GPS watches are core gear for many runners, but many cost hundreds of dollars. New from the makers of the popular app, the Runtopia watch costs $69 and provides most of the features runners need.
Pace, time, heart rate, distance, notifications, and compass — those tools are vital for many runners who rely on a little technology to enhance their training. The S1 Smart GPS Sport Watch from Runtopia has them.
I grabbed one of these inexpensive GPS watches for a first look test and was impressed.
In short: While not as feature-rich as more expensive watches, the Runtopia S1 does work. It hits the big points runners need and leaves money in the wallet. For runners who don’t mind the associated app and limited applications, this one is a solid choice.
Runtopia S1 Smart GPS Sport Watch Review
As GPS watches go, the Runtopia S1 GPS Sport Watch is pretty simple. It connects with GPS to give you pretty accurate pace information. It tracks your run and plots it on a map. The watch measures heart rate with an optical monitor on the wrist. And it pairs with your smartphone to give you alerts in real time.
It syncs easily with a smartphone (I used an iPhone 7). It also relays notifications to your wrist, so you can read texts without taking your phone out of your pack or pocket.
All this is pretty standard in modern GPS watches for sports. Where the Runtopia S1 stands apart is price. It’s just $69.
I’ve only had the watch for a week and done a couple of runs, including a half-marathon, with the watch. What follows are very concise impressions from limited use. I’ll update this over time as I use the watch more.
Testing an Affordable Running Watch
Zipping over the Kokopelli Trail near Fruita, Colo., I pressed myself to stay on pace. The trail was much steeper than I expected!
Ultimately, I crossed the finish line in 1:52:10, pulling down a third-place age group win. Woo-hoo!
Of course, I forgot to stop the watch when I came over the line, but its auto-pause feature worked somewhat. It noted my time at 2:05, or a 9-minute, 47-second mile. It showed that I’d run 12.8 miles, so nearly 0.3 miles less than a full half-marathon.
I have no way of knowing if the watch or the course was wrong. It’s a fun, pretty low-key event.
But ultimately, the track displayed on my phone (after Bluetooth sync with the watch) looks pretty close. I have some decent heart rate data, too, thanks to the watch’s optical monitor.
While running, I was able to keep an eye on my (way too high) heart rate, pace, and distance covered.
The battery, which I hadn’t charged after a couple of training runs, was fine and still showed half-power when the race was complete.
The brand claims that a single charge will power the S1 watch for up to 25 days on standby time. When activating GPS, you get up to 8 hours of battery life.
Runtopia S1: First Impressions
Upon donning on the Runtopia S1, I loved the soft strap and plentiful holes for nearly infinite adjustment. It fits my wrist well and is very comfortable.
The S1 is also pretty light at 55 grams. Compared with other watches I run, this one is the lightest. That makes sense given its limited capabilities. But it felt good strapping on a light, but apparently nice, watch.
And yes, the initial build quality seems great, especially for a $69 watch. It looks good, has an easily readable face, and seems like it should hold up to the rigors of running in any weather.
But it’s worth noting that it’s waterproof to only 30 meters — quite a bit less than many GPS watches.
The Runtopia S1: Shortcomings
While 8 hours is plenty for most runs, it’s definitely short for ultramarathon runners. My 100-mile finishes, the Leadville 100 and Grand Canyon 100, each took 28 hours. My 100K runs have taken around 16 hours.
There is no way to adjust the frequency of GPS pings yet. The brand says this is because it affects the accuracy of the watch, and this is certainly true. But high-end watches have this ability so you can use the GPS feature for much longer runs and adventures.
Finally, this watch tethers you tightly to the Runtopia app. This phone-based app is fine. It records your runs, crunches a little data, and can even provide coaching.
But it lacks some of the social elements of bigger apps like Strava. And, at least for now, there is no way to export data to other apps.
Conclusion: Good Bang for Your Buck
For runners looking for a simple training device, this seems to be a solid choice. It gives you the basics with little more. The brand claims it will add functionality for cycling soon, which would definitely enhance the appeal of the watch.
Look elsewhere if you want more powerful tools like navigation, altitude, climb speed, waypoints, swimming compatibility, and more.
But if running is your game and you like the Runtopia interface, this little watch should provide feedback to help you train and up your game.