Sunday Tech Round-Up and Weekly Running Summary


Happy Sunday! I hope everyone has had a great weekend so far! Just a couple of quick items today – new tech and my weekly running summary.

As for the picture above, that is my two-week old Samsung Galaxy Note 3 with a Perixx folding Bluetooth keyboard. It works really well, weighs next to nothing, is easy to carry, but some of the keys are a bit funky in size due to the folding split.

New Tech Roundup

This week at the IFA show in Berlin, the big focus was on wearable tech. Among all of the usual stuff there were a few fitness related items I wanted to share. If you want more on all of the wearables head here. But I wanted to highlight a few of my favorites that have a fitness angle:

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Yeah, the Galaxy Note 4 really doesn’t bring much new to the fitness front according to this first impressions piece, but the one thing it does do is allow you to track your heart-rate using your finger and a built-in sensor below the camera the same way as the Galaxy S5. Here is how that works:

Also related to Samsung, they already have the Gear Fit ($149.99 at, which is an activity tracker that pairs with your Samsung phone … it has met with mediocre reviews.

Sony Smartband Talk

Loads of info here, but here are some of my favorite details:
– Fitness centric design, counting steps, also has an altimeter for height
– Completely waterproof
– Curved e-ink desplay
– Microphone and speaker to use as a speakerphone.

At the estimated price of over $200, it isn’t clear this will be much of a hit, but it looks intriguing – especially the waterproof design.



What I love about the Wellograph (official site) is that it is a great looking device, but it also has a three-LED heart-rate monitor that should be effective at tracking real-time activity. I am very excited and am hoping to get to check this one out for a review (at least that is the current plan).

Here are some more details:

Idle Time:
•Wellograph reminds users to sit less, move more and get active.

•Wellograph expresses how much of a user’s day is idle vs. active, in hours and minutes. The device offers a today view to show how many calories users have burned each hour and their total for the day. Additionally, the week view feature displays frequency, intensity and time of their week’s activities.

•Wellograph measures the quality and quantity of a user’s activity vs. simply the quantity, as the harder the heart works, the more calories burned. Wellograph encourages users to get their heart rates up via high-intensity physical activity and displays a user’s current pulse in beats per minute, including their high, average and resting heart rate each day. They are also provided with an exercise score based on how much aerobic activity they completed each day. After extended use, Wellograph will rank a user’s cardiovascular fitness and estimate their true fitness age, a feature unique to Wellograph.

•Users’ steps information is shown automatically as soon as they start moving and totaled to compare how much they ran or walked today vs. yesterday vs. their set goal. The device also offers users the ability to set a stopwatch, see their current pace and distance covered. After a run, Wellograph offers users summary stats about their run, including top pace, average pace, total calories burned and more.

Unfortunately all of those good looks and functionality don’t come cheap – the Wellograph is pre-ordering for $349 through the main site and also through


Garmin Vivosmart

I have already talked about how much I love the Garmin VivoFit I got for Lisa – it is a great activity tracker that is accurate, reliable, and has excellent battery life. Now Garmin has done one better by introducing the Vivosmart, which takes the Vivofit and turns it into a partner for your phone.

Personally I know I have been out running and my phone in my belt chimes and I wonder about stopping to check (only phone calls and texts will stop me usually unless I am expecting something from work). With this, I could look at my wrist and I would get a preview of what just arrived.

You can get a great ‘first hands-on’ from DC Rainmaker (whose reviews you should ALWAYS read on fitness devices), but a few things he noted included:
– Smartphone notifications
– Music control from the watch to your phone
– Vibration alerts

Garmin Touts These Key Features:

– Displays steps, calories, distance and time of day
– Vibration alerts for calls, texts and emails from your smartphone
– Easy operation using touch and swipe
– Inactivity alert reminds you to move
– Auto goal keeps you challenged

You can get more info or pre-order at Garmin or at Best Buy. The MSRP is $169.99.

