I recently had the chance to try out something really cool…
I have only ever worn various models of Garmin training watches so I was eager to try out something different, especially once I read about some of the cool features of the new V800:
- Designed for professional athletes and demanding amateurs for whom sport is a way of life
- Combines workout activity with your day-to-day activities for your true recovery status
- Stylish but robust – designed for everyday wear, compact size, Gorilla glass screen, stainless steel housing
- Multisport functionality – easy switch between sports, tracks transition times (take note triathletes!)
- Waterproof to 30m – can be used underwater
- Long usage times – 13h training (GPS), 50h training (low power GPS) – take note ultra runners and Iron-people!
- Bluetooth connectivity to heart rate monitor, your home computer and smartphone (for use with the new Polar Flow app)
- Online analysis, planning, and target setting via the Polar Flow app and web tools
When the package arrived from Polar Canada, it felt like Christmas because this runner was pretty darn excited to open it up and see what was inside. The unit I borrowed was a test model so the packaging and documentation was only interim but my understanding is that the contents are typical…
My tester kit included:
- The V800 training computer (beta unit)
- USB cable and charging plug
- Heart rate monitor and strap
- Foot pod cycling speed and cadence sensor
- Running stride sensor
Thankfully setting up the Polar V800 was pretty straightforward because I couldn’t wait to get outside and run with it. After charging the unit, the computer guided me through a fairly typical setup process where I could enter in all of my physiological and training metrics for each of the sport-specific profiles so that the computer’s calculations and assumptions would be accurate. Setup and pairing of the running stride sensor, cycling and cadence sensor and heart rate sensor was also straightforward thanks to the bluetooth connectivity.
I also downloaded and installed the Polar Flow app and checked out the Polar Flow online site.
Running with the V800…
As mentioned, I was pretty excited to get out and take the V800 for a spin. Before I even got out the door I noticed that the GPS status already showed ‘OK’ which meant it was ready to go, a nice change from the far-too-often ritual of standing around waiting for everyone’s GPS signals to connect.
Since this was a tester unit, I didn’t have the luxury of a full instruction manual so I was kind of figuring out the V800 on the go. I was happy to find that it was easy to switch between screens with just the touch of a button (I’m told the retail version of the watch has the ability to customize the data shown on each screen) and the white on black display was easy to read even in lower light conditions.
I was also happy to discover some of the smaller features of this watch like the vibration alerts for things such as signalling each km, something I’ve always wished my current watch could do.
Wearing the V800 every day…
Something that really caught my attention about the V800 is the idea of wearing it every day to track ALL of your activity throughout the day to include in your overall recovery status. Training for ultra-distance events, my schedule includes back-to-back long runs and I loved the idea of having a more accurate picture of my body’s actual recovery situation.
I couldn’t quite imagine wearing my current training watch every day due to size and bulk but easily wore the V800 much of the time without feeling like I had a big computer strapped to my wrist (even though I did!) Although the overall ‘footprint’ of the two isn’t all that different, there seemed to be a noticeable difference in the profile…
The strap on this particular V800 seemed to be a bit long for my wrist and was a bit sticky to fit through the loops but once on, I found it to be quite comfortable for everyday wear.
Training with the V800 and Polar Flow…
I was excited to test out how the V800 integrated with the smartphone app and web service but unfortunately wasn’t able to connect to either with just the beta unit. My own watch’s online tools are fairly limited but it sounds like the retail version of the V800 will impress even the techiest of data nerds. Many features are already completed and up-and-running while others are being completed and will be introduced in the coming months (check this out for an up-to-date listing of features status).
The full suite of Polar Flow features will allow the user to:
- Seamlessly sync to smartphone and desktop via Bluetooth wireless connection
- Track their training diary and targets
- Analyze heart rate stats
- Analyze training load and recovery status
- Analyze activity features such as sleep time, sleep quality, steps and daily activity
- Set up detailed training plans and track routes
- Advanced training analysis and mapping
The V800 clearly shines as a triathlete’s watch however, I used it primarily for running. I ran with the Polar Flow for a couple weeks and used it for various training situations from hard and fast track workouts to long, slow distance runs and a few things really stood out to me:
- Adapting the V800 to each ‘type’ of workout was really easy. The intricate timing of sprint and rest intervals at the track was all easily controlled with just one button. I would have liked to have been able to set up run/walk intervals for my longer distance runs but am told I would be able to with the fully-functional retail version.
