Polar M200

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One for the more budget-conscious runner, the Polar M200 is aimed at the budget end of the market and can be picked up for $149.95/£129.50/AU$199.

Primarily a running watch, the M200 offers integrated GPS, along with optical heart rate monitoring, smartphone connectivity and 24/7 activity tracking, as well as the ability to follow structured training programs.

The key question is whether it's the right watch for you at the price point, especially when it's competing with other budget wearables such as the Fitbit Charge 2 and Garmin Vivosmart HR+.

Design

  • Light, secure and comfortable
  • Plain, cheap-looking design
  • Basic, dated screen

Aesthetically, the Polar M200 is quite simple, with a silicone strap encircling the watch’s face.

The strap feels durable and sits comfortably on your wrist when worn for prolonged periods. In fact, with the M200 weighing in at just 40g, it’s sometimes easy to forget you’re wearing it.

However, the combination of the basic strap design and the watch’s weight raises a few questions in terms of quality. The M200 doesn’t scream quality, especially compared to pricier options like the Garmin Forerunner 235, but sitting at the budget end of the market, does it need to?

It's arguably no worse looking than something like the Garmin Vivosmart HR, for example.

Following the theme of simplicity, two buttons on either side of the display offer all the functionality needed to operate the M200’s array of features. 

The left button is used to go back through the menu options, pause/stop a workout, sync with the smartphone app or operate the backlight.

A quick press of the right button is used to cycle through the menu screens, while a longer press allows you to select the option you want. Having multiple functions with only two buttons is a little fiddly at first, but after a week or so of regular use you soon get to grips with it.

The Polar M200’s charging port sits on the base of the watch. The port is well hidden but can be easily accessed by simply pushing the watch unit from the strap. The watch is then charged via a USB cable that comes included in the box.

It's perhaps a bit annoying having to remove the unit from the strap, especially as newer models like the Polar M430 are 'all-in-one' and easily charged.

The strap itself is fastened using a metal clasp which feels secure, and there are plenty of holes to fit varying wrist sizes.

Polar offer five different color straps – black, red, yellow, blue or white – and the ease of changing the strap makes it simple to mix and match depending on your mood, assuming you fancy paying for extra straps.

The screen on the Polar M200 is quite small, with a large proportion of the circular interface taken up by a bezel. The edges of the screen are designed to allow the user to easily track and monitor their activity level at a glance throughout the day – more on this later.

The display itself is basic, with no touchscreen, color or detailed graphics. Instead, the M200 sports an LED dot matrix display, which gives the watch a slightly outdated feel.

If you want a fancier screen you may want to consider something like the Polar M600, but you'll have to be prepared to pay more.

Polar have kept things simple but functional with the design of the M200. While the overall feeling of the watch isn’t of great quality, at a budget price point you don’t expect much more. 

However, what the M200 lacks in style, it more than makes up for with its array of features at the price point.

Specs, performance and fitness

  • GPS is accurate but slow to lock on
  • Heart rate monitor works well
  • Works better for running than other sports

We found the integrated GPS in the Polar M200, for the most part, very accurate at tracking any outdoor activities. The M200 will also detect any stops, automatically pausing the activity for you and restarting once you set off again.

There were, however, two or three occasions throughout testing when the GPS signal dropped out in the middle of a run. It wasn’t just for a few seconds either, on one run the GPS dropped out for two minutes. This meant that part of the run was not tracked and the post-activity run data was somewhat skewed.

The other frustration we found when testing the M200 was the length of time it took to lock onto GPS before starting an activity. The watch prompts you to ‘stand still to find GPS’, which can take several minutes even when in clear view of the sky.

This meant we were often playing catch up with any training partners as they got bored standing in the cold waiting for the GPS to lock on. You can start the activity before locking onto GPS, but your distance won’t be tracked.

Still, at this end of the market having GPS at all isn't guaranteed. The popular Fitbit Charge 2 for example lacks it, although it is becoming more prevalent.

And we found no such problems with the Polar M200’s optical heart rate monitor. The heart rate is easily picked up when the watch is tightly fastened to your wrist and is constant throughout any activity.

In comparison to a chest-strap heart rate monitor the optical sensor in the M200 performs well. It is only really when performing shorter intervals that the optical sensor struggles slightly to keep up with rapid fluctuations in heart rate.

