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First look at Polar V650 GPS bike computer

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Today Polar announced their first dedicated GPS bike computer – the V650.  The unit combines integrated GPS with a full color touch screen, it also becomes the first bike-specific computer to be Bluetooth Smart sensor capable.  This marks the second major unit that Polar has announced in the last three weeks – the first being the V800 triathlon focus GPS watch.  Like the V800, the V650 won’t be available until later this spring – in May (the V800 is in April).

As such, the unit wasn’t yet in a usable form for me to evaluate on a bike.  That should happen though in the next few weeks.  Until then, you’ll have to make due with my impressions off-bike in poking at the unit.  Given that, don’t take this walk-through of what’s in the unit as anything more than that.  Polar tells me the hardware is now locked and final, it’s just the software that’s still being refined.

Which brings me to the following point:  This isn’t a review.  Yes, for real.  These are my standard In-Depth Reviews.  This post is just a first/early look at the unit, well before everything is done.  Come back later this spring for the full review.  Ok, let’s go!

Size and Form Factor:

Let’s start with the basics – checking out the front, sides and back of the 120g unit.  First up, a full frontal:

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Then, the side view:

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And finally, the backside.

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Above, you’ll note the quarter-turn mount, which is different than Polar’s past bike mounts and is not compatible with those older mounts.

Polar is releasing two mounts for the unit. The first is the little rubber mount set seen below:

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The second is an aero mount, designed for time-trial & triathlon bikes.  That mount will be available “later in 2014”.

Just for fun, I went ahead and tried to connect it to a 3rd party Garmin-compatible quarter-turn mount (such as the BarFly ones).  No dice.  The Polar notches (wings) are just a tiny bit large (like, a millimeter at most).

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While I understand Polar’s hesitancy to make it compatible with Garmin, there are other companies doing so without issue.  And ultimately, Polar has basically copied the design without copying the part that makes it so popular: Full compatibility with a slew of mounts, even bike-integrated mounts.  Perhaps one can simply take out some sandpaper and make it fit though (I was sorta hesitant to do so with their prototype units, I figured that might be frowned upon).

With the mounts out of the way, let’s look at comparison shots.  I figured I’d go with the most common units on the market today: The Edge 500, Edge 510, and Edge 800/810.  Keep in mind the Edge 800/810 share the same physical external specs, it’s just different software and a different chipset internally.  But externally, they’re identical.

First up, the view from the top.  In this case you can see the sizes from smallest (Edge 500) to medium (Edge 510) to large – Edge 800/810, then the Polar V650 to the right of that.

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As you can see above, it’s definitely the biggest of the bunch.  It’s fine sitting on a bike stem, but I think it’s a bit more awkward sitting on the bars, or especially even triathlon TT/aero bars.

On the bright side, it is the thinnest of the bunch:

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With the runway show out of the way, let’s start poking at things.

User Interface and Touch Screen:

The unit is navigated fully by touch – similar to your phone, except using a touch-screen that’s suited to water and glove usage.  Starting off at the main menu, you’ll have options to go into ‘Settings’, ‘History’, and to start a ride.  For those familiar with the Polar Beat app, this looks rather similar in styling.

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Meanwhile, along the left side you have a single button that flies out to provide sensor calibration and to turn off the unit or lock the screen.  This sensor calibration includes not only things like power meters, but also GPS calibration.

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On the bottom of the unit is a single red button.  That red button acts as a start/stop and lap trigger.  If you haven’t started yet, then pressing it will start the activity.  Meanwhile, if you have started then pressing it will trigger a lap.  You’ll long-hold it to stop the activity.

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At any point in the menu you can ‘swipe-down’ from the top or bottom of the screen.  If you do so you’ll get settings information such as backlight and front light configuration and brightness, as well as sound/audio levels:

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Looking at the data configuration side of things, the unit allows you to configure up to 6 data pages, with each data page containing between 1 and 8 pieces of data.  Here’s how that looks:

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You can swipe left and right in order to change data page views.  The view configuration can be changed either on the unit itself, or on Polar Flow.

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Finally, there are four sport profiles – currently named ‘Road’, ‘MTB’, ‘Indoor’, and ‘Other’.  These sport profiles control activity settings.  For example, you may want different auto lap settings, or distance displayed in a different format.

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In addition to sport profiles, you have bike profiles – simply named ‘Bike 1’ through ‘Bike 4’.  These are not currently changeable, but Polar hopes that down the road after launch they’ll allow you to set these names to custom names (such as ‘Cervelo P2’ or ‘Trek Road’).

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Each bike profile has a separate set of sensors that can be paired to it.  Sensors are paired globally, and then from there ‘attached’ to any given bike (or multiple bikes).  Below, you can see some of the sensors paired globally.

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I’ll dig more into the sensors though in a little bit in the Bluetooth section.

Built-in Front LED Safety Headlight:

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Probably the most unique feature on the unit is actually a front LED headlight.  This light is designed not so much for illuminating a dark road, but rather to make you more visible to others.  Thus, think more safety and visibility rather than darkness assistance.

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The headlight supports two modes: Constant on and flashing.  You can change the two modes within the settings depending on what you want.  In general, constant flashing tends to capture people’s attention better.

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The light can be automatically triggered based on the unit’s light sensor, which determines how bright it is outside.  You can set a minimum threshold where it’ll trigger above that point.  For example, if you were riding in the day and went into a tunnel, it would automatically trigger.

GPS Integration & Barometric Altimeter:

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As one would expect for a high-end cycling unit on the market today, the V650 includes an integrated GPS chipset within it.  With the GPS on, the battery will get about 10 hours with 1-second recording rate.  This would be inclusive of any sensor data such as cadence, heart rate, or power meter.

Like the recently announced V800 GPS unit, it includes satellite pre-caching capabilities for up to three days.  This means that if you sync your V650 unit every 3 days it’ll pre-populate expected satellite location information and dramatically increase initial satellite reception each time you turn it on.  The satellite pre-caching sync process would initially be completed by FlowSync (the PC/Mac desktop app), but down the road it’ll also be included within the mobile app.

Within the V800 unit I’m seeing satellite reception after travelling thousands of miles down to just a few seconds.  It would be my expectation that this unit would perform similarly (of course, such video results will be included in my review).

The unit includes a barometric altimeter within it, which will give you accurate elevation information while riding.  It will also give you ascent/descent information as well as vertical ascent in meter/hours (VAM) information.  VAM essentially tells you how fast you’re climbing.  Like the V800, the elevation information will contribute to altitude compensated calorie information, which is designed to increase calorie burn stats based on elevation.

Bluetooth Smart Sensor Connectivity:

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The V650 supports Bluetooth Smart sensors, which means it can connect to standard Bluetooth Smart cycling sensors.  Such Bluetooth Smart sensors started hitting the market 2 years ago with the Wahoo Blue HR heart rate strap.  That was then shortly thereafter followed by Polar’s H7 Bluetooth Smart HR strap.  And then beyond that, we’ve seen many more Bluetooth Smart HR straps.

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After the heart rate strap flood, we started to see Bluetooth Smart speed/cadence sensors hit the market, about 18 months ago starting with the Wahoo Blue SC.  This was a combo speed & cadence sensor, meaning it could measure speed using a wheel magnet on a trainer (or outdoors), while also measuring cadence with a magnet on the crank-arm.  These sensors (like the heart rate straps), followed the standard (and at the time just published) profile specifications on Bluetooth Smart speed/cadence sensors.  In doing so, it means that any sensor could communicate with any compatible head unit.

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Finally, we saw our first Bluetooth Smart power meter a year ago with the Stages power meter.  This unit transmitted both ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart concurrently – making it perfect for folks who may want to transition from an ANT+ head unit to a Bluetooth Smart head unit.

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Which, takes us to today with the V650.  At launch, the V650 will support the heart rate straps, the speed/cadence combo sensors, speed-only sensors, and cadence-only sensors.

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Polar will be making both speed-only and cadence-only sensors, modeled after their existing sensor units, just with new communications guts inside.

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Moving forward, in June 2014, Polar will start supporting the Bluetooth Smart power meter profile, which is timed to their release of the Bluetooth Smart communications pods for their Polar/Look Keo power meter.  That power meter runs on W.I.N.D. today and is not compatible with the V650. Getting compatibility with the V650 will simply require swapping out the communication pods.  Polar hasn’t quite decided what the price for such a swap will be, but the goal is for it to be ‘relatively cheap’ – likely in the $100 or less range.

