RW Test: Nike+ SportBand

Find out how Nike's latest speed-and-distance monitor fared under the scrutiny of the RW team


Posted: 30 May 2008

See your distance, pace, time and calories burned during your run

Move over iPod Nano compatibility, celebrity motivational mantras and Power Song options, it’s time to reveal Nike’s latest electronic gadget. The Nike+ SportBand is a speed-and-distance monitor designed for those who prefer to run without their favourite tunes pounding in their ears.

Can the Nike+ SportBand do for running purists what the original Nike+ kit did for the die-hard music fans? We put it through its paces to find out.

How does it work?

The Nike+ SportBand pairs a slimline wristwatch with a motion sensor (both included within the RRP £40) in your shoe to track distance, pace and calorie data while you run. The watch’s detachable USB SportBand Link can then be plugged into your computer to relay information to nikeplus.com, allowing you to analyse your progress, set yourself training goals, and even access personalised programs from Nike+ Coach.

Will I need any other kit?

Nike+ enabled shoes (from £65) come especially adapted with a pocket in the left insole to house the motion sensor, making them by far the best choice of footwear to use with the watch. That said, it is possible to fasten the sensor to non-Nike trainers by other means, albeit much less securely.

Before you get started, you’ll also need to download the free Nike+ Utility software - a 10.1MB file, compatible with both Windows XP/Vista and Mac OSX operating systems.

Once you’ve installed the program, it will then automatically scan the SportBand Link for new data and upload this to the nikeplus.com site when you connect it to your computer. The software also enables you to customise your watch settings (for example, specify unit preferences and/or input a weight to track calories burned) and set the watch time.


A tiny wireless footpod relays data back to the wrist unit (Actual size: 24mm x 34mm)

How easy is it to get started?

You’ll need to charge the SportBand Link for two hours (for a full battery life of 14 hours) but then you’re pretty much good to go. There’s no hefty instruction manual to scrutinise – with only two buttons to play with, operating the wrist unit is possible using intuition alone.

As with all footpod speed-and-distance monitors, calibration is recommended to improve the accuracy of the feedback but over short distances, the Nike+ SportBand proved surprisingly precise straight out of the box.

What data can I view when I run?

There are four available display options - mileage, pace, duration and calories burned – through which you can easily scroll using the button on the underside of the watch interface. Bear in mind though, that it isn’t possible to switch between miles or kilometres during a run (this has to be pre-set on your computer).

The bevelled buttons are easy to toggle while on the move, but don’t expect any audio feedback – the Nike+ SportBand is a completely sound-free model.

One of our testers suggests wearing the watch facing inward on your wrist for improved usability but this comes down to personal choice, since another member of the RW team found it perfectly usable in the conventional watch position. Either way, be prepared to take some time getting used to reading the vertical display.

One notable weakness however, was the visibility of the watch face. Though the polished black display definitely looks the part, one of our testers found the relatively pale figures (set against a dark background) hard to read while on the move. What’s more, even on a relatively cloudy day, there was substantial glare from the glossy screen.

The absence of a backlight option is also a potential drawback for those who prefer to run early in the morning or at night during the winter months.


Upload your data to nikeplus.com to keep tabs on your progress

Is it comfortable to wear?

There’s no denying this is a product designed with the fashion-conscious runner in mind and - when compared with the more bulky designs of some of its market rivals - the neat, slim-line interface of the Nike+ SportBand is sure to appeal to those looking for a unobtrusive fit.

The adjustable strap is tailored to sit snugly on even the most ladylike of wrists, and though the rubber-effect material has the potential to harbour sweat in hot weather, in general it makes for a flush fit.

How much data can I store on the watch?

The watch has the capacity to store 28 hours worth of data. Details of your most recent run, your weekly mileage and your total mileage can be accessed using the button on the underside of the watch interface but for more detailed information – such as your mile splits - you’ll need to connect the SportBand Link to your computer and upload your workouts to nikeplus.com.

Any other features I should know about?

Unlike its predecessor, the Nike+ SportBand can be linked to up to eight motion sensors, ideal if you use more than one pair of trainers in rotation.

So, is it worth it?

This entirely depends on what you are looking for in a speed-and-distance monitor. For the more statistic-conscious runner, its minimalist design, restricted display options and basic data capture are unlikely to satisfy.

The primary draw of the Nike+ SportBand is undoubtedly its simplicity – both the watch itself and the Nike+ Utility software are incredibly easy to set-up and use. Consider this together with its sleek, stylish design and pocket-friendly price tag and for someone venturing into the world of running watches for the first time, it certainly seems to tick all the right boxes.

Tell us what you think of the Nike+ SportBand by submitting a review in our Gear section.

