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Hands-on Gear Review

Nike+ Sportwatch GPS Review

Nike+ Sportwatch GPS
Top Pick Award
Price:   $149 List | $144.50 at Amazon
Pros:  Easy to use and encourages participation in Nike’s fitness community
Cons:  No button lock, difficult to share data other than with Nike+
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Nike

Our Verdict

We awarded the Nike+ Sportwatch GPS our Top Pick award for it's performance for runners and its solid and affordable functionality that allows the user to participate in the robust and motivating Nike fitness community. If you are already a user of a Nike+ Fuel Band, or one of the other Nike activity monitors, using a Sportwatch GPS for tracking your running is a logical choice. Even as a stand-alone product, if the community aspect isn't important to you, the Sportwatch is an excellent piece of equipment. We found it to be reliable, accurate, and easy to use. If you are looking for a more sophisticated product, particularly for other sports like cycling or triathlon, check out our Editors' Choice Suunto Ambit 3 Sport.

New Product Available - February 2017
While the Sportwatch GPS has been discontinued, Nike has since partnered with Apple to bring you the Apple Watch Nike+. Keep reading for more information on this new product!


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Best Buy Award
43mm diameter, 11mm thickness 52g lithium ion
77
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Top Pick Award
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67
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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 Apple Watch Nike+ vs. the Nike+ Sportwatch GPS


While the Sportwatch did not see a direct replacement, the Apple Watch appears to be quite the upgrade, complete with a big price difference. There are two sizes available, 38mm and 42mm, with price tags of $369 and $399, respectively. Both sizes are available in four colors: Silver/White, Black/Volt, Black/Silver, and Silver/Volt. Check out the new look here, with the Apple Watch in the larger 42mm on the left (in Black/Volt), the 38mm Apple Watch in the center (in Silver/White), and the original Sportwatch that we reviewed on the right. Then, keep reading for a full summary of upgrades to the Apple Watch.
Apple Watch Nike+
Apple Watch Nike+
Nike+ Sportwatch GPS
 

Here's a summary of some of the major upgrades to the Apple Watch:
  • Screen — The screen on the Apple Watch boasts the brightest Apple Watch light so far, where you can watch your pace, distance, and time. To see your heart rate and route, swipe the screen. We haven't tested this out yet and cannot comment on how easy this is to use.
  • Features — In addition to the features of the Sportwatch, which we thought was plenty for the average runner, the Apple Watch includes an accelerometer and gyroscope. It also features a direct fire speaker and microphobe as well as an ambient light detector. We don't know if the average runner needs all these things on their watch, but it begins to explain the hefty price tag (though still almost $100 less than the Suunto Ambit 3 Sport and around the same price as the Garmin Fenix 3.
  • Apple Partnership — The most obvious difference here is the Apple partnership. While the Sportwatch was great for runners already using a Nike product, the Apple Watch requires an iPhone, which we imagine will make this product very convenient for people already on board with all things Apple.

The Apple Watch is such a complete deviation from the Sportwatch that really, it is hardly an update at all. We haven't tested the Apple Watch just yet, so for now, the rest of this review continues to reflect the Sportwatch.

Hands-On Comparison


The Nike+ Sportwatch GPS is an excellent running watch that seamlessly integrates to the entire Nike "ecosystem" of fitness and activity tracking devices.
Run tracking in action. Mammoth Lakes  CA.
Run tracking in action. Mammoth Lakes, CA.

Ease of Use


Especially as compared to the more complicated navigation-ready devices like our Editors' Choice winning Suunto Ambit 3 Sport, using the Sportwatch on a run is a simple joy. The interface is clean and simple, while the options are few and useful. This is a watch for dedicated runners. It has exactly what a runner will need, and nothing more. This simplicity, plus Nike's powerful user-friendly branding combines to make a very easy-to-use watch.

Nike's online interface and social network is slick  inviting  and motivational.
Nike's online interface and social network is slick, inviting, and motivational.

In a world of cord-proliferation, Nike makes a clever and appreciated move. Integrated into the watch band is a USB plug. This means that you can directly join the device and your computer for charging and data management. This is huge. Even our luddite OutdoorGearLab testers accumulate accessory cords like Imelda Marcos accumulates shoes. The ability to leave one more cord out of the mix is very appreciated.

Brilliant  simply brilliant. As we accumulate more and more charging cords  a design like this is very welcome.
Brilliant, simply brilliant. As we accumulate more and more charging cords, a design like this is very welcome.

