Monday, May 28, 2012

MOTOACTV and Hoka reviews, of sorts...

Several people have been asking me about these two things so I thought I'd do a quick post about them. If you aren't one of these people or at least somewhat curious about these things, you should do yourself a favor and go find something else to read. This is going to be boring for you.

A couple of months ago I was asked by Motorola if I would like to have one of their new MOTOACTV GPS/music player things. Free sounded pretty good and I was really curious about the device since I have a Polar GPS thing that has really not worked well for me on the trails.

The only real condition of me getting this thing free from Motorola was that I say "I got it free from Motorola." And that I don't make absurd claims about it ("I wore it to work the other day and was given a $10,000 bonus because I looked so sharp!").

There are a variety of accessories, but mine came with the wrist band and these headphones. The thing really doesn't look bad and wears well. I'm not a fan of that type of over-the-ear headphone (they would be great if you were doing something that might jostle less-secure buds out of your ear though), so I've been using my iPod buds (I'm one of about two dozen people that really like the basic buds that come with an iPod).

Good Bits
I'm not much of a gadget freak. All I want to do is learn the basics and get it to do what I think it does. And it was easy to do that. The touchscreen is easy to use and works well, and the process of entering basic info was pretty easy (WAY easier than setting up that Polar thing).

The music bit had me concerned, but that was easy too - I plugged it into my MacBook's USB port and after a bit it came up with a list of music from my iTunes. I picked a few playlists and it copied the DRM-free songs to itself. Happily, in spite of it claiming to be an MP3 player, it also is OK with playing AAC files of songs I've bought through iTunes, at least those recent ones that are not protected.

The site isn't bad, and I suspect you can do a lot of customization if you are into that sort of thing.
One surprise was that, once I got home from my first time using the thing, I went to figure out how to get it to upload to the web, only to find that it had already done that (I had entered the password for our WiFi during the set up, but assumed I would have to do something to get it to upload the info).

Using the touchscreen while running or walking can be challenging, but fortunately most of the things you might want to do use buttons along the side. So it's relatively easy to use - changing songs, pausing the music, pausing the workout, checking your current status is all not much of a problem.

Having the headphones connected to your wrist is a bit odd, but I got used to it after a bit. And it is supposed to be water resistant (it survived Brazen Lagoon Valley).

Battery life has been fine for how I use it (generally, checking the mileage every 15 minutes or so).

After having it on for 4:39:06 (Quicksilver 25K) the battery was only down 60%. That was without audio playing though - a test I did with listening to music using wired headphones did use up more battery, and likely would have left it at 40% in this case. (I think it will use Bluetooth headsets, but that will drain the battery faster I believe.)

It seems to connect to GPS fairly fast (faster than that Polar) and even better, holds the connection while going through wooded trails. The distance is usually pretty close for exposed courses, and a bit short for  heavily wooded terrain (but about the same as I was getting when comparing with other runners).

The MOTOACTV lady at Brazen Wildcat. She loved seeing someone using the thing, but knew about the elevation issue and is likely tired of hearing about it.
Not So Good Bits
By far the biggest issue is that, for whatever reason, the device will not tell you your total elevation gain/loss - it tells you your lowest and highest points and the difference between your start and end. In trail running, that's pretty useless. I can't imagine why it's like this - there are some flames on their discussion boards about this ("They added calorie counts for kayaking but still haven't added this basic feature.")

The basic stats that are on the site, plus the Download button.
You can download your data to open with another app, but the data is in the .csv format, which most apps I tried will not import. I did find one website that will give me what I want, but you have to work at it a bit - It's free though.

From after a bit of customization.
The elevation is a bit higher than the race claimed, but not horribly so. It would be useful in those cases where you were doing a training run and wanted a general idea of what you had done.

And that's really the only bit that seems bad. The thing does have some nifty features that allow it to work well with your Motorola Android phone, but for some reason (HA!), not with an iPhone - I likely wouldn't use those features anyway, so that's no big deal for me.

