Polar has a large range of sports watches, and the new Polar M200 has been launched as the companies, one-two punch, with GPS tracking and optical HRM budget watch. At £130 RRP the Polar M200 may be a very interesting proposition. But what has Polar had to do in order to hit that price point?
Polar M200 GPS Running Watch
Polar has been gradually working across their entire watch portfolio this year whether via updates or new devices. We’ve had the new Polar M430, and an update in the Polar A370, although the Polar V800, at the top of the shop, soldiers on sans update.
Polar has released the Polar M200 as the brands budget offering. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at Polar’s most affordable running GPS watch!
First off, the M200 is available in five colours, black, white, red, teal and yellow, which is a cool range, although I actually think the yellow looks the best – I’m always biased towards yellow though :). Of note is that Polar currently has an offer on, that until the 31st of October, they will give away a red strap if you order either the white or the red.
So what is in the box?
The box, as with many current sports devices, is relatively spartan. A paper manual, the Polar M200, and a USB extension cable. From an environmental standpoint I think that Polar deserves points for not packaging everything in a separate plastic bag, which some companies have a habit of – does that manual really need it’s own bag?!
Polar M200 Design
In a similar vein to the Polar A370, the Polar M200 is less of a pure watch, and more a mini computer nested in a strap. Thankfully, it is easy for the user to pop the M200 out for charging, yet very secure during activities.
I’m not a fan of proprietary connectors and chargers. Polar have utilised the size of the Polar M200 – which is nearly as big as Garmin Fenix 5 to entirely skip the issue of charging ports.
Instead of a charging port, we have a whole USB-A plug hanging off the bottom of the Polar M200! Which personally I think is a great way of charging a device. No lost cables!
The USB-A plug sits snuggly inside the strap – I’m exceptionally happy with this approach to charging, and on wearing the unit, you can’t feel the plug at all. I don’t like having BAGS of charging cables of the various kit that I use. Proprietary cables bug me even more. So in my world, the Polar M200 get’s some serious brownie points for the USB-A plug concealed in the strap! Plus it is a sealed unit, which should hopefully give greater longevity than waterproof micro USB ports
Staying on the back of the unit, we have one of the first signs of how the Polar M200 hit’s the budget price point. The optical heart rate sensor uses the older two green LED unit from the Polar A370, rather than the newer circular units on the Polar M430 and M600, which feature six LED’s instead
One of the areas that the M200 has managed to hit its price point is with the screen. We don’t get a touchscreen unit – not that this is a bad thing in my mind. However compared to something like the Garmin Forerunner 35, which is in a similar budget bracket, the screen does look a little low resolution. Which I think is reflected in that Polar gives a pixel count on their spec sheet (1342 pixels) rather than a resolution, e.g. 128×128 as we see on the Polar M430. Just to put that into perspective, the Polar M430 has 16,384 pixels… tricksy marketing
The screen itself is an inverted monochrome which looks good. Although we also see another sign of hitting the £130 price point here, as the screen is lit from the side with two LED’s. The light pattern rather uneven, giving the impression of a 1990’s digital watch… The lack of uniformity to the backlight does also mean that sometimes the M200 isn’t the easiest device to read during a dusk run.
Either side of the screen are two buttons. The Right button functioning as the menu/scroll/select button, whilst the LEFT is cancel and back.
The strap on the Polar M200 is quite comfortable, and over the two months that I have been testing out the M200, I’m also pleased to say there haven’t been any noticeable wear patches occurring on the strap, as is common with some of the softer straps you seen on optical HRM equipped units
That pretty much completes the overview of the Polar M200, so let’s see how it works going out for a run
Polar M200 Specification
- Screen size: 26mm, 1342 pixels
- Weight: 40g
- Communication: BlueTooth
- Smart notifications: yes
- Optical Heart Rate – note no 24×7 HRM here
- Compatible with external foot pods and heart rate monitor (can record optical hr while swimming
- note that is the restrictions, so you’re not getting cycling sensors here
- Battery: 180mAh giving 6 days battery assuming 1-hour activity a day
- Waterproofing: 30 m
- Activities: Any activity available on Polar Flow can be uploaded, but note previous comments about sensors
- Standard features:
- GPS, low power GPS (SIRFInstatFix), Activity monitor, smart notifications
The Polar M200 Manual can be found HERE
Using the Polar M200
You’ll still need to sign up to Polar Flow, in order to get access and more importantly download the latest updates for the watch before you use it for the first time. It’s really worthwhile pointing out two things, i) Polar is very honest about their estimated sync/update times ii) sync/updates can be a little slow if it says 15 mins, it means 15 mins. Go and grab a coffee
You do need to use the Polar software as Polar has dragged a few of their own metrics from Polar Flow to the M200. Specifically Running Index to show how your performance is progressing, along with one of my favourite Polar features – Training Benefit. All recent Polar devices have real-world feedback on your activities, meaning you don’t need a sports science degree to see how that latest run has helped your training when you look at the Polar Flow App
Polar Flow also allows the Polar M200 to gain some serious brownie points, through the ability load custom training plans onto your wrist
Polar Flow app, if you give it access, will also populate your calendar with that day’s training plans and additional detail.
