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I have spent a lot of time and money on testing out life activity trackers over the past two years with my current daily companion still being the Jawbone UP. I spent the last couple of weeks with a new entry into the field from the folks at EB Sport Group, the SYNC Burn.
There is a new line of SYNC devices, ranging from $25 step counters to the $130 $99.99 SYNC Burn Fitness Band I have been checking out. At launch you will find the SYNC Burn and SYNC Elite (a $40 activity tracker). While most activity trackers last from one to two weeks and are rechargeable, these SYNC devices all last a year or more with integrated non-rechargeable batteries. This makes wearing and using these devices even more convenient than other competing products and not having to worry about charging them up is an important factor to consider.
Out of the box with the SYNC Burn
The SYNC Burn comes in an attractive red and white retail package with the Burn next to an iPhone on the front cover. You can lift up the flap to see the Burn device under clear plastic with more details on the device's capabilities shown on the back.
I opened it up and looked all over for a charger or a charging port before realizing the battery is integrated into the back and functions like a powered watch would. The two pieces of the wrist band were separated from the Burn face piece in the box, but it was easy to slide them into place.
The red and black color scheme reminds me of my MOTOACTV and looks good enough to wear every day. You will find a User Guide in the package along with a free 6 month MVP membership to MapmyFitness (yearly membership is $29.99). MapmyFitness is the service you use on your iPhone to sync directly to the SYNC Burn and the MVP membership gives you an ad-free experience and tons of enhanced features.
Walk around the hardware
The SYNC Burn looks like a watch and is a great size for most people. There is a small display that has a blue backlight when you press two buttons together at once. On the display you will see a goal progress bar at the top, time/day/date, selected activity and associated activity data. The display will change as you press buttons and move through different functions, including today's data, weekly data, workout timer, and heart rate data. The numbers are large enough to be easily viewable in most conditions.
On the front, below the display, is the main front button. This button is used to toggle between the different activities, check your heart rate (press and hold), and activate the backlight (press at the same time as the top side button).
On the right side there are two buttons, a top one and a bottom one. The top one changes the mode of operation, enters the settings (press and hold), and works with the front button to activate the backlight.
The bottom side button is used to start/stop/reset the workout timer and change the day in weekly mode.
Software and functionality
There are four primary modes on the SYNC Burn; time, today, weekly, and workout. By default the Burn will go back to the time mode if you leave the device alone. From the time mode you can use the front button to change what activity data you are viewing.
The today mode shows you hourly activity level, selected activity, and data for the day. The weekly mode works the same way, but by providing you a view of your weekly data.
The workout mode lets you record data for a specific activity for up to 10 hours. The timer must be started, using the lower button, for data to be recorded. The data will remain in view until the timer is reset and you perform another workout.
Before you use the device, you should set the time, custom user data (gender, birthdate, unit format, weight, and height), and daily goals. Your user data is used to help calculate stride length and distance covered by your steps. Goals include levels you with to achieve for steps, distance, and calories.
A very cool function of the SYNC Burn is the ability to measure your heart rate. You simply press and hold the large front button to see your heart rate, percentage of maximum, and a small heart rate graph. The more often you take your heart rate, the more accurate the calorie burn rate will be.
The only way to currently get your data off of the SYNC Burn and stored online is to sync wirelessly, via Bluetooth Smart, to an iPhone 4S or 5. This syncing is performed via the MapmyFitness application that also then backs up your data to their servers. You can use the free ad-supported application or sign up for MVP and get much more functionality. I hope to someday see Android support as well.
Smartphone pairing is carried out through the Workouts part of the application. You need to first pair up the SYNC Burn with your iPhone and then you can use the MapmyFitness application.
While each day is labeled a Workout, it doesn't mean you actually worked out in a focused event. The number of steps, distance covered, calories burned, and a graphic representation of when those steps were taken across a timeline are shown. You can then also share that data manually or edit the captured data.
Daily experiences with the SYNC Burn
I like the hardware of the SYNC Burn and appreciate that you never have to charge up the battery so you can use it for a year. The information seems fairly accurate and the heart rate tracking is interesting. It makes a nice watch alternative and for the most part I was using it as my tracker and watch at the same time. There is no sleep monitor on this model, but you are encourage to always wear your Burn as data is captured while you sleep to use in the calorie burn calculations.
I appreciate the ability to sync wirelessly to an iPhone and this was my first time using the MapmyFitness application. The data seen on your iPhone is pretty basic and I want to see my heart rate data as well. Even when I logged in and checked out the MVP service I can't see the heart rate data. It appears that the heart rate information is used simply to help refine the calorie calculator.
The SYNC Burn is comfortable thanks to the fully adjustable band that should fit just about everyone's wrist. The Burn is easy to use and sync to your iPhone. Holding the top and front buttons for the backlight is a bit odd, but I got used to it and didn't need to look at the display that much in the dark.