Reviews

Polar M200 – Entry level GPS watch – User Review

November 2, 2016

With a new head at helm, Polar appears to be upping the rate at which its products are released. The newly announced Polar M200 ($149.95) adds wrist based heart rate monitor and smart notifications to a standard GPS package.

It’s also the third device from Polar to include optical heart rate sensors, the other two being the A360 and the M600.polar-m200-feature-4-singapore-viewTargeting entry level runners, the M200 is definitely not entry level in terms of features and functions. Coupled with the new Polar Running programmes, the M200 looks set to make the wish list of those starting new at running.

I had the Polar M200 for a week now and here’s what I have to say.

The Polar M200 for this review was purchased at a discount from Polar Singapore. If you have any queries about buying from them in Singapore, drop them a note. They’re quick to reply and extremely helpful.polar-m200-feature-3

POLAR M200 IN SHORT:

Pros:

  • All day activity tracker. Counts steps, distance, active time, calories, inactive duration and sleep
  • Waterproof, safe for swimming
  • Wrist based heart rate monitoring
  • Vibration enabled for alarms and smart notifications
  • Multiple Sports profiles
  • Display visibility decent in the day and night
  • Running Index
  • Pairs with external Bluetooth Smart HRM such as the Polar H7
  • Pairs with Polar Balance Scale
  • Access training summary of last 5 activities right on watch
  • Provides advice on how best to reach goal for the day on watch and mobile app
  • Sync easily with Polar Running programme
  • Inactivity alert after 55 minutes of being still
  • Changeable wrist straps
  • Wireless syncing which is automatically done but can be manually activated
  • Charges readily from standard USB-A port. USB extension cable provided
  • Syncs directly to computers or connected mobile devices
  • Battery life listed as up to 6 days (with 24/7 activity tracking + 1h/day of training with GPS and optical heart rate, without smart notifications)
  • Broadcasts HR via Bluetooth to compatible mobile apps

Cons:

  • Back light comes on automatically with wrist flick only during activity recording. Requires manual activation during other times of use
  • Truncated notifications. Also, text and app notification turns off during activity recording
  • Customisation of display stats during activity tracking can only be managed on Polar Flow
  • Does not track swimming strokes or distance, only activity type
  • Only 2 buttons which work with long and short presses; might take getting used to
  • Watch face can’t be changed
  • Lack cadence stats and no compatibility with cadence/stride sensor at present
  • Internal accelerometer does not estimate distance for indoor runs or treadmill workouts

As usual, I’d suggest you brew a cup of coffee or tea, sip slowly as you read through the user review and enjoy the pictures. Drop me a note if there are any queries you may have which I didn’t manage to answer.

LOOK AND FEEL

polar-m200-on-wrist-front-and-backThe Polar 200 is a pretty big watch; the watch face measure roughly 1.8 inches in diameter but displayable screen size is a mere 1 inch across only. this design reminded me of the old Forerunner 225 which was Garmin’s maiden entry to wrist based heart rate monitoring with Mio Global.polar m200 truncated-messages-and-app-notificationsThe bezel of the watch has percentage marks such as 10, 20 all the way to 90 imprinted on it for ease of making sense of the day’s activity progress.polar m200 backlight-on-and-withoutScreen is visible under bright sunlight and a back light illuminates the display. There are no options to customize back light duration nor brightness levels at present.polar m200 button-on-left-and-right2 physical buttons on the Polar M200 controls all the functions of the GPS watch. One is reserved for syncing and “return” while the other controls all other functions of the watch with a series of short and long presses.

I’m not for touch screen displays for workouts because controlling touch displays with sweaty fingers is akin to picking up salt grains with chop sticks; doable but extremely frustrating. polar m200 usbWhat I particularly like is the USB-A extension which is actually part of the watch; this allows charging practically anywhere and syncing to a certain extent if the computer has FlowSync installed.

Polar has provided a USB cable extension which isn’t required but appreciated nonetheless.polar m200 ohr-on-backThere are 2 optical heart rate sensors on the back of the Polar M200 and the hardware appears to be similar to that of Polar’s A360.polar m200 view-from-watchThere are 6 “faces” which are accessible right from the watch which will expand to more features when required. A single press of the right button allows the user to scroll through the 6 tabs.

During activity tracking, the back light automatically comes on with wrist flick. This feature is not enabled during normal wear and requires manual activation.polar m200 feature-4The Polar M200 is lightweight and wears very comfortably. More so than the Forerunner 735 XT I’m used to. I like the soft wrist strap which is thin and mildly elastic.

FUNCTIONS

Heart rate monitoring accuracy

In order to test the heart rate accuracy versus a chest strap heart rate monitor (Polar H7 chest strap HRM or Garmin HRM-Run), I put the Polar M200 through 2 activities.

