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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Timex Run Trainer

After considering almost every GPS watch available to replace the Garmin 110, my first option was the cool looking Motorola Motoactv. It is packed full of features and most important of all was available in Singapore. But in the end for one reason or another, I settled for a more time tested and reputable watch from an established watch company, Timex and not some pseudo gadget company.

After comparing the 3 models available from Timex, I settled for the Timex Run Trainer. The Timex Global Trainer is Timex's first GPS watch. A gigantic size watch also crammed full of features but  was simply too big for my liking. The latest Timex GPS watch is the Marathon GPS. This was Timex answer to the Garmin 210 and the low end GPS watch. The Run Trainer was right in between. And so it won me over with   the features, size and the pricing. 

First the size. Compare it to the Garmin 110, it is not much bigger. In fact it looks better on my wrist than the Garmin 110. DC Rainmaker has a very nice photo comparison of the various GPS watch here.

Display Mode
Because of its size, it has very big display making  it very easy to read while on the run. This in effect makes up for the very dim indigo blue light that Times uses on its watches which is almost useless. Note the extra big characters in the middle row. This is double the size of the other rows. In fact, the watch can be customised to display 3 or 4 lines of data.

This is the 4 lines display layout. The text are visibly smaller but still quite readable during daylight. Apart from being able to display either 3 or 4 lines of data, Timex allowed for 3 pages of customisation with any one of them being the default display screen.

The setup for the display and in fact everything else can be done on the watch but since there are so many features, it is easier to do it on the Timex Device Agent software. This is the set up for my display.There is an mind boggling list of data that can be displayed that it took me a few tries before I settled on what I want and how to read them.  

The other most critical thing about a GPS watch is of course the GPS function. Here, I am a little dismayed by its reliability. At my home, under my block of flat, it took almost 5 minutes to detect the GPS signal. This was not just once but repeatedly even though the manual had stated that it can "learn" the location. But in other area, the pickup was almost instantaneous.

Also, during my last run at MacRitchie, I strapped the broken down Garmin 110 to my hydration bag and took it along for the ride. The distance reading was 21.82km for it against 21.14km for the Timex Run Trainer, a quite drastic difference of almost 700 metres. But on about route from my home to Meridien JC, it was almost identical at 2.12km.

Now for a summary of the features.

Interval Mode
In my opinion, the most value for money feature on this watch is the Interval mode. One can customise an almost unlimited variation of interval training and save these setting for easy retrieval. You can create an interval of x number of sets and repeats with each set being based on distance, timing, pace, heart rate or altitude.  I can created a simple one with a warm up of 10 minutes, run 400 metres(interval 1) and rest 30 seconds (interval 2) and repeat for say 15 times with a cool down of another 10 minutes. I can also go for a more fancy setup with say a warm up, interval 1 - run 5 minutes, interval 2 - rest 30 seconds, interval 3 - run 1 km, interval 4 - rest 30 seconds, and so on....In fact again the permutations is totally up to one's imagination!

Chrono Mode
The Chrono mode is the main run mode. The value add here are the "hands free" auto start and auto stop where you can set the pace or time threshold  for the watch to autostart and stop. This is particularly useful for traffic lights, toilet breaks etc but I must admit I find the auto start so irritating because it auto start by itself even before I was ready to start my run. Probably my threshold was set too low but I turned it off. 

Another feature is the reminder for drink and food, something that I have yet to use but which people doing long distance run might find useful.

And the auto split - unlike the Garmin 110 which only has a few options, the auto split here is totally customisable and I can choose to split at any distance or even time. Of course it can be turn off too.

Timer Mode
There is also a Timer mode which is the usual countdown timer that is available in most chrono watch.This is something I understand is not available on most of the Garmin watches although personally with its powerful interval mode, I don't think this Timer Mode will be really used unless one use it to countdown sets of body weight exercises like crunches.

Recovery Mode
I haven't make use of this yet so I am not too sure how it works. Reading the manual, I believe this is for the wearer to check how fast the heartbeat normalise. For this to work, I think it has to be paired with the optional chest strap.

Alarm Mode
This one needs no explanation. It is simply an alarm clock function but one can set up to 5 alarms.

Configure Mode
This is where one configures the watch and the users from weight to sex, to heart rate, pace etc etc etc. A ziillion information can be configured here but I settled only for the minimal.

Sensor Mode
The Timex Run Trainer can be paired with a heart strap or a foot pod for running indoor. These are optional purchase but I understand it can be paired with any ANT+ devices.

Review Mode
On the watch, there is a Review mode which allow the user to view the result of the last 15 workouts in all its full glory. But best of all, if the total distance is not cleared, the first screen will show the total distance ran on the watch: 

Watch Mode
Finally there is the watch mode. After all, it is still a watch. The watch can be customised to display up to 3 time zones and can display time based on the GPS. Battery life in Watch mode is touted to be up to 10 weeks and 10 hours on GPS mode. Personally I don't think too much of these type of promises as the battery invariably starts to deteriorate after several recharging.The Timex Run Trainer is also waterproof up to 50 metres.

Ir is still not available in Singapore even though it has been launched for quite sometime in the States. Over there, it is currently retailing for about USD190.00 without the heart rate strap and footpod. I got a friend to get it for me while she was over there for a chance and the conversion rate turn up to be only S$243.00 much cheaper and value for money than the Garmin 210 which is retailing her for S$260. 

Feature for feature, cost for cost, I will say this is the better option than its closest competitor, the Garmin 210 or the Nike GPS watch which has only recently been launched in Singapore and sells for about S$270.00

Apart from the Timex Device Agent software, data can be uploaded to the Training Peak online program. Now that is another awesome program reserve for another lengthy review.

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