We just finished up with our Polar M400 Watch Review and 30 day test drive. Normally we take a pass on test drives, but we really wanted to check out what Polar had to offer. To be honest we weren’t looking to review the M400, in fact we had our hearts set on reviewing the RCX5.
We are actually glad the RCX5 wasn’t available, because if it was, we probably wouldn’t have fallen in love with the M400. Yep, the M400 blew the lid off our expectations and now we get to share our experience with you.
The M400 is am amazing watch. It’s probably about 99% of what anyone who runs or walks could ever want. It has built in GPS, it records heart rate, it monitors activity and to top it off it looks absolutely stunning. Heck we even were asked several times if it was an Apple watch. To this we said Heck No it’s a Polar! To be truly honest it looks much better than the Apple watch and destroys them on battery life, heart rate monitoring and did we mention, the Apple Sport doesn’t come with GPS.
A Little History
In 1979 POLAR filed its first patent for wireless heart rate measurement and in 1982, launched the first ever wire-free wearable heart rate monitor, changing the way athletes trained forever. Back in the late 80’s I found myself purchasing a heart rate monitor by a company called Polar. We didn’t have the internet and we certainly didn’t have a lot of information on the subject of smart watches and heart rate monitors. It was sort of the wild west and you were you’re own experiment, learning as you went. Fast forward almost 25 years and we are checking out the new Polar M400, leaps and bounds beyond what I first started with. To say Polar watches have advanced is an understatement. The M400 comes loaded with built in GPS, Heart Rate Recording (using the bluetooth monitor/strap) and all sorts of other advanced features that one could have only dreamed of.
When our Polar M400 arrived, it came in a nice box. The following were included
- M400 Watch
- Polar Bluetooth Chest Strap
- USB to micro USB Cable
- Quick Start Directions
- Free access to the Polar Flow App and FlowSync Software
- User Guide
- Retails: $249.95
- Accessories that aren’t included Stride Sensor – $79.95
Polar states that the M400 should keep about 8 hours battery life when using the GPS and/or Heart Rate Monitor. They also state that using the M400 in watch mode should extend battery life to around 30 days. We never pushed the limits of the batteries, but from our observations, the M400’s battery life was really good and we didn’t run out of battery life during testing. Of course we did charged the unit several times over our 30 day test period.
When using the watch you will most likely be in one of two modes. Time Mode or Exercise Mode. In Time mode you simply see the date, time and Daily Activity Goal indicated by the bar below the Time. The Watch Face can be set to 3 different modes (Daily Activity, Analog and Big). Our preference was to set it to Daily Activity, which displayed the Activity bar. The Activity bar is basically a visual queue showing you your activity throughout the day. It tracks steps, activity and sleep. During testing we had to walk or run about 5 miles to reach our daily goal. The M400 will continue to monitor your activity beyond the daily goal and depending on the day, you could be at 150%, 200% or more.
Activity is calculated using the M400’s Internal 3D accelerometer. It measures your wrist movements and analyzes these movements based on frequency, intensity and regularity in combination with your physical information. If you are being sedentary, the watch will beep with an alert display telling you to MOVE IT.
The Activity calculation can be adjusted based on your real world activity level and what kind of training you do.
Exercise Mode allows you to select the type of exercise you are about to do as well as calibrate the GPS signal and Heart Rate signal. Once one or both of these are set, you are ready to exercise and have the watch start recording. To do so, you simply press the middle red right button to begin recording. At any time you can pause recording by pressing the lower left side button.
We found that the GPS signal could take up to 10-20 seconds to fully calibrate on cloudy days. The Heart Rate signal is streamed using Bluetooth from the Heart Rate chest strap to the watch. A little heart indicator displays when the chest strap is synced to the watch. The first time you use the watch it will ask you to pair up the heart rate monitor. Once paired you will not be asked to pair it again.
The M400 night light (Upper Left) is super bright. I even have used it to find some of my shoes in the early morning darkness. It’s almost like having a mini flashlight on your wrist.
The M400 is charged using a micro USB plugged into the back side of the watch. Once plugged in the, M400 will start charging and if accessible will attempt to sync to Polar’s Flowsync Software. Any recorded workouts are uploaded to Polar’s Flow Software for viewing and analyzing.