The first is a 5km road run with mild up slopes and pretty flat terrain. The second is an interval session with elliptical machine followed by stationary cycle. Here goes.polar m200 hr-readings-vs-chest-strapNo issues with heart rate monitoring accuracy while running. Captured heart rate readings are comparable to that of Garmin’s chest strap HRM-Run. This is usually the standard of optical heart rate sensors these days. polar m200 interval-versus-h7For bouts of interval training on an elliptical followed by a spin bike, I decided to compare it versus the readings from a Polar H7 instead. As you can see, there are not cross talk. Also the Polar M200 kept up with the Polar H7 throughout most of the session. Pretty impressive.

GPS enabled modes

Sports profiles such as running and cycling have GPS enabled. Once the GPS signal is locked, the “GPS” words on the display will cease blinking and turn solid.polar m200 gps-enabled-sports-profilesAccording to Polar, the M200 uses SiRFInstantFix™ satellite prediction technology to acquire a fast satellite fix. In optimal conditions, the M200 is supposedly capable of finding a satellite signal in less than a minute.

SiRFInstantFix™ also allows the M200 to accurately predict satellite positions for up to three days. So if you train in the next three days following a GPS enabled workout, the M200 is able to acquire signals faster; apparently in 5-10 seconds. I managed to hit 15 seconds on the second evening running in the same area.

Personally, I found the acquiring of satellite signals quick (15 seconds -2 minutes) in open environments and slow in areas with tall buildings. (upwards of 5 minutes).

Non GPS enabled modes

polar m200 non-gps-enabledSports profiles such as strength training, cardio, group exercise will not have GPS. The display stats for these profiles can be further customised in Polar Flow web platform.

Smart notifications

Smart notifications are truncated and there are currently no options to expand and read the remaining of the messages. Calls can be picked up from the M200 but speech has to be made through the mobile device.polar m200 smart-notificationsDuring activity tracking mode, calls will still get through if the connected mobile device is within range and smart notifications feature is enabled.

However, texts and app notifications will not surface during activity tracking mode. There isn’t any customisation of smart notifications; it’s just whether you enable it or not.

Sports Profiles

Polar literally has hundreds of sports profiles for the user to choose from. While starting a workout session from the profile doesn’t bring up unique algorithms that provide more specific tracking, it allows the tracked sessions to be logged properly.polar-flow-training-viewsAlso the display stats within the profile can be customized on Polar Flow web platform. For example, you have have up to 5 display stats for running with up to 10 different items for viewing.

History

polar m200 running-summary-historyUnlike previous devices with optical heart rate sensors from Polar, the M200 allows the user to access history of the previous 5 activities right from the watch.

All day activity tracker

polar m200 daily-activity-trackingThe M200 is a competent GPS watch that also offers all day activity tracking. Track your steps, distance, calories, sleep, active time and even inactive periods. Polar’s activity guide kicks in to offer advice on how to hit the goals for the day.

Polar Flow mobile app

polar-flow-mobile-app-activity-screen-grabThe Polar Flow app has retained its user interface the last 2-3 years even though Polar has made mild improvements to the mobile app.polar-m200-training-activity-summary-viewThis is where the tracked stats are all stored for the user to plow through. Polar Flow also has a web platform where all the data can be assessed in greater detail.polar-flow-web-platformThe Polar Flow web platform is particularly useful for detailed examination of data, exporting of stats or having a general overview of training progress with stats such as Polar’s Running Index.

ANYTHING ELSE?

Polar Running Programme

I’m going to spend a bit of time on Polar’s running programme here. Basically Polar gives your fitness tracker more bang for your buck by providing running focused training programmes that syncs seamlessly with the hardware and mobile app.polar running programme-on-polar-flowFor starters, choose your event and then select your training frequency and intensity. This is in line with principles of training of F.I.T.T. where the type (running) and time (duration) is be taken care of by Polar.

At the bottom of the screen, you’ll also be asked if you’ve done your PAR-Q (Physical activity readiness questionnaire) before embarking on this training programme. Very nice, just like how it should be done in the gym or a regular PE class.polar m200 running-programme-syncedI like how Polar will actually inform the user if the training duration is too short for the selected event. The programme is then synced to your mobile device and Polar M200.polar m200 running-porgramme-on-watch-and-mobile-appIt’s really convenient how easy it is to access the planned programme or even do the planned strength or mobility workouts. Polar doesn’t leave you in a lurch but provides the training videos for each event.

One thing to note. The running plan is heart rate based so you’ll have to stick closely to the HR zones when carrying out the program or you’d suffer the incessant vibration on the wrist for not being in zone.

Changeable wrist straps

polar m200 changeable-strapsThe wrist strap is changeable and no screws are required. Just snap off the strap and put on a new one. Straps are available for sale at $19.95.

Swimming.

There’s a swim profile within the app but it doesn’t track strokes nor distance. Also the optical heart rate sensors are turned on by default for swim tracking mode.