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Check it out:

http://www.info.nike.com/media/pr/2008/04/01_Sportband.html 

Released this Thursday. Looks like it's going to retail for £39.99, seems pretty reasonable as it will also be bundled with the Nike+ sensor, which along with the watch will be all you need to get started. It works in the same way as the existing Nike+iPod system, but instead of the run data being sent to your iPod Nano, it get's sent to and displayed on the watch,

Should appeal to those looking for a speed/distance monitor without needing to buy an ipod nano. Or as in my case, will appeal to those already using the ipod nano system, but want an alternative for when taking music with you isn't really ideal, e.g. races where ipods aren't permitted, running with friends, running in wet weather, when you don't want to risk damaging your ipod.

Nike store in London will apparently be stocking them from Thursday this week, and this online retailer will have them in stock on the same day - www.foot-traffic.co.uk. Not sure when they'll appear on the Nike Online store.


Posted: 08/04/2008 at 11:44

Anyone else got one? Mine arrived today and is charging as I write. 


Posted: 11/04/2008 at 18:14

I want to get one of these for my sisters birthday. Can any tell me if it shows the time (in other words acts as a watch) when not in use?? I have searched all over the Nike website but can't get an answer.


Posted: 11/04/2008 at 18:30

Nike SportBand does show the time when not in use. It is very lightweight to wear. Not easy to see display in poor lighting as it doesn't have it's own backlight. Fun piece of kit to help motivate, I quite like it but am only a beginner; can see its limitations though ~ definately not a serious training aid.
Posted: 11/04/2008 at 21:49

Bought mine from Niketown London Thursday, and went for a run with it yesterday, and am pretty impressed so far. I'm an intermediate runner, doing around 50 miles/week with long runs up to ~22 miles, and I have been using the Nike+iPod system for the past 18 months. I bought this as I would like the option to run without my nano/music for races, running with friends and when the weather's wet (and I don't want to risk damaging the IPod). I prefer the Sportband to the ipod system, as it means I can quickly view my current distance/pace/elapsed time at any time I want. The display is very good in daylight. The only time I can see that the lack of backlight would be an issue would be at night time in poorly lit areas, but I have not tried that yet, so cannot really comment. There will be an HRM add-on for this soon, as there is a "heart" symbol on the display that doesn't yet light up, and as you can see from the picture of the inside of the strap, there is a second hole behind the display which I can only imagine would be for a HRM sensor attachment.

One thing to note, is that I have not yet been able to upload the run as Nike are currently making updates to the site. Hopefully this will be finished soon, so I can start uploading runs.

Here's some pics: 

http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/owen.delaney/NikeSportband 


Posted: 12/04/2008 at 06:45

For anyone who's interested, now that I've got the Sportband, and I'm going to get an iPhone, I'm selling my 8GB 2nd Gen Nano, Nike+ AMP Watch, Nike+ Sport Kit & Sennheiser LX70 Sports Headphones:

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&Item=200215463892&Category=73839&_trksid=p3907.m29 


Posted: 12/04/2008 at 06:53

M Sportband refuses to synchronise time with my PC, or manually.  I have changed the settings in the software but it is not downloading to the Sportband.  Any ideas anyone please?  Thanks
Posted: 12/04/2008 at 07:57

Viv M, I had difficulty setting the time also but just kept trying ~ I think I set manually in the end rather than computer settings,but make sure that you click 'Done' before disconnecting. I've also got a feeling that it didn't set until I'd uploaded at least one run. Mine has kept the correct time since.
Posted: 12/04/2008 at 11:43

Viv
I found a video tutorial on the nikeplus website. If you check the bottom right of the screen you should see a tutorials tab - this opens a new window and the first subject down tells you about getting started.
Hope this helps.
Paul - foot-traffic.co.uk
Posted: 12/04/2008 at 13:50

Thanks all.  I have followed the instructions, Mr Paul, but haven't uploaded a run yet, so suspect Ms FairyFeet has the solution.  I am recovering from mumps, can you believe - hope to run tomorrow morning.
Posted: 12/04/2008 at 14:53

Just curious - I assume that you require to wear Nike+ for these?

I run in and like my asics and wouldn't like to change. How big is the sensor? I assume the shoe is fitted for it and in a non customised shoe it wouldn't really be viable to use this?

(I'd love one but don't really want to use nike+ trainers...)


