Today I’ll compare and lay down the differences between the two flagship watches of Garmin and Polar. The ForeRunner 920XT (which I’ve previewed here) and the V800 (my review here). The V800 was announced early 2014 and the 920XT on October 2014, so there is a bit of a gap in time, as you can also see from the specifications, but what is the best choice, most bang for your buck?
Everybody has their own taste and the Polar V800 looks very sleek compared to the more classic (read: 80’s retro) digital watch style of the Garmin 920XT. So I won’t judge here, they both look very nice when worn as a normal watch when not doing any activities. The V800’s screen is just black and white, where the Garmin has a colors. Clarity wise, the Polar seems better to read and the colors on the Garmin are not as bright.
Update: Garmin has a black/silver edition now too.
Both watches can of course record the standard data; GPS, cadence, heart rate, power, etc. The difference here lies in how the watch obtains this. Garmin only supports ANT+ and the V800 only works with Bluetooth Smart. So if you are upgrading all your gadgets there is no worries, but if you are just changing the watch, keep this in mind. And for sensors, I expect the majority of sensors to support both BT and ANT in the near future, like the Wahoo Blue SC.
The Polar v800 has one strong point compared to the Garmin 920XT: It can show and measure your heart rate during swimming (with the Polar H7 hrm), and since the Polar Swim Software update (read more here), the other features are very comparable. Both watches are able to measure your stroke count, distance, pace, SWOLF and identify in which style you are swimming. I do believe it’s a miss from Garmin, not to support heart rate, but that might come with a new HRM. Looking at the additional features, the 920XT is one step ahead, with support for kick and other drills in the pool and open water metrics, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Garmin releases a new HRM in 2015 or 16 which can do swim heart rate. The question is here what you find more important, heart rate or support for your drills. Polar has an active development team and swimming metrics for outdoor swimming is in development and was planned for March 2015 (so they’re a but late), but I do believe it will come. Future releases will also include new supported functions such as swimming drills, so in time Polar will catch up and Garmin should get that heart rate working.
Measurements on the bike are practically identical and, besides power meters becoming more and more affordable, there hasn’t been much technological advance here in the past couple of years, so there are not real surprises here. Both watches use GPS, cadence and HRM via a chest strap. And both support power meters. However, as the V800 supports BTLE the majority of power meters are not compatible, however newer models will mostly support this, so unless you’e already invested in a power meter there is no clear choice. To get the best results (and support if something goes wrong) the V800 can be used with Look-Polar’s Power Pedal and Garmin has support for it’s own Vector models. Interestingly, the Polar V800 has the ability to measure and calculate your V02 Max, as does the 920XT, but the Polar test seems to be only for running. So overall, I’d say the 920XT wins the round, but it’s a very minute difference.
The Garmin truly trumps the Polar in the running measurements. Where the Polar still requires a (quite large) foot pod (it’s one of a few Bluetooth foot sensors available), the 920XT is capable of measuring running cadence, vertical oscillation and contact time with the Garmin Run-HRM. Technically the V800 is capable of doing this too, but is a bit behind on their software development (or HR strap). However, Polar is spending a lot of their time and effort on development to be comparable to the 920XT. Hoever I feel it’s current status is close to the 910XT, but don’t get me wrong, this isn’t bad. Finally, as stated above, when hooked up to a HRM, both watches can calculate your V02 Max and compare it to your age group competition, but this is more a table-lookup than a reliable lab-test.
Both watches are excellent tools for a triathlete. It’s really up to personal preference on which watch you would want.
- When compared in weight, the 920XT wins, with a weight of only 61 grams it’s at least 20 grams lighter than the V800.
- The 920XT has an option to swap the wristband for a quick release wrist band allowing mounting on the bike, this is a nice addition for the more cyclists.
- Both watches support training planning, up to some level for swimming too.
- Garmin’s 920XT has WiFi itself and automatically uploads sessions to Garmin connect.
- Garmin’s 920XT has live tracking when paired with your phone (absolutely drains your phone battery though).
Overall the Garmin 920XT shows the gap in development between Polar and Garmin. However, Polar is catching up. Apart from the heart rate missing during swimming, there is no real difference any more between te watches. A slight plus might be the Garmin IQ third-party app development. However, in time, Polar can close the gap by developing the same features as the V800 is capable of almost everything the 920XT can, and it’s Dev Team is actively developing it’s software. If you like this comparison and want to buy either of these, please use one of the links below or a link to the shop from the sidebar. I get a small fee when you buy something, allowing me to keep doing this.
You can buy the Polar V800 with HRM for $322 onProBikeKit and for $283 on ProBikeKit without the HRM.
The Garmin 920XT with HRM is available for $277 on Amazon and without HRM for $249 on Amazon
Price information: prices are localized where possible.