'WOULD BUY AGAIN: PERFECT FOR STATS GEEKS/COMPETITIVE RUNNERS'
Strengths: You don't notice you're wearing it, which is a huge plus. I was concerned wearing a strap around my chest would either restrict my breathing or irritate my skin, but it's been perfectly designed. I have no problems with any of the footpod, wrist unit or chest strap. Would be interesting to hear whether women have issues with the chest strap though.
More information than I can use. I'm a statistics geek, so i love comparing all the numbers and measuring my enjoyment through a weighted index of speed and distance ;-)
The crazy sounds when you attempt the Sonic-Link with your PC. No idea if it works (IR works fine for me) but very cool concept and impresses the ladies. Probably.
Despite the data-blips mentioned below, really it's very accurate and whenever I've been able to test it against known distances or measured heart rates it's been on the money. Do make sure you calibrate it first though, mine came with default settings around 15% different to actual.
Extremely easy to use, even whilst running. The ability to change the two displayed sets of information while in motion with simple button pushes is great. Quite simply I wouldn't change the in-action functionality if I could.
Alarm warning when you drop outside your desired intensity levels are very useful. It is often a sensible mother-figure telling me to stick to the plan and slow-down when I'm running near girls and get the strange urge to double my pace and overtake them before inevitably collapsing in a heap when just out of sight.
Weaknesses: I had some initial trouble with the autolap feature and, more annoyingly, with the upload of data to my PC when I'd be all pleased with myself after a 10km run only to find it said 9.4km on my PC. BUT after some great technical support and a painless software upgrade they have both worked perfectly since.
You do get the occasional blip in the data, which makes you momentarily feel like a superhero when you see your fastest pace on a long run was 30km/h with a heart rate of 260. Oh and you can smooth out any errors in the software very easily, which after all is where your going to store all your data long term, so don't worry - your once-in-a-lifetime FLM stats won't be corrupted for eternity by an overhead power line or a fellow runner's HRM!
Battery life on the footpod (which measures distance) is not too great. Very annoying to get all prepared for a long run, go to turn on the footpod and see no little flashing light. Especially if you have no batteries and its 5.30 in the morning... However, get yourself some rechargeables and an emergency supply of batteries and you'll not feel the same despair as me.
Unless I'm missing some feature (as there are many I don't use or haven't fully explored), it would have been nice to have overall statistics solely for the running section and not the warm-up and cool down. I want to be able to record my heart rate following the run, but I don't want to see my averages for the entire exercise session drop, especially my running pace, which is my prime interest. Pedantic I know, but you get that way with great products!
I can run 1:45 half-marathons in training and yet the proprietary fitness index put me in the severely unfit category the first three times I tried it. Will have to give it another shot as it was only the first fortnight I owned it that I did these tests. Not surprising that I didn't continue using it really when you're trying to track improvement and your HRM is suggesting a walk to the fridge could be your physical limit...
Overall: I love this product despite the few issues mentioned above and I wouldn't get nearly as much enjoyment from a HRM that didn't measure distance and speed. If you have a competitive streak this will be your best purchase for performance-improving raining. Anything that increases your interest levels in the sport is beneficial and this gives you that little bit extra.
To be honest if you don't care about racing or personal milestones and just want to lose some weight without overexerting yourself, you could probably save about 150 pounds and buy a simple model HRM. However, if you want accurate distance measurement (even amongst the buildings of the City unlike some GPS models) this was the best model my research in late 2005 discovered and it's lived up to what it claims to do.
Knowing what I know now, I'd buy it again.
It's hard to call this either a strength or a weakness, but one strange side-effect of owning this is that I love the information so much that I now find it extremely demotivational if I have to run without it. I rely on it to keep my speed and intensity at the levels I want and need to train effectively.
A couple of occasions where I haven't had it with me or I've been out of batteries for my footpod I've actually given up on planned runs.
One time I was standing outside my door in my finest running gear and bent down to turn on the footpod to find I'd exhausted the battery on the last run. I was back in bed in two minutes. Beware!