Does everything you could want from a fitness gadget, but at the cost of battery life
You’ll need to acquire GPS and heart rate measurements before setting off on a run; the watch won’t actually start monitoring until it secures both. It took roughly 20 seconds to get a heart rate reading, but over a minute to acquire a GPS lock. Once on the move, the watch displays your pace, time and heart rate, as well as distance covered. It can feel a little crowded, but at least all the relevant information is available at a glance.
Unfortunately if you’re more of a gym addict than outdoor runner, the Smart Run can only use its accelerometer and heart rate monitors to track your progress. When you add the data to the MiCoach website, it can’t provide feedback and there’s no treadmill setting on the watch itself; we had to use free workout mode, which doesn’t adjust to suit non-moving exercises. There are options to measure running, walking, cycling, Nordic Skiing (of all activities) and Other on the watch itself, although you can choose from a wider selection of sports and activities through the MiCoach website.
Unfortunately, features like Bluetooth music streaming and the light-based heart rate sensor have a negative impact on battery live. From a full charge first thing in the morning, you’ll be lucky if the Smart Run lasts an entire day – and that’s without using any of its battery-draining features like GPS, Wi-Fi sync or Bluetooth. If you go for a run, don’t expect more than four to five hours from a single charge. This is terrible compared to other fitness bands and watches, which typically last several days on a single charge, and even poor compared to the current crop of smart watches – the Samsung Galaxy Gear will last up to two days between recharges. A firmware update has reportedly improved battery life for some users, but we had to return our review sample before being able to test it fully.
The main culprit is the LCD screen, which never fully deactivates. Although the backlight isn’t at full brightness until you press the physical button below it, the dim backlight is still draining power. We would have preferred the screen to deactivate completely, waking at low brightness with one touch and reaching full brightness after a second press. You can manually adjust the brightness to 5% of its maximum to save power, but this makes the screen difficult to read in bright sunlight. On the plus side, the watch recharges from dead in around an hour, but you’ll be doing this frequently using the bundled charging dock and USB cable.
In spite of this major flaw, the MiCoach is still one of the most comprehensive fitness gadgets around. It eliminates the need for an MP3 player and separate heart rate monitor, has an in-depth training scheduler and doesn’t need to be connected to a PC to sync your data. However, battery life is a real stumbling block and the price is high; at £300 it’s more than £100 more than other fitness watches like the TomTom Multi-Sport. If you can live with the need to constantly recharge it, and want an all-in-one device with detailed training and feedback, the MiCoach is still worth a look, but ultimately we think a cheaper, less power-hungry gadget would be a better choice for most people.