Polar V800 review profile

Polar V800 Swimming Update

Today I received a very welcome email from Polar Flow to inform me that the much-anticipated firmware update had arrived to introduce the tracking of pool swimming metrics to the Polar V800. Awesome news!

Well… as soon as it arrived I hastily re-arranged my schedule to see if I could squeeze in a quick swim before the end of the lunch time lanes session at my local pool. I say hastily, as the ropes would only be up for another hour!

Firmware Update

The update via the Mac looked a little like this.

Polar V800 Swimming Update Polar V800 Swim metrics

Fortunately it didn’t take the full ten minutes and I was quickly viewing the default screen options in Polar Flow to double-check I was happy with the data screens and wouldn’t need to adjust anything there before heading to the pool.  It appeared that it was already set to a 25m pool so after a quick read of the release instructions I was out the door. It’s important to note, however, that you need to add the new Sport Profile “Pool Swimm.” and re-synchronise the watch if you make any changes to the default settings. The V800 Pool Swim is a different setting to the standard “Swimming” profile.

Here’s the link contained in the email giving details of the swim mode update.

The Swim

I would have preferred a much longer session but had already prepared myself for a limited number of lengths. Nonetheless, I managed 600m wearing the V800 paired with the Polar H7 heart rate strap. And, this is the beauty of swimming with the Polar V800 as it becomes one of the very few watches with the ability to track swim metrics whilst also capturing heart rate data in real-time.

As with running and other modes, the clarity of the screen remained perfect with various swimming metrics available and (impressively) still visible during the swim (whilst underwater). There was even a few occasions where I managed to get a glimpse of the data whilst taking a push from the wall (i.e. distance traveled).

I will  be updating the full review shortly so for today I thought the most useful information would be to give an idea of the data that is now available back in Polar Flow. As you can imagine, the functionality of a swim watch differs from running and cycling etc. as far less time is spent viewing the watch mid-activity due the nature of the sport. Having said that, a decent amount of data is available at the pool side if and when you pause between sets but, for the most part, users will want the to see the data post activity.

Polar Flow

This is the main screen when clicking on the swim activity.

Polar V800 Swimming Update

Polar V800 Swimming Metrics

Note the heart rate data plotted neatly on the graph with pace. This is a very significant feature and one that many swimmers will be interested to see. There was a slight loss of heart rate data at the very start, but I’m pretty sure this was down to how quickly I had to start after putting on the H7 belt (in my rush). I have never had this issue before.

As with most other swim watches, the pace per 100m is displayed (min/100m) as is the stroke efficiency and ‘SWOLF’ score. Take a quick look at the Polar’s release notes for an explanation of SWOLF.

Underneath the main section you can drill down into the numbers to see a breakdown of each length and also any laps.

Polar V800 Swimming Update

Polar V800 Swimming Update

After this first swim I’m really excited about the data I’m going to be able to see from now on!


And to let you know how the Polar V800 swim mode fared against a dedicated swimming watch, here’s a screenshot of the the exact same swim with the Garmin Swim.

Polar V800 Swim update

Polar V800 Swimming Mode compared to Garmin Swim

It’s pretty impressive that the majority of stats are identical.

Further Testing

As mentioned above, this is just a short update post for now. I’ll be making some amendments to the full in-depth review as soon as I’ve completed a few more swims with the Polar V800. You can read the full review of each function here.

I should also mention the firmware release has also brought an update to the daily activity tracking so that the step count and other activity data can now been seen on the watch display. This is great info as you now have details of how to achieve your daily goal by the end of the day. In fact, whilst sitting down writing this update the Polar V800 has vibrated to alert me to get up and move!

Head back soon for the full updated review.


  1. Pingback: Polar V800 Review | Triedonline

  2. Hello Tim, Thanks for the great post. I hope to hear more about the swim metrics and how that further compares with Garmin Swim (a watch I also have).

    1. Other than heart rates, is there anything the Polar v800 has that the Garmin Swim doesn’t?

    2. Between the websites of Garmin or Polar, which better makes use of these data to provide guidance on strokes (if any).

    3. Have you been able to upload SWOLF, cadence to 3rd Party sites like Strava and MapMyFitness? For me, these 3rd party sites seems to read only distance, speed, pace.

    • Hi Kien, thanks for the comment.
      1. No, at the moment apart from real-time HR (which is unique to the V800) the Garmin Swim has many more swim functions.
      2. Garmin Connect (for now at least).
      3. No not yet, those two sites do not do not have the same detail for swim analysis.
      As this is the first swimming update for Polar Flow with I believe there will be more to come. e.g they have suggested a drill mode for the future.

