Published on October 19th, 2012 | by Greg0
PEAR Square One: All-in-One Workout Pal
Accelerometers, heart rate monitors, audio coaching. Foot pods, data readouts, training schedules. Custom headphones, on-demand instruction, personalized options and plans. Running and jogging, like so many activities and hobbies, have found ever more ways to use technology and put it to work, offering encouragement and gathering feedback. Today’s device offers an interesting mix- all of the above, in fact- and does so without a bunch of subscription fees or even the need for a smartphone.
If you’re just trying to have fun, or power walk, this might not be for you. But for more serious athletes, or even amateurs who could use a little extra motivation, the Pear Square One offers a compelling package and a solid value proposition, with fairly stylish hardware that can hold up to a beating. There are quite a few pieces to cover, so let’s get to it. If you already have some of these items, this might not be a great fit, but overall the PEAR Square One is the best all-in-one, out-of-the-box system that we’ve tried.
Included in the impressively small package is the base unit itself, along with a set of bright blue headphones. Inside a cute reusable bag is the rest of the gear- the foot pod, which attaches to the laces on your shoes and doesn’t require special shoes, as well as the heart rate monitor and strap (and a few replacement earbud tips, plus a USB cable). The bright blue color scheme was consistent from the box to the software, a nice touch- but the only color option available.
The first thing we did was read the instructions, which were thankfully simple and straightforward. After setting up a free account on their site, which asked basic questions like height and weight, we were asked to download a program to our computer (both PCs and Macs are supported). Installation was painless, and then we connected the device to our computer with the included USB adapter. After re-entering our account information, we had to synchronize the device, linking it to our profile. Everything is simple and clean, and you can always adjust your plans, check out your schedule, or track your activity from any browser even when you don’t have the device on hand- as long as you’ve synched it! Their system makes it really simple to brag about your workout on Facebook, though you won’t have access to nifty maps like with some competing products that use your smartphone or a GPS device. Instead, you’ll see the style of workout, and the distance, duration, and calories burned. You’ll even get a score, based on how well you stayed within the target zones for a given workout. Our main complaint about the software and data readouts were some odd limitations- no step count,
Which leads, naturally, to the workout and routines themselves. Most are free, though more extensive paid ones are available for marathons, and you can choose from examples including “45 Minute Tempo Run”, “20 Minute High Intensity Interval Run”, and “30 Minute Fat Burn Run”. The basics of the system are the workouts, and you can select, download, and install a workout to the base unit in a matter of minutes. Each includes custom audio (even with random tips on weight loss) and targeted heart rates, and two of them- the assessment run, which you use first, and the free format run, are always available on your unit.
Take your device- a bit bigger than an iPod Shuffle- clip it to your clothing, and then wirelessly connect the pair of peripherals. The unit feels a bit cheap- all plastic- but was lightweight, weather-resistant and took a couple of drops without a scratch. Buttons are easy to find, though volume is a bit difficult to adjust. And speaking of an iPod Shuffle, the system is custom-built to work with the fourth generation of Apple’s tiny music players- we didn’t have one on-hand, but they serve as the music source should you wish. The heart rate monitor was lightweight and seemed to work fairly well, similar or better than other systems and peripherals that we’ve tried. Accuracy was not perfect- there didn’t seem to be a way to calibrate our foot pod- and our heart rates seemed occasional wonky, as we did have trouble getting to Zone 5 or staying in Zone 1 regardless of how hard we tried.
It’s a simple concept executed pretty well. The omission of a music player is odd, but getting an iPod Shuffle is cheap and easy. The use of targeted zones instead of relying on complicated math is a neat way to get you to focus on specific needs, but it was hard to get them right, even with audio feedback suggesting that we speed up or slow down. The variety of free workouts is impressive, but you’ll need to connect the Square One to a computer to get them or change them, as well as synch it up to see how you did. The battery life is solid, and the headphones top-notch for this use (they stayed in even while running, a feat only one other pair has managed), but audio suffers quite a bit and there’s no real way to make adaptive playlists based on your workout or needs. For runners or joggers who want a simple solution, don’t want to carry a smartphone, and who don’t have other gear- and especially if you already have an iPod Shuffle- this device will help you vary and improve your workouts. Available now, at a reasonable $250, considering how much you get in the package, and the lack of subscriptions or additional fees.