Last updated on January 18th, 2018 at 11:30 am
If GPS cardio watches are apparently in fashion, it is still challenging to equip at a lower cost. The new Polar M200 could, however, change the deal; it is merely one of the most affordable models in the industry. Evolution of the excellent Polar M400, the M200 has a great in shipping both a GPS and an optical heart rate sensor, not to mention all the features related to monitoring daily activity.
It will come into direct competition with models like the Garmin Forerunner 35 or the TomTom Spark 3 while keeping a significantly lower price. Is it however as effective as its opponents? Answer in the rest of our article after a good month at his side.
The Polar M200 is presented in a small cardboard box, with a bright plastic skylight on the front. We discover directly the watch itself, sporting a rather flashy red color for this version made available during our test.
As often, pictograms come to present the various features of the beast, and it is found that the latter includes a GPS, a heart rate monitor or monitoring of daily activity. At the back of the packaging, a complete listing shows the possibilities offered by the M200.
Inside the box, the watch is accompanied by a user manual and a USB cable to recharge it.
Design & Ergonomics
- Before dwelling on the features and performance of this little Polar M200, we start as usual with a little tour of its design and ergonomics. On these points, it must be admitted that despite a relatively clean and durable construction, Polar’s new sports watch is not the most attractive on the market.
- With a fundamental look and not necessarily the most sought after, the M200 gives an impression of the entry-level watch indeed. Apparently, and as we will see a little later, we must keep in mind that for the price, the Polar model remains one of the most complete on the market. So you have to save somewhere.
- The watch itself is composed of its dial and a fully removable bracelet. It will be possible to come easily replace it or opt for a different color among the few choices offered by the brand. If the red version is a little too flashy for you, you can fall back on the following colors: black, white, turquoise or yellow. Note that it will cost you less per additional bracelet and that two sizes are proposed.
- The change is straightforward, pushing the dial towards the inside of the bracelet. No need for a screwdriver and it is rather a definite point. In itself, the bracelet is designed in a silicone rather basic, and our opinion a little less useful quality than that found on the Polar M600 or the Garmin Forerunner 235. Good point however on the side of its clasp, with a double-loop system to perfectly lock the bracelet during the effort.
- On the side of the dial, we are in the presence of a rather imposing circular format. With almost 50 mm diameter and a thickness of 12 mm, the watch does not go unnoticed once on the wrist and can sometimes disturb when wearing a shirt or jacket a little tight for example.
- The screen of the Polar M200, unfortunately, does not benefit from its wide dial, since it covers in practice a diameter of 26 mm. This is a monochrome screen with a bluish backlight, offering the user a correct readability. Around, indicators from 10 to 90 will make it possible to judge in the blink of an eye the steps made against the objective in place.
- As for the navigation, no touch controls here but quietly two buttons positioned on each side of the dial. The left button acts as Back, while the right button will navigate between the different screens with a single press, and validate an action via a long press. In use, this navigation is not particularly comfortable, the buttons requiring a relatively large pressure. Also, if you have the misfortune to press once too much when scrolling pages, cannot go back. We are forced to leave for a complete turn, which is sometimes quite painful.
- The main screen shows the time and date of the day, as well as some pictograms informing about the level of autonomy, the presence of the airplane mode or even the connection to his smartphone. Pressing the right button once accesses the menu with the following pages: Training, Activity, History, Heart Rate, and Settings.
- Finally, we finish with the back of the dial; we apparently find the optical heart rate sensor. This is one of the highlights of the Polar M200 because at that price no competitor integrates this kind of device. As a reminder, via this sensor, it becomes possible to monitor your heart rate during exercise without having to go through a heart rate monitor belt.
- Note also the presence of a USB connector on the back of the watch. It will be used to charge the internal battery of the M200, either by directly connecting the dial to a USB port or through the extension provided in the box.
Follow-up of daily activity
Most current models are no exception, and the new Polar M200 is apparently able to follow some indicators related to your daily activity. Here are no big surprises and the only information directly visible on the watch is the number of steps, as well as the%, achieved your daily goal. Then, we can find little more details directly from the Polar Flow mobile application. For each day, there is indeed a circular dial cutting your activity according to different levels (non-active watch, lying position, sitting, standing, walking or exercise). The whole is rather visually speaking and allows to get a glimpse of his day quickly.
Below, we find its number of steps again, but this time with the distance traveled, the activity time, calories burned and inactivity alerts received. You will understand, as on many models the Polar M200 can warn you when you stay a little too long without moving and motivates you to stretch your legs a little. It is also possible to find all this information in the form of weekly or monthly charts to get a more general view of his daily activity.
Sleep monitoring is also part of it. Here, no need to activate anything on the watch when you fold, since it can automatically detect the time when you join your cozy bed. She can then record the number of hours of sleep, as well as the restorative or otherwise agitated phases. Unfortunately, the app then makes no recommendation to improve sleep based on the results displayed. The last point regarding the monitoring of the activity, note that the watch is currently not able to permanently monitor your heart rate, at least out of sports recordings. It remains possible to check at any time his heart rate by going to the corresponding menu and waiting a few seconds. These values are however not stored and therefore do not bring any interest. In comparison, other watches or activity sensors can record your heart rate at regular intervals to indicate your pace at rest.
