The Motorola MOTOACTV is a next generation fitness watch where GPS tracking meets music player. The watch offers an incredible array of functionality and features that has never before been seen in a GPS fitness tracker, including Itunes sync, intelligent fitness playlists, both Ant+ and Bluetooth sensor pairing, smartphone pairing, live route tracking, truly wireless training data transfer (wifi) and much much more.
As usual, I am going to review this incredible new gadget in as much detail as I can stomach (probably too much detail!). I do this because I want this review to be a one stop shop for any info that you need so apologies for the overkill. That way, whether you are after some buying advice, are trouble shooting or wether this is the first time that you have ever heard of the moto and are just after some more information about the hottest Christmas gadget to of 2012.
For a change I was not given this fitness tracker by motorola as I was too slow to get in touch this time around. As a result I have had to go out and buy the gadget at 8am on the official launch date here in the UK along with seemingly half the runners in the London!
As always, feel free to drop me any questions at the bottom of this review and if you find any of the info contained in the text below at all useful then if you could send a few Facebook ‘Likes’ my way then that would be more than appreciated . Likewise, if you have any problems or sucess stories with the fitness tracker then I want to hear from you as this is the flagship Motorola GPS fitness gadget and so there are bound to be a few questions that need answering. In fact, if you have any thoughts at all then write them in the comments section below and I will either update this review accordingly or get in touch with someone at Motorola who can answer your questions if I cant.
Happy reading and more importantly ,Happy running!
In The Box
The fitness tracker is supplied with everything that you need to start training, but there are a few accessories and extras that can be bought separately depending on your training needs.
Along with the unit itself, you are given earphones, a wrist strap, a belt clip, a USB adapter and several quick start guides. The good thing is that it will pair with any Ant+ or Bluetooth Low Energy sensors and so you can use any of the recent Garmin or Polar heart rate monitors instead of rushing out any buying the Motorola heart rate strap. If you dont have a BLE or ANT+ compatible heart rate monitor then Motorola have released a flexible and machine washable strap that is just as good as any of the Garmin or other equivalents.
Because the unit is not supplied with a mains charger, you have to use the USB cable to charge the unit. There is an accessory pack that can be bought as an extra which includes a bike mount, arm strap and wall charger but without this you have to charge using USB. A full charge from flat takes about two hours using the USB cable and one hour using the main adapter and there is no way of checking to see how fully charged the unit whilst it is plugged in unless you disconnect the unit from either your laptop or wall socket to check the battery level.
Setup and the MotoCast Software
There are a few different areas of setup that can be done depending on how much functionality you wish to make use of. You need to fill out a few basic details on the unit such as age, height, weight and time, using the touch screen on the unit itself but there are a few other parts to the set up that involve a laptop or PC.
When you first plug the unit into your laptop or computer you are promoted to install the MotoCast software. This is the piece of software that enables the motoa to sync with your Itunes library and also communicates with the device if you make any settings changes from your computer. The software takes up 149mb of space on a Mac and the download size is 59mb. To download and install the software you are promoted to create a MotoCast ID by registering with the Motoactv website and entering in a few details such as your email and address.
By registering with the Motoctv.com website you can later upload all of your training data to the portal for easy recording and analysis (and much much more!). A more in-depth look at the motorola training portal is detailed later in this review.
MotoCast Itunes Sync
As well as being a GPS fitness tracker, the unit is also a MP3 player with a few added music features that don’t exist on any other GPS sport device.
You can chose to sync either the playlists that you have created in Itunes, or your entire music library and you can also pluck music off the device (in case you have a hard drive failure).
The music transfer takes the same amount of time as syncing your ipod with Itunes and there is also a capacity bar so that you can see just how much space is remaining on the unit. When I was messing around with the unit I attempted to sync my Itunes library with the device, only to be told that I have over 8gb of music…It looks like I should have gone for the 16gb version!
