Monday, May 11, 2009

Tech4O Running Watch Review

A little while back I was contacted by the good folks at Tech4O to ask whether I would be interested in reviewing one of their running watches for them. You bet I would!

There are several different models to choose from and there are six women's specific watches in the line up. The women's models range in price from $39.99 to $89.99 and you even have the option of a watch with a heart rate monitor. I was most interested in the Accelerator Runner which retails for $69.99.
So what makes the Tech4O watch different from your standard watch? It has a built in accelerometer that measures you speed and distance, plus the watch will also figure out how many calories you are burning. The built in accelerometer means that you don't need to wear a foot pod or other extraneous device. And because it isn't use GPS you can use this watch while running among tall buildings, under heavy tree cover, or inside at the track or on a treadmill.

Just for comparison you can see how the Accelerator sizes up against my Timex and my Garmin 305:The Tech4O is just a teeny tiny bit larger than my Timex. The nice thing about this is you can use it as your regular watch and have the accelerometer option anytime.

Before you can use the watch you need to spend a bit of time putting your information in and calibrating it. You'll need to run a known distance and the watch will count the number of foot strikes. Input that information into a handy dandy calculator on the Tech4O site.

Unfortunately the calibration was where I ran into a few issues. Initially I ran on the track at the Y. I calculated my stride length and set the watch up for it. The next time I used the watch it was on the treadmill. I had the window set up so that I could see my speed in mph for comparison. At lower speeds my calibration was way off. At higher speeds I was bang on. I took the data and ran it through the calculator then updated the watch again. The next time I ran outside and had my Garmin on one wrist and the Accelerator on another. Once again my calibration was off by about 5%. Obviously my stride varies quite differently depending on whether I'm running the track, the treadmill or outside. I recalibrated the watch again. The next time I wore it outside I checked the stats versus my Garmin at regular intervals. As I was warming up distances were off, but ultimately when I finished up the run the difference between the Garmin and the Accelerator was negligible.

So, what are the pros and cons?

  • Price: this is significantly cheaper than a GPS based fitness watch
  • Size: because this watch is smaller it will fit smaller wrists a lot more comfortably
  • Heart rate monitor option: fantastic if you want to keep track of your heart rate as well
  • Go anywhere: this would be great for trail running, and I can definitely see using this all the time during the winter whenever I have to head inside to train. I miscount laps all the time and this way I won't have to think about it
  • Distance, anywhere and anytime: if you go on a vacation and do plenty of walking you may want an idea of how far you've gone. This is definitely a more subtle way to keep track as opposed to wearing your Garmin!
  • Calibration: I need to use a different stride length calibration depending on where I'm running.
  • Data uploading: Data for your run is stored in the watch, but there is no way to upload it to your computer. This may or may not matter to you though!
  • Data storage: If you don't store your run to the watch's memory then the run will be erased at some point in time. Not sure when, but I think it is within a week.
Ultimately it depends on what you are looking for in a fitness watch, but I think this is an excellent alternative to a GPS device if you are looking for something a little less expensive. If you are keen on being able to go back and analyze your data over the course of the run it isn't possible here. I can definitely seem some great potential uses for this watch though.


ShirleyPerly said...

Interesting review. I'd also heard that accelerometer-based systems also require recalibrating when changing shoes (say, if you run with different shoes for your various runs, say, long distance runs, speed workouts and trail running). Is that true with this Tech4o device?

That was one of the main reasons why I preferred a GPS based system over accelerometer-based ones the few times I ever worried much about how fast I was going.

Marcy said...

Cool chica! I've read the same type of reviews on this baby. Def cool for someone looking for something cheaper than Garmin.

lindsay said...

great review! sounds like a great product. i'm definitely a believer if varying stride - my nike+ is pretty accurate outside (on a 'regular' run) and always comes up short on the treadmill. in races, it's also short, but i think it's just not used to (/calibrated for) my 'racing stride'. i don't think there will ever be something that is 100% accurate but this watch and other gadgets are getting us closer than we were before! thanks for sharing the info.

Sonia said...

That sounds pretty cool! Let us know how it is. I do love my garmin....

RoadBunner said...

This sounds pretty neat. I do like how it isn't huge like a Garmin!

Wes said...

you are having the same issues I am having with the Forerunner 50 and the foot pod. What it has taught me? To keep my stride length the same no matter my speed and increase/decrease my cadence :-)