Look and Feel
The A360 is an activity tracker that’s been combined with a basic heart rate monitor using an optical sensor. It is NOT a GPS watch (although I always run with my Nike+ app so this doesn’t bother me). The unit has a sharp and colorful touchscreen display, which illuminates when you twist your wrist (similar to an Apple Watch and other devices) to help save battery. On the lines of the battery, mine lasts just over a week – although the website says it can last 2 weeks. There’s a micro-USB charging port under the watch pod which is handy, and there’s a flap to close it off to allow the watch to be waterproof to 30m (although I haven’t tested this).
The Polar A360 doesn’t do any sort of continual 24/7 heart rate monitoring. The HR sensor is ONLY enabled when you start a workout. There is also a feature to check your heart rate at that moment, although the heart rate reading isn’t recorded anywhere.
The band is quite sleek and the screen pod clips out of the rubber band – meaning you can buy different coloured bands. Some users have mentioned that the pod occasionally falls out, but so far that hasn’t happened to me.
I bought this one over the Polar M400 because I really wanted the colour screen and for it to show me what heart rate zone I was in (cardio/fat burning/ high intensity training). It sits comfortably on my wrist, and has a sleek design, and you can scroll through your daily activity and workouts on the watch, and manually sync it via Bluetooth to the polar app on your phone.
There are various workout modes you can select from prior to working out. Programs include running, cycling, walking, ‘other indoor exercise’ and ‘other outdoor exercise’, group exercise (e.g. a dance class), and strength training. I walk 2.5 miles to work and back each day, so I can set the watch to 'walking' and it monitors my heart rate and at the end gives me a report of the HR zones I was in (for low intensity steady state ‘LISS’ I make sure I'm within the 50-70% heart rate zone – approx. 103-144 bpm).
It's great for resistance and HIIT workouts because you can constantly monitor your heart rate and work harder to stop your HR from falling into a lower zone. It ‘s also particularly useful when doing interval training, as I don’t need to rely on a treadmill. It even buzzes when I've been sat down for too long which is handy when you have a desk job.
I could show you a load of graphs and charts, but the end story is that it is not as accurate than a HR watch with a chest strap… and it’s unlikely any HR watch will ever be as accurate than one with the chest strap. It is, however, the first watch with an optical heart rate sensor – and I’m willing to ease up on the accuracy by a few BPM’s to avoid wearing a chest strap.
In a nutshell
The Polar M400 is better value for money and comes with the chest strap which, of course, is more accurate. I specifically wanted the Polar A360 for its colour screen (I know, I know) because it makes aiming for the fat burning zone or cardio zone a lot clearer.
The A360 also helps to bridge the gap between functionality and fashion. It has a really nice looking screen with a changeable watch strap (purchased separately), and due to being able to select different workout modes it’s great for those who do different types of exercise – walking, fitness classes, gym sessions and circuit workouts. It IS sleek and slim, but for a woman with small wrists or dainty jewellery, I still think it could be slimmer, and a bit more discreet. It looks a bit odd wearing it on my left wrist, so close to my engagement ring – almost like a police electronic tag! That’s said, you don’t have to wear it all day every day – you could use it just for workouts, but then you wouldn’t get the idle alerts or a clear idea of your daily activity. It aims to keep you moving and active throughout the day, and not just when you’re doing your workout.
It’s rather high priced for its limited features compared with its competitors, and some take issue with it not monitoring heart rate every. Second. Of. The. Day. (Something I’m really not fussed about.) Sadly it is unable to indicate estimated distance with no built in accelerometer and no GPS, but I have my Nike+ app for this, which I will always continue to use (I have a separate Nike+ profile with my running stats for the last 10 years). But yes, I can see why some people would like one bit of tech to track ALL their data, and not have a series of apps and watches monitoring different things. I’d have quite liked something that could just ‘tell’ when I’m doing a workout, as you do have to remember to set it to a workout mode, and then more importantly, end the workout on your watch – several times I’ve been sat down at work for half the morning until suddenly realizing I’ve forgotten to end the workout – this affects my average heart rate reading.
There are definitely some really good things about this watch – ones that persuaded me to buy it over the Apple Sport watch or the Garmin Forerunner. It’s a 24/7-activity tracker, tracks steps, distance, calories and sleep. I like all the diagrams and pie charts it shows you on the Polar app on my iPhone, which is manually synced via Bluetooth. The calories calculated are based on your personal data – taking height and weight into account, plus your heart rate during the workouts, and vibrates for alarms, idle alerts, and if you link it to an Android phone, you could receive notifications and messages – similar to the Apple watch (although the idea of messages sent to my watch horrifies me). The screen is really crisp with a touch-enabled display, and the clock slowly changes colour throughout the day to reflect your activity percentage.