Thursday, August 2, 2012

Product Review: Polar AW200 Activity Watch

When I first started running (and could do more than a mile), I decided that I needed some type of watch to help log my time on my runs. Of course a GPS watch would have been a great choice but 1) I didn't know what I really needed and 2) I was too cheep to buy one of those thing for something that I was not really serious about yet. When I first started running, I was doing a lot of traveling for work and thus, earning a lot of points on my American Express card. I used those points to get this watch. 

This watch has the following features:

  • Duel Time Zones

  • Barometer

  • Stop Watch

  • Pedometer

  • Records number of steps in 5 different zones

  • Altimeter

  • Calories Burned

  • Temperature

  • Cute graphical guy that runs with you (and looks annoyed when you stop moving).

The watch is easy to use. The first step is to enter your age, gender and weight so the watch can calculate the calories burned. After that it is pretty straight forward. You can also set the watch to display barometer or altimeter. Although the idea of an inexpensive altimeter watch sounds great, this watch does not have a real altimeter in it. Instead, it uses the barometer to determine elevation change (the higher you go, the lower the barometer). This works great except when a weather front moves in. A quick moving storm will fool the watch into thinking you are either going up or down. The manual for the watch says that if you want the altimeter to be accurate, then it recommends you set it before each time you use it (not very useful, IMHO). I left the watch in barometer mode as it will still record elevation during a workout.

The watch has three modes. The main (middle) mode displays the time. If you press the top button on the right side, it will display the barometer/altimeter screen (with the current temperature). If you press the bottom button on the right side, it will display the workout screen. 

You can press and hold the center button on the right side to begin a work out (or you can press the bottom button on the right and then press the center button). During the workout, the little guy will show you which zone you are in. the zones are:

  • Slow walk

  • Normal Walk

  • Brisk Walk

  • Slow run (Jog)

  • Run

However, what speed you have to be going for each zone is unknown. During a workout, you can press the top and bottom buttons on the right to change watch modes, however your workout is still going. To stop a workout, you press the bottom button on the left to first pause the workout and then again to stop it. Pressing the center button while paused will start the workout again. During a workout, the watch will display your zone, the workout time and the calories burned. Once you are done with your workout, the watch saves the data. It stores your last 9 workouts. Sadly this watch does not interface with your computer so you will have to manually enter the data into whatever you are using to track your run (Polar does have a website that allows you to enter all the data from the watch: When you review your workout, it displays the total steps, total time, active time, number of steps in each zone, elevation gain, elevation loss, max altitude and calories burned. 

These are the things things this watch does not do

  • Tell you how far you ran (you would have to figure you average distance per step and then do the math)

  • Allow you to do splits. It only tells you total time for the workout.

  • Track your heart rate

When I first started running, none of these were that big of an issue since I used my car to figure distances around my neighborhood before I went running and being a n00b, I didn't care about my splits or heart rate. The biggest drawback to this watch is the price. I have found it on-line between $80 to $200. Given that a Garmin 405 can be had for $140 on-line ( and other GPS watches run under $100, that price is hard to justify for the features. The watch is really just a really cool pedometer and you can do better for the price.

Summary (scale of 0-5):

Battery Life: 5  (about 4 years, non-rechargeable watch battery)
Data Tracked: 3 
Data Upload/Website: 1 (It has a good website but you have to manually enter the data)
Size/Look: 3.5 (it is smaller than a GPS watch and you could wear it as a daily watch without looking too runner-geek)
Ease of Use: 5
Cost: 2 (it cost from $80 to $200 and you can get a good GPS watch for about that price) 


Beginner Runner: If you can get one for cheep or free, I would recommend this watch. That being said, given the cost, look for a GPS watch

Intermediate Runner: No. Even without the cost, it just does not track the information you need from your runs.

Advanced Runner: No. Even without the cost, it just does not track the information you need from your runs.

Now that I have totally not recommended this watch, I would just like to say that I still use my watch. I like to use it on "naked" runs, where I know the distance I am running and only want how long it takes me. (I know the definition of naked run means no electronics but for me, I am happy just not recording my splits, elevation profile, heart rate, etc.) I also will use it for races where the distance is know. It is just nice sometime to not worry about my watch losing a GPS signal or such things. That being said, any $10 watch these days has a simple stop watch on it that would work too, but for me, this was my first sport watch and it means a lot to me.


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