When I was looking around for information about the SpeedCoach GPS, I could only find sites that had recycled NK's narrative from their web site. Even the review by Rowing News was short and didn't really say anything new.
So at the risk of getting spammed with "TLDR" responses, here is a comparative review of these two products:
I have been using the SpeedCoach XL2 for years. It was a replacement for my SpeedCoach gold when it finally bit the dust, and it's been a great device. I have a few gripes about it: The display is hard to read and the backlighting is dim. The battery meter is inaccurate. It's big and bulky, and some of the numbers are too small for my old eyes.
That said, there's a lot that I like about it:
- The memory and recall functions are great you can set it up to record at as short (or long) of an interval as you like.
- You can configure complex workouts, and there is a handy "loop" function that makes it much easier to program workouts where you're doing multiple sets of the same piece.
- The heart rate function is handy, but it's an imperfect implementation. Because the cable doesn't originate on the back of the unit (with the impeller and seat sensor), you have to***it into the unit each time you use it. This probably isn't a problem if you are a trusting soul and leave your unit in your boat, but it's fairly inconvenient when you remove your SpeedCoach after each row. This also leaves the cable*** from your boat on the rack, so you need to come up with some way to secure it so that it doesn't get pulled off by the rigger beneath yours in the boathouse. The sensor needs to be routed under your seat, which is potentially problematic if you have very little clearance between your seat and the deck of your boat, and it looks messy with another cable (along with the seat sensor) on the deck of your boat. A combination seat/heart rate sensor would be interesting, but I'm not sure if it's feasible. Finally, the sensor isn't particularly sensitive... I've had mixed results with getting a consistent heart rate when rowing. It's a good idea, but (in my opinion) it doesn't work all that great.
Finally, some little things to like:
- Having the time of day on the screen also eliminates the need to bring a watch in the boat.
- The unit beeps during your workout at the start and end of each piece this is great when you're hammering out the end of your piece (or enjoying your rest interval) and not watching the clock.
- The battery life is great -- this thing will run for weeks without a charge. But don't rely on the battery meter to tell you when it's time.
I started using the SpeedCoach GPS about a couple of weeks ago, and here are my impressions, primarily in the context of how it compares to the XL2:
Good Stuff -
- The unit is much smaller (think chubby SpeedCoach Gold rather than SpeedCoach XL).
- I love the fact that it requires no wiring -- it comes with a strap so you can wrap it around your foot, but you can also just buy a T Bracket or an angle bracket and have a nice clean install on your boat. The lack of wiring is great if you are not rowing stroke in a team boat and want to have your own SpeedCoach to keep an eye on things.
- The screen is fantastic -- really great contrast of black lettering on a bluish/white background, and the backlight is very clear and consistent.
- The resolution is much improved, and the numbers are big and easy to see.
- The GPS function works right out of the box -- no calibration or setup needed, and it appears to be very accurate.
- The pace smoothing is over two strokes, so you don't get instant feedback about how that nice catch helped your speed, but it also doesn't jump around a lot from stroke to stroke.
- Impeller or GPS - If you prefer the immediate feedback from the impeller, you can configure the unit to use the impeller data rather than the GPS.
- Impeller Calibration with GPS - This feature is great, and significantly improves the accuracy of calibrating your impeller for your boat. Instead of trying to row a set distance on a marked course, and all the inaccuracy of getting the distance exactly right each time, the unit will compare your GPS distance to your impeller distance and calculate your calibration factor for you. This is nice.
Neutral Stuff -
- Fixed recording interval at 100 Meters - This unit will record your data every 100 meters. This is pretty handy, and the 200 point data memory is probably sufficient for most of us, but you hard core guys (like my training partner) may fill it up in one row.
- Battery Life - This shouldn't really surprise me, but this thing goes through batteries a lot faster than the XL. This makes sense, since it has a radio. But it recharges well, and the battery indicator seems to have some relationship to the state of the batteries (unlike my XL2).
Not As Good Stuff (or things I wish it had)
- Delay in starting the timer with pieces - I am still playing with this to determine if it's a problem. Because there is no seat magnet, the unit doesn't know exactly when you're started rowing. So when you start a piece, it's usually the second stroke when the timer starts up for you. This is not a big deal, unless you're rowing with someone who is using an older speed coach and will always start and finish pieces two or three seconds before you. There are some sensitivity parameters you can play with, and this may fix the problem.
- No workouts - This unit doesn't allow you to program workout intervals. This is probably the biggest disappointment with the unit. So if you want to go do pieces with someone, make sure that your pyramids aren't that complicated, or bring along a cheat sheet of start/stop times for each piece. This is a glaring omission from this product, and makes it feel a lot more like the entry level SpeedCoach than even a SpeedCoach Gold.
- No GPS route tracking - Although the unit uses the GPS radio to track your speed and distance, it doesn't record your GPS coordinates so that you can review your route. If you want to look at your course on Google Maps after your row, you will still need to bring your Garmin with you.
- No clock - This is a minor nit. But after getting used to the clock in the XL2, I miss not knowing what time it is. The kids need to get to school, and I need to know what time to get off the water.
- No computer download - Based on the limited data capture on the device (no workouts and fixed recording interval), this isn't a very big deal. But it would be nice to be able to use it with my SpeedCoach Communicator software.
- No heart rate - Given my experience with the heart rate monitoring on the XL2, I'm not sure that I want this feature -- it would introduce lots of extra wiring with spotty results. But in my ideal world it would be nice to have a heart rate monitor that works from 4 feet away (no extra wires) and is reliable.
So which one do I like better? I think I like the GPS unit better. The lack of workouts is a little annoying, but I think too many numbers makes me row my boat like an erg. I shouldn't have to look down after each stroke and think "how was that one how about that one? And so on". I like the clean install without any extra wires, and I like not having the impeller on the boat. I think I'll hang on to my XL2 in case I miss the workout capabilities and want to dive into the numbers. But then I'll have to put an impeller on my boat. And I kind of like the idea of not having one.