Polar V800 Review
- Editor Rating
- Rated 5 stars
- Polar V800
- Reviewed by:
- Published on:
- Last modified:
- Heart Rate Monitor functionsEditor: 99%
- Heart Rate AccuracyEditor: 99%
- Activity Tracking featuresEditor: 85%
- Running functionsEditor: 95%
- Cycling functionsEditor: 95%
- Fitness monitoring featuresEditor: 95%
- Ease of UseEditor: 95%
- Battery LifeEditor: 95%
The Polar V800 is a GPS multisport heart rate monitor watch from Polar aimed at triathletes and other competitive level athletes from ANY discipline. The V800 has replaced Javier Gomez’s (ITU multiple World Champion) Suunto Ambit 3 Sport. Why? Because it’s the best TRIATHLON dedicated watch on the market at time of release. With regard to innovation, functionality (planning, realtime and post session) and overall build quality there is nothing better. Needless to say I was very impressed with the performance of the V800 and hope you enjoy this review by Tristan Haskins aka CardioCritic
Release Date (UK) > Jan 2014
Product it replaced > NEW product
Recommeneded Retail Price (when new) > £399
Replaced by > none – current model
PLEASE NOTE – This review was written following a 3 month long term test of the V800. I have been using this new multisport / triathlon GPS sports watch since March 2015 and continue to do so today. I really enjoyed testing the V800, so much so it’s my daily training watch. The V800 is not just a high performance training tool, but also as a HIGHLY MOTIVATING activity / sleep monitor. The “TIME to MOVE” reminder I get after sitting at my desk without moving for an hour is a perfect nudge to get me up and off my butt. I worked hard to give you this unbiased and balanced view of Polar’s first GPS integrated multisport watch…. how hard? Well here’s an example training session using the V800 >> click the image below
Next Model Up
This is the TOP of the Polar GPS sports watch range.
Next Model Down
The model directly below the V800 is the Polar M400. The M400 is a competent GPS sports watch for runners, cyclists and anyone else who wants heart rate plus GPS speed and distance feedback. The M400, like this model, acquires heart rate from the Polar H7 heart rate sensor. For those looking for something with wrist based heart rate there is the Android Wear Polar M600 and the Polar M200.
- Polar M200 review – wrist based heart rate and built-in GPS. NOT Android Wear OS
- Polar M400 review – chest strap style heart rate and built-in GPS. More traditional buttons controls etc.
The main difference between the M400 and V800 is the lack of MULTISPORT support. The M400 is great for runners and cyclists, but it does NOT support the transition from one sport to another on the fly (in the same FILE). Other key features omitted from the M400 (found in the V800) are:
- Training Load (via Polar Flow)
- Daily Activity breakdown view (base activity versus exercise)
- Recovery Status (via Polar Flow)
- Orthostatic Fitness test
- Jump Tests
- Swim Metrics
- Power Pedal support
- Cadence sensor support (pedal RPM)
- Bike Speed Sensor support
- Race Pace (the V800 can PACE you to achieve a distance in a set time)
- Altimeter (GPS based)
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Pros & Cons
There have been several new product releases from Suunto and Garmin since the V800 was released. The best alternatives to the Polar V800 are the Garmin Forerunner 920XT, Suunto Spartan Sport/Ultra and the Forerunner 735XT / Forerunner 935 with wrist based heart rate. They all offer true multisport functionality with multiple disciplines being recorded in one exercise file. Each has it’s own pros and cons over the others and we would, in all honesty, be happy to use any for the duration of a triathlon and the training leading up to it.
- Garmin Forerunner 735XT reviewed here – wrist based Heart Rate
- Garmin Forerunner 935 reviewed here – released in May 2017 – ultimate GPS sports watch with wrist based HR
- Garmin Forerunner 920XT reviewed here – needs chest strap for Heart Rate, but still an excellent performance monitor
- Suunto Spartan Ultra Review – released Oct 2016 – up to 26 hours battery life
- Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR Review – released in Oct 2016 – hand finished in Finland with wrist based HR
MultiSport GPS / HRM for Triathletes
The POLAR V800 is a hard hitting performance monitor holding it’s own in the MultiSport / Triathlon arena. Up against the established professionals such as the Garmin Forerunner 910XT/920XT and Suunto Ambit2/Ambit3 Sport it’s got to be good if it’s going to convert years of dedicated Garmin and Suunto customers to switch allegiance. It has to be smooth during transitions, low profile so it doesn’t snag your nice new wetsuit and it has to give you every metric available for each inch of your race, whether your swimming, biking or running.
