Reviews
Polar A300
Fitness and Activity Monitor

By Jorge Figueiredo - March 27th, 2015

a300-1

Fitness bands have been all the rage for a while now, but most of the time I find that most people, once buying a Fitbit or a Nike+ Fuelband, adhere to their newly discovered interest in getting into shape for a short time, and eventually start to “forget” their new wearable tech on the top of the dresser. I, personally, have never been into the bracelet-style of fitness tracker. When Polar sent us their A300 to check out, though, I was far more receptive to trying it out due to its more traditional aesthetic. Of course, it is a lot more than just a watch, and now I am addicted to it.

The Polar A300 has two main components: the watch body a and the band. The fitness tracker itself is a square unit (roughly 3.5 cm by 3.5 cm, and just over 1 cm thick), with a large face dominating almost the entire top side, two buttons on the left edge and three buttons along the right edge (the buttons are stainless steel, with the face of the middle right button coloured red for easy reference). The bottom edge of the watch acts as both the main tab that holds the watch in the rubber casing, and also as the interface to your computer (it is a USB connector). The top edge of the watch is curved, and holds the watch in place with tension (it also acts as the opening mechanism: slightly bend the band and grab this top edge with your thumb to pull the whole unit out of the casing). The band itself is composed of flexible rubber, and while the whole ensemble doens’t resemble like an expensive Swiss timepiece, it definitely looks sleek thanks to the simple design and contrasts that are employed.

a300-2
Box contents (with H7 heart monitor).

The strap is a lot more durable than I initially thought. I put this watch through its paces and found that even though the sides of the casing are on the thin side, the band held up well, even with repeated removal and insertion of the watch. The watch is also water-resistant, which puts to rest any fear of wearing it in the rain (or during an intense, sweaty workout), or forgetting to take it off when you step into the shower. Should you damage the strap that you have, or perhaps if you would like to change it up a little, you can purchase additional straps for around $30 each.

Comfort-wise, the A300 fits nicely. Thanks to the stippled pattern on the inside of the watch band, and the light weight of the watch (less than 50g), it almost feels like it’s not there – until it catches on something. Due to the thickness of the watch, and the rubber casing, it tends to snag on clothing (or pillows/sheets when bedtime rolls around). It’s not the end of the world, certainly, but it should be noted. Aside from that issue, everything else is great. The buttons are large enough to be easily depressed, and the spacing between them is ample (so mistaken button presses are rare). I was a bit leery about using the watch during the workout, given how easy it is for the buttons to be activated intentionally – but in all of my workout sessions, none of the buttons were activated accidentally.

a300-3
The START button is important.

The watch is powered by an internal battery, which lasts for up to four weeks and can be recharged via any convenient USB port in short order. This was fantastic, because the last thing that I want to have to do is worry about having to charge it every day. The A300 comes with an extension cable, to allow for easy charging and syncing of data (though the watch can be plugged straight into one of your computer’s USB ports). Upon the first usage, the Polar watch will prompt you to download and install the Polar Flow application. Once plugged in and synced, your default web browser will open a page to the Polar portal (you’ll need to create an account), where all of your data resides for easy access (and it is not shared, unless you want it to be). The watch also has the ability to connect via Bluetooth, so your iOS or Android devices will also be able to connect with it, once you download the Polar app. Connecting your watch is the best way to track all of your statistics, and take advantage of Polar’s coaching features. So what exactly does the A300 track?

The A300 may not be as elegant as other watches, but its no-nonsense functionality is quite refreshing. Users will be able to set training targets (created in the web service and synced to the watch) and follow their regimen thanks to handy prompts from the watch (the large display shows when you are active using a bar that ”fills up” as you make your way closer to meeting your daily goals). A training diary can also be consulted that shows how you are performing relative to your goals, and you can even pursue these goals by activating the profile on your watch that matches your desired training activity (you can even create your own). The diary breaks down your daily routine into five different activity levels (ranging from sedentary to fully active), to give you an idea of where you need to spend more attention. The integrated web service also gives you an up-to-date analysis on your activities.

a300-4
The Polar Flow app provides stats, feedback, and training suggestions.

While the unit does not come with GPS, the internal accelerometer that will track some of the basics, like steps and the distance that you travel. It uses this information to calculate how many calories you have burned each day (though this is not 100% accurate), which is helpful when creating your daily menu. The A300 also tracks your sleep (restful and restless), and other inactive periods. One of my worst work habits is physical inactivity. Sometimes, at work, I get so involved in what I am doing that I neglect my body’s need to move – so, even though I am exercising my brain, I end up just sitting there as my fingers move over the keyboard. The Polar A300 provides stern haptic (and audio) feedback to the wearer that they have to get up (you can also have it do this in the morning to wake you up). Not only does it remind you – it also notes this period of inactivity (1 hour of not really moving from the spot) and stamps it into your schedule. While this may seem somewhat strict, it does provide the user feedback, which enables the tracking of harmful patterns. One of the most impressive things that I found was that the Polar A300 seems to do a good job detecting sleep versus general inactivity – also, the watch pedometer was difficult to fool (so good luck faking your results since it probably takes less effort to actually do the actual activity).

It’s important to note that to truly get the most benefit out of this product, pairing it with the H7 Heart Monitor is best practice. The heart monitor comes with an elastic strap (with an electrode on one side) that can be paired with the A300. Once synced, the H7 and A300 will inform you what your heart rate is (by bringing the A300 close to the heart monitor) in either beats-per-minute or as a percentage of your maximum heart rate. The additional benefit of having the heart rate monitor is that your training will benefit greatly by keeping your heart rate in pre-defined zones during your workouts. Like the watch, the H7 is water-proof, and can be used in many activities (including swimming).

a300-5
Do you and your Polar A300 want to try the perfect threesome? Pick up the H7 with it.

The A300 is available from Polar’s website for $169.99 ($219.99 with the H7 heart rate monitor). Given the buzz on the internet, this seems to be an expensive purchase for what you get – but honestly, after all I have seen and how handy it has been, I think it’s worth the money. The biggest argument against the A300 is the fact that the Polar M400 is only $219.99 (and includes a GPS chip) – however, that price does not include the heart rate monitor. If GPS functionality is worth $50 to you, then you might be better off grabbing the M400. However, I see no reason to snub the A300, as it is a functional and durable accessory that acts as a great companion for your fitness needs.

Comment away!

Please keep it clean. Unnecessary cursing will be removed.

Article comments by non-staff members do not necessarily reflect the views of Toronto Thumbs.


eight − 7 =