Manufacturer: 4iiii Innovations
Model: Sportiiiis Heads Up Display
Base Price: $149.99
As much as I love my Garmin, I am constantly bothered that I can’t read off my pace and heart rate at the same time. Obviously, the two are intricately connected. The Sportiiiis easily solves this problem with a nifty LED indicator that sits below your eye and lets you know if your heart rate is in the correct zone, or if you’re pumping too hard. Furthermore, it will actually tell you exactly what your heart rate is, requiring no switching between screens on my Forerunner. The Sportiiiis is a great little device, but requires a bit of setup, equipment, and knowledge to use. In this review, I will be breaking down the positives and negatives of the Sportiiiis and letting you know how it works.
What is the Sportiiiis?
The Sportiiiis is an electronic sensor system that uses ANT+ technology to wirelessly communicate with devices measuring heart rate, speed, power, and cadence to show you the data. It is designed to be used by both runners and cyclists (hence the power and cadence meters). Using a series of colored LEDs connected to your sunglasses, it can tell you what your heart rate is, how fast you are going, or how much power you’re pedaling with. It does not operate as a stand-alone device. To use the Sportiiiis, you will also need to own a heart rate monitor, and/or a footpod with a receiving watch (unless you purchase 4iiii’s), and/or a fairly elaborate bike computer and sensor setup for use with cycling. In this review, I will be examining the heart rate feature for running.
The Sportiiiis is quite small, and comes with only the gear to mount it to a pair of sunglasses and a USB cable to connect it to your computer. It comes with two mounting brackets, so you don’t need to be restricted to one pair of sunglasses.
After the mounting bracket is secured to your sunglasses’ frame, you can easily slide the Sportiiiis on and off to charge or to switch to another pair of glasses. It isn’t obvious how to mount the Sportiiiis, but they have easy to understand directions in the manual on their website.
On the device itself, there are two major controls. The first is the big red button. This “multi-use button” controls turning the device on and off (holding for 1 beep), pairing a sensor (2 beeps, while the device is off) and several other features including switching between running and biking. Pretty easy. Second, the Sportiiiis contains an accelerometer, so by tapping the device, you will get auditory indicators. This is hands-down one of the best features of the Sportiiiis. With a simple tap of my finger by my ear while running I know exactly what my heart rate is!
I didn’t find the Sportiiiis to be uncomfortable to wear at all. I was nervous at first; I have a very small head and very small sunglasses, so I was worried that it wouldn’t fit quite right. But during a nice 5 mile run, I didn’t even notice it was there. The device is also sweatproof and waterproof.
The Sportiiiis software is unbelievably easy to use! There are only three different tabs: Profile, Zones, and Setup. The Profile zone is simply a little information about you. The Setup tab controls features on the 4iiii including how fast you want the LEDs to blink, if you will be wearing it on your left or right eye, or if you prefer your Sportiiiis’ “voice” to be male or female. The most important part of the software is the Zones tab. It is this tab that controls what the LEDs will be telling you. You can either type in or slide the zone boundaries to the bpm you want. In this tab, you can also control the other sensors, including pace (metric or imperial) and cadence.
One of the best features is the ability to save your zone profiles. For example, I can have one target heart rate for long runs (a little more relaxed) and another target heart rate for a short, fast run.
To get the maximum use out of the Sportiiiis, you will need to do a little testing as to what your target heart rate should be. This is dependent on age. First, find the maximum heart rate for your age is approximately 220 minus your age in years. My maximum heart rate is about 200 bpm. Depending on your running goals (losing weight, speed, etc.), you will want to have your target heart rate as a percentage of your maximum heart rate. For example, as I am using the Lydiard training system, for my base-level training my target heart rate should be about 75% of my maximum heart rate. 0.75*200 = 150bpm. Therefore, on the Sportiiiis software, I set my target zone (the green LED) to be between 145 and 155 bpm. Anything higher or lower than that will blink yellow, than orange, then red as I move further and further away from the target. The main point is to not use the Sportiiiis without some knowledge of what you want it to do for you.
Using the Sportiiiis
I was pretty psyched to use the Sportiiiis for both cycling and running. Unfortunately, the cycling didn’t pan out. Here’s why: As I mentioned above, the Sportiiiis is not a stand-alone device. After a visit to the local bike shop and talking to some hardcore cyclists, I learned that a several hundred to several thousand dollar bike computer system is required to get the full use out of the Sportiiiis.
To use the speed and cadence sensors on the bike, you will need an ANT+ speed sensor, an ANT+ cadence sensor, and an ANT+ compatible bike computer. The Sportiiiis will not communicate directly with just the speed and cadence sensors. Like using my Forerunner for heart rate, the Sportiiiis needs a computer to process the information and transmit it from the sensors to the Sportiiiis. Bike power sensors are even more expensive than the set-up just mentioned and all together, to fully integrate the Sportiiiis with your bike will cost several hundred to a thousand dollars.
For running, all you need is a good ANT+ watch or device, a footpod and a heart rate monitor. Sportiiiis does sell footpods and heart rate monitors that connect directly to the Sportiiiis. Since I can monitor pace and speed with my Forerunner GPS, all I need to make it a complete set is the Sportiiiis and a heart rate band.
While running, the Sportiiiis reads you off your heart rate about every 10 minutes. At first, this was a little annoying (you can turn it off), but I quickly got used to it. The LEDs did not distract me from my surroundings, but yet makes for a really interesting run. It almost felt like I was playing a low-tech video game, trying to keep my heart rate on target.
Using the Sportiiiis while running is an excellent training tool for not only monitoring your heart rate, but for understanding how your body reacts to certain stimuli. Within a single run, I learned that my heart rate drops when I take a sip of water from my quickdraw, that it increases when I turn onto a busier road, and stays the steadiest when I keep my pace as even as possible. This would be impossible to learn with a heart rate watch as you can’t be constantly looking at the numbers as they change during your run. The Sportiiiis also confirmed the amount of miles it took me to “settle in”. I always knew it was about 3 miles before I felt calm and relaxed on a long run, and sure enough, it took exactly 3 miles before I could keep my heart rate on target. I feel like a more informed and in control runner while using the Sportiiiis.
The Bottom Line
- Easy to use and simple software with the ability to save different set ups
- Hardware is simple; only one button and a tap feature
- Auditory read outs of your exact heart rate while running
- Comfortable to wear, even on a small frame
- Can be moved between two pairs of glasses
- Allows one to become more attuned to their body and its reactions while running
- Not a stand-alone device. Requires a bike computer and sensor system to make full use of bike features. Requires a heart rate monitor and receiver and/or a footpod for running. So to use the full system is a pretty good-sized investment.
- Unless you have a pair of lightly tinted to no tint sports glasses, the Sportiiiis is pretty useless if you run at night or before the sun is up.
- Takes a bit of setup to attach the hardware to your glasses and get the Sportiiiis to fit perfectly
The 4iiii Sportiiiis is an excellent device for those ready to take their running or cycling technology to the next level. It is an easy to use device that will make you a more informed runner and more in tune with your body.
Ashley is a geologist at Schlumberger, specializing in geologic modeling software. She completed her Masters degree in geology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is an avid runner, cyclist, and rock climber. She will pretty much race anything and everything. You can find her hanging out on White Oak in Houston, TX or climbing and running in Austin.