Nike+ SportWatch GPS Running Watch Review

Nike+ SportWatch GPS Running Watch Review

Cheapest retailer – Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

The Nike + SportWatch GPS is the first GPS running watch to be released by the multinational sports giant, and is quite possibly the most stylish and easy to use GPS running watch on the market.

Nike SportsWatch GPS Watch and Food Pod

Nike SportWatch GPS Watch and Foot Pod

Nike have paired up with GPS technology giant TomTom to incorporate a high sensitivity GPS receiver into the watch that not only tracks your distance and speed, but is also used to record your location when running and the calories your burn over a training session.

The real beauty of the Nike GPS watch is how easy it is to use. You are ready to run with two simple button taps and thanks to the TomTom GPS sensor you can pick up satellite reception within seconds. It is no wonder that Nike picked up two Innovation Awards at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show.

This in- depth Nike+ SportWatch GPS review will explore every feature of the  watch in detail as we put the watch through its paces over the course of a few training sessions.

Easy Set-Up – Change any setting from your computer

Unlike other GPS running watches, the Nike+ SportWatch GPS can be set up with as little as three clicks of a mouse. Instead of fiddling around with the watch buttons every time you want to change a workout, user or setting, you can connect the watch up to your computer (using the hidden USB connector in the wrist strap) and can change any of the custom settings in seconds.

When you first plug the watch into your computer using either the hidden USB plug on the watch strap or the supplied usb cable you are taken to the Nike+ running portal. Here you are prompted to download a small program that allows you to change the various  settings from your Mac or PC and also upload any of your runs to the Nike + online running community. The download size is tiny, the program installs in seconds and you don’t have to restart your computer, meaning you can be ready to run in seconds.

When setting up the watch for the first time you are first asked for your weight, sex and preferred units. You then have the option to set more advanced features such as intervals, automatic laps and the combination of different statistics that you want to be displayed on the watch when you are running. All of these selections are optional and after the first three choice you are ready to run.

First Run – Ready to run in two clicks

Nike have  made recording runs easy with the SportWatch GPS. Holding the main green button for three seconds tells the watch that you are ready to run. It then starts searching for any compatible heart rate monitor or Nike foot pod (supplied in the box) within range and if it finds any sensor it was automatically pair with the device for the duration of your run.

Nike Running Shoes Foot Pod Compartment

Nike Running Shoe Foot Pod Compartment

If you don’t have  a Nike Foot Pod or Polar Heart Rate monitor then you can run with just the watch unit itself and you will still be able to track a wide variety of important training statistics. Having a Heart Rate monitor is obviously essential if you want to be able to track and record your current heart rate, but you can still use the Nike+ SportWatch GPS without one. The Foot Pod is also optional but the benefit of having one of these installed into your trainer is that in the event you lose GPS signal when out running, the watch will automatically continue to keep track of your Pace, Distance and Calories using the foot pod for seamless recording.

Nike+ SportsWatch GPS Pairing with the Foot Pod

Nike+ SportWatch GPS Pairing with the Foot Pod

If you are outdoors then the watch usually locates a GPS signal within seconds and starts counting down the seconds automatically. If you wish to pause your training then you simply click the green button to pause and then hit it again to resume your workout. If you start running before the watch has located a GPS signal then the Food Pod will kick in and will record all of your statistics until a GPS signal is found.

Easily Set-Up Advanced Runs and Interval Sessions.

Using the PC or Mac based Nike Running program you can easily set up advanced interval workouts before you run. You can set the time or distance of each interval and the amount of recovery time allowed as well as setting the number of reps.

This is a great way to structure those all important interval training workouts as the last thing you want to be doing is trying to remember what rep or what distance you are on when you are part way through a tough interval session.

Auto -Lap

A very useful feature of the Nike+ SportWatch GPS is the auto lap feature. Although Auto Lap appears  on many other GPS watches, it is an important feature as it lets you keep track of your individual lap performance throughout a race or training session.

You can set the watch to lap at a specific time or distance interval (the most common distance being either a mile or a kilometre). Using the inbuilt TomTom GPS sensor, the watch identifies when you have run the required lap distance and automatically starts a new lap. You are shown a summary of your last lap’s performance before the watch settles down and continues to show your current lap’s details.

This is a great feature for race day as you can keep track of your performance lap by lap and therefore it is much easier to see if you are keeping to your target pace.

You can also set the Watch to lap evey time you tap the watch. This takes some getting used to as it feels very strange not having to press a button, but a reassuring chime sounds to conform that a new lap has started.

Calorie Counter

A very important metric for any runner is the calorie counter. Ultra marathon runners and part time joggers alike need to keep track of how many calories a run is burning to either calculate the amount of food they need to take on board to carry on training or to see how many calories they have burned for weight loss purposes.

The Nike+ SportWatch GPS watch uses your body weight, pace and distance to calculate how many calories you have burned during your run – allowing you to train towards calorie goals as well as time and distance goals.