From the image above you can see that 0.62GB of space is taken up by the GPS and mapping data that the Motoactv uses to both locate your position when training outdoors and also show where you are running using a basic map that is displayed on the device. This number stays static even after using the unit on a number of different training runs so there is no danger of filling up the device with training data as opposed to music track.
MotoCast Wireless Setup
One of the features that is unique to this watch is the ability to upload completed training sessions to Motorola’s online training portal using your home wifi. We have seen other GPS running watches such as some of the Garmin Forerunner series and the Suunto Quest, use wireless ANT+ technology to wirelessly transfer date between watch and computer, but this has always involved some kind of USB adapter plugged into the computer. This watch takes this a step further by being able to talk directly to your wifi router without the use of a computer.
Every time that you walk within range of your specified wifi, the watch will upload any completed training sessions that have not been uploaded previously. This is a great feature as you no longer have to mess around with cables or fragile USB adapters in order for all of your training data to be waiting for you when you login to the Motorola online training portal.
To setup this feature you simply have to select the network that you wish the motoactv to be able to access using the MotoCast computer based software and enter in your network password if you have one. This data is then synced to your unit using USB and stored for future use.
Another free feature of the MotoCast Wireless is that any Motorola smartphone (for a list of compatible phones see the list on the Motorola website) can access any of the shared folders on your computer (depending on what permissions you set) and you can stream files and media from your computer to your Motorola Android phone. As I don’t have a Motorola smartphone (and I don’t know anyone who does!) I was unable to test this feature.
Once you have finished charging and setting up the device it is time to start exploring what the watch can really do. As already mentioned, the unit is either an 8gb or a 16gb MP3 player depending on which version you have. The device is the only GPS watch/fitness tracker that allows you to sync your Itunes library and playlists using the MotoCast software and USB cable.
Not only can you sync your Itunes library and listen to all of your favourite music but the unit is also supplied with 25 bonus songs to get you pumped for your workout. These 25 songs range from Kelly Clarkson to System Of A Down and so there will be at least a few songs that will make a worth addition to your training playlists.
The fitness tracker also has an inbuilt FM radio tuner that works better than my car radio – just incase your get bored of your music over those long marathon training runs or distance cycles!
Performance Music + Fitness Song
One of the cleverest things that the MOTOACTV does is that it combines its GPS sensor along with its music player to work out which songs get you pumped. It identifies patterns in the music that you listen to and identifies the songs that you run fastest too. It then combines these songs into a playlist called ‘Performance Music’ so that you have all of those tracks in one place.
The Performance Music list is constantly updated as you add more music and run faster/slower to various songs and so the list changes quite a bit from week too week
Another new feature that I haven’t seen anywhere else is the ‘Fitness Song’ concept. This is simply a tag that you can give to one song that you know you run fast to or gets your going. This is then used when you hit that tough part of a workout or need a boost, as you can hit the lightening bolt control on one of the music player display screens to quickly switch songs away from your playlists to your pre-determined fitness song. I use this when I know I have an interval or hill coming up as it is the quickest way or finding that one motivational song without having to slow down and manually search through all of the artists or tracks to find that one song.
Controlling the Music Player
The Music Player is controlled by using a combination of external buttons and touch screen controls as well as a small button on the suppled headphones.
On the main menu of the fitness tracker you simply use the touch screen to navigate to the playlist or song of your choice.
Once your chosen track is playing you can swipe your finger across the screen to bring up two different sets of controls. The first screen of controls simple lets you either pause or play your track as well as flicking back and forward through the playlist. The second screen of controls allows you to set the repeat and shuffle settings for the playlist as well as allowing you to select your ‘fitness song’. When pressed, the lightening bolt icon allows you to quickly switch to your pre-detemined fitness song if you need that extra boot in your training.
