>Gears and Wears>Timex Run Trainer Review
Disclosure: this review might be biased because I am frustrated by Timex's refusal to publish documentation on how to communicate with their devices.
I purchased the Timex Run Trainer to support importation of its data. I wore the watch several times to collect data for testing. This is a review based on my brief experience with it. This is not a review of what the Timex Run Trainer has to offer. There are other very detailed reviews on the internet for that. Rather, I’ll talk about it from a usability standpoint.
The Run Trainer is Timex’s second attempt in making a single unit GPS geared for runners. The initial Global GPS Trainer is the size of a pizza box. The Run Trainer is a little bit smaller but it is still quite large compared to the latest Garmin equivalents. If you have a small wrist, then you will have trouble tightening the strap such that the watch won’t flop around with every step.
In the age of iPhones and iPhones, Timex is taking the opposite approach when it comes to GPS design. The watch has three buttons on the left and right sides. I like to use my thumb and index finger to steady the watch while I press the buttons. With the sides of the watch packed with buttons, it is hard to find a spot where my fingers won’t press the buttons by accident. Imagine doing this while running, it could be somewhat difficult.
The Timex Run Trainer is highly configurable. It seems like every mode (time of day, stop watch, count down, etc) can be customized. The documentation that came with the watch is practically useless. It took me a while to realize that each mode has its own configuration menu. I was used to having just one settings menu that allows me to configure everything in one place.
You can configure pretty much every aspect of the watch, which is nice in a geeky sort of way. Similar to the Garmin GPSes, you can figure the watch to display 3 or 4 lines of data. Each line can be configured to display time of day, duration, distance, pace, speed, instantaneous heart rate, average heart rate, altitude, etc. The problem I found was that despite the large watch, the numbers were small, especially when you set it to display 4 lines of data. The numbers were somewhat hard to read during the run.
The readability problem stems partly from the lack of contrast between the text and the background. You can configure the contrast (told you everything can be configured) but I didn’t find adjusting the contrast helped. Another problem is the Indiglo is very dim. Instead of lighting the background, the onscreen text is lit up. In order to see the numbers at night, I had to slow down or even stop to get a clear view. Garmin lights up the background, so the text is easier to read.
Of the few times that I used the Timex Run Trainer, it took over a minute to synchronize with the satellites. I ran with both the Garmin Forerunner 110 and the Timex Run Trainer once for comparison. The Forerunner synchronized with the satellites within 10 seconds while the Run Trainer took over a minute. In theory, it should take about the same amount of time as the Forerunner since they both use the same receiver chip.
When you switch to the stop watch (chronograph) mode, the GPS receiver is not turned on automatically. I had to explicitly press and hold another button to bring up a menu to turn on the GPS receiver. It’s a GPS watch and I presume that most people buy it for the GPS functionality. The GPS should come on automatically and turn off if it thinks you’re indoors.
I bought the version that came with the heart rate monitor. It is a soft strap and is quite comfortable. However, despite wetting the contacts before I go for the run, the readings were unrealistically inaccurate until I build up sufficient sweat. I think the problem is the contacts are smooth. In the hard strap, the contacts are grooved, so it traps moisture and keeps the contacts wet longer. Smooth contacts squeeze the moisture out so it dries out quicker.
The one thing I liked about the Timex Run Trainer is the contacts on the back of the watch. The pins on my Garmin Forerunner 110 are recessed. They are very hard to clean. As a result, my computer is having trouble detecting the Forerunner because the accumulated sweat is preventing the pins on the clip from making proper contacts with the electrodes on the watch. The contacts on the Timex Run Trainer are raised so cleaning them is very easy. The clip also goes on easily because I don’t have to align the 4 pins like I do with the Garmin Forerunner 110.
The only way to download the data from the GPS is by using the software provided by Training Peaks. I spoke with Timex reps and they said Timex has no plans on working with other software vendors. Training Peaks’ Device Agent is not a well written program. It downloads all the workouts from the GPS every single time instead of just downloading the new workouts. I only have several workouts on my GPS and it still takes about 10 seconds to download. Imagine if you have dozens of workouts. It will take progressively long as you record more workouts.
Below is a pace chart of the sample data. The steps in the graph suggests the GPS is storing the pace data at specific increments.
I like the Garmin devices more because they’re simple to operate. The Timex Run Trainer is still a generation behind Garmin in terms of size and usability. Even if Timex opens up support to all websites tomorrow and you can import your workouts directly into RA from your browser, I would still recommend the Garmin Forerunner family of GPSes.
I just got my brand new TRT yesterday. Not being able to erase individual workouts is a pain. Other than that it's fine.
I'm curiuos how the accuracy compared to the Garmin. By your graph it looks like your pace was varying more than I think you actually did.
I ran with both the Garmin 110 and the Timex Run Trainer one time. The Garmin 110 has better reception. On a 5 mile run around a local park, the difference in distance was 0.02 miles. However, the Timex had several data points jump around, while the Garmin performed as expected. The auto mile function isn't exact on the Timex either. It may start a new lap at mile 0.98 or 1.02, while the Garmin was exactly every 1 mile. I need to dig up that workout and show you the graphs.
Update: I have not used the Timex since the review over a year ago. The battery has long lost its charge. I wanted to check something on the watch today so I plugged it in to charge it. After an hour, the computer signaled that it had detected the GPS, and after over 10 hours of charging, the watch still won't turn on.
I went through the user guide and found the following about charging the GPS:
CHARGE YOUR RUN TRAINER™ WATCHBefore you use the watch for the first time, charge the battery for at least 4 hours to insure complete charging.In order to maximize the rechargeable battery life:• Deplete the battery until the last battery indicator segment disappears and the empty indicator beginsto flash. If the watch display goes blank, you can still proceed as long as it has been in that state for nomore than 1-2 days.• Fully charge the watch battery for at least 4 hours until all four segments in the battery level indicatorare no longer blinking.• Repeat this discharge/recharge procedure two more times.NOTE: You should repeat this procedure every two months if the watch is not used or recharged regularly.
Does that imply that if it's been longer than 2 days, then charging will be futile? What kind of device requires you to maintain it even though you're not using it? I will have to call Timex support Monday. If anyone know how to turn it on, please let me know. If not, it's another reason to stay with Garmin.
Rechargeable batteries do need the occasional maintaince charge to continue to work. If they don't get an occasional maintainence charge, they deplete fully(ions are no longer activated) and then after that, you have a dead battery that can no longer take a charge. You might be able to try a few charge attempts to see if you can deactivate the ions, but if they are damaged from being idle too long, they won't take a charge. But you can try.
My kids have Razor riding products that have rechargaeble batteries. In the winter, we have to plug them in once a month even though they aren't being ridden. The batteries require this reminder charge to be fresh for spring. One winter, we forgot to do this(I had a baby) and the battery was dead and wouldn't take a charge in the spring.
An occasional maintainence charge is pretty normal to do for rechargaeble devices and isn't a flaw, it is how it works. Your Garmin should have the same sortof instructions for storage. And your phone. And your laptop.