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A brief look at the Nike+ Sportwatch GPS

Note: Please see the final Nike+ Sportwatch GPS In Depth Review posted here (it’s a whole lot more detailed and in depth). – April 27th, 2011

I’ve currently got a slew of interesting gadgets in the hopper I’m testing out, but I figured I’d talk about the one running gadget that’s getting a lot of attention over the past few days.  I had a chance to place my order over the weekend, and was happy to see it arrived by Tuesday in time for my interval run.

The Nike+ Sportwatch was announced back in January at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.  The watch is made by Nike in a partnership with TomTom (the makers of car GPS units).  While you’ve probably seen Nike+ before in combination with Apple, this is their first go at in the GPS space (aside from an iPhone/iPod app).

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The box is the pinnacle of simple packaging, without lots of plastic baggies like most other watches have these days.  Inside the box is the watch itself, a Nike+ footpod, and a USB extension cable.  Oh, and a manual containing a whopping 13 languages.  Regrettably, the manual was pretty much useless.  I mean, not that I read it or anything.

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You’ll note above that I didn’t say a standard USB cable.  That’s because the watch band itself is actually the USB plug.  You plug the band straight into the computer.  Crazy, huh?  The extension cable is merely there in case plugging the wrist strap into your computer isn’t easy/accessible.  Oh, and yup – it’s waterproof to 50 meters.

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The watch is fairly simplistic when it comes to functions and features. The menu’s boil down to just those areas in the photo shown below, which allows you to run, pair a footpod/heart rate strap, change auto-lap and interval settings, and look at history or records.  The clock menu simply takes you back to the default clock screen.  Speaking of which, the watch…as a watch, gets 90 days of battery in time displaying standby mode, or 9 hours of active GPS activity.  Your choice.

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Records takes an interesting twist on the traditional stats area in most watches and will show you your top times/paces for common running distances. This information is actually pulled from the Nike+ site, so your most recently completed run won’t show up there until you upload to the site.

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Additionally, you can change most of the watch settings through the Nike Connect application that you install on your PC or Mac.  And in fact, there are some settings (like weight) that you can only change in the software.

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Once you’ve established GPS satellite connectivity (which like most GPS watches takes a while the first time but is quicker on subsequent times), it’s time to run.  It’s as simple as pressing start to begin your run.  I do wish it had a progress display bar – so you see just how long you’re going to have to stand around waiting for it to find satellites.

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Once running you have about five options for data fields, all shown below in the customization screen: Pace, Distance, Time Elapsed, Calories and Clock.  The bottom number will display a favorite stat of your choosing, while the top area displays one of the variable data fields using the scroll buttons.

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The run reminders feature you see above is unique to the Nike watch and will ‘encourage’ you to run if you haven’t recorded a run in the previous 5 days.  Personally I think it’d be fun to customize this with phrases like “Slacker, get your ass in gear and run!” – or – “Pony up buttercup, that PR at the next race ain’t gonna run itself!”, though, regrettably you can’t customize these.

While running the watch will simply show the data fields presented above.  The menu system precludes you from changing any settings during a run – though there honestly aren’t many other settings to change.

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You can create a lap/interval my simply slapping the watch.  Yes, I wrote that correctly.  You slap it to create a lap.  Very cool – and much better than trying to hit buttons.  Note that you don’t need to slap it super-hard, a light whack will work fine.  After all, this isn’t some dominatrix thing here…it’s just a watch. You can also touch the screen to turn on the backlight.

Once you’ve completed your run you’ll upload it to the Nike+ site.  They’ve got both their current site that’s been around a while, as well as a new site for the GPS watch users.

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At this point I think this is a pretty appealing watch for a basic runner.  It captures the basics and is the simplest GPS based watch I’ve seen in the marketplace yet.  Price-wise it’s on par with the Garmin FR110 at $199, though this includes a footpod for treadmill use.  Also, by using a completely full-screen LCD display, Nike’s able to overcome some of the limitations of other watches that can’t be as flexible in data display.  Hopefully that means they’ll also look at adding features found in other watches at this price point.  For example, you can’t change to MPH format for those wanting to use it on a bike.

