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Polar M430: An In-Depth Review [Updated 2018]

Polar M430 GPS Running Watch
  • Editor Rating
  • Rated 5 stars
  • 100%

  • Heart Rate functionality
    Editor: 90%
  • Heart Rate Accuracy
    Editor: 97%
  • Activity Tracking features
    Editor: 95%
  • Running functions
    Editor: 95%
  • Cycling functions
    Editor: 80%
  • Fitness monitoring features
    Editor: 90%
  • Ease of Use
    Editor: 90%
  • Battery Life
    Editor: 90%

What Polar have done with the Polar M430 is take the brilliant M400 and add wrist based (strapless) heart rate sensors to the back of the watch.

The Polar M430 GPS running watch has been reviewed by Tristan Haskins for CardioCritic

Polar M430 review GPS sport watch with wrist based heart rate and 100 sports profiles

Release Date (UK) > April 2017

Product it replaced > Polar M400

Recommeneded Retail Price (when new) > £199

Replaced by > none – current model


The Polar M400 was recognised as one of the best GPS running watches for many years. It has everything a running watch needs including a clear bright display, auto-lapping, 5 x HR zones, long battery life, built-in GPS etc.

More recently the Polar M400 became less popular because it requires a traditional chest strap style heart rate sensor.

People often opting for the Garmin Forerunner 235 or less functional Polar M200 instead.

Enter the new Polar M430 – a firm contender as the Best Running Watch of 2018.

Polar have been leading innovation in heart rate monitors since 1976.

CardioCritic has reviewed dozens of Polar Fitness trackers and heart rate monitors

The Polar M430 showing it's clear bright cusomisable display

More Polar M430 Resources

Who’s it For?

For any serious runners looking to improve the Polar M430 is the ideal training watch.

If you previously owned a Polar M400 then this is the obvious progression now featuring wrist based heart rate. Although the M430 is aimed strongly at the running market, there is no reason why other exercisers cannot benefit from it’s performance tracking features.

The Polar M430 rear view showing the 6 x LED heart rate sensors

The M430 is packed with performance monitoring features such as Training Benefit, Recovery Analysis, Intervals with vibrate alerts and much more.

In short, if you are serious about your running and have been considering alternative products like the Forerunner 235, then this M430 makes a competent alternative. One of the main features supported by the M430 is Polar’s own RUNNING PROGRAM.

It’s a brilliant feature that plans your training for a 5K, 10K, Half Marathon or Full Marathon. If you have any plans of running any of these races then this function alone is a good reason to buy a Polar M430.

Please scroll down for more details on the Polar Running Programme.

CardioCritic’s Video Review

This is quite a long video compared to some of my others, however, it needs to be.

The Polar M430 is a brilliant GPS sports watch and I wanted to produce a video review that provides the viewer with an in-depth insight into this watch. As with all my video reviews it’s pretty much unscripted so please forgive the occasional “errmmm” and “uummms”.

Don’t forget to visit my YouTube Channel and subscribe for updates on the latest reviews.

Watch below or click here for the Polar M430 Video Review

Heart Rate Accuracy

The Polar M430 can be used with a Polar H7 or Polar H10 Bluetooth heart rate sensor (chest strap style) if preferred.

The reason for this is simple:

There is NO brand of wrist based heart rate monitor that consistently acquires heart rate within 99.9% to 100% accuracy. If you insist on this level of accuracy you should pair the M430 with a chest belt HR sensor.

LED sensors acquire heart rate from the wrist

CardioCritic’s tests with wrist based heart rate monitoring including the Polar M200, M600 and A360 draw similar conclusions.

These sensors provide approximately 95% accuracy for about 95% of the time. However, they perform better for some sports than others.

For off road mountain biking with heavy wrist vibration they are more erratic and less accurate … for smooth road running, treadmill training and gym use they are generally more accurate. They also work best for STEADY level training e.g even pace running or road riding.

Rapid intensity changes from moderate to high HR in a short period of time, as experienced performing HiiT sessions or Fartlek training, may be less accurately recorded.

Personally, I prefer the convenience of NO CHEST STRAP for a vast majority of my training. However, when performing intervals of high intensity or mountain biking I may opt for the chest sensor for assured accuracy. With the M430 you have the option of both.

Update > July 31st. I have now finished some further tests comparing the accuracy of the M430’s off the wrist heart rate with traditional chest strap using Suunto Spartan (running) and Edge 820 (riding).

The results of these Polar M430 accuracy testing can be found here.

Next model UP

The next model up from the M430 is the Polar V800 reviewed here. The V800 does NOT feature wrist based heart rate relying on a Polar H7 or H10 heart rate sensor.

The other major difference between the two is the addition of MULTISPORT support in the V800.

