Review: New Balance's first smart wearable looks great but needs polish

The New Balance RunIQ smartwatch's all-black design does not look out of place whether you are on a treadmill or in a boardroom.
The New Balance RunIQ smartwatch's all-black design does not look out of place whether you are on a treadmill or in a boardroom. PHOTO: NEW BALANCE

The New Balance RunIQ is the first smart wearable device by the sports equipment giant.

Supposedly designed for runners by runners, it has a built-in GPS, heart rate monitor (HRM), a dedicated lap button, Strava fitness app integration and is water resistant down to 50m.

From afar, the RunIQ looks like an analogue watch with its round 1.39-inch touchscreen display and matte black casing. It has three buttons on its right, with the top button for activating the Strava app and the bottom button for counting laps, while the middle one is the Home button.

The wearable comes with a black perforated silicone watch band that you can easily swap with any 22mm watch band.

I like the all-black design, as it does not look out of place whether you are on a treadmill or in a boardroom. It is a tad bulky at 14mm thick and 45mm wide. But when you wear it, it is quite comfortable and actually feels lighter than it looks.

The RunIQ runs on Android Wear. So, it is also a smartwatch that you can wear all day. Unfortunately, it is still running on the older Android 1.5 operating system instead of the new Android Wear 2.

The RunIQ works with both Android smartphones and Apple iPhones. But for this review, I used it with a Samsung Galaxy S7 edge.

I found the RunIQ's overall menu experience to be quite laggy. For example, it takes 1sec to 2sec for the Strava app to be activated on the screen after I had pressed the top button. Strava has also crashed several times during the review. Considering that Strava is needed to track your runs, it is really irritating.

Other than the Android Wear app, you use the MyNB app to set up the Strava app as well as change the colours of the watch faces.

Here, you can also find instructions on how to download your music to the RunIQ. This is so you can listen to music when the watch is paired with the New Balance PaceIQ Bluetooth wireless earphones. But otherwise, there is no much use for MyNB app.

Like most smartwatches these days, the RunIQ also tracks your daily physical activities.

In terms of step tracking, it differs from my calibrated Apple Watch Nike+ by around 5 per cent less steps. But the RunIQ's heart rate readings were nearly the same as my Apple Watch Nike+.

In runs around my Housing Board estate, the RunIQ was able to lock on to GPS signals within 30sec. Distance tracked using GPS during runs were at most 50m shorter than my usual 4km jogging route.

The major downer is its battery life. Most smartwatches can last around two days, but the RunIQ can only last a day when used as a smartwatch. With GPS turned on, it lasts about 5hr - good enough to track your marathon race if you are a fast enough runner.

Verdict: If you are a fan of New Balance, the RunIQ will probably go well with your other New Balance gear. But it needs more polish, which is something future updates can easily do.

TECH SPECS

PRICE: $449

CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

WEIGHT: 75g

-----

RATING

FEATURES: 4/5

DESIGN: 4/5

PERFORMANCE: 3/5

BATTERY LIFE: 2/5

VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

OVERALL: 3/5