Polar V800 GPS Sports Watch (Bluetooth Smart) ReviewMay 12, 2015
- Compact and comfortable but very durable
- Intuitive, user-friendly operation
- Strong built-in and online training support
- Excellent four-line readout despite small screen
- Wireless data transfer (through phone app only)
- Fewer cycling features and data options
- Only rudimentary route guidance
- Limited customization during workout
- Lower value for cycling use
The Polar V800 is a very well-designed Bluetooth Smart multisport watch with wide functionality between many sports, and quick, reliable GPS. It feels quite sturdy and comfortable. With relatively limited cycling options, however, it’s better suited for the cyclist and multisport athlete who prioritizes user-friendliness and strong swim and run support over depth of cycling features and analysis.
While the V800 offers most of the basic information the majority of riders would be likely to use, there are many who demand every possible detail, and this is not that watch. For instance, there are only three options for heart rate display, while others have up to 12. But the functions it does have work smoothly and are super easy to navigate. And the customizable display will show up to four lines of data on each of seven screens.
Power data is also a bit limited in scope, but it does all the basics plus offer split-pedal readings, so you can gauge your pedal strokes, and of course it can be paired with any Bluetooth Smart meter.
Overall responsiveness was fairly quick and accurate, based on comparison to benchmark unit, especially with separate speed/cadence pods, although a bit slower with GPS. Readouts adjusted within a second or so to changes in speed, HR, etc., and there were very few random spikes or dips.
The built in GPS is built seamlessly into the main watch body, with no awkward protrusions, and will generally pick up signal in a few seconds—among the quickest we tried. We had very few moments of lost signal, and the post-ride maps were quite precise, even after mountain biking in tights trees. And you can set the GPS recording at every one second or every 60 seconds for better accuracy or battery life respectively.
Unfortunately there is only basic route guidance available on routes you’ve already recorded or downloaded from their online training site Polar Flow. So you can’t plan a route in a new city, or experiment with new roads, etc. It has a find home button, but no compass.
Ease of Use
This is where the V800 excels—for a high-level training computer, it’s surprisingly easy to navigate (perhaps a hidden benefit of its fewer options): simple to start and stop a workout and customize the sport profiles. And the screen is small but well-designed with good readability even during a workout, with icons where there’s no room for words. It’s also exceptionally well designed and built.
Polar claims the USB rechargeable battery will record up to 13 hours with GPS on normal mode, and 50 in low mode, which will yield only rudimentary course outlines. With only HR connected, you’ll get up to 100 hours, while simple watch mode will run up to 30 days (including daily activity monitoring).
Online Training Support
While easy to maneuver through screens, it’s not possible to actually change settings during a workout, which can be frustrating. If the wrong readout is chosen, and the user wants to see a different stat, s/he has to stop the workout, switch the setting, and start a new workout.
But the Polar Flow website or phone app offers strong pre- and post-ride support, with big, bold readouts and all the basics up front, and phone app allows wireless uploads. And it’s simple to plan a workout (by effort or heat rate) and then follow it on the watch. You can also view routes all over world, and download them for route guidance or to compare efforts, but there are relatively few available to date, compared to older, more popular sites like Garmin Connect.
At $550 (with a waterproof HR sensor) this is tied for the most expensive unit in our testing. But while it offers a lot for the money, it’s a better buy for multisport athletes who demand equal performance in the water and on the run. For the more cycling-centric, this is definitely not the best value.