Nike+ SportWatch GPS Review
I’ve been wanting to check this gadget out for a while and I managed to sweet-talk Waleed into lending his Nike+ SportWatch GPS to me for a couple of days so that I could put it through some testing. The ability to measure my performance has always been something that I’ve been interested in – plus carrying my phone around on runs with Endomondo was really becoming a chore…Phones are strictly for selfies!
The Nike+ SportWatch GPS has been around since 2011 and is aimed at runners getting started with GPS units. This will be my first review of a GPS device, so I guess that I fall into the same category.
So let’s get into it.
The Look and Feel
As with most things Nike, it definitely ticks the “cool design” and “goes with all my sports kit” boxes. The watch is not very wide, but it is thick so it tends to stand a bit high on the wrist (it may be too bulky for those with smaller wrists). For me I didn’t really have any issues and I actually liked the look of it.
The face can be described as Techno Chic with a big numeric display on the digital screen which is really handy for quick glances during a run. The colour options available in SA aren’t the best and it definitely seems to fit a more masculine orientated design aesthetic.
There are 3 buttons on the side which echoes the objective of simplification which Nike tries to deliver on. There is also a USB connector in the strap which connects straight to your PC for uploading your run data (more on that later).
It is probably the best looking of most sports and GPS watches out there. You could definitely wear it in a casual setting without looking like you are wearing your gym kit out.
I received the watch with a depleted battery, but after 2hrs of charging it was back up. For those of you who don’t know, I’m the guy that reads the manual before plugging the DVD player in – I know what you are saying…life’s too short to read the manual. In this case it helped because I found out about the Nike+ Connect software.
In order to get the best experience with the device, I recommend downloading the Nike+ Connect software (17.2mb) for your PC and setting up a Nike+ profile on the Nike website. It takes a couple of minutes, but once it is up you will have access to some cool things on your profile like:
- Total Mileage Run
- Maps of your runs
- Ability to set goals (FYI – this is not an exhaustive list)
The Nike+ Connect software will also allow you to customize certain elements of the watch like setting lap indicators, the metrics you want to view and a few others.
After some tweaks, I was ready to run.
Out in the field
I have only been exposed to tracking my runs by using my phone and Endomondo, but after this test, I’m now a believer in the power of the GPS watch, especially if you have clear training objectives that you want to hit. Nike has definitely got a winning device on their hands here.
Nike made it really simple to operate the device by limiting the number of buttons to just 3 (up, down and select). With a couple of clicks, I went from watch mode to run mode without much fuss. You can even go straight to run mode by holding the “select” button for about 3 seconds – another trick I learned from the manual 🙂
Once you are on the Run options page, you can link to any additional devices such as Heart Rate monitors etc. The watch is running specific, so it will track your mileage, speed and calories. If you need to measure your cadence and heart rate then you will need to buy the Nike+ footpod and add a heart rate monitor that is compatible with the device.
The first time I used the Nike+ SportWatch GPS, it took about 30secs to link the GPS to satellites, but in subsequent runs it connected much faster (approx. 10secs).
During the run, the watch was pretty comfortable and I didn’t even notice it until I heard the beep sound to signify that I’d passed the first kilometre. As I ran, I would glance down at my wrist and see the mileage tick away and the speed that I was running at. I found this really useful and it allowed me to maintain an ideal training pace which was difficult to do before. Shweet!
I didn’t have any issues with the accuracy of the TomTom GPS which powers the device as it came quite close (10 or so metres out) from the known distance of my runs. For the most part, you should be able to link to the GPS satellites with no issues, but I did run into difficulty when I took it on a trail run in Newlands Forest (lots and lots of tall trees) and it was raining steadily with a helluva lot of cloud cover. The watch struggled to connect on that afternoon, but the conditions were pretty extreme and only Wafiq’s Garmin Forerunner 910 XT managed to link (Side note: the Garmin Forerunner 910 XT costs 3 times as much – so it better find GPS signal!)
Once you have completed your run, all you do is click the “select” button and end. A nice motivational message appears (like a friendly pat on the back) and then a summary of your run by lap or kilometre flashes across the screen. You can access up to 15hrs of run history if you want to have a quick review of your training over a period of time.
Living with the device
Once you have completed your run, if you connect the USB to your PC, you can upload your workouts through the Nike+ Connect software which usually takes just a couple of seconds. Your run data is available on the Nike+ site where you can see a map of the run and even the summary per lap/kilometre.
The only downer is that the data resides on the Nike+ site and (for nerds like me) you can’t download it and slap it into a spreadsheet for further analysis 🙁
The Nike+ SportWatch GPS is waterproof for up to 5ATM’s (about 50 metres) and it easily survived a swim session in the pool at gym. Waleed has actually completed a triathlon while wearing the watch – so it can withstand the open ocean as well.
The battery life is really good as well. On the 2hr initial charge, I have done close to 4hrs worth of running with the GPS and there is still juice left. From new, Nike claims that you should be able to achieve about 9 hours of run time before needing a recharge – which isn’t bad at all. Waleed claims to have used it for 4hrs before it cut out.
Unfortunately, this tale can’t be all sunshine and rainbows and a blemish was bound to raise its head. I decided to get some information about repairs and battery replacement options for the device in South Africa, but was left a bit disappointed by the support that Nike provides for the Nike+ SportWatch GPS.
Don’t bother sending any emails to Nike as (I’m sure) millions of people are doing the same around the world. So the best option (or so I thought) was to visit a Nike Store (I chose Canal Walk). As expected the staff were really good at selling the watch to me, however they were clueless when it came to the repairs processes insisting that before they would even consider looking at the device that I would need to produce a receipt. Really?!? Sportsman’s Warehouse, on the other hand, were keen to take the watch for assessment without much fuss.
Nevertheless, the device does come with a 1 year warranty and I have heard that Nike is really good at honouring this.
What are my alternatives?
The sub-R2,000 GPS watch market does not have many options and you are basically looking at the Nike+ SportWatch GPS or the Garmin Forerunner 10 GPS Watch. On paper, both of these have very similar features and are priced identically. The Nike watch definitely wins hands down in the looks department, but I’m not sure from a performance and aftersales perspective so I can’t give you my honest opinion.
As it is aimed at the runner starting out with tracking their performance, the Nike+ SportWatch GPS does exactly that and should be fine as you progress from a newb to advanced runner. It is simple to use, looks great, and has a comfortable strap and solid battery life which make it a nice training accessory for probably close to 2yrs after purchase – which is great for any tech product’s lifecycle.
The software and community vibe that is bundled into the experience is great which is expected from a large brand like Nike. The only issues for me is the fact that it is running focused and doesn’t lend itself well to other sports (swimming etc.). Also, getting your run data from the device is a mission and some (i.e. me the analytic) would prefer being able to dump the run data into a spreadsheet analysis tool to further tweak their performance and training.
If you need to judge your heart rate and cadence, then additional items of kit will be necessary. Also, it helps to run in Nike shoes as there is a space for the footpod catered for in each shoe – else you will need some kind of pouch to hold the footpod.
Overall, it is a solid product that has established itself as a popular choice as the first GPS unit and I can completely understand why. If you are keen to grab one of these, head over to Sportsmans Warehouse or takealot.com.
If I have left out anything in particular that you may think is a critical feature/experience that you’ve had with the Nike+ SportWatch GPS, please feel free to comment below.