Hands-on Gear Review

Nixon Mission Review

Nixon Mission
Price:  $400 List | $399.95 at Amazon
Pros:  Aggressive styling, full smart watch functionality
Cons:  Large, limited athletic data collection
Bottom line:  A smart watch branded for athletes, with a few functional specialties for adventure and activity tracking.
Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Main body size:  55mm diameter, 17mm thickness
Weight, Verified:  104g
Inaccuracy percentage. Variation from actual.:  7%
Manufacturer:   Nixon

Our Verdict

This contender is a smartwatch that can be used to track outdoor adventures. Its priorities are switched from those of the rest of the test. Our GPS watch review focuses on products for tracking outdoor athletic endeavors. The state of the market makes these same devices appropriate for use as "smart watches". Most products we considered and reviewed have smart watch functionality. If you are in the market for first a smart watch, and then hope it will track your running or skiing or surfing, the Mission is worth considering. If the smart watch functions are more incidental to your athletic tracking, something else is likely a better choice. For a full comparison and in-depth assessment, read on.


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


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Jediah Porter

Last Updated:
Wednesday
June 21, 2017

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The Nixon Mission is a smartwatch targeted to athletes. Most of the products we tested are training watches with smart watch attributes. The Nixon flips the script. As such, it is a good smart watch that can be applied to training, but with some difficulty.

Performance Comparison


Nixon wouldn't claim their watch is the best training or GPS watch. It is a smart watch, with training features. Our testing bears this out. The dedicated training watches perform better against our test matrix than the Mission.

The time keeping screen of the Nixon  like on other full-service smart watches  can be customized in appearance.
The time keeping screen of the Nixon, like on other full-service smart watches, can be customized in appearance.

Ease of Use


As a watch, and as a smart watch, the Mission is great. For training, there are distinct issues. It is clear that the training record keeping is an afterthought. One must perform fairly extensive customization before one can record and view useful running data, for instance. It can be done, but it takes some work. For viewing text messages, setting alarms, and monitoring phone notifications, the Mission is great.

Features


The data the Mission gathers is not nearly as sophisticated or useful as that collected by the perennial training watch manufacturers like Garmin, Suunto, or Polar. The Mission counts steps and uses its GPS antenna to track your outside mileage and speed. Otherwise, the data is fairly limited. Of all the features we look for in a modern training watch, the Mission has surprisingly few. The Editors' Choice Garmin Fenix 5 has integrated heart sensing, accelerometer step count and sleep tracking, GPS antenna, barometric altimeter, smart watch function, and extensive navigation function. Of these, the Nixon has step count, GPS, and smart watch function. It is far less featured than the most featured devices. If all you want is these rudimentary features, the Nixon could be just right.

Accuracy


The Mission recorded consistently 7% greater distance than we actually traveled. This is the least accurate distance record keeping in our entire test. Why this is, is hard to tell. GPS signal coming from satellites is standardized. All devices get the same information. A device's antenna can have a small impact on accuracy, but it is usually the software and algorithm the device uses to interpret the satellite signal that is in error. Regardless of why the distance was inaccurate by that amount, the important question is whether it matters. 7% inaccuracy isn't inconsequential, but it also isn't a deal breaker. In the early days of consumer GPS receivers, the signals were intentionally scrambled by the government, leaving about this amount of inaccuracy expected. At that time, we were fine with it and measured and navigated just fine. While we've come to expect something more like the very low average inaccuracy of something like the TomTom Runner (0% error in our repeated testing) or Suunto Ambit3 Peak (1% inaccuracy), 7% isn't actually a deal breaker.

Ease of Set-Up


It is in set up that the Mission excels. The instructions are simple and clean, directing the user to charge the device and work then with your smartphone and the Android apps (Nixon uses Google's open source smart watch platform. It still works with an Apple phone). The apps walk you through the setup. The Mission is one of the best of our watches in ease of set up. The Garmin devices all work similarly. The Apple Nike+ and Mission are comparable. Both start with an app and walk the user through the necessary steps. The Fitbit Surge sets up with an app and a charge, just like the Mission. In short, set up of the Mission is clean and simple. By contrast, the Polar M400 takes tens of minutes to hours to set up while the Mission, after charging, takes just a handful of minutes.