If I had bought this, would I have kept it? Probably. I've got to believe the elevation thing will come in a software update, but until it does, that alone makes it hard to recommend this. Having said that, if it's a lot cheaper than the alternatives (and it is nice having GPS and music in the same device), maybe the elevation thing isn't such a big deal.

I've found that I really like being able to see my mileage while on the trails, and for that it does well.

Hoka Shoes (aka Clown Shoes)
No way was I going to try these things. They were WAY too expensive ($170 or so) and they didn't have my size (14). But then a couple of things happened:

I spotted Mr Brazen wearing a pair and he had nice things to say about them. As did almost everyone else I knew that had them. A guy in his mid 60s that blew past me at a 25K race said they had changed his life and eliminated most knee pain he used to get.

These shoes stand out a bit.
And then this year they added a size 14. So Mrs Notthat and I headed down to Zombie Runner and each bought a pair. We bought the Stinson EVO something or others - the new model for this year.

I'm pretty sure it's too late to take them back in "as new" condition.
Brazen's Lagoon Valley Half Marathon and Mud Slide was our first race in them. While not as grippy as my normal Brooks Cascadias, they were pretty close and did well. The one odd bit is that, since they are so soft, you sometimes had a hard time telling whether the muddy ground was slippery or not.

We've since worn them in a number of races and we are both happy with them. They make me about 3/4 inch taller than my normal Cascadias (which in turn make me 3/4 inch taller than being barefoot) - that took a bit to get used to. But the way they smooth the trails has been a blessing for my feet - it's like running on a shag carpet with a thick foam pad, no matter how rocky the trail. The downside is that you lose a feel for the trail - for me that isn't a big deal since I'm slow and constantly looking where I'm going anyway.

I read Born to Run shortly after buying these, and it made me wonder if I had done the right thing. These are WAY the opposite of minimalist shoes - everything the book tells you not to have in a shoe. But they have been great so far. My feet and knees seem perkier after races than with my previous shoes.

Were they worth the $170? I think so. Assuming they hold up for a while. But I also know others who have tried them and hated them, so they are not for everyone, making them a bit of a risk.

That's it - move along...


mary ann said...

I notice that Mrs. Notthat doesn't seem to use her sticks anymore ~ does she miss them? The shoes look a little too professional for me and that other gadget is beyond my basic needs or understanding, for that matter.

Beth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Beth said...

Perhaps your elevation reads a bit higher because of the height of the Hokas and the fact that you jump up and down at the top of the hills??
(i deleted the first comment cuz I said Hookas, not Hokas...totally different thing)

IHellaLoveRunning said...

I've been interested in those shoes, but $170 is a bit high for me right now..But it helps with knee issues it may be a good option down the road

DAK said...

I truly love the photo of the New Shoes, after the mud bath. I'd take 'em back and demand a double refund, tell 'em they didn't keep me from jumping in mud puddles. I think the other gizmo is to have some kind of special music while resting off your coronary after the 2000-K.

Eladril 26.2 said...

Can you tell me if you can get a verbal pace alert? I have that as an app on my smartphone; however, the GPS on it isn't the greatest. My timex has a chime; however, I prefer to be told how fast I am going.

notthatlucas said...

I don't know what sort of verbal alert you can get with the MOTOACV. I don't normally use music during races, but used the music for a Half just to test the battery life and never heard any alerts.

But then I used it the other day for a short thing (to test turning music on and off, changing songs - that sort of thing) and was alarmed to hear some woman talking to me over the music once in a while. At first I thought it was my wife but later realized that it was the device telling me I had gone a mile. I'm not one for the verbal thing so a goal of mine would be to work out how to turn that off, so I have no idea how customizable it might be. (I do see a setting that says it will play an alert when you enter or leave your target pace zone. Not sure if that would do what you want or not.)

Eladril 26.2 said...

Actually that is exactly what I have been looking for. My app has a similar voice. On a regular run or trail run I agree it is pretty annoying; however, when I am doing a 5k to half-marathon road race it definitely keeps me on track.