The buttons on the outer shell of the device consist of a button called ‘music’ which can be pressed in a variety of different ways to control various aspects of the music player and there is a also two buttons that control the volume of your music. The ‘music’ button can be pressed in the following ways to control your music:
- Single press – stop/pause
- Double press – skip track
- Double press and hold – scan radio
- Tripple press – restart current song
- Press and hold – go to music library
Motorola have included a set of controls on the headphones that they supply. Using the one small button that sits next to your throat when you are wearing the headphones, you can skip, pause, play and restart tracks as well as holding down the button to switch to your pre-detemined fitness song when you need that extra boost.
Workout Mode – Running (GPS Watch)
The Motoactv is an advanced GPS fitness tracker as well as a Music player. If you are running the watch can be worn either on you belt using the supplied belt clip, your arm using an arm strap (bought separately) or on your wrist using the supplied wrist strap. if you are going to be looking at your stats and tracking your progress whilst running then I am assuming that you are going to be using the device with the wrist strap so will be referring to it as a GPS watch for the next section of the review.
To put the watch into running mode you simply hit the ‘start’ button at the top of the watch. This takes you to the menu where you can either choose to review your past workouts or put the watch into one of five modes:
- Eliptical trainer
- Step Machine
Each training mode has different stats and sensors associated with it. For example, cycling mode relies on a cadence or power sensor to be able to display cadence or power training data, whereas the Eliptical trainer and Step machine rely on the inbuilt pedometer.
When you select Running mode on the Motorola GPS watch you are then given the option to select from two options; indoor and outdoor running.
If you select indoor running then the unit uses its inbuilt pedometer to calculate your distance, and speed stats.
If you are going to be doing a lot of indoor training such as on a treadmill then it is a goo idea to calibrate the watch before your first session. The watch will prompt you to do this in your first indoor run and it simple involves you jogging for two minutes followed by running for two minutes.
At the end of your treadmill workout you should check to see if the distance that is displayed on the Motorola GPS watch is similar to that of the treadmill. If it is not similar then you can further calibrate the watch by bringing the total distance either up or down until it matches the treadmill stats. This will make the watch more accurate during your future indoor runs.
This is what I imagine 90% of people will be using the watch for and from what I have seen so far during testing, you will not be disappointed.
The unit has an inbuilt GPS sensor that allows it to locate your geographical location when you are running or training. It is this GPS sensor that allows the unit to calculate speed, distance and pace as well as a variety of other stats similar to other GPS running watches like the Garmin Forerunner’s, Timex IronMan Global Trainer and the Polar triathlon watches.
The watch can display up to six different training metrics over two screens, as well as 5 additional screens of data for lap data, virtual competitor, pace zones, heart rate zones and mapping date. This brings the total amount of different screens of training data that you can flick through when you are running to seven.
You can customise which training data you would like to be displayed on the two customisable screens by selecting between three and six choices in the Settings section of the watch. You can chose from the following 30 training fields:
To start running with the watch, you simply need to select quick start from within the running menu and you are ready to go. The watch will start searching for a GPS signal the moment that you enter quick start mode, but you don’s have to wait for the watch to locate a signal as you can initially use the watches inbuilt pedometer to measure your metrics.
The watch starts counting down from 4 minutes but on the eight training runs that I have taken the Moto out on so far, I have never been waiting longer than 30 seconds for the unit to find a GPS signal when either out in the open or within my own house.
You can change the settings of the watch so that the seven screens of training data cycle as you run, or you can manually flick from one screen to the other using the touch screen controls.
Along with the two screens showing up to eight fields of training data, another screen details your live location on a basic road map. You can tap the screen to zoom in and out of your current location and the map loads quickly enough at the different levels of granularity for you to be able to use it to navigate. Although map is pretty basic, it is useful if you do much city running or road running as all of the major roads surrounding your current location are displayed.
You cannot zoom to areas on the map that are away from your current location so you cant plan advanced routes on the unit itself (this is something that you need to do on the motorola online training portal) but it is a good tool to use to see how clsoe to your original start position you are if you are running one big loop of a route.
