A capable GPS and heart rate monitor that could provide better software and a more open platform. The battery life is excellent and well developed for running, but for the price it has to offer more.
- Battery life
- Large and clear display
- Additional sensor options
- No ANT+
In recent product cycles, Polar has reduced its physical size and improved the look of its GPS fitness watches. The latest V800 has its sights set on rivals Garmin, with running, cycling and swimming, paired with built-in GPS and heart rate monitoring (via a chest strap).
Alone due to the specification, the polar seems to be on the up. But with modern smartphones and numerous activity trackers, has Polar succeeded in updating this leading product line enough to be competitive? We’ve been training with the Polar V800 over the last few months to find out.
Design and build
The build quality of the V800 is difficult to fault. It has metal buttons, a scratch-resistant glass and a comfortable, rubberized bracelet that feels perfect for a sports watch. However, the watch’s long face is not appealing to anyone – though it has a large display that’s easy to see during an activity.
The V800 is slim enough to be worn all day long and can slide under one sleeve as needed. It subtly approaches enough for a normal digital clock, with only the red start button protruding on the side of the other silver-colored ones. They are all structured so that they can be easily used with bare or gloved fingers.
The watch is preinstalled with various metric screens such as heart rate, laps or distance and pace. We’re pretty baffled that there’s no way to change the display screens directly on the clock. The same applies to the splash screen, which displays the time, date, and name (for whatever reason), but requires a physical tip to display activity data.
For example, to display your heart rate, distance, or pace on the screen as you like, you need to set up your own data pages using the included Polar software (see details below). To set up data pages, you need to spend a bit of time deciding what to see when you’re in an activity. Although this is initially tedious, it does provide a personalized visual display that is invaluable to training.
Triathletes: Cycle and swim
For cycling, the V800 is not just strapped to the handlebars of a bike, it’s not a special attachment included. Wearing the device on the wrist makes it difficult to read data without taking a hand off the handlebar. Since there is no optical heart rate sensor, there is no reason to do so. The watch does not have a full map, but there is a navigation mode in which you can navigate using a screen arrow and a rangefinder.
The V800 has a built-in altimeter, which is beneficial for climbers. Bluetooth cadence and speed sensor compatibility provides comprehensive features. For indoor training, GPS is unlikely to work well. So you can use a mode with the GPS off and the sensors connected.
Since the V800 is waterproof up to 30 meters, it is also suitable for swimming. This mode allows you to measure time, heart rate and distance, and to analyze beatings in the pool using the SWOLF score. Earlier firmware versions of the V800 did not include such detailed metrics in this department. Therefore, you may need a software update to make the most of it.
There is also a tri-athlete multisport mode that allows multiple sports records to be linked together to facilitate recording during training. By simply tapping the button that would normally stop the activity, it will switch to the next exercise activity.
Longevity per charge is a key element in any fitness equipment, and the V800 performs well in this department. We did five runs of at least 45 minutes, used the clock daily for activity tracking, and uploaded a lot of data via Bluetooth via the associated app. Even then, almost a quarter of the battery was still displayed on the screen.
According to Polar, the V800 can offer “up to 13 hours of training time, 50 hours in GPS power saving mode, 30 days in time mode with daily activity monitoring”. Our use in the real world was similar to these expectations and comparable to those of the Garmin Forerunner 920XT.
In short, the battery should not be a problem for most runners, cyclists and even triathletes. While crossover training takes longer and therefore requires more juice and more fees, the Polar V800 will keep the majority of users from charging too often. It’s much better than an Android Wear smartwatch.
Polar Flow software
While the Polar V800 dial may be limited, its accompanying Polar Flow app and browser software is certainly not. The app simply connects via Bluetooth to iPhone or Android phones. If you want to sync by simply pressing and holding the back button, the trick is a breeze. In addition, data transfer is fast.
The Polar Flow app not only displays your sports training, but also shows your daily activity, from footsteps to sleep quality. To be honest, carrying the V800 in bed feels too big and unwieldy, but the app supports Polar’s other wearables. So it’s good that it’s available in the broader context.
There are also many training possibilities. You can create a workout with sections such as sprint, rest, and cadence goals, then repeat them for interval training. This repeat option makes it easy and simple to set up. Adding trainings to Favorites for quick access is just as easy. Another helpful option is the Race Pace Target, which lets you enter the distance and time you want, and it will automatically help you maintain the right pace.
Pairing is fairly easy when sending data from the watch to the phone or via a USB cable to the computer and then to Polar Flow. However, there is no way to do this directly over Wi-Fi, as is the case with some competitive offerings. There is also no built-in option to export data to other apps. So you’re bound to Polar and its global community (unless GPX data has to be manually exported, so you’ll have to manually upload the file to a third party if you find it bothersome)).
In a time when sports watches are threatened by smartwatches and activity trackers, companies like Polar have to adapt quickly. The V800 has a robust feature set, is a consummate GPS tracker with impressive battery life and a large display, but has some quirks that keep it from success.
Although the V800 is easy to use, it requires a lot of preparation from the software, not from the watch interface itself, which feels unnecessarily complicated. The menus should be improved, cross-platform synchronization might work better, and exporting data from the software to third-party platforms should also be an option.
The Polar V800 is an excellent companion for runners and street runners. We like the opportunity to switch between cycling and swimming for triathletes. Competitors like Garmin have everything the V800 has to offer, and even more, at a lower price, it’s difficult to recommend the Polar to others than runners or those who appreciate the look and big screen.