31
Mar
14

Gear Review: Soleus Fit 1.0

Soleus is a company known for providing affordable GPS watches and this time I got the chance to evaluate one of their best selling products, the Soleus Fit 1.0.

Soleus Fit 1.0

First Glance

Soleus Fit 1.0 looks like a typical digital watch but if you look at it on its side you would notice quite thicker than the regular watch (at 17mm).  For a GPS watch though, it’s just as thick as the competition but for some reason, its face makes it appear slimmer than it actually is.  I have a pure black version which is quite subtle with only a few elements in yellow breaking the monotony.

Fresh out of the box

Fitting and Comfort

As a device you’d wear, it is important that it fits well and for a watch of its size, it does a good job at it.  The sport ventilated strap (aka, the holes) not only makes the watch lighter overall, but it also allows air to pass through.  While it may feel a bit flimsy at first, particularly the part that tucks the strap, it is very secure so there’s very little chance of the Soleus Fit 1.0 falling off your wrists accidentally.

Color options and features

GPS

Soleus Fit 1.0’s raison d’être is its GPS, primarily for use to track routes during running.  Here are some of my observations:

Sensitivity: in this aspect, Soleus Fit 1.0 is comparable with other similar device in the market although its approach is distinct.  It shows GPS signal “strength” in terms of bars, like a mobile phone.  I haven’t seen what each of the five (5) bars stand for so I can’t tell my accuracy in terms of meter radius.

Satellite Locking Time: before any GPS watch starts tracking, it should first acquire and lock onto GPS satellite signals.  And the first time it does that, particularly in an area it has never gotten a signal before, is usually the longest.  In this aspect, Soleus Fit 1.0 is a bit trivial as there are times it would get a lock in about a minute, but in worst case it would be more than five (5) minutes, sometimes even in places that you previously got a satellite lock.  For best results, I recommend getting a GPS satellite lock in a completely open spot away from buildings and even trees.  “Pre-loading” of GPS satellite lock doesn’t always work.

Battery Life: Soleus Fit 1.0’s battery life with GPS in operation should last around eight (8) hours but since I haven’t had a chance to run continuously for that long, I can’t personally verify this.  Those who did though reported longer than that so it may even outlast some devices in the competition.

Limitations: as with similar devices in the market, Soleus Fit 1.0 is not spared by GPS limitations like signals bouncing off buildings or nearby tall structures, and strictly linear distance calculations (treats the surface of the earth as a “flat” map).

See how the lines are a bit crooked?

As a watch

Soleus Fit 1.0 may be a GPS device, but its form factor is still a watch so it’s only fitting to be evaluated as well in this aspect:

Accuracy: like any other watch, Soleus Fit 1.0 would need occasional adjustments to time accurately but since it’s a GPS watch, you’re ensured that you get the most accurate timing each time you get a lock onto GPS satellites.  These satellites after all are some of the most accurate clocks in the world as part of how GPS works.

Battery Life: Soleus Fit 1.0 has the best battery life of any GPS watches I’ve ever seen!  No other similar device come short of it!  With GPS turned off and used strictly as a watch (or “offline”), Soleus Fit 1.0 can run continuously for months!  I haven’t used the GPS feature that extensively, but it’s been more than three (3) months (and counting!) since I had to charge and it’s still showing 2/3 bars for the battery.  It quickly turns to 1/3 when I turn GPS on but reverts to 2/3 whenever I go “offline.”

Water Resistance: Soleus claims 30m of water resistance for the Soleus Fit 1.0.  Note that it’s water resistance, not proofing, so while it’s probably safe to be with you in the showers or under some downpour, but it’s not advised for swimming.

Charging via USB with the supplied data cable

Hardware

Overall, the build quality of the Soleus Fit 1.0 is good and nowhere can you tell that it comes in an entry level price tag (SRP of $99).  It comes in a wide variety of color combinations ranging from the “safe” pure black to the “notice me” pink.

Display: Soleus Fit 1.0’s display is a monochrome LCD which is legible enough outdoors with backlighting in dark locations.  Its backlighting is set just enough for the screen to be legible so you definitely can’t double it as a flashlight or even illumination for reading.

Dimensions: Compared to typical digital watches, Soleus Fit 1.0 is big (46mm x 46mm), but with other similar devices it’s just about the same.  If you consider the capacity of the battery that it carries and the provision for the antenna, its size is actually quite impressive.  Its weight (2oz) isn’t the lightest but is also in the same ballpark as the competition.

Other Notable Features:

  • Rechargeable batteries
  • Dual time zone display
  • Chronograph with 1/100 second accuracy
  • 100 lap memory (for indoors or non-GPS tracking)
  • USB charging and data synchronization

With the backlight on

Software

You may have the best hardware around, but without good software, your device won’t just cut it.  Could you imagine iPhones being successful without iOS?  For this review, I’ll be looking at the device software and the accompanying Soleus Sync 2.

Usage

Using the Soleus Fit 1.0 isn’t that difficult but it can be quite confusing at times.  The buttons on the side of the device serve more than one purpose, and these other purposes sometimes make the flow a bit inconsistent.  For instance, the lower right button is labelled “Lap/Enter” so you’d assume that it doubles as “Enter.”  Most of the time that’s true, but when you’re saving your data after a run, you have to use “Light/Save/-” button on the upper right side.  I wouldn’t go into details on using the Soleus Fit 1.0’s buttons (you have the supplied manual for that), but there’s so much opportunity in this aspect to make the device more user-friendly.

