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The Motivation: If not now, then when? Life is too short to stay inactive.
The Challenge: If you are not willing to suffer, then you shouldn't be racing
The Dream: Staying fit and feeling younger day by day!

20 December 2012

Sports Watch Review: Polar RS300X Heart Rate Monitor

(an update was added to this post 12th Oct. 2014 - scroll at the bottom of this article)

Despite my full time job as a computer engineer, I am a keen sport's person and I am involved into rowing, cycling, triathlon, windsurfing for years. I realised that to get a basic feedback of your body conditioning DURING training requires a nice sports watch. There are currently hundreds of models on the market and it's a complete headache trying to pick up the one that best fits your needs.

I don't want to tire you with an exhaustive review about this watch (Polar RS300X), but I will try to outline its most important technical features. I assume that you are a serious sports person otherwise you don't need all the features of this watch. These combined features made me pick up this quality watch out of other branded sports watches or Polar models around an affordable price range (90-100 euro inc.VAT). Some of the features that I quote below are NOT mentioned (or better perhaps: are not clearly indicated) on the Polar official manual, despite being there for the user to enjoy! (you can download and read Polar RS300X user manual )  I have been using this watch during training/racing since 2009 and I never had any technical problems or issues with this model.

I've chosen Polar RS300X between other models after extensive market research, for the following reasons:

- Big (not bulky though) display, clear, neat, understandable and immediate reading of the numbers, even under strong sunlight or underwater conditions. This is important while you are training or racing. Buttons are easy to press and also there is almost no possibility to have any button pressed by accident (other models of Polar or other watches from other brands are known to have problem of buttons pressed unwillingly, say while you bent your wrist, etc.).
- Waterproof. I am using frequently this watch for swimming (both in pool and sea) sessions without problems. The only exception is that heart rate measurement cannot be performed underwater (this applies for ALL wireless HR monitors though). You might say that all sports watches are in general waterproof, but for me the waterproof property is only secured when I have successfully tried the watch in several different conditions - it's only then that user's doubt around this fact is eliminated. Having tried this watch in several instances, without problems, including Sprint and Olympic distance triathlon races, cycling sessions in rainy conditions , and open sea swimming workouts, I believe that this watch is indeed waterproof!
- Live view of information while you train on a powerful three-row multi-measurement triple-display-mode (see photo at the end of this post for description). You can change its mode between 3 different display status. In my opinion this is the MOST unique feature of this watch and it is the one you will be based upon while you train.Other models simply display fixed options and user cannot customise its appearance. For this reason I quote an extensive description of it at the end of this post, if you wish to know more about it.
- Memory: The information for each of your training sessions are stored in this watch and there is no need to download it on a computer to analyse it. Information stored include: Calories burned, max HR, avg HR, duration of training session, date and start time of training session, lap times. These measurements suffice to allow you pretty well to analyse your valuable training sessions.

As a final advice, I would recommend not to get the Polar RS300X watch with the alternative features such as the GPS or the RUN accessories. The reason is that extra devices are required to provide these measurements making the whole 'system' bulky. Note also that additional batteries are needed for these to operate and their battery life is pretty short (e.g. ~4 hours for the GPS) to be considered a stand-alone set.

Above: Standard view (watch mode) of the Polar RS300X watch. (Note that watch-strap around wrist is a one-piece component with the watch and it is not changeable in case it gets damaged. In that case you'll need to replace the whole watch!)
Above: Polar RS300X comes standard with a chest belt, which consists of the wireless transmitter enclosed in waterproof plastic case and an adjustable length elastic strap. Transmitter battery is user-friendly changeable. Belt length is adjustable to fit your chest periphery accordingly.

Above: One of the most powerful features that I love with the Polar RS300X is its 3-section neat and clear information display, which gives live and simultaneous HR information during your training/racing. 
This is not made clear on the Polar manual, so I explain it here briefly: In the photo above (displayed during measurement), the 1st row (from the top) displays the current lap time, the 2nd row (in the middle) the 'heart rate zone' in graphic scale from 1 to 5, and the 3rd row (bottom) the 'percentage heart rate pulse' with respect to maximum heart rate (you can predefined it to be displayed in 'bpm' instead of '% max' if you wish too). 
By pressing the upper right or bottom right button of this watch, you can change this live display between 3 different display-modes while you train. For example, you can have the first display-mode with the values as shown here, then by pressing the right (up or bottom) button you can jump to the second live display-mode where, for example, the first row displays 'calories burned', the second row 'current time' and 3rd row 'heart rate in bpm'. 
What each row (out of three) displays on each (out of three) display-mode is user selectable between several measuring values. Personally, I find this is a top class feature. The possible measuring values at each row are user-selectable and these are: 'calories', 'calories PER hour', 'current time', 'lap time', 'elapsed time', 'heart rate' either in bpm or %HRmax depending on the units defined by the user, 'heart rate zone scale'.
So to make it clear again, you can for example define one of your three display-mode to show 'heart rate' on the first row, 'elapsed time' on the second row, and 'heart rate zone scale 1-5' on the third row, and so on for the other 2 remaining display-modes.

This live feature is very powerful, since you can select a preferred display-mode during training according to your needs simply by pressing a button. As I said, there are 3 display-modes and you will probably define what each one of them shows on each row only once (this must be done prior to training, as you will have to quit measurement and define what each display-mode can show). Then simply you can swap between them by pressing a button during training.

Battery is user changeable for the watch, but Polar user manual recommends this to be done on a Polar authorised dealer, since it may require you to replace the sealing rubber too (this sealing rubber secures the joint between the back cover of the watch and the watch itself to make watch waterproof).

Hope the above information regarding Polar sport's watch RS300X has been of some help to you.

UPDATE (12 Oct. 2014): About 3 weeks ago I had to replace the wrist of this watch due to cracks formed by the prolonged use in the sea and intense use under direct sunlight. No complains here, as I believe that it is natural to expect all plastic wrists to deteriorate after years of use. Mind though, that this has to be done on a qualified Polar center, you won't be able to replace it yourself, as this Polar wrist also includes the buttons and glass area too. It cost me around EUR25 (inc. 23% Greek VAT) and the Polar service will replace the entire wrist with the case, but not the internal electronics module (as this was still fully functional). The Polar service replaced also the rubber sealing ring that goes between the back metallic cover and the case (buttons body, glass and wrist). The watch was also tested afterwards in a high pressure cavity to verify the water proof property (you should always do this, even if you've just changed the battery of the watch to be 100% sure that the back cover of the watch has been attached properly with the ring and the case).

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