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I am however seeing some oddities though with GPS distances.  My testing thus far is showing a number of inaccuracies that I need to simply get more data on.  In the case of my Tuesday night run, the Nike+ watch was nearly half a mile short compared to the normally trusty Garmin FR310XT.  Given I had known mile markers on portions of the route, I was able to see that it was showing consistently short each mile.  Further testing has continued to show oddities with GPS distance – so I’m hoping to get a bit more time testing before a full review.  There was a firmware update that was released already (and I updated) – addressing some issues – but I’m not convinced it’s solved the GPS distance issues.  Expect that I’ll be taking this and others new watches out for some accuracy tests again, once I have a lot of them.

Look for a full review in the next week or two once I figure out the GPS satellite piece.  Given there’s a slew of new entrants in the GPS watch market coming onboard over the next few weeks (Garmin, Timex, Polar), I suspect it’d be wise to wait for all the contenders before making any purchasing decision between them.  As the new ones comes out I’ll look to create/update a chart comparing them all feature-by-feature.

In the meantime, if you have any specific questions – I’d be happy to answer them below in the comments.  Thanks for reading!

Update (April 9th, 2011):

Turns out, the Nike+ Sport Watch GPS is just as susceptible to screen cracks as the FR310XT.  While I haven’t had any of my FR310XT’s screens crack (despite dropping them more times than I can count), I know folks that have had the issue. As it seems, my luck ran out yesterday.  As I grabbed a backpack I had put it in (the watch doesn’t exactly mesh well with a business suit), it fell out onto the floor, cracking the screen.  While still functional, it just doesn’t look quite as pretty or classy anymore.

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I rang up phone support, which issued a return authorization to get it swapped out (thanks!).  Regrettably, they don’t have any more in stock for quite some time, so it’s a one-way deal at the moment.

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On the bright side, as you can see – the distance/GPS accuracy was much improved after a firmware update – and seems on par with the Garmin FR310XT I was wearing at the same time (5.04 miles vs 5.01 miles).  And I do give props to Nike (regular support, no special treatment) for the ability to return it (which I will do as they gave me RMA labels to print out…as soon as I can get a non-cracked replacement ordered).

I’m still planning an in depth review – though that might now be just slightly delayed until I can get a non-cracked unit to be able to get all the needed photos.  Stay tuned!

47 Comments

  1. I once had a Casio GPS watch, but it was no good as the battery went flat after about 20min and the distance was badly out!!! Mr. Garmin is ok...

    Reply
  2. Hi!
    I am pretty sure I stick with Garmin for the advanced workout feature, but I am interested to know a little more about the interval feature of the Nike. Is it very basic, or can I actually put a training like e.g. "10min warmup, repeat 5x(6min fast, 1 min slow), 10min cooldown" onto this watch???
    Thanks,
    Andre

    Reply
  3. Anonymous

    Hi Ray!
    What about the new garmin? Time is over....
    thanks!

    Reply
  4. Flo

    "Fastest 10k: 44:20" - dude! Better do some more running instead of all the testing ;-)

    Reply
  5. Interesting! Can you transfer your run to the computer without having an internet connection - or without uploading to the Nike website? And can you somehow easily get a GPX-file of your run with the software?

    Reply
  6. Bummer about the conversion to a bike-watch.
    It, being waterproof, it, looking like a regular watch, it, being sold by a big-name... I can see a lot of novice-runners getting attracted to it.

    Ni-Das arent the best running shoes, but still you see a lot of people using them.

    Reply
  7. Hi Andre-
    RE: Workout feature

    No, it's pretty basic. If you check out the screenshot above you can see the limit of the configuration - which is essentially just repeating of work/rest interval with no warmup/cooldown time period.

    Hi Anon-
    RE: New Garmin Forerunner

    Garmin announced that the new Forerunner will be at the London Marathon Expo next Thursday - though we don't know if that means they'll have announced it prior to then.

    Hi Flo-
    RE: My slow 10K time

    Fear not, that was including the rest intervals of my run...the work intervals were sub-6. :)

    Hi Jan-
    RE: Connection to Internet to download

    Yes, you must be connected to the internet to get the data off the watch. It won't allow you to connect to the watch unless it can also connect to the Nike+ site.

