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.
* Full colour touchscreen
* Simple, intuitive operation
* Customisable screen information
* 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
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.
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.
Touchscreen GPS computer with some neat features, although the lack of ANT+ connectivity will be a problem for many people
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Polar V650 GPS cycling computer
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
Rate the product for quality of construction:
Rate the product for performance:
Rate the product for durability:
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:
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:
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.
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
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