Tap Lap is a feature of the Motoactv that Motorola have stolen from Nike is the tap lap functionality. This is a setting that is on by default and cannot be changed. When you are on the lap screen in training mode, you simply tap the screen of the device to start a new lap. This is a useful feature as if you are running at speed it can be difficult to find the lap button. if you are using the watch with headphones then the watch will confirm that you have started a new lap and can also read out a brief summary of your last laps performance.
Motorola GPS Running Watch Testing
So how does the watch perform when you are actually running? I look for a few things when I am testing a new GPS watch as there are a few important aspects of any GPS watch that can really affect how enjoyable and practical it is to use the watch. The first thing that I look at is reliability and accuracy as there is no point buying a GPS watch that looks great on paper if if cannot deliver on all of its promised functionality. Considering the amazing array of features that the Motorola GPS watch offers, I was really looking for the GPS watch functionality or the unit to be top of the range as there are a large amount of runners out there who like the idea of a combines MP3 and GPS watch, but are used to the high performing Garmin Forerunner series of watches. In my opinion, if the motoactv GPS watch cannot match the Garmin Forerunner series in terms of accuracy or the range of training metrics that it offers then it is going to struggle to appeal to the running market as it no good having an impressive amount of features if the basic training statistics recording is not spot on.
I took the Motorola GPS watch out on a few training runs last week, and each time I also took another GPS watch with me so that I could compared the stats side by side. The following series of Images are from a training session where i used both the motoa and my trusty Forerunner 405 and shows how well the two units matched in terms of accuracy of their stats.
Running with two (and sometimes three) GPS watches on my wrists attracted a fair few looks but this is one of the best ways to test a GPS watch as then any signal problems (buildings etc) should impact both watches. The Garmin 405 was the quickest to find a GPS signal (about 5 seconds) and the Motorola GPS watch wasn’t far behind (about 20 seconds as an average). The Nike GPS watch was always the slowest to locate a GPS signal (about 2 minutes in some cases) but the Nike GPS watch has been designed to use a foot pod as it located a GPS signal so the delay isn’t so much of a problem.
When you are out running, it is easy to cycle through the various screens of training data using the touch screen controls. The watch strap is also comfortable enough and it similar to the NIKE+ SportWatch GPS in terms of how it feels and how it clips around your wrist.
In terms of Current and Average Pace, the moto was quick to respond to changes in pace and the change speed and stats were virtually indistinguishable from either the Garmin Forerunner 405 or the Forerunner 305 that I ran with. The current pace stat on the Nike Sportwatch GPS watch is now much improved thanks to a firmware update in December 2011 but it was not able to match either of the other two watches.
In term of GPS accuracy, the Garmin 405 seems to be accurate to within 100 metres over a 6.25 miler run, and I have always found to be slightly on the lower side. At the end of my training runs I always found that the moto was slightly higher than either the Nike Sportwatch GPS, the Garmin 405 and the Garmin 305, but it was consistently closer to the 305 in terms of distance.
Thankfully there was no wild difference in any of the training stats and I would be happy trusting any of the stats that it reports.
No matter if you have used the Motorola GPS watch for Running, Cycling, Walking, Elliptical training or the Step machine at the gym, at the end of your workout you are given an overview of your past training session.
The running workout summary reports your chosen 4-8 training metrics as well as reporting intensity (if you have used the heart rate monitor during your session) and also gives you the option to view your past route at a street level granularity.
It is possible to race against your previous workouts, a pre determined pace or time target, or a challenge using the Virtual Racer feature. This is similar to Garmin’s virtual trainer feature and it a great way to train for a specific race setup or pace target as the watch will let you know just how far in front or behind your virtual self or virtual opponent you are.
You can change an array of settings on the watch, ranging from colour scheme and music playing settings, through various training and sensor settings and you can even factor reset the MOTOACTV back to its original settings. A complete list of the settings that you can change is below:
Autostart – Automatically start an outdoor running sessions when movement is detected
Autopause – Automatically pause or restart your workout when you stop or start moving)
Auto-advance - if you want the seven training screens to cycle in training mode or for you to cycle them manually)
Auto-interval – Automatically advance to the next interval when you finish your current)
Customise Views – Customise which 4-8 out of 30 fields of data you wish to display. You can also turn the following five screens of data on or off: Laps, Virtual Competitor, Pace Zones, Heart Rate Zones and Map as well as Power Zones for cycling.