For triathletes and other multisport athletes wanting to record bike/run or swim/bike/run etc in the same file (with discipline breakdown, transition times etc) then go for the V800.

Alternatively, for triathletes looking for freedom from a chest strap consider the Garmin Forerunner 935 or Forerunner 735XT with wrist based heart rate.

NOTE > CardioCritic hopes to see a new V800 soon featuring wrist based HR ….

Summary of key features found on V800 and NOT on M430

  • Triathlon Mode
  • Orthostatic Fitness test
  • Jump Tests
  • Swim Metrics
  • Power Pedal support
  • Cadence sensor support (pedal RPM)
  • Bike Speed Sensor support
  • Race Pace (the V800 can PACE you to achieve a distance in a set time)
  • Altimeter (GPS based)
  • Temperature
  • Polar V800 (reviewed here) – perfect for Triathlon and elite athletes

Next model DOWN

For those who run looking for something slightly less technical than this model Polar have their M200. The Polar M200 is 24/7 activity tracker with wrist based (strapless) heart rate and built-in GPS.

For a majority of runners and recreational exercisers the Polar M200 could be the better (and cheaper) option. For those with less focus on running and more on general exercise and well being Polar have their A360 fitness band. The A360 also features wrist based heart rate plus a super bright full colour display.

Think Fitbit but with a clearer and more informative display and better APP support.

If you are happy to wear a chest strap (and the Polar H7 is very comfortable) then consider the Polar M400. It’s been around a few yea

Best from the Competitors

The Polar M430 will be a best seller for several years to come (as was the M400). If you are in the market for a technical GPS running watch then the M430 could be your perfect training partner.

One of Polar’s strong points over their competition is the post exercise analysis from their Polar Flow website and app.

With everything from training load to recovery analysis it’s one of the best FREE apps out there. However, there are some other very good GPS running watches notable from Garmin.

The closest alternatives to the M430 are the Garmin Forerunner 35 and the Garmin Forerunner 235.

Built-in GPS & Heart Rate

The Polar M430, their latest running watch, features industry-leading heart rate algorithms. Some companies pop any old sensors in their product just so they can tick the [Heart Rate] box … not Polar.

The M430 has been designed and tested for reliability and accuracy. How many other GPS running watches include a proprietary optical heart rate solution with 6-LEDs?

At the end of your run it’s possible to relive your training session in great detail on the Polar Flow app and website. Please refer to paragraph above regarding heart rate accuracy …

Polar Flow showing GPS route and heart rate graph with HR zones

Auto-laps or Manual over-ride

The M430 can be set up for auto-lapping e.g every 1 x mile or every 1 x km. Alternatively, you can use the manual lap option OR both auto-lap and manual lap.

A summary review of each lap is available in the M430 at the end of the session. A more detailed lap review is available in the Polar Flow app / website as shown below.

Note > if you forgot to set auto-lap it is possible to add lap markers by distance, e.g. 1 mile (running) or 5 mile (cycling) using the “Split into Laps” feature.

Polar Flow showing detailed breakdown of lap splits


  • Wrist based heart rate from 6 x LED sensors
  • Built-in GPS
  • Built-in accelerometer to track distance when running indoors
  • Activity Tracker & Sleep monitor
  • Clear bright display in ANY light conditions
  • Packed with RUNNING specific features
  • Running Program - plan for 5K, 10K, 1/2 Marathon & full Marathon
  • Running Index - monitor your running performance progression
  • Provides feedback on Training Load and Recovery
  • Optional Battery modes can provide up to 30 hours training time
  • Smartphone notifications and alerts
  • NOT just for RUNNERS, supports over 100 Polar Sport profiles
  • Cons

  • Yet to find anything ....
  • Dedicated Running Functions

    It’s an all-in-one fitness tracker / sports monitoring device. It’s a 24/7 activity tracker and sleep monitor.

    When it comes to performance monitoring the M430 features dedicated features such as Running Index, Training Load, Recovery Status and more. However, none of these features impact the M430’s excellent battery life with a selection of GPS power modes extending the battery life to nearly 30 hours

    These advanced Smart Coaching features use the training data to show the efficiency of your running.  Athletes can gauge their current fitness levels and see progress along the way using the built-in Fitness Tests.

    At the end of every session receive immediate feedback explaining the benefits of a workout with Training Benefits.

    Polar Flow App with Personalised Feedback

    Polar doesn’t just provide a wealth of training metrics, it takes the running data and makes it actionable. When the M430 has been paired with Polar Flow it acts as your own personal running coach.

    Polar Flow provides personalised feedback, adaptive training plans and live guidance for athletes during various stages of their training sessions.

    Summary of a run with a Polar M430 shown on Polar Flow

    Planning for your next PB

    Some training programmes simply tell you what to do and when to do them. They do not take in to consideration your previous training load and recovery.

