Saturday, May 11, 2013

Product Test – Soleus Fit 1.0 GPS Watch



With the advent of the portable heart rate monitor in the mid 70’s and the subsequent marketing of these devises as a tool for training professional athletes, it was not going to be long before products would be made available to the general public at a price point most consumers could afford. The same transition happened in the area of portable GPS devices. Some of the early Garmin and Timex GPS devices aimed at the running market had large receivers that strapped to the arm with a watch like device providing the data feedback. Today these devices are not much larger than a normal watch. The problem with most of these devices is the cost. It is easy to spend in the neighbourhood of $350 for a good quality brand name. Granted this usually also comes with a software that allows you to monitor and track your runs, in the case of the Garmin plotting the runs on google maps, as well as heart rate, elevation and other not always necessary information. But for many recreational runners these higher end GPS devises are a bit overkill and not to mention expensive. So what are the options?
Soleus Fit 1.0 (image from Soleus web site)

Well Soleos Running and specifically their Fit 1.0 GPS Watch is a good entry level GPS device or something for the casual runner who does not need or want all the bells and whistles found in higher end brands. I should be clear here that Soleos also does have a more advanced GPS watch in its line, namely the GPS 3.0, but at a $199 price tag it is still much less expensive than other devices with similar capabilities on the market. But let me get back to the Fit 1.0.

So the Fit 1.0 with its bargain basement $100 price tag still provides the basic information most runners will want minus heart rate capability. Pace, time running, total distance, a chronograph (stopwatch) and calorie counter are all standard features with this unit. The unit is also water resistant but should not be used, according to the instruction manual, for water sports.

Likes: The unit looks and feels like a normal watch and the band and unit are comfortable in everyday use. The body of the unit is a bit thinker than most watches but I wore it over a number of days at work with both long and short sleeve shirts and never felt any discomfort. No one will ask you about the watch unlike wearing a Garmin 305 to work which will definitely result in comments from colleagues!!  “Hey Peter I thought you were a Geographer...afraid of getting lost???”

I should be up front at this point on my overall view of watches - I am generally not a watch wearer....I hate anything around my wrist, yet the times I wore the Soleus to work or on two occasions on long flights, the unit did not feel much different from a normal watch that I also sometimes wear.

In comparison to my Garmin 305 which I use for running, the Soleus was actually more comfortable on my wrist and tended not to feel heavy or cause any annoying discomfort as the run progressed. The data face is also very easy to glance at and get the information and the light provides enough illumination in low light situations where you don’t have to look for a street light to see what time it is. I also was impressed with the battery capacity and its ability to withstand a couple of runs I did while in cold Prince Albert Saskatchewan where the temp at the time of the run was -20C (that’s without adding wind chill). My Garmin on the same run (I wore both for comparison) was obviously affected by the cold and battery drain was more pronounced on the Garmin than the Soleus.

Dislikes: Well not so much a dislike as a concern or caution for other users. The Unit seems to not be totally accurate in its distance measurements. On two different runs, one of 20km and one of 25km, the distance was approx 400m to 500m off from the same distance recorded on the Garmin. This would mean that if you plan to run 25km and are using the Soleus you should add another half kilometre to hit the distance. The other dislike is the inability with the Fit 1.0 to download the data. Not a big deal but if you want to keep track of your runs this would be a nice feature – please note*** the Soleus web site now indicates that this model can download data. A $25 cable would be required.

Finally the setup and turning on and off the GPS is not as intuitive as the Garmin, or maybe after three years of use it is just me!!! But I have to say now that I have used the Soleus Fit 1.0 a few times I know what buttons to push to get the required info. Practice makes perfect!!

The issue of charging and charge time is likely to be something many of you will want to know about.  I have not yet worn the Soleus in GPS mode for more than 3 hours so I cannot say with certainty what the battery life of the unit is in constant GPS mode. What I can tell you is that prior to writing this review I charged it up three weeks ago, used it for a 2.5 hour run in GPS mode and as of this writing still have a half battery charge. That is over 21 days and one run with a single charge. In comparison the Garmin will give you an average of 12 hours on GPS (I have not used the Garmin for longer than 12 hours and always in GPS mode since the watch/time function is very limited). Charging the Soleus is straight forward with a USB connection.  So Yes you have to charge the unit. But this is like any other GPS unit and with the Soleus very easy and straight forward.

Overall I would recommend the Soleus Fit 1.0 to any runner looking for an inexpensive GPS or as a backup GPS. The Soleus also offers an option for someone who wants the everyday use of a watch with the added GPS feature for the run at lunch or on the way home after work.  With a price range of $99 for the basic GPS unit to $199 for the fully loaded model the Soleus Running GPS watch is a good buy for any runner or endurance athlete.

For more information on the Soleus Fit 1.0 check out Soleus Running at www.soleusrunning.com.

A special note of thanks to my good friends at La Foulee Sportive  www.lafouleesportive.com, in Gatineau, Quebec. They provided me with the watch at a greatly discounted price to which I was able to do this review. Merci  Martin and Alain for your support.

Just a preview on a few other upcoming reports..... 1)The Victory Drop Bag; 2)A Gel Taste Test; 3)Dates and Beef Jerky: A Running Food Option; and 4)Selecting a Running Store.