The Polar V650 GPS bike computer has landed at La Velocita for testing. In a sector dominated my Garmin the V650 has a lot of competition to deal with.
Full colour screen, bluetooth capable, low profile and with Polar’s vast experience the V650 sound like it is well worth a look.
Words: Aaron Mulkearns Imaged - Jarrod McShane
Polar has been a player in the heart rate/computer/exercise technology space for a long time now. The V650 cycling computer represents a full on assault on the cycle specific market. It’s a product that has been in development for a long time so expectations are high.
Out of the box the Polar V650 feels like the real deal. It’s well constructed and looks great. Billed by Polar as being ‘for devoted cyclist who want to analyse every aspect of their riding and boot their cycling performance’ the V650 is not holding back in its claims.
As with many cycling specific computers on the market today, the list of features is as long as your arm. GPS, barometric altimeter providing accurate climbing data, bluetooth, heat rate and many more…
Size and fitting
The unit combines integrated GPS with a 2.8 inch full colour touch screen. It’s also Bluetooth smart sensor capable. With many devices now adding bluetooth this will surely prove to be useful.
There’s a new quarter-turn mount, which is different to Polar’s previous mounting system, so if you are already a polar user you’ll need to change over.
On a first look the mounts look the same as those used by Garmin. As I use a Garmin I went ahead and tried to connect it to a 3rd party Garmin-compatible quarter-turn mount (SRAM out front). No Joy.
The Polar insert tabs are just a tiny bit larger than that of Garmin’s. If you are running several bikes, replacing all the mounts could prove costly. If you wanted to get really adventurous, while we can’t recommend it, you could try to modify the polar mount to fit existing holders… not sure how secure this would be though.
Due to the size of the polar, out front mounts are the way to go. To us it was just a bit too big to sit on the stem or handlebars. Polar makes out front mounts and mounts specifically for time trial and triathlon bikes, where the unit mounts between the handlebars.
At la Velocita we all generally use the Garmin Edge 500, 510 or 810. As a size comparison the Polar V650 is larger than all of these Garmin Edge 500 devices, but is actually thinner than all of them to.
A full charge on the V650 takes around 5 hours from flat and results in 10 hours life with the GPS switched on. There are only two physical buttons on the unit, one on the side that is used to power on the unit and to calibrate sensors. The second is a under the screen and acts as a start/stop/lap.
Once charged you just need to power up the V650, download Polar’s FlowSync software to upload training data, it will then also allow you to download updates as required.
Polar uses ‘Polar Flow’ to record your information, setting up takes a matter of minutes. We could not get the V650 syncing to Strava via Polar Flow, a search of the web showed that some people had made it happen via syncing to an in between platform then to Strava.
Other than the two buttons, you’ll work your way around the functions of the V650 using the touch screen display. The screen is great and is useable in the wet and when wearing gloves.
On screen there’s plenty of information on the large colour display. At the bottom there are four status icons that let you know if the unit is connected to GPS, heart rate, cadence and speed sensors.
The setup of the sensors is very intuitive and pairing the devices in done in no time. While there’s no ANT+ that will prove problematic for those that have existing ANT+ accessories (more on this below), bluetooth does have the advantage of not picking up other people’s heart rate and power output… something we’ve had occasional issues with when riding in large bunches.
The display can show up to 8 data fields at once per page. A touch we really liked is that you can set up different information screens for different bikes. You may want different information when you are on the mountain bike or the road bike, or when you are on the rollers or stationary trainer.
Swiping right or left on the the screen during use bring up to 6 screens that you can create, basically throwing a massive amount of information at you.
Doing a full swipe down on the screen allows you to turn on another great feature of the V650, the safety light. While not a headlight, it’s a great touch that will give you a bit of visibility on those times you get caught out in fading light. The light can be set to come on automatically at a certain low light level or be on a constant of flashing mode.
If you are a fan of riding by heart rate you’l love the heart rate screen that shows really clearly what zone you are in, it also shows the time spent in each zone overall. It’s really clear and just needs a quick glance to be understood. You can tap a zone to let the computer you want to stay in that zone, the Polar V650 will then alert you if you go outside that zone.
The Bluetooth / ANT+ Question
What may deter some people from purchasing this unit is it’s lack of ANT+ functionality. In a market full of ANT+ products, it’s going to be tough to get people over to Polar if it results in rendering some of their exiting accessories redundant. Saying this, Bluetooth is a great way to connect and there are quite a few products that are ANT+ and bluetooth capable, including power meters, speed, cadence, trainers and heart rate monitors.
RRP $399 without heart rate sensor, RRP $449 with heart rate sensor
Where to buy
Visit Polar Australia here to find you closest retailer
Polar have created a great unit. Functionality is excellent, and while it’s quite large the interface is really clear and the data fields are well thought out.
The Polar V650 is going to rely on people embracing other products or making the jump away from the ‘known’ and being prepared to change mounts and sensors to get them up and running.
With Strava being one of the go to training recording providers on the market we think it’s just a matter of time before Polar Flow shares data to Strava… we’ll have to wait and see.
- Polar Flow mobile app
- Syncs automatically and displays training data instantly
- Tracks your ride with integrated GPS
- Lets you follow every detail on the large 2.8" color touch screen
- Gives you the most accurate altitude data with the built-in barometric pressure sensor
- Gives you instant feedback after your session
- Allows you to plan and analyse your training with the free Polar Flow web service
- Compatible with the Polar Bluetooth® Smart heart rate and cycling sensors
Polar V650 function categories
- Body measurement features
- Training features
- Polar Flow web service features
- Integrated GPS features
- Cadence sensor Bluetooth® Smart features
- Speed sensor Bluetooth® Smart features
- Recording features
- Altimeter and barometer features
- Data transfer
- Watch features
What's in the box
- V650 cycling computer
- Polar H6 heart rate sensor (heart rate version only)
- USB cable
- Adjustable bike mount
- Polar V650 Getting Started Guide