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Editorial: MTT’s essential fitness tech

With the summer approaching and our (well-deserved) holidays looming, we’ve decided to get off the sofa, get active and find out which bits of fitness tech we can’t live without. In preparation for a 10km run in May, MTT is taking three different gadgets and seeing just how useful they are during training. Up for test: Sony Xperia Z3, Pebble Smartwatch and Jabra ROX wireless headphones.

Sony Xperia Z3

Current price: £365

One of 2014’s flagship smartphones, the Xperia Z3 makes for the perfect running buddy. Match it up your app of choice (we use Runkeeper for its simplicity and Pebble support) and its lightweight, thin and waterproof body makes it ideal for popping in your pocket or strapping in an armband. Its water resistance makes it sweat-proof and, more importantly rain proof, so you won’t have to worry if you get caught out in a downpour. The Z3’s exceptional battery life (seriously, we’re getting almost two whole days of normal use out of it) means that it’ll comfortably withstand a full working day and still have juice left for your evening run.

Out and about the Z3 performed flawlessly. We used its NFC connectivity to pair the handset with our Jabra ROX wireless headphones and made sure we had plenty of upbeat Spotify playlists synced offline to the Z3’s Micro SD card for our run. Fire up Runkeeper and Spotify and you’re off.

Pebble Smartwatch

Current price: £99

Pebble smart watch
Pebble smart watch with Runkeeper

MTT loves Pebble. We backed the original Pebble, were obsessed with the Pebble Steel and now we’re backers of the new Pebble Time which we’ll be getting our hands on in May – keep an eye out for more.

After a handful of short runs with our watch on, we soon realised we wouldn’t be able to cope without it. In addition to bringing a constant stream of notifications to our wrist, Pebble’s interaction with Runkeeper, as well as its music playback controls, made it a godsend while we wheezed, coughed and spluttered our way through training. Hit the ‘Go Running’ button on the Runkeeper app (on Android and iOS) and the connected Pebble springs to life providing the essential information you need to know at a glance: duration, distance and pace. Too many Pitbull songs on your running playlist? We found it easy to use the watch to skip through tracks while we were running, without the need to try and get hold of your phone and unlock it. The Pebble’s water resistance also makes it sweat and rain proof, a perfect pairing with the Xperia Z3.

Jabra ROX wireless headphones

Current price: £87

Jabra ROX wireless bluetooth headphones
Jabra ROX wireless bluetooth headphones

When these landed at MTT towers we couldn’t wait to shove them in our ears and, as soon as we did, we realised we were in for a big surprise. First of all, these things are impossibly small. Compare them to the likes of the Beats Powerbeats2 which hook over the ear and you’ll be amazed at how much Jabra has fitted into such a small package. With an official battery life of up to 5.5 hours music playback or talk time (yes, these even have a built in microphone for calls), and a standby time of up to 18 days, these bad boys were ready to go at the push of a button. With the behind-the-neck design and sweat-proof coating, the Jabra ROX were obviously designed with exercise in mind.

Packaged with a host of different sized ear buds and secure fitting ‘wings’, it took some trial and error before we found a secure fit for our ears. It’s worth mentioning here that we couldn’t get on with any of the included ear buds and that we swapped them out for Comply foam tips. With the new tips the Jabra ROX were perfectly comfortable and didn’t come out of our ears once while running.

With NFC built into the in-line control buttons, the Jabra ROX paired seamlessly with our Xperia Z3 and we began blasting out pavement-pounding tracks before we’d even left the office. If you haven’t experienced wireless headphones yet, you need to. The feeling of cutting the cord and not being chained to your phone is liberating and perfect for working out.

Despite all of the features that are packed into these tiny earphones, it’s the sound that blew us away. You wouldn’t have known from the quality and punch that these pack that the audio was being streamed over bluetooth. The bass is deep and rich, however not overbearing like we’ve heard from other in-ears, and the highs are clear with vocals cutting nicely through. It’s not audiophile quality, but it’s so much better than we expected it to be.

During our 5km training run (yes we’re at 5km now) we found that there was an occasional break up in sound using the headphones. We attributed this to the bluetooth connection and constantly-changing distance between the headphones and phone, however we think that the lack of wire completely outweighs this. Another issue we found is that the in-ear design shuts out background noise a little too well, perfect for a noisy train journey or trip to the gym, but we found we were keeping the volume much lower while running out on the road.

With eight weeks till our big race, we’ll be out on the streets training with our Z3, Pebble and Jabra ROX. We know there’s no fancy heart rate monitors or activity trackers in here (although we’d love to give them a try), but these three devices have become as much a part of our gym kit as our trainers and shorts.

Links: Sony Xperia Z3Jabra ROX Wireless – PebbleRunkeeper Spotify

While you’re here, check out one of our favourite Spotify running playlists.

About Matt Walker

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