The Nixon Mission takes a little time to sync with its associated app.
The Nixon Mission takes a little time to sync with its associated app.

Battery Life


The large form factor of the Mission holds a sizable battery. With limited features and sensors, that battery powers the instruments of the Mission for a long enough time. In a normal athlete's life, with everyday use plus an hour or two of GPS tracking most days, the Mission needs to be charged every few days. In a refreshing revelation, we found that the Mission battery actually lasts longer than Nixon claims. They claim 1 day of battery use, but we regularly found it to work for 2-3 times that long, at least.

Nixon Mission and included charging cable. The cable snaps on with magnetic alignment.
Nixon Mission and included charging cable. The cable snaps on with magnetic alignment.

Other products have batteries that last longer, while others last less. The Mission is clearly better on battery life than the Apple Watch. Even when we account for the size and functional differences (the Apple is smaller, and does more, so it makes sense that the battery life is less), it seems that the Mission is a little better on battery. The Garmin Fenix, however, does way better on battery. The Fenix is similar in size, tracks your heart rate continuously, and the battery lasts, all else equal, about 2-3 times longer than the Mission. Of the products optimized for daily use (Apple, Mission, Fenix, and Garmin VivoActive all have step counts, smart watch features, GPS tracking, and appearances that lean toward "daily wear" more than others) the VivoActive is the clear winner in battery life. One tester was able to regularly go weeks of normal use between charges with her testing of the VivoActive.

Portability


The Mission is the largest watch we tested. For some, this is appealing. It is a product that makes a statement, like some want from their watches. For others, it is too bulky. The tested orange color scheme shouts "look at me". Again, some like that while others don't.

The 2017 set of tested GPS watches  clockwise from upper left: TomTom Runner  Polar M400  Garmin Fenix  Suunto Ambit3  Nixon Mission  Garmin VivoActive  FitBit Surge  Garmin Forerunner  and Apple Watch Nike+ 38mm.
The 2017 set of tested GPS watches, clockwise from upper left: TomTom Runner, Polar M400, Garmin Fenix, Suunto Ambit3, Nixon Mission, Garmin VivoActive, FitBit Surge, Garmin Forerunner, and Apple Watch Nike+ 38mm.

On small wrists, the Mission is simply too large. We tested the standard Garmin Fenix 5 and the smallest Apple Watch, but we dig that each of these is available, with the same features but different battery lives, in other sizes. The Mission, however, is available in just the one large size.

The Nixon Mission on the left  Suunto Ambit3 Peak in the middle  and the Garmin Fenix 5 on the right. These are the three largest GPS watches we tested.
The Nixon Mission on the left, Suunto Ambit3 Peak in the middle, and the Garmin Fenix 5 on the right. These are the three largest GPS watches we tested.

Best Applications


Nixon positions the Mission as a daily smart watch for the adventurous athlete. They equip it with specialized "snow" and "surf" apps for both monitoring conditions and for tracking endeavors. The smart watch functionality is nearly complete, competing directly with the Top Pick Apple Nike+. Because of the size, it will likely appeal mainly to men. The features are great in every-day life and suitable for occasional tracking of athletic endeavors.

Value


Only the Editors' Choice model is more expensive than the Mission. For that additional price, the Garmin Fenix 5 has twice as many athlete's sensors and features, and gets you more battery life. At the Mission price point, the best comparison is the Apple Watch. Stylistically these two have a different appeal. The Apple model is limited to those that already use an iPhone; it also has better athletic endeavor tracking, with an integrated heart rate sensor and more options for tracking apps. The Apple Watch is better for navigation too. The Mission, in comparison to the award winners, is not a great value. If, however, the style appeals to you, it is likely worth the price.

Conclusion


As a smart watch tailored for the adventurous athlete, the Mission hits a mark. As a dedicated athlete's tool, it is less functional than the other products in our test.
Jediah Porter

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Most recent review: June 21, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
 (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 100%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)


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