Polar has never endorsed the usage of optical heart rate sensors during water based activities such as swimming. And unlike the Polar M600 where the OHR can be turned off on device, the user must log into Polar Flow in order to turn off the OHR on the M200.

Pair and Sync

polar m200 pair-and-syncThe Polar M200 is capable of pairing with Polar’s Bluetooth Smart H7 heart rate monitor.  When paired, readings for workout sessions will come from the H7 chest strap HRM rather than the M200.

Presently, the M200 can only pair and sync with mobile devices or Bluetooth Smart HRMs such as the Polar H7; cadence and stride sensors are not compatible.

POLAR M200 IN A NUTSHELL

A competitively priced fitness device that takes into consideration the necessary versus the excess. At $149.95, Polar’s M200 is hard to beat with wrist based heart rate measurements, GPS, all day activity tracking and changeable wrist straps.polar m200 UA shoe featurePolar’s running programme further augments the desirability of the M200 by including sensible training programmes catered to the individual.

I particularly like the charging fixture in the form of a USB which is built right into the M200. The water proofing is good though swim tracking would have made the device great.polar m200 end featureOther than the size, I find very little to dislike about the M200 given its price. Depending on your needs, this entry level GPS watch should suit most people who are starting new at running and benefit immensely from Polar’s running programmes.

That being said, it also means you’ll lose out on physiological measurements or the capability to sync a foot pod to the M200. Plus the lack of a colour display plus limited screen size may irk some. Like I said, it’s entry level and you’ll hardly find anything remotely close at sub $150 with Polar Flow running programme integration.

If you reside in Singapore, you can get the Polar M200 from Polar or its authorised retailers.

You can purchase the Polar M200 at $149.95 from Amazon where there’s usually a small discount, great return policy, and free delivery depending on where you reside. In return your purchase helps to offset the costs associated with the running of this site. Thanks for reading!

9 Comments

  • Reply Joey April 25, 2017 at 10:30 pm

    Thanks a lot for the full reviews on M200 as not much people review about it.
    i was surprised with the accuracy of heart rate as i read a few review claiming that the average / max heart rate is off especially during weight training.
    i do a lot of weight training / high intensity training / Les Mils body combat (which involves lots of arm movement) and i would like accurate heart rate data (am okay with delay or a few beats off), would you recommend the garmin vivosmart HR, M200 or A360?
    also, is the heart rate accuracy the same as A360 or is better than A360 ?
    would appreciate if you answer my questions above.

    • Reply Michael S April 25, 2017 at 11:30 pm

      Hi Joey,

      Weights training is the antithesis of wrist based heart rate monitoring. I like M200 because of its GPS. Polar has since announced the M430 which appear better than the M200. You might want to check it out.

      Polar has customised Les Mils sports profiles so getting A360 seems to be a no brainer really.

      On the other hand, I’d strongly suggest you check out the Polar H10 chest strap HRM. That will probably give you the best HR accuracy compared to the 3 wearables you listed.

      Mike

  • Reply Roy Glenn April 27, 2017 at 1:17 am

    With the reasonable price the M-200 was purchased to track the exercise from riding my bike. I assumed it would do that because it uses GPS. From the brief time it has been used it looks like my heart rate on most of the ride is low enough that the report is based on walking and good part of the distance I travel. This is the very early use and maybe as I learn more about the M-200 it will get better for tracking my details. Any recommendations or advised reading will be graciously accepted.

  • Reply Yeoh May 1, 2017 at 6:33 pm

    Previously I didn’t notice any viewers. I read it n found it quite ok. So I brought it today. So I start playing and check the watch like others do. I so curious like to ask, is there any stop watch been shown during running o cycling? I usually early morning jogging before going to work. So is the watch will shown out? Tq

  • Reply Peter September 13, 2017 at 1:42 am

    Really nice review. Most other reviews are just brief walkthroughs of the M200’s features, but not much else.

    One question though – Does the heart rate monitor function all the time or only during runs? I could definitely see the idea of having a graph of my heart rate during the day. Not that it would be the only thing deciding what watch to buy, but still, nice.

    • Reply Michael S September 16, 2017 at 6:09 pm

      Hi Peter,

      As communicated over email, the M200 doesn’t have all day HR measurements at present.

      Mike

  • Reply Frank October 7, 2017 at 10:01 pm

    You mention HR broadcast to compatible apps. My M200 doesn’t broadcast anything at all, except syncing stored data with Polar Flow. How to let M200 broadcast HR? And which apps are compatible?

    • Reply Michael S October 7, 2017 at 11:37 pm

      Hi Frank,

      Officially the M200 works with Polar Club systems; an app for group fitness.

      I personally got it to work with Polar GOFIT app on an iPad when the review was initially published. The GOFIT app is again another group fitness solution for school use.

      Mike

  • Reply Frank October 8, 2017 at 8:35 pm

    Thanks, looks like it only works with these two apps.

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