There's a lot of great free smartphone apps that will track your run through the park, but you can't get around the fact that you still have to carry your phone; aside from its weight, you have to worry about it getting wet, damaged, or lost. The Motorola MotoACTV takes the best parts of those apps and packs them into a design that's not only less obtrusive, but water-resistant, to boot. Better yet, this device will also analyze your workouts and help you set goals to shed those holiday pounds. But at $249, this is no impulse buy. Should you get up off your butt and pick one up? Read on.
At 1.8x 1.8 x 0.4 inches and 1.3 ounces, the MotoACTV looks like a thicker, heavier version of the iPod nano (1.5 x 1.6 x 0.4 inches, 0.7 ounces). The top is dominated by a 1.6-inch Gorilla Glass touch screen with a glossy black bezel. Along one side is a microUSB port covered by a rubber flap; another side has buttons for Start and Menu. A third side houses the power and volume controls, and the fourth side has a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The back of the MotoACTV is stainless steel, and has a small edge so that the device can slip into one of the four included accessories: two belt clips, a wristband, and an armband. We like that Motorola bundles these attachments, but the packaging is overly wasteful: The box itself measures 12.6 x 10 x 3.4 inches, which is a lot for something the size of a watch.
All of the accessories are black and red, giving the MotoACTV a somewhat aggressive look. We liked using the elastic armband the best; the hard plastic wristband is bulky and felt a little awkward.
Also included is a set of buds with ear loops. In general, they were comfortable and stayed in place while we were running, but they didn't seal as tightly as we would like (even after trying all three sets of buds). In-line controls let us pause and advance music, but became difficult to use after our hands got sweaty. The controls occasionally wouldn't respond due to moisture.
When you turn on the MotoACTV, you're presented with a screen that prominently shows the time. Below that is a red bar that shows how many calories you've burned, as well as how many steps you've taken. Swiping once to the right brings you the Workout screen, where you can see all your recent activities. Swiping once to the left launches your music, as well as the FM radio.
There are two other screens: Notifications and Settings. Provided you have a Motorola Android phone (an annoying limitation), you can connect it to the MotoACTV via Bluetooth to answer calls, read text messages, and sync your data.
Getting started with the MotoACTV is a little involved. We first plugged the device into our notebook via USB. From there we could import tracks and playlists from iTunes, as well as set up the MotoACTV so it could connect to our wireless network. You can further leverage the MotoACTV to account for your gait, as well as the type of bicycle you ride--all the way down to tire size. The MotoACTV can also be paired via Bluetooth with additional sensors, such as a Heart Rate chest strap and a Bike speed sensor, but those devices are not yet available.
We then created a free account on MotoACTV and created our profile, inputting our height, weight, and age. Here, you can also set goals, schedule workouts, and plan and search routes for running or biking.
When we first used the MotoACTV, it took a few minutes to get a GPS fix, but we regained it quickly on subsequent runs. The device accurately tracked our route through Liberty State Park in New Jersey. We found the interface fairly easy to use, especially while we were on the move; it was plenty bright, and icons were large enough--even on the small display--to press accurately even though we were bouncing around.
Compared to running with a smartphone, the MotoACTV felt much less conspicuous, and was certainly lighter when strapped to our arm. (And, there's nothing like running to the theme from Rocky.) We also liked that the MotoACTV provided coaching along the way, giving us not only time, pace, and distance traveled, but also reminders to drink water every so often. You can even set MotoACTV to tell you if you're hitting your goals.
In the portal, you can set goals such as weight loss, working out a certain number of times per week, and how far or how long you want to run, bike, or walk over a given period of time. The portal can also suggest training plans for you, too.
Afterwards, the device automatically uploaded our workouts to the MotoACTV website, where we could see a wealth of data: It listed not only where we'd run and traditional metrics such as our pace and altitude, but also what songs we listened to, and how many calories we burned per song.
One of our favorite features of the MotoACTV is Fitness Music, which creates a playlist of songs that you respond best to when exercising. One-touch access makes it easy to get to those songs for some quick motivation.
For those who like to brag about their accomplishments, you can also post your results to Facebook and Twitter.
For $249, you could get a smartphone that includes GPS and lets you listen to your tunes while working out, so the MotoACTV is best only for those who plan to use it frequently. But the device offers a lot of useful features, both for while you're working up a sweat and afterwards. The 8GB iPod nano costs half as much, and, when paired with the Nike+ app, has many similar features, such as workout tracking. However, the nano lacks GPS, so you can't see where you've run, and it doesn't come with as many accessories for working out. If you're serious about getting in shape, or are training for a race, the MotoACTV will help you meet those goals.