Polar A370 review: Not fighting fit

Price when reviewed

I’m a recent Polar convert. Ever since reviewing the M430 in October 2017 it has been a faithful companion on one wrist on race day. Aside from being a generally brilliant running companion, it also does a great job of highlighting when other wearables I’m reviewing aren’t pulling their weight.

Unfortunately for Polar, in this case, the wearable the M430 chose to show up was its stablemate the A370. It’s a wristband about which I can find regrettably little to recommend, especially at its optimistic £170 price point.

Polar A370: Design[gallery:1]

Things don’t get off to a great start with the design. This is a fitness tracker, rather than a smartwatch, so discretion is the watchword but, while it is considerably less ugly than the M430, it’s alarmingly chunky for a wristband, poking out a good centimetre from the skin.

That may not sound like a lot but consider the iPhone X is 0.77cm thick and then imagine having something thicker pressed against your wrist 24/7. It makes the impossibly good-looking people on the Polar page look less like models and more like prisoners on day-release, tagged for public safety.

When I first saw it, my immediate impressions were that it looked like a knock-off Fitbit Charge 2, a view that only solidified when the tracker started to come loose from its rubber housing after repeatedly lifting the flap on the bottom to charge it. It does have a micro-USB port, though, which as someone with a drawer full of weird and wonderful fitness tracker cables is a small plus. The pluses don’t last for long, though.[gallery:2]

Control of the A370 is achieved via a single back button and a touchscreen. Touchscreen controls on fitness trackers are a terrible idea unless you happen to never run in the rain or perspire at all. And although the 80 x 160 screen is a full-colour TFT job, which looks nice enough, even there Polar makes a baffling misstep. While on the homepage all the icons have text explanations, in settings all you get is a set of cryptic graphics.

Finally, it’s just not that comfortable to wear, which is a problem for a device that’s supposed to be worn all the time, up to and including the moment you fall asleep at night.

Polar A370: Performance[gallery:4]

The fact is, though, that you could level many of these criticisms at the excellent M430, build quality and touchscreen qualms aside. The difference is that the M430 is unnervingly accurate while the A370 outsources its accuracy to your phone. It was spot-on with my Pixel 2 but really iffy with my Samsung Galaxy S7.

The M430 has built-in GPS y’see, while the A370 piggybacks off your phone. That means if your phone has flaky GPS, then so does your wristband. Now, the best fitness trackers compensate for that with educated guesswork based on step count and clever analysis of a patchy GPS signal (e.g: you moved from A to B, in X minutes, and thus you probably travelled Ykm).

The A370 did not, and with the S7 the results were just plain weird. On the first run I did with it, the A370 tracked 2.16km when I ran 2.5km. On the second attempt, it overcompensated massively in the opposite direction, estimating I did 12.62km when I only covered 10.07km. Finally, I took part in a parkrun that it estimated was nearly half a kilometre longer than it actually was, no matter how disappointing my time.polar_m430_vs_a370

To be clear, it was spot-on when I ran 2.5km with the Pixel 2, matching the M430’s readout exactly. Heart rate tracking was also solid, no matter what phone it was accompanying.
So am I just being mean to the Polar A370 because my main phone has patchy GPS? If I’d only connected it to the Pixel 2, I wouldn’t even know this was an issue after all.

Well, maybe – but even if I am being unfair in that respect, the A370 still doesn’t represent great value for money. At £170, it’s a mere £30 less than the GPS-laden M430. The Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro is around the same price, has GPS and is swimproof.

If you want to compare like for like, things get worse: it’s between £50 and £70 more expensive than the Fitbit Charge 2 or Fitbit Alta HR, both of which do exactly the same things as the A370, but look stylish doing so. If you want to save money AND get GPS, then the Garmin Forerunner 30 is fantastic too, and it comes in at £130.polar_a370_review_-_app

It’s a shame, because the Polar Flow app is really nice, neatly breaking your day up in terms of exercise and offering a huge spread of statistics on each burst of activity. It easily connects to other apps, too, including MyFitnessPal, Strava, Nike+ and Google Fit. Brilliantly, it also allows you to add Polar training results and Polar training targets to Google calendar, a cunning way of ensuring your fitness goals follow you around.

Polar A370: Verdict[gallery:6]

Ultimately, though, this counts for nought if the product isn’t that great and that’s sadly where I end up with the A370. It doesn’t look great, isn’t hugely comfortable or easy to use, relies heavily on your phone and is outdone by cheaper, better products.

Even if it were £50 cheaper, I would still probably advise opting for a Fitbit Charge 2, Alta HR or Garmin Forerunner 30 instead. Better luck next time, Polar.

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