    RE: Exporting from Nike+

    No, there's no method that I can find to export directly from the Nike+ website in any manner. There are however application plug-in's (like one for Sport Tracks), that will import the data from the site and into your application.

    Thanks all!

    Reply
  8. I had the sports band nike but out previously. It was supposedly waterproof but sweat kept leaking into it and would destroy the display after a few months. I know you spent your own money on this, but is there any chance we can get an immersion test?

    Reply
  9. Hi Joseph-

    RE: Water testing

    Yup. I swam with it yesterday at the pool for a little over an hour. Lots of repetitive whacking of the water. :) I've got swims almost every day, so I'll keep using it and validate it doesn't die.

    Reply
  10. Great review. Looks like a promising GPS watch.

    Reply
  11. Beverly

    Great review. I'm training for my first tri and, as a woman, wow these GPS watches are large. What do you recommend for tracking the basics of running and cycling workouts without breaking the bank? And, how important do you believe monitoring heart rate is for a beginner?

    Thanks in advance for your direction! Bev

    Reply
  12. OMG Finally! A watch with an interface that makes sense to me! And you *slap* it?!!! I'm in heaven!

    I've been holding off on getting a new sports watch, glad I waited. I've been feeling like a MS user in an Apple world with the Garmin stuff.

    Reply
  13. Anonymous

    Ray,
    How is the slap feature working in the water? I've got a Casio sports watch (non-gps/heartrate) with the slap feature that is user selectable from "baby-slap" to "whack-it-with-a-hammer-slap" to slap feature off. The problem is, the impact with the water while swimming is enough to activate the slap (please no comments about a smooth hand entry) and if you use the "hammer" setting, its basically like not even having the slap feature...I literally have to stand up, get both hands out of the water and play whack-a-mole with the watch to get it to activate.

    Reply
  14. Anonymous

    Ray,
    Thanks for the post.

    I'm curious to know how you got this watch? Was it a special deal for media? I heard it was delayed until May and don't see in stores.

    Thanks,
    Mike

    Reply
  15. Anonymous

    No HRM option? Seems like the Forerunner 110 is a better buy at the same price if for no other reason than the ability to add a heart rate strap. Am I missing something?

    Reply
  16. Great review Rainmaker. Yes Anonymous there is a heart rate monitor option, a polar heart wearlink + available in few weeks. I have posted a review of the Nike+SportsWatch on my blog at http://www.samwinebaum.blogspot.com which compliments Rainmaker's.

    Reply
  17. Bryan

    I'm looking forward to comparing the size of this watch to the Garmin Classic (aka the 305). Where's that rolling pin...

    Thanks for keeping us gear junkies fed!

    Reply
  18. oooooooo--I'd love it if you wore the Nike on one wrist and the Garmin on the other and compare the differences in data when you get back!!!

    Cause I'm a dork like that (that way you'd know for SURE that you weren't shorting your miles--that they both come up differently). But you don't have to or anything...just something I would totally try in this situation...even if it would look ridiculous visually. :P

    Reply
  19. Anonymous

    I'd love to run a 44 minute 10K. But I'm not as uber as most here . . . .

    Reply
  20. Hi Beverly-
    RE: Size of watch

    There's no doubt this thing doesn't sit well on a smaller female's wirst. My fiancee tried it on (she's tiny) and found it pretty unweildy. At the moment, the FR110 and FR210 are great bets in that are (see reviews on sidebar).

    Hi Zina-
    RE: Slap

    Yes, slap...lots of slapping.

    Hi Anon-
    RE: Slapping underwater

    I tried it out tonight in the pool - no issues at all. Anywhere from a light to hard slap, all registered instantly.

    Hi Anon/Mike-
    RE: Purchase

    I purchased mine like any other consumer. They opened briefly for pre-orders on Thursday, and again for new orders over the weekend before selling out again. I just managed to squeak in. I'd keep checking though - especially in the mornings.

    Hi Sean & Anon-
    RE: HR Strap

    Yup, indeed, it's compatbile with the Wearlink+ straps (but based on my testing thus far, not the regular Wearlink). I picked up one of the new straps and it should arrive tomorrow.

    Hi Bryan-
    RE: Rolling pin!

