Soleus GPS 1.0 Watch Review: A Minimalist GPS Watch at a Minimalist Price

Soleus GPS 1.0Although I tend toward minimalism in my footwear, I’m a major tech geek and stats junkie, and a GPS watch is a constant companion on my runs. I’ve flirted with the thought of running “naked” more often as espoused by my friends Mossy and Robbo of the Naked Runners Podcast, but I can’t seem to bring myself to the point of actually ditching the little data collector on my wrist.

For the past 3 or so years I’ve been running with my reliable old Garmin Forerunner 205 or a Garmin 305 that I bought for use by students in my Exercise Physiology class (the Garmin Forerunner 205 was actually one of the first pieces of running gear that I reviewed on this blog). Both are incredible little watches – though rather large, they give me a ton of information and they have far exceeded my expectations in terms of durability and battery life. Both watches have been rock solid and still have plenty of life left in them.

My one complaint about the Garmin 205/305 is that their large size makes them a poor choice for wearing around as an everyday watch when not in use for running. This necessitates popping the watch on and off prior to and after runs, and also requires that I remember to bring the watch with me if I plan to run at work. This is not a big deal, but I’ve long coveted a GPS watch that could also serve as a full time wristwatch.

Back in early December, I received an offer from Soleus to try out their first ever GPS watch (disclosure: the Soleus GPS 1.0 reviewed here is a media sample provided free of charge by the manufacturer). Soleus has been around for a bit, and they specialize in affordable, colorful stopwatches for active people. I was intrigued by the watch for two reasons: 1) it looked slim enough to use as an everyday watch, and 2) it was priced at under $100, which is quite affordable for a GPS watch, thus making the technology accessible to a larger user base.

Here’s how Soleus describes the GPS 1.0:

Our brand new Soleus GPS 1.0 has everything you need, nothing you don’t.  Simple, easy to use digital watch that will accurately track your speed and distance.  Auto lap splits at every mile and night light mode helps for your late night runs. Our GPS 1.0 knows exactly where to find the same global positioning satellites orbiting miles above the Earth that are going to help you navigate your run, walk, or hike.

You can even Personalize your Soleus GPS 1.0 by inputting your personal data to track calories burned during that rough exercise routine.

Best feature is its compact design. One of the smallest GPS watches on the market today for your wrist.

Soleus GPS 1.0 Wrist Top

I’ll start by saying that the Soleus GPS 1.0 works pretty much as advertised. It’s a simple watch with a fairly low-profile form factor, which means that it’s plenty suitable for all-day wear. When you’re ready to run, the GPS is easily turned on by pressing the yellow “GPS” button on the left hand side of the watch (see photo above). Syncing takes about the same amount of time as the Garmin 205/305, so I have no major complaints about that. Once you’re ready to go the watch will use the GPS to calculate and display your current speed or pace (min/mile), and distance traveled. That’s pretty much it – no frills with this watch. However, for the vast majority of my runs, this is really all the data that I need. At the end of the run you can get your total distance and average pace for the entire run, as well as for each lap (you can set the watch to auto-lap every 0.5, 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 miles).

Soleus GPS 1.0 Wrist Side

Given that the Soleus GPS 1.0 only really provides two metrics (current speed/pace and distance), the big question is how accurately they are reported. I’ve now run with the Soleus on one wrist and the Garmin 305 on the other on several occasions – I’ve been extremely happy with the accuracy of my Garmin after several years of constant use so I find it a useful benchmark on which to base a comparison. I’ve found that current pace on the Soleus seems to not track closely with what is shown on the Garmin (or with my self-perceived effort), possibly due to the Garmin recording waypoints more frequently or the Soleus using some sort of smoothing algorithm. The Soleus doesn’t seem to jump around as much, but it also therefore doesn’t seem to as closely track sudden changes in pace. For real-time pace measurement I’d give the edge to the Garmin 305.

In terms of recording average pace and distance, the Soleus is spot-on. Comparing the results between the Garmin and the Soleus at the end of a run demonstrates a strong congruence between the two watches. As such, although the Soleus does not seem as good at moment-to-moment pace reporting, the average pace reported for the run matches very closely what is reported by my Garmin. Thus, I’m wondering if a firmware update might allow for alternate ways to report current pace on the Soleus watch.

Perhaps the biggest limitation of the Soleus GPS 1.0 is that it currently has no mechanism for uploading data to a computer. This is the main deal-breaker for me as I upload all of my workouts to Sporttracks – doing this manually gets old quick. However, in his recent (excellent!) review of the Soleus watch, DC Rainmaker reports that uploading support should be coming soon (unfortunately at additional cost for a peripheral connector, but should still probably cost less combined than other GPS watches on the market).

Battery life has so far been excellent. I can use the watch for well over a week without need for a recharge as long as I shut the GPS off in between uses (very easy to do). Charging is accomplished via a USB clip cable, and the watch recharges quite quickly – no complaints.

Conclusion

All in all, this is a very nice little GPS watch at a very reasonable price (currently $89 at Amazon, similar pricing at Running Warehouse). Pluses are the low price, low profile form factor, long battery life, and accurate recording of average pace and run distance. Minuses are somewhat iffy current pace reporting, inability to upload data to a computer, and limited data field options on the watch face (most of these could probably be improved via firmware updates and the planned addition of a peripheral uploading device).

If all you need in a GPS watch is a measure of how far you ran and what your average pace was, then this watch is a fine choice. If you’d like a bit more data and the ability to upload to a computer, then springing for a more expensive watch might make sense. I still love my Garmin 205 and 305, and these can be purchased quite cheap nowadays, with the only real downside in my opinion being their large size. If you want a watch that does it all and more (but at a higher price), stay tuned for my review of the Motorola Motoactv, which has pretty much become my full-time watch these days. 

