At last, a true contender to Garmin’s crown. Exercise monitor, GPS watch and music player in one – and it’s all intuitive and easy to follow. If you were at the recent Virgin London Marathon Expo, you’re probably aware of the immense feature list – Motorola’s stand nearly matched Adidas’ in grandiose terms. If not, here’s a breakdown of the features and whether real-life matched the marketing…
Despite valiant efforts from most notably Timex and Nike, Garmin have been the clear leader in GPS pick-up and satellite retention. “What about Polar?” we hear you cry. Well yes, their connection’s traditionally been sound but that’s through their arm-mounted receiver rather than the all-in-one wrist-mounted variety.
Garmin were out on their own – until now. The Motoactv picks up swiftly and retains connection well. We experienced a few losses through built-up areas but only briefly, and the watch seemed to backtrack nicely to give you accurate real-life analysis.
Pace, elevation, speed and distance run were relayed in a clear format; in fact, the touchscreen is one of the most visually striking and usable we’ve come across, and comes into its own at night with an impressive backlight. Motorola also include a map of the route you’ve run on the screen. At first we were impressed, though at the size, soon felt this was more gimmicky than of actual use.
Motorola’s big sell centres on its music capability. And this is good. It imports from iTunes and Windows Media Player so should be appropriate for all, and has 8GB of storage so you can download your entire Crowded House back catalogue and leave plenty of space for your Now collection. Sound is fine, though would benefit from a wireless set as when using the watch on your wrist, the wire flaps about like a race number in the wind. It does become a touch irritating. Motorola supply a clip where you can slip the monitor from its wrist strap and set up as you would an iPod Nano. Flapping annoyance disappears instantly. The payback is that you lose the easy on-the-fly wrist monitoring of your speed, distance run… Like we said, to maximize its capabilities, spend the extra on a wireless set.
Syncing is impressive with the Motoactv. Impressively, if you have wifi you can sync the workout data to motoactv.com – Motorola’s version of the Garmin Connect – and analyse your workout. It also syncs to your Motorola phone to take messages. And it syncs to your compute for music transfer. Heart-rate function requires a (not included) chest strap, though its ANT+ capacity means it works with a Garmin strap.
We do feel that it’d appeal to number-crunching triathletes far more if Motorola had included the chest strap as standard; that said, it illustrates its yearning to hit a market beyond triathlon – highlighted further by the incorporation of accelerometers that help it record data for over 40 other activities including elliptical trainers. As an aside, there is a golf edition that gauges distance to pin, keeps track of your score and even offers club selection. It looks damn impressive if you prefer plus fours to compression socks.
Where it excels is in its evolution. Since we began our test, Motorola launched several updates, including improving the battery life, lasting up to 8hrs before recharge (depending on your ability dictates whether or not it’d last through an Ironman!) – again, comparable with many Garmins. Keep an eye out on the Motorola site for the latest updates.
It also doubles as a bike computer, though again you have to purchase the bike mount. It’s simple to install and compatible with all bikes, though it loses credentials when temperatures drop as the touch screen doesn’t work with gloves. While we’re on its moot points, we also can’t help thinking the rubber cover of the USB connection is too flimsy and could break off sooner rather than later. Mind you, it’s performed admirably in possibly the wettest April on record so, for now, those fears have been allayed.
So would we buy the Motoactv over the Garmin 910XT? No. They’re both fine training tools but its lack of swim-specificity clearly projects the 910XT above the Motorola. To be fair, that’s hardly a slight on the Motoactv – the 910XT is generally regarded as the triathlete’s benchmark training tool.
The added music capability does add something different over the Garmin but that raises the question of whether we’d plump for this or something like the Garmin Forerunner 110 plus iPod Nano. Now this is definitely a subjective one. While impressed with the Motoactv’s GPS/music combo, it lost its dual effectiveness because of that flapping wire. Because of this we’d plump for the cheaper Garmin and Nano combo. But that’s a very personal judgment based on a lot of Nano love.
Overall, though, a fine tool for all levels of triathlete.
Fine training tool; swim capacity would elevate it to 910XT status
Contact : www.motorola.com