- Superior satellite connectivity. I took the V800 on a few trail runs deep in the forests of the North Shore and found I had little issue with maintaining a satellite signal. Whereas my own training watch ‘blanks out’ under the thick tree cover, the V800 held it’s signal for most of the run giving me far more accurate data on my trail runs.
- Ease of use. No matter what I wanted to check, it was always quick and easy to sift through my recorded data and navigate to what I was looking for. Navigation on this watch seems to be really streamlined and that made it easy to monitor my training totals, recovery status and post-run stats (making the data-nerd in me very happy)
And since I was asked to try out this beta unit and share my honest thoughts, I should probably include some of the things that didn’t impress me quite as much:
- Strap length. I mentioned this above and while it’s a minor detail, I wonder if it might be of issue to other smaller-wristed users. The strap seemed to be awfully long and wasn’t fully contained by the sliding loop on the band. Not a huge deal but something to think about if you’re wanting to wear this watch on a daily basis.
- Accuracy of recovery status. For lack of a better term, the ‘accuracy’ of the recovery status indicator caused me to pause for a moment. I LOVE that this computer keeps an ongoing tally of your training and day-to-day activity but it seemed to me that the recovery time estimates were quite lengthy. I think I train at a fairly hefty volume, running several days in a row and often back-to-back hard workouts and long distance runs. As set up, the algorithm in the V800 computer classified many of these sessions as ‘extreme’, suggesting lengthy recovery periods (300+ hrs in some cases) that I simply couldn’t accommodate with my schedule. This makes me feel like I probably didn’t have my profile settings quite right and I’d want to spend more time making sure everything was set up accurately on my end to ensure the best and most useful recovery time estimates.
The bottom line…
Even though I only got to try out this watch for a short period of time and even though there were many functionalities not quite ready to use on this beta unit, I really liked the V800. It was simple to use, intuitive to learn and I loved that it really can be worn everyday and be a meaningful part of your training and recovery plans. If you’re a triathlete or heavy-volume athlete, you definitely want to consider this training watch.
I don’t want to say that one brand is necessarily ‘better’ than another because my current watch has served me well over the years. However, the V800 truly has been designed with the heavy training load athlete in mind. Whether elite or recreational, the V800 features so many options that would make the planning and analysis of a heavy (and varied) training schedule so much easier and convenient. When training already takes up so much of your time, the last thing you want is to be bogged down each night poring over data and complicated analysis.
I would have loved to be able to test out more of the analysis tools that will be available via the Polar Flow app and web service but seeing as this is a pre-sale edition, new features and functionalities are being completed and introduced daily. Polar is ensuring that users stay up to date with updates via the Polar FlowSync service.
For myself, recovery has always been a priority considering the additional complications I feel I have from my injuries and rest is something I take very seriously in order to minimize the impacts of my ongoing back problems. To be able to more accurately understand my specific training load and required recovery times is very enticing. As is being able to collect recovery data throughout my day.
I love the idea of training with a computer that is not only designed for the heavier-volume athlete but that honestly works and feels as if it was. Design and fit are just as important as functionality and I personally think the V800 gets high marks in all three.
The techie, number-crunching nerd in me loves the type and volume of data that this training computer records yet the style-conscious side of me loves that it is easy to use and easy to look at. Let’s face it, everyone loves a new tech gadget but even more so when it looks cool. While I was testing the V800, so many people noticed it right away and asked me specifically about it. Everyone loves the bright blue colour it seems, myself included.
Where to get one for yourself…
An early version of the Polar V800 has just recently hit the market and the pre-sale edition is currently only available from the official Polar webstore. The black version currently retails in Canada for $559.99 with the H7 heart rate monitor. The blue version will be available later in 2014.
Disclaimer: Polar Canada contacted me and provided the Polar V800 beta unit for a testing period of approximately 2 weeks. I was not compensated for writing this post and all opinions expressed herein are wholly my own.