SUP Review: Polar V800 GPS HRM Watch

I am always looking for something that will improve my paddling experience, especially while training. As I see training for SUP being taken more seriously, there are more training programs, most noticeably the Riding Bumps weekly intervals that are posted on their site, requiring more than just going for a long slow paddle or just “redlining” for as long as can be maintained over a session. Athletes, in order to improve, train to a certain heart rate, speed or a specific period of time which requires a bit of work if you want to be accurate. Constantly looking at your watch is an option but it is distracting and you are going to be doing it a lot, which hinders not only your rhythm but the final outcome of the activity, which is to improve. Now we are a seeing dedicated GPS/HRM’s for use in water and even specific SUP applications like the recently reviewed Speedcoach GPS SUP. I had used my old Garmin 410 for some training but the programming was limited and the watch was only water resistant (shower proof) and was not recommended for use in water. For me this is a major issue because sometimes you just fall in for no reason or it is hot and you just want to get in. I then discovered a very good app for my previous phone, iSmooth Run, which was so good and so easy to operate it became my go to for training. Alas I now have an android phone and this app or anything like it is not available and besides the drain of the battery, requirement for a waterproof case, mounting points of said device etc it starts to become a bit tiresome. So I started looking for another option and came across the new Polar V800. The fantastic girls and guys at Pursuit Performance Australia, thanks Sally, sent me a unit for the purposes of this review for a month. I then sent it back on completion, so don’t think I am getting a free watch just for doing a review.

So sit back and relax and check out my review of the Polar V800

In the box

As shown in the photo you get the unit itself, Polar H7 HRM puck and strap (if you purchase the option that is packaged together with the watch RRP $629 or $579 without, otherwise the Polar H7 RRP $99), USB Sync/Charger cable and the obligatory instruction manuals.

What does it do?

As per the Polar website here is a small section of the functionality list for the watch:

  • Vibration and audio alerts
  • Updatable software (http://updates.polar.com/tag/polar-v800/)
  • Data transfer via custom USB cable or Bluetooth Smart via Polar Flow mobile app
  • Memory capacity 60 h training with GPS and HR
  • Rechargeable battery with up to 14 h training time, 50 h in GPS low power mode, 30 days in time mode with daily activity monitoring
  • Heart rate zones
  • Heart rate in water
  • Training targets
  • Training load
  • Recovery status
  • Training Diary
  • Weekly Summaries
  • Countdown and stopwatch
  • Daily activity monitor

To see it in it’s entirety head on over to www.polarv800.com

The follow up question I guess it, how well does it do it?

Comfort & Everyday wearability

I don’t have small wrists or massive wrists but I do like wearing my watch a little loose and down around my wrist bone. The rear of the unit has a slight curve to it and the band extension continues that as it blends into the watch strap. The watch strap is nice and pliable without being too soft. On the underside is the charging/USB interface connection which does not cause any discomfort, for me anyway, and maintains the watches waterproof ability.

This is a really good looking watch. Some may find it a little on the large size but that is not an issue for me. It is not going to look like some sort of dive computer or small wall clock. It doesn’t look too sporty and doesn’t look out of place when wearing pants and a collar, if that worries you. The main unit itself is made up of aluminium and stainless steel and comes with either a black and grey band on a Superman blue and red band. The screen is Gorilla Glass which purports to be scratch resistant and is slightly recessed on the edges. I haven’t had any previous experience with Gorilla Glass so can’t remark on the claim nor have I grabbed a hammer and checked it out but I can report that there is not a single mark on the watch face from any inadvertent strikes.

Ease of use - Watch

I found this watch to be extremely easy to use. All of the buttons are labelled and are easy to read. The big red button that has ‘Start’ etched above it does just that. All of the other buttons have a good feel to them and you know you have pushed one to execute a task due to the clicky little noise that it makes (if you haven’t disabled it). It has a backlight for use in the dark which also doubles as another menu for setting alarms and the very good ‘lock’ function.

If you program training sessions they are easy to find in either the ‘Diary’ option or if you allocate them as a ‘Favourite’ then they will appear in that menu function. Scroll down and select and then wait for the GPS and HRM to be found and off you go.

The screen is easy to read despite the sudden urge, from what I have seen anyway, of manufacturers going with the white on black screen setup.

