Although 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.
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).
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.
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.