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Polar V800: Long-term Review

I own a Polar V800 GPS watch. It’s a long story how I ended up choosing Polar V800 out of many GPS watches. If you are in the market for a new GPS watch, it may be an interesting read for you. Here’s the post.

Since the late August of 2015, when I bought a Polar V800, I have been wearing it on almost every run that I went. I just looked up the stats, and I ran 201 times with the watch on my wrist, totaling 1,080 miles. I’ve been using the watch on regular basis, and I thought it may be worthwhile to share what I think about the watch. So here’s my long-term review of Polar V800 watch.

Likes: 1) GPS accuracy, 2) battery life, 3) rugged construction

Dislikes: 1) Flaky charging connector, 2) missing battery life percentage, 3) ho-hum online software, Polar Flow

Let me get in to details.

Like #1: GPS accuracy

I am very happy with GPS accuracy of Polar V800. The primary reason why I decided on Polar V800 was the GPS accuracy, and I still feel that I made the right choice with Polar V800. I frequently hear of other GPS watches with much more bells and whistles, but still yet to find one that tracks the GPS location as accurate as Polar V800.

It tracks the location so accurately that I can retrace whether I was running left or right side of pavement. It’s so accurate that I can pinpoint exact locations where I had to veer right to get off the pavement to avoid pedestrians. It simply works to track each step of the run. Amazing.

Using the watch over 200 times, I do see a room for improvements though. Sometimes it does not lock in the initial position correctly, and shows a location 30 – 40 ft away from the actual location. Whenever I saw this problem occasionally, it did correct the location after running 100 ft or so. I think it’s because of initial GPS location locking software bug, something that firmware update can fix.

Like #2: Battery life

I have been logging about 4 – 5 hours each week on my Polar V800, and never had to recharge the device more than once a week. It seems to be single charge is enough to last at least 6 hours even after using it over 200 times. That’s a definite plus given how frequently I have to charge my iPhone.

In fact one-week-long battery life is a life saver because of charging problem that I started experiencing with my Polar V800. I’ll get in to that in a minute.

Like #3: Rugged construction

Polar V800 has a solid build quality to it, and it lasts well into its first year. I wore the watch practically every other day running over 200 times, and it still feels as solid as the day that I bought it. With big hour and minute display, it is simple to read, and I like its simplicity and minimalistic design.

As for shock resistance, I dropped the watch once in my shower. Thankfully I had a quick reflex to soften the landing on the tiles by deflecting the watch with my right foot. After the drop, it didn’t show any visible crack.

I do see one dent in the back of the watch, and I think it came from getting thrown around in my gym bag a few times. It’s very minor though.

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Dislike #1: Flaky charging connector

The biggest gripe that I have with Polar V800 is its flaky charging connector. It just does not work after several months. It slowly lost its connection over time with my watch, and nowadays my computer does not recognize the watch is connected even when it’s securely clamped by the charging connector.

I can tell it’s not just me having charging problem from surveying the online forums. It seems Polar is also aware of the problem because it went through a trouble of creating a dedicated online help page about how to troubleshoot charging issues.

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This is a potential deal breaker because if charging connector does not work, Polar V800 cannot be charged, and once the battery runs out, it’s as good as a paper weight. What anĀ Achilles’ Heel to otherwise a great GPS watch!

So as any resourceful user would do, I have been improvising my own ad-hoc solutions to get around this problem. What seems to work for me at the moment is to use an oversized binder clip to reinforce the connector clip as shown in the photo. It works for me today, but I don’t know how long it will continue to work because I had to continue to increase the pressure. (It used to work with extra rubber band wrapped around, but it’s no longer works today.)

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I just hope that Polar folks are fixing this problem in their next release.

Dislike #2: Missing battery life percentage

Since the connector is giving out on me, I pay attention to how often I have to charge. For some reason, the Polar V800 software designers decided to show the battery life as an icon. Only when it’s 100% full charged or falls below 10%, then it shows the remaining percentage.

As someone who wants to see the remaining battery life percentage on all of electronic devices, this bothers me like a shirt with jagged label sticking out on back of the neck. Why would they decided to hide the numeric percentage? I cannot figure it out.

Thankfully this is a simple change with firmware update. Hopefully the design folks at Polar are listening and will make the firmware update available.

Dislike #3: Unimpressive Polar Flow

One of the reasons to track the data is to keep the data. Once data is kept in one place, there are many interesting questions that one can ask. How have I been improving over time? How am I doing compared to other athletes at similar level? How do pros train, and what can I do differently to maximize the benefit?

These are all possible to answer with data. And that is the promise of cloud stored data. Because each time Polar V800 syncs its data with its server, the Polar server is receiving not just my data, but many other athletes data.

But I see little that Polar is doing to tackle these questions with their Polar Flow software. It’s not clear to me whether Polar Flow is meant as an online data storage, or online fitness coaching tool, or online athletic community. My impression is that it’s trying to be little bit of each for everyone. I see each category as a big field on its own, and wish that Polar focuses on one area and do it well. I personally hope that it is fitness coaching because Polar is a well known brand among serious tri-athletes community.

There you have it. Overall I like my Polar V800. It’s a simple-to-use, very accurate GPS watch. While it has some charging flaws, I think you can still hack the connector (say hello to binder clips) to make them work for you.

Hope it is helpful.

Happy training!

-Jae

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