And now for something completely different!
I recently was granted the opportunity to test and review the Polar M400 GPS watch after visiting the Polar booth at a race expo. I’ve been wearing and running with the M400 for a couple of months both inside and outside for training runs and races. The watch is sleek looking matte black with lots of cool little functions and is really quite customizable. You can connect with Polar’s online “Flow” community to upload your workouts even from your phone! Let’s have a closer look…
Please excuse the crappy quality of my pictures.
What caught my eye first about the M400 was it’s style. Until then I had been wearing the Garmin Forerunner10. The Forerunner10 is a very basic GPS watch but after two years it was my trusty sidekick. It had yet to let me down except for having to replace the band. The M400, however, felt great as soon as I put it on. It seemed to be more flush with my wrist and didn’t feel boxy or too big. Some watches that I’ve tried in the past make me feel like I’m Ironman or something (Does this have a jetpack?). So, style points go to the M400. Cool! What else does this do?
I connected the M400 to my computer via the port in the back of the watch and got set up with Polar’s online system called Flow. Here you can share your workouts with other Polar users as well as track your own progress and customize the watch for how you want to use it. More on that coming. Flow is pretty well laid out. There are videos to show you how to use the watch and the system. It takes a little bit of getting used to but it’s not too complicated. Flow includes a summary page for each workout as well as a total summary of all distance and time done with the watch. There’s a diary that you can access in both the watch and online that shows you the day, week or month at-a-glance. You can also download the Polar Flow app for free and sync your workouts to your mobile device via bluetooth. I thought that was pretty cool.
Here’s a picture of the diary. You’ll notice a blue bar with a percentage at the bottom of each day. Based on your training settings the M400 measures your daily activity by your movement. At least, I’m pretty sure that’s how it works. I do a decent amount of treadmill running which means I can wear the M400 inside and still track my daily activity without having a GPS satellite. Now, keep in mind it wont measure distance or speed without a signal but you can start a timer and still have the daily activity % as well as a time for the end of your workout. It’s better than nothing.
Customize To Fit You
On Flow you can explore what Polar calls “Sport Profiles”. These are basically sports that you can pick such as running, cycling, hiking, Crossfit, even dancing! Once you pick a sport, you can go into that profile and pick and choose what you want to do. You can edit basic settings such as when the autolap will sound, or change the heart rate zone limits but what I personally liked the most, change what you see on the watch face during a workout.
This was one of the big highlights of the M400 for me. In any Sport Profile, under Training Views, you can have up to 8 different screens to scroll through during a workout. These screens are completely customizable. You can add whatever you want to view. For example: For easy runs, I like to view my duration, distance, and average pace. When I’m doing speed work, I like to be able to see lap time, distance, and speed. On a third screen, just for reference, I have time of day and calories burned.
For racing, I added another Sport Profile and customized its view to show current and average pace on one screen, and duration and distance on the next. This is similar to what I’m used to with my Garmin. I think this is the best part about the M400. You can customize what you want to see or what you’re used to during a session but also get the fancy new tricks of a nice watch.
Another feature I really like is the interval timers. In the past, there was always some mental math involved for adding rest periods to an intrerval, or marking a distance with a scuff in the dirt or a stick. The M400 makes running intervals a breeze. You can set two separate timers. For my workouts, I set one for distance and one for time. eg: Timer1 0.8km, Timer2 1:45. This takes all the distance guess work and watch checking out of the way so you can focus solely on your speed work. SUPER EASY.
Room for Improvement
There were only two things that I had small issues with regarding this watch.
The first was with the heart rate monitor that came with the demo unit I was given. In the past I’ve never been one to monitor my heart rate. Personally, it’s just another number and I don’t have any heart issues. I tried the chest strap and within the 1st kilometer it had popped off and slid down three times. Now, I probabaly could have tried more but for me, if it’s not going to stay on right away then it’s not happening. I think the strap may just be a little big. I’ve heard Polar has smaller straps available. Like I said though, I like to keep things pretty simple with just the basic numbers on speed, distance and time.
The second small issue was GPS signal. It seemed like the M400 took a little longer than usual to find satellites. It wasn’t always an issue but sometimes took up to five or six minutes. A long time to sit in the cold. I also noticed that occasionally the GPS signal would be lost momentarily. This never really happened with my Garmin so I was a little disappointed. I’d say over the 8 week period, it happened 3 or 4 times.
Overall Polar has put together a nice unit in the M400. The watch is stylish, user friendly, and adaptable to several different acivities. I like that it can be customized for what you want to see in a workout. I also think it’s connectivity to Flow through your laptop or mobile device is a really great feature. The use of two interval timers makes speed day mental math free. Once I’ve sent this demo unit back, I will most likely be purchasing one of these myself. No offense to my Garmin, but this watch is pretty great.
Do you have an M400? Do you like it? Any similar comparisons?