Weekly Running Summary

This was definitely a weird week as I have noted, but I eventually got it together and ended up pretty strong over all. Here is how I did each day:

After coming back from our crazy tour of Providence and Boston, we were all exhausted and all of us felt a bit under the weather during the week, with Chris getting sick for real for most of the week. I took Tuesday off because I was feeling run-down, and then felt pretty good the rest of the week. But for whatever reason, I was still full-on motivated to get out and kill my runs and felt better every day for doing them – but paid in exhaustion at the end of each day! How did I do? Let’s take a look:

Sunday: ‘Rest’ Day – just 10 miles walking and shopping!
Monday: 16.5 miles
Tuesday: 5.25 miles … ugh, awful run!
Wednesday: 10.5 miles
Thursday: 10.5 miles
Friday: 7.5 miles after work
Saturday 23.5 miles with hill repeats

Um … yeah, so much for that ‘lost mojo’ I was worried about! I ended logging 73.75 miles this week. One thing that is clear – I am very much feeling the effects of burning the candle at both ends lately!

What new technology do YOU find compelling? How was YOUR week?

My Quickie Reviews of Various Running GPS Watches

Three GPS Watches1

It is one of those questions that comes up all the time – “what running GPS watch would you recommend?” And when people learn that I am a life-long techie and have been doing reviews of various gadgets and gear since … well, a long time, they really get interested. But unlike many other gadets I use, my needs for a running watch are actually fairly simple. That hasn’t stopped me from looking at several different devices over the last year or so, and I wanted to round up my opinions on the ones I have tried.

For me, the core criteria evaluating a running watch is simple: the GPS works, is repeatable, is accurate, and that the watch is comfortable. Beyond that I start to care about ease of use, reporting functionality, feedback and so on. And finally all of the extras come into play. But if I have an issue getting a watch to start and stop and difficulty getting repeatable results … it is pretty much over.

These are not real reviews, just quick summaries. I also provided pricing and an Amazon link (not an affiliate or anything, just for info).

Magellan Polar Stuff

Nike+ – $165.69 (Amazon link)

Summary: Powered by TomTom, the Nike+ sport watch is a running-focused watch that supports ANT+ wireless device standards (meaning you can use a Polar heart-rate monitor as well as the Nike footpod), offers a large number of standard features as well as easy configuration of screens. Large numbers make for easy reading, and the Nike+ website and software are simple to install and use, and incredibly full-featured. The watch is actually fairly large (not compared to a beast like the Garmin 305, though) – the smooth styling of the Nike+ is deceptive, so I recommend trying one one before buying.

Like: Footpod means that even when GPS signal is lost you are still tracking data; USB-connector in watch along with supplied cable is very convenient; Nike+ software is very well done; flexible screen configuration. Solid battery life.

Dislike: TomTom GPS is slow to connect; the watch can tend to ‘fog’ in high humidity and sweat situations; Tends to over-estimate mileage and caloric burn.

Magellan Switch – $179.98 (Amazon link)

Summary: I did a full review here, but this was Magellan’s first GPS watch. They also offer a ‘Switch Up’ model that can mount on a bike as well as running. Since the two are basically identical, that means the design is large and flat. It also means that there are plenty of options available.

Unfortunately the device feels like all of the software was tested while viewed on an emulator on someone’s computer, as there is often too much crammed onto a small screen, making it barely readable – and useless while running (or biking). But the worst thing is it violates my primary rule for GPS watches by not being precise or reliable. NOT recommended!

Like: Loads of data; good battery life.

Dislike: Least precise (and possibly also least accurate) of all the GPS watches I have used. By a lot. Also bulky and blocky and not very comfortable, and the menu system gets confusing, and the text on most screens is too small to read when running.

Garmin FR-10 – $129.95 (Amazon link)

Summary: Another watch for which I did a full review. In the review I said there are only a few types of people who wouldn’t benefit from the Garmin FR-10:

•You run races of more than 50 miles distance or 5 hours duration.
•You don’t like to sync/charge your GPS watch within 50-60 miles or 5-6 hours of use (or 7 ‘events’).
•You need more advanced ‘training computer’ functionality.
•You need to use a heart-rate monitor or other ANT+ wireless accessories.