Coaching – here you can turn various coaching tips and alerts on and off. You can set the watch to read out tips (when to hydrate etc) during your workout as well as having you progress spoken every time you complete a lap or progress through your run. You can also have the watch alert you when you reach or leave your target heart rate zone.
Laps – Set the time distance or time that the watch automatically laps at.
In this section you can add a heart rate, speed, cadence, power sensor or a foot pod. Any ANT+ or Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is compatible but you can only use the unit with either ANT+ or BLE sensors and not both types at the same time.
Here you can place the watch in flight mode so that you can use just the Music player functionality without any of the GPS or wireless settings being live.
You can also pair a bluetooth headset to the unit so that you can receive calls. I am slightly confused as to my you would want to do this, as you can simply pair the bluetooth headset with your phone and cut out the middle man. I can only think that if you have your phone ticked away somewhere in your backpack when running, or in a bag whilst driving then you can still access all of your calls and texts using the MOTOACTV.
Wifi networks – you can change the Wifi network that you wish your device to sync with. You have to setup the WiFi network and change things like password settings using the MotoCast software on your Mac or PC but can change which network you wish the unit to use in this section of the settings menu.
If you have entered any personal information incorrectly when you were setting up the watch then you can change any of it here (Age, Gender, Weight and height).
You can also change your MotoCast ID and the units that you wish the system to report (Metric or Statute)
You can choose wether or not you wish the player to play music automatically when you start a workout. You can also change the FM radio region from the default.
Here you can change the screen brightness and the amount of seconds it takes for the screen to timeout (power save)
You can chose wether or not you want to play a tone when a new notification is displayed (text message or planned workout alert) and you can also specify wether the LED should blink on or off when there is a new notification.
- Date and time – set the date and time as well as the display format
- All day tracking – turn the daily tracking of steps and calories on and off. If you leave on then the MOTOACTV acts as a pedometer to track your daily steps and calories.
- Smartphone setup – set the unit up with your smartphone to receive text and calendar alerts (using a third party app in some cases)
- Language – Dutch, English, SpanishFrench, Italian
- Status – Displays a range of information about the watch such as system version, battery level, wifi Mac address, bluetooth address MSN address, model number, build number, disk space and legal terms and conditions.
You can reset the watch back to its factory settings. Note this will erase all of your personal data.
Good news, Motorola released a software update on the 24th December which amongst other things, dramatically improves the battery life of the Motoactv and means that the watch can now actually be used for endurance training instead of the odd jog or cycle.
The software update means that a new battery saver mode has been introduced. Previously the watch recorded data every second, which is great for accuracy but not great for power saving. Now you can chose if you would like the watch to record data aver one, two or three seconds. Three seconds is obviously the least accurate but is completely justified from an endurance sports point of view as the course that you are running are going to have relatively few corners and doubling back sections. This threes second so called ‘marathon mode’ is only justified if it really does improve battery life significantly and so over the past few weeks I have been testing the watch in Outdoor mode whilst listening to music to see how much use out of the device I was able to get from a single charge. The results are as follows:
Full Charge Using 1 Second Recording:
Two hours of running and 24 Hours of standby time
Full Charge Using 2 Second Recording
Day 1 – Two hours of running
Day 2 – Two hours of cycling
24 hours of standby time
Full Charge Using 3 Second Recording Test 1
Day 1 – Four hour cycle
Day 2 – One hour run
Day 3 – One hour run
40 hours standby time
Full Charge Using 3 Second Recording Test 2
Day 1 – Six hour cycle (battery still at 20 percent)
Water Proof/Water Resistance
This is the other area where this fitness tracker falls down. Although the watch i rated as IP55, this is only with the rubber GPS plug cover in place. Without this in place the watch is not more than splash proof and even with it in place I would be wary of taking it out in seriously bad weather if it was exposed on a belt clip…especially considering the price tag.
