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Verdict: 
Touchscreen GPS computer with some neat features, although the lack of ANT+ connectivity will be a problem for many people
Weight: 
154g
Contact: 
Polar V650 GPS cycling computer
7 10

Polar's V650 is an easy-to-use GPS bike computer with some neat features, although the fact that it communicates to other devices via Bluetooth Smart and not ANT+ could be a deal breaker for you.

There's a whole lot of tech going on here, so let's start with some very quick headline points and you can decide whether you'd like to delve deeper.

Positives

* Full colour touchscreen

* Simple, intuitive operation

* Customisable screen information

Negatives

* Not ANT+ compatible

* Power measurement is currently only with Polar/Look Kéo pedal-based system

* No automatic uploading to Strava or Training Peaks

* Limited navigation

Find your nearest dealer here

Buy this online here


Head unit

The V650 measures 106 x 64 x 15mm and weighs 134g (including its mount and O-ring). That's a large piece of real estate on your handlebar compared with a Garmin Edge 500, 510, 800 or 810, although it is slimmer.

The V650 fits to a mount that's held on your handlebar or stem by a simple O-ring. It's a quarter-turn engagement, a lot like Garmin use for their Edge computers, although the two systems are not interchangeable.

The V650 has a 2.8in full colour touchscreen that's very clear, and you can set a backlight to come on automatically so you can still read the screen clearly when the daylight fades or you head into a dark area under trees.

You also get a small front LED that you can set to come on at a chosen light level. You wouldn't want to rely on it to show the way, but it will add to your visibility if the evening arrives quicker than you were expecting.

Operation

Operating the V650 is straightforward. You have just two buttons; beyond that, everything is done by touching the relevant part of the screen to select what you're after. The touchscreen works when you're wearing gloves, although sometimes you have to be more insistent about it, holding your finger in place rather than just dabbing it.

I won't go too deeply into how things are organised on the V650 but I found everything to be intuitive and logical. You can choose from four different profiles (road, mountain bike, indoor and other) which will determine the data that's shown on the screen. There would be no point having speed or altitude displayed when you're riding indoors on the turbo trainer, for example.

You can have up to six pages of data available to swipe through as you ride, with up to eight items per page. You can select the measurements you want and ditch the stuff that doesn't interest you. So you might have a page that shows basic data like speed, distance, duration, heart rate (you need to use a Bluetooth Smart HRM that doesn't come as part of the package we had) and lap distance. Then you could have a page that shows a speed graph, cadence (you need a Bluetooth Smart cadence sensor), altitude, and so on. If you're not interested in calories or temperature, for example, you don't need to have them displayed.

The V650 includes an atmospheric air pressure sensor and converts the measured air pressure into an altitude reading. Polar believe this is the most accurate way to measure altitude and your ascent/descent (as long as you calibrate it to a known reference). If you want an incline measurement, though, you need to fit a Bluetooth Smart speed sensor.

In terms of navigation, you get a 'Back to start' feature that gives you a beeline arrow and a distance, and on-screen mapping is planned for the V650, arriving this summer.

"It will be free for both current and new V650 owners," Polar told us. "One will be able to overlay a square map of your location and navigate accordingly. It will not provide turn by turn direction (example: 'Make left here'), although we anticipate this feature to come in August."

You can save four different bikes in the memory, meaning that the computer will look only for any sensors you've associated with each bike and not waste power searching for ones that don't exist.

Any sensors you use must be Bluetooth Smart compatible; the V650 doesn't do ANT+. That's a shame, but it's not surprising given that ANT+ is essentially owned by rival brand Garmin.

Pairing a Mio Velo Cycling Heart Rate Wristband to the V650 was a simple job that took seconds, and the two have been on speaking terms ever since. You can pair up Polar's own H6 and H7 heart rate sensors (but not earlier models) along with Bluetooth Smart speed and cadence sensors.

Right now, the only power meter data the V650 will display has to come from the Polar/Look Kéo Power pedal system but Polar say that third-party power meter support is on the way. The data has to come via Bluetooth rather than ANT+, though, so that means you'll be able to hook up a Stages link but not a Garmin Vector one, for example.

If you do have a Kéo Power system, the V650 can show you many different power-based metrics including left/right leg balance and even a visualisation of the force in your pedal stroke.

Once set up, you press the big red button at the bottom of the screen and off you go. At the end of your ride, you press and hold the red button, choose whether or not to save the data on the session, and it's a wrap.

You can check over the basic data from your ride on the V650 itself, but you get far more useful feedback by downloading it to the Polar Flow website.

Uploading the data

Polar Flow is Polar's online training portal where you can log training, view past sessions, analyse what you've done, and so on.

To get your data from the V650 and onto Polar Flow, you need to download Polar's FlowSync desktop app onto your computer and use a USB cable.

Polar do have a Polar Flow mobile phone app that lets you see training data from certain Polar devices on your phone, and sync that information wirelessly to the Polar Flow website, but it doesn't yet support the V650. Polar tell us the V650 will have mobile connectivity to the Flow app in time, but we don't know when.

You can export your ride as a TCX, GPX or CSV file and then upload it to Strava or some other site, but there's no direct upload to Strava.

Other useful info

The V650 runs on a USB-rechargeable battery (1900 mAh Li-ion Polymer) and Polar claim a run-time of 10 hours between charges with the GPS on at a one-second recording rate. We found that to be about right although it'll vary a little according to how you use it. Having the front LED on makes surprisingly little difference to the run-time.

It's water resistant to IPX7 standard, which means it can stand being 1m under water for 30 minutes. If I ever find myself more than a metre under water for half an hour, my bike ride has gone very wrong. Splashes and rain shouldn't be a problem.

