Gear Review: Nike GPS Watch by TomTom

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

Nice write up, Ben. It is a cool looking watch. I was considering it as well, but when I tried it on, it was way too big on my wrist. The salesperson suggested I wear a wristband under it….no thanks! I wish these company's would come out with a girl-sized watch. Until then, I am sticking to my timex.

posted by Jeanne B. / 05.26.11 - 4:04 pm

Good to know Jeanne!  Thomas we should edit that 3rd paragraph to say "will fit any user, as long as your wrists are bigger than Jeanne B.'s"

posted by Ben P. / 05.26.11 - 5:05 pm

After reading some reviews about the Nike watch I decided to go for the Garmin 210. 
It is a great watch. It does what it suppose to do. Accurate GPS, shows speed, has a good backlight and display. Also included in the package for 170 euro was the heart rate monitor. 
It shows that garmin has been making these kind of watches for a long time. 
The website of garmin (garminconnect) to upload your workout is awesome compared to the nike site which is more clunky. The only thing I miss is creating running schemes.
The only advantage for the Nike watch would be the looks of the watch compared to the Garmin watch which looks like a not too ugly running watch and not like a fashion item. 

posted by BramRunner / 12.11.11 - 1:56 pm

This is possibly the dumbest question ever (i am a 49 year old technophobe). i got the Nike GPS a week ago, linked to the USP on my PC and registered with Nike. i went outside and linked to the statellite fairly easily.
How do i get the watch into running mode please?
Paul Ford

posted by Paul Ford / 01.02.12 - 8:12 am

Paul,
If you've gotten the watch to link to the sattelites, you're already in running mode.  When it's done linking, it will say "Ready" and take you to the timer, where you simply press the start button.  This should be straightforward and if it doesn't happen, you may have a defective product.

posted by Ben P. / 01.02.12 - 9:49 am

Also, it should be noted that Nike has added stopwatch functionality from a recent firmware update (one of my initial complaints).  The website has also been improved.  Nike has definitely taken steps in the right direction to respond to initial user complaints and improve their product significantly.  

posted by Ben P. / 01.02.12 - 9:52 am

I am close to purchasing this watch but the stopwatch feature has me delaying. Has anyone tested this feature with the new firmware? I need to know if the stopwatch will run then down the road if GPS can be turned on. I do triathlons and I dont need GPS going at the start of the race only once I hit the run. I went to REI to today to take a look but without the firmware being updated I couldnt play with it.  

posted by Matt S. / 02.18.12 - 7:26 pm

Are you only able to display only two data fields at a time on each screen?  If yes, this is a major limitation (I like at least three- pace, time and distance)

posted by Shawn / 03.27.12 - 12:24 pm

Shawn – yes, you can only display two data fields at once, and this is a limitation. The upside is that the primary data field is in very large font, so it's easy to read even when running fast. 

posted by Ben P. / 03.28.12 - 10:27 am

There is no touch screen , nor does nike say there is one. they simply say tap for backlight because of the sensor on the watch, it's more of a hard pat than a tap though, and I can honestly say it works everytime. And the watch has a very clear stopwatch option in it's menu that literally says "Stopwatch" so I do not understand how the creator of this article couldn't  find it…

posted by Bronson / 08.22.12 - 3:00 pm

Bronson – it's a touch screen in that it responds to touch, either to turn on the backlight or mark a lap.  And i have found that when I do a "hard pat", it is responsive, just took some time getting used to.  There was no "stopwatch" option at the time of the review.  Since that time, Nike has made several firmware updates to the watch (presumably because of feedback like the above!), and this includes adding the stopwatch functionality.  As a result the watch has improved at several points from its initial iteration.  I will note however that I have had to replace the watch twice for a defunct USB connection over the 16 months or so I've owned it, but Nike has replaced it free of charge.

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posted by Thomas Neuberger / 12.18.12 - 9:47 am

I like the nike sportsband+ because well it´s simply, but maybe toooo simple and the distance is not precisely accurate… but I can connecto up to 10 different foot sensors (pods) which makes it easy to track distance on each shoe although nike+´s website is pretty much limited.

Can you connect several nike pods to the watch?

I also read battery is not the best and the screen cracks easily.

Can anyone comment on this, are there any newer improved versions?

posted by César / 01.02.13 - 11:07 pm

Cesar, Since the Nike GPS watch first came out we have not reviewed any other versions of the watch. I am not sure about the multiple pods question. There have been software updates to make the device work better since the review.

posted by Thomas Neuberger / 01.07.13 - 11:44 am

Very close to purchasing gps running watch.Tom tom or Garlin? Please help.
Thanks

posted by Guerrero / 01.21.13 - 11:01 am

GARMIN!

posted by Thomas Neuberger / 01.21.13 - 7:19 pm

Hi, I’m actually a fan of my Nike+ GPS. I know you said you liked it and not loved it. Well I have to disagree…I love it. However, some of the things you see as a negative are not things I need in a watch so I guess it depends on the needs of the users.

Things I also like about the watch are the motivational little quotes at the end of a run. I think this is a small but nice touch.

One thing I did find annoying was when I was running in the dark it wasn’t obvious how to turn the light on. After a while and more by accident I found you needed to give this a tab on the side of the screen.This is a little hit and miss.

I’m happy with my Nike watch for now but great read everyone else’s opinions!

Catherine

posted by Catherine / 03.28.13 - 6:21 pm

Thanks Catherine. Enjoy the miles.

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