I wanted to love my new Nike Sports Watch GPS, I really did. But after logging over 50 miles on it, I don’t. I mean it’s ok, a solid C+(after the late May 2011 firmware update Ben rates the watch B+)… but it needs work to compete with the Garmin GPS watches that dominate the market.
I’d been looking for a GPS watch for some time, but had been hesitant to pull the trigger on the expensive Garmin 405 because of several negative reviews I’d read. So when Nike paired with Tom-Tom to make a GPS watch that was only 60% the cost of a new Garmin ($200 vs. $350), I figured it was worth a shot.
First, the pros. The watch looks awesome coming out of the box. The packaging is sleek and the set-up is a piece of cake, a trick Nike must’ve learned from its partnership with Apple. The watch feels great- it’s lightweight, has a low profile, and the adjustable strap will fit any user. The look is stylish and simplistic.
The screen has huge, easy to read numbers that show your lap time, and a smaller inset that keeps track of either distance, calories burned, elapsed time, or instant pace. After my first two runs, the watch quickly picked up the GPS signals and was ready to go in about 30 seconds. The GPS accuracy has been pretty much spot on, and this includes road, trail, and even Cancun beach running. For additional accuracy you can connect the watch to a Nike+ foot pod sensor (included) that fits in a specialized inset of Nike shoes or can be tied into the laces of any conventional shoe. If the GPS signal fails, the foot pod will supposedly take over pace and distance tracking until the satellites catch back up, although I have not tested this feature.
Following your run, the watch strap has a nifty USB connector built into the clasp that connects directly to your computer to upload your workout data. The Nike site gives you all the relevant specs, like pace and elevation changes that you can easily track over the course, and it draws a pretty cool heat map that demonstrates when and where you cranked up the pace.
Now, the cons – and unfortunately these are significant. Like most runners, I don’t need a ton of specs during my run, but I do want easy access to distance, time, overall pace, and lap splits. Unfortunately, the Sports Watch only gives you distance, time, and instantaneous pace – which jumps all over the place and is basically useless. To be fair, after each lap is completed (I set mine to lap every mile) the watch does beep at you and pops up the pace of that lap for a few seconds – but if you miss it (which many of us will, because we listen to music when we run), you cannot access your past splits. There is also no average pace display option. In my opinion, the lack of access to any relevant pace data during your run is a significant flaw that drops the value of the watch. This needs to be addressed, optimally by a firmware update ASAP.*
A second issue is the lack of any stopwatch/timer functionality. I was hoping to use the watch at the gym to keep track of times during circuit training. But with no stopwatch, and no seconds display, the watch is restricted only to use when running and biking. I mean every digital watch should have a basic stopwatch, right??
Nike also claims that you can touch the display screen at any time to turn on the backlight (a cool feature for night running) or to mark a lap. Unfortunately, after a month of perfecting my technique, I can still only get the “touch” screen to respond about 50% of the time I hit it. C’mon now, you partner with the people who make freakin iPhones, and I can’t get a decent touch screen?
My final gripe is a pet peeve with the Nike+ site where you review your workouts. Although I’ve told it to remember me about 26 times, it still asks me if I live in America, speak English, and what’s my bloody password each time I log in. This only takes an extra 15 seconds each time, but in a world of instantaneous gratification that is way too long. Too glitchy for me.
So in conclusion, I like my Nike Sports Watch GPS – but I don’t love it. If Nike fixed a few minor, but significant, features, it would certainly be worth the $200 price tag – but right now I’m a little irritated. Should I drop $350 on a new Garmin 600 series? I don’t think so, my watch works fine. I just want Nike to make it work how it should because right now it’s not living up to its potential.
* note – a couple days after this review Nike released a firmware update that added average pace as one of the readouts available during your run – this is a significant improvement to the watch, kudos to Nike for rapidly responding to the initial product reviews
About the author: Ben Prosser, is a 28 yr. old biomedical researcher at University of Maryland School of Medicine where he studies cardiac physiology otherwise known as heart research or nerd things. Ben loves everything health and fitness related – he is a huge proponent of functional training, speed workouts, and running races that cause him physical pain and injury (he once broke his leg while running the Baltimore Marathon). Ben thrives off motivating his friends and family to exercise with him and live healthy lifestyles! He lives in Mt. Washington with his smart, hot and humble wife, Erin (who may have written this bio) and his old and smelly Boston Terrier, Bubba. Follow Ben’s training on dailymile