Tip: Hold the “Start/Stop/+” button (upper right) to quickly turn the GPS ON.  Hold the “Mode/Exit” button (lower left) to quickly turn the GPS OFF.

Customization

Soleus Fit 1.0 allows you to customize sections of the screen to your liking, but out of the box it is highly unlikely that you can figure this on your own (unless you’re willing to spend quite some time with it).  For that, there’s the manual, and since I’d rather spend my time using the device than tinkering with it, so I didn’t bother with the default settings.

From this angle you can see what the LCD screen can display

Time Zones

If you don’t use your Soleus Fit 1.0 between time zones, you may skip this section, but if you do or just curious, read on.

Soleus Fit 1.0 allows you to switch between two (2) time zones.  You simply pick from a list which city you’d like to display as default and as alternate.  The city list is very limited (Manila isn’t even on the list!) so you pick one that has the same time zone as your location.  Despite knowing where you are GPS-wise, Soleus Fit 1.0 doesn’t actually display time in your current location by default—you have to explicitly tell it which city’s time to show.  If you’re crossing time zones frequently you always have to change the city that it displays.  And if your destination isn’t on the list, you better brush up on your geography!

While switching displays between two time zones should be straightforward, the software implementation is not.  Initially my Soleus Fit 1.0 was configured with NYC as default zone (T1) and HKG as alternate (T2).  As I had lots of spare time during my flight to San Francisco (SFO), I thought of setting T1 to SFO.  To my surprise, the displayed time didn’t change despite successfully setting T1 to SFO.  Upon further tinkering I decided to set the device to my “ideal” settings: T1 to HKG (same time zone as Manila, MNL) and T2 to SFO.  What do you know, I ended up with two time zone displays with the same time!  I tinkered with it further hoping it would display correctly, but I ended up just messing both display’s time (none of them were correct as I verified with my iPhone’s world clock).

Tip: Hold the “Lap/Enter” button (lower right) to quickly switch between time zones.

Upon arrival in SFO I decided to get a GPS signal to see if the issue would be fix.  And my hunch was right, the display time (was set to T2, SFO) got adjusted to the correct time.  T1 (HKG) was still incorrect at that time so I had to activate it as default, waited for GPS to sync, and it worked.  Then I had to revert to T2 as that was my current location at the time.

Now that I’m back in HKG time zone, T1 is my default display.  As I switched to T2 (SFO) the display is still accurate, if you don’t consider DST.  Activating T2 as default and syncing with GPS should do the trick.

Soleus Sync 2

For this review, I’m using Windows 8.1 with 1366×768 screen resolution.  But first things first, you have to download this program as it doesn’t come bundled in the box.

Soleus Sync 2 on Windows 8.1

Soleus Sync 2 is a Java-based program and for those who have used programs using this platform knows Java doesn’t play well on Windows environment.  I don’t know how it well it works with Mac and that is not in the scope of this review.  I first encountered issues with Soleus Sync 2 the first time I ran it as it showed me a console that just appears to run in loops indefinitely, so I had to forcefully close it.  Fortunately it worked fine the next time.

Prerequisites

Before using Soleus Sync 2, you must first make your computer “recognize” your device.  This could be done simply by plugging in your Soleus Fit 1.0 in your computer’s USB port using the provided USB charging/data cable.  For Windows 8.1, it takes about a minute or two to be configured for use.

You should also have a Strava account.  Signing up is free and you can do this though Soleus Sync 2 (which I advise if you don’t have an account yet).  If you already have an account, just make sure you “authorize” Soleus Sync with Strava.

Wait for your device drivers to be installed before using Soleus Sync

Uploading Activities

Soleus Sync 2 is nothing more than an interface for downloading and deleting data from your device.  Once you see the list of your activities, you can only either delete it or upload it to Strava.  If you can see the words “Authorized with Strava” on the lower left side of the program, you can just click the check box on the left side of the activities you want to upload and then click the “Upload Activity” button (which is shown in ALL CAPS in the program).  You will see “Synced” on the Status column once it’s done, and you can view your activities on the browser.

Impression

Soleus Sync 2 does its job of letting you download data and uploading it to Strava well, but the software looks like some unfinished tester’s tool and not end user software.  The console (which you should not close as it would close the main screen as well) and debug options are of no use for the end users, and the needlessly big and unresizable main window takes up a lot of screen real estate.  It is these little details that make the Soleus Sync 2 appear anything but a final product which in my opinion lowers the impression of the otherwise good brand.

As an end user, why do I need all these?

Summary

In action with Soleus Fit 1.0

Soleus Fit 1.0 is an excellent, value for money GPS watch for runners who would like to track their runs via GPS in the convenience of a watch.  Physically, Soleus Fit 1.0 looks good and is made well, and while the software may have some issues (as with all software), it covers pretty much all the basics every runner may need GPS-wise.  And its battery is just, hands down, the best in its class!

Pros:

  • Cost (SRP $99)
  • Battery Life
  • Build quality
  • Fit
  • Color options

Cons:

  • Software
  • Weak backlighting
  • Cable-only syncronization

If you want a GPS watch that has excellent battery life, don’t care for advanced software or pairing with accessories, don’t mind wire-only data download, and don’t want to spend much, then Soleus Fit 1.0 is for you.

 


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