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There are some days when I feel like a lab rat while running, usually when I’m clad in fresh pair of flashy shoes, a too large tech-inspired t-shirt and multiple electronic devices dangling from various parts of my body—but hey, it’s part of the job.
So earlier this week when I took to the footpath outside my house wearing two new GPS watches that had recently been sent to me by Soleus—the One and the Fly—along with my everyday GPS watch, the Garmin Forerunner 220, and a Fitbit Surge that I’m also testing, I couldn’t help but have a good laugh at the absurdity of my appearance.
Having already logged a couple runs with the Fitbit Surge, I was curious how the two new Soleus watches—a brand I didn’t have a ton of previous experience with—compared with the other units in terms of GPS accuracy, appearance, comfort and general ease of use. Here’s a breakdown of how they stacked up in those four categories:
I wore all four watches—the Fly, the One, the Forerunner 220 and the Surge—out for a run on one of my usual loops from home while also running the Strava app on my iPhone. At each mile, I was pleasantly surprised that each unit recorded splits within about 4 seconds of one another. At the end of the run, the Fly had the loop 4.28 miles, the One at 4.29 miles, the Forerunner 4.28 miles, the Surge 4.3 miles and Strava app 4.3 miles. I’ve run this loop 23 times per Strava’s matched runs feature and it’s always been between within .05 of 4.3 miles, so I felt pretty good about the accuracy of the One and the Fly afterward.
The first thing that struck me about the One and the Fly was that both watch faces are noticeably thicker than those of the flatter Forerunner 220 and sleeker Surge. The One is slightly less bulky than the Fly. Both watches have the same size interface and display information such as running time, pace and distance much more clearly than either the Forerunner 220 or the Surge. Your data is displayed on three lines and the top line is larger and easier to read than the bottom two lines. You can customize the display so that the top line shows either running time, distance or moving speed, which is a nice feature.
I have skinny wrists, which means some watches just don’t fit me that well. The One has individual slats that run the length of its band, which allowed me to cinch it pretty snug without it feeling too tight or too loose on the lowest part of my left wrist. I barely noticed I was wearing it. The Fly, on the other hand, has a matrix of small holes on the back of the band. For testing purposes, I wore it on the lower part of my right wrist, but I just wasn’t able to get it tight enough to feel comfortable and I noticed it bouncing around a bit during the run. For most people, I don’t think this will be an issue, but if you’ve got a skinny wrist, you may notice some slight movement.
Ease of Use
I’m not a guy who needs much from a GPS running watch: running time, distance and basic elevation, pace, auto splits and a decent battery are my basic requirements. Things like cadence, heart rate, calories burned, a virtual workout buddy or pace alerts are nice additional features, but I don’t want them, especially if they make using the watch more challenging. I also want to be able to easily upload my data to Strava afterward, which is where I log all my runs, workouts and races.
The One and the Fly both met most of my basic requirements, and as I wrote earlier in this review, the most important feature of a GPS watch—accuracy—seems to be spot on after my first few uses with each unit. The battery life of both is also solid, lasting up to 8 hours while the GPS is running. Neither watch has a touch screen. Four small but easy-to-press buttons are evenly distributed around the outside edges of the watch to start/stop and toggle between each watch’s various settings.
The One, which retails at only $79, is super easy to use and does a great job providing running time, pace and distance, and auto laps while you’re running, as well as total calories burned afterward. But that’s pretty much all it does, which is all you really need if you still use an old-school paper running log and aren’t interested in uploading data afterward, analyzing elevation charts or looking at a map of the route you just ran. Also, you can’t store data on the watch, so once you set out for your next run, the data from your last run is gone for good. The One doesn’t try to be anything that it isn’t and is a great value at its current price point.
The Fly, which retails at a very reasonable $99, does everything the One does and then some, including data storage on the watch and allowing you to connect the device to your computer post-run so you can upload your data to your online training log of choice via Soleus Sync, which operates similarly to Garmin Express. Soleus Sync was easy enough to set up on my MacBook and the data upload to Strava was pretty quick and seamless. The downside? I can’t pull files directly off the watch like I can with my Forerunner, nor can I wirelessly sync the device with my iPhone after a run, which isn’t a huge inconvenience for me but may be for others. For $99, the Fly is a nice watch. It’s affordable, easy to use and does almost all the things you’d want a reliable GPS watch to do.
Note: Soleus also came out with the Turbo at the same time it introduced the One and the Fly. The Turbo is an all-new GPS running watch that shares all the same features of the One and the Fly, but also allows you to have a pace partner as well as set pace alerts. It also has an auto-pause feature that stops the watch when you stop running. It retails for $129.