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Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch GPS Review

Polar have always had a strong pedigree when it comes to cycling head units and runnning watches. The V800 watch is Polar’s latest multi sport watch, covering everything needed for the triathlon, and a few other sports as well

One way to look at the Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch is that its like the Polar M400 – one of my favourite pure running watches, but with everything turned up to the max. From the plastic screen being replaced by glass, through to the resin body being superseded by an aluminium case, before wrapping up with 8 dedicated sports profiles the Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch is just MORE…but does that actually make it better?

In the Box

The V800 package contents is standard affair for a device at this level, HRM, charger and watch. I do think that this stands as a contrast to the Garmin watches, in that there is no “watch only” package.

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

All Polar V800’s come with their HRM monitor. One possible reason for this could be due to Polar’s use of the bluetooth protocol, with Polar wanting to ensure that the V800 was a complete package which would work without issue?

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

The charger on the V800 is an interesting piece of kit. There is a circular hole on the rear of the device, through which you can see four charging contact plates.

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

Against this, the charger inserts into this hole

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

Before clamping round the whole device

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

The V800 is an attractive device with two buttons, “Light” and “Back” on the LEFT side of the device, either side of an engraved V800 logo.

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

The buttons have excellent response, and like the M400, produce a very pleasing electronic click when pressed. The deep scoring on the buttons is also a nice touch, making them easily pressed with sweaty fingers.

On the RIGHT are the “Up” and “Down” Buttons, flanking the red “Start” button

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

The screen is the typically impressive Polar flare. The blue-on-white LED screen is bright, beautifully responsive, and shows that a well engineered screen is VASTLY better than just having a colour screen. Yes it could be higher resolution, but I dont think this is anything more than aesthetics, and I’d prefer to see Polar spend the money on ANT+ integration… but I might have died before that happens!

Polar V800 Multi-Sport WatchThere are many companies which could improve the overall feel of their devices if they could make them feel as snappy as the V800, and the rest of the Polar range

On the wrist

The V800 sits nicely in terms of size.

Polar V800 Multi-Sport WatchThe glass screen and metal chassis giving it a classy look when you are not actually doing sports.

On thing I have found, because of the flat metal back, often it feels, not so much that you are wearing the V800, as its sitting on you.

For those with smaller wrists, the band is very thick and rigid at the top, and can mean finding the correct tightness, where the watch isn’t moving with a gap, nor too tight either can be a challenge

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

Running

The Polar M400 is probably my favourite dedicated running watch, so it comes as no surprise that the V800 carries over ALL of its strengths, but also its weaknesses.

Before you do ANY workouts, you need to set the time and data, because…Polar doesnt trust the time data when its pairs with GPS satellites?! I dont know. Seems like an odd omission.

Then pair the HRM by touching the watch to the Bluetooth sensor. It will also detect any other bluetooth sensors you have knocking about

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

One problem with Bluetooth sensors is the tend not to allow you to connect to multiple. Polar has a setting, individualised for each of its sports profiles which allows you to make the HR data “visible to other devices” which is a great feature

You are then ready to set off. So hit the red “start” button, choose the Running profile.

This show is your watch is ready to go, (Here testing the HR data from the Mio Fuse as well.)

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

…and wait

You see the bottom RIGHT number saying GPS 20%? Thats showing you dont have a good lock.

IF you start to head off, the V800 politely asks you to wait

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

Like the M400, the V800 caches satellite positions for hours, not days. I actually had a bit of a grump finding this out. However I’ve also found it relatively useful, as I dont stretch properly. I normally just head out and run. I know, “Bad James”. But having to wait the 45-60 secs does give me that nudge too quickly stretch before I head off.

You also do really need to wait for that lock, otherwise the start of your run data can really look a little iffy!

With the GPS locked in, hit start and you are off.

