(Pocket-lint) - It used to be that the only wearable tech you could pick up for around the £100 marker was a barebones step tracker. Prices have tumbled though. Those steps counters are now available for less than £30, and dedicated running watches, such as the new Polar M200, are edging closer to that magical £100 price point.
Available for around £120, the M200 is more affordable than most. Impressively, its affordable positioning doesn't mean a limited array of features either. Instead of cutting corners, this fitness wearable packs in everything you'd expect from a dedicated running watch including GPS for accurate activity tracking and an integrated heart-rate sensor for improved fitness monitoring.
There is a catch though: this barebones price does mean a uninspired look and feel to the design. Is such a compromise worth making or has just too much been skimmed off the top to make the Polar M200 a running watch worth living with?
The Polar M200 is a solid running watch that, for the price, packs in far more than you'd expect. There's no escaping its oversized design that thanks to its tiny screen always looks larger than it is, but this is just one slight against an otherwise accomplished device.
Some gadgets combine to be greater than the sum of their parts. The M200 isn't one of them. You get what you see, with the whole package never really melding together seamlessly.
Thanks to a solid app though, impressive heart-rate tracking and, for the most part, decent GPS, it's a watch perfect for those looking to increase their running efforts without breaking the bank.
Polar M200: The alternatives to consider
Garmin Forerunner 35
Yes, it's ugly, but looks aside this is an accomplished running watch with capabilities that exceed its affordable asking price.
- Garmin Forerunner 35 review: An affordable, effective running watch
- Buy the Garmin 35 from Amazon UK for £170, or Amazon US for $200
Apple Watch Nike+
You don't have to compromise on style. If you're willing to pay the price, you can get fitness tracking and smart notifications in a watch you won't want to take off.
- Apple Watch Nike+ review: Great smartwatch just not a perfect runner's watch
- Buy the Apple Watch Nike+ from Amazon UK for £495, or Amazon US for $509
- Accurate fitness tracking
- Impressive week long battery
- Strong app with plenty of data detail
- No bespoke charger to worry about
- Some GPS issues
- Big and bulky design
- Limited strap options
- Awkward interface
Polar M200 review: Design
- 12mm thick; 40g
- Available in black or red
- Interchangeable wristbands available in a range of colours
In terms of design, the Polar M200 is classic running watch. Big, bulky and lacking in any sort of finesse. It's comfortable but not particularly attractive. The Apple Watch Nike+ this is not.
Instead of sleek curves and easy-on-the-eye materials, the M200 is fat, crafted from a robust combination of rubber and plastic, with a thin metal base and physical buttons that stick out of either side. At 12mm thick it'll dwarf smaller wrists and its small screen is engulfed by plenty of plastic framing. At least it's round though, unlike the Garmin Forerunner 35 and its square form that catches the eye for all the wrong reasons.
The Polar's circular style is only a minor design win though. The watch's round, unassuming form might not be the most stylish, but it's not offensive either. You won't win any style points rocking it away from the running track, but neither will you stand out. At a push, and in more relaxed work environments, you could wear it on a daily basis.
Despite its size, the M200 is lightweight, with its 40g form sitting comfortably on the wrist whether sat at a desk or running a 10K. This comfortable fit is enhanced by a strong metal buckle that keeps the watch locked firmly in place.
The hard-wearing thick silicone strap can stand up to some serious abuse, but the watch itself doesn't feel that sturdy. That's because the two aren't really connected. Instead, the watch is a pod that clips into the strap. It locks in well and never feels loose, but there's no strong seal.