The V800 has the advantage of coming AFTER the Forerunner 910XT and Suunto Ambit2. It’s always nice being first to market with a new product, but it leaves you open to replacement by a competitors product that addresses all the criticisms and niggles directed at the original. I really think they have read through all the reviews and forums on the 910XT and Ambit2, popped them all in to a spreadsheet and addressed them all with the V800. Really, it’s that good. BUT, please read on, there are a couple of minor improvements that could be made….
Yes, it is obvious that Polar have been keeping an eye on the competition, who wouldn’t, but they have also been adding their own unique innovation. Unique functions in the V800 include
- Daily “Activity To Go” – this tells you what you may need to do to achieve your daily activity goal. It is displayed as time standing up, walking or jogging.
- Orthostatic Fitness Test – a sitting and standing test that highlights potential over-training)
- Jump Test – measuring explosive, plyometric improvements (stride sensor required to undertake this test)
- R-R Interval Recording – another technical test that collates heart rate data at a high resolution enabling the data to be processed for signs of over-training and fatigue)
- Training Load – OK, not unique to Polar but a new addition to their webservice. Training Load gives a generic value to ALL training whether, running, gym, swim, bike etc. The Training Load is measured in TIME and is indicative of the time to fully recover.
For those wanting to know more technical data, we have reproduced the V800 Technical Specifications on this page for convenience
Latest Update News
* Smart Notification Update (June 2015) : The M400 now has the ability to support smartphone notifications from iOs 8 devices (not Android, sorry). An alert message is displayed on the watch display when your phone receives an email, text, call or diary event. More details will follow shortly.
* Race Pace – just like Garmin’s Virtual Partner, simply set (in the Favourites section) the distance and the objective finishing time and run/ride. The V800 will pace you along to ensure you don’t drift too far from the desired pace. The end result? a new PB?
* Route Follow (GPX/TCX) – the Polar V650 and V800 can both FOLLOW a GPX/TCX route. The route can either be one that you’ve already ran/ridden and saved in your favourites or one you’ve IMPORTED from anywhere else (another web-service for example). As long as it follows the GPX format it can be loaded in to the Polar Flow web-service then uploaded to the watch. To follow a route just move to Favourites mode and select the ROUTE you want to follow. The V800 will direct you (with compass arrow) to the start line and then you’re off. The V800 will prompt when you to turn and when you move off track. There’s not map detail other than a bread-crumb trail but it works very well and opens up running / riding new rides in unfamiliar places.
Who’s the V800 aimed at?
The Polar V800 is for anyone who wants to know they are doing everything right while preparing for and racing in triathlon or in any single sport at a high level eg running, mountain biking, sailing etc. It has been designed to help you plan your training programs, train, recover and analyse. The V800, with it’s Gorilla Glass, not only looks the part, it is a smooth operator with everything in the right place for the right reason. Little things (well not that little really) like the Bluetooth 4 (BTLE) connectivity that allows you to DIRECTLY connect the V800 to an iPhone 4S or above (or Android device) are a great technological leap of faith by Polar.
The move away from their own Wearlink system to BTLE (Low energy Bluetooth) means that you can pair the V800 with a range of data-collecting hardware like cadence sensors, third party power meters (like Stages Power Meter and PowerTap), running stride sensors, and their own Polar Look Keo Power pedals
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Interval Training and GPX Route Import
These are two very important features you will find in the V800. The Interval Training has been there since day 1. The GPX/TCX route import was added by way of firmware update. The image below is taken from the FAVOURITES section of the Polar Flow web-service. In this area you store your preferred training PLANS and ROUTES. More details below.
Polar Flow – setting up an Interval Session – Training Targets.
To create a NEW training target from the Polar Flow service (diary) simply select NEW TARGET. Then you have the choice of QUICK / RACE PACE or PHASED. The Quick target is either – distance, time or calories based. There’s no pacing target it’s simply you may want to burn 500 calories in a session, or walk 3 miles or jog for 20 minutes. The Race Pace (something you can set up manually in the watch) is a speed and distance GOAL. Eg. You may want to run 5K in 23 minutes. The Phased Target can be a technical series of EFFORTS and RECOVERIES either time or distance based, with a pre-defined WARM UP and COOL DOWN.