You can change the data pages show manually using the Up and Down buttons, or just set to auto rotate. Personally I dont like any devices autorotating my data. I tend to find the device scrolls JUST as I want to look at that data 🙂

I like the simplicity of the V800. Here is lots of data. We’ve ordered it sensibly. Here it is. Some people like to choose their own data fields. I’m happy to trust the company has set it up well, and Polar have chosen their 6 displays well.

e.g. Pace screen showing the data well organised

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

Time and lap overview

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

I do particularly like the HR zones screen

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

One thing which is a shame. The Polar V800 DOES NOT take cadence data from the watch, relying on a separate source. Thankfully the Wahoo TICKR X and Stryd HRM sensors which the Polar V800 is compatible also give cadence data

You know you will be getting cadence data, when the shoe appears in the bottom RIGHT of the device prior to starting your run

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

Polar does however bring something to that party that is very unique with regard to HRM at the moment – you can use its HRM monitor with the V800 whilst swimming!

Polar Flow allows you to look into the data, including a more detailed look at your HR zones

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

Cycling

Working in very much the same way as with the running profile.

Polar V800 Multi-Sport WatchBut you also get fields now to sow biking speed, and data from bluetooth power meters.

When the Mio Velo update finally lands, you will be able to use that as a bluetooth bridge. Thus allowing ANT+ power data to go into the Velo and then broadcast out the to Polar V800 on bluetooth

The Polar V800 can also be used with indoor sensors if you are turbo training, such as if you are wanting to ride on Zwift. In this case the bluetooth speed/cadence data over rides that of your GPS signal (otherwise you’d just get a time stamp saying you went nowhere!) in case you have no downloaded the specific indoor cycling mode from Polar Flow

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

To be clear there are 110 (!) different sports profiles you can load to the V800, from Latin dancing to XC skiing.

Using the indoor cycling profile, I think that the device is looking for a data stream from a dedicated bluetooth speed/cadence sensor

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

As I was not able to connect to the speed data coming from the Wahoo KICKR

After either indoors or outdoors you can view the data Polar Flow after having updated

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

Triathlon

The main case for the V800 is its multisport/ Triathlon functions.

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

Devices like this are always compromised devices. Particularly when it comes to the bike section

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

Personally I prefer using a dedicated cycling unit just for the size of the screen. As it means you are not trying to take a wrist based device from your wrist on place it near your bars, thus loosing time.Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

But this does come with a few issues, not least of which is the fact that leaving your head unit on the bike whilst you are running and swimming is a easy time for someone to swipe.

The Polar V800 has no quick release mount, which for a multisport watch like this is quite an omission. As I say, it doesnt really affect me, but there are many users who will only run one device during a triathlon, and I can speak from personal experience – trying to push through the cycle stage if you can’t see your numbers can really put a cramp in your day, when you are used to training against specific data metrics!

As of July 2015 Polar added the Open Water profile to the triathlon mode,so both sides of the triathlon fraternity are now covered

Using the triathlon mode is a dream on the V800. Polar KNOW how to get their software right for the end user. Yes it might not be as customisable as some might prefer, but I think getting it right and doing that well is vastly more important.

Using Triathlon mode

Make sure all of your sensors are connected, Select the first sport, hit start. Its just that easy.

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

All of the data will appear for that activity as if it were a single sport. Once you are out of the pool/lake. Hit the button LEFT button, normally the “back” button to enter transition.

IN the triathlon mode, you have set the order of activities before starting, so once your shoes are on, hit “start” before hopping on the bike, and your get a screen giving your transition time.

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

Then rinse and repeat before the run!

This is an EXCEPTIONALLY elegant and VERY simple way of running through the tri stages.

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

At the end, when recovering from the final activity, you get a summary of all the activities to paw over, before uploading to Polar Flow to really dig into the data

Activity Tracking

A little like smart notifications, if you sports watch does not have activity tracking, it’s not really appealing to the current market,

The Polar V800 is also able to monitor your total step count… How is it doing this – well there is an internal accelerometer, which for some reason Polar have chosen to IGNORE in terms of calculating cadence when running etc

There are several clock faces on the V800 to chose from, I like option with the progress bar  at the bottom, showing a small animation, constantly reminding you it’s there, and to move.

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

In addition to the move, you can also set the V800 to give you “move reminders”

Activities trackers, are about promoting movement, and stamping out the curse of the sedentary life style…through occasionally buzz notifications. Ok that might be a bit strong. But if you do emulate the couch potato, and remain inactive for 50mins, you will get a move notification, allowing you to address that inactivity before its recorded on your daily log, like some kind of bad mark from your electronic fitness coach.