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To recap, here’s the plan:

Supported sensors in May 2014:

– Bluetooth Smart Heart Rate Strap
– Bluetooth Smart Cycling Speed & Cadence Combo Sensor
– Bluetooth Smart Cycling Speed-Only Sensor
– Bluetooth Smart Cycling Cadence-Only Sensor

In June 2014, Polar will add support for:

– Bluetooth Smart Cycling Power Meter Sensor

Next on the Bluetooth side it’s worthwhile pointing out that while the unit does actually include a full Bluetooth 4.0 chipset, Polar will only be leveraging the Bluetooth Smart Smart side of things, which means that it will require a Bluetooth Smart compatible phone.  On iOS this means the iPhone 4s and newer.  And on Android, it requires a phone with Android OS 4.3 + compatible hardware.  Now, even with that hardware – the V650 will not support connecting to a phone to upload workouts in May.  That functionality is coming “later in 2014”.  Polar hopes that will be ‘sooner’ rather than later, but declined to publically state an exact target.

Once that update comes though, the unit will allow you to automatically upload workouts to the Polar Flow web service upon completion.   Once online you’ll get ride overview, details and analysis capabilities.  Further, while online using the service you can customize bike profiles and view configuration (such as data field displays).

Of course, the details of all of this remain a bit hazy since the unit doesn’t contain such functionality today.

Finally, it’s interesting pointing out that technically speaking Polar could add support for the Wahoo KICKR and other Bluetooth Smart trainers (such as the CycleOps PowerBeam Pro Bluetooth Edition).  Meaning, that Polar and Wahoo (or CycleOps) could collaborate together to enable you to control the trainer directly from the head unit.  If they did that, it’d make the unit incredibly compelling – especially if it could control both trainers.  Obviously, neither company has committed to such – but it’s all within the realm of possibility…

Training and Coaching Functionality:

The V650 includes a bit of a mix of different training-focused functionality.  Some of it is there from past units, but much of it appears to be pushed until a later release.

On the list of things it does have today, it includes the color-coded zones (such as time in zone), which are enumerated onto the screen based on your current zone information.  Historically this has only really been seen post-workout on the computer, or in non-color-coded form on the unit itself in much smaller sizing.  Polar didn’t have this working on the screens at the time since there wasn’t enough mid-activity data, so here’s a screenshot of what it should look like:

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As it stands today, the unit upon launch will not have any form of workout, interval or structured training guidance.  From a workout creation standpoint you’ll be able to create a workout online with Polar Flow (that’s the website), and then sync it to the unit.  Initially this sync will occur via USB cable (once rolled out sometime in the future), but once that feature and the mobile app are present, you’ll be able to do it that way as well.  But again, there aren’t any timelines for that functionality.

The unit will record RR/HRV (heart rate variability) information during a workout.  That information is used to help determine VO2Max estimates.  Further, the unit then takes much of this information and transmits it to Polar Flow, which will display details about training load and recovery.  Based on the individual workout impact and combined with your historical load data, the site can better predict recovery times.  Below is an example of how this information will be displayed on the site.

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Ultimately, this information can be used to better predict not only training load but also the lead-in and taper into a given race.

Routing and Directions:

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The unit includes route navigation based on routes downloaded from Polar Flow.  [Update: At launch, only route tracking will be available, route guidance will come in a later update]. These routes are either routes shared by others, or past/historical routes.  Note that at launch you will not be able to create your own routes on the site.  Thus, the feature is kinda limiting.  Initially the routes will be downloaded using your PC, but long term you’ll be able to do it with the mobile app (in a later release).

On the unit the routes will be shown both as a breadcrumb trail as well as with a little compass.  The compass is GPS based, and not magnetic.  Though, for cycling that tends to be fine.   Below, is a screenshot of what the breadcrumb trail will look like:

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Remember that this is different than ‘turn by turn’ navigation, it doesn’t provide street names, but rather just a little arrow to follow.  This is similar to most other units on the market.

Product Comparison Charts:

I’ve added the V650 to the Product Comparison Tool, which means you can mix and match it against any other watch/unit that I’ve ever reviewed for feature comparisons.  While I’ve validated everything below with the Polar product team in Finland and in the US, do keep in mind that because it’s still early in the release cycle things could change (either good or bad changes). For the sake of simplicity, I’ve just selected the Polar V650, Garmin Edge 500, Edge 810, and O-Synce Navi2Coach in the chart below. It’s a bit tricky because feature-wise it’s more similar to the Edge 500, but physical unit-wise it’s more similar to the Edge 510 & Edge 810 (having a color touch-screen display).

However, you can easily make your own change with any device you want here at this link.

Function/FeaturePolar V650Garmin Edge 500Garmin Edge 810O-Synce Navi2Coach
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated October 2nd, 2014 @ 10:48 amNew Window
Price$253/€220$199$399$249
Product Announcement DateJanuary 26, 2014SEP 1, 2009Jan 7, 2013AUG 31, 2012
Actual Availability/Shipping DateCurrently slated November 2014 (delayed from May 2014)Dec 2009Jan 2013OCT 2012
GPS Recording FunctionalityYesYesYesYes
Data TransferMicro-USB, Bluetooth Smart later 2014USBUSB & BluetoothUSB
WaterproofingIPX7IPX7IPX7IPX7
Battery Life10 Hours18 hours17 hours16 hours
Recording Interval1-second1-Second or Smart1-Second or Smart1s, 5s, 10s, 20s, 30s, 60s
Satellite Pre-Loading via ComputerYes - 3 DaysNoNoNo
Quick Satellite ReceptionTBAGreatYesGreat
AlertsSound/Visual (Power, Cadence, HR, no speed)Sound/VisualSound/VisualAudio/Visual
Backlight GreatnessGreatGoodGreatGreat
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceNoNoNoNo
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)NoNoNoNo
ConnectivityPolar V650Garmin Edge 500Garmin Edge 810O-Synce Navi2Coach
Bluetooth Legacy (pre-4.0) to PhoneNoNoYesNo
Bluetooth Smart (4.0+) to Phone UploadingLater 2014NoNoNo
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)TBANoNoNo
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)NoNoYesNo
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)NoNoNoNo
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoNoNono
CyclingPolar V650Garmin Edge 500Garmin Edge 810O-Synce Navi2Coach
Designed for cyclingYesYesYesYes
Power Meter CapableYesYesYesYes
Power Meter Configuration/Calibration OptionsYesYesYesYes
Power Meter TSS/NP/IFTBAYesYesYes
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableYesYesYesYes
RunningPolar V650Garmin Edge 500Garmin Edge 810O-Synce Navi2Coach
Designed for runningNoNoNoNo
SwimmingPolar V650Garmin Edge 500Garmin Edge 810O-Synce Navi2Coach
Designed for swimmingNoNoNoNo
TriathlonPolar V650Garmin Edge 500Garmin Edge 810O-Synce Navi2Coach
Designed for triathlonNoNoNoNo
WorkoutsPolar V650Garmin Edge 500Garmin Edge 810O-Synce Navi2Coach
Create/Follow custom workoutsNot upon launchYesYesYes
On-unit interval FeatureNoYesYesNo
Training Calendar FunctionalityNoNoYesNo
FunctionsPolar V650Garmin Edge 500Garmin Edge 810O-Synce Navi2Coach
Auto Start/StopYesYesYesYes
Virtual Partner FeatureNoYesYesNo
Virtual Racer FeatureNoNoYesNo
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)NoNoYesNo
Day to day watch abilityNoN/ANoN/A
Hunting/Fishing/Ocean DataNoNoNoNo
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNoNo
Jumpmaster mode (Parachuting)NoNoNoNo
GeocachingNoNoNoYes
Weather Display (live data)NoNoYesNo
NavigatePolar V650Garmin Edge 500Garmin Edge 810O-Synce Navi2Coach
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)YesYesYesYes
Markers/Waypoint DirectionYesYesYesYes
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)NoNoYesNo
Back to startYesYesYesYes
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationNoNoNoNo
Download courses/routes from phone to unitYes (from Flow Web service) - Later 2014NoYesNo
SensorsPolar V650Garmin Edge 500Garmin Edge 810O-Synce Navi2Coach
Altimeter TypeBarometricBarometricBarometricBarometric
Compass TypeGPSGPSGPSMagnetic
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleYesYesYesYes
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableNoYesYesYes
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableNoYesYesYes
ANT+ Footpod CapableNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Power Meter CapableNoYesYesYes
ANT+ Weight Scale CapableNoNoYesYes
ANT+ Fitness Equipment (Gym)NoNoNoNo
ANT+ Remote ControlNoNoNoYes
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNoNoNo
Di2 Shifting IntegrationNoNo
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableYesNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableYesNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapableNoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableYesNoNoNo
Temp Recording (internal sensor)YesYesYesYes
Temp Recording (external sensor)NoNoNoNo
Compatible with Firstbeat HR toolsTBAYesNoNo
SoftwarePolar V650Garmin Edge 500Garmin Edge 810O-Synce Navi2Coach
PC ApplicationPolar FlowsyncGTCGarmin Training Center/BasecampTrainingLab
Web ApplicationPolar FlowGarmin ConnectGarmin ConnectTrainingsplan.com
Phone AppiOS (Android in December)Garmin Fit (not direct to device though)Garmin Connect (iOS/Android)No
Ability to Export SettingsNoNoNoYes
PurchasePolar V650Garmin Edge 500Garmin Edge 810O-Synce Navi2Coach
Amazon LinkN/ALinkLinkLink
Clever Training Link (Save 10% with DCR10JKW)N/ALinkLinkLink
DCRainmakerPolar V650Garmin Edge 500Garmin Edge 810O-Synce Navi2Coach
Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLink

Again, remember you can easily make your own change with any device you want here at this link.

My Initial Thoughts on the Polar V650:

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I’m liking what I see from Polar.  Between the V800 a few weeks ago, and now the V650 – they’ve made a really solid change in direction and seem to be ‘getting it’.  The unit, priced at approximately $250 (technically the official pricing is $253US), is a bit on the high side for the functionality at launch (May) – compared to the Edge 500.  The obvious differences being this (Polar V650) has a color display, is touch screen and has phone upload capabilities (later on).  And the V650 also has the front LED light.  All things the Edge 500 lacks.

On the flip side, the Edge 500 has ANT+ support and more power meter functionality around TrainingPeaks metrics (TSS/NP/IF).  Today, in the cycling world ANT+ reigns supreme on accessories.  Some of those ‘accessories’ costing thousands of dollars (power meters).  Polar states that for things like the power meter metrics, they’ll be looking to provide ‘similar’ metrics that may not have the official Training Peaks branding – but give effectively the same data.  Some other head units do the same thing.

I continue to see a solid market for some form of tiny device that quietly translates ANT+ data to Bluetooth Smart data (like the 4iiii’s Viiiiva or their new pods).  Whether or not the V650 supports such a device would remain to be seen.

The V650 will be the first dedicated GPS-integrated cycling-specific computer to support Bluetooth Smart accessories.  While other cycling units have Bluetooth, they don’t connect to sensors.  And the units that do connect to sensors, require a phone to operate.  The only ‘issue’ here that I see is that ultimately, the number of consumers that have such BLE sensors is relatively small compared to those that don’t.  And, having to wait till June for power meter support is a bit of a bummer.

I’m really interested in seeing how the phone side of the unit comes into play later this year.  Given that the unit will ship in May without phone connectivity it’ll be a bit behind the competition (Edge 510/810).  Polar has promised such connectivity “later in 2014”, but it remains to be seen if that means ‘June’ or ‘December’.  Personally I think they should be really clear about what the timelines are (à la what Suunto did a year ago) since if I was looking at a new unit, that’d honestly be one of the single biggest decision points.  I’d be willing to wait a couple months, but not the entire year.

With that, I’m really looking forward to getting some on-bike time with the unit and starting putting it through its paces.  As I noted at the beginning – I’m pretty jazzed about the direction Polar is going in, and I think if we fast forward till this time next year it’ll be really interesting to see how far they’ve moved forward their entire offering (device + phone app + Polar Flow website).  An interesting year it’ll be…

This is my attempt at reducing redundant questions based on common and/or expected questions.  I’ll continue to add to this over time as I see repeats.  Thanks!

When will it be available?

Polar is stating May July August September October 2014 for availability.

How much is it?

$253US/€220 without the HR strap, and $310US/€270 with the HR strap.

I’m looking at places online to purchase it, and XYZ store says they’ll have it in March!?!

They’re lying to get your order.  Yes, really.

When will your in-depth review be posted?

It’ll be posted once Polar delivers final hardware and/or software to me.  This is primarily to protect you against making purchasing decisions based on a beta product that could have bugs introduced later after my review (though, that’s always a possibility).  Thus, about 1-2 weeks after the final hardware/software is released to me.  At this point, my understanding is the hardware is final, however of course, the software is far from final.

What file format does it export in?

The unit will provide standard Polar .HRM+.GPX files for cycling (like past Polar products).

Will Polar offer an API to access the data from their site?

That is the plan.  Or rather, they plan to do two different things.  First is to offer a way to download the files manually, and second is a way to push activity data to 3rd party services.  A few days ago, Polar released a statement to me about their plans (in relation to the V800, but I’ve been told it applies to the V650 as well).  I’ve copied said statement below:

“Polar does indeed plan to allow users of our V800 and other future products to be able to export their training data to other services.

 

As a first step, they will be able to export individual training files from the Polar Flow service to other training services. Although we do not have an exact timeline for this, we expect to be able to offer this within a few months of the launch of V800, at the latest.

 

We are also in discussions with some third party services to have an automatic connection, so that training done with a Polar product and stored in the Polar Flow service would automatically appear in another training service. This requires a software layer between the two services – called an API – and we want to be sure we can create and support this properly to ensure it works perfectly. We expect to make more announcements on specific partners and services during this year.

 

The final step will be to offer inbound data, so that people using other services will be able to combine this with any training data in the Polar Flow service. Again, this will require some software development work and we will offer this with selected partners at a later stage.

 

We believe that offering our customers a choice of where and how to use their data will greatly enhance the experience they have with our products and services and we are working hard to ensure this happens as soon as possible. Polar Flow is an important part of the Polar ecosystem for our newest devices and all future products. It will also be opened up to selected existing products in due course. We will continue to develop and improve our Flow service to ensure we can deliver on our most important promise – that our customers can meet their training goals with us.”

Does it connect to Bluetooth Smart devices?

Yes. Upon release in May July August September 2014 it’ll connect to the following Bluetooth Smart device types:

– Bluetooth Smart Heart Rate Strap
– Bluetooth Smart Cycling Speed & Cadence Combo Sensor
– Bluetooth Smart Cycling Speed-Only Sensor
– Bluetooth Smart Cycling Cadence-Only Sensor

Later in 2014, Polar will add support for:

– Bluetooth Smart Cycling Power Meter Sensor

Does it work with non-Bluetooth Smart, Bluetooth devices (i.e. Bluetooth legacy devices)?

No, it does not, only Bluetooth Smart.

Does it work with ANT+ devices?

No, it does not. It connects to Bluetooth Smart devices.  It will NOT connect to any ANT+ power meters.

Does it support existing Polar W.I.N.D. sensors?

No, it does not.  Neither HR nor speed/cadence/power meters.

Does it support power meters?

Polar has stated they will enable Bluetooth Smart power meter support starting later in 2014.  This will be in conjunction with an update to the transmission technology for their Polar/Look Keo power system (today, that system uses POLAR W.I.N.D.).  They have confirmed that they will support the standard Bluetooth Smart power meter spec, which is currently used by Stages Power for their dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart product, and in the last few weeks, by PowerTap for Bluetooth Smart-only PowerTap hub caps.

C’mon, you must have something else geeky cool that didn’t fit?

It’s true, I do. For the real geeks in the crowd, the V650 (along with the V800) will include Bluetooth Smart sensor relay/broadcasting.  This means that if you attach a HR strap to the V650, it will actually rebroadcast that transmission as another BLE HR strap.  This is useful for group-based sessions, and for folks who may have secondary apps/devices that want to connect to the same HR strap.  In the case of the V650, they see a scenario where the coach could be in a follow-car and want to follow along on the data.