Tap Functionality

Any sports watch worth its metal needs a decent back light to enable runners to train in poor light conditions. The Nike GPS watch goes one step further and provides a high power back light with tap activation technology. Instead of holding a button down for an inordinate amount of time like some watches, all it takes to turn on the lights with the Nike GPS watch is a simple tap of the screen. This then activates the light for about ten seconds which is more than ample time for you to check your stats, even when running at speed.

Heart Rate Monitoring

Using a Polar heart rate monitor you can track and record your heart rate on any of your runs. The watch pairs with the heart rate monitor in seconds and then displays your current heart rate when in training mode.

Polar WearLink+ 31 Heart Rate Monitor

Polar WearLink+ 31 Heart Rate Monitor

Running with the Nike+ SportWatch GPS

When we were field testing the Nike+ SportWatch GPS watch we were pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to run with.

After the initial setup the watch started to cycle through all of the different statistics that we has specified before the run such as calories, heart rate and pace without a problem and if we wanted to double check a particular metric then we just selected it using the two navigation buttons.

As we set the watch up to Auto-lap after every mile, it chimed to let us know that we has reached the end of a mile and then showed us a summary of the past lap before continuing to record the next lap.

As we have run with GPS watches before we know exactly how far each of our usual running routes is and can count off the miles along each route using various landmarks. The GPS sensor didn’t notify us that it had dropped the signal at any point and it was within 0.1 of the correct distance when we finished our trial run – we would expect nothing less of a TomTom powered device!

The watch was comfortable to wear and not to heavy or bulky like some of the other watches that we have tested which is great news for anyone that really doesn’t like the look or the size of the Garmin Forerunners or the Timex Watches.

NikeRunning.com – An online social network and training portal for runners.

When you buy a GPS watch you don’t just want something that records your run and displays it back to you the moment you finish. What most runners really want is a way to track their training performance and fitness in the long run. Nike seem to have answered their plight with one of the most interactive and unique online training portals that we have ever seen.

No Nike+ SportWatch GPS Review would be worth the paper it is typed on without looking at this fantastic portal in more detail so here we go…

NikeRunning.com – Uploading Your Runs.

Instead of just having all of your runs sitting on your watch you can upload them straight to the Nike Running Portal by plugging the watch into your computer. USB cables are a thing of the past as the Nike GPS watch has an cleverly concealed USB plug that can be hidden inside the watch strap when running and then snapped out quickly and easily when you want to upload your runs.

The actual upload process takes mere seconds and the Nike software has proved to be robust and bug free in all the instances to date when we have used it.

NikeRunning.com – Viewing Your Runs and Trophies

After upload, you are taken to the Nike Running portal automatically and shown your run history. Part of the Nike Running Philosophy is to keep you motivated and we were nicely surprised when a video of an American Athlete popped up to congratulate us on our first 10k run!

NikeRunning.com First Run

NikeRunning.com First Run

Past runs are broken down into the various mile or kilometre stages and you can see your page at each stage of your run.

You can view all of your past runs in calendar format and can zoom to any past run for a closer examination or pace, distance and time.

On the same web page there is a trophy cabinet of which you are awarded when you complete either personal or Nike set goals.

More experienced runners may find the Nike Running portal lacking in detail as there are none of the powerful features of the Garmin Connect portal. If we were conducting a Garmin Forerunner vs Nike+ SportWatch GPS comparison we would have to say that the Garmin Connect portal has more functions such as the ability to play back your routes  and split your training sessions up into different events. However, the Nike Running portal is perfect for anyone who needs the essential statistics as moments glance.

Nike Running.com – Nike Maps

Once uploaded, you can view your runs on the NikeMaps secion of NikeRunning.com. Here you can superimpose your GPS tracked runs on a staelite map or something called a heat map. The heat map is something that Nike have created using all of the combined GPS data that their users have uploaded and displays the most popular paths and places to run when you have used the map view to zoom into any given area.

Nike Maps

Nike Heat Maps

If you are stuck for places to run you can view the Heat Map to see popular routes in your area and can plot your own route to plan what distnce and location your next run could be.

The world’s more popular routes (according to NikeRunning.com) are also displayed on the map and of you ever run one of these routes using the Nike+ SportWatch GPS then you are awarded a virtual trophie for your troubles!

NikeRunning.com – Running Schedules & Planning Your Runs

Nike don’t just give you an advanced GPS watch and then rinse their hands of you; they offer you tailored running programs for distances such as 5k, 10k, Half Marathon, and even the full marathon, that you can download to your watch and follow using prompts. You can even choose a training program for sport specific fitness such as soccer.

Once you enrol in a program Nike set out your training plan in an easy to understand and decipher calendar that tells you exactly how far you need to run in each session and on what day.

NikeRunning Half Marathon Training Plan

NikeRunning Half Marathon Training Plan

Once your watch is connected up to your computer, the goal is downloaded to the unit and the watch then prompts you to start running on the various days that are dictated by the chosen running schedule.

These training programs can be customised depending on your level of fitness and you can cancel the training plans at any time.

If you don’t want to enrol in Nike’s prescribed training programs then you can create your own plans,  or simply run whenever you wan without employing any of the schedules. You can plan runs using the easy to understand calendar and every time you upload a run it is counted towards your goal total. Nike will periodically reward you with trophies and motivational videos to keep you on track – something which users of the Nike+ Iphone App will be familiar with.