    Fear not, the rollin' pin is a comin'. I got all the other units charged up last night, ready for their pictures soon!

    Hi Katie-
    RE: Wearing one on each wrist

    Yup, that's exactly what I did for my first run (and will do for all subsequent runs). Because I use the FR310XT for training and uploading to Training Peaks, it's pretty much going to always be there (or other compatible TP device). My first run showed the Nike+ about a half mile short of the Garmin, which was short of 8 miles.

    Thanks all!

    Reply
  21. "My first run showed the Nike+ about a half mile short of the Garmin, which was short of 8 miles."

    YIKES!

    Reply
  22. Katie,
    Are you using the foot sensor in parallel? I think the foot sensor is being calibrated when GPS signal is high and then when GPS signal is low sensor kicks in to increase distance accuracy. My first run without the sensor was off 0.06 miles from my Garmin 205 over 7.5 miles. 1 mile wheel measured certified course straight and flat they were very close to identical and both 0.01 miles over the measured mile. Today I am going to go back on the 7.5 mile course with sensor and GPS both going and see what I get. More on my blog about Nike+SportsWatch. Sam
    Samwinebaum.blogspot.com

    Reply
  23. Anonymous

    Hi,
    So I've been looking for adding GPS to my training. You have great reviews that convinced me on the Garmin 210. But then this one comes out ... So bottom line would be which in your opinion is better?

    If I make the accessories similar (i.e. HRM and FootPod) it's roughly $320 for Garmin and $270 for Nike.

    Reply
  24. @Sam Winebaum: I do not have any techie-gadgets as of yet...I was just quoting Rainmaker and saying, "YIKES" because that's a big difference in my book!

    I'm learning as much as I can NOW before I enter into the techie side of things, so I can best pick what would work for me when I get down to buying! Information like what Rainmaker has been providing has been useful very informational.

    Reply
  25. Anonymous

    Looks pretty slick, but what is this new watch you speak of coming out by Garmin? Do you have a model number or anything?

    Reply
  26. Rainmaker, I'm curious to see your thoughts after an extended amount of time with this watch. I tried the Nike watch over the weekend, and the results (for me) haven't been very good compared to the Garmin 405. On my 20-miler yesterday, the two watches ended up being only 0.1 miles different (20 on the Garmin; 19.9 on the Nike). But when I loaded the Nike data, I was floored by how erratic the GPS accuracy is. The Nike was telling me some of my miles took over 10 minutes while others were just over 5 minutes (I was running a steady 8 minute pace using the Garmin lap pace). And the Nike pace (it only has current pace) is all over the map. To be fair, I have not used the Nike foot pod/chip yet since I rotate shoes. I can't wait to see your review when it comes out.

    Reply
  27. @ DC Rainmaker,
    So I'm currently in the market for a new GPS watch. I currently have the Garmin 305 and I would like to upgrade to something smaller and don't really need all the "bells and whistles." That being said, I'm torn between the Garmin 210 and the Nike+ Sportwatch. I'm just an average runner about to start training for the Marine Corps Marathon and I'm ready pick up a good watch to begin training. So which one do you recommend? Any key features that one has over the other? Are there any GPS watches coming out in the near future that I should wait for? Thanks for your help and for you amazing product reviews.

    Thanks,
    Nick

    Reply
  28. mo

    Thanks so much for the review- great as usual!

    Reply
  29. Jérôme

    about the new Garmin forerunner 610, officially launched at the London marathon expo tomorrow, have a look at this :
    link to tinyurl.com

    Reply
  30. Hi,

    you said:

    They’ve got both their current site that’s been around a while, as well as a new site for the GPS watch users.

    I'm a user and I can see this new site, How can I reach this chart? the chart that I can see is very simple.

    Thanks a lot

    Reply
  31. For Luis,
    If I understand you correctly.
    When you are on the Routes view in the current site you will see a box with an orange triangle and "New Nike+Maps (Beta). It was not obvious to me as well. Click on the text and you will go to the new site. Much faster to load. If you have not used GPS for your route the new site is not accessible as you will not have a route mapped. I have a review over on my blog as well. http://www.samwinebaum.blogspot.com

    Reply
  32. Thanks a lot,

    I can't see the orange triangle, I saw it on your blog (amazing review) but I think that It's because I'm a Spanish user and this is a new feature that only works on the countries which are selling the watch.

