MapMyFitness has made a name for itself as one of the go-to fitness apps, allowing consumers to use their smartphone or input workout data from an activity-tracking device. Now, the company is pairing up with EB Sports Group as the exclusive app partner for the $130 Sync Burn. This watch keeps a record of your daily activity and then syncs it to the MapMyFitness app on your iPhone via Bluetooth. Is this the sports watch to get?
In terms of size, price and features, the Sync Burn lies between the larger GPS watches, such as the Motorola MotoACTV, and fitness wristbands, such as the Jawbone UP and Fitbit Flex. Unlike the latter two, the Sync Burn has an LCD screen that shows the time and your progress toward your daily goals. The wristband is made of black plastic on the outside to match the face of the watch, and red on the inside. (You can also reverse the band so that the red side is facing out). We like that the band has plenty of holes, allowing our skin to breathe.
The Sync Burn's screen measures 1.1 x 0.6 inches, and although it's an old-school LCD readout, it's backlit and incredibly easy to view in direct sunlight. We also like that the display is always on, so you can view the time and date without having to press any buttons.
By comparison, the Withings Pulse's smaller touch-screen display has a sleeker interface. However, you have to press a button to turn it on, and it's nearly impossible to view in sunlight. Also, when you have the Pulse in its wristband, the screen is partially obscured by the mesh covering on the band.
At the top of the Sync Burn's home screen is a status bar that fills up as you meet the daily goals you set for yourself. Beneath that are the time and date, and at the bottom is an odometer that shows how far you've traveled that day. If you press the button at the bottom of the display, you can see how many steps you've taken and how many calories you've burned.
Pressing the top button on the side once switches the screen to show how active you've been on an hourly basis; press it again, and it shows your week's progress. Pressing the top button a third time changes the display to the Workout screen.
If you press both side buttons simultaneously, the Sync Burn's backlight turns on for a few seconds.
The button below the Sync Burn's screen doubles as a heart-rate sensor; hold your thumb down on the button, and after a few seconds, the device will show your heart rate. It's a feature that's being incorporated into many more wearable fitness gadgets, but it's not as convenient to use as the Mio Alpha or the Withings Pulse. Those two devices mount the sensor on the underside so that it's automatically in contact with your skin whenever you strap it on. You also have to press the Sync Burn's button fairly hard in order for it to enter heart-rate mode.
To get the most out of the Sync Burn, you must install the free MapMyFitness app. Although MapMyFitness is available for both Android and iOS devices, at release, the Sync Burn will only sync with the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5. The app lets you look up routes that you or others have created, log workouts, enter nutrition info, and see what friends who are also using the app are doing.
The app's home screen has nine blue icons arrayed in a grid, above which are two buttons to record and log a workout. (You can use the app without the Sync Burn.) It's a functional design but not as visually appealing as the more colorful Withings app, which uses a cloverleaflike icon to paint a general picture of your overall health.
The Workouts page shows all of your exercise activity, whether tracked by the Sync Burn or the MapMyFitness App. The Sync Burn workout summary is fairly basic, showing how many steps you took, the distance and calories burned. Beneath is a timeline showing the times of day when you were active.
The Sync Burn comes with a free six-month membership to MapMyFitness' MVP service, which includes training plans, advanced workout analysis, Route Genius, custom map markers, leaderboards, custom splits and printed maps with directions. Best of all, it removes ads. After that, MVP costs $29.99 per year.
The Sync Burn was comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. We liked that we could simply glance at it and know not only the time, but how much progress we made toward that day's goals.
Although it only uses an accelerometer to measure distance, the Sync Burn proved fairly accurate while walking. After a 1-mile stroll, as measured by MapMyRun, the Sync Burn reported that we had walked 0.92 miles. By comparison, the Withings Pulse measured 1.01 miles.
We saw the same underreporting when we used the Sync Burn on a 6-mile run. The GPS-enabled Motorola MotoACTV recorded a distance of 5.9 miles and the MapMyFitness app on our iPhone 4S showed 6.01 miles, but the Sync Burn said we had traveled only 5.59 miles.
To sync with the MapMyFitness app, we pressed the Update Sync Burn button on the phone, and held the lower side button on the Sync Burn itself. The data then transferred via Bluetooth in a few seconds.
When you sync the Sync Burn with MapMyFitness, you can also have the app post your results to Facebook or Twitter. What's annoying, though, is if you haven't synced the device in a few days, it will post all of your workouts at once. Also, because MapMyFitness posts your general activity, the stats aren't particularly helpful or boast-worthy. For example, a post might read, "Distance: 4.32 miles, Duration: 6:30:00, Pace: 90:19 min/mile, Energy Burned: 2,635 kCal."
What's confusing about the Sync Burn is that although it has a timer function to record specific workouts, they're not entered into MapMyFitness as separate workouts. Although we understand that the Sync Burn is intended as a general fitness device, it's odd that a feature in the hardware isn't supported by the app.
The Sync Burn has an estimated battery life of one year, which is far longer than the battery life on the Withings Pulse, which lasts only about two weeks. However, when the Sync Burn's battery dies, you must replace it, whereas the Pulse recharges via USB.
The $130 Sync Burn joins a crowded field of wearable fitness gadgets. We like its design, daylight-readable display and long battery life, but a few things keep it from breaking away from the pack. We wish the Sync Burn worked with Android devices and logged individual workouts on the app instead of just the device itself. The Sync Burn also underreported our distance.
While its display is harder to read outdoors, the $99 Withings Pulse has an easier-to-use heart-rate monitor, can also track your sleep and has a more colorful app. Overall, the Sync Burn is a handy outdoor-viewable device for those who are looking for a watchlike fitness tracker, but this workout partner needs some work.