    Not so with the Polar Running Programme.

    Polar’s intelligent Running Programme considers your recent training session along with your current activity levels. Taking all that data in to consideration against your training goal it builds you a personalised running programme. Your daily training programme can then be uploaded to the M430.

    Running Programme Set Up

    Setting up your running program is simple. Log-in to your Polar Flow account and then click on PROGRAMS. Simply select your preferred EVENT from 5K to Marathon, give it a name, enter the start date and when the program starts …

    NOTE > if the event is TOO SOON, the intelligent Running Program will NOT let you enter the date. It will let you know what the minimum training time for each event is. e.g a 5K race requires 9 weeks and a half marathon 14 weeks …

    Start your running plan by completing these details in Polar Flow

    Polar M430 Running Watch Review – Affiliated Advert

    Previewing your Running Program

    One you have entered the information above your Running Program is created.

    The program consists of 3 training periods. Base Building, Build Up and Tapering as shown below

    A preview of the Polar Running program created specifically for YOU

    Your training program will be sent to the Polar M430 next time you synchronise the watch to Polar Flow. Your M430 will guide your daily training and help you achieve your running goal.

    Running Programme Video

    Polar Running Program is a free running plan that you can set up in the Polar Flow web service. It’s personal and easy to use and it guides you through your training and makes sure you’re in top condition come race day

    Running Index

    Polar calculates your Running Index score automatically after every run.

    Running Index is based on your heart rate and running speed collected via the Polar M430’s GPS.

    A higher reading indicates that you can run faster with less effort.

    An average score for a moderate male runner of 40 to 44 years would be 36 to 41. An elite runner of a similar age the Running Index would be in the region of 51 or more.

    Your Running Index can be accessed via Polar Flow with a clear time versus Running Index graph, hopefully showing your score increasing.

    Polar Flow graph showing improving Running Index score

    Customisable Training Views

    Just like the Polar M400, M450 and V800 the M430 features fully customisable training views.

    For each Sports Profile (running, cycling, gym, track etc) the training pages can be customised to suit your training needs.

    It’s possible to have as many as 8 x Training Pages per Sports Profile. Each page can be made up of 1,2,3 or 4 lines of training data.

    The examples below show 4 x different training pages that could all be stored under the RUNNING Sports Profile.

    The two examples of training pages above show a fundamental running option for Regular running with Distance, Pace, Duration and Heart Rate.

    The other shows Interval Training with Lap Distance, Pace, Lap Time and Heart Rate.

    These other two examples show more specific training pages for Track Running with just Lap Time and Heart Rate.

    The other shows a useful combination of metrics for Fartlek Training with Duration, Lap Time, Pace Zone and Heart Rate.

    Phased Targets – Interval Training

    The Polar M430 supports Polar’s Phased Target training. The M430 can store phased target interval sessions that can be recalled prior to starting a session.

    The image below shows a simple 4 x 1 Mile at 7:15 Pace Interval set. Before starting a run select the training session called “4 x 1 mile at 7:15” and the M430 will guide you through the session.

    More details of Phased Training here

    An example of a phased interval training session

    A simple Interval Session

    The M430 below shows a phased training session with WARM UP > 5 x minute WORK with 1 minute REST for each interval then a COOL DOWN

    Phased Training - Intervals on the Polar M430

    Image Gallery

    Activity To Go

    Polar M430 WHITE showing time TO GO to reach activity goal (walking, jogging & standing)

    Exercise Mode – Training Views

    Polar M430 BLACK/GREY in training mode. Remember, the training pages of the M430 can be customised to show precisely what you want to see from 1 line to 4 lines and various heart rate graphs etc

    Custom Watch Faces

    There are several watch faces to choose from, however, my personal favourite is the DEFAULT digital one rather than these two analogue ones shown here

    6 x Optical LED Sensors

    The 6 x optical LED sensors ensure accurate heart rate monitoring throughout the exercise session

    A History in Heart Rate Monitoring

    It should be remembered that Polar started monitoring heart rate way back in 1976. No other company has the years of experience that Polar has.

    No other company has access to some of the world’s best athletes relying on Polar to monitor their training.

    If you want the best in WRIST BASED heart rate monitoring then the M430 can promise that.

    Review Summary

    There is no doubting that the Polar M430 will become one of the most popular GPS running watches of 2018 and beyond. The Polar M200 (reviewed here) was a little disappointing with regard to DISPLAY size and clarity .. fortunately the M430 uses the same big CLEAR, BRIGHT display technology used by the M400 (reviewed here).

    Wrist based heart rate, built-in GPS, intervals, fitness testing, running programme, auto-laps and much more make it a HIGHLY recommended running watch.

    It is without any hesitation that CardioCritic awards the Polar M430 a stunning 5/5 Star Review rating.


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