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author : Iron MaYden
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Product Review: Nike MP3 Run digital audio player with pedometer. Get the skinny on accuracy and userability.

By TypeA Girl Pilot
B.T.com Product Reviewer



The Product: MP3 Run - MP3 Player and Pedometer
The Maker: Nike and Royal Philips

The Price: $250 to $299
The Rating: 5 out of 10
The Skinny: Combing an MP3 Player and a pedometer seems like a great concept. But can this device please the music lover while satisfying the data crunching propensity in triathletes? The MP3Run is a wonderful gadget but some technology incompatibilities and data inaccuracies leave this review a bit lukewarm.

Nike MP3 RunThe Basics:
In July 2004, Nike and Royal Philips Electronics released the MP3Run, also known as the PSA 260. This nifty gadget incorporates an MP3 player and a wireless shoe-attached pedometer that records your distance, total time, and average pace. The information recorded from your run is transmitted using Bluetooth technology from the sensor to the MP3 unit, which you in turn can download the information onto your PC. From there, you also have the option to transfer that data to www.nikerunning.com a website by Nike that allows you to view your data in graphical form. (Photo courtesy Nike/Philips)


Music to My Ears
This sleek, weather and sweat proof MP3 player device also has an FM radio in the event that you tire of the music you upload into it – you can have up 4 hours of MP3 music or 8 hours of WMA formatted music, a total of 256 MB built in memory. It’s rechargeable battery is rated for 12 hours of power, but my tests show that it provides enough juice for up to 10 hours of listening pleasure.

I was pleasantly surprised at the unit’s strong reception of FM radio signals, however, the radio signal reception is inhibited when you are using the pedometer! When Philips was contacted regarding this, it was explained that the transmission from the pedometer and reception of FM radio signals use the same port – the pedometer reception taking priority over the FM radio signals. Never mind that there are 10 presets for your favorite radio stations. I don’t know why the pedometer and FM radio signals use the same port? The bottom line is that the radio is unusable when you are using the pedometer.

I also experienced very slight pauses in the music playback while using the pedometer. Philips’ technical service explained to me that the phenomena was due to using both MP3 and WMA files on my player and that the pauses are a result of the player trying to read ahead as it goes back and forth from one format to another. However, when just listening to music without using the pedometer, there are no pauses in the music. I could not get an explanation of the pauses as it relates to pedometer usage, but once all the music was downloaded into the MP3 player with the same format, there were no pauses when using the pedometer.

The MP3 player comes with adjustable wrap around over-the-ear earbuds, and I don’t feel that the player’s volume is very loud, even with a change of earphones. At maximum volume, I feel the sound is restricted to a loud enough audible level to enjoy your music, but not as loud as other MP3 players I’ve used. Probably best for outdoor running so you can be safely aware of your surroundings.

Speaking of safety, the MP3 unit also has a built in strobe light that you can turn on for higher visibility during low-level lighting running conditions.

Getting the Run Around
The pedometer is a very light device, easily attachable to the top of your shoelaces and undetectable to the wearer while running. It has a 2-D sensor that monitors accelerations and decelerations of your stride and transmits that approximately 1,000 times/sec to the MP3 unit. When you are ready to use the unit, you simply press the ON button of the AAA-battery powered pedometer, then you press another button on the MP3 to start the recording. Once you are running, a separate button may be pressed, and a synthesized voice will announce your distance ran and average pace over the earphones. It is convenient inasmuch that you don’t have to worry about trying to read something while you are running. You can get your run data read back on demand, every 5 minutes, or every mile. One AAA-battery will last approximately 40 hours of running time.

Nike touts the pedometer accuracy straight out of the box, based on a default setting. If it was perfectly accurate out of the box, then it should have read 400 meters upon one loop around the track as I wore it. There was a 15-meter difference between the default setting and my own stride. By calibrating it (using a 400 m track as the baseline measurement), I was able to set the pedometer to my stride. I’ve run around 20 miles along my measured 1-mile route, and have only found it to shortchange me by less than .05 miles under dry, slush-free conditions.

Recently, I test ran it for two runs on slushy and somewhat icy road conditions. I ran a 10-mile run and had to use my “cautionary stride” so I wouldn’t lose my footing under such conditions and it was off by to .3 miles total, erring on the shorter side. On an 8-mile run in similar conditions, I only noticed it to be off twice by about .1 mile along 1-mile stretches.

When transferring the data from the MP3 player to the PC, the run data presented is basically very generic in nature, only showing your total time run, distance, and average pace. When the data is transferred to Nike’s running website, the same information is presented in other various forms such as on a calendar and in various graphical forms. The website presentation is very flashy, but there is no place that shows mileage time splits. I live in rolling hills and to me, this information is interesting to me. Even if I ran in mostly flat terrain, I would still be interested in my mileage splits without having to use my sports watch.

The Bottomline
Overall, I feel that the pedometer is accurate enough for the fitness athlete who runs in consistent road conditions. The accuracy would be off though as you go from hilly dirt trails to the road. The device is “trained” to calibrate using a user’s stride over a 400-meter distance. If a runner whose steadily improves this will result in a change in stride and the runner would have to recalibrate the MP3 Run repeatedly. I do not see how a trail runner could calibrate this device for it to provide any useful information.

The RunMP3 retails from $250 to $299, an expensive cost for a product with so many flaws. I might be able to see myself purchasing this item for that price if it also had a heart rate monitoring function.

Having two gadgets in one set is convenient, but for the numbers conscious trainer who enjoys varying his or her running surfaces (i.e. from hilly trails to flat, straight pavement), I don’t believe they would be satisfied with this product. Personally for me, as a marginally slow runner, I like to know which ones, if any, of my miles were even 10 seconds faster. I’d like to see mileage splits from this software, and would gladly trade the strobe light for mileage splits!

For the hardcore music lover this unit offers plenty of space for your favorite music and its limited audio volume may be disappointing. For radio lovers who enjoy listening to their favorite DJs while they run, this would be an ideal addition to their training equipment…if they didn’t care about using the pedometer.

On a scale of 1-10, I give this product a generous 5. It’s missing some big ingredients – it doesn’t’ tell me what my mileage splits are and I can’t listen to the FM radio if I’m too lazy to change the music and have the pedometer work and you’ll have problems with accuracy taking it from the trail to the road.



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date: March 13, 2005

Iron MaYden