Online Training Portal
MOTOACTV.com is the Motorola equilivent to the Garmin Connect online training portal. The site is a place where you can do the following:
- Upload and store all of your training sessions for analysis and interrogation
- Planning and downloading professional training plans to your device
- Monitor your fitness and weight
- Setup and accept new training goals and monitor your progress
- Download new maps
- Change your personal settings
- Share routes and training sessions
- Plan a new route and download
- See which songs make you run faster
On each training sessions individual page you can plot graphs for up to three metrics at once as well as viewing a map of your route. You can also view your performance by lap/split as well as adding notes and comments to a training session.
You can also see which songs your performed highest to during a training session as a complete list of the tracks you listened to is given as well as associated paces, distances and times.
You can take this music analysis a step further and head to the music section of the online training portal. At this section of the site you can see an aggregated list of tracks as well as the average distance travelled to each track, average pace, average speed, average heart rate and average amount of calories burned. Obviously there are some stats that are going to be more useful than other here and distance is one of them. It makes sense that the longer your track the greater the distance you are going to be able to cover over that tracks duration (within reason), so that stat isnt much use. Average speed, pace and heart rate are more useful stats to look at here and they will become more indicative the more times you run.
Plan our Success
Something that the training portal has over the Garmin Connect portal in terms of functionality is the ability for you to be able to sign up for professionally designed running and cycling training plans for a variety of different distance and intensities.
These training plans are automatically added to your online training calendar along with any other training sessions that you would like to plan out. These sessions are then downloaded to your fitness tracker the next time that the device syncs with the portal and notifications to remind you that you have a training session are then displayed on the watch on the day of your session.
Wellness + Goals
There isnt really much to say about these two section of the site as they are fairly self explanatory. You can set yourself goals around distance, duration or calories burned and then track these goals as you train.
You also have the ability to periodically enter your weight into the Wellness section of the site so that you can measure weight loss as well as your level of activeness.
MOTOACTV GPS Fitness Tracker/Watch Review Summary
So somehow I need to sum up the past 5400 words into a brief summary cheat sheet! As the MOTOACTV provides such a high amount of functionality compared to any other GPS watch or fitness tracker that I have used as well as such an array of new features, I have had to spend a crazy amount of time on this review just to cover all of the basics. I am still waiting on a heart rate monitor and bike mount kit to arrive in the post and will be adding to this review over the next few weeks so keep checking back. To summarise I though that I would bullet point all the important likes and dislikes about Motoactv (or Motorola GPS watch as some know it) so if you need any more details around any of the points then drop me a comment and I will do my best to answer your question (contact someone at Motorola who can)
- Combining Itunes + Music with a decent GPS tracker that can be used across a range of sports.
- Wifi syncing of your training data with the motorola online training portal
- The unit offers the tracking and recording of 30 training metrics (pace, average pace etc) which rivals all but the Garmin 610 or Garmin 910.
- The unit has both a GPS sensor and a pedometer so it can be used either indoors or outdoors.
- Tap lap functionality
- The ability to pair with a Motorola Smart Phone to receive texts alerts, call alerts and calendar alerts.
- Your training progress is periodically spoken to you through your headphones when you are training
- The ability to pair with Ant+ or Bluetooth Low Energy sensors means that there is a range of accessories that can be used with the device (power metres, heart rate monitors, bluetooth headsets)
- The touch screen is easy to use (unlike the Garmin 405, 410 or 610) and the menus are easy to navigate.
- You can only expect a 3.5 hour battery life if you plan on using all of the sensors as well as music. This isn’t long enough for endurance cycling or marathon running. There is an update planned for Mid December 2011 that should extend the battery life during indoor and outdoor training so I will be sure to keep a careful eye on this.
- The watch is only splash proof and cannot be emerged in water.