Before I begin to bury everyone in stories and specifications of the Nike Plus SportWatch, I want to explain my decision to try out a Nike HRM/GPS watch rather than a more popular Garmin Forerunner or Polar. Anyone who knows me would be able to explain my passion for electronics and my obsession with reading product reviews, along with doing tons of research on a product before making a purchase. With that said, you can understand the trouble I had when choosing a product that meshes two of my favorite things, technology and running. This decision can be explained by one important word: ecosystem. Apple has it, Google has it, Amazon has it, and Nike has it. Other watch/fitness competitors are trying to build similar communities for the fitness world but, unfortunately, no one has it quite like Nike. The recent Nike Plus website rebuild is one of the best examples of a company realizing a major flaw in a major market and turning it into something that could ultimately become Nike’s biggest selling point. From what I have seen, no competitor has a similar community to Nike Plus and with as many miles as I have logged on their website, I wouldn’t dare leaving it without something amazing on the other end.
The Nike Plus SportWatch is a simple, easy to use, GPS, HRM (heart rate monitor), watch available for $169 on Nike’s site or on Amazon. Most would tell you that for a GPS watch, this is an awesome price but for those of you looking for both GPS and HRM you will need to shell out another $60 (found on Amazon) on the exclusive and somewhat hard to find Polar Wearlink+ Transmitter Nike+ Heart Rate Strap making the total purchase a modest $229. That said, the watch performs well and offers everything an entry level runner might want out of a HRM/GPS watch.
The SportWatch is able to display two sets of data at a time. The larger of the two dials is locked in place and cannot be changed without connecting and customizing via an application on your computer. The smaller of the two displays can display a stat loop which you can choose to either let scroll or leave stationary. The stat data available is as follows: pace, average pace, speed, average speed distance, elapsed, lap time, calories, clock, and heart rate. Normally, I run with the bigger display set on heart rate with the smaller one set on pace.
At first glance through the glass at an REI or a Dick’s Sporting Goods store, you would think the Nike SportWatch would be a comfortable and fashionable device that could be worn not only for fitness but also while out on the town. I would agree with this statement had Nike not made the darn thing so bulky. The watch face is too thick, too wide, and too long, and the band is too wide and extremely inflexible for it to work as an everyday watch. In fact, it is inflexible enough to rival the lack of flexibility in a metal link watch band. This is upsetting considering the watch is built for fitness and shouldn’t limit range of motion. It is for this reason that I think Nike should have tried to focus more on practical uses versus adding things like “attaboys” and motivational quotes. I’m comfortable with a watch built for running being limiting in regards to range of motion, but I can’t see how Nike expected people to wear this thing on a daily basis. I’m also not a huge fan of the USB stick being built into the band, I feel like this is just asking to be broken by sweat or the latch to give out and fall apart, which others have reported happening.
On the road this thing is nearly perfect. It is insanely easy to use and has all of the right tools in very obvious places. There are four total buttons (if you count the light). The two black buttons to the left of the face are used for scrolling through menus and stats. The bright green button is for select/start/pause, and with a quick tap on the screen, it will quickly illuminate while running in the dark. While on a run, the watch also provides a beep to inform you of the completion of another mile/lap/interval, which coincides with the display on the watch briefly showing a summary of the most recent mile/lap/interval.
My biggest complaint with performance of this watch is the lack of a third gauge. It would be fantastic if I could see three different data types at the same time. Instead, I find myself scrolling through stats more often than I would like to so that I can take a quick glance at distance and pace.
Some of the more surprising and more advanced tools built into this watch are the instant pace and the ability to do interval training. Normally, these two tools are only built into the higher end Garmins and Polars, but Nike built this into what I would consider an entry-level HRM/GPS watch.
Like most other GPS fitness watches, the Nike SportWatch saves a ton of data including GPS route, heart rate, pace, distance, elapsed time, and splits. This data is all uploaded onto the Nike Plus website, where things are cleanly and beautifully displayed. If there is one place that the Nike SportWatch is the victor relative to other GPS/HRMs, it is in regard to the accompanying website. Nike Plus is hands down the easiest to use and the best looking, and offers a plethora of achievements, goals, graphs, and social networking tools to play with. That being said, the Nike Plus site does come up a little short when it comes to displaying more technical data relative to the Garmin and Polar sites. For example, Polar Personal Trainer will actually estimate when you should reduce or increase your training load and/or intensity based on your previous workouts. For less advanced runners, though, Nike Plus should have everything you need to track your progress.
Aside from some set-up woes that I had early on (the heart rate monitor is completely absent from any instructions–you must actually put the heart rate monitor on before any information about setting it up even becomes available on the watch itself), the Nike SportWatch is a great entry-level watch with some advanced features and an amazing website. Anyone looking for an HRM and a way to get rid of having to carry that heavy iPhone or Droid (for the application), I would suggest checking out the Nike SportWatch GPS. Just don’t expect to do anything else with it but run!
Steve is an Executive Recruiter at Robert Half Executive Search in Madison, WI with a business degree in Information Systems and E-Commerce from the University of Toledo. Steve loves spending his time away from work; running, gaming, watching movies, checking out new social networking tools/sites/start-ups and blogging.