Review: Nike's SportWatch Is The Ideal Running Companion

Written by Tony Ibrahim     30/08/2012 | 06:46 | Category name i.e.ACCESSORIES

Nike and TomTom have teamed up to produce an exercise companion that doesn't just record your efforts, but keeps you company when you're running alone on the desolate tarmac.

Appearance

The Nike SportWatch will blend in with your tattered shirt, shabby shorts and down trodden shoes. By no means does it look unattractive or weathered; rather, there's something rugged about its appearance and it's for that reason it looks like it belongs with the rest of the outfit.


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It has a wide rubberised strap that's fixed around your wrist with two prongs and the clip at the end unhinges to reveal a USB connection. The watch-face is unusually thick at about a centimetre, but clever design and its light weight ensure it's  comfortable to wear.

The display is large and text is clear. On the left are three buttons, with an up and down used to cycle through the menu and the third assuming the role of select. It might sound simplistic, but it keeps things easy. 

The watch's menu includes the standby clock, run, history, records and stopwatch. It is detailed without being complicated and Nike has done an excellent job at equipping it with relevant tools.

Warming Up

As impressive as it is on its own, this isn't a standalone device. Nike bundle the SportWatch with a footpod which is to be used when you're running on a treadmill or don't have a line of sight with enough GPS satellites.


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It resembles a small pellet and nestles between your sock and your ankle. When you first put it in your shoe it does feel foreign, but within a few minutes you forget about it entirely.

Pairing the watch with the footpod is an effortless exercise and runners are given the option before starting a run.

The watch can also be hooked up with a custom heart rate strap, but unfortunately we weren't provided one for review.

Gaining a GPS fix with the SportWatch is no more difficult than doing so with a smartphone and how quick you gain a fix is largely dependent on the surrounding environment.

On A Run

The Nike+ SportWatch has been designed to be an invisible companion, feeding you information only when you need it, shifting your focus from arm jewellery to the task at hand: running. It does this successfully.

The display is split into two sections: one-third at the top of the screen alternates between heart rate, distance, calories, elapsed time and clock, while the remaining two-thirds is fixed on distance.


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When at speed, the enlarged watch-face and its complementing buttons make using the watch easy. Even when it begins to rain—with water pelleting down—your confident in its abilities. The watch itself is waterproof to roughly fifty metres and, although it hasn't been programmed for it, can be used swimming.

The downside with this watch is its rigidity. Rather than programming various exercise modes, such as swimming and cycling, Nike has pigeonholed it as a walking and running device. I imagine a future firmware update could tend to this, but until that materialises, the SportWatch (not RunningWatch) is enduring a disservice.

What it is programmed for—running—it does well. Enthusiast runners who measure lap times will appreciate its lap function, which can be marked by tapping the top of the screen. The touch sensitive screen is a feature that will appeal to some, but it really is a novelty feature and those looking for a consistent experience will turn to the ever-reliable hardware keys.

Upon finishing your run, it generates a summary of your efforts, consoles you with motivational prompts that include "You Crushed It" and cites any records you may have broken. At first it's weird—and almost condescending—being told by a watch you can do better, but over time it becomes apparent these prompts humanise it, so when you are on a run you feel as though you're joined by a worthy companion. 

Celebratory Lap

Before you first use the SportWatch, plug it into your computer and you'll be instructed to download its synchronisation software, Nike Connect, in addition to registering for its supporting cloud service, Nike Fuel. It's actually these two services that offer a lot of the value.


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Nike Connect is the software used to configure the settings of your SportWatch and manages details pertaining to your age, sex, weight and so forth. It is also responsible for automatically uploading your workouts to Nike Fuel when you plug in the SportWatch.

It isn't a requisite to plug in your SportWatch after every run as the software is intelligent enough to upload your last number of runs without creating duplicates.


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Once your workouts have been uploaded, you're presented with a striking interface that details your most recent workout, clearly uses animations to communicate its intensity and speed, and categorises your records. Among some the records noted are "Most runs in a week", "Longest run" and "Fastest 1K" and these do their part in making you want to best yourself. 

The site does a wonderful thing in making you want to go on runs to better your performance. It fuels your desire to exercise, translates digital support into will power and that's an incredibly undervalued aid.

It is this—this ongoing support and enthusiastic approach to exercise—that deems the Nike+ SportWatch an overall success. It's not perfect, but this small piece of technology is one you will fall in love with. 

If you're a runner,

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Pros & Cons

Pros:

Cloud-based NikeFuel organises workouts in one of the best fashions; intelligable design; works with a heart monitor and other peripherals; Waterproof to 50 metres.

Cons:

No modes other than running.