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Today the Polar M200 arrives in Europe, at least officially, as it was already presented a few months ago but was only put on sale in some markets. Well, from today it is already possible to get one of the new watches in any of the usual channels.
The Polar M200 is a simple watch, with a clear focus on getting the lowest possible price. But being cheap doesn't mean you can't have GPS, optical pulse sensor or the ability to perform scheduled workouts. And all at a recommended price of £150 (which is almost always minor in the links I provide).
Polar has provided me with a unit before its official arrival on the market, and once the test is completed I will send it back to you, so there is no quid pro quo on your part.
This is something that I always want to clarify, because the tests that I carry out are totally independent as I have total freedom to express any kind of opinion regarding the products that I analyse. So if I have to highlight something that is not good, I can do it with the maximum freedom, in short, it is you who make the existence of this page possible with your purchases through the links that I provide.
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And now that everything has been cleared up, it's time to get to know the new Polar M200 in the greatest detail: all its lights and shadows.
- Small and light
- Basic, but perfect for those looking for something simple
- Without being Polar's "blackleg" optical sensor, the operation is frankly good
- Screen from another century
- Strange touch strap
What, a brand new Polar M200 waiting to be opened? There's nothing more irresistible than "deflowering" a brand new box.
But before you do, there's always time to take a look at everything this Polar M200 can do. It's cheap, but that doesn't mean it doesn't include notifications, has GPS, is waterproof or sleep monitors. It's even Strava compatible. It's all clearly highlighted on the back.
Here's what you'll find inside: the sync and charging cable, the watch and a collection of quick guides in a multitude of languages. And unless you're going to use them to learn languages, you'll appreciate what you can read here more.
There are only two buttons to control the M200, one on each side, the left one is used to go back or to pause the activity.
And the one on the right side, which is the same size, is used to enter the different menus and confirm the selection. Both have different functions depending on whether the key is pressed long or short.
The strap is unusual, so there are no pins to attach it to the case. The watch is simply a "pod" that is inserted into it. It looks like it is made by 3D printing and does not stand out because it uses noble materials.
But it's not so bad to the touch and the texture gives it a special touch. It's comfortable on the wrist and has a multitude of positions for the clasp, allowing the watch to be worn firmly on the wrist for a good pulse reading, but without becoming uncomfortable by wearing the watch too tightly.
And if you look at it, the watch has a sort of tab. It's a traditional USB connector, so you can charge or synchronise it directly by connecting it to your computer or mobile phone charger.
Behind it you can see the optical pulse sensor, which I will talk about quite a bit in its corresponding section.
And as I said before, this is the way to charge it. If you don't do it by connecting it directly, the cable included is just a USB extension.
This connection is not only for charging the watch, you can also synchronize it with the computer in this way, although the most common way is to do it via Bluetooth with your smartphone.
Before we get down to business, would you like to take a quick look at the basics of the Polar M200?
Polar M200, a quick look
The Polar M200 is a very simple watch: in its performance, in its handling and in the number of options you will find in its menu.
And as part of its simplicity we have a display that Polar must have found in some warehouse buried in the 1990s. It is certainly the worst resolved aspect of this watch, as it is not only the antiquated image it gives the watch, but it also limits the amount of information it can display on the screen.
In fact its resolution is so low that I couldn't even find official data. But if you gave me 5 minutes (which I don't have) I could tell you about them perfectly one by one. I leave the hobby to you.
Its simplicity is also reflected in the fact that there are only two control buttons. The right button allows you to enter the menu and rotate between the different options and the left button goes back. If you want to enter any of them, you simply have to leave the right button pressed. It's that easy.
There aren't many menus to get lost in: training, activity, history, heart rate and settings. Nothing else.
In the training menu you will find the different sports profiles you can set up on the M200, which I will detail in more detail later.
In activity you will see the data of your activity of the day, provided through the internal accelerometer.
If you enter it will tell you what you need to do to reach 100% of the target daily activity, as well as the steps taken during the day.
But this is not the only place where it is displayed. On the main screen it will also appear as dots around the outer circle of the dial, which indicates the percentage of activity completed for the day. This is what the inscriptions on the dial of the clock are for.
The continuous synchronization of the clock with your phone will upload the data to the Polar platform, and at any time of the day you can check your activity level in the application, much more completely than you can see on the clock. And not only of activity, but also of rest.
You can measure the heart rate at any time.
But this data will not be stored anywhere, as there is no constant monitoring of heart rate. It is simply a query you can make, but manually and not automatically throughout the day.
