Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Nike+ SportBand...

By Frank
The Nike+ concept that was launched a couple of years back brought a whole new running experience to runners all over. The Nike+ Sports Kit which was the first to be introduced was a collaboration between Nike and Apple which saw a transmitter being attached to an iPod Nano which receives information from a sensor embedded into a Nike+ enabled shoe. The end results, to be able to read and monitor the distance, pace, time and calories burned together with the enjoyment of music.

2 years later, Nike introduce to runners the second generation of the Nike+, the SportBand and I had the opportunity to give it a go thanks to Nike Malaysia and Mr. Wong Li-Zren.

The new Nike+ SportBand comes together with the sensor and a small instruction booklet that is packed nicely into a small plastic case. It’s operational once it’s out of the case but it’s better to check if there is power in the wrist unit. To charge it, just detach the receiver from the band and plug it into the computer’s USB port. A full charge will require around 2 hours and it lasts for around 2 weeks with regular usage for running and up to 3 weeks as a watch. Usage is pretty straightforward. Just put the little sensor under the inner sole of a Nike+ enabled shoe, pair it with the receiver and you are ready to go. However, the Nike+ Utility software needs to be downloaded from Nike’s website first before the first synchronization process. And it’s also through this software, is where the user sets various settings like time and user details. Everything is shown on the instruction booklet in pictures. For those who prefer in words, there’s always an online documentation.

The Nike+ SportBand...

The SportBand only has 2 buttons on it. The main button at the top and the toggle button at the side. The main button is used to pair the receiver with the sensor and it takes only like 5 seconds or less to get both connected. It’s also used to start, stop and pause a run. As for the toggle button, it’s used to toggle between information shown on the screen.

The Nike+ SportBand is neatly designed and light weighted. When not running, the SportBand doubles up as a watch and I must say that is sleek looking. A fashion statement indeed. The built of the band is pretty solid. It doesn’t feel flimsy nor cheap. For a first time user though, they may find it just a little difficult to put the SportBand on. It’s not easy to buckle it up but after a few tries, there shouldn’t be any problems. And it fits nicely without moving around too much. I gave it a few swings and it just held its place. No worries of it dropping off.

Fit's nicely on the wrist...

For those who already own the earlier Nike+ Sports Kit, fear not as the sensors are all the same. The receiver is capable of pairing with up to 8 sensors, so there is no need for switching the sensors upon wearing another pair of shoes.

The same sensor as per the Nike+ Sports Kit (notice the Apple logo)...

Key notes:
Nice design.
Light weight.
Good built.

My main concern of the SportBand is the lack of backlighting. As I usually do my runs in the morning before the sun rises, I find it difficult to read the information displayed on it. To make it just little more difficult, the screen is actually pretty small and it only displays 1 information at a time be it distance, pace, time or calories burned by pressing the toggle button. And we runners like to take down our split times for any distance covered say each kilometer or at each 10KM throughout a run. Sadly to say, the SportBand doesn’t come with the split timing feature.

The receiver...

As mentioned earlier, I’m pretty impressed with the built of the SportBand. However, there’s one thing that caught my attention. Nike claimed that the receiver is water resistant and can be submerge for up to 30 minutes at a depth of maximum 1 meter. But, upon a closer look on the receiver, it got me wondering as it doesn't look pretty "tight" for me. And I’m not too sure on how the gold USB plating might react to water. Therefore till now, I have not washed the receiver at all. Just give it a wipe with a damp cloth after each workout.

The most important thing especially for a hardcore runner will be the accuracy. Nike has claimed that the SportBand offers 92% accuracy without calibration and up to 97% if calibrated. And so, into the Nike Air Zoom Vomero+ 3 the sensor goes and I gave it a test together with my Polar RS800G3 GPS sensor and the table below shows the results.

Test results of the Nike+ SportBand as compared with the Polar RS800G3 GPS sensor...

Foot pod distance sensor has always come under fire for not being as accurate as how the user wants it to be. However, I must say that I’m pretty happy with the accuracy of the SportBand’s sensor, after calibrating it of course. It’s not easy to get an almost similar reading especially when comparing with a GPS sensor. And even the top end Polar RS800S3 stride sensor differs and can’t match its own cousin, the G3 GPS sensor, although the reading is much closer.

Key notes:
Lack of backlighting on a small screen.
Water resistant issue.

One last look will be the Nike+ workout site. After finishing a run, just simply detach the receiver from the band and plug it into the USB port. However, for those who own a slim notebook like the MacBook Air, the curved design of the receiver might cause some problem of getting it into the port. Anyway, after plugging it in, the Nike+ Utility will automatically launch the Nike+ website and upload your run to it. It’s here where you will be able to view your runs as a graph displaying the distance, pace, time and calories burned. Previous runs can be seen here too and you can actually compare it with your latest, thus be able to set future goals. Pretty neat and easy to use I will say.

Easy to use Nike+ website...

To sum it all up, the Nike+ Sportband is great for anybody who runs. And to those who want a Nike+ without wanting to purchase an iPod Nano, this is a dream come true for them. Despite having identifying quite a number of shortcomings which doesn’t seem too much of a problem (at least from my perspective), it is still a pretty good training tool to have. It is easy to install and use, and provides useful information about your runs and it doubles up as a stylish watch too. Plus the best thing is, it’s affordable!

The Nike+ SportBand will be available soon retailing at a recommended retail price of just RM229!
Do read about Jamie's take on the Nike+ SportBand too by hitting this link.


OngKhengMai said...

Hi there, may i ask you some running question?

I am interested on participate the adidas kotr, but i am struggling on whether i should go for 22.7k or 10k. Which distance do you think i should take? For your info, i train min 3 times a week. And run continuously 5-10k.

I had heard some of the blogger runner wrote that, eat mamee snack before a run. Is it true? Give us more energy?

Runnerz said...

ongkhengmai: I suggest you try 10K first as you are a beginner. Mamee snack is a junk food, so it's best to avoid it.

And in the future, I appreciate if you post your queries on the ChatBox rather on the blog entry comment should your queries differ from the topic blogged about.

K said...

Does the Nike+SportBand work with other brand of shoes?

Where is the transmitor (shoe portion) secured? On the shoe lace? (like the chip system)?

Is it a GPS base system or do we have to program it base on our individual stride?


Runnerz said...

Hi K. It's best to use the Nike+ SportBand with Nike+ enabled shoes for the best accuracy. The sensor is secured under the inner sole of the shoe. And no, it's not a GPS sensor. You can calibrate it based on your stride.

Ed said...

I'm new to running -- would you recommend I actually need track my runs? The RM 229 price tag seems pretty dear to the pockets of a beginner like me.

Runnerz said...

Hi ed. It's always good to track your runs as it will help you monitor your progress and improvements. If you are not comfortable with the price tag, maybe you can first use a normal pedometer first which cost much lesser. However, I can't guarentee the accuracy.