Wednesday, April 06, 2011

First Review: Nike+SportWatch GPS

Update 4/20: Ran the Boston Marathon with the Nike+SportsWatch and it was 99.05% accurate, 26.45 miles vs. 26.1 miles. Excellent! See my post here for details including unofficial status from Nike on average pace on SportsWatch.

Update 4/23: Added the Polar Wearlink+ heart rate strap to my SportsWatch. Watch instantly acquired the sensor.  Despite a 2000 mile change in location from my last run the GPS was acquired in less than 20 seconds. Some spikiness in the heart rate capture the first 1.5 miles then a smooth capture the rest of the way. See post here.

I have now taken 10  runs with my recently purchased  Nike+SportWatch GPS

Some Impressions:
Very easy to set up, see, and use on the run.  They got the user interface on the watch just right. Total of 3 buttons (left on picture): up, down, and select. Tap screen to mark laps or bring up backlight. You set up your "key stat"-distance, pace, elapsed time, etc.. when the watch is connected to the computer. It will show up in big numbers on the watch. Your other stats are in smaller but very legible numbers above. These are selectable as well. I omitted calories. You use the up down arrows to display them. The figures are preceded in a scroll by their title. Very useful. When you end your run all stats are displayed and lap times scroll, no need to hit a button to "view" each lap as on the Garmin.

  1. Size is far less bulky than the Garmin 205. It can also serve as an everyday watch.Watch is rated at 40 days of use in non GPS mode. There is no alarm clock or audio alerts for pacing targets as of yet. 
      Side by Side Nike+SportWatch GPS and Garmin 205
  2. Unlike my Garmin there is no way, at present at least, to see your run's entire average pace. Pace displayed is a momentary pace and is goofy and highly variable. miCoach pacer also lacks average pace. A potential workaround is to set your auto laps to less than a mile, say 0.25 miles. I will be talking to Nike about when and if such a feature will be available.
  3. The Nike+ auto laps but there is no way at present to combine auto laps with a manual lap capture, say half marathon in a marathon. I may set the watch to manual for the Boston Marathon as the mile markers will be easy to see. You mark laps by tapping the screen. It does take a firm tap not a brush of the screen which takes some getting used to. I have also found what may be bug in the manual mode. Pressing the up down keys to see your top of screen data points (pace, distance, calories)  more often than not marks a manual lap which it shouldn't and seems to lock the watch into lap times. 
  4. The USB connector to upload data and change watch setting may be fragile. It may also be a bit thinner than a normal connector. I found that on my older Mac with likely a worn computer side connection that connection, particularly using the cable, can be problematic. Direct connect without the cable and a bit of jiggling to get the contacts right works fine. With my side by side 2 USB port older MacBook I had to get a small USB hub to be able to connect the watch and any other USB device due to the width of the clasp. 
    USB Connector and Strap Closure
    USB Connector in the open position. Left Flap snaps over the connector
  5. The Nike+ web site now includes maps (Beta) of your route. Very similar to Garmin Connect or miCoach.  Clicking on the red Map Beta triangle in the "Classic" Nike+  below top right... 
Nike+ Route View
...brings one to a new route view complete with elevation, route, splits, and HR if you captured it.  Very nicely done but not obviously found at first. Beta site appears to be built differently than current cartoonish and slow Flash route and pace screens. Much faster to load.
Nike+Beta Maps
Turning on the Heat Map feature shows your relative pace through the run in colors. It would be better if  the heat could be matched to laps to make the data less granular:
Nike+ Heat Map
Finally, I was able to upload the results of the run for Nike+ to the popular Daily Mile site but route/map information did not travel over to Daily Mile. Might have done something wrong and will have to try again.

Accuracy and Performance:
  1. Foot sensor was found instantly. GPS was found in about 70 seconds for the Nike+ on my second run and 60 seconds for my 4 year old Garmin. The Nike+SportWatch has a very neat QuickStart feature. Activate the foot sensor, chose QuickStart, start your run and when GPS locks in it will take over. No waiting for GPS. Will try this on my next run.
  2. GPS accuracy when combined with the included foot sensor equivalent to my 4 year old Garmin 205 on a totally straight wheel measured mile of a certified race course with no tree cover. 1 mile measured=1.01 miles on both units or about, 40-50 feet over the actual measured mile,  6-10 seconds per mile at 8:30-9:00 pace.  Accuracy with the foot sensor alone 1 wheel measured mile=0.98 miles on the sensor. Apparently the sensor is calibrated when combined with the GPS. I wonder over time if the sensor will split the difference and approach accurate 1 to 1. There is no ability, as of yet, as with adidas miCoach Pacer or NIke+SportBand to  adjust the sensor manually based on results on a measured course. 
  3. Update 4/8: I spoke to a friend who is telecom engineer about GPS and foot sensor. He says the GPS knows how accurate- how many satellites it is locked onto at any time. My Garmin has such a score configurable to display Settings>General> Data Fields>Accuracy He thinks the Nike+ will calibrate the foot sensor when accuracy is high. Update 4/9: Confirmed by Nike. See my post here. When GPS accuracy is low does  the calibrated foot sensor take over?  Remains to be seen if this is the case. I would recommend running with both foot sensor and GPS activated.
    1. GPS accuracy on a longer run on a winding road course with somewhat more trees but no leaves showed the the Garmin at 7.59 miles and the Nike+ at 7.53 miles with the greatest difference in mile 2. I did not have the foot sensor for this run. Nike claims that the combination of foot sensor and GPS improves accuracy with foot sensor picking up for GPS when signal is weak. All of my later test runs with combination GPS and foot sensor were far closer Garmin to Nike, albeit on a very straight road. Tomorrow I will test side by side on the same windy course with foot sensor on. 
    Nike+ SportWatch Splits