Once Syncing is complete you can view your workouts online in a calendar view with Polar’s Flow Software. Besides recording workouts, the watch also records times of inactivity and that is represented by the Yellow triangles. The M400 comes with an inactivity alarm that basically says “get your butt moving!”. Ok maybe it says something a little less harsh, but you get the hint.
We or rather I started running with a group on Fridays. The run is called the Bomb Run and it can be wicked fast. It’s a drop run, so if you can not hang, you are spit out of the back. Needless to say I have been spit out quite a few times. The run starts out deceivingly slow for the first few miles and then picks up from there. By the end, the run can be going well under 6 minute pace.
Prior to working out, you can use the Polar Flow software to setup your M400 screen displays, set up interval timers (Distance or Time alerts) and other cool features.
Recording the workout is a snap. Simply wait for the GPS to sync and if you have the heart rate strap, sync that up as well. Once one or both are synced, you press the Start Button (Middle Right), choose which workout you are doing (Running, Walking, Other, Nordic Walking…) and press the start button again to begin the recording.
To pause the workout during the run, you simply click the pause button (Lower Left). To start recording again you click the Start Button. To end the recording session you click the pause button and then hold the pause button again for 3 seconds.
At some point you will charge your Polar M400 and if you have your USB connected to your computer, it can upload the workout information to the Polar Flow software.
When viewing the workout sessions in the Polar Flow software’s diary view, you can load individual workouts simply by clicking on them where you are present with more detailed information.
I was using both the GPS functionality and the Polar Heart Rate Strap for the stats below. As you can see, both speed and heart rate were recorded. The Friday Bomb run started out at a rather leisurely pace of 9 minutes and finished under a 6 minute pace, well at least it did for the people in front of me. I maxed out at somewhere around a 6:12 pace. Not too shabby for a guy who is 1/2 a century old. Did I mention I was 50. Unfortunately there was a 54 year old guy who finished ahead of me, so I can’t use age as an excuse.
What I find really cool about the information is you can see a map of the course as well as stats all along the route. You can even highlight parts of the course to see where you ran faster or slower as well as get a better idea of pacing vs heart rate.
Other Cool M400 Features
Fitness Test: The M400 Fitness test is one of my favorite tests. It involves relaxing for 4-6 minutes while your heart rate is analyzed. It’s a test anyone can do. Once finished, your VO2max result is displayed. I am proud to say it recorded my VO2max score around 62, which put me in the Elite category for my age. That’s right, Mr Armstrong has got to be worried. Sadly after doing a quick search for his VO2max score I realized he is way above mine, somewhere around 78 to 92. Oh well back to the drawing board I go.
Training Summary: After a workout, the M400 gives you stats for the workout session. These are really helpful at a glace stats. To get the most out of the recordings, you simply upload the information for even more stats.
- Distance awards
- Start time, Pace and Distance
- Textual feedback pertaining to the workout
- Summary of Heart Rate Zones
- Average and Max Heart Rates
- Calories Burned
- Average Pace and Max Pace
- Running Index
- Lap Information
Syncing with iPhone and iPad
The M400 comes with Bluetooth Smart technology allowing you to sync to things like an iPhone or iPad. Polar also offers free apps for those devices that allow you to view your workout. The apps are simply fantastic and are perfect for reviewing your sessions post workout on bigger screens.
Showing off the information to friends is super easy and everyone we showed the information to was Wowed by all the cool features.
M400 Stride Sensor
Polar offers a stride sensor accessory that attaches to your shoe. The sensor is Bluetooth enabled and is designed for runners who want to improve their technique and performance. Although we didn’t get a chance to test out the Sensor, it comes with some pretty cool features.
- Measures each stride you take to show running speed and distance
- Helps improve your running technique by showing your running cadence and stride length
- Allows you to see how your running performance changes, with Polar’s unique Running Index
- Compact and fits securely on your shoelaces
- Compatible with iPhone 4S and later
Overall Impression With the Polar M400
The M400 is an absolute winner. It’s elegant, it’s functional and comes with all the bells and whistles one could possible want in a running/walking fitness watch. The only function we would love Polar to add, would be a some type of thermometer to record temperature.
To get the latest scoop on the Polar M400, check out Polar’s Website.