Posted: 12/04/2008 at 15:14

You don't need Nike+ shoes for it (no matter what Nike's advertising suggests!) as there are quite a few pouches for the sensor that lace into/fit onto other shoes.  I run in Brooks with a pouch-thing laced onto one of the shoes to hold the sensor, and it works fine - the one I use is http://www.grantwoodtechnology.com/shoepouch/ but if you poke around on google, there are plenty of others.
Posted: 12/04/2008 at 18:43

Thanks Domina.
Posted: 12/04/2008 at 19:22

I use a small plastic freezer bag secured tied into the laces.  I was keen to use it
Posted: 12/04/2008 at 19:47

I use these:

http://www.istrap.co.uk/

Cost £1 each, no matter how many you order the p&p is just £1 ~ full instructions on how to fit on their website. Bargain


Posted: 12/04/2008 at 23:34

Hey they look well cool I am going to get one of these
Posted: 13/04/2008 at 14:46

That iStrap looks a bit dodgy - is it waterproof? The sensors doesn't last long once it gets wet. These are better, and keep the sensor dry and clean whatever the weather:

 http://www.switcheasy.com/products/runaway.htm 


Posted: 13/04/2008 at 14:58

Okay - another issue.  I ran today and yesterday but the sportband is not recording any km clocked up.  It just says zero km despite it telling me it is picking up the sensor.  Any suggestions please?  Thanks all.


Posted: 14/04/2008 at 08:53

Just a thought, Viv, after you've held the button down to get the 'walk' message... the next display is '0.00'... when you are then ready to start your run press the button again to begin recording, a line will begin scrolling along the bottom of the display. Once recording you should be able to use the side scroll button to scroll through time, pace, dist., calories. End workout by holding down button until 'end' is displayed.


Posted: 14/04/2008 at 14:03

I'm still researching but am currently undecided between the nike + sportband and the garmin forerunner 50 with footpod. Does the sportband do basically the same at a cheaper price? Any comments appreciated
Posted: 28/04/2008 at 21:10

this is one of those products that works well but isn't as slick as it could be from the off. You have to set the time manually +9hrs to get the correct time showing on the watch, the desktop utility only auto logged on for me after the 3rd or 4th run, there has been an issue with run graphs looking wildly different from the upload screen to the run chart. The nikeplus website isn't the best, the run graphs have fat lines with vague X & Y axis markings and there are parts of the website that don't work well at all. It can also be difficult to get a calibration run recognised, you have to run at a very constant pace.

It might sound like I don't like it but I really do, it's a great motivational aid, and it's so easy to log runs. There's a great 'map it' tool on the website that allows you to map your run routes and tell you how far they are.There are also external websites that take the nike data and show you it in proper detailed graphs with weather reports. Once I got it properly calibrated I find the distance to be very close indeed, and they are doing bug fixes for things like the graph problem.

I would imagine that in a couple of months it will have gone through alot of bug fixing and the experience will be much smoother, but i do think it's fine now as long as you put in a little bit of time to get things working at the start. For £40 there's nothing around that gets close to his kind of functionality.


Posted: 29/04/2008 at 10:10

I'm having real problems with mine.  I have calibrated the sensor but it logs ridiculous distances.  Shall I persist or sell it on ebay???
Posted: 29/04/2008 at 11:14

Viv this is probably a long shot but you're not wearing it on your right arm are you? I wear my watch on my right so intinctively put the sportband there too, however it only started working properly when I switched arms.
Posted: 29/04/2008 at 16:27

No - left arm.
Posted: 30/04/2008 at 06:26

I got mine yesterday & will go for very first Nike+ run today  I have the same Time-setting issue so at least i'm not alone there. Minutes are fine but hours? - yup, i thought of manual setting and adding on the requisite hours, but i'll try a couple of runs first & see what happens. No drama just yet anyway.

Also, i have a Nike+ Community ID but the Nike utility just shows as 'pending'? - i guess this is cos ive not loaded any run data yet?

Asics with Shoepouch (very neat) for me. Very excited - just hope i don't end up disappointed. Fingers crossed huh?


Posted: 30/04/2008 at 12:01

Well, how brilliant was that? ..... mapped my test run at 2.08 miles. Sportband, straight out of the box, no calibration as yet & it told me i'd gone 2.05miles. That's a bloody good start as far as i'm concerned.

 Viv. A colleague of mine at work said that hers also showed huge differences on her first run, but has settled now she's calibrated over 4 runs. Also, if you're not using Nike+ shoes, make sure the sensor is firmly attached. Any wayward floppiness affects the measurement. It's going to be based on stride pattern mainly isn't it? So i guess it'll need a few runs to settle into an 'average'. Info is very clear to read & just gives me the info i want to see. Now, adding a small HRM (nicely placed 'spare' hole in the band there Mr Nike! ) would make this even more of a genius training aid than it already appears to be!

So far? so very good.


