Review- Nike Sportwatch GPS- I bought the Nike Sportwatch GPS after running for some time without any distance tracking. Originally starting with the Adidas MyCoach app on my Blackberry Bold 9700 (seriously good combo for running), the switch to larger phones and phablets had all but killed my use of a smartphone on runs. There was just no way I was going to run with a Note II. I missed seeing my distance and speed as I ran. I found a really good deal on the Sportwatch GPS at Winners randomly on boxing day in Toronto and now a year later I would like to put forth my impressions.
Design– The Nike Sportwatch GPS (I really think the name is lame) is all white with a silver metal strip on the face. Its largely a plastic design with metal clasps. The buttons are big and juicy and its easy to click them while out on a run. The watch is quite large and its very obvious on the wrist-it also screams workout watch – you won’t be wearing this with your office attire. I find the watch quite comfortable to wear and it has plenty of adjustment levels to make sure it fits snugs on the wrist. The screen is monochrome LCD and it uses big block font to make it easy to read while out on a run. It can be inversed to black on white, but its contrast is poor in this state- I prefer white on black. Theres a single light on the top corner left that lights up with a tap on the watch. I would have preferred a button to turn the light on, but slapping the watch is fine too. The watch is two tone color in other colors and I would have preferred the black/green but that one wasn’t on sale. Oh and there’s a USB connector on the watch strap. Its a one piece design- you won’t be switching out watch bands on this. The watch is also supposed to be waterproof and I haven’t had any issues with it with sweat which is awesome. However, I did have an issue where the watch band was bent to put in my gym bag and two layers separated- I’m not sure that snapping the pieces back together puts them back into their original form or if I need to put a sealant in the seams. Other than that, the watch feels really solid, like it belongs in the gym
Useability- Awesome. I love that this is a great tool for timing rests between sets at the gym- I slap the watch after finishing a set and watch my time in big giant font- this makes sure I don’t slack too long at rest. I also like running with it because it tells me time elapsed, distance covered and pace – all three very useful data points on top of the time. I can’t emphasize enough how easy the font is to read on this watch. I do hate the slapping feature though- I would have preferred to hit a button to lap times. Sometimes when I am mid set I hit the watch on something and it starts a lap. I imagine this was designed for runners who have no time to reach down and find a button- personally I find these buttons big and clicky and it would have been fine for me to do that. There’s no option to change that BTW. Oh and that sensor lets you track movement on your treadmill too- it doesn’t work too well/at all with ellipticals though. I also think it doesn’t track accurately because the treadmill reads a different distance. I’m not sure which one is right though.
Connectivity– You can see how fat the watch is here- big buttons are good for controlling it without having to deliberate your actions. I’m assuming its so big because of some ancient GPS module inside- compared to the Sony Smartwatch 3 which has GPS built in, this is pretty massive. So you get GPS on this, and it also connects wirelessly to the Nike + sensor that you can put in your shoe. This means that you can track with either GPS, the sensor or both. This comes in handy when one is not available like running indoors. I found the GPS to lock fairly quickly and it will temporarily use the Nike+ sensor while it looks for satellite.s Other than that, the only way you are seeing your totaled stats is by using the USB and connecting it to a computer. This is a bit disappointing compared to modern fitness trackers where you have live updates on your phone. There’s also no other way of connecting to it or making it smart. No BT or wi-fi.
Battery – It charges through USB and the device comes with the USB extension cable to make it easier to charge. I foudn battery life ok- I charge it everyday on my computer because the batteery indicator is completely unreliable-it is either full or its low power and it just shuts down. There is nothing more annoying than seeing it power off at the beginning of a workout.
Compared to-Looking at it side by side with the Sony Smartband, its obvious how much bigger the Sportwatch is. There’s a big reason though- that Nike watch is self sufficient and doesn’t need a smartphone to operate. Aside from having its own GPS, the Sportwatch also is able to track pace with the Nike+ sensor which can either go in a Nike+ shoe or a shoe wallet. The Smartband is able to track pace but it needs a smartphone to realy that information to you. And it doesn’t have GPS. However, the Smartband is able to do other things via applications like control music playback. They are clearly different devices, but its interesting to see how smartwear has evolved in the last few years. The sportwatch really could use added functionality that would make it much better. Personally I would like to see music control playback since many athletes use music in workouts and having media control on this would be awesome. I would also like to see wireless sync with a phone so you don’t need to wait to get to a computer to check your workouts. As well, there isn’t really that sense of connectedness that modern smartwear devices have- i.e. its not like an app on a phone that connects to social media immediately and uploads data. While some might argue that this is irrelevant to your workout and you should be focusing on your workout and not your pals on the internet, I do find it very motivating to see my stats up there and other’s stats. As it stands, I barely use the device’s stats. It really could have been so much more- like the Nike Fuelband that makes points out of your steps- this doesn’t have that. Its a running watch pure and simple. No steps counted/pedometer action either. It thinks you died or something and the running app stops automatically if you leave it running.
This is where the watch is used the most timing between sets- on a different note, today I realized that my dumbbells were long enough to put ten ten lb plates on so it would be just like old times at the university gym. It was nice for chest press.
Conclusion- The Nike Sportwatch is a great running watch- GPS is quick to lock on, you have the option of using the shoe sensor to increase accuracy or measurement when GPS is unavailable, the buttons are easy to use, the screen is excellent for workouts because its easy to read, its style screams you are going to tear that track up and its a nice stable watch. It lacks connectivity options, has no wireless abilities, requires a USB direct link to upload material, I’m not sure how to use the Nike+ program enough to make it fun and social, the battery life is poor and I’m not super happy with having to slap the watch to lap or turn the backlight on. Its NOT a smartwatch. Its cheating to categorize this under the smartwear category. I really wish it did more, but I guess that’s why it was on clearance and why Nike seems to have stopped supporting it. There’s no more Sportwatch follow ups and Nike seems to be abanodining its tech hardware from blog rumors. Its a shame. It is a great watch for fitness, but it could be AMAZING with a few tweaks. I really want that media control.
TLDR; Pros- screen readability, big buttons, good fit, waterproof, GPS lock is good, sensor adds extra accuracy. Cons- poor battery life, limited connectivity options, I hate slapping the watch to turn the backlight on and lap times.