In other words, for most people this is a great running watch. It is thin and light and very comfortable to wear, links quickly to GPS signals, is precise within feet on my normal courses, and syncs to the Garmin Connect site easily.

Like: Precise and accurate; easy sync; thin and light; does exactly what most runners need at a very affordable price.

Dislike: anemic battery life; bare-bones configuration; no support for wireless devices; Garmin Connect a let-down after Nike+ software.

Polar RC3-GPS – $229.84 (Amazon link)

Summary: I am in the process of reviewing this now, but my initial thoughts is that this is a rich, deeply featured device with a few hiccups along the way. The watch software is full-featured, and fairly easy to navigate after a little time with the manual.

This is a bigger watch, but is relatively light and comfortable to wear. I no longer wear a watch in general, so I can’t speak to the ‘daily wear’ potential, but it is bigger than the Garmin and seems a bit bigger than the Nike+. mostly due to a blockier design.

The biggest issues I had were with the interface software and getting the GPS and heart-rate monitor to work reliably. I figured out that the best option for the GPS was to start it looking before I was fully ready to go, because the beep wasn’t loud enough that I heard it reliably under winter layers.

I also had a couple of issues where the watch didn’t find the heart-rate monitor, or lost the connection during a run when the band unhooked and didn’t reconnect when I reattached the band. Since I have started wetting the surface and changed the way I strap it to my chest I haven’t had an issue.

Finally, I wanted to install the interface software on my Mac, but the install failed – and even after nearly 2 hours on the phone with support I never got it to work. It installed easily on an old WinXP netbook, and worked on my gaming PC laptop after I spent a bunch of time removing loads of excess software.

Like: Solid GPS precision and accuracy; loads of features and functionality; simply to start and stop workouts; quick connection with heart-rate monitor

Dislike: Problems getting software installed; GPS slower to connect than Garmin (but faster than Nike+); initial issues with heart-rate monitor connection.

Magellan Echo – $149.99 (Amazon link, with Heart-rate monitor is $199.99)

Summary: I am also currently reviewing this newly released watch, but it is an entirely different beast. The Echo gets its name from the fact that it ‘echoes’ data from your smartphone over Bluetooth. Since it doesn’t have a GPS, it uses little battery and is a very small and light device – something you could easily use for an everyday watch – and it gets 6-months of battery life!

I started using the Echo with MapMyRun, since it was already on my watch, but was underwhelmed by the functionality offered from the app through the watch – it was basically a viewer.

Then I started using Wahoo Fitness (which I had never heard of before), and it was worlds different! Suddenly I could start and stop my run, pause it, use media controls, tap the screen to change view modes and so on. The Wahoo app uploads to a dozen different fitness portals, so I could just keep adding stuff to my MapMyFitness account.

I just got the Magellan heart rate monitor, and it is a Bluetooth connection (the Polar one is ANT+), and I used it once and it worked great – easy to pair, attach, and run.

Like: Easy pairing; low power drain; Wahoo app makes it a great device; ultra thin and light; great battery life.

Dislike: Control capabilities still spotty in different apps; since it doesn’t measure, if it loses Bluetooth signal you get no output (happened one time)


This wasn’t meant to be a comprehensive survey – I don’t have any of the higher-end Garmin devices represented. But it shows off a range of reasonably priced options for the runner looking for something – from $129 to $229, with and without heart-rate monitoring, there are some solid choices.

So what would I recommend?

GPS watch only? Garmin FR-10 – reliable, small, effecient, and inexpensive. It does what you need and the price is right.

Add Heart-Rate Monitor? Magellan Echo – given how much I disliked the Magellan Switch (and their SmartGPS as well) I was skeptical … but paired with the Wahoo app it is excellent, plus it forces me to bring my phone (which I SHOULD be doing anyway) and provides great capability at a reasonable price.