Does it do ‘smart watch’ style notifications (calls/text messages/etc…)?

In talking with Polar, they definitely see the potential for this (hardware is designed with it in mind), but at this point they haven’t decided if (or when) this would be added to the V650.  But, they noted that should it be added, it’d be a simple firmware update.  Whether that’s for free or paid would be TBD.

What is the battery life with GPS on?

The battery life is 10 hours with 1-second recording and GPS enabled.  The LED light on the front impacts the battery only about 2% from their testing, so that’s relatively tiny.  The unit gets a “whole lot more” battery life if GPS is disabled, but they didn’t have stats available.

Does it have Live Tracking capability like the Garmin FR220/620 and Garmin Edge 510/810?

Polar has stated “that’s a possibility” but have not confirmed if and/or when it might be included in the product.  Given the unit won’t connect to the phone in May upon launch, I’d suspect it’d be “later in 2014” if (again, a big if) they offer live tracking.

Do you think Garmin, Suunto or Timex will deliver new cycling units this season?

I don’t expect Garmin to release a replacement for the Edge 510 or 810 this season.  They were only announced 12 months ago.  Meanwhile, the Edge 200 and Edge 500 are overdue – so those could be potential candidates, but I’m mixed on whether we’ll see something there.  I don’t expect new cycling units from either Suunto or Timex.  Mostly because Suunto has never entered the cycling-specific market, and while Timex has, they seem semi dis-interested in it at this point

Do you recommend waiting till May?

I tend however to be of the camp to buy what’s available now, and start training, rather than waiting.  Which doesn’t mean to go out and buy an Edge 500 instead of a V650, but rather, to make decisions based on your events and training schedule.  What if Polar slips to June?  Or if Garmin announces something new in April, but isn’t available to June (like usual)?  How do those impact your season and races?  Finally, note that like any other high-demand product, initial capacity orders will fill up quickly.  Thus, if you wait till May to order (3 months from now), I highly doubt you’ll get your unit anywhere near May.

Why haven’t you answered my question below yet?

In general, it’s likely because either I, or Polar, don’t know the answer (or they wish to not yet disclose it).  Or, because I hadn’t yet slept in days and decided to sleep for an hour or two.

Wait, when did you say your in-depth review will be released?  Why haven’t you released your review yet?

My review will be released once they have final software/hardware (currently targeted for May sometime in 2014). I will update this very line item once I have final hardware/software.

With that, thanks for reading!

Updates as of 1/28/2014: Availability date shifted from April to May, changes to routing/navigation upon launch.

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123 Comments

  1. Linda

    Very nice device, but not one I'd ever buy ... just because of the battery life. Some of my workouts will outlast the battery's life.
    Also, what I don't understand is that it can be compared to a smartphone, but with only 1 app installed. Why won't Polar make an Android/iPhone app and have everyone use their own phone? I know mounting it to the handlebar will be a challenge, but everyone's bringing their phone along anyway, right?
    With this device I think we're only 1 step away from using your phone for these kinda things.

    Reply
    • Paul S replied

      Phones, in general, aren't waterproof, and the quality/lack of cell coverage affects their battery life. Also, since the software is usually written expecting continuous coverage to the Internet, when you ride outside of cell range, the software may stop working the way you want (maps may no longer be available, etc.)

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Just to clarify - Polar did make an iPhone/Android app already that does what you describe. It's called "Polar Beat". I wrote up a post about it here a little over a year ago: link to dcrainmaker.com

      The Android variant of it came out back in December.

      Reply
    • giorgitd replied

      After reading this post and the replies, I took my Galaxy S3 (on android 4.3 / Jelly Bean) and tried to get the Polar Beat app. Incompatible hardware. Huh? Here's what the app notes say..."For now, Polar Beat works with Samsung Galaxy S4." Wow, pretty limited.

      I have an unlocked and unused iPhone 3 in a drawer. Booted it up, tried to get the Polar Beat app. I didn't think that this would work...and it didn't (iPhone 3 doesn't have the appropriate comm hardware).

      Reply
    • Robin Johnson replied

      iPhone on the Bike was not the nirvana I thought it should be. Yes I got a great waterproof case, but it does not ventilate well; Yes you'll need a backup battery and cord in a pouch on the cross bar or seat pouch (as per DCR advice) as the iPhone (4s) won't last a 4hr ride even w/o GPS on; backup battery is constantly charging the draining iPhone battery creating heat in an unventilated case; long ride on a warm day (75F) and hit some rough patches at good speed, did cook my iPhone. Now iPhone has no wifi and the GPS constantly says I'm at -304,878 feet and iPhone won't sync hands free to my car. An expensive lesson. I eagerly await the V650 w 10hr life w/GPS no backup battery (and hopefully upload to my new iPhone later)!

      Reply
    • Nicholas S replied

      Besides battery life, most phone screens cannot be seen properly in full sunlight.

      Reply
  2. Psychotext

    Such a shame that this doesn't have proper mapping functionality. Given the size of the screen it would have been perfect for touring, but having to rely on pre entered routes makes it fairly useless in that regard.

    Would be nice if they'd had a higher end version to compete with the Edge 800. Garmin are getting lazy in that particular product niche.

    Reply
    • Tourist replied

      Mapping functionality is useless without the maps to load. Even Garmin maps are limited and expensive. Try to get a real topo map for Australia!
      There is no standard for routable maps, not even an "industry standard."
      Garmin tolerates OSM providing compatible maps, but I doubt they be happy about a commercial competitor doing so.
      Producing a reasonable set of maps is clearly possible, but it takes time.

      Another factor is that a live map chews battery, and this unit is already a bit challenged in that regard.

      A practical compromise would be the ability to download routes from the web (or an onboard mapping app) via a mobile phone, and I expect that that is already in the Polar forward plan.

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Keep in mind that Garmin released a cycling product this past year built on OSM - the Edge Touring.

      Reply
  3. Kenni Lund

    Polar needs to get The phone/3rd party app connectivity ready and running for release date. With garmin having Mobile connect and tomtom releasing mysports app Soon, they are alleeady Way behind.

    Reply
  4. Keith

    As always Ray, thanks for the clear level headed first look at this interesting device.
    This looks very much like Polar have installed their own Polar Beat application in a stand alone device. However in true Polar fashion it is the associated website(s) which let it down. Let me explain what I mean.
    Polar Beat has been around for a year or so now. Polar Loop was launched at the end of 2013. Polar have announced the V800 and now this V650 while in the background Polar Personal Trainer and the new Polar Flow web service are in complete disarray. Only sessions recorded on Beat have transferred from PPT to Flow. All other training remains languishing in PPT with no way of manual transfer.
    I have asked in every possible way if Polar would make a clear statement about the future of PPT and the final capabilities of Flow with regard to input/output and transfer of information and have seen no replies anywhere at all. Without the complete user experience they can make as many sexy devices as they like but people won't invest unless they now about the complete package.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      They've stated that PPT is end of road. But that they'll be migrating activities from PPT to Flow by/around April. What they haven't stated is if there's any limitations on which devices will get ported over. I'll circle back again and see if they've solidified that yet in the last three weeks.

      As for output of Flow (ignoring old activities for a second), they provided a fairly clear statement last week, which I included up in the FAQ section.

      Reply
    • giorgitd replied

      I agree that the confusion and lack of interoperability among Polar web/local client software is a real disappointment and an inhibition to adoption of new hardware. Let's be honest - if you're new to Polar and don't have legacy data from legacy devices, well, perhaps you're unaware. But I have had a number of Polar devices, the newest is a S720i (!) - which still does what I need it to do. BUT...I'm on P Pro T (the Win client) and moving that data around is a challenge. A number of folks have prepared some utilities to convert .hrm to other formats and, with enough discovery and work, it's *mostly* possible to get what you want done. But Polar has the best knowledge of their own file format - if they wanted to remove this concern, they could probably develop a web-based data converter that would take Polar files from any of their repositories (local PPT, web PPT (P Personal T), Beat, Flow, etc. to any of their other repositories (or at least from older to newer)... Why on Earth is this so difficult to do or recognize as important? Don't get me wrong - I'm in the market during 2014 for a new triathlon device - my swim is getting to the point where metrics could be helpful and I'm currently racing with a Garmin 305. So the new Polar devices look interesting...and I've had *great* customer support from them on the hardware side for many years...but...but...but...

