(Pocket-lint) - Running watches seem to be two a penny these days, so what makes Adidas believe its miCoach Fit Smart running watch can stand out? We've been running with the wearable to find out.
Covered in silicon and available in white or black - and the black looks so much better than the white version - the Adidas Fit Smart is worn tightly on the wrist due to the inclusion of a built-in heart-rate monitor on its rear.
The minimal design features three oddly placed buttons on the front that allow you to spin through the menus, while the screen - which is just a matrix of 187 LEDs - is hidden behind the rubberised silicon shell. When a button is pressed the watch springs into life with that dot-matrix-style display shining through brightly.
The design is simple, with the strap offering multiple rungs to ensure a tight fit. It's available in two sizes, both 34mm wide and around 12mm deep, but the small model is 184mm long, while the large model is 207mm long. Best get your wrist measure out to ensure you buy the correct one.
Charging the Fit Smart is achieved via a magnetised cradle that comes in the box. Unlike the miCoach Smart Run, which we reviewed last year, the Fit Smart has a much better battery life per charge - up to around 10 hours. That means a number of sessions per charge.
Light-up your workouts
One of the key selling points of the Fit Smart watch, and one of its very good features, is the ability to not only track your heart rate as you run but to show where that sits in the five key zones. A clear colour-coded light-up bar to the side of the watch shows visible colours ranging from white to blue, through to green, yellow and red, to represent the very light, light, moderate, hard and maximum training zones. How hard you are working and, therefore, how hard your heart is beating, will determine what colour you are shown.
As you can imagine that is an incredibly powerful tool allowing you to quickly ascertain which training zone you are in and whether you need to speed up or slow down for your training needs. If you're trying to burn fat, for example, the advice is to run at around 60 per cent of your maximum heart rate, not at full sprint. Without having to find the exact number on the watch you can just glance for a colour, which is especially handy if you are doing interval training.
The process of setting this up is somewhat unusual, however, as the Fit Smart will ask you to run at 10 per cent through to 90 per cent of your running capability and base your heart rate readout on that to define the zones. Or by using the associated miCoach app it's possible to enter height, weight and age as the basis of maximum heart rate.
Phone or no phone
The Adidas Fit Smart does have the ability to work without a phone and will track your heart rate, speed and distance via its built-in accelerometer - but it's not nearly as precise as using GPS via a paired smartphone.
Download the Adidas miCoach Train and Run app on your phone and it's easy to pair the two so the watch can piggyback on the phone's GPS signal to improve accuracy. It also means that you can quickly and easily record your running sessions via the app without having to worry about syncing at a later date.
Without the GPS support you can expect the watch to be less accurate by a fair amount. We were finding around 500 meters of a 5km run weren't accounted for compared to other test running watches. Not a big deal if you are doing interval training, but frustrating if you are using it to pinpoint times for an upcoming race and looking to beat your personal best. Take a synched phone out with you, though, and there's no such issue to worry about.
It's also worth pointing out that this Adidas isn't designed as an always-on wearable that tracks your steps like some other casual wearables on the market. The Fit Smart is all about proper exercise sessions, with tracking only commencing when you activate a new session - and then you'll get around 10-hours of battery life, rather than a full day.
On a run
The Fit Smart's display and breakdown of information is clear and useful. We like that after each kilometre, for example, you can get spilt times of what you've done so far to see if you are on pace, while vital information like distance travelled, average pace, and current pace are also useful.
But it's not just about straightforward running. The watch can be programmed with other workouts via the app or online miCoach system. You can set specific goals such as 10k runs in a given time limit and it will help you achieve them. The watch will give basic instructions and vibrate when you need to change pace, but a lot of the information, and realising what you have to do and when, is down to intuition rather than having it spelled out for you.
After your running session you can quickly sync the data via Bluetooth to your phone. Adidas offers the miCoach app on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone so that's all the major camps catered for.
All the usual info is available so you'll get all you need to analyse (or brag about) your performance. Adidas takes things a step further by giving your run a score so you can rate it against other runs. It's not entirely clear how the score is calculated, but it's certainly yet another benchmark to work towards, albeit one that will have no meaning to the rest of the world outside the app.
The Adidas Fit Smart sits in a strange place because it's less comprehensive than some running watches on the market. Its design, which in white looks like some kind of medical instrument, isn't attractive enough to warrant wearing it all the time - but then this is something only for exercise sessions.
For £145 the inclusion of a decent heart-rate monitor will have appeal, and if you are interval training the addition of the coloured bar feature for quick-glance zone training is great.
The Fit Smart delivers an effective and efficient experience with battery life far superior to the company's earlier wearable device, the Smart Run. However, the reliance upon your phone to get usable accuracy via GPS is frustrating. A dedicated running watch, such as the TomTom Runner Cardio, has GPS built-in, so may be the preferable (and more expensive) choice.
Overall, the Adidas miCoach Fit Smart is the makings of a good product. If the price came down to £100 it would be an amazing entry point to a heart-rate monitor sports wearable. But as it stands, it's just good enough rather than great.