Features


The Sportwatch GPS compares favorably in features to all of the simpler running-focused devices in our test. It tracks distance, time, rate, and integrates with an aftermarket heart-rate band. This suite of features may pale in comparison to something like the much more expensive Garmin Fenix 3 or Suunto Ambit 3 Sport, but it is all that is necessary for even the most dedicated runner. A better comparison is to our Best Buy winning Garmin Forerunner 230. These two devices are roughly similar in price and offer similar features.

The basic feature set of the Nike (on the left) compares favorably to the Garmin Forerunner 110 (barely in view)  New Balance (middle).
The basic feature set of the Nike (on the left) compares favorably to the Garmin Forerunner 110 (barely in view), New Balance (middle).

The Nike device, however, sets itself apart from the rest of the field in two distinct fashions. First of all, it ships with an accessory "footpod". We reviewed the Nike+ Stand Alone step tracker in our Pedometer Review. In that context, the shoe-mounted pod synced with your smartphone to track distance and step count. An identical device is included, and syncs, with the Sportwatch GPS. This inexpensive addition allows the Sportwatch to record and track workouts indoors, as well as monitor and record step cadence while running inside or out. While some of the devices we tested have similar footpods as an accessory, only Nike includes it as standard equipment.

Secondly, and the attribute that earned this device our Top Pick honor, Nike has built an entire fitness tracking community and infrastructure. If you are one of the millions that use a Nike+ Fuel Band in your day-to-day life for tracking and inspiring action, you'll be able to use the same interface and community to monitor and record your running efforts, inside or out. In addition to recording distance, time, and pace, the Nike+ website will calculate and sum up your measure of "Nike+Fuel", integrated seamlessly with the data collected by your Fuel Band.

Accuracy


Just like with all of the devices in our test, GPS reception and accuracy was far more susceptible to signal quality than any sort of engineering or design criteria. All else equal, the GPS data in all of the watches we tested was accurate enough for recreational fitness tracking. Given the minor variation across our test roster, the Nike comes out near the bottom for GPS accuracy. However, if using the integrated foot pod, the user can collect far better data. In this case, step data picks up when GPS signal is weak or nonexistent. Because of this, the Nike scored nearer the top of our test for overall accuracy. Only the Strava App, when used with a smartphone like the iPhone 5S with sophisticated accelerometer technology, integrates step and GPS data for this level of accuracy. This fact explains the incredible accuracy scores of this otherwise simple and free app. If you seek similar accuracy in an otherwise more sophisticated device like the Suunto Ambit 3 Sport, you can purchase an aftermarket foot sensor.

Ease of Set-up


Simply pull the Nike from the box, plug it in to your pc, and let the web-based interface walk you through charging and configuring the Sportwatch. Nike seeks to make their products accessible to the masses. Like their FuelBand is intended to get non-athletes moving more, the Sportwatch is intended to get casual runners tracking and documenting their efforts to a higher standard. To accomplish this, the initial setup must be simple and clean. Nike succeeds. Only the Strava app is easier to setup.

Durability


We had no problems with the construction quality of the Nike+ Sportwatch GPS. However, we do wish that the Nike+ Sportwatch had a button lock. Inadvertent button pushes weren't uncommon. It would be easy enough to integrate something that protected your data while running.

Portability


The Nike Sportwatch scores solidly in the middle of our tested devices for portability. It isn't as bulky as the Suunto Ambit series, but is far larger than the otherwise comparable Garmin Forerunner.

Best Applications


This is the device for any runner that is already using another Nike+ device. Also, if you are looking for a basic running tracker, this or the Garmin Forerunner will serve you equally well.

Nike brings their polish and aesthetics to this piece of technical equipment.
Nike brings their polish and aesthetics to this piece of technical equipment.

Value


With Nike's large-scale customer service, demonstrated commitment to providing ongoing upgrades to the Sportwatch, and the included footpod for indoor use, all at a reasonable price, the Sportwatch could have just as easily won our Best Buy award.

Conclusion


Even though this product certainly qualifies as a "Best Buy", we felt it was even more qualified as a "Top Pick". The ability to readily and easily participate in Nike's robust and growing fitness community will inspire a great number of consumers to choose this watch.
Jediah Porter

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: February 7, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (4.0)
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 100%  (2)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)


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