Why would you buy the V650?

The V650 costs £174.50 (or £209.50 with a heart rate sensor). The closest Garmin to this price is the £169.99 Edge 500. Unlike the Edge 500, the V650 is touchscreen and it has a colour display. That display is also considerably larger than the Edge 500's. Providing Polar deliver on their promises, the V650 will have some mapping and link to a mobile app too.

On the other hand, the V650 is compatible only with Bluetooth Smart devices whereas a Garmin is ANT+ compatible, and that could be the deal breaker for you.

Verdict

Touchscreen GPS computer with some neat features, although the lack of ANT+ connectivity will be a problem for many people

road.cc test report

Make and model: Polar V650 GPS cycling computer

Size tested: One size

Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

Polar describe the V650 as: "The smartest cycling computer with GPS, for devoted cyclists who want to analyse every aspect of their riding and boost their cycling performance."

For a full list of features it's best to go to http://www.polar.com/uk-en/products/maximize_performance/cycling/V650

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

The V650 communicates with sensors via Bluetooth Smart, not ANT+.

For a full list of features it's best to go to http://www.polar.com/uk-en/products/maximize_performance/cycling/V650

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
8/10
Rate the product for performance:
 
7/10
Rate the product for durability:
 
6/10

It's no more or less robust than most other bike computers out there. You need to be careful not to swipe dirt/grit across the touchscreen or you'll scratch it.

Rate the product for weight, if applicable:
 
7/10

There are lighter computers out there, but this one has quite a large screen and that's always going to add a few grams.

Rate the product for value:
 
7/10

If you have ANT+ sensors (speed, cadence, heart rate) already, they won't work with the Polar V650. You need to factor in the cost of any Bluetooth Smart sensors you want to use.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

It does what it promises.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The large, full-colour screen is easy to read. Operation is intuitive.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

A couple of the firmware features are promised but don't actually exist yet (see below).

Did you enjoy using the product? Yeah

Would you consider buying the product? No, because it's not ANT+ compatible

Would you recommend the product to a friend? I'd tell them it's worth considering if they've not already bought into ANT+

Use this box to explain your score

I think this is a good device in itself and it's worthy of a 7. However, you can't link it to other devices (heart rate monitor, power meter etc) via ANT+. That's a problem for me, although it's not an issue if you don't already own ANT+ devices and don't intend to.

Overall rating: 7/10

About the tester

Age: 43  Height: 190cm  Weight: 75kg

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding

 

Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.

8 comments

Avatar
Adzrules [2 posts] 2 years ago
1 like

No Ant+ = no sale.

Avatar
bigmoose [12 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Looks like great value. I have a Bluetooth HR strap and power meter and my speed/cadence sensor is dual BT/Ant+. Would be ideal if we could see Garmin supporting Bluetooth and Polar supporting Ant+. The latest chipsets tend to be dual anyway.

Avatar
stevie63 [74 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Adzrules wrote:

No Ant+ = no sale.

Exactly, I like how clear the display looks but as many will already have accrued ANT plus goodies such as HRM and speed cadence sensors from previous GPS purchases this seems like a ridiculous omission (plus bluetooth sensors are more expensive). Best to wait for the Edge 520 me thinks

Avatar
kitkat [455 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Given how much Garmin 'own' the cycle computer sector and thus everyone has Ant+ it's hard to see how Polar will get significant foot hold with this even if it is cheaper than the 520

How hard would it be to have an Ant+/BTS dual chipset and get rid of this issue.... same goes for Garmin.

I don't think either business rub their hands with the amount of money they're bringing in from HR straps and cadence sensors so stop the nonsense and go dual chipset.

Avatar
bikebot [2120 posts] 2 years ago
1 like

I do wish Polar wouldn't shoot themselves in the foot, they make some really nice hardware.

If your complaint is one of these three, they've already had half the world's sports journalists and reviewers tell them.

- Making a quarter turn mount that's almost exactly the same as Garmin, but not the same. Dumb.
- Not supporting Ant+. Well I don't care, and in 2-3 years the market may not care that much. But today it does.
- Taking forever to add simple third party integration to their website. Basic Strava sync won't arrive until Q4.

If they got those things right, they'd have a lot of converts.

Avatar
reippuert [70 posts] 2 years ago
1 like

Bought a V650 4 weeks ago and im really happy with it. I have used a Garmin 705 since it came out and needed a replacement because of a weakening battry and non functional buttons. Paid 160€ incl a H6 heart rate strap. I was tired of qualety of the garmin firmware, it crashed way too often and altitude recording was random in fog and rain.

THe V650 is not yet full featured (openstreet maps in august, flow->strava in october, bluetooth upload somewhere in between).

heartrate meassurement and display is way more usefull than Garmins and i love the full customisable multiple screens. Very usefull with a simple logical userinterface compared to garmins user interfaces.

reg ANT+, i dont need it... BLE makes way more sense even thoug i had to by a new 40€ speed/cadane sensor. Its a lot cheaper than a Garmin 510 and even cheaper than the new Garmin 25. Once the featureset is full by the end of the year the V650 is an absolute killer. 810 fuctionality for the price of a Edge 25.

Avatar
saladin [5 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Where did you find it at that price, if you don't mind me asking  3

Avatar
Legin [121 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

As a loyal Customer of Polar for 30 years I feel comfortable stating that you would have to be a sandwich short of a picnic to invest in their products.

They have recently refused to update the Polar Irda USB Drivers for WIndows10. By doing so they are forcing users to upgrade to newer technologies. My current kit is 3/4 years old is brilliant and does not need replacing. I do not need a bill for £600 to update all my bikes.

Make your own choice in my opinion they can no longer be trusted.