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Polar A300 Fitness Watch and Activity Monitor Review

Polar A300 Activity TrackerI’ve been using some form of activity tracker for a few years now. For a while I had a Fitbit (which went missing in Florida a few years ago), but my go-to device for the past year or so has been the Garmin Vivofit. For the most part I really like the Vivofit – solid battery life and tracking accuracy, smallish form-factor, works with a heart rate monitor, etc. But the Garmin Connect app isn’t great, and I’ve had some issues getting the Vivofit to sync reliably with my phone (I lost a few months of data doing a factory reset in order to get it to sync).

A few months ago Polar offered to send me a test sample of their new A300 fitness watch/activity tracker. I’ve never used a Polar device before, and being a bit of a gadget junkie, I agreed to try it out (Disclosure: the device reviewed here was a media sample provided free-of-charge by the manufacturer). I was particularly interested in how it would compare to the Garmin Vivofit. I’ve now been using the Polar A300 for a few months, and it’s time to share my thoughts.

First off, the Polar A300 is a watch, whereas the Vivofit is a narrower band. Both tell time, but since I already use a GPS watch I prefer to have a band on the opposite wrist so as not to look like a total geek. So I’m going to write this review as if the A300 is your primary watch.

The A300 is a nice looking, well-made device. The wristband comes in several different color options (white, pink, black and a few others) – the device pops in and out of the band with ease, and has a built-in USB plug so it can be inserted directly into a computer for syncing and charging. Band comfort is good – no issues there. I’d have no problem using the A300 as my full-time watch from an appearance or size standpoint.

Polar A300 Pieces

As for function, the A300 does a solid job tracking steps, but one complaint I have here is that the watch-face displays a status bar below the time-of-day readout that slowly fills in as you accumulate steps rather than the actual step count. I much prefer seeing how many steps I’ve actually taken. You can click the bottom right button and go to your daily activity screen, and that adds in a percent value showing how close you are to reaching your daily step goal, but you still need another two button-clicks before you can view your actual step count. I’d love to see ability to display steps on the main watch face added via a firmware update.

Polar A300 Status BarPolar A300 ActivityPolar A300 Steps

One feature I like with regard to activity tracking is that the watch vibrates when you reach your daily goal or if you have been inactive for a long time. My Garmin Vivofit does neither, so this is a plus for the A300.

In addition to tracking steps, you can also record activities with the A300. There is no lap counter or stopwatch function per se, but you can time pre-set activities like walking, biking, swimming or running. These activities will show up when synced with your phone or on the Polar website. The A300 also does sleep tracking automatically (no need to put it into sleep mode) – it’s kind of cool to be able to see how often you stir at night, but I’m not entirely sure how to apply this knowledge in a practical way.

Polar A300 USBOne of the big pluses for the Garmin Vivofit is battery life. I’ve had mine for over a year and I still have not had to change the battery. The Polar A300 has a rechargeable battery that recharges via USB – you can either plug it directly into a USB port on your computer, or use an included USB extension cable. Though battery life is nowhere near as long as the Vivofit, I have gotten several weeks of life on each charge so it is still quite good.

The A300 can be purchased with or without a heart rate monitor. If you opt to buy the HRM, you can use it during activities and have it display your heart rate. You can also take advantage of Smart Coaching features when you wear the HRM. I do use heart rate as an indicator of effort, but mainly as a reminder to slow down when I push the effort too hard. As such, I have not made much use of the more advanced heart rate features. (Note: I have not been able to get the A300 to sync with my Scosche Rhythm+ optical heart rate monitor)

One additional heart rate feature is that you can use the HRM to conduct a fitness test. The Polar Fitness Test basically involves you lying down for a bit with the HRM on. The watch records your heart rate, and then spits an estimate of your VO2max. I did the test and the watch gave me a VO2max value of 48 – not too far off the value of 52 I got a few years back when I had the test done in a lab.

Polar A300 VO2max

Another plus for the A300 is the Polar Flow app. The app is pretty simple, but it displays activity data nicely and syncs flawlessly with the device via Bluetooth Smart (much more reliably than the Garmin Vivofit does with the Garmin Connect app). I like the circular display of daily activity periods (see below) – makes it really easy to see when I’ve been active and when I’ve been a slug. I haven’t used the Polar Flow website as much, but it has a nice interface and allows you to visualize your activity data in a variety of ways. Another point to note: the Polar Flow app syncs with MyFitnessPal, so if you use that site/app it’s an easy way to import your activity data and calorie burn.

Polar Flow App Daily Activity

Sample of daily activity screen from the Polar Flow app. Looks like I got restless around 2:00AM!

Polar Flow Calendar

My activity diary so far from May 2015 – via the Polar Flow website

So, as an activity tracker the Polar A300 is a great little device. It does just about everything that other activity trackers do, and adds in some more sophisticated heart rate training options. The main problem I have with it is pricing – at $140 without the HRM it costs $40 more than the Garmin Vivofit 2 and Polar Loop. For a device without GPS, this is a bit on the high side, especially when you compare it to a device like the Garmin FR15. The FR15 has heart rate, activity monitoring, and GPS. Pricing both with and without a heart rate monitor included is almost identical between the two devices, which makes me question why one would opt for the Polar A300. Similarly, the Polar M400 watch has GPS, heart rate, and activity tracking and the cost is only about $20 more than the A300. Thus, pricing on the A300 is in line with GPS-enabled activity trackers, but it lacks GPS. Even if you don’t think you need GPS, given the price difference, it might make sense to go with one of the other devices should it become a feature you want at some point.

Conclusion

Overall, I’ve enjoyed using the Polar A300 for the past few months. It’s a solid device, and one to look at if you want an activity tracker with a watch form-factor and advanced heart rate functions. However it is a bit pricy for a watch without GPS, so keep that in mind when weighing your options – comparably priced devices with GPS functionality are available and might be a better option.

Purchasing Options

CleverTraining SquareThe Polar A300 is available for purchase at Amazon.com, Polar.com, and Clever Training. Among these options, Clever Training specializes in fitness electronics, and has agreed to provide a 10% off discount to Runblogger readers on most products that they carry – just enter the code RunBlogXJT at checkout. Purchases support this site and help me to write reviews like this one. Your support is very much appreciated!

About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. Hi ! I had a question about the Polar A300. DO you have to wear the heart rate strap ALL DAY to get all the functions like steps and stuff?

    or can you just where the strap during workouts?

  2. I’m confused. I bought the a300 mainly for heart rate and I can’t seem to find it on the watch. Can u not just check your heart rate at all times? Or do u need the HR strap?

  3. Kerry-Anne says:

    I wish I would have done more research before buying this watch. Completely disappointed. The watch face falls out of the watch band on a daily basis. The band constantly comes undone. I regret giving my far superior Fitbit away.

  4. I just bought mine and it arrived this month. I know it’s one year after the release of the product, but I am excited at how much cheaper it is now, plus it has notifications from the newest update. Get calls, text messages, and other social updates right to your watch! woot!

  5. Brigitte Preda says:

    Hey, just bought my A300. I’m curious if i have to choose a program like indoor activities for monitoring my sleep amd if i have to wear the hr band through the night for monitoring.
    Thank you!


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