In the history you will find a summary of your activities performed with data such as distance, rhythms or maximum or average heart rate.
There is no menu for notifications, they simply appear on screen when they reach your phone. You will be notified of all events, it is not possible to disable or enable notifications depending on the application you want to see, it is all or nothing.
However, given the screen resolution of the M200, these are very simple notifications. It allows a quick glance to know if you have received an email, a tweet or a message from WhatsApp, but you will not be able to read the full message or of course answer it.
The configuration of the different profiles of the Polar M200 is done, exclusively, through the web, either from the computer or entering the web through the mobile phone, but it is not possible to do it from the clock. The Polar Flow application only lets you modify two or three basic options. Once changed on the web, you will simply have to do a synchronization to receive the updated settings.
As standard the clock includes a number of predefined profiles, but one of the main attractions of this type of device is its customization, so we will forget about them to create our own.
The configuration of the M200 is exactly the same as any of Polar's latest products, including the ability to set up a multitude of sports profiles, which is not at all common for watches in this price range. Normally you'll simply find a profile to run with, which will have to be the one you use for everything else.
Polar does not restrict this use in any way and allows you to select the same sports profiles you might select in, for example, the Polar V800.
Even swimming, although you won't have stroke or distance measurements in the pool, of course, but the optical pulse sensor or GPS for open water swimming will work (although the tracks in those conditions are pretty bad in general).
In the case of the M200, you can configure up to seven different screens but with only two data on each screen. Obviously the low screen resolution does not allow much more.
These are the metrics you can include in each of these screens.
There is nothing sophisticated. Perhaps a cadence data would be missing, since the clock has an internal accelerometer that could record it, but neither the sample nor the recording for later analysis. Again, concessions to get an economical product.
You can also select other basic settings, such as automatic lapses based on a certain distance or duration, or display the heart rate in beats or as a percentage over the maximum.
You can also set up each sport to show speed or pace, so you can have one running profile with pace in min/km and another for cycling in km/h. And in each sport you can select whether to activate the use of GPS or vibration, individually for each of them.
Career and training
Make no mistake about it, although the Polar M200 supports many different sports, it is designed to be used while running.
When you have your watch set up with the screens you need, it's time to think about going out for a workout. To select the option, simply right-click to access the list of activities. The first one to appear will be the last one you used.
At this point the watch will start searching for heart rate and satellites. When your heart rate has appeared on the display and the GPS symbol has stopped flashing you can start running.
To start you must leave the right button pressed again. The activity will start and you will see the first data screen you have configured.
Pressing the right button changes the data screen to one that you have set up. You can also see a couple of screens that are new to the Polar M200: comparison with the world marathon record (so you can see how fast those people are running) or Cooper's test values. You simply have to select them in the Polar Flow settings screen.
And if you want to mark a lap (independently of the automatic laps), you can do it by holding the right button.
What about the left button? You'll use it to pause the activity, and if you hold it down for three seconds you'll end it. Or resume it with a tap on the right button.
If there is one thing the Polar M200 excels at, it is that it is the only watch in its niche market that allows for scheduled training, for example, interval training by heart rate ranges (not in min/km).
It's not the only type of workout you can create. There are multiple objectives you can select from when scheduling a workout.
You can also create training programs for a multitude of distances (5K, 10K, half-marathon and marathon). You can configure various parameters to set the hardness of the training, the date you will run and when you want to start training for it.
All training sessions will be automatically created (and new sport profiles if you didn't have them created, such as strength or core training), which will also be synchronized with the clock. And every day you go to train, you'll have those workouts available for guided training.
Even starting from the Running Index log you have in Polar Flow (basically your VO2Max), it will tell you what time you can aim for on the day of competition. Many possibilities for a watch that aims at the low range.
Optical heart rate sensor
Polar's M200 is the third model of the Finnish brand to venture into the field of optical pulse sensors. The first was the Polar A360This is an activity bracelet that had a complicated beginning with its optical sensor, especially considering that it came under the umbrella of a pioneer in heart rate recording company like Polar.
His second iteration was the Polar M600In this model, the sensor changed, highlighting the six LEDs it relied on to obtain fairly satisfactory records. Below industry leaders (Mio's and Valencell's sensors), but at par or slightly above the more direct competition, such as Garmin's Elevate or LifeQ's used in the TomTom Runner 2 and Runner 3.
