[Update 12/09/06] Depending on foot shape, they have a good shape - broadish toes and narrowish heels. Nicely constructed, with good uppers.
Weaknesses: None so far
[Update 12/09/06] 'Quirky' feel compared to some trainers, some users will not like this... personally I find it good. Harder than the 8s, which were a divine shoe. Not enough reflective material for winter running.
Overall: Just a initial impression counter to B's disappointment. As a more heel-striking user, there doesn't seem to be any problems with the 9 compared to the 8. I'll do a full review after about 100 miles in them though...
[Update 12/09/06] Originally I wrote "Just a initial impression counter to B's disappointment. As a more heel-striking user, there doesn't seem to be any problems with the 9 compared to the 8. I'll do a full review after about 100 miles in them though..."
This is the update.
The 9s definitely seem harder than the 8s. I managed to get some more 8s at a sale price and have decided I much prefer them. I think that B is right - that the outsole is harder, or perhaps the EVA is slightly. At any rate, these have been demoted to shorter runs, where I don't want to wear my 'best shoes'.
Strengths: Good range of heart rate functions. Polar have produced a heart rate monitor with some watch functions rather than the TImex approach of watch first. The unit is comfortable to wear and relatively easy to understand how to use. The distance unit is generally not noticable on the foot and seems relatively accurate. The on board storage of data is good, and sufficient for all but the most ardent data-head. The backlight is great and heart-touch functionality (hold the watch near the chest strap for a function) works well - the 'backlight on' is a boon. The unit start up time is quick and there's no waiting around for an acquisition of a signal. The in built analysis is good with some funky graphs of your last 20 sessions displayed quite nicely. The wearlink transmitter is very comfortable.
Weaknesses: The limitation of this system is like all footpod systems - accuracy. This aside there are several other things to note: The display is not quite as good as some other monitors; the strap is non-replaceable and is prone to cracking; the link to computer is weak - only linking via sonic link to a web-site system - a stupid oversight by Polar and the unit is perhaps slightly to large still for small wrists. The unit has a couple of odd functions - a countdown in days to the next 'event', but it is hard to enter this using an up-down letter system.
Overall: A good purchase for the runner interested in collecting some data, but not excessive amounts. The basic inbuilt data graphs are useful and fun to view.
Strengths: The great benegit of the Timex system is you only take what you need. The watch is actually wearable as a watch without looking too geeky or sporty. Yes it's digital and not a stylish analogue, but you don't have to hide the bright red button or small 'wrist-top' computer look. It is generally easy to use and has a useful set of features - heart rate, distance, pace and some very handy extras - autolap, a simple heart rate range function and a useful 5 alarms - get up, get up backup, time to leave house, warm up, get to start... The distance function needs no calibration and is usually within the 1% error they claim - dropped signals aside. The display is extremely good, with good control over what appears on the stopwatch mode and a clear differentiation between times and pace display - something Polar struggle with slightly.
Weaknesses: The heart rate functions are more limited that Polar, and the Max, and min heart rate functions are really, missed which is a shame. The interval countdown is a simple one off repeat, so different work and recovery times need a bit of inginuity to do. The back light, illuminates the numbers only and is OK at full night, but slightly more limited at dusk - it can be hard to read the digits with the light on or off. The Polar system that illuminates the background is better. It also would benefit from some method to engage the backlight without any button presses. The downside with all gps systems is the time to acquire location data. This system is pretty good, and at least you can put the GPS unit on the car bonnet for the best acquisition time while you limber up, but its still not as quick as the footpod approach. Some people dislike the separate units, but as I said I find it an advantage. The big problem is the separate data recorder unit. This functionality really needs to be on the watch, even if it is only basic recording of, say, the last 20 exercise sessions - the overall summary would be a benefit, but the real benefit would be for each lap to be stored for the 20 sessions. It would also need some way to transfer this data to the computer. At the moment the data recorder does not synch in with the stopwatch.
Overall: A good, basic product, that would benefit from a few extra HR functions and Timex really need to look at the data functionality. The Bodylink trail addresses a few problems, but not all. Timex needs to get data recording in the watch unit.