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Hands-on Gear Review

New Balance GPS Trainer Review

New Balance GPS Trainer
Price:   $150 List
Pros:  Inexpensive with effective feature set
Cons:  No Button lock nor data upload option
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   New Balance

Our Verdict

This device is almost an excellent piece of equipment. New Balance put in considerable design and thought, but neglected to follow through with one or two major features. The construction is solid, the instrumentation is reliable, and the features are simple yet thorough enough for most athletes. However, the lack of a button lock and the ability to save data externally significantly hamstrings the device. Given these shortcomings, at this price point we recommend our Best Buy winning Garmin Forerunner 230 or our Top Pick winner Nike+ Sportwatch GPS. If you are looking for a full-featured training device, you won't do better than our Editors' Choice Suunto Ambit 3 Sport.

New Product Available - February 2017
While the GPS Trainer has been discontinued, New Balance has recently released the new RunIQ watch. Keep reading to find out more, or check out the full lineup in our complete GPS Watch Review.


RELATED REVIEW: Best GPS Watches of 2017 for Running & Training

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Score Product Price Main body size Weight Battery Type
86
$469
Editors' Choice Award
45mm diameter, 12mm thickness 73g lithium ion
80
$450
50mm diameter, 17mm thickness 82g lithium ion
79
$250
Best Buy Award
43mm diameter, 11mm thickness 52g lithium ion
77
$149
Top Pick Award
52x32mm rectangular, 14mm thickness 66g not specified
67
$150
44mm diameter, 15mm thickness 60g not specified

Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Jediah Porter
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Tuesday
February 7, 2017

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The New NB RunIQ Watch vs. the NB GPS Trainer


Where to begin? The RunIQ is an entirely new product, bearing little resemblance to the GPS Trainer that we tested. The increased price tag of $300 comes with a while host of additional features. Partnered with Strava, the NB RunIQ allows for an entirely new way to track your workout, significantly boosting the watch's user friendliness. You can check out a side-by-side comparison here, with the new RunIQ on the left and the original GPS trainer on the right. Then, keep reading for a full breakdown of upgrades.
New Balance RunIQ
New Balance GPS Trainer
 

Here's a summary of some of the newest features:
  • Strava Partnership — One of our major qualms with the GPS Trainer was that the data was only viewable on the watch itself. Now, with Strava, users can share their data with a big community. However, the lack of this shareable data kept the price of the GPS Trainer down, so this might be a downgrade for users uninterested in this feature.
  • Music — Users of the RunIQ can import playlists from Google Play and use Bluetooth headphones to listen along. New Balance encourages users to leave their phone at home during their workout.

Because we haven't tested the RunIQ Watch yet, the rest of this review continues to reflect the original GPS Trainer.

Hands-On Review


As a product from a smaller, primarily footwear-oriented company, the New Balance GPS trainer is an impressive effort. It lacks the polish and refinement of the products from the electronics companies, and doesn't have the social and motivational features of the Nike+ Sportwatch GPS, but it fills a small niche.
The New Balance in action. Uphill rock carries tracked for distance and heart rate.
The New Balance in action. Uphill rock carries tracked for distance and heart rate.

Ease of Use


With data only viewable on the device, the overall ease of use score suffers a bit. Most of our testing team, and most athletes in the market for a fitness tracking device, will wish to collate and save their data digitally. If you are in this category, but looking for a simple affordable device, check out our Best Buy winning Garmin Forerunner 230. However, if uploading data to your pc or to the web is not at all important to you, you can save a few further dollars with the New Balance watch. As with all of the tested gps devices, data management is the primary determinant of a watch's ease of use. Otherwise, the New Balance is easy enough to use. You'll lean heavily on the written instruction manual, but you will get it down soon enough.
The selection of buttons and screen views is a bit confusing and complicated  but a regular user will figure it out.
The selection of buttons and screen views is a bit confusing and complicated, but a regular user will figure it out.

Features


The New Balance device is an interesting combination of features. The watch itself is a pretty simple time and location tracker. Very little frills characterize this product. However, New Balance's inclusion of a heart-rate band increases the scores considerably. If monitoring your exertion level during a run is crucial to you, yet you still have a tight budget, the GPS Trainer can save you almost a hundred dollars over the competition. Again, as compared to our Best Buy winner, the New Balance with heart rate monitoring is quite a bit less expensive. As tested, the Garmin Forerunner is slightly more expensive. With the after-market heart rate band, it is quite a bit more.
The New Balance GPS trainer has a feature set roughly similar to this sample of tested devices. Strava on a smartphone  the Forerunner 110 (replaced for 2015 by the 210)  and the Nike all do it slightly better. However  if you want to track heart rate on a budget  the GPS trainer fills a niche.
The New Balance GPS trainer has a feature set roughly similar to this sample of tested devices. Strava on a smartphone, the Forerunner 110 (replaced for 2015 by the 210), and the Nike all do it slightly better. However, if you want to track heart rate on a budget, the GPS trainer fills a niche.

Accuracy


Interestingly, while the New Balance feel and feature set is quite a bit more budget-oriented, the accuracy doesn't suffer at all. Across our entire test roster, individual device accuracy varied by less than three percent. While the New Balance was tied with the Nike+ Sportwatch for the poorest accuracy, the three percent margin of error in these devices is hardly a problem for most athletes.

Ease of Set-up


With an "old school" watch interface, the GPS Trainer takes considerably more time and effort to set up than the other tools in our test. All of the other companies have clearly invested a fair amount of time in making their user interfaces and setup intuitive and modern.

Durability


Across the board, in the most important ways, durability of our tested devices was excellent. We experienced no complete failures. However, some watches suffered from short-term failure. The primary short-term failure was a lack of data integrity. Basically, if the watch is vulnerable to suspension or erasure of your in-activity data stream, it's durability score suffers. Without a button lock, the GPS Trainer regularly changes data fields and stops, starts, or erases your information. This attribute, while not an actual failure of the hardware or software, is undesirable at best. On every "normal" run, not to mention during more vigorous activity, at least a few inadvertent button pushes would occur.

Portability


The GPS Trainer isn't the smallest nor is it the largest in our test. It fits it's instrumentation in a package that is comparable with the rest of the field.

Best Applications


This is an excellent device for the casual trainee looking for real-time heart rate data on a budget.
Side-by-side size comparison of the New Balance and Nike watches.
Side-by-side size comparison of the New Balance and Nike watches.

Value


If you can work around the quirks and limitations of this watch, it is an excellent value.

Conclusion


New Balance, especially for a shoe company, comes very close to creating a viable training watch. However, in the opinion of our testing team, the lack of a data-upload function and the vulnerability of the non-locking buttons makes the extra dollars spent on one of the other tested devices more than worth it.
Jediah Porter

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Most recent review: February 7, 2017
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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