In the M200 the sensor returns to the initial configuration that was presented with the A360, more traditional with only two LEDs providing support. But the important thing about an optical sensor is not the hardware (that's the easy part), but the software and the algorithm that governs it.
The Polar M200 still does not offer heart rate monitoring throughout the day, all we can do is check the pulse at any time through a menu option.
That record will not be recorded anywhere, nor is there any possibility of knowing the day's resting heart rate. Soon? Perhaps, but it is one of the things that was originally promised for the A360 and a year later has not yet arrived.
But the important thing about an optical pulse sensor is its ability to measure heart rate during exercise, so let's see how the Polar sensor behaves and whether it's improved from what it was a year ago.
As you may know if you have read some of my tests before, I perform the pulse sensor tests by contrasting graphs with others from different sensors, trying a minimum of three different ones, in order to determine who fails if there is any discrepancy.
Let's go with a first test that, although not very long, I try to play all the clubs. You can enlarge the images by clicking on them.
The start of the activity is a continuous race. The Polar arrives a little late to the party, but it is quite common when the activity starts. This time both the Garmin chest sensor and the Scosche register correctly (which is not always the case, especially in winter).
After 20 minutes I start trying to "touch the nose" of the sensor. Up to that point the record is perfect, giving the three sensors a totally superimposed graph. The first test is to increase cadence and rhythm, trying to confuse the sensor with the cadence data. But it doesn't bite, and the record continues to be correct in all three units.
At the time of the stop a slightly higher peak can be perceived in the case of the sensor in the chest, but it can be simply because of the punctual recording at that time. Nothing to object to in that period.
After that stop, the rest period is perfect (something that many sensors choke on, such as the Garmin or TomTom sensors that have a slight delay in recovery). And with the intention of continuing to look for the sensor's tickle, after a few minutes I decide to lie down and lower my heart rate even more. The Polar sensor continues to respond correctly, with a slight hesitation but nothing important.
After continuing to pass the hard part of the test, it's time for another difficult test, a return to intense activity from a standstill. He starts perfectly, although in the 28th minute he gets a little off track for a little less than a minute, but he recovers again and again records the rest perfectly. I recover my trot again and the three sensors coincide perfectly again.
Not bad for a first test, with several difficulties. Except for two small deviations, he does well in the rest of the exercise. I can give him a 9 out of 10. But let's go with more tests.
Another interval session, but this time for real. 20 minutes shooting, 3x330m at full speed with 3 minutes rest, 10 minutes shooting followed by 2×1000 at 10k speed with 2 minutes rest and cooling down. A punishment for the trainer (me), but also for the optical sensors.
And what can be said after such a graph? Well, given the difficulty of the training due to its high and short intensities, it simply "plated".
Slight differences here and there, but we are talking about point readings of 2 or 3 beats per minute at the height of an interval or at the end of a break. There is little more I can say about this, except that it is once again a magnificent result.
Gym activities are a problem when comparing activities, because the extracted TCX files do not meet the standard, so I cannot add both to the application for chart comparison.
In this low intensity indoor core training (weights, abs, etc) I used a Mio Link on one wrist and the Polar M200 on the other. Here are the graphs of both devices.
When the intensity is low, it is quite common that pulse sensors do not give good readings. Even those that take records from a chest band are not reliable either.
I cannot give a clear winner in this test, firstly because there was no third sensor that could clarify which of the two graphs is more correct, and secondly because even if there was I would not have the possibility to compare the files.
Even so, after a few years of training I know quite well my working intensities of different exercises, including gym work, and this time the Polar M200 proves to be more successful.
The graph is more reasonable over the entire exercise range, while the graph shown by the Mio Link is much more variable, even with drops to the 55 beats per minute zone (something impossible to achieve while doing any type of activity).
In any case, the objective is to evaluate the result offered by the optical sensor of the Polar M200, which in this case is satisfactory.
Below we can see a cycling activity, usually the most difficult for an optical pulse sensor. This time I do not include the data from the Mio Link because, despite wearing it, the Fenix 3 that recorded the data was in the back pocket of the jersey, so it received the signal with great difficulty.
You can see that the Polar M200 is not an exception and it also suffers when we are pedalling. It is always late at all intervals, although at least as soon as the rest period comes in there is no delay.
It only shows up correctly at the start (where the sensor in the chest fails again until I start to sweat) and at the end of the training at a more constant pace.
Still, it's not a bad result on the cycling side for what I usually see on other optical sensors. He's been taking late readings at the beginning of the intervals, but at least he was in the right environment. But certainly his running performance has surprised me pleasantly.