The M200 is easy to use and provides good, clear live data during an activity. It is possible to rotate through different screens when exercising to give information on distance, current pace, duration, heart rate and many more useful metrics.

You can also personalize these screen options on the Polar Flow website, allowing you to select which metrics you want to track during an activity. There's also an auto-lap function, again customizable, but defaulted to lapping every kilometer during a run.

The only slight issue we found when using the M200 was the screen size. Although generally the screen is clear to read, it was sometimes difficult to read information when moving at a quicker pace. 

For example, when glancing at the auto-lap reading it can be hard to decipher between a 4:01 split and a 4:06. Not a big issue, but certainly noticeable.

One of the best features on the Polar M200 is the ability to follow structured training programs and workouts. You are able to set a goal on the Polar Flow website, be it 5k or a marathon, put in the date of the event and Polar will schedule a series of workouts onto a calendar.

You can then download this schedule onto the watch and app and then it’s over to you to follow this on a day to day basis. This is a great feature for those looking to start training for a specific event or goal, but who are unsure how to best structure their training.

We found the majority of the features available on the Polar M200 aligned to running as opposed to any other sport. Although there are multiple sport options available, the M200 doesn’t perform as a true multi-sport watch as it is not possible to change between two or three disciplines within the same activity.

For example, if taking part in a triathlon you would have to stop each activity before starting the next. The range of data fields available to track some sports on the watch isn’t as well developed as the running mode either. For example, although the watch is waterproof and can be taken swimming, it won’t track distance in the pool.

The Polar M200 also acts as a fitness tracker, counting your steps towards a specific goal that you can determine during initial set up of the watch. This is where the big bezel of the watch comes into play.

As you progress towards your daily step goal, small dots appear around the outside of the screen, indicating the percentage of your activity goal for that day you have achieved.

You can also wear the watch when you go to bed in order to track your sleep. When synced with the app in the morning, you can see data such as how long you’ve slept for and the quality of your sleep, and Polar provides some nice details too – it's among our favorite sleep tracking apps.

It’s also possible to use the Polar M200 as an alarm. Simply set your desired wake up time, sync the watch with the app before you sleep and it will vibrate on your wrist when it’s time to get up.

The Polar M200 syncs with the Polar Flow app on your smartphone via a Bluetooth connection. It is easy to sync the two by simply holding the left button on the watch for a few seconds. Once synced, the app offers a wealth of information.

The main screen on the app shows a clock face that summarizes your movement for the day, giving times of rest, standing, walking and exercise.

There is also the option to tap on any recorded activity to see more information such as kilometer splits, heart rate charts and zones, a map of where your activity took you, and much more.

Battery life

  • Battery lasts up to a week
  • Quick and easy to charge

The battery life on the Polar M200 is excellent. Polar claim the M200 will last six days on a single charge when used for fitness tracking and with one hour’s GPS activity tracking per day. 

In reality, we managed to use the watch for a full week of running, as well as general day-to-day use, before needing to recharge.

And when the battery is running low you get a helpful notification on the smartphone app to let you know you need to recharge.

As previously noted, the recharging of the Polar M200 is pain-free, with the watch featuring a simple charging port. A USB cable provided in the box is all that’s needed. 

In terms of juicing speed, we found the watch was fully recharged from empty within a couple of hours, which was acceptable if you remembered in good time…

Verdict

The Polar M200 is a decent entry-level running watch and, although a little basic in appearance, it packs in a lot of features for the price.

With GPS, heart rate monitoring, water resistance and a whole lot more there's something here for almost everyone.

But it doesn't excel in all areas, and is more suited to some kinds of exercise than others.

Who's this for?

The smartphone connectivity and ability to follow structured training programs makes the M200 a great companion for the athlete looking to start taking their training more seriously.

But despite offering multi-sport tracking it's clearly focused mostly on runners, so if you primarily want, say, a swimming watch, there are better options.

Should you buy it?

The only major drawback to the M200 is the slightly erratic GPS, which we can’t help but feel slightly frustrated with. If you are looking for a watch to start your training journey, there aren’t many that can rival the M200 at this sort of price.

It’s not perfect, but at the budget end of the market the Polar M200 sits head and shoulders above most of the rest in terms of its features. But for other options, check out our guide to the best budget running watches.

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