Posted: 30/04/2008 at 14:54

Hi there,

 I'm looking at getting one of these sportbands and was wondering what the general consensus is? Currently I just use a heart rate monitor and remember where my mile markers are on my planned routes, therefore I know what time I should hitting each marker etc.

 Does the sportband tell you your current distance covered, and your current speed/pace or is the pace just calculated as an average? I always fancied the Nike+ system but didn't want to shell out for the ipod as well so this seems a good alternative.

 Any help is appreciated.


Posted: 01/05/2008 at 12:46

Hello!

 I've just bought one of these - had the same problem with the time setting and the Nike + community log on, but after using for a run today VERY PLEASED with it!!

 Went for a 5.4 mile run (according to GMaps), sportsband logged 5.41 miles that'll do for me!!


Posted: 01/05/2008 at 18:00

hmm, I'm also tempted with these. I can't afford the super-snazzy GPS style forerunners, but a distance monitor with clock works. Plus I've just bought some Nike shoes, not intentionally for the foot-pod thing, but now I think it might be a sign....

HRM would be fab, and would swing the vote for me. I might email nike.....


Posted: 02/05/2008 at 12:35

Sam Porter 2 wrote (see)

 Does the sportband tell you your current distance covered, and your current speed/pace or is the pace just calculated as an average? I always fancied the Nike+ system but didn't want to shell out for the ipod as well so this seems a good alternative.

 Any help is appreciated.


it tells you the current distance covered and your current pace. The pace is displayed as the time you'd achieve over a km or mile (whichever you choose) if you carried on at the current speed. However it's not an average of the last km/mile ran, as far as i can tell it's a real time indication of how fast you are currently travelling.

When you upload a run this bares out as you get a line graph showing you how your speed varied at any given point, along with km/mile splits.


Posted: 02/05/2008 at 13:01

That's great cheers Jonti, I didn't know whether it just took the distance covered and divided by time elapsed and gave you an average.

I've just started another thread asking for comparisons between this and the Garmin Forerunner 50, any thoughts on that would be appreciated.


Posted: 02/05/2008 at 13:36

HI I'm wondering how  the sportsband calculates your distance travelled? Also how do you calibrate it? Is it by putting the length of your stride in...


Posted: 16/05/2008 at 19:28

Hi, I've just got back into running and bought one of these gadgets from Ebay. It was a bit of an impulse buy, and therefore I didn't realise that you needed a Nike+ shoe to fit the sensor in. However, judging by one of the posts here, it appears that this isn't essential after all. Can anyone confirm that it will work on regular running shoes and if so where should it be fitted?
Posted: 17/05/2008 at 10:33

I have one without Nike shoes I bought a shoe pouch for it from amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/Shoe-Pouch-Red-Nike%2BiPod-Sensor/dp/B0015GCHOU/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1211017626&sr=8-8 although I think you can get cheaper. I find the Nike plus fairly accurate but not great and the pace I think is next to useless as I ran a steady 10min mile pace on a treadmill and my pace varied from 10.40min mile to 16min mile on my sensor!!! Did a recent timed 5k in 29mins and nike plus said pace was at 10.20min mile. Its ok for price though and to give a rough idea though

Bon


Posted: 17/05/2008 at 10:50

I use these with any running shoe, details of how to fit on the site:

 http://www.istrap.co.uk/


Posted: 17/05/2008 at 11:48

I use this type, I find it holds the sensor very secure to make sure you get accurate readings, I have bought a second one recently as I now have the Nike+ Sportsband and a Nano which I use with two different pairs of trainers.

 http://www.iskins.co.uk/shoe_pouch.htm


Posted: 17/05/2008 at 14:42

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Shoe-Pouch-Nike%2BiPod-Sensor-Compatible/dp/B000PGQ1AC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1211057185&sr=8-1

 N.B. Much cheaper postage on ebay.

I did a 10k race on Friday night and the distance came in as 5.5 miles. Anyone else have problems calibrating or maybe I'm not doing it right? How long do you walk for - a mile?


Posted: 17/05/2008 at 21:47

Thanks for the replies. I'll go for one of the cheaper straps and see how I get on. Looks like there are some problems calibrating these gadgets so that they show accurate distances. I think I'm right in saying, though, that most pedometers aren't that accurate in this respect.
Posted: 18/05/2008 at 09:02

Just done a 6.75 mile run. Nike plus froze in middle and had to remove sensor to get my i-pod working again
Posted: 18/05/2008 at 10:43

This looks like a bargain for £40, reading the posts I guess it works better on road or treadmill where you can keep the same stride lenth.

Has anyone used them for tail running?
Posted: 19/05/2008 at 13:31

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