    Reply
  33. Miguel

    Rainmkaer,
    First off, thank you for all your reviews!

    I wanted to ask how much does the Calories Burned differ from your Garmin devices? Say for one of your standard 5Ks?

    Nike doesn't use HRM to count calories burned. I just bought one, but will be cancelling my order due to this.

    Thanks,
    Miguel

    Reply
  34. Finaly I found the way, just change the region, SPAIN to UK and NIKE + MAPS BETA is on my page!!!

    Reply
  35. Thanks for the great review. This really makes my decision hard. I have been running with my iPod and Nike + app and love it because of the website but had decided to get the Garmin 305 when I get back from my deployment next month. Now what to do! I love the Nike + features and really only am into running but the 305 is still $75 cheaper....decisions....

    Reply
  36. Anonymous

    I have read somewhere else that the auto/lap feature will update the lower part of the display no matter what you pre-determinded to show there. Could you do some testing on that feature please to see what happens when using the auto/lap.

    Dick

    Reply
  37. Pass. Bring on the Garmin 610!

    Reply
  38. Danny

    Rainmaker... hanging for your full review. When you do would you be able to look at the calorie burn aspects? Interested in how the Nike algorithm compares to the algorithms used in the Polar watches when using the HRM.

    Reply
  39. Anonymous

    Does the Nike+ Sportwatch display instantaneous pace or lap pace? I’ve found instantaneous to be quite useless.

    Reply
  40. The SportsWatch displays an instantaneous pace which is quite useless indeed. Nike told me they are adjusting the instantaneous. There is as of now no lap pace or average run pace. Nike unofficially told me at the Boston Marathon expo that average pace should be seen by July. To work around this you can set your laps to shorter distances.
    Sam
    http://www.samwinebaum.blogspot.com for more on SportsWatch.

    Reply
  41. Anonymous

    Whoever asked about the autolap/display feature, it works like this:

    If you have enabled autolaps, the "Lap" time will be the main display.

    if you disable autolaps, you will be able to choose which stat (heartrate, pace, distance, time, etc) you want to be your "favorite" (main) stat.

    if you disable autolaps you will still be able to see your per-mile splits when you upload the run.

    all the autolap feature does is show you the current time in your desired lap (you choose what you'd like to make one lap--a mile, a km, a quarter mile, etc). at the end of each lap it flashes the total time, then moves to timing the next lap.

    Reply
  42. Hi guys,
    This post is very useful and very interesting to read.
    Really, this Post is providing nice information, Keep it up!!!!
    Watch Bands

    Reply
  43. Hi DC Rainmaker, good review. I also dropped my Nike+ SW GPS. It also cracked the screen. I seen that you called up the phone support and they said they would send you out a return. Great news for you. I also called phone support, both TomTom and Nike. As I bought my watch at TomTom online, I called them 1st. Oh by the way I bought my watch in the United Kingdom. UK resident. They said i could sent it back to be repaired but that I would have to pay for the repair. Not covered in the warranty. Nike said the same and to go back to where I bought it from. I think this is a tad unfair, the watch only fell about 3ft and it smashed the screen. Now forget me if I am wrong, but this is a sports watch, it should be designed to be able to take knocks and bumps. I couldn't believe it when it cracked. Obviously TomTom and Nike did not test for this feature in their design. Have you any ideas of what I could do next. I am thinking of sending an email to Nike about this issue.

    Reply
  44. Josh

    Hi, i have unfortunately had the same problem as you and have dropped my sportswatch, how did you swap it and how much did it cost?

    Reply
  45. Hey,

    I have a problem about my Sportwatch. When I run indoor on the treadmill, I can’t see that statistics on my profile. Somewhere it is written on the profile but most of the statistics do not include the indoor activities. Have you seen this problem before?

    Looking forward to hearing from you soon,

    Best
    Onur

    Reply
  46. Cal

    Hey mate, is this watch based of BMI(which is usually always wrong) or off the actual heart rate monitor? it apparently calculates calories burnt without the monitor ?

    Reply

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