Battery Life

Out of the box the watch needs a full charge which takes about an hour. At the time of writing this Nike+ SportWatch GPS review we had taken the watch outdoors for three test runs and the battery monitor that is displayed on the watch face wasn’t even partially depleted. Already the battery life of the watch has beaten any of the Garmin Forerunner or Timex GPS watches that we have run with as their batteries need charging after every few runs to prevent the GPS receiver from cutting out.

When you press the Green button on the watch to enter ‘training mode,’ you are given the option to turn the GPS sensor on or off as well as the heart rate monitor and/or the foot pod connection. If you want to prolong the battery life of the Sportwatch GPS then turning the receiver off when training will drastically improve its running time (which is officially 9 hours according to the manual).

I am assuming that the GPS receiver is not activated when the watch is in its normal watch mode, as this is the only way that I can see how the battery life doesn’t diminish at a much faster rate that is currently apparent.

Looks and Aesthetics

The first thing that hits you when you set eyes on the Nike+ SportWatch GPS is how stylish it is. Everything from the way the watch is packaged to the way your running stats are displayed on the watch face reeks of Nikes distinct simple and bold design style.

Nikes partnership with Apple seems to have become more then strategic, as unpacking the GPS watch is like unpacking an Ipod or Iphone. There is no annoying plastic to cut your way though and Nike have used every inch of space within the box to hide some essential part of the watch such as the foot pod or USB charger.

Nike SportsWatch GPS Watch

Nike SportsWatch GPS Watch

Even if saving the environment isn’t high on Nikes priority list then environmentally conscientious runners will be happy to know that all of the packaging can be recycled and there are no countless useless foreign language manuals that other GPS Watch packaging sometimes contains.

Nike have clearly placed a lot of time and effort into the design of the SportWatch GPS watch as it fits nicely on the wrist and can be adjusted for a wide range of wrist sizes. The wrist band is made of rubber and not plastic, which means there is more give in the material and therefore the watch is much more comfortable to wear.

Black and green is the colour of choice for the new Nike+ SportWatch GPS which sounds like a strange choice of colours for a sports watch, but the colours seem to work together surprisingly well and also are in-line with some of the Nike 2011 running apparel ranges.

[Edit: December 2011] The Big Nike Sportwatch GPS Update

Earlier this week NIke released their much awaited big firmware update which aims to solve some of the little problems that the watch suffers from and also makes a few improvements. In no particular order, the watch has been updated as follows:

  • Improved mapping accuracy (so your maps look even better)
  • Improved instant (current) pace
  • Enhanced Quickstart feature.
  • Stopwatch not has 50 laps
  • An Alarm can now be set on the watch
  • The time can now be set from the watch.
So how do these promised improvements translate to the real world? Well the first thing that struck me as a little odd about the update was that along with the above features improvement messages, Nike also offered some practical tips for ensuring the watch finds a signal quickly before the start of a run. Neither Garmin, Polar, Suunto or Timex feel the need to release tips along the lines as “Stand stationary whilst facing the watch face away from your body” and the reason was soon evident.
NIke GPS Watch Firmware Update

NIke GPS Watch Firmware Update

I took the Nike Watch along with my Garmin 405 and the new Motorola MOTOACTV on a run today to test all three watches side by side. Both the Garmin and the Motorola GPS watch were able to locate a GPS signal whilst I was jogging in about twenty seconds, whilst it took the Nike watch over five minutes to find a signal. I was willing to give the Nike watch the benefit of the doubt and took it out on another run this evening where I stayed stationary whilst the watch located a signal. Luckily the watch redeemed itself and managed to find a signal in under forty seconds but this is still not exactly the ‘Enhanced quickstart’ feature that I was looking for.
The other updates have been entirely successful, with the best success story by far being the current pace improvements. NIke seemed to have sorted out a simple moving average so that the current pace responds quickly to your pace, but not so quickly that is jumps around all over the place. The current pace on the two runs that I have tested the updated sportwatch almost completely echoed the  current pace on the Garmin 405 and the Motorola MOTOGPS and so Nike seemed to have made a real improvement here.
[End edit]
Nike+ SportWatch GPS Review Summary

The Nike+ GPS watch is one of the easiest to use, most reliable and most stylish GPS watches that we have ever had the pleasure of running with at RunTheLine.com. The watch can be set up in a matter of minutes and makes viewing pace, distance, heart rate and calories both simple and effortless.

Sophie Johnson Modeling the Nike GPS Watch

The Nike SportWatch GPS is Stylish and Simple To Use

The Nike Running online portal is one of the best features about the Nike+ SportWatch GPS as you can sign up to training programs created by Nike coaches. The watch will then remind you to run on the days dictated by the training program and will also tell you how far you need to run in each session. It also remembers your personal best times and distances and congratulates you when you set a new fastest time or longest distance. The portal also acts as a powerful reporting tool where you can view and track all of your past runs, share them with friends and set new fitness goals.

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Cheapest retailer - Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

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