The Polar V650 bike computer has been out for over 3 years now, but Polar has been regularly updating it, with the latest update including Strava Live Segments, so I have been reviewing it with the Polar OH1 for the past couple of weeks.
The V650 is not as popular as Garmin products, but based on price it is an appealing alternative to the Garmin 520 or even more expensive models.
At the time of writing, you can pick up the Polar on Amazon for just £161.90 if you want the chest strap it is £174.50. If you want it bundled with the OH1, you will have to buy it from Polar for £229, and this works out about the same price as buying them individually from Amazon.
In comparison, the Garmin 520 costs £179.00 or £199 with a chest strap.
With the Polar V650, you get some significant features that the Garmin 520 omits which include a bright and responsive touchscreen with built-in mapping. The 520 does have maps, but it is quite basic.
There are some key omissions though, you don’t get Ant+ functionality which is an omission that will put off some serious athletes, but with the popularity of smart Bluetooth devices, it is less of a concern nowadays.
The Polar is quite a large device compared to the Garmin, and its design looks a bit dated with its chubby curvy edges. This is not a major concern though, as I just want a bike computer to track my workout.
There is a safety light built in, which can auto turn on in dark situations. It is a nice extra feature, but it isn’t an adequate front light if you are riding in the dark. It is better than nothing if you are unexpectedly forced to ride in the dark though.
In the box, you don’t get as many accessories as the Garmin. Primarily there is not out in front mount, the included rubber mount is OK, but I found the computer would slope off to the left or right if I were going over a bumpy road. I eventually bought a cheap mount on Amazon that works the way I would like.
In order to set up the device, you need to use Polar FlowSync on your PC then plug it in via microUSB, in the same manner as I had to with the Polar OH1. When you plug it in the first time, it will go through a basic set-up procedure then sync all your settings. Within the device itself, you can tell it to download maps, and it will do this as part of the sync process. If you have live segments or any other routes these will also sync.
There are a lot of comments online about issues with syncing, and I did experience this myself with my main PC, for some reason it just won’t recognise the device, even though the driver is loaded when I check device manager. However, my Garmin 520 is also refusing to sync with my main PC at the moment too, so I suspect there could be something clashing with these sorts of devices. The Polar OH1 never has an issue with syncing.
I was able to get the V650 syncing with my Dell laptop, but I find it can be temperamental with the USB cable you use. Using the pre-bundled one is fine, but others can be 50/50. I have found that thick USB cables are more reliable than thin ones so that it could be an issue with power drawer, but that is just a guess. Once you have got the device into the Polar flow account, you can then pair it up with your mobile to sync data in the future. I found this method was a bit slow, but it seemed reliable for me.