The Polar V650 GPS came out way back in 2015 but since then it's had an update in late 2018, which is the model we've reviewed here. The result is a bike computer with more features than at launch and with enough to take on even the newest models while undercutting them on price.
Polar V650 GPS: What you need to know
The Polar V650 GPS is all about that color touchscreen which makes clear maps and data the centrepiece of this bike computer. There are buttons, sure, but full touchscreen with pinch to zoom maps are what this does well.
This is Bluetooth only so anyone looking for a cycle computer to pair up with their current ANT+ sensors, you might as well stop reading now. Since a lot of sensors are now moving to Bluetooth Smart that works out well for Polar that gambled on that connectivity only.
Mapping is built in with offline TOPO maps meaning you get proper data with your navigation displayed over the top – ideal for those that want to ride both on road and off-road too.
But with limited app support and reliance on computer connections, is this for you?
Polar V650 GPS: Design and build
- 10 hour battery
- 4.3oz weight
- 320x240 color touchscreen
The Polar V650 GPS is a decent sized GPS coming in at large enough to offer a big color touchscreen but compact enough to remain handheld. It will add a chunk to your ride, weighing in at 4.3oz – alright, not a chunk but more than some of the competition.
Thanks to a 320 x 240 resolution screen the mapping can be displayed in detail allowing the zoom to give lots of clarity on what's coming up ahead even when you're riding at full pelt.
Despite being mainly touchscreen controlled, there are a few buttons. The side button is used to access calibration, syncing, display lock and some other features. The big red button on the front is a nice easy way to start, lap, pause and stop a workout.
Polar has put an LED light into the front of this bike computer which is a nice touch, allowing you to use this as a torch or simply to have a back-up light, should you go out later than planned without your main light.
Polar V650 GPS: Features and connectivity
- Bluetooth only
- Strava uploads
- Navigation with TOPO maps
The Polar V650 GPS uses BLE meaning you're limited to transfer speeds of Bluetooth. That said this does seem to zip along well and then once on the device the processor is plenty fast even when uploading complicated 300km routes that would take a Garmin Edge 830 minutes to crunch through.
Talking of routes, you can use Strava Live Segments, which can be uploaded to the device – with a total of 30 stored at once. You'll need to use the Flow software on a computer for this as the app on a phone is more for analysing data rather than adding to the bike computer.
You can also add your own routes, which need to be created elsewhere and uploaded as GPX/TCX files. Again you'll need the computer so don't expect this to be a wireless experience. But then it does work fast over that cable connection.
Navigation, unlike most of the competition, uses proper TOPO mapping meaning you can see details of roads as well as offroad variation. This is compatible with areas 450 x 450km in size meaning more than enough for any ride, unless you're planning to do a multi-week adventure without taking a computer to add more, of course.
Data displays are decent with three bike profiles, seven data pages with eight data fields on each and dual-sided BLE which is great for power using left and right donuts to show output on each side.
Polar V650 GPS: Performance
- Good offline navigation
- Clear display
- Strava integration
Since the TOPO maps are stored offline you can enjoy navigation anywhere without the need for a phone data connection. Not that it would help you much as the Flow app isn't really very useful beyond analysing your ride data. That said, it does this well with lots of graphics for training load, real-time VAM, smart calories, adaptive training plans and recovery status.
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GPS accuracy was excellent both on routing and climbing thanks to an accurate altimeter. Navigation is clear with a red line showing where you're going and blue to show where you've been – nicely overlaid on the maps.
The screen is clear even when at half brightness in daytime – which is good for achieving near to that 10 hour battery life claim. Connect up lots of sensors and it drops a little, but not much, so you can rely on this for a good long ride.
Strava integration is great but the fact you have to physically plug this into a compute to drag and drop the Live Segment routes onto the device feels old. Transfer times are fast and you can load up a good 30 so you don't need to do it often, so it's not that big a deal, just worth a mention.
Should I buy the Polar V650 GPS?
If you want an affordable cycle computer that offers a color touchscreen with decent mapping and navigation at a good price then this could be for you. However if you want to go totally wireless with an app that offers notifications, smart Live Segment viewing and more then this is not the right computer for your ride.
If you've already got Bluetooth sensors and enjoy data readouts that are clear, functional and work to help you improve then Polar's years of experience as a heart rate specialist do shine through on the Flow app.
Polar V650 GPS: Verdict
The Polar V650 GPS does a lot for the price and size. You get a great touchscreen with full color, those excellent TOPO maps with clear navigation plus lots of data screens and clear graphics for at a glance info on your ride. Battery life could be better but it'll last nearly any ride without a worry and you can connect up lots of Bluetooth sensors that work well.
The lack of true wireless connectivity will be too much faff for some, but for others the computer based controls could be a positive. Whatever your preference this is well worth a look for the price.