Main-one Today, a review of the unusual Nike+ Sportband, a combination watch, radio system and running companion. Paired with the coin-sized transmitter in your shoe, the Sportband measures distance, pace and time in a superlight package on a low-key rubber strap. As previously posted, the Sportband is designed for runners who don’t want music (for them, the Amp+ is perfect), or want to travel light.

So what can you do with the Sportband?

  • Measure distance & pace.
  • Estimate calories burned based on the data you enter.
  • Upload data to the Nike+ website (more on this below).

Specs include:

  • Lithium ion polymer battery (full charge takes 2 hours).
  • Waterproof to IPX-7 spec (3 ft of water for 30 minutes). Buttons not waterproofed though.
  • Polyurethane strap, stainless steel buckle, and polycarbonate case.
  • Reverse LCD display.
  • Charges the internal battery and sets the time automatically just by plugging it into the USB port.

As you can see from that list, it’s a datalogger stripped to its smallest and most essential form. What’s more, it’s not just keeping totals. Here’s a graph from a walk:

Nike Picture 2

As I said, I’m no runner! The point is that the Sportband is saving quite a bit of data about your runs, and the Nike+ website has excellent features to keep running totals, compete against real or virtual opponents, and even coaching:

Totals

The Sportband itself is very lightweight, and on the strap is completely weightless. The LCD display is a bit small to read on the run, but the main button is large and in front so it’s quite easy to start and stop, and then peruse the data on your computer later.
Side-view
The unit and the strap are two pieces that snap together so post-run, you pull it off and insert it into a USB port. The software runs
automatically and uploads your data as well. (As a nice touch, it also
sets the time automatically.)

Unit-one Very nice engineering.

The sensor is a piezo-based accelerometer, with a non-replaceable battery spec’d to 1000 hours of life. Nike would prefer that you purchased their line of shoes, which have a space for it under the arch of the foot, but you can also get holders to use with your existing shoes. Now that the Nike system has been out for a while, there are other tools around. For example, you can auto-twitter your runs or download run data from an iPod.

Unit-with-strap Consider for a moment what Nike has accomplished with this product: for $59, you get wireless data transmission, a calibrated sensor, automatic battery management, low-power sender, sender pairing for privacy and group runs, free data analysis and sharing website, internal battery charger, and USB interface. That’s pretty amazing.

Wrist As you’d expect for the low price, sensor accuracy is not as good as GPS. It also weighs less, is physically smaller, costs less and works indoors; everything is a tradeoff. If you’re a professional athlete, you probably are willing to spend more to get increased accuracy, but the target market for this is fitness runners and those who want to carry as little as possible.

As a wristwatch, you get hours and minutes. That’s it. Basic indeed. The strap, available in several colors, looks like a charity strap at first glance (the many descendands of the ‘livestrong’). Held in place by two mushroom-shaped stainless steel stems, the strap is quite comfortable and very well attached.

Overall? It works, it’s really inexpensive, and if you run, it’s a no-brainer.

Our thanks to Nike for the review unit and matching pair of shoes – it can’t have been easy to find them in my size fifteen!

By Paul Hubbard

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