      Reply
  5. Nathan

    I know companies need to get their products to market as quickly as possible but it gets a bit tiring having half completed products released.

    I don't want to pay for something and then hope a feature is added in a few months time. Particularly a feature for a common component that should be added from the start.

    Good job Ray :)

    Reply
  6. shai

    Good morning polar - waking up from a 10 year hibernation to catch up with the market...
    I'll stick with Garmin...

    Reply
  7. Ian

    As a long term Polar user I've been waiting for this for some time!
    Critical to me is that they deliver on their promise to open Polar Flow to some of the current devices (as per their statement). I will buy this so long as I can still use my RCX5 and my CS600x with power as well as some of the WIND kit and upload the data to the same place. That way I can buy into the new format over time.
    If they deliver on this then I'll stay Polar loyal buy the V650 & buy the V800 sometime later.
    Seems to me that Polar are trying to do the right thing ... I look forward to it!

    Reply
  8. Oleg

    I was using Polar CS200 for some time, later on got H7 BT HR strap to use together with Polar Beat iPhone app, and was happy with it.
    Checked PolarFlow site and did not found option to add training manually, neither training plans or routines. If they migrate from PPT to Flow- will I miss that?
    Also, for me PPT seems much less professional than Garmin Connect in aspect of analyzing data, although it looks more attractive on Flow site.
    So what is missing now on V650?
    1. Live tracking
    2.Notifications from smartphone
    3.ability to create-run own plans and interval training( also ghost run)
    all these thing are necessary as long as they (Polar) position V650 as (semi)professional assistant.

    Reply
    • Joeri B replied

      Does somebody know if I buy a H7 heart rate strap, it would work with a CS100 cycle computer. Would it then be able to send all my CS100 info (speed/cadence/heart rate) towards a smartphone or tablet (for indoor use) and the polar beat application ?
      If that is the case, I'm going to get a H7 tomorrow !

      Reply
  9. goodboyr

    Ray: Funny that you say a great product would be a tiny device that translates BLE to Ant+.........,......next thing you know, the manufacturers would just put it directly in their devices like this Polar............wait a sec...............if they weren't so stubborn and proprietary, they just would. And that's why I will never buy Polar. The dual chips are readily available, consumers should vote with their feet on this silliness!

    Reply
  10. Graham R

    Glad to see the price point and that it translates and rebroadcasts the BTLE signal - That will mean i can get this, pair it all up and then pair my laptop and training peaks to it with no issue. so much easier than worrying about a few devices.. i've gone all BTLE since i was primarily using a smartphone.

    This + a Tom Tom could be a killer combo for starting out.

    Reply
  11. Euro

    Way too big, very dorky looking. And those cadence sensors sticking out all over the chainstays really make any bike look stupid too. Just get the Garmin and be done with it.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      The multiple sensors are for testing three different bike computers (one on ANT+, one on Polar WIND, and one on BLE).

      Reply
  12. Turn The Damn Cranks

    You note that the Edge 500 is due for an update. But even though the 500 wasn't discontinued when the 510 was introduced, isn't the 510 basically the 500's update? What a. I missing?

    Thanks, as always, for top notch, cutting edge info!

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Generally speaking, most (even within Garmin) don't consider the Edge 510 to be a direct replacement of the Edge 500 - mostly due to it being considerably larger.

      Reply
  13. Bruce Burkhalter

    Ray -

    Nice preview (as always).

    Any idea what % a set of sensors will drain the battery (HR, Speed/Cadence, Powermeter)?

    Thanks!
    Bruce

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Negligible. In general, recording of sensor data is a battery drain non-event (for almost every device on the market). The key battery drain items are: GPS (on) and screen backlight (on). Devices that do 'smart record' don't really save much (if any, as in 1%) battery life.

      What does save battery life is devices that do low-update GPS mode, which actually turns the GPS off for a period of time (i.e. 60s) - such as some of the ultra-running GPS units. The challenge with that is that the track files look like crap and are unusable unless just walking/hiking.

      Reply
  14. Warren

    Ray, Any word from Polar if they will be updating the "Polar Beat" app to be able to sync Bluetooth Smart Cycling Speed and/or Cadence Sensors to record data like they have done with the Bluetooth Smart Stride Sensor or will this only be possible with an additional device such as the V800 and V650?

    Reply
  15. UrbanVoyeur

    I can't see expensive, dedicated, cycling computers as having much of a future. They are too single purpose and cost more than a low end smart phone (Moto G or last year's Samsung anything)

    Given the size of this thing, who care is it gets notifications from your smart phone - just put your smart phone on your handle bars. They all come with great screen, decent battery life, blue tooth, mapping, and a zillion software options.

    The only advantage I see is the "full" gps on the dedicated devices which works better than assisted GPS in some settings.

    Multi-sport wearable are different story. But I think we're way past this Polar type cycle computer.

    Reply
    • Psychotext replied

      Related to that, are there any articles on the best apps here on DC Rainmaker? Would specifically be interested in any out there which support mapping / import of routes.

      Reply
    • Paul S replied

      Dedicated devices haven't disappeared yet, and smart phones have been around for a while. Personally, I'd rather have a dedicated device that's waterproof (to an extent), has a barometric altimeter, uses the ANT+ sensors I already have, and on board maps for when I'm out of cell range. And if by chance it falls off my handlebars and gets run over by a car, I haven't lost my phone.

      Reply
    • Turn The Damn Cranks replied

      Agree with Paul S. Not to mention that there's no way my phone battery will last through a century ride.

      Reply
    • UrbanVoyeur replied

      @Paul S
      ANT via adapter. Or dual ANT/Bluetooth device. OR built into many Sony units, even older ones.

      Shock proof, water proof phone cases are everywhere.

      Full GPS and barometric altimeter is problem, BUT tiny, inexpensive, bluetooth external GPS does exist . Don't know about the altimeter.
      link to amazon.com

      As for loss, well, why use your good phone? Why not put dedicated cheap(er) phone on your bike.

      This polar unit will cost at least $250. It will be just as destroyed as a phone if it gets run over.
      A Moto G is $175 (unlocked, unsubsidized). A prepaid SIM card is one time $20 (for AGPS). Similarly low priced bargains can be found on older Samsung and Sony models. If you want to go up, a brand new iPhone 4s is $450 unlocked and unsubsidized. Or free if you add it to your plan.

      Reply
    • Turn The Damn Cranks replied

      That was supposed to say ". . . there's no way my phone battery will last through a century ride with GPS on."

      Reply
    • UrbanVoyeur replied

      @Turn The Damn Cranks
      I think one of the latest gen phones (like the iPhone 5s) might last 5-8 hours with GPS on but they are expensive.

      For a less expensive and/or older phone you'd need supplemental battery phone case, like a Mophie or a Powermat. Not ideal, at $80, but doable.

      Reply
    • Paul S replied

      Yes, I know, I have a Lifeproof case on my iPhone 5c. It's been covered in sweat many times already. I still don't want it mounted on my handlebars.

      And Turn the Damn Cranks brings up a good point. With GPS on and tracking and the backlit screen active for hours, how long is the battery going to last on a smart phone? You'll wind up carrying an extra battery pack. I'd rather just use my Edge 800, which lasts for over 10 hours.

      Reply
    • ifor replied

      Try and get an old xperia Active. Waterproof, barometer, ANT. Battery life 5 hours with the screen on all the time. If you want to get more the you have to let the screen go off and your looking at about 10 hours full logging with gps and ANT sensors. You could of course change the battery mid way...

      Sadly Sony has not come up with a direct replacement yet as the latest offering is missing the pressure sensor.

      Reply
    • The Trimaster replied

      could you please give any advice of a software where I can get all this information incl. Power, online VAM, real altitude etc. I cannot find it. So please advice. Thank you.

      Reply
  16. Joeri B

    Hi, would a polar H6 heart beat sensor also work on this device ?

    Reply
  17. Cyril G

    I've noticed in Ray's photo of Polar V650 when the unit is pairing link to dcrainmaker.com that Polar V650 is using Android. The dialog is just a standard Android ProgressDialog. In a sporty/geeky dream it could be very interesting to allow developers to build (Android) apps for this device, and therefore to allow users to add apps.

