Many runners like to bring their smartphones with them on their workouts so they can both track their progress and listen to music. However, if the phone is strapped to your arm, it's hard to see how you're doing. Enter the Magellan Echo: This $149 watch connects via Bluetooth to your phone and not only lets you see metrics such as pace, distance and heart rate, but also lets you control your tunes.
The circular Magellan Echo has somewhat of a sporty feel, although the all-black version we reviewed wouldn't be out of place in more formal settings than a gym. The same can't be said of the peppier blue-and white and orange-and-white versions.
The Echo's 1-inch, 128 x 128-pixel display is bright and viewable in direct sunlight. We like that when it's not being used during a workout, the watch shows the time and date. There are four buttons on the sides of the Echo: the upper right lets you control your music, the lower right switches the screen, the upper left is used to pair the watch with your phone or app, and the lower left lets you pause/unpause a workout.
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Magellan says the Echo is splashproof, but not waterproof; Pebble and TomTom claim that their watches can withstand 5 ATM, which means they can be submerged 169 feet under water.
The Echo measures 1.9 x 1.8 x 0.5 inches and weighs 1.55 ounces. By comparison, the squarish Pebble is 2 x 1.2 x 0.4 inches and 1.3 ounces, and the similarly sized TomTom Runner is 1.75 ounces and 0.45 inches thick
Like most smartwatches, the Echo needs to be paired with a smartphone to work. Magellan has a free iOS app that lets you adjust the Echo's time, date and other settings, but in order to use the Echo with one of the four apps it works with (Wahoo Fitness, Strava, MapMyRun, iSmoothRun), you must pair it using the app itself.
We synced the Echo with MapMyRun by going into the Settings>Heart Rate, Other Sensors & Devices> and selecting Magellan Echo. We then pressed the upper left-hand button on the Echo, and the app quickly found the watch.
Currently, the Echo works only with the iPhone 4S and later, iPod Touch 5th generation and later, iPad mini, and the 3rd generation iPad or later. Magellan says Android support is coming soon, but does not specify when.
We took the Echo with us on a 6-mile run, and found the display easy to view and the buttons easy to press. We were able to cycle through the various screens that showed our pace, distance, time and music, among other metrics.
When using the watch in conjunction with MapMyRun, we liked that we could pause and unpause our workout, but wish we could also start and stop a workout using just the watch. You can only perform these latter functions on the iPhone itself. Similarly, the Pebble also lets you pause/unpause workouts, but not stop and start them.
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The Echo will also display your heart rate, but that requires a separate chest strap (not included) that you must pair with whatever workout app you're using.
Powered by a standard CR2032 3-volt battery, the Echo should last up to 6 months with heavy use, and 11 months with light use. By comparison, the Pebble will last about a week on a charge, and the TomTom Runner about 10 hours when using its GPS.
The $149 Magellan Echo is like a running-centric Pebble, and as such, feels limited. Like the Pebble, the Echo needs to be paired with a smartphone to work, so you can't leave your iPhone at home when you go for a run.
The Pebble costs the same as the Echo, but it's a lot more functional as a smartwatch. In addition to working with apps such as MapMyRun and letting you control your music, you can view notifications and install other apps from your phone.
If you don’t want to carry your phone while you run, the TomTom Runner costs just $20 more, has built-in GPS, and can be paired with a heart rate monitor. The Echo works well for its intended purpose, but there are better options for runners.
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