Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Hello, MOTOACTV: a product review

Anyone who knows me knows that I love my Garmin Forerunner 305.

Well, loved my Garmin.

After nearly 2 years, my favorite training tool was beginning to fail me. It was taking forever to find a satellite. It was taking forever to load workouts - if they even loaded. It was crashing my laptop at any chance it got.

I tried to make things better between us. I  spoke with customer service (the Garmin folks are great!) and got the crash issue resolved. For a short period. I ordered a new USB connector thingy (technical term) from Amazon but it only made it apparent that I was going to need a new cradle - if not a new Garmin. I was scouting discounts and trying to draft a creative, witty proposal to Mark on why we needed to forgo a new dresser for a new Garmin when I got an email.

A very interesting email.

The folks at MOTOACTV had seen my story on Yahoo! and read on this here blog that I had just registered for the Martian half-marathon. I have newish shoes and a pair of tights to get me through training but what I didn't have was a MOTOACTV.

The MOTOACTV, I was told, is an all-in-one GPS fitness tracker and smart music player. It's  the perfect companion to help motivate, track, and share workouts. The device features running, biking, elliptical and stair climbing settings. (No swimming for you, you crazy triathletes.)

After some reading and wallet soul searching, I decided that I had nothing to lose by accepting the generous offer. Within a few short days, I was sent an 8GB MOTOACTV with several accessories - the wrist band, the arm band and the bike mount.

It took me a few days to get everything set up and ready (I got it just before Mark went away for the weekend) but soon enough we were off and running ... literally.

Like any relationship, it took us some time to get to know each other but after two weeks and 10 or so runs, I'm ready to share my thoughts.

Oh, you're just a dainty little thing. Weighing in at 35 grams, the MOTOACTV feels significantly lighter than the hefty Garmin Forerunner 305. It is, however, just as big dimension-wise.

Like an iPhone but not
. Once I got past just how light this thing was, I was enamored with the display. It was like switching from an old Nokia phone to an iPhone. The display is bright and colorful, and the menus are accessed through touch. I felt like the menus made sense, and it was easy to navigate the system to find what I wanted. Also, the color display makes it much easier to see things like pace, mileage, etc. even in the early morning hours. The only downside is that in the winter you will need to take off a glove or have those fancy tech gloves to get to what you want.

Locating, locating, locating. One of my complaints with the Forerunner 305 was just how long it took to find a satellite. It seemed like forever. And by forever, I mean at least a tenth of a mile walk and sometimes longer. The MOTOACTV has a countdown timer to show you how long it takes. For me it's never been longer than 30 seconds and is usually in the 10 second range.

Glitches. I've had a couple times where things weren't working just right. One of my first times out with the MOTOACTV, I hit something and the display changed. I could no longer see my pace, which was crucial as I was doing a tempo run. Another time, the pace showed just "---" as if I lost satellite but I hadn't. I knew that because it showed a changing distance. When I sync'ed the workout, it showed paces for those splits.

End workout. Damnit! I am not a non-stop runner. We pause for poopy breaks (Denali, not me) and intersections and checks on Miles. You can use an autopause setting (which I hated - took 5+ seconds to pause and didn't restart automatically) or you can manually stop-start the watch by pressing a button at the top of the device. However, when doing so it's too easy to accidentally swipe the screen and end the workout. Seriously, my long run on Sunday was in three parts because of it. It would be nice if there was an "are you sure" feature after pressing end workout.

Sync it to me. After having issues syncing my Garmin, I think the sync feature might be my favorite. Once you end your workout and walk in your house, with a few finger strokes, you can sync your workout via a wifi connection. The information is uploaded to your MOTOACTV profile, where you can look at splits, route and other features.

Music to my ears. While I'm not one to listen to music during most runs because I have the stroller, it is nice to have a playlist to zone out to. MOTOACTV users can sync their music via iTunes (or other things I'm sure) directly to the device, eliminating the need for a Garmin and an iPod. You can sync as much as you want but I created a playlist in iTunes and uploaded just that because 8GB fills up fast when you factor in the space the maps require.

The cool thing about the music feature isn't that you can listen to "Bye Bye Bye" during your 5K - it's that you can see how fast you ran to that song during your 5K when you sync your workout.

For instance, at my recent 5K, I ran my fastest splits to "Bye Bye Bye" and "Jai Ho" and my slowest to "Set Fire to the Rain" and "ET." If I need to run fast, I should listen to the first two. If I need to keep pace in check, Adele's my girl.

Accessorize your life. When you get the MOTOACTV, you get the MOTOACTV - and that's it. The wristband, the armband, bike mount - those are all extra. One could easily spend the equivalent of the device on the accessories, especially if you get the wireless headphones and chest strap (want this!). Sure, it's nice to get just what you need but this girl likes options and options are expensive.

Final thoughts. I like the MOTOACTV. And not just because I got it for free. You see, we've become buddies and I can't imagine going back to the Garmin. Unless I get into triathlons but that's a whole other story ...

Disclosure: The MOTOACTV and accessories were given to me but all opinions are my own.


  1. Sounds like a very fancy running watch. I love how it syncs with music and is easy to upload to the computer. My Garmin is getting a little older and takes a while to find satellites. Might need to look into this watch.

  2. Sounds interesting. I'm not a runner or athlete, but I have an app on my Droid that does sort of the same thing, and I use it when I go for a walk. It's called Cardio Trainer, and it shows a map of where you walk, tells your pace, distance, time, calories, and also plays the music stored in my phone. It's a neat tool to have.