About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. Katiematthews says:

    Ok this is my first gps watch and need some help. I’m pretty techy but I’m struggling to get going with this. It might be because I’m new to the concept of gps watches but I don’t understand what a chronograph is for what the use of the laps feature is. Can anybody help? I’m sure once I figure this out I’ll be fine. Thanks

    • Pete Larson says:

      The chrono is just a stopwatch timer. You need to set it to Run I think to activate the GPS, or press the GPS button. Don’t have the watch with me, so going of my memory – hope I don’t confuse even more!

  2. Whitee2009 says:

    i have not managed to program this watch to suit my needs it takes forever to find GPS by which time I have completed a mile or two ,I eventually took it back to the shop and they programmed it for me but it is not user friendly an still have not worked out how to clear it. I intend to sell it and buy something else. 

  3. Nice review. I’ve been carrying my Droid and using Endomondo to track runs (but I log it manually) when I’m not running familiar routes (that I already have mapped). I’ve been looking for an arm band to carry it instead of the belt clip. This just may be the thing to replace both on runs.

    How’s the pickup when you get into tree-covered areas?

  4. Dave Robertson says:

    Maybe you should consider coming to one of our Running-Gadgets Anonymous meetings:

    ‘Hi. I’m Pete & I have a GPS problem…’

    As a recovering tech/stats addict myself I have had to learn that just because a run isn’t recorded on a GPS doesn’t mean it didnt happen!

    But it’s good to see that at least the devices themselves are becoming more naked & stripped back.

    Cheers,

    Robbo (The Naked Runners)

  5. john pouchot says:

    Can you take splits on the watch other then the automatic mile or what not splits. Say I want to time someones mile and take a split every quarter on a track, but I myself am not running. Basically, my question is can it function as a normal stop watch?

  6. Great review – I just got one of these, so I’m looking forward to the comparison. It may be hard to move away from my 205, but I really don’t do anything with all the extra data anyway.

  7. Pete – you still using this watch? How’s it working out? C

  8. Hi, isnt the display too small to read?

  9. Lloyd Bysshe says:

    Flawless technology it is. I don’t have words to explain its beauty. Thanks for this article.

  10. Motorola Motoactv Guide says:

    Thanks for reviewing the Soleus, if I was in the market for a cheaper GPS watch I’d probably go for it, but at the moment I’m saving up for a Motoactv (http://www.motorolamotoactv.com). Should be able to afford it after this month’s pay check!

    • Pete Larson says:

      I recently reviewed the MotoActv as well – cool device but it has some issues.
      Sent from my iPad

  11. I had a Garmin 305 for 3 years, and just upgraded to the new 605. The form factor is fantastic – I actually wear it as a regular watch. And the performance is as good as, or better than the 305. 
    The price is steep thought. If this Soleus has good accuracy and performance it could give Garmin a ‘run’ for their money!

  12. therealting says:

    Great review. I have to say that because I listen to music or audiobooks on my iPhone when running and use the Walkmeter app to track my runs I’ve never considered using a GPS watch – the app also has the advantages of reading out my time and pace info to me through my headphones, automatic upload of info to Dailymile, Twitter etc and being able to carry all my run information with me all the time. Is this something you’ve tried, Pete?

  13. Love Garmin says:

    Thanks for the insight – I had a Garmin Forerunner 210  for 5 years.Performance of this watch is as fantastic as it can be 

  14. Brian Martin says:

    Sounds like my kind of GPS Pete, does it easily display pace per km? Working in miles does my head in!

    • Yes, it does have that option. In fact, I just ran my first run in a Soleus watch last night and was so mad at how many miles it said I ran … turns out the default was km.

      • Pete Larson says:

        To follow up as well – forgot to mention that it does have the miles/km option. And word is the upload device should be coming in April.

  15. Arun Akula says:

    I bought a Soleus Watch in Singapore and within a couple of months, the plastic on the back side of the watch (not the strap part) started disintegrating. I called the local service partner (Crystal Time) and to my dismay, they refused to even have a look at the issue citing that outer parts don’t come under warranty. I wrote to Soleus US and had a lukewarm response. Beware of buying this watch outside of US and Canada. Their service sucks.

  16. I have recently purchased the Soleus GPS watch and I really wanted it to work as stated in this this review. However, the GPS funtion is terrible. On five tries it conencted only twice, once it took 45 minutes and once 30 minutes. On both occassions I ran with ppl with other GPS watches (I wont mention types), and they connected within minutes. This morning I walked to work with it (20 minutes) and it did not connect. It just searches for the GPS signal endlessly. Very frustrating.

    Further, there is no intuitive way to clear the run and start a new run.

    Note, I am a techy, and my partner owns a GPS watch which I frequently used.

    I am trying to send this watch back for a refund. Its true what they say, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Speak Your Mind

*

**Featured Running Gear Sale: Shoebuy - 20% Off Skechers Performance shoes and 20% OFF all technical running shoes with code 20APRIL (through 5/1)

Have a question about running shoes? Need helping choosing your next pair? Get help in the Runblogger Forum.

SAVE $$$ ON RUNNING SHOES AND GEAR
If you'd like to support the work done here on Runblogger, please consider making your next running shoe or gear purchase from one of the retailers below - you'll likely save a bit of $$$, and I'll get a small commission to help keep the site running and the blog posts flowing. Thank you for your support!

Running Warehouse - 10% Off With Code RUNBLOG10 (some exclusions apply)
TriVillage - 18% Off With Code RBTri18 (some exclusions apply)
Clever Training - 10% Off With Code RunBlogXJT (some exclusions apply)
Sportsshoes.com - UK-based but ships globally