  3. Tim – thanks for your diligent work and excellent reviews. I’m a modest triathlete and am planning to upgrade my 2013 Ambit 2S.

    Hope do you now rate the V800 vs the 920XT after having used both for a couple of months and the V800 swimming?

    I am slightly leaving towards the V800 (it is also my main everyday watch) partly based on the nicer look of the watch and the slightly lower price (~£250 vs ~£350). The 920XT on paper offers more features. In the real world, is there much in it?


    • Thanks Erik. The right solition has to be based upon an individual’s needs which will, of course, differ from person to person. I am a big fan of the Polar V800 as it was my first full multisports watch and I still wear it every day. The 920XT is more comprehensive in its running (and arguably cycling) features but with new (and exciting) updates coming this year, the V800 does present great value for the coming triathlon season (when open water swimming should also be available).

  4. Thanks. Is the open water swimming not available yet?
    I read your excellent DIY head-to-head but for a race, would you wear the 920XT or the V800? And why?

    • Hi Erik. According to Polar the open water mode is due to arrive in March 2015. To be completely honest, I’m still unsure as to which watch will be my preference for the season and for Ironman Wales. I’ll probably take a view after the V800 has its open water capabilities. If it were an open water race right now it would have to be the 920XT, but this may well change.

      • Thanks Tim.

        In part reflecting your feedback, I’ve gone ahead and ordered the V800. I know there are a few new Garmin watches coming out very soon but for triathlon the 920XT is the main watch and on balance the Polar feels like a better match for me. Fenix 3 would also be suitable for triathlon but it’s not out yet, is more expensive and is, well, not as nice-looking as the V800.

        Polar’s decision to focus on BLE (rather than ANT+) is a positive in my view (but not shared by many from what I have read) as I don’t have any ANT+ accessories at the moment. I think BLE will ultimately be the dominant technology, not least due to mobile phones.

  5. Hi Tim, Thanks for the good job with this review.

    Did you miss the “Swimming Phases” after last update?

    • The Swimming Phases on the V800 work really well. For the purposes of this update, however, the swim I performed didn’t include any rests (it was a single interval) so the phases didn’t apply. I’ll update this and the main review shortly to demonstrate this aspect a little better.

  6. Hi just replaced my tomtom multisport with the v800 and first impressions disappointed unless I’m missing something. Don’t seem to have swim length counter ie number of lengths and virtual race partner so you can race against your best time. Appreciate your comments

  7. Dear Tim

    Many thanks for this though I have one question that you may be able to help me with…

    I used the V800 in the swimming pool for the first time this week and found that the HR monitor kept on moving when I tumble turned or even just pushed off basically. At the end of my session I went to analyse the results to find that the HR data hadn’t been recorded properly.

    How can you ensure a good HR recording when the strap keeps on moving at the end of every length? Obviously I’ve tightened it.

    Many thanks

    Nick Franks

    • Thanks Nick. Quite simply… I wear a tri-suit. It’s not ideal for pool use but (as a man) there’s no other solution I know of.

    • Nick, I modified a support using an old chest strap which goes over my shoulder. I’ve since made it better with new materials and accessories obtained from a fabric store. Works great for swimming and I even use it for running and cycling as I can wear the chest strap less tightly without slippage. If you give this a try and want help, ping me on twitter.

      • I’m really curious what the modified chest strap looks like, do you have a pic by chance? Just got my v800 last week and love it. Looking for a way to keep the sensor down.

  8. Many thanks for this, chaps…

    It’s the kind of conundrum you’d never think of until you’re actually in the pool for your debut swim with V800; but it’s very frustrating that there isn’t a better solution than the inconvenience (& further expense) of a tri-suit or something home-made/adapted.

    The V800 be advertised as “requires a tri-suit, but doesn’t come with one”

    Rant over


  9. Hi, I’m having a really hard time getting my V800 to track my distance in the pool. It mostly show 25M whatever the distance of the set is (25, 50, 100 or 300 !!) I have been using a Garmin Swimm before and never had any similar problem.

  10. I have found that my Polar V800 GPS does not perform well in open water swimming. The same buoy I swim past on my route out, and then again on my way back, can be shown on the GPS track as more than 100 meters apart. And I have also been shown to have swum 100 meters inland on the same swim . I have been in contact with Polar but there is no sign of resolution of the problem to date

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