When the Nike+ Sportswatch GPS was announced at the Consumer Electronics Show 2011 in Las Vegas, it turned a lot of heads. The prospect of TomTom’s GPS smarts and Nike’s user friendly Nike+ fitness credentials coming together in a fitness watch had pulses racing. Surely we’d be guaranteed a brilliant new piece of running tech to adorn our wrists.
However, as Carlo Ancelotti might find as he tries to forge Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres into an invincible frontline at Chelsea, successful partnerships are about more than individual flare. So let's see if the union has produced a new must-have gadget for fitness fans.
Nike+ SportWatch GPS Video: Quick look
Source: T3 Tech Video
Nike+ SportWatch GPS: First impressions
Initial reaction out of the box is that this watch looks smart with a modern retro feel and the same distinct black and neon yellow we saw on the Nike SportBand.
It’s comfortable on the wrist – a lot less chunky than the Timex Ironman Global Trainer – and feels reassuringly sturdy, vital for a gadget that’s likely to rattle around in your kitbag a lot.
The buttons are responsive and big enough to make it easy use when you’re on the move, even at a fast pace. The screen is a little dark which makes reading the info awkward but that can offset by using a handy screen tap function to fire up the backlight.
From the off you’ll notice that Nike has brought all the usability smarts you see in the Nike+ GPS app to the SportWatch. Set-up is super simple and unlike the Timex Ironman Global Trainer, even the least technical among us will have this up and running inside 10 minutes, without consulting the manual.
There are essentially four menu options, Clock, Run, History and Records. Hitting Run takes you to a simple options screen where you can choose to use GPS, a Nike+ sensor or both to track a run.
The SportWatch comes with a Nike+ shoe sensor or you can also pair one you already own.
This is an instant win over most of the free run-tracking apps. The shoe sensor works when your GPS signal is weak so you don’t have gaps in your performance data. Better still, you can also track your gym runs - something the other GPS-based gadgets can’t do.
In our tests this proved to be a saving grace. On more than one occasion we waited over 10 minutes get a GPS link. Admittedly this was in a built-up area, and this kind of delay isn’t unique to the Nike+ SportWatch, but it is frustrating and all the more surprising with TomTom putting their name to it.
The level of information you can monitor is ample. The History section stores all the data from your recent runs by date plus deeper more detailed performance stats, while the Records option displays your personal bests for 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon and furthest run. All of this info can then be uploaded to NikePlus.com via a precarious looking USB tucked away at the end of the watchstrap.
This USB connection is another slight worry with the Nike SportWatch. That it’s hidden is great but you can’t escape the feeling that this could easily break. If that happens, you can not only wave goodbye to storing your runs on NikePlus.com but you won’t be able to recharge the battery.
If like us, you need a little nudge to get you up and out, then you’ll welcome the motivational messages like ‘Run with me later’ that appear on screen and the buzz you get when a screen alert tells you you’ve beaten one of your personal bests.
For added motivation, you can also customise the main screen to show your favourite stat, whether that’s distance covered or pace.
Nike+ GPS SportWatch: Online Runtracking
Just like your iPhone Nike+ GPS app, the Nike+ SportWatch syncs with the NikePlus.com online tracking tool so you can store run data, challenge friends, set routes, set goals and reviews maps of pavements you’ve pounded.
Once again syncing is simple and the online tool is built with simplicity in mind. It’s not as comprehensive as some web-based tools we’ve used, but it caters adequately for all but the most serious of runners.
Nike+ GPS SportWatch: The Verdict
Overall this is an impressive piece of fitness tech. It’s not the most feature-packed run tracking tool we’ve used but then the real beauty is its superb simplicity. It doesn't over complicated things, instead offering just enough information to suit most levels.
The GPS link delay is frustrating – you really don’t want to be standing outside your front door for more than two minutes waiting for satellites - and is only mildly offset by the shoe sensor stepping in to plug the gaps.
Overall its sporty good looks and the indoor and outdoor capability, coupled with NikePlus.com’s refined tools make this a good solid run partner.