    Garmin 205 Garmin Connect Splits

    Pros: The ergonomics and usability of the watch are outstanding. Very easy to see and use. It can be an everyday watch as it is not as bulky as currently fashionable "big" watches and in 2 days of runs and always on clock function the battery has barely budged.   The ability to run with heart rate monitor,  GPS, sensor for indoors and under deep tree cover or winding trails, or combining both without the need for a heavy extra foot pod is very useful and practical. Accuracy seems equivalent to my Garmin and may improve as the foot sensor calibrates. New and somewhat hard to find Maps Beta is outstanding in its depiction of your route and performance data.
    Cons: Important data, especially average pace for the run and average pace for the current lap is currently lacking. Not able to mark a manual lap when auto laps are on. Manual laps seems to more often than not  block out access to other data points accessed through the up down buttons. Pressing these buttons marks another lap, an apparent bug. Heat Map of run performance should match laps. USB connector may prove fragile.

    More to come and clarifications from Nike when I receive them. See my earlier post about the SportsWatch.
    Link to Support Page for Nike+SportWatch GPS. Includes download of user manual which illustrates various watch screens and set up very well.

    4/7  Update:
    Currently showing sold out at

    If you have the Nike+SportWatch GPS please feel free to comment, correct me, add here to help others. This is one of the first reviews of the Nike+SportWatch out there and I have only had it a few days. Wanted to get the info out to all interested as quickly as possible. 


      Jukka Kukkonen said...

      The UI with big fonts seems like a winner! Compared to my Garmin FR110, which is about 13 mm thick and weighs 52 g, Nike+ seems a little bulkier and heavier? Maybe the battery life is longer than the 8h with 110 then? Like you said it doesn't have an average pace yet, but does it have MPH-format for bike, like Garmin does?

      Now that Lance seems to be coming back to triathlon life, I'm looking forward to a Nike+ Ironman GPS watch with full swim, bike and run features.

      BTW, Garmin will show a new model at London Marathon expo next week - no info yet on that one.

      Good luck for Boston.

      Sam Winebaum said...

      Wired claims the watch is 16mm thick. I have not yet found an official weight. I do remember reading somewhere that while the watch is water resistant it may not be swimmable. Not positive on that. I am not seeing MPH format. I would imagine this might be an easy software update. I have updated the post based on new information. The "Beta" maps is outstanding and gets rid of the cartoonish views of data of the original Nike+ site.

      Jukka Kukkonen said...

      Official Nike+ techspec: "Dimensions 37mm wide x 256mm high x 16mm thick. Weight 66 grams. Battery life up to 8 hours of run time with GPS and sensor turned on. Water resistant to 5 ATM."

      So I guess you could swim with it, but it wouldn't count your distance/laps like Finis Swimsense or Swimovate Pool-Mate do.

      Some early users have mentioned GPS inaccuracy issues. The quick start (with footpod) feature and the new maps seem pretty sweet though.

      Sam Winebaum said...

      Thanks Paleo for the data on weight and size. I saw those inaccuracy posts too. I did see quite a difference on my first run 7.53 miles for Nike+ vs. 7.59 miles for my older Garmin 205. I did not use the foot sensor on the first run. My second tests on a straight road with the foot sensor on had the Garmin and Nike matching distance. No GPS is going to be totally accurate. This said if they can smooth the weak GPS signal with a calibrated foot sensor they might be able to get closer to true distance than GPS alone. Still don't understand how the foot sensor can be calibrated without comparing its distance result to a measured course.
      I think we are going to find that this watch is very versatile, at least for running. I do find it strange that it can't display average pace for the run or for a lap in progress.

      Anonymous said...

      Hey :)
      I downloaded the nike+ connect but when i put my watch into the computer it only start to charge and it will not connect to the nike + connect... very confusing! please help me!? :)

      Sam Winebaum said...

      I found that connection was not great with the cable and even direct connect I had to jiggle the connection to make good contact. Might be combination of what looks like a thin USB connector on watch and my older Mac's contacts being worn. Others are having connect problems particularly on Mac. See this nike forum thread

      Anonymous said...

