SUP Review: Polar M400 GPS HRM

Intro

As I pointed out in the review of the Polar V800 I am always looking for something that will improve my paddling experience. This time around we have the baby brother/sister of the V800, the Polar M400. Again the fantastic girls and guys at Pursuit Performance Australia, thanks Sally, sent me a unit for the purposes of this review for a month. I then sent it back on completion, so don’t think I am getting a free watch just for doing a review. Because this watch is very similar to the V800 there will be a bit "like the V800" and "similar to the V800" around the place. This is not a cut and paste effort though, I promise.

 

In the box

As shown in the photo you get the unit itself, (Can be purchased with the Polar H7 heart rate strap for RRP $299 or $249 without, otherwise the Polar H7 RRP $99), USB Sync/Charger cable and the obligatory instruction manuals.

What does it do?

As per the Polar website here is a small section of the functionality list for the watch:

  • Audio alerts
  • Updatable software 
  • Data transfer via USB cable or Bluetooth Smart via Polar Flow mobile app
  • Memory capacity 30 h training with GPS and HR
  • Rechargeable battery with up to 8 h training time, 24 days in time mode with daily activity monitoring
  • HR based training zones
  • User configurable displays
  • Training benefit
  • Inactivity alerts
  • Training Diary
  • Water resistant (30m)
  • Interval trainer guided workouts HR/Distance
  • GPS based altitude
  • Daily activity monitor

To see it in it’s entirety head on over to www.polarm400.com

Comfort & Everyday wearability

This is a really comfortable watch to wear.  Like the V800, told you, the watch strap is nice and pliable without being too soft. On the underside is the charging/USB interface connection. The M400 has a mini USB connection that is protected by a rubber grommet that plugs into the connection. I was initially a bit concerned about its ability to keep the watch waterproofed but after talking to the reps at the Sydney Fitness Expo they assured me that this wasn't an issue. In the time that I used the watch I did not encounter any problems. It is also recessed in such a way that it does not cause any discomfort for the wearer. 

The M400 is a nice looking watch but it doesn't have the milled from a piece of stainless steel look about it like the V800. At this price point though and given the features of the watch I would say that it is a pretty good compromise. Naturally if you get the black version you are going to be set regardless of what you may be wearing, unless a suit is the order of the day. The white on the other hand may be a little harder to pull off unless you are a teenage tennis player with crop circles cut into your hair.

The M400 screen loses the Gorilla Glass of the V800 for the reason I am guessing is purely cost related. Despite this I did not notice or cause any damage to the screen of the M400 while I had it. 

Ease of use - Watch

Again like the V800 this watch is really easy to use. All of the buttons are labelled and are easy to read. The big red button remains however there are no labels on the M400, just arrows and icons. Not to hard to figure out though. The feel of the buttons is not as solid as the V800 and I did feel that I had to really give them a good hard press. Maybe if I had not come straight from using the V800 but my old Garmin or my G-Shock this wouldn't have been as noticeable. In the end though even if I had to hit the buttons with a mallet that I had to carry around in my shorts, it is still a hell of a lot better than a touch bezel or screen setup.  The only other difference though is that the controls for setting the alarm are now in the main menu and not under the Lock/Light button. Apart from those differences the menu system remains unchanged. Screen resolution remains the same.

What I really like –

Automatic sleep detection. This is such a fantastic feature of the Polar watches. When I am going to bed I have enough to try to remember, dog outside, vitamins, lock the doors etc without having to open up an app and select when I am going to sleep. The M400 (and V800) automatically detect that you have gone to sleep and when you get up and in the morning I am even less likely to remember to open up the app and tell it I have woken up.

Activity tracking, tracking. On the V800 you had activity tracking but all you had for information was a bar that filled up and not a lot else until you performed a sync with Polar Flow. The M400 has that problem resolved (as does the V800 due to a software upgrade in last November) and you now get to see how many steps you have performed for the the day on the watch.

Inactivity alerts. This was a nice surprise and I wondered what the hell was going on when the watch beeped at me the first time. It was just telling me to get off my but and get moving.

Personal records. Another new addition that wasn't on the V800. This feature will keep track over various distances/times and tracks when you achieve a new PR. Once you complete your session the watch will display if and when you top a previous PR. Nice.

Things I would like changed/fixed –

Multiple alarms. With the loss of some understandable features like vibration alerts and recovery guidance and given inactivity alerts were included, throwing in a couple of extra programmable alarms would have been a nice addition to top it off.

Ease of use - Software & Apps

This is exactly the same as per the V800 and I can only comment on the Polar Flow app on Mac OS X and iOS as when I had the watch for review, the Android app had been released. It now has, hoorah.. Like previously stated if you have no issues using Garmin Connect, Map My Run, Strava or the like then you are going to find Polar Flow very easy to use.

What I really like-

Sliders for post activity analysis. This allows you to select a segment of an activity and just see the stats of that segment. For example I wanted to know what my average HR and speed were for the middle 20 minutes of a 30 minute paddle. Move the sliders around and there it is.

Post activity lap analysis. I have seen this previously in Map My Run but only for the paid MVP option

Export of your session. You can export your activities in either GPX (Route info) or TCX (all of the info including HR, Speed etc) format for use in other programs like Strava and Training Peaks.

Add Training Sessions (Training Targets). This is what I am really excited about on this watch. You can design your own sessions using intervals based on time or distance and in addition allocate a desired HR Zone that you want to do the effort in. You then upload the session to your watch. Easy as.

Daily Activity Tracking. Nearly everyone you see today has some form of activity tracker on them whether it be a Fitbit (I have a Flex), Garmin, Jawbone and Magellan. They are a good way to see if you are moving and it is a good encouragement for a hell of a lot of people to keep active

Cleanliness. It looks really good, is easy to navigate

Things I would like changed/fixed –

Automatic configurable export. It would be awesome if there was integration between Polar Flow and Strava/Runkeeper etc. The export option is there but it could be better and easier

Still no SUP sport profile????? Again Polar, I am happy to be your guinea pig.

Conclusion

Image courtesy of DCRainmaker www.dcrainmaker.com

Image courtesy of DCRainmaker www.dcrainmaker.com

Another great offering by Polar. The M400 is a fantastic watch that does everything that a HRM/GPS watch needs to do, plus a little more AND is a very good activity tracker that detects you are in bed asleep and when you get up. Not only that but it does it all for $299. In addition it is a firmware upgradable watch that is getting some great features added all the time including alerts direct from your phone.

In summary, if you can live without the vibration alerts and recovery status information and don't really want to spend upwards of $600, then you should seriously have a look at this watch.