The V650 represents Polar's first foray into the growing world of cycling computers. All in all, with its handsome design, color touch screen and bevy of options, the device is worthy of praise. But its lack of Strava support and a missing turn-by-turn mapping feature leaves room for growth. (Editor's Note: The Polar V650 will reportedly be compatible with Strava starting in October)
Does Polar have a winner with the V650? Scroll through the slide for our full take on Polar's flagship cycling computer.
What's Included1 of 16
We got our hands on the Polar V650 with heart rate, and the box came loaded with the usual items: the device itself, a Polar H6 heart rate sensor, a USB cable, an adjustable bike mount system and the Getting-Started Guide.
First-Look2 of 16
At first glance, we were impressed with the overall look of the unit, and there's no surprise Polar received the Red Dot Award for Product Design. The Finnish company placed the 2.8" color touch screen on the largest bike-specific computer face we've seen. Similar to an iPhone, the front of the V650 features a single red button. Press once to start, press once more to create a lap and press and hold to stop recording.
Side Profile3 of 16
Despite its large face size, the V650's relatively thin profile allows it to weigh in at a respectable ~120 grams.
The Backside4 of 16
The back of the device features the bike mount and the covered USB port.
Front Light5 of 16
The leading edge of the V650 includes a smart visibility LED light that turns on automatically in low-light conditions. You can turn the light on manually, if you wish, and it contains a pulse feature to increase visibility. We found this light less helpful when looking for upcoming road hazards at night, and more beneficial when used to alert traffic of your presence. The small LED just isn't powerful enough to leave your traditional bike light at home. Nonetheless, this is an innovative safety feature.
Polar-Specific Mounts6 of 16
Both Garmin and Polar utilize the quarter turn mount brackets, but, unfortunately, the V650 is not compatible with its competitor's system. This is not a knock on the Polar—the included mount attaches well to the bike and secures the device appropriately—but it is an inconvenience if you're switching from Garmin or looking for aftermarket mounting brackets.
Customizable Data Pages7 of 16
The V650 includes six customizable data pages that contain up to eight fields per page. To change the page, simply swipe left or right. Although the text is readable, having eight data fields on the page is too busy. We found it more efficient to split the fields between different pages. Not only was the text larger, but it also allowed us to prioritize the data based on fields we used more.
Bike Fields8 of 16
The V650 also includes four bike profiles you can customize based on wheel size, crank length and sensors specific to that profile. We didn't like how you couldn't customize the profile names, forcing you to remember that 'Bike 1' is your Cannondale SuperSix EVO, not your Specialized Stumpjumper. But here's hoping Polar changes this in a future firmware update.
Swipe Down/Side Button9 of 16
The swipe-down feature is a convenient way to access additional on-the-go settings such as display brightness, training sounds and front-light options. Use the side button to calibrate altitude, lock display, turn off the device or search for sensors.
Bluetooth Smart Sensors10 of 16
While the industry is trending toward Bluetooth Smart sensors, ANT+ sensors are still dominating the cycling sensor space. The V650 is only compatible with Bluetooth Smart sensors, and Polar may have prematurely gone all-in. While many heart rate monitors offer Bluetooth Smart compatibility, many cadence, speed and power meters still use ANT+ technology exclusively. Long story short, if you've already invested in ANT+ sensors, this may not be the computer for you. If you're training with cadence and HR, the V650 pairs quickly and records data consistently and accurately. After all, Polar is known for its HR technology.
Polar Flow, Not Strava11 of 16
Diehard Strava users might find the V650 a frustrating computer. The V650 syncs data via the USB cable through Flow Sync to Polar Flow—Polar's own training software. To post your KOM-worthy rides to Strava, you have to download the TCX file from Polar Flow and upload it individually to Strava. The lack of Strava compatibility is an inconvenient design flaw that will deter many users, but Polar should have a firmware update later in 2015 to address this issue. If you aren't a Strava user, Polar Flow has a user-friendly interface and includes all the industry-standard features.
HR Breakdown and Coaching12 of 16
The heart rate breakdown is a great application for the V650's high-resolution color screen. It features a color-coordinated histogram that shows the amount of time spent in each HR zone. Additionally, the V650 provides helpful Smart Coaching features including post-ride feedback and how many calories you've burned.
Barometer and Mapping13 of 16
The V650 includes both a barometer and altimeter that records altitude, ascent and descent. It also shows real-time VAM (average ascent speed)—how many feet you climb per hour (vertical feet per hour). The device does not display incline due to its lack of a speed sensor—a feature other competitors include. Temperature is also not included.
Unfortunately, the V650 isn't able to give turn-by-turn directions. Instead, it offers an unmarked trail with a compass to find home again. A later firmware should address this issue, but given turn-by-turn mapping is an industry standard, its absence is a major negative.
Accuracy and Battery Life14 of 16
We tested the Polar V650 against a Garmin Forerunner 310XT and a Garmin Edge 20 for accuracy. The V650 and the Edge 20 were within 0.02 miles of each other, whereas the V650 and the Forerunner 310XT had a total distance difference of 0.1 miles. The V650 and the 310XT (ANT+ vs. Bluetooth Smart) displayed similar heart rate data, but we found the V650 showed HR data more consistently and picked up changes more rapidly. Also, the V650 consistently read a slightly higher 'current speed' than both the 310XT and the Edge 20.
The V650 battery lasts for more than 10 hours with GPS running. While this is dramatically less than its competitors, this wasn't a limiting feature for us. You have to plug the V650 into your computer to download the data, which recharges the device after each ride.
Final Thoughts15 of 16
The Polar V650 is an interesting option in the cycling computer market. It's less expensive than comparable competitors, and it has many great features. The V650 is not without its flaws, though, and 'future firmware updates' surround this promising (albeit, premature) device. If HR training and GPS accuracy are important to you, look no further. If power is important and you don't own Keo Power pedals, look elsewhere.