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Reviews > Electronic Devices > Watches > Silva Tech 40 Trail Leader Pro > Test Report by Chari Daignault

SILVA TECH4O TRAILLEADER PRO WATCH
TEST SERIES BY CHARI DAIGNAULT
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - November 12, 2009
FIELD REPORT - February 03, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - April 05, 2010

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Chari Daignault
EMAIL: chari.daignault@gmail.com
AGE: 47
LOCATION: Orlando, Florida U.S.A.
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5' 6" (1.70 m)
WEIGHT: 135 lb (61.20 kg)

I've been a light hiker for 36 years. I take the minimum I can with me and prefer a pack close to 15 pounds [6.80 kg]. I've hiked all the Florida State Forest trails in Central Florida, backpacked the Na Pali coast on the island of Kauai and climbed Mt. Fuji in Japan. I have hiked dry & sandy, rough & rocky and wet & boggy trails and as a result, have found what does and doesn't work for me in terms of equipment and clothing.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Tech4O
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.tech4o.com
MSRP: US $199.00
Listed Weight: N/A
Measured weight 1.80 oz [51 g]
Diameter of Watch face: 2 in. [51 mm]

Watch Features [per manufacturer]:

Speed & Distance Mode:
* Speed
* Distance
* Pace (min/mile)
* Calories
* Steps
* Exercise/moving time
* Fully Adjustable Personal Profile
* 10 day memory

Digital Compass Mode:
* 1 increment resolution
* Adjustable declination
* Bearing Lock
* Reverse Bearing
* Distortion warning

Altimeter Mode:
* Current Altitude
* Altimeter Lock
* Reference Altitude
* Altitude Alarms
* 48hr Altitude Graph
* 24hr max + min altitude
* Altitude Difference Calculator
* Total Ascent
* Total Descent

Barometer Mode:
* Current Pressure
* Barometer Lock
* Pressure adjustment
* 48hr Pressure Graph
* Current Temperature
* 24hr max + min temperature and pressure
* Weather Forecaster

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

In Package
In Package


The TraiLeader Pro came in retail packaging and appeared to already have a display. After removing the watch, I found that the display was actually a piece of cling plastic with a fake display printed on it. The watch display was blank.

On Wrist
On Wrist


THE BUTTONS

As shown in comparison with my usual watch, which is quite large itself, the watch face of the TraiLeader Pro is pretty big. However once I put it on, the TraiLeader Pro really wasn't cumbersome and it fits comfortably. If I wear it far enough down on my wrist, the back of my hand does not press against it. The buttons on the right side of the watch are spaced well enough apart that if the back of my hand does press against the watch, I don't end up pressing any buttons.

The watch comes with a Quick Start Guide, a 51 page instruction manual, a PC Pod instruction booklet, a heart rate chest strap, a 2.4GHz USB PC Link receiver and a mini CD ROM with PC Link software.

Goodies
Goodies


There are 5 buttons on the watch. 3 are on the left side and 2 are on the right. The center button on the left side of the watch is round and green in color. This button is to activate the backlight. When depressed, the backlight stays on for about 5 seconds.

The top button on the left is labeled "ESC" and the bottom one is labeled "MODE". The ESC button is used to return to a previous screen. It is also used to display one of the two main menus: Time or Trail. The MODE [or M] button is used to select modes within the main menu selections. It is also used to confirm selections and to enter settings modes in menus and sub menus.

The top button on the right is labeled "ST./STP." and the bottom one is labeled "LAP/RESET". The ST./STP. [or S/S] button toggles the display up, increases values for certain settings, allows viewing of alternative displays and starts/stops timers. The LAP/RESET [or L/R] button toggles the display down, decreases values for certain settings, changes units of measure, enters laps and resets timers.

MENUS

There are two main menus on the TraiLeader Pro watch. They can be accessed by pressing the ESC button. Once for Time, twice for Trail. Using the Quick Start Guide, I was able to set the correct time, date, units of measure and personal data relatively easily. Most of this information is input via the Time menu.

The Time menu has the following modes:
Time/Date [TIME] Mode
Alarm [ALM.] Mode
Chronograph [CHR.] Mode
Timer [TMR.] Mode
Dual Time [DUAL] Mode

I accessed each of the modes by pressing the ESC button once from the current Time/Date display. Then by pressing either the S/S or L/R buttons to toggle up or down respectively, I was able to toggle through each of them. To initially set the watch for each of the modes, I toggled to the mode and then pressed the M button and held it for 3 seconds until the settings menu for that mode were displayed.