Polar again comes to the fore with the human touch with regard to activity goals. At the setup of the device, you select which goal, 1-3 you want, and rather than base your choice on an arbitrary number, there is a little description of the activity of your possible day, and you opt for the description that fits you best.

Polar flow, can also give a horrifying graph break down of how you have spent your day!

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

At the other end of the scale, the V800 can also comment on whether you are over training. A widget is on the home screen of the watch, and I’ve found is very useful. Biking and running most days over summer, I’d actually find I would get an “empty leg” type of feeling. When I started paying attention – yes i know – to the V800’s training balance ratings, easing off when it was clearly suggesting I was doing too much, did actually improve my feeling out on the road.

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

Garmin does approach this concept from the opposite end. Telling you how long to wait before you next train. I feel that this is a little too specific. The V800 gives a broader feel using simple bar charts, which I felt was much easier to use, rather than looking at the 920XT when its suggesting I should delay going for a run for another hour yet. Sometimes being too specific, especially with something like training, doesnt come out well. Again Polar hits a nice balance

Smart Notification

Smart notifications were an additional firmware update on the V800 present, but they are slightly limited in nature. When a notification comes through to your phone, theV800 gives a little buzz and displays the notification. But one screens worth only

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

There isn’t a way to see anything more than that. Similarly, once you pass the button to dismiss that message on the V800, there is no easily accessible notifications screen for you to look at messages which have already been received. But maybe I’m asking for a little bit too much, given that there are smart notifications on the device!

Phone calls also display on the device, and can be silenced from the watch, which is a VERY nice touch

Polar Flow

Is a double edged sword. Polar are VERY committed to improving the V800, pushing updates, and additional features, such as smart phone notifications update to the device, initially for iOS. Android smart notifications landed in October 2015

BUT these updates do not come over the air, needing the V800 to be plugged into the laptop.

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch

Polar V800 Multi-Sport Watch Review Conclusion

The V800 is a VERY good multi sport watch. If there was a quick release system for in triathlon, I think it would be one of the best watches out there, especially given that the HRM can work whilst swimming.

There are some strange omissions, such as the lack of internal cadence, but given how Polar continually add to the V800 through firmware, it might be possible for them to bring this over later?

Polar is almost a victim of its own success when it comes to the V800. I can’t stress enough how great the triathlon features are – I’ve bungled my monitoring with a different watch before, as the interface was not as intuitive as the Polar system.

The watch never completely sat comfortably on my arm, unlike the Polar M400, but different arms may vary. More importantly though, given the price difference, unless your are SPECIFICALLY interested in the multisport/Tri functions, Polar’s own M400 is a better better a general activity/sports watch

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Comments

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  2. A couple of extra points…….

    Firstly – when I bought my V800 Polar were the only company who made an HR sensor that works underwater. ANT+ and Bluetooth signals don’t go far underwater, so Polar have an additional analogue mode in their HRM. This also works at your local gym, I think its called gymlink.

    (Garmin came out with underwater HR straps this year but they record and download, rather than being able to send signals to your fitness device constantly)

    I think realtime HR monitoring can still only be done by Polar. So for a swimmer, this watch/HR combo is kinda “what you need”.

    You mentioned a bluetooth bridge. Its been out for a fair while – viiiiva heart rate monitor. This can receive ANT+ data and re-transmit over bluetooth. I use this HRM for gym, cycling, indoor training etc. Only time I use the polar HRM is swimming.

    I’m 41 and hadn’t worn a watch since I was 20-something. Since I bought the V800 its on permanently. I use it as more of an overall fitness tool…I’m predominantly a cyclist and do a lot of training as well as riding…the V800 and polar flow software is the only thing which tracks important aspects like training loads….my garmin edge 1000 is a great bit of kit, but its more for routing/recording a bike ride, with my instant-readouts on HR, power etc. I always double-up and use my Polar as well.

    I also love the fact my wife has to charge her fitbit daily and provided I don’t use GPS I could go over a week using it all the time for my training/riding 🙂

    Fantastic bit of kit.

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