    About the size of devices, as Garmin Edge and Garmin Approach share the same formfactors, we can easily guess that the next Garmin 8xx will have the same size and formfactor as the just announced Garmin Approach G8. Devices are getting bigger and bigger.

    Reply
  18. I like the light. That is the one feature I miss with my Xperia Active and IpBike. The old home made setup I had before had a 200 lumen led in the case which ran a 10% duty cycle 2Hz flash in daylight which did a good job of making you more visible.

    All told as people have said If you want BT Smart it's for your Phone and then a standalone unit is kind of missing the point especially one which is missing half the features you can get in a phone app like proper maps, workout creation and direct upload to your favourite sites.

    Reply
    • Larry replied

      Do you really want the light competing for battery resources anyways? Also, the best place to mount the unit may not = the most visible spot for a light. I'd rather use a dedicated front flasher or mount a LED flashlight with a flashing mode.

      I agree on the BTLE side. Don't get the appeal on a non-smartphone. Probably Polar has a strategy which excludes anything Garmin whether it makes sense or not. A dual BTLE/ANT+ device would have made more sense, but it sounds like they are strained getting a basic software stack for one side.

      As mentioned by someone else, the Moto G would make for a great second phone acting as a cycle computer at $200 for 16GB version (off contract). Given the recent price drops, even the higher end Moto X makes some sense (~1/2 cost of iPhone). Now, someone just has to create a good armored/water resistant case which incorporates a supplemental battery. Both also have BTLE and USB OTG support so an external ANT+ adapter would work. Unfortunately, no barometric altimeter.

      Reply
    • Paul S replied

      LED's generally don't use that much battery. I wouldn't worry about it, especially with the GPS on and active.

      Why do you guys keep trying to pound the square peg of a smart phone into the round hole of a cycling computer? So the Moto costs $200. A good case and a battery pack must cost at least $100. So now you're into Edge 800 range (I just checked, and Amazon wants $320 for an 800). You're sure the GPS on the Moto is up to the task and that the apps exist? I'm very sure the 800 works.

      Reply
    • Paul S replied

      Oh, and about BTLE. To be fair to Polar, Garmin pulls the same stunts. Ray mentioned in his review of the 810/510 that, although they have BT, they don't have BTLE, so there's no chance a BT sensor will work. And the Fenix/Tactix does have BTLE, but you can't use BT sensors with it. (Heck, Garmin's own Tempe doesn't work with Garmin's own Edges, and that's all ANT+. True, the Edges have a built in temperature sensor, but so does the Fenix, and Tempe works with it.) I'd be much happier if everyone played together nicely (especially Withings and Garmin), but that's not the way it is.

      Reply
    • Larry replied

      Paul - To be honest, I mostly agree with you about force fitting a smartphone into being a cycle computer, but I'm always looking to reconsider as technology changes. The allure is that the smartphone is so capable of being adapted, even when it doesn't make sense. You see it all the time, even with it's core functions. At best, it's a mediocre camera/video recorder, but you can spend $130 on a HitcasePro to turn your $750+ iPhone into a $200 GoPro. You certainly could make similar analogies for cycling like the Wahoo RFLKT+ where for $150 you're doing about what a $200 Garmin Edge 500 does (in combination with an expensive smartphone). You could quibble over details and maybe for a particular use it makes sense, but in my mind they are about equivalents.

      Last outdoor cycling season I was set on trying to use my smartphone as a cycle computer when my old setup died, but eventually switched on/off with an Edge 800 I picked up on that great sale last May/June (~$240 if I remember). From an app standpoint, IpBike is an excellent application and does a great job.

      From a pure performance standpoint, my Samsung GS3 w/IpBike did a wonderful job and had performance advantages over the Edge 800. MUCH more accurate GPS tracks under difficult conditions like heavy clouds and near total tree cover. The barometric altimeter data via IpBike was nearly a order of magnitude more accurate than the Edge 800 on round trips (difference in elevation at the start/end point). Even so, the big downside to the smartphone trial was: 1) battery life, 2) environmental sealing, 3) Needing an external ANT+ dongle (although I made a small one piece "nub" adapter), 4) fear of damaging a $650+ smartphone and 5) size. Without going into details, I addressed some of these issues, but cost effective and robust accessories to make a smartphone into a cycle computer are still not there. Ultimately, putting an expensive smartphone to such a vulnerable use made me reconsider. With that said, the coming of very good $200 smartphones could change this equation, but 3rd parties would have to address some of the downsides before it really made sense.

      Regarding LEDs... I'm more familiar with higher end flashlights with outputs ranging from 0.01 to 2700 lumens where their battery use can be anything but insignificant. Don't really know what lumen/design is needed to achieve good daylight visibility, but guess it's well beyond the toy LED range. Without more info, it hard to know if this feature on the Polar is worthwhile.

      Reply
    • Paul S replied

      Well, I hate to take up any more of this thread with things not related to the Polar V650, but about the 800, it has the best altimeter and worst GPS antenna of the three units (60CSx, Edge 705, Edge 800) I've used daily for cycling over the years. Still, the GPS performance is entirely adequate.

      To get closer to the topic, if I ever ride with a phone on my handlebars, it'll probably be one designed by Garmin or Polar, a proper cycling GPS with a phone chip included rather than the other way around. I've had my iPhone 5c for a little over a month now and I haven't gotten rid of my Pentax still camera, my VIRB Elite, or my Edge 800, or my Kindle Fire. I'm fond of single purpose devices, and I'll probably continue to be for the indefinite future. Sure, if I was a poor grad student again (heaven forbid) and the cost of a single purpose device was a big dent on my finances, then I might try to use it for everything. Fortunately, that hasn't been the case for a long time. As I said earlier, smart phones have been around for years now, and single purposes devices are still being designed and sold (like the V650!). They're not going to disappear. (And if my phone were on my handlebars, it'd be harder to ignore when it rang or a text came.)

      The LED is a gimmick. It's better than nothing if you're caught in the dark, but I can't imagine that the people that would buy a cycling GPS would get caught unprepared in the dark that often. And little LED lights like that are small, cheap, and easily stored in a seat bag. I live near Penn State University, and I often seen students riding around in the dark without lights, or with only a rear light. But they're not the type to buy cycling GPS's.

      Reply
    • Robin SJ replied

      iPhone on the Bike was not the nirvana I thought it should be and the risk of damage is very real, they're not robust enough to rattle around on the handlebars of a bike. Yes I got a great waterproof case, but it does not ventilate well, because its waterproof; Yes you’ll need a backup battery and cord as the iPhone (4s) won’t last a 4hr ride even w/o GPS on; backup battery is constantly charging the draining iPhone battery creating heat in an unventilated case; GPS on increases heat; long ride on a warm day (75F) and hit some rough patches at good speed, did cook my iPhone. Now my $750 iPhone has no wifi and the GPS constantly says I’m at -304,878 feet and iPhone won’t sync hands free to my car or my BLE SC HR devices. An expensive lesson. I eagerly await the V650 w 10hr life w/GPS no backup battery (and hopefully upload to my new iPhone later)!

      Reply
  19. Txcyclist76

    Giorgitd - the S3 issue has nothing to do with Polar. The issue is with BTLE compatibility. Take it up with Samsung, not Polar on this one.

    Reply
    • giorgitd replied

      Ah, for some reason I thought that the app predated the S4, thus thinking that the limited client possibilities was strange. But the S4 has been out close to a year now ? so I guess the whole thing makes more sense now. And the BTLE v other BY variants - you need a scorecard to keep up! Thanks 4 clarifying. ..

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Hmm, at this point it actually should be a Polar issue, since the S3/S4 with 4.3 are fully BLE capable from a sensor standpoint. Given Polar just released the Android app, it's slightly surprising it doesn't support it more broadly.

      Fwiw, it's the same issue with Garmin Connect Mobile and Android. Right now Garmin is stating "Q1 2014" for full compliance. Across the board getting to complete Android BLE compatibility is proving challenging for many companies, big and small. I suspect by summer things will finally settle down a bit across the board.