The GPS on the M200 lacks a feature that is quite common on almost all devices today, and that is that it has no GPS position cache, which means that the wait for a signal when you start the activity is longer than on other Polar or competitor watches.
But if it fails to do so, it upgrades to other models in its price range (e.g. the Garmin FR35) in offering position data recording per second, rather than intelligently every few seconds.
What is the benefit of this? Well, besides having more realistic tracks, the instantaneous rhythm information is more accurate and faster to update. That if you are doing training at a constant pace you won't mind too much, but when we talk about doing series it is something that has much more relevance.
In addition, in circuits with many curves the final distance will be a little more precise, since in the turns it will not be cutting meters. But do not expect reliability 100%, no GPS clock will give you.
The behavior in the different activities I have done is the usual one in any watch of this type, with its lights and shadows. But let's go with the comparisons.
In this race training at first sight there is not much to highlight, the three clocks seem to coincide on the route without much problem.
But let's zoom in a bit. This is an area where I usually pay a lot of attention to the behaviour of the different clocks. It's a fairly lush tree-lined area, along with buildings that can make reception difficult.
You can see that none of the three is perfect, although the Polar M200 (yellow line) is the most outstanding in three points where it goes long in the record.
But there are also situations that a priori should be easy for any clock where there are strange behaviors. For example in this image the only one that registers perfectly the whole stretch is the M200. In the lower part of the image the FR230 goes 1 meter to the left of the real route, while the Fenix 3 goes to the right.
After crossing the road both the FR230 and the M200 make the correct registration, but the Fenix 3 gets lost a few more meters without any reason.
Let's go now with a bike training. These have the particularity of being faster, so the lines tend to be straighter as they cover more distance in less time. But at the same time the turns are more complicated to represent well for the same reason.
I often train on a short circuit (especially if I go out at night), which allows me to pass the same turning points over and over again.
In this case the ones that should have the best performance would be the Garmin Edge 520 and the Fenix 3, because the first one is placed on the handlebar and the second one in the jersey pocket; while the Polar M200 goes on the wrist with the worst vision of the sky (road handlebar, so it is turned).
However, it is the M200 that shows the best performance, nailing the turn every time in this very narrow roundabout.
And practically the same situation is repeated in this slightly wider turn, where the M200 once again stands out with greater precision.
And not to be repetitive, but it is something that is repeated at other points.
However, like any GPS, the Polar M200 is not perfect and there will be points where the behavior is strange, as here that inexplicably moves away from the correct track.
In short, the GPS performance of the M200 is good, both in terms of signal reception capacity, which presents no major problems, and the ability to record data per second. Operation is consistent at all times, and although there are times when it is lost, this is something we will see in any device.
The only negative point present is the absence of GPS cache, but given the selling price at which this model is aimed it is a concession that is bearable.
You can see the Polar M200 as a watch with a screen unworthy of the century in which we are, with a touch "vintage" that reminds us more of the past than a model launched in the year 2016.
But the Polar M200 is a cheap product. Its low resolution screen is cheap, it doesn't need much processor power to move it and there are certainly no graphics to display. In the end every detail adds up, and in this case what it does is subtract money from the price tag, which is the main goal to achieve.
On the other hand, if the only negative thing I can say about a GPS watch with an optical pulse sensor is that the screen has a resolution that doesn't correspond to this century... it's a good sign, right?
Polar's goal was clear: to have a reliable GPS watch, including an optical pulse sensor, but at the same time very cheap. And just like the Polar M400 two years ago, the M200 is still one of the best examples of a remarkable price/performance ratio.
And in a sector where its main rival is capable of launching more than 20 products in a year, finding a market niche where a product can be introduced is not easy.
We are talking about a watch with an optical sensor, mobile phone notifications, the ability to perform structured training, activity and sleep monitoring... It presents no problem in any of these functions, and all for less than 150 euros.
And I'm sorry to be repetitive; if the worst thing I can say about a cheap watch is that it feels cheap, but that it behaves perfectly in everything else it pretends to, it's that the development work that has been done has been good.
That's where the Polar M200 comes in. A reliable GPS, a fairly bright optical pulse sensor and features that are not common in its price range, such as the ability to follow scheduled workouts.
For those of us who are data obsessed and like to control a multitude of parameters at a single glance the watch is not the best option, but for those who don't need that data invasion and just want the basics, the Polar M200 is one of the best options if your goal is to spend as little money as possible.
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