The Polar M200 can give you information about your training as well, but with the obvious restrictions of the screen.
A watch at £130, with the ability to have personalised training plans downloaded, is practically unheard of. Plus it reinforces the strategy that Polar seems to have, that fitness shouldn’t cost, only the quality and the additional features of the device should cost.
Whilst you might be able to download a stack of different activity profiles to the Polar M200, you can only use running focused training plans. Although the training plan does include a range of different activities such as strength training and stretches to help you hit your goal. So let’s look further into the running side of things
Running with the Polar M200
When setting up the Polar M200, you are able to use the Polar website to adjust which of the data fields are visible on each screen during different activities. Given the limitations of the data the watch can record (no cadence for example in order to get to this price point), I left things as they came out of the box – particularly so for the running data fields
When you are running along, of the three default screens, one has time and heart rate
The next speed and distance
Finally total time and lap times. Long pressing the right button causes the unit to count a lap. If you haven’t changed the default, the Polar M200 will also auto lap every mile
When the run has finished, pressing the LEFT button pauses the run, and then a long press again to the LEFT button cancels things
Earlier I alluded to the limitations of what the Polar M200 can record, and thus by extension, display on the screen. In spite of this, you can have many different activities loaded to the device. In which case, the activity app functions as timers and calorie counters using the optical HRM. With the specific calculations for the various activities in order to allow for more accurate calorie expenditure measurements
For example, the indoor rowing activity does not count strokes, and the indoor cycling does not have an ability to measure cadence, but 20 mins on each will give subtly different calorie burnsYou are still able to use the optical heart rate monitor in the pool though. Even without stroke counts and other swimming data, this is still a novelty
Naturally, outdoor modes will also use the GPS, so will be able to display data related to speed and distance as well.
Polar M200 Smart Watch Functions
We also have smart notification capabilities, in a limited fashion. Text messages are hobbled by the size of the screen, and you cant scroll through a text either. When actually looking at a message, you, however, can scroll through other messages you have received. You only get access to see your other messages when a new message comes in, as there is no menu to review messages received. Bu these are smart notifications, so you will get heads up from WhatsApp etc
As well as the straightforward activity tracker, dots which collect around the outside of the screen showing progress to your goal, you also get move reminders if you are being a bit lazy
In addition to the little nudges, you also get a celebration message when you’ve hit your step goal.
On the menu, if you press around to the activity monitor, the Polar M200 will give you suggestions as to how you can actually hit your goal
Polar M200 Optical HRM
Now, this was a run on a warm autumn day, so we haven’t run into the normal issues with optical HRM units having to warm up. But I was actually quite surprised to see how well all three devices matched up. Even when we zoom in, there is good tracking seen on all units
Swapping over to a cycle ride instead, how did the optical HRM fair?
Now cycling is always a hard task for optical HRM due to the vibrations coming through the handlebars. Things actually started off very well for the first ten minutes, and then simply fell apart, for both the Garmin HRM and the Polar M200.
Whilst optical HRM units still don’t give a reliable tracking out on the open road, as you can see above, during an indoor Zwift group ride, we get a really nice trace – save for a few drop outs which appeared to affect all three units oddly
You can view your hr at any time, by tapping down through the app to My HR. This just provides an instant heart rate reading as there is not a 24×7 tracking function on the M200. Another function on other Polar units which has fallen by the way side in search of the budget price point, is heart rate broadcast. Which is a mild shame, but we do still have a strong device here even without that.
Polar M200 Conclusion
Polar has created a great little product with the Polar M200. The optical HRM is shown to be accurate unless cycling outside, but in those situations, you can still pair a regular chest strap to the M200 to resolve that situation.
The training features, as mentioned comes as a surprise at this price point, which does really elevate the M200 over a “dumb” GPS watch. The biggest Achilles heel for this unit in my eyes is the screen. Even the Garmin Forerunner 35, which doesn’t cost considerably more, has a better screen. As I’ve mentioned many times, you don’t need colour screens in sports watches, but a higher resolution display would have made this a terrific device although likely would have also nudged the price up. If I’m honest, I think that might price push may have been worth it to improve the screen – and I’d have likely have given the Polar M200 five stars
As it standards, I think a firm four stars. There are better GPS running watches out there, but not at this price point!