      Reply
    • ifor replied

      To be fair to everyone trying to do BTLE on Android the framework is sill way too buggy and Google show no sign on working on it...

      Reply
  20. Christoph

    So you don't even get an Openstreetmap for mapping? Just a track? That's worse than on a Motoactv..

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Correct. It puts it on par with the Edge 500/510/O-Synce/Mio/Joule, etc... and many others in that mid-range category.

      Keep in mind that as nice as the Motoactv was, it's fatal flaw was/is poor waterproofing (battery was an initial flaw, but ultimately corrected). That said, I think everyone agrees that if the Motoactv had been maintained, it would have shifted the industry.

      Reply
  21. All - Just a few minor updates this evening from Polar. I have integrated the following into the review:

    1) Upon launch, the V650 will not have route guidance, but only route tracking. Route guidance will come in a later update.

    2) I made it more clear that once route guidance does come, it will be via Flow site first, and not via mobile app (since said mobile app isn't available upon launch).

    3) Launch is in May 2014, not April. There was an error in their press release that was corrected in a secondary release.

    There's also apparently a slight difference within the satellite pre-caching between the V800 and the V650 that I'm working with Polar on getting further clarification on. Hopefully our back and forth e-mails on the topic will result in a concrete and more clear answer by tomorrow.

    Thanks all!

    Reply
  22. Ken

    This will work only as well as the H7 heart rate sensor/strap it comes with.
    On Amazon (1/28/14), 23% of the 765 reviews of the H7 are one or two star. Amazon doesn't allow zero stars.
    My H7 is currently at Polar for Warranty Repair for the very issues most commonly cited: it just stops pairing with the the bluetooth device' (in this case an iPhone 5) via the Polar Beat App.
    Many do not know the H7 has two wireless signals: Smart Bluetooth and 5 mhz. The latter signal connects flawlessly each and every time to all the treadmills, bikes, and elliptical machines at my health club So it;s not the H7's battery, strap, strap not being wet enough or not making contact with the skin that causes the H7 not to function. The 5 mhz connection always works. It's got to be the bluetooth radio, or the software of the App that causes so many failed connection problems with the H7. Bluetooth Smart devices do not pair with the phone they pair with the App. When I tried to connect the H7 to Wahoo Fitness App I had the same connection issues. That means to me a quality control issue with the H7.

    Since the H7 is also the only Polar heart rate strap compatible with the upcoming $400 Polar V800 watch, i think Polar is risking really damaging themselves unless they get the H7's connection issues solved.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Interesting. In the year+, it's sorta funny though in that I've actually yet to see someone mention pairing issues with the H7 on any of my reviews. So that's a first.

      Btw, Polar also makes the BLE capable H6.

      Reply
    • Oleg replied

      Honestly I have connection issue between H7 and iPhone 4S, I ahem to restart either H7 (remove battery for couple of minutes) or both, but happens once a month only, so I do not care

      Reply
    • Robin SJ replied

      My 1st H7 no issues, bought 2nd for The Wife, won't connect to iPhone 4S though it did once briefly. Works fine on gym equipment and Polar watches (older). It's on it's way back to Polar, nothing I tried worked to regain connection. My H7 connects to her iPhone on same apps, so it's the 2nd H7!

      Reply
  23. Anders

    Is there some way to move all my stuff from Garmin Connect into Polar Flow right now? Or just import anything? I really like the idea of Polar Flow but I need to be able to import my training data into it.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      No, no method to. And none that have been outlined. I could see a scenario though where once the API is put in place 3rd party companies add in sync capabilities (like CopyMySports, SyncMetrics, and Tapiriik).

      Reply
  24. Joeri B

    Feedback I got from Polar: so it's possible to send data from a CS100 cycle computer to the heart rate strap, and then send it on with bluetooth towards an Iphone. Very Nice ! So you could use both (5Khz and Bluetooth) signals at the same time, but NOT 2 Bluetooth signals at the same time.

    Reply
  25. Oleg

    I used H7 this way from the first day I bought it(H7),
    however later on my CS100 speed sensor died and I decided to get RFLKT.

    Reply
  26. Robin SJ

    Is Polar flow still a beta product? The banner says Flow beta? Yet on PPT they direct you to the new Flow site. Once there I did see some of my very old data but none of my recent data or new data since logging into Flow?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Yes, still beta. Not sure if it's going to be one of those 'perpetual beta' things like some Google products or not.

      The whole PPT to Flow situation is very fuzzy right now.

      Reply
  27. Slogfester

    Really interesting article and comments to someone who has been using a S625X since c. 2001. That's a lot of data sitting in ProTrainer! I'd basically given up on Polar as they (rather like TomTom) seem to have missed the (running) elephant in the room called Smartphones. I've been using smartphones (and the 625X) with Run.gps since 2007. Doing it all and more before iPhones/Strava etc even existed. Now trying to re-spec a new bike based around BTLE devices and smartphone, so its interesting times. iPhones are rubbish for bikes. Any android with replaceable batteries (and external SD card in case of loss) will do. I use Samsung Galaxy S3 which are now pretty cheap, now with 4.3 BTLE and spare batteries can be brought for $7 and weigh nothing for back pocket. Mostly 1 battery will last all day, with GPS on. Any decent case will make it absolutely shock and water proof, e.g. Seidio. Better, have a BTLE ear piece and keep the phone in your pocket and receive voice instructions without taking your eye off the road.
    I guess what I'm trying to say is that the new Polar devices/apps/web-bases are going to have to be VERY good to attract me back.

    Reply
  28. Ken

    Update - Yesterday I commented about problems with the Polar H7 Heart Rate Sensor/Strap.
    Polar Repair contacted me today to say that the conductors on the strap had worn out it was not a problem with the sensor electronics. They were replacing the entire unit for free and apologized for any problems I had encountered. Mystery solved.

    Reply
  29. Wouter

    It seems like a nice step forward. Though to late to little.

    Did they said anyting about export data to Polar Pro Trainer 5?

    Any change they'll reconsider supporting WIND sensors. As Well?
    Because as a big Polar device(s) owner I feel kind of let down by Polar.
    All my WIND sensor will become useless....

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      It'll enable export of GPX/HRM, so technically you could import it into PPT5.

      As for WIND, no, no chance there - that's a chipset change.

      Reply
    • Wouter Crooy replied

      I don't know how others feel about it. But previous owners of the CS600, CS600X and CS500 will have to start again from scratch to buy all the sensors BTLE. I can imagine that they want to move forward. But they should have created a more low-entry upgrade path.

      I also hope they'll enable export to Strava etc etc.

      I never understood why they didn't do that much with Polar Pro Trainer 5. It's a great tool, old but it does what it should do. But it could use some inovation.

      Considering the really useless service by Polar. I doubt if I'll buy anything new from Polar and maybe move to the ANT+.....

      BTW: What surprises me. Is that they are willing to cooperate with you Ray. But completely disregard al of the feedback in their forums. (You should read them it's quite funny to see how good Polar is at ignoring people. :-) )....

      Reply
  30. Ricardo Daud

    Hi Rainmaker.

    The worst thing with my Polar Keo Power, with CS600x, is that you can't get average power during your ride. Does the V650 solves this problem? Tks!!!

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Unfortunately, the V650 hasn't released which data fields will be available for power meters yet (since the PM piece won't come till June).

      Reply
  31. Stephan Limberg

    Hi Ray,

    thank you for the great review. I have a question concerning the route navigation:

    On which web service can I plan a route? Is this integrated in Polar flow, could I use gsies etc?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Down the road it would be integrated into Polar Flow. But when exactly remains to be seen. Could be Summer, December, or next Spring.

      Reply
  32. Matt

    Thank you Ray for all of the great posts.

    I have been very excited with Polar’s recent introductions (Polar Loop, Polar V800) and was eager to see their next bike computer. Based on this preview and other posts around the web, I’m disappointed. The V650 is too big and clunky to fulfil my needs. As others have pointed out, it seems positioned against the Garmin 800/810, but without full mapping capabilities, is missing a key feature that justifies the larger size.

    Maybe my needs and use are different than the typical user. I would prefer something small and discreet that provides GPS and parameter recording so I can save and review the data when off the bike. I only need enough display for a few parameters when on the bike. (Or none at all, I often ride with my computer in my jersey pocket.) I would love to see something that is positioned directly against the Garmin 500/510, maybe a CS500+ upgraded to include GPS and Bluetooth Smart.