The one above is 4 x 1 mile intervals (at HR Zone 3/4) with a 5 min recovery (at HR Zone 1/2) between each. I could have set the recovery/effort to be either HR or PACE controlled and either distance target or timed for phase duration, eg. recover in heart rate zone 1-2 for 5 minutes or recover at running speed zone 2 for 1 mile, same for effort phase. It could be effort in speed zone 4 for 2 miles, or effort between speed zone 3-4 for 20 minutes or similar.
Any training targets you define here can be FAVOURITED. This means they are saved in your favourites on both the web-service and in your V800. To perform one in the future, just pull it up from the favourites option in the watch. No messing.
Example of Interval session POST training on Polar Flow
This is what this 4 x 1 mile interval looks like when uploaded to Polar Flow web-service. If you’d like to view the full session you can do here – Polar Interval Session example. The same level of detail would be achieved from the Polar M400, M450 or V650.
Route Import – follow a GPS track
This is a very welcome feature to the V800 as it allows the user to exercise outside their normal patch. There are TWO options for setting up a ROUTE to follow. It can either be a ride/run in my Polar Flow DIARY, something I’ve done before, or, it can be someone else’s GPX/TCX file. There are numerous web-services like JustGoRide or GreatBritishBikeRides that allow users to download some of the best GPS cycling routes. Once downloaded to your computer/Mac they can be IMPORTED directly to the Polar Flow web-service. Give it a name and then synchronise it with the V800. Next time you ride/run simply select the route from the FAVOURITES within the watch and it will load up the GPS route. Once loaded, the V800 will guide you to the start of the route with a compass arrow and distance countdown. From the start the watch will give basic turn notifications and navigate the user around the route. There is no MAPPING data like street names etc, just a breadcrumb trail.
More about Triathlon Mode
In the video review of MultiSport mode (below) you will see how well designed this watch is for triathletes. At the line, just press the START button once then scroll to TRIATHLON mode… wait for GPS to synchronise (this can be accelerated by getting a good signal early in the day …. something I always do with all brands when racing in a different location). If you’ve established a GPS link earlier in the day then the GPS signal will be good to go in about 5 – 10 seconds. (I noticed a review on DCR’s website that suggests GPS acquisition is quite slow and the satellite data didn’t seem to be cached? in several months using the V800 I’ve not experienced this problem)
Triathlon Mode – video by HeartRateMonitor.co.uk
The gun goes, you press the RED start button again and the session is underway. As you complete the swim leg and pull yourself from the water just press the bottom left button ONCE… it is now in swim transition state … and waiting for you to start the bike leg.
You are now ready to take to the saddle and jump on your bike. As you exit transition with helmet on, bike shoes pulled on to wet feet just remember to press the RED start button (the display will momentarily show your T1 time). The display now changes to your training pages relevant to CYCLING … you can move between the different displays as you can is regular bike mode.
Many miles later you enter T2. As you dismount your trusty stead you simply press the bottom left button … the V800 is now in T2 transition timer mode .. Helmet off, running shoes on, you exit the pen to begin the final push, the run leg. Press the RED start button. Your T2 time is displayed then the display changes to regular RUN mode.
Just one more thing to do… press and HOLD the bottom left button and then PLEASE PLEASE press YES to save the event to memory :-)
The Polar V800 really is one of the most complete fitness monitors / activity trackers I have ever used. Everyone has their own specific requirements, so I am sure there is a very small portion of the population that might have a few criticisms of the V800. However, for me, it’s pretty much perfect. I really love the big clear display, the overall QUALITY of this watch is exectional. Little “gimmicks” like being able to switch the display from digital style to a traditional analogue clock face (with hands) and the subtle reminder “It’s Time to Move” all add up to make it a highly desirable training tool. It’s not quite a smartwatch, like the Garmin Vivoactive, but it’s seamless data download to your iPhone or Android device put it up there in the tech department.
Remember, this is a multisport training device. As such it has all the main features I’d expect. Configurable displays for different sports, seamless transition from ONE sport to ANOTHER (one file per session if required).
