I typically shy away from GPS reviews, partially because the whole prospect seems entirely overwhelming, but also because I have very simple tastes.
The only piece of information I really care about getting from a GPS device is “How far have I run today?” I don’t care about vertical gain or compass direction or barometric conditions. I don’t care about my heart rate zones or calories burned. I don’t care to upload, map, or otherwise analyze any data after the run. I don’t care to maintain a digital training log or join yet another online community. Just tell me how far I’ve run.
Although it’s a simple premise, it’s also an important one, for reasons that might have more to do with my own neuroses than any physiological rationale. When I’ve got an ultra in my sights, 30 miles is kind of my standard benchmark when it comes to completing a good long training run. 30.5 miles is a legitimate long run, but 29.8 is woefully inadequate. (OK, yes … it’s not the physiology; the problem is me.) Therefore, it’s also crucial for the device to be accurate, so I’m not always wondering if the distance it says I ran was the distance I really ran. Honestly, I can drive myself crazy with this stuff.
Finally, from a practical standpoint, I’m absolutely terrified of taking on in-depth GPS reviews. There are too many technological considerations than I can legitimately understand, and too many features and components that I don’t adequately utilize; consequently, it’s hard for me to deliver an authoritative opinion on whether a device is worth the (normally very hefty) cost. Especially when my friend DC Rainmaker has become such a guru on GPS devices, there’s no way I can pretend to match that kind of expertise.
So why am I reviewing a GPS watch today? Because the product in question is almost revolutionary, in all the ways that are most important to me. It’s basic. It’s affordable. It’s eco-friendly and low-profile. Best of all, it’s highly accurate, and tells me exactly how far I’ve run.
|Soleus GPS 1.0; photo from Soleus website|
The Soleus GPS 1.0 has the potential to be a game changer. It retails for $99 (actually, even less than that – see the end of this post), a price point that is less than half of the lowest-cost wrist-mounted GPS from Garmin. It offers the basic features you need – plus a few others – without needing a software program or tech support to figure out how to use the darn thing. For technophobic runners who appreciate simplicity, accuracy, and affordability, the Soleus GPS gives you exactly what you’re looking for.
Continuing the theme of simplicity, my review is going to be somewhat stripped down as well, for reasons I explained earlier. However, I’d be negligent to not refer you to DC Rainmaker’s full in-depth review of this same device, which he breaks down in his typical “all the information you ever wanted plus a lot of information you didn’t realize you needed” fashion.
|Timex sleek Ironman on L, SOleus GPS on R|
Here’s what you get with the Soleus GPS 1.0: a GPS watch that is roughly the size of the Garmin 401 and Garmin FR610. It’s marginally bigger than my customary Timex Sleek Ironman watch, but with a weight of only 2.0 oz, it’s not much of an extra burden on my long runs. It has an alarm, chronograph, lap/split tracking, 100-lap memory, 12-second backlight, and a USB rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The casing is water resistant to 30 meters so it’s fine to wear in the rain.
Additional features that are nice (but which I don’t really utilize) are calories burned – calculated by an algorithm using body weight and distance run – and your current pace or speed in metric or English notation. Like I said, I’m not so much into those things; I mainly want to know how it works in measuring distance.
First and most importantly, the Soleus GPS is super accurate. I did my first test runs at the track, where the readings were spot-on. While running with training partners, I did comparisons to their various Garmin units, and distance measurements were usually within a few hundredths of a mile for runs in the 10- to 12-mile range. On trail runs, it appears to hold its satellite signal quite well in canyons and under tree cover. The signal also holds steady when the device is underneath a jacket sleeve, which is pretty much every day at this time of year.
|Top to bottom: chrono, distance, time of day|
While running, you can choose from a few different displays; the one I use most frequently is stopwatch / distance / time of day, which are the only three things I’m concerned about when I’m on a long training day. You can take split times or create lap markers at regular intervals, but I don’t even do either of those things. Like I said, I’m basic.
There are a few minor drawbacks that I’ve encountered in daily use, the first of which is a slow satellite acquisition time. It often takes up to a couple of minutes to lock into a signal, which is significantly slower than my friends pick up signals with their Garmins. I’ve also had some difficulty with the size of the “stop/save” button, in that it’s small in relation to the others, and it’s sometimes difficult to keep pressed down for long enough to save your data. When I’m wearing gloves – which again, is almost every day this time of year – the button is even trickier to push firmly.
Finally, the size of the display numbers is fairly small in comparison to most other watches or GPS devices I’m familiar with. If you have difficulty with small readouts, this might be problematic, but luckily for me it’s just a minor inconvenience.
Aside from those issues, the Soleus 1.0 is everything I want in a GPS – and more importantly, it doesn’t bother with the things I don’t want. I suspect that I’m not the only one who appreciates a simple, straightforward GPS, and there could potentially be a big market for something like this - a highly accurate device that tells you how far and fast you’re running, for a price that won’t set you too far back.
The Soleus GPS 1.0 normally retails for $99, but you can currently find them on sale for $87 from Amazon.com.
*Product provided by Soleus
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