    Reply
  33. Spinny

    I really would like to love these units (V650 and V800), but they are not compatible with Trainingpeaks.
    I can understand that nowdays all manufacturers are supporting their own web based training softwares, but for a lots of athletes it is a mayor drawback. Only because of this I would go for the Garmin 500 or 800/810. Sorry to see, because I think with these watches Polar is coming back to the level what they provided with the S7xx series.

    Reply
  34. Christian Köhler

    The integrated headlight is a problem in Germany. I know, many people don't care, but the light makes the device illegal on public roads in Germany.

    All lights on the bike must have an approval number. To get approved a light must illuminate the road well enough without blinding others too much. There are exact specifications for this. I don't think this unit complies. Esp. everything with a blinking mode is prohibited.

    So in Germany they have to make a version without the light. Of course, this is not logical and it does not make riding any safer. No light certainly isn't better than a bad light. But you know, law doesn't always make sense.

    Reply
  35. David G

    Are the bluetooth sensor batteries sealed or user-changeable? The CS sensors require servicing to replace the battery.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      They haven't formally unveiled them, however, they appeared physically identical to the previous series, when shown at the show. Given that, I see no reason to buy the Polar cycling sensors (BT), but rather, would buy units from other companies which offer more flexibility.

      Reply
  36. Chris

    Any updates on release or pre-orders, since I just noticed that the V800 watch started pre-orders will a delay to May?

    Reply
  37. Andrey

    it will work with pedals keo look technology Wind?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      No. You'll need to upgrade the pedal pods to Bluetooth Smart. I discuss this in more detail under the 'Bluetooth Smart Sensor Connectivity' section.

      Reply
  38. Robert

    Ray, do you maye know when will you make a full review about V650?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I don't have a device at this point, so probably not for a while. Given the V800 was delayed till mid-May or so, I suspect the V650 will also be delayed.

      Reply
  39. Just as a general FYI, I did receive a V650 device Friday. Well, more specifically, it was delivered to our Cupcake shop in Paris just as I boarded the plane to the US. Unfortunately, I won't be back for another week. But definitely good to see!

    Reply
    • Kiteboarder replied

      Looking forward to your assessment now that up you have a unit to confirm any items missed.

      Reply
  40. Morning Ray,

    Dont suppose you have any further updates on the release of this computer?

    I know the V800 has been delayed but wonder how the V650 will be affected?

    Kind Regards

    Garry

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I think the current plan is June, which, based on the current firmware state seems about right.

      Reply
  41. Great review. Big help.
    One thing is not yet clear to me...
    Will I be able to download pre-madeGPS routes from other sites like map my ride or GPS mapping sites?
    Thanks, Bart

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Not at launch.

      Down the road they'll enable you to create routes in Flow, which will be breadcrumb style (not with maps, just a breadcrumb trail). It's unclear if they'll also allow simple GPX loading from 3rd party sites. Timelines are also unclear for when either of the above would be implemented.

      Reply
  42. George Christidis

    Both V650 campaign site and Polar site now state that "Deliveries start in July 2014"

    Reply
  43. Benjamin

    Any news on the V650 ?
    I would really like to hear if all the stuff Polar promised came true.....

    Reply
    • Lari replied

      Polar has what is essentially a place holder page on flow for v650.

      flow.polar.com/v650

      Reply
    • Jacob replied

      Polar (Belgium) replied the V650 will be available at the end of the summer. So it won't be July as stated on their website. I've also seen a couple of sites that said deliveries will be within 8 weeks, that would mean late August.
      Concerning specifications they said that detailed specifications will come online once lauch date is known/final.

      Reply
    • Andreas replied

      and now the Webside (polarv650.com) says "August" !!! wonderful :o(

      Reply
  44. Benjamin

    Polar Denmark said at the end of august.....

    Reply
  45. Daniel

    Hello Rainmaker!
    Thank you for the great report. Is it possible to use the V650 and V800 with the same bluetooth smart sensors at the same time?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      That remains to seen. In theory according to Polar with the rebroadcasting it will work - at least for heart rate sensors. But in reality the feature isn't really working on the V800 today, and thus we'll have to have them fix it for heart rate before expanding to other sensors. I do suspect by release of the V650 they'll probably have it working for heart rate, but unclear on the others.

      Reply
  46. j.cano

    Hola colegas,

    Me gustaría saber si es cierto que el lanzamiento del V650 será para septiembre definitivamente.

    Gracias

    Reply
  47. MusicLaw

    Now that August has arrived eyes are awaiting the V650. Polar Beat continues to languish on the Android side from horrible instability and limited supported devices (even though all the new Smartphones and Tablets are on 4.4.2.) Polar Beat for iOS also is rated mediocre on iTunes. Polar is struggling to get the V800 features implemented and continues to slide with their feature promises. As for the overall scenario, a modern Samsung Galaxy S5 has an outstandingly bright screen and long battery life is dust and water resistant even w/o an additional case, and is easily mounted to a bike using any of several systems. QuadLock has a great method! As for Apps, there are plenty to choose from that support all sorrts of Sensors BLE Smart and ANT+, offer voice feedback, mapping, route guidance, HR Data and more. Many are free and some have in App upgrade features. SPORT Tracker, iCardio, Endomondo, MapMyRide, and others are quite robust. Polar really needs to step up their game and improve their software!

    Reply
  48. Chris

    They started advertising this thing in January with an April release. Seems even worse than the normal industry delays.

    Reply
  49. Benjamin

    Either the Polar V650 will be delayed again or the Polar pr department is sleeping. If they are going to release it in august they need to start some pr.
    I have not heard anything about this bikecomputer for last 2 month....
    I was wondering how many of the features will be ready to start now that the V650 has been delayed :
    Power meters ?
    Data transfer via bluetooth ?
    Route guidance ?
    Aero mount ?
    Connecting to a phone to upload workouts ?
    Export from Polar Flow to other trainingsites ?

    Reply
  50. Benjamin

    Just got word from Polar Denmark:
    "last info we got from headquarter says we will get it late september"

    Reply
  51. Andreas

    See http://www.polarv650.com
    it's official the Polar V650 ist moved to September.

    Reply
  52. Andreas

    Hello Ray,
    i'm wondering will there be a blue Polar V650?

    Reply
    • Ray Maker replied

      I haven't heard anything that indicates so.

      Reply
    • Andreas replied

      Ray, you wrote something about the a blue on in the V650 FAQ.
      ;o)

      FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS – V650 AND RELATED:
      This is my attempt at reducing redundant questions based on common and/or expected questions. I’ll continue to add to this over time as I see repeats. Thanks!

      When will it be available?

      Polar is stating May July August September 2014 for availability, with the blue color variant coming a bit later.

      Reply
    • Ray Maker replied

      Doh. A simple replication mistake from the V800 FAQ that I didn't catch editing it. Fixing it now.

      Reply
  53. Joan Alcover

    Any info on the availability of the Bluetooth _Smart "pods" for the Look_Keo_Power pedals?
    I have the "WIND" pods and would be happy to test the new ones. I have conducted a quick Internet search and found no retailer (in France or elsewhere in Europe) that offers them for sale.
    Many thanks in advance for your thoughts.

    Reply
  54. Andreas

    And here ist is !!! Oh wait, where ??
    No V650 in September, surprise surprise.
    First announced for May 2014, so sad.

    Reply
  55. Andreas

    ok, also changed on http://www.polarv650.com

    to November, great. Hope we get a perfect Product.

    Reply
    • Matthieu replied

      That's a fact, Polar seems to have huge fiability problems with this device and to have an even bigger problem with his communication as we only can see release date delay always pushed forward...

      Reply
  56. Chris

    Ray, have you ever seen a major brand delay a product this many times since its original estimated release? This is unbelievable. I know it's better than releasing a bad product, but it's still not good.

    Reply
    • DC Rainmaker replied

      Sure, Garmin Vector. :)

      Reply
    • Paul S replied

      And closer to the Polar, the Garmin Edge 705. I had mine on preorder and Amazon said that it was going to be released in October 2007. It finally came out in April 2008.

      Reply
  57. Mike C

    Yep mine is pre-ordered also

    Reply

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