Practice with the Polar M200
- The Polar M200 can support you in several physical activities, including running, walking, cycling, bodybuilding and dozens of others. To do so, simply go to the main menu of the watch and select Training. There, we will be able to sail among the various sports proposed then begin his effort.
- As usual, we will rely on a running training to present you the various features of the Polar M200. Before starting a recording, it is necessary to wait until the different sensors are ready for operation. When choosing the activity, there is a heart symbol for the heart rate monitor and a GPS symbol for the satellite signal.
- If the watch can quickly recover your heart rate, it’s hard to say as much about GPS. Indeed, during our various tests, it was not rare to have to wait several minutes before starting his training, lack of GPS signal. The Polar M200 also displays a message asking us not to move during the satellite search, but even standing still the signal is sometimes impossible to recover depending on the area. This is for us the biggest flat of the watch, which becomes frustrating at times, especially in the middle of winter where we sometimes have to wait a long time in the cold before we can start our race.
- Once this has been resolved (and note that it may work much better at home), recording can begin, and there are several pages of indicators on the screen. We switch from one to the other by pressing the right button, and the display has an automatic backlight when we direct the wrist to either. A good point if you are used to running in the evening or very shady areas.
- The Polar M200 is capable of displaying up to two indicators per page, and the choices are customizable either from the Polar Flow mobile app or a web browser by connecting to its Polar Flow account. To do so, simply go to the profile related to his activity (here running) and select his training views. It is possible to manage up to 5 screens, and thus obtain a total of 10 indicators.
- The choices are numerous and concern the hourly, environmental (elevation, altitude difference …), corporal (FC, average FC, turn lap …), distances or speeds and paces. There is enough to do, and most amateur athletes should be able to find their happiness.
- Still, in the activity settings, it is possible to activate the setting up of automatic laps according to a distance or a customizable duration, but also to manage its different zones of heart rates.
- During his training, it is possible to pause the recording at any time via the left button. The Polar M200 then offers to return to practice or to stop it and save it. If you choose to finish, a summary of its output appears on the screen. We can then consult it again from the watch in the History section.
- Of course, to find all the details of his training we will go to the mobile application or the site of Polar Flow. Once the data is synchronized to your account (via Bluetooth), all the indicators are presented in a clear and precise way. We find a summary of key indicators, charts showing the evolution of his heart rate, a map showing his career or a table view of its various segments.
- The principle remains the same for most sports, and the idea is still to better categories its different outputs while getting a better detail on calories burned. Note also that it is possible to perform swimming training with the Polar M200, but the watch is not able to record your lengths.
Prepare for your next race
- In addition to being able to record training in a standard way, the Polar M200 is also able to manage specific training programs to prepare you for your next race. A fascinating option, which is found only on sports watches much more expensive.
- The implementation of these programs is done from his Polar Flow account, for the moment only via the dedicated web application (and not on mobile). There, just select your goal (5 km, 10 km, half or marathon) and be guided. The program can adjust according to the number of weekly training that you want to perform but also their intensity.
- Once the program is in place, we find a global view of it and the various exercises dedicated throughout the next few weeks. For each training session, there is complete information on the distances or durations but also the recommended heart rate zones. Taking the example of a 10 km, there are also exercises of bodybuilding or mobility in the program, with each time explanatory videos. Polar did not do things by halves, and this is one of the big advantages of the Polar M200 compared to its competitors ( in addition to its price).
- All the exercises related to the program are automatically loaded on your Polar calendar, and it is possible to consult them via your smartphone from the mobile application. The training of the day also appears on the dial of the watch, and we then find the different steps to achieve.
Like many other sports GPS watches, the Polar M200 can retrieve some notifications from your smartphone via Bluetooth. However, do not expect miracles on this side, the size of the screen is relatively limited.
In practice, we can get an alert when we receive an SMS or a call for example, but it is in the vast majority of cases impossible to read the entire message. Do not expect to be able to answer it either, the M200 being quite far from its big sister the M600 (which runs Android Wear) on this point.
The watch also does not have a dial dedicated to notifications, and it is therefore not possible to see at a glance the messages waiting for a response, except when we receive an information. Another negative point, most notifications do not appear on the screen during sports activities. The feature is a gadget here and does not provide an added value to the watch.
Last point to consider before finishing with our presentation of this Polar M200, its independence. On this point, the watch is doing pretty well with a range of about 5 to 6 days including one training per day. A figure that can obviously vary depending on the use of each and the poster or not notifications.
Charging takes place quite quickly, connecting the watch directly to a USB port.
All in all, this new Polar M200 is a pleasant surprise. For a relatively low price, it offers more complete features than most of its competitors.
By integrating both a GPS and a heart rate monitor, it should allow many budding athletes to move towards more efficient training. The other decisive point concerns the ecosystem proposed by Polar, with a practical mobile application and a very comprehensive web platform where we can benefit from specific programs. Some points, however, tarnish the final picture. We think in particular not necessarily the most convincing design, limited notifications or the reception of GPS signals sometimes very long to hang. The M200, however, remains a fascinating product for athletes with a limited budget and should be able to make a place on the wrists of many users with its advantageous price.