Obviously in this community we share a common interest in music and more specifically audio playback. I also know many of us have other hobbies--watches, fishing, cars, computers... this list could go on forever. Well, one of my other hobbies is fitness, and I know I'm not alone. Life is relatively hard for the fitness audiophile, since quality audio requires either expensive all in one components or multiple components... where bullet-proofing or ergonomics which the very nature of exercise demands are not of the first priority is design. Most of us don't want to risk our expensive gear to rainy running conditions or highly acidic and corrosive sweaty conditions either and often settle for subpar audio experiences while exercising as a result.
The fitness audiophile suffers here because we know exactly what we're missing out on. I've been screaming for a solution for years. When it comes to exercise, I'm tired of having to give up a ton of audio quality, and I'm also kind of tired of running cable across my chest or around my arm.
Friends, we have a savior--
This guy has been out for some time, but there was recently a price decrease on it and it suddenly seemed like a really cool device for the price. I bit on one and have had it for over a month now and let me tell you, it exceeded my expectations.
Motorola offers both an 8GB or 16GB internal memory version --both solid state-- and I've noticed after the price decrease stock has sold out, restocked, and sold out again. It is worth noting the amazon has them available from a few sellers at the time.
I doubt I can cover all of the features, but I'd love to talk about them a bit even if they aren't perfectly audio related. If this stuff doesn't interest you, you can skip down to the audio section of this write up.
I'll start with a bit about the hardware. The MOTOACTV carries an internal lithium ion battery, accelerometer, APTX compatible bluetooth receiver/transmitter, GPS, WiFi and even an FM receiver. It can connect with boatloads of fitness hardware from footpods, to HR monitor cheststraps (yes it does ANT+), cadence/speed montiors, power sensors and more. It contains five buttons for simplicity: Music, Workout, Volume (+/-) and Wake/Power It's pretty impressive.
I've done some undergraduate level research with accelerometers in the past so naturally I was very curious about the one they used in the MOTOACTV. Unfortuantely, I was unable to find the type used (not surprising) but I suspect that it uses a uniaxial accelerometer as opposed to a triaxial one. I say this because the step counter (I'll go over all the features later) is modestly accurate at best. To be fair, I haven't had convenient access to a treadmill to calibrate my walking so that could definitely be a result of the "modest at best" step count accuracy. A limitation to the implementation of accelerometery in this device is also that it uses a universal algorithm to calculate energy expenditure (calories) rather than specific ones for whether or not it is arm, hip, or wrist mounted. I know different equations exist because I've personally used them which much accuracy. It'd be a simple feature to include that is only firmware based. Don't worry though, I've contacted Motorola on the forums to implement those equations in selectable "modes". Moto is usually good with adding features specifically requested from the owner's forum so I'll be excited to see if that happens in the next update.
That leads me to a side note. I know we approve of online communities since we are one ourselves. There is an entire online community surrounding MOTOACTV which includes competitions with people from all over the world. Really, I can't describe how neat it is without checking it out for yourself. It will make you workout more though... at least it did so for me! The cloud service also allows you to keep to yourself and save your exercise data like heart rate, speed, (google mapped) route traveled and a ton more than I'm not even going to begin to list off. This leads to graphs and some useful output data to improve your personal fitness.
MOTOACTV is powered by Android, which is pretty sweet IMO. The 1.6in touch screen durability is great, as it's made of gorilla glass, but I do recognize one shortfall here. It uses what's called a "capacitive touch screen", which means it detects "touch" by changes in charge at the surface of the screen rather than mechanical pressure. That's cool that you don't need to apply pressure to get the screen to respond... but it also means you'll struggle if you're wearing gloves (for those of us runners in cold and rainy parts of the world). It also means a fair amount of water on the screen could theoretically cause a response, but I haven't experienced an issue with it yet. Just a small shortfall in what is otherwise a pretty awesome device.
I am also impressed with the number of activity algorithms built into the device for selectable workouts. There are over 40, with the obvious ones like running, walking, weight lifting.. and some more specific and less obvious ones like table tennis and yard work. Check the webpage for a full list.
WiFi means just like what it sounds. Sync it to your network, it'll upload workouts to your online cloud automatically. Yes, and for android users there is an app available. Sorry iOS, I think Moto left you in the dark. Your phone and MOTOACTV can communicate and if your phone is within range you can answer calls and receive notifications on your MOTOACTV. You can imagine how that might be handy for some of us, especially when the range for that sort of thing isn't bad. If you think it's annoying, it's easy to turn off.
GPS is also straightforward-- it lets you see the route you ran, or the route you are running in real time. These routes can be saved and used for later runs
If you tap the device while working out, you'll get audible feedback from the device through headphones on how your work out is going (of course dependent on the sensors you have equipped).
Accessories are available; mine shipped with the wrist band but you can also get an armband, bike mount, belt clip (also shipped with) as well as some other stuff that I'm sure I am forgetting.
Battery life was a chief complaint during its initial release, but many firmware updates have improved this greatly. In my experience with the device, I have yet to run the battery down past 30 percent and I wear my device all day (it will record set counts and calories burned based on inputted anthropometric data and accelerations).. sometimes with several weight lifting and running sessions in a single day at nearly 4k cals total. It charges with standard micro USB with a nice light that indicates it is charging (shuts off when complete).
Now on to the part you probably care about the most, or maybe even the only part you care about: the audio. You'd think that with all of the stuff packed into this device it might suffer a bit on the audio side of things. I must say, it delivers adequately. It takes on MP3 and AAC file formats. It drives my cheapish Sony and Creative IEMs for working out to just fine volumes and it sounds up to par with the 3.5 out on the iPod classic (7th gen) even if the sound signature is a little different. Actually, I find the sound signature to be a little more warm and analog sounding than out of the iPod classic. Admittedly, I haven't done a critical comparison between the two but that's my current impression. I have driven the more high end Shure SE535 out of it as well and the MOTOACTV did just fine... surprisingly well actually. I must admit I wasn't expecting much and when I was able to drive it very easily and a lot of the dynamics remained I was satisfied. Of course, it isn't going to do as well as an iPod class -> LOD -> ibasso t5, or my Yulong D100... but it did just fine. Once again, more analog and warm sounding. One thing this DAP can do is APTX bluetooth, which means bluetooth headphones! I've found most of them have pretty big issues, whether it be functionally or sonically but I have hope that this is developing quickly. I've currently got my hands on the Motorola S11 HD and trying it out.
We'll see what I think about the sound and durability after I spend a few weeks with it (mostly curious to see if it even survives - I have high hopes). High on my list is also the new Denon Exercise Freak bluetooth buds, but I've read some issues on those as well.
What else is cool? MOTOACV records exercise data specific to the songs I listened to during the workout. That's right, I can look at output data such as speed, cadence, heart rate, etc while I was listening to certain songs. MOTOACTV will also save the songs you perform objectively the best to into a playlist after many workouts into a separate performance playlist. Cool? I really think so...
I must say, having an MP3 player strapped to my wrist all day is nicer than I would have initially imagined. It performs well enough on the audio department that I find it super convenient. Fitness audiophiles, this is a MUST buy. I'm pretty satisfied with it, and I consider myself a pretty touch critic.
I'm sure there is a ton I have forgot to mention... but you can find out more on the motoactv page. And of course, if you have any questions I can help answer them.
How sweet would a head-fi only MOTOACTV competition be? Or regular competitions for that matter. For under 300 dollars for the 16GB device with heart rate and other accessories, you get quite a bit.
I hope you found this read informative and enjoyable. I thought this device deserved some head-fi love and discussion