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Nike+ SportBand review

Runners are usually a placid bunch, but a seemingly harmless question has recently split them into fiercely opposing camps – with music, or without?Th

Runners are usually a placid bunch, but a seemingly harmless question has recently split them into fiercely opposing camps – with music, or without?Those who use MP3 players claim they can’t run without tunes to move their feet. But running purists reckon using earphones inhibits your balance and many marathons have even banned them. Which is why, having catered for music lovers with the Nike+iPod kit, Nike has now released the SportBand.The SportBand is effectively the Nike+iPod system without music. For £40 you get a watch that’s smaller but similar in style to the Amp+, and a sensor, which you slot into your Nike+ shoes (or any trainers if you cheat with a SwitchEasy Runaway).SetupIt’s even easier to set up than Nike+iPod. Before you hit the pavements, you need to download the SportBand widget on your computer. This means you can bypass iTunes when it comes to uploading your run’s stats, and lets you calibrate the SportBand.Calibration is, by the way, recommended. I found the SportBand to be accurate on my short runs, but when our video editor borrowed an un-calibrated sample for the London Marathon it measured that he’d only run 11.62 miles on the 26-mile course. This may also have been down to connection issues, although it should be said that this was the only time I encountered such problems.DesignThe SportBand itself is nicely designed, if a little flawed. The clever part is that the ‘Link’ (the face of the watch) is detachable, and plugs straight into your computer’s USB port. You get 14 hours of juice from 2 hours of charging, and the Link can store up to 28 hours of run info (memory is freed every time you plug it into your computer).Nike has also learned a couple of design lessons from the Amp+. You don’t need to cut the strap to size (it’s adjustable) and the SportBand can actually permanently show the time, rather than disappearing after a button press.But you still won’t want to use it as your main watch. The main problem is the screen. It’s just about okay in daylight but, without a backlight, it’s very difficult to read if you’re running in darkness at night. And the curved design of the ‘Link’ doesn’t fit into the USB port too well if you’re using a slim laptop on a table. UsabilityApart from this, it’s a doddle to use when you hit the pavements. There are only two buttons – the ‘toggle’ beneath the screen and the main button on the Link. To get running you just hold the main button for three seconds to establish a connection, and press it once to start and stop. The toggle lets you scroll through stats while you’re running, and when you’ve finished lets you scroll through the time of day, your last run data, your total weekly miles and, most satisfyingly, your total cumulative miles.Uploading your run’s stats couldn’t be slicker. Pop it in the USB port and the widget opens automatically and, if you have an internet connection, so does nikeplus.com. From there you can fiddle around with the excellent new Coach functions and challenges to make sure you don’t slip back into your doughnut-scoffing ways.  Overall    The SportBand is a great new gadget for runners who don’t need thrash-metal on tap to get through their sessions. I like the way you can use it with up to eight sensors, which is great if you want to share it between people or use different trainers, and it couldn’t be simpler to operate. But the small screen, lack of a backlight and occasional accuracy problems see it fall just short of top marks.Pros Very easy to set up and use. Can be used with up to eight sensors. ConsNeeds calibrating for full accuracy. No backlight on screen makes it hard to read in darkness. Battery not removable.

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