The Trail menu has the following modes:
Distance [DIST] Mode
Logbook [LOG] Mode
Compass [COMP] Mode
Heart Rate [HR] Mode
User [USER] Mode
Altimeter [ALT] Mode
Barometer [BARO] Mode

I accessed these modes by pressing the ESC button twice from the current Time/Date display so that I was in the Trail menu. I then followed the same procedure as before of pressing the S/S or L/R buttons to toggle up or down. I accessed the settings for each of these modes by pressing and holding the M button for 3 seconds while in the respective mode.

TRYING IT OUT

Aside from setting the current time and date, one of the first things I did was pair the watch with the heart rate chest strap. I had to wear the chest strap to do this and found it easy to adjust and very comfortable. The strap itself is soft and so far has not irritated my skin. I did find that I have to wear it right up against the bottom edge of my sports bra, so I will have to see if that causes any issues as I test the product.

To pair the watch with the heart rate chest strap, I had to switch to the Trail menu and then toggle to HR mode. From there, I pressed and held the M button for 3 seconds until the settings screen for HR mode came up. One of the selections there is "Pair". I toggled to Pair, pressed M to enter that setting and waited while the watch searched for the heart rate chest strap. Once linked, I was able to use and record my heart rate.

To use the included PC Link software, I also needed to pair the watch with the 2.4GHz USB PC Link receiver. This is done through the Trail menu while in the settings of LOG [Logbook] mode. Unfortunately, the documentation for this part was confusing, as the PC Link instruction booklet appears to have been translated from Chinese -- literally. I was able to install the software and the USB receiver, but I wasn't able to figure out how to link the watch to the receiver. There is a PC Link mode I needed to enter on the watch, but I couldn't discern how to find it.

I called customer support and we worked 20 minutes or so on the phone together to figure it out. Customer service couldn't figure it out either and told me they'd call back. In the meantime, I went through every mode and eventually found the location of the PC Link mode and was able to link the watch to the receiver.

With the software and the watch linked, I could now upload the data from my watch into the logbook software. A sample of my daily stats [after a trail run] is below:

LogBook
LogBook

NITS

I've noticed the temperature display on the watch is several degrees warmer when I'm wearing the watch as opposed to when the watch is sitting on my dresser. I believe the location of the sensor is too close to my wrist, which causes the temperature to be influenced by my body's temperature.

To use the distance, pace and speed displays, I had to enter my stride length. This needs to be done for both walking and running. To do this, I had to calculate my stride. The Quick Start Guide does mention that my stride needs to be entered, but it does not indicate how I'm to calculate it. Checking in the instruction manual, it indicated that I needed to visit www.tech4o.com and use their online stride length calculator. To locate this, I ended up calling customer service again and they directed me to the bottom of any of their watch pages. There, I saw an image of a man running in a red jacket with the text, "see your results - calculate your stride length". Clicking on this image brought up the stride length calculator.

To calculate my stride with the online calculator, I needed to walk and run a measured distance and count my steps. The manufacturer doesn't offer any advice or instruction on exactly how long of a distance this should be. I tried three separate, measured distances of varying lengths. Each time, the results for my stride length from the online calculator was different. Setting this is tricky; it took me three tries to get it right -- if my stride is set too short, my distances will be short and my speed and pace displays slow. Set it too high, and my distances will be too long and my speed and pace displays fast. After three trail runs with the different settings, I determined that I had finally gotten it right the final time.

SUMMARY

For me, the TraiLeader Pro watch is a great tool. I can see that I will be able to keep a logbook of my speed, distances and pace. I can save the temperature, altitude of the run/hike and the barometric pressure during the run/hike. I'm still learning more each day about the many functions this watch has to offer and look forward to using it as I train for a half marathon coming up in January.

I hope that in the future, Tech4O teams up with an online logbook provider so that I can access my logbook data from any computer no matter where I am.

Likes
Can read the displays
Band is comfortable
Buttons are easy to access
Many usable functions
Easier to use than expected
LogBook software

Dislikes
Some parts of manuals are confusing
Customer service didn't know how to link the watch and software
Many functions depend on exact stride calculations or they're very "off"
Temperature function is influenced by body heat


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I've worn the Silva Tech4O TraiLeader Pro watch during several day hikes, backpacking trips and walks through the neighborhood. Our day hikes are in the Hal Scott Regional Preserve and we've done two backpacking trips into the Little Big Econ State Forest where we hiked in, did some kayaking and camped overnight a couple nights. The weather during the past three months has ranged from sunny and humid with daytime temps ranging from over 90 F [32