RW's Running Watches Test

8 good running watches reviewed


Posted: 8 July 2002
by Rob Spedding

Adidas FX100 £80

Key feature Interval training function
Evaluation Adidas’s SF100, with its split face, is either an innovative design or a ridiculous one, depending on your perspective. Nevertheless, that design comes with plenty of useable features. One of those is the interval training function, which allows you to set 30 different interval times to run consecutively. Its big, rubberised buttons are easy to hit, and the overall memory stores 100 laps in multiple sessions (the total time, the best and average lap for each run is also shown, as is the date of the run). On the down side, the split face doesn’t help when reading the numbers on the run, because the split time is shown large, across both windows, while the lap time only appears in the left window in tiny, hard to read digits.
Pros Excellent interval training function; useful memory; big buttons
Cons Difficult to read face

Adidas SF100 £50

Key feature 100-lap, multi-session memory
Evaluation The SF100 isn’t a bad watch, but it won’t set the world alight. It is more conservative looking than other adidas models. But it has plenty to offer. You can store up to 100 laps as part of 30 runs in the memory. Each run is dated, although it doesn’t give your best and average laps. The digits are easy to read, although the total time, rather than lap time, is most prominent, and the ‘Adidas’ button that starts and stops the chronograph is small and not at an ideal angle to hit. Recalling the data in the memory is simple, and there are three basic countdown timers, which operate separately. There’s also a sport timer function, with pre-set time segments for different sports.
Pros Decent memory; easy to use; price
Cons Angle of start button

Nike Triax S Series Stamina 100-lap £99.99

Key feature Multiple interval countdown timer
Evaluation Since entering the running watch market, Nike has produced some quality timepieces, and the S series continues that trend. The Stamina is a quirky looking watch, utilising what Nike calls ‘circadian curve construction’. The watch is designed to sit comfortably on the natural shape of the wrist and to make it easier to read the digits. There are two sets of numbers on the stopwatch – a main set in huge digits, and a second set to their left. You can choose whether the large digits show lap or split times (Choose wisely, though – the big digits are easy to read, but the smaller ones are nigh on impossible.) The buttons are side-mounted and a touch on the small side – with the lap and stop buttons particularly close together. The memory is excellent. More than one run can be stored – until the 100 laps are used – and for each the date, total time, lap, average lap times and best lap times are stored. The countdown timer allows five different-length countdowns to run consecutively, with beeps in between. And there’s also a pace calculator, which will indicate your average pace for the session once the distance of your run is entered. (A cheaper, more limited, 50-lap Triax Speed is also available, £84.99.)
Pros Memory, biggest digits; pace calculator; easy usage
Cons Small buttons

Nike Triax 300 £99.99

Key feature 300-lap, multi-session memory
Evaluation The Triax 300 has most of the same features as the Stamina, but in a (slightly) more traditional Nike casing. Like the Stamina, the big numbers are at an angle, so they’re easy to see on the run. The side-mounted buttons are bigger, and better spaced than the Stamina’s, and hence easier to use. The real beauty of the Triax 300, though, is the memory. In theory, you could store almost a year’s worth of runs. If you don’t need all that memory, there’s little to choose between the Triax 300 and the Stamina. The 300 feels more substantial than the Stamina, and in chronograph mode its smallest set of numbers (which you can swap between lap and split) are easier to read, but that’s all. (There are also versions with fewer laps and some women’s versions).
Pros Massive memory; easy to use; big numbers
Cons Buttons on the side rather than front

Polar S610 HRM £180

Key feature Interval training function
Evaluation £180 is a lot of money for a stopwatch, and if that’s all you want, this isn’t the watch for you. What you’re actually paying for are the heart rate functions, but the monitor is also excellent and easy to use. To time a session, pull on the chest strap, press the big red button, get a heart rate reading, press the red button again and off you go. The display is crystal clear, and on each press of the button the lap time is displayed in large figures for a couple of seconds, followed by the split time. If you need other buttons, on-screen prompts tell you which ones. Scrolling through the memory is also simple and intuitive. The Polar S610 is full of other features, the interval mode is particularly impressive – you can set up to five different interval sessions by time or heart rate, and even include warm-ups and cool-downs.
Pros Tons of info; intuitive to use
Cons Expensive; too much info for some

Timex iControl Triathlon 30 and Ironman 50 £33-£48 (Men’s and ladies versions)

Key feature Rotating crown operation
Evaluation The unique feature of these watches is the ‘crown’ – similar to one you’d find on an analogue watch – which you rotate to flick back and forth between screens. After you’ve recorded a few laps, pull the crown out, and twiddle again to scroll through the memory. On your wrist, it can be a pain to use when you’re sweaty, and it doesn’t always respond immediately. The stopwatch is adequate, with big, easy to read numbers. Both laps and overall times are shown on the same screen, and you can choose which is shown largest. Both models also feature large, easy to hit buttons on the watch face that operate the stopwatch. With 30- and 50-lap memories, both models will hold your marathon (and mega speed session) splits. But once you reset the chronograph, it’ll only hold the work-out until you start another.
Pros Tested quality; large digits
Cons Fiddly crown operation; lack of multi- session memory

Timex Ironman 100 HRM £100

Key features 100-lap, single-session memory; countdown timer; HRM
Evaluation With the Ironman name behind it, you’d hope the 100 HRM would be the heart rate monitor equivalent of the company’s watches. It isn’t. The layout is intuitive, familiar and easy-to-use; and the heart rate monitor, while not as sophisticated as some, still offers a number of useful functions. The 100-lap memory, however, can only record one run. When the stopwatch is running, you can view only the lap time or the split time, but not both at once. The memory does display both, though, as well as the heart rate for each lap at the time you pressed the button.
Pros Well laid out
Cons One-session memory

Timex Rush VO2 £34.99

Key feature 50-lap, multi-session memory
Evaluation Many sports watches for women are simply scaled down versions of the men’s – which means smaller screens, smaller buttons and, sometimes, fewer functions. It can also mean they still look a little masculine. The Rush VO2 bucks that trend. There’s no male equivalent, and the watch has features usually found only on more expensive watches, the best of which is the 50-lap, multi-session memory. Recalling your runs is easy, as on-screen arrows point out the buttons to press. Large digits make reading on the run simple, although the face-mounted buttons are a little small, even for the tiny-fingered.
Pros Big digits; good looking; great value
Cons Small buttons; cloth strap

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