      If the USB somehow breaks off or becomes ruined, is the watch unusable?

      Also, is it likely Nike will update the average pace feature and manual lap during auto lap feature via a firmware update? Is that even possible? Or would they have to implement these features in an entirely new model? I am not familiar with Nike's technology. I am also the owner of a 205 and am very interested in the Sportswatch but wish I could have some more reassurance on its GPS accuracy (without having to use the foot sensor), and have the two features missing added to the watch

      Sam Winebaum said...

      If the USB connector broke off it looks to me like the watch would be shot as there would be no way to update or charge. I think there is little or no of the connector breaking off when the watch is on your wrist. It is when you are putting it on and in charging and storing. It does snap into the clasp but not particularly securely. I have had it snap out when putting the watch on. As far as firmware update for average pace, manual laps, etc... I don't know for sure but it would seem that updating should be possible. I will be asking NIke. As far as the GPS accuracy time will tell. I am still testing.. I can't say for sure that the foot sensor backs up the GPS. Some runs very good, others it seems to lose track all of a sudden, likely due to losing some satellite fixes. I can see the error on the Nike Maps site when I upload. Of course my Garmin does some of the same at times going suddenly off.

      ross88guy said...

      Hi Sam,

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment my Nike+ SportWatch GPS Post.

      I completely agree that the lack of average pace tracking and the inability of the watch to lap when in auto-lap mode is incredibly annoying. Lets just hope that Nike iron out the kinks and release some kind of firmware hey!

      MyNike+ SportWatch GPS Review

      Erik Peterson said...

      Sam, great review and love your attention to detail. These things matter. If you hear anything back from Nike re: firmware updates for average pace, I'd love to be notified.

      Sam Winebaum said...

      Thanks for kind words. Trying to figure SportsWatch out. It did fantastically well at the Boston Marathon, me not so good but I had fun while I suffered and shuffled way way behind pace after the half see my other post on maybe why . NIke+SportsWatch had the course at 26.45 miles or 99.05% accurate and I am sure I did not run all the tangents. I also think it got less accurate in the last couple miles when buildings towered overhead. I heard "unofficially" from Nike folks at the pre race expo who should know that they are testing average pace for firmware release expected in July. They also told me the foot sensor picks up when GPS signal is completely lost not when it is weak. I asked what I should run Boston with GPS, GPS +sensor, or sensor alone and they told me GPS alone.. I could not get them to tell me what their GPS sampling rate scheme is.

      zc said...

      The USB would remain usable, its just the cover that has a retaining pin that could later be removed.

      I personally think there is little chance of it braking off and its scare mongering to mention such a thing!

      My watch has seen some serious use already, DIY, mechanics, running, sunbathing, saunas, steam rooms, swimming, heat cold rust dirt oil mud water, LOTS of water!

      Unknown said...

      I really miss the average pace, it's a huge mistake. Another thing that I don't like is the way to paint the pace on the chart, It's impossible to follow it, it should be Softly

      Arturo Pardo Gonzalez said...


      I have a question: Niketown store in New York and you can buy the GPS clock?

      mi name is Arthur , come from Madrid (Spain) email : [email protected]

      Sam Winebaum said...

      Not sure on when Niketown in NY might have the watch. Right now is showing it as out of stock

      Sam Winebaum said...

      Jose Luis,
      The lack of average pace is a huge problem. The Nike folks at the Boston Marathon expo told me "unofficially" that they are now testing average pace and that it should be live in July. They also told me they are working on smoothing the instantaneous pace on the watch when you run and that at least one adjustment has been made since the watch came out. One way to work around this problem is to set your auto laps to a short distance, say 500 meters. See my other post about the Boston Marathon. The watch was very accurate there.

      Unknown said...

      Hi Sam, I hope It will be added on the next firmware update, I have a garmin 405 and It's the only thing that I miss while I'm running.

      Thanks for the advice.

      Arturo Pardo Gonzalez said...

      Hi I have a question, if the clock is integrated gps serving Nike + shoe sensor? I do not understand that, other brands have the GPS built into the clock and need not take any additional sensor

      Sam Winebaum said...

      @Arturo IF I understand you. The foot sensor is additional to the GPS. If you are outside and not in an area where the signal could be blocked by tall buildings or very dense trees there is no need for the foot sensor. If the signal is blocked the sensor takes over if you have it on your shoe. If you are inside and on a treadmill you can use the sensor instead of the GPS.

      Brandon said...

      So, It's been about 4 months since this article has been written. I'm looking to buy my wife this watch and have some concerns if it's even worth it. Currently she's using the Ipod and Pill sensor and has had the same problems with losing data and uploads. Is this watch worth it to buy? Have they ironed out the bugs? We live in a rural area but not country. Its more like the burbs. I'm concerned about the watch not picking up her runs or keeping accurate data. Have you been using it since? Do you suggest another watch?
      [email protected]