— By Kevin MacKinnon
Polar’s top of the line training watch combines lots of multisport functionality with great looks and excellent battery life.
True story. About 12 years ago I was sitting on a flight on my way to the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii. The guy sitting next to me on the plane is wearing a shirt with a Polar logo on it. I asked him if he worked for the company. Turns out he did – he was on his way over to work in their booth and to provide tech demonstrations to interested athletes.
“I really like the Polar heart rate monitors,” I said, “But some people find them really complicated to use.”
He laughed at that and said that wasn’t the case at all. As our flight took off and we were gaining altitude, he looked in the bag under his seat and let out a groan.
“I forgot that I’d put the manual I wanted to review in my suitcase,” he said. “It was too heavy to carry around with me.”
The days of struggling to figure out how to use a Polar watch are long gone, I am happy to report, especially when it comes to Polar’s flagship V800, a watch you could very easily work with and never once look at a manual – it’s that instinctive and easy to use. While tech aficionados might wonder why we’re reviewing the V800 now (it was first released a few years ago), some recent software updates have taken this device to a whole new level, making it, in many ways, a great option for multisport athletes looking for the very best in fitness tracking in all three sports.
Form and function
The V800 is one of the most stylish sport watches on the market. The aluminum frame gives it a solid feel, but it remains very light (80 g) and thin (12.7 mm). The Gorilla glass used on the face enhances the solid feel, while the monochrome dot matrix screen is very easy to read thanks to the 128 x 128 pixel, high contrast and high-resolution display.
It’s an easy watch to wear around all the time because it both looks good and has an incredible battery life that will get you through a number of workouts and day to day activity. The battery lasts up to 13 hours in full training mode using GPS and other sensors, and up to 50 hours in GPS low power mode. Water resistant to 30 m, you don’t ever have to worry about taking it off. Even if you’re training a few hours a day you’ll have no problems going for days between charges.
The V800 also tracks your daily activity, providing input as your day goes along. It vibrates and beeps when you’ve been sitting too long and keeps track of how much walking you’re doing, too. Having a watch this sophisticated keep track of your daily activity is, in my mind, the equivalent of driving a Ferrari down the street at 30 kph, but it’s yet another example of just how much, and how versatile, the V800 is.
The integrated GPS in the V800 allows you to keep track of your speed and distance in all three sports. You can set up the V800 to provide whatever data your most interested in depending on the sport, too. Starting a workout is a piece of cake – you simply press the start button, pick your activity, and you’re on your way. The countdown timer is really easy to set up, too, so it’s easy to create your own workout on the fly if that’s the kind of workout you like to do. (I love to do timed fartleks, so I really appreciated the ease of setting up the timer.) While you’re swimming you can keep track of your heart rate and the number of lengths done during your workout.
On the bike the V800 works with Polar Bluetooth Smart cycling sensors so you can keep track of your power, cadence and the like in addition to the speed and distance data provided by the GPS. While that sounds great, in reality the V800 isn’t the watch for you if you want to get your power data on the bike and you’re not using the Polar KEO pedals, which is no fun for those of us with a Quarq, Stages, SRM or other Ant+ compatible power meters.
Running is where the V800 really shines, especially with the new update that provides cadence information without any other sensors.
The V800 syncs your data really easily through a USB connection and the Polar Flow web service and app. You can create workouts and download all your data with ease and, thanks to an update that became available last December, you can even sync your latest activities with Strava. You can even set things up so you will get notifications like calls and texts from your phone and it can even alert you about the appointments on your calendar.
Thanks to the various updates that are available for the V800, it is a great training watch that keeps getting better.
MRSP: $550, $620 with HRM