With so many great features it’s hard to pick THE BEST one … but I will say one of my favourite feature is the STATUS MODE. In status mode I can see precisely if the V800 thinks I am UNDERTRAINED, BALANCED, STRAINED or VERY STRAINED. If I am strained or very strained, it will even give an indication to the specific DAY and TIME when I can expect to have returned to BALANCE training status. Simple, but very effective at prevent over/under training.
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Expected Battery Life of the V800
The V800 has an above average battery life for a GPS HRM sports watch … but it can’t do a full 16 hours, something that FULL DISTANCE triathletes often desire from their watch. The battery life in continuous training with normal GPS and HR recording at their highest sample rate is approximately 13 hours. There is an option to switch the watch to GPS/HRM power save mode. When in this mode Polar quote a whopping 50 hours. (the GPS/HRM is only recording samples every 1 minute, so small, short changes in pace/speed/altitude will not necessarily be recorded. PS. Realtime Heart Rate on the watch is LIVE and continuous as normal. When in time mode only with daily activity monitoring the battery will last approximately 30 days.
FYI. If ultra long battery life with high sampling rate is critical, then you may wish to consider the Forerunner 920XT with a Garmin quoted – “Up to 24 hours in normal GPS mode; up to 40 hours in UltraTrac mode “
Could have been better?
OK, I never like this part … especially when a company has tried so hard to make the perfect product. However, this is constructive criticism that I hope they will take on board. Here goes…. Polar, please could you consider these improvements.
- VARIABLE DAILY GOALS. How many people have the same amount of time to train 7 days a week. I don’t. Maybe this is just me… but I think it would be great if you can set an ACTIVITY level on a daily basis. Monday to Friday I am a sedentary desk worker… I am lucky if I am active for more than 1 hour. From Monday to Friday I am have to work quite hard to achieve/fit in my 100% daily activity. HOWEVER.. come the weekend.. the Weekend Warrior emerges. I am regularly achieving 350 – 450% of my activity level on Saturday and Sunday (a long run, gym session and bike ride). So, how about letting me set a DIFFERENT goal for particular days of the week? The perfect solution would be to set a DAILY GOAL. Still use the current levels 1,2 and 3. Monday 1, Tuesday 1, Wednesday 2 (I have a bike session most Wed nights), Thursday 1, Friday 1, Saturday 3, Sunday 3.
- POWER. I am happy to be corrected here, but as it stands I think the V800 only supports POWER from the Polar / Look KEO Power Pedals (more information here, Polar site) I would have really liked it if they had offered support for other third party Bluetooth Power pedals like Powertap and Stages.
I’ll be honest here, I’m not 100% certain what the position is here.. I need to do some more investigation / homework.>> see update below please
Update >> The Polar V800 now supports Smartphone Notifications – more information here
Update >> The V800 now provides full swim-metrics for Open Water as well as Indoor Pool
Update >> The V800 now supports several third party Bluetooth power meters like Stages and PowerTap
V800 Image Gallery
We put together this video review of BOTH the Polar M400 and Polar V800 at the same time. As we had been testing them together it seemed sensible to put the comparisons in the same video. It’s a bit LONG, sorry about that, but if you are in the market for either of these great GPS heart rate monitors then we hope you find it useful.
This is how easy it is to switch between sports when in Triathlon mode
Polar’s Video Presentation
This is Polar’s own marketing video for the V800.
Running with the V800
This is where the Polar V800 excelled. We could not find ANY FAULT in the V800 as a GPS sports watch form running. It acquires GPS signal nice and quick, the transitional pickup from slow jogging to fast running is VERY QUICK.. we noticed no delay when switching from 8 min/miling to 6:30 min/miling (we don’t run faster than that!) The V800 gave us everything we wanted to see on the display with Pace, HR and distance all displayed at the same time in our primary running display.
