve the battery life.

Battery life note withstanding, the glorious screen makes this a great SIMPLE running watch. For someone looking for a simple GPS running watch, and good smart watch combo the M600 is definitely one to consider. I’d probably have given it the “best running watch” moniker, but without cadence, (WHY?!) the Polar M600 will have settle for “TG Approved” due to that amazing screen

Polar M600

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Comments

  1. … [Trackback]

    […] There you will find 42468 more Infos: titaniumgeek.com/gear-reviews/polar-m600-android-wear-gps-smart-watch-review/ […]

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  2. “I tend to prefer a physical hardware button to stop an activity,”

    You can use the central Polar button to end an activity too.

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