What I really like – 

  • Alarm. When set, the alarm vibrates and beeps when it goes off. It would be nice if you could just select it to do one or the other (hint, hint). With the alarm option you can select options of off, once, Monday – Friday or every day, which is pretty good. 
  • Favourites menu. This is a great functionality as it allows you to set certain workouts as a favourite within the Polar Flow software which then appears in this menu option. Makes the session very easy to find and instantly activates the desired profile and session.
  • How it looks. This watch is super smooth looking and I have had lots of comments about how good it looks. It then garners a lot of surprised looks when I mention that it is a GPS/HRM watch and also an activity monitor.
  • Activity Monitor. Specifically the activity monitors ability for it to recognise when you are sleeping. When using other sleep monitors like the Fitbit and phone based apps, you must trigger it manually prior to starting you sleep. I was forever forgetting when to do this and Polar have solved my forgetfulness.
  • Battery life. It is phenomenal. It is stated as being able to track for up to14 hours of training time and 30 days in watch and activity monitor timing. In the month that I have had the watch, I have only charged it twice and only one of those was for an extended period of over 2 hours. Other times have been when having it plugged into the computer to load new session plans, about 15-20 minutes. My previous watches have required constant charging even when the GPS receiver/transmitter is turned off.

Things I would like changed/fixed – 

Be aware, I haven’t included the fact that you can’t get see how many steps/distance you have covered as part of the daily activity feature here. That is because it is included in a soon to be released upgrade.

  • Screen contrast options. Give the user the option to select either the white on black or the traditional black on white. You can change the option for use in one of the training modes but not for the everyday use of the watch. I am not saying that the white on black doesn’t work here, but it would be nice to have the option to change it.

Ease of use - Software & Apps

I can only comment on the Polar Flow app on Mac OS X and iOS. As I mentioned I now have an Android phone and as of right now there is no support for the V800 on the Android App but it is on its way. 

If you have no issues using Garmin Connect, Map My Run, Strava or the like then you are going to find Polar Flow very easy to use. 

What I really like-

  • Sliders for post activity analysis. This allows you to select a segment of an activity and just see the stats of that segment. For example I wanted to know what my average HR and speed were for the middle 20 minutes of a 30 minute paddle. Move the sliders around and there it is.
  • Post activity lap analysis. I have seen this previously in Map My Run but only for the paid MVP option
  • Export of your session. You can export your activities in either GPX (Route info) or TCX (all of the info including HR, Speed etc) format for use in other programs like Strava and Training Peaks.
  • Add Training Sessions (Training Targets). This is what I am really excited about on this watch. You can design your own sessions using intervals based on time or distance and in addition allocate a desired HR Zone that you want to do the effort in. You then upload the session to your watch. Easy as.
  • Daily Activity Tracking. Nearly everyone you see today has some form of activity tracker on them whether it be a Fitbit (I have a Flex), Garmin, Jawbone and Magellan. They are a good way to see if you are moving and it is a good encouragement for a hell of a lot of people to keep active.
  • Notifications. An easily recognisable icon in the top right hand corner of Polar Flow indicates if and when there are any updates to software in addition to any planned outages.
  • Cleanliness. It looks really good, is easy to navigate

Things I would like changed/fixed – 

  • Training Targets. I know I love this but there are two issues within the interface that could be fine tuned a little. The first is the need to type the entire time into the duration box in the ‘Phased’ option. If you do a ‘Quick’ setup you can just type either the hours/mins/secs into the required boxes but in Phased you need to type the entire thing out. No worries if you have only 2 phases but when you are doing around 20 it becomes time consuming. The other issue for me is that you can’t just copy and/or paste your phases. You can set up repeats but it is a mildly convoluted process of clicking boxes that then show a ‘chain’ icon to indicate they are linked. Great if you are doing the same interval over and over but not so much if you are doing a ladder style of interval.
  • 3rd Party Integration. Automatic uploads to popular 3rd party sites like Strava, Training Peaks or Mapmyrun. You can export your sessions as TCX or GPX files and manually import them but something like what Suunto Movescount have with Strava and Garmin Connect has with My Fitness Pal would be sweet.

Conclusion

I really love this watch. Yes it does have a couple things I would like done differently or would like changed but on a whole they do not detract from the overall usability or functionality of the watch. With there being so many options out there now I see it as a basic option of these types of technology to be easily upgradeable and almost future proof. The fact that Polar have outlined future updates, to me is impressive. Some other reviews I have read have alluded that this indicates that the watch was released prior to being really being complete. I see it as Polar assessing user’s responses in addition to seeing what the competition has to offer. I would have loved to have done this review as a side by side comparison with like offerings from Garmin and Suunto but they did not get back to me in time to do so. Instead you will get separate reviews of the offering they have provided.  

So in lieu of that I cannot recommend this watch enough. No, it did not get a full 5 out of 5 smiling Caveman heads, but as more updates roll out that may change. In the meantime despite the issues I highlighted this is a very high quality piece of technology that will fit the bill for all types of training and especially those SUP’ers who like me want a watch that suits multiple purposes for training and just looking good on a day to day basis. 

Caveman Rating:

4.5 out of 5 Smiling Caveman Heads