Favourites – Routes and Race Pace
The V800 has a section called FAVOURITES. In this folder there are two useful features. 1) Race Pace and 2) Favourite ROUTES. Race Pace allows the user to quickly set a desired distance versus time goal. eg. 10k in 45 mins. Then just run / bike. The V800 will pace you along in a very similar way to Garmin’s virtual partner. The Favourite Routes are great for running / biking a route when it might be useful to have breadcrumb style navigation to get you out and back. The V800 directs you to the start of this favourited route with an ARROW and distance to start. When you reach the start you get a clear notification on screen. Next you are presented with a clear breadcrumb style map of where you are going with distance left feedback. VIDEO TO FOLLOW
For running, we give the V800 9.5/10 – good job
Perfect for Cycling
The V800 is mounted securely to your bars via a supplied bike mount kit. It’s basic, but it serves a purpose. Once in place, it performs well as a GPS, cadence monitoring, HRM bike computer. The optional cadence sensors mount discretely to your chainstay, with a small magnet stuck to your crank arm. Most bike computers nowadays have the ability to provide cadence.. however, to be truly competitive people want POWER.. or at least the option to upgrade to power at a later stage.
What Power systems does the V800 support?
The Polar V800 supports the Look Keo Smart POWER Pedals and other Bluetooth power systems like the Stages or PowerTap etc.
Swim Metrics – the V800 for swimming
The Polar V800 now (since July 2015) offers full swim-metric support in both Open Water and Indoor Swimming Sport Profiles. This was something not initially available but seriously required by triathletes. Polar have been good to their word and added swim-metric feedback to the V800. An overview of your swimming data is available in the training summary on V800 right after your session.
Swim Data in Polar Flow
The image below is an example of the level of swim-metric detail that can be extracted from the V800 by Polar Flow web service. Essential swimming related statistics included in the summary post session include distance, pace (average and maximum), stroke rate (average and maximum) and heart rate (if H7 has been worn). Sync with Polar Flow (app or web service) for a more detailed visual representation of the swim (as below) including a route map, heart rate, pace and stroke rate graphs.
Post Session Analysis
OK, let’s get the Power criticisms out of the way…. they seem to be confident that these features will be available very soon. Let’s get on with the things the V800 is good at. The Polar V800 and Polar Flow web service are fantastic at helping you understand how hard you’ve been training, how much you’ve recovered and how hard your next training session should be.
They have been doing this VERY WELL for many years in all their heart rate monitor products at the top end of their range, and the V800 continues off where the Polar RS800 and others left off. If you’re keen on getting the best feedback on the QUALITY of your training sessions, then this is where the V800 has an advantage over the Garmin Forerunner 910XT. Both the Garmin and the Suunto will give an indication of TRAINING LOAD, neither of them take post training data analysis to the same level as Polar.
Polar have on offer a number of Bluetooth accessories for the V800 like the Stride Sensor, H7 heart rate sensor, Cadence Sensor (pedal RPM) and the Keo Smart Power Pedals.
In summary, the Polar V800 is a well designed, VERY WELL MADE multisport integrated GPS/HRM sports watch. I have used the Garmin Forerunner 910XT and I train daily with a Suunto Ambit2 and now I have used the Polar V800. The V800 is the SLEEKEST of them all. It’s low profile design make transitioning less of a stress as your wetsuit will slip over it without snagging.
The display is clear and full of essential training data for each discipline. Will it be replacing my Suunto Ambit2? For the time being it has …
Not until they have sorted added full Swim-Metrics support. (Swim-Metrics added July 2015) Power Pedal support would be nice .. but as I don’t own any Power meters (who’d fit them to a £800 Merida!!??), I don’t have any issue with the lack of generic Power support… although I am certain many people with bigger budgets than me probably will. That said… we should trust Polar when they say that all these things will be addressed shortly.
Remember, this is Polar’s first true MULTISPORT GPS watch, and it’s in their best interest to make it perform better than the competition.
I have been lucky enough to test dozens of top spec GPS sports watches including the best from Garmin, Suunto and Polar. The Polar V800 is a brilliant watch for triathlon and other multisport / endurance events. Polar are the world leaders at measuring training load, benefit and recovery status so you can trust the V800 to look after your well being. I have given the Polar V800 a review rating of 5/5 stars which puts it right up there with the Garmin Forerunner 735XT/935. The 735XT/935 has the benefit of wrist based heart rate, but the V800 has the benefit of better training analysis. They are BOTH brilliant watches and I can recommend them without any hesitation.
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We have added the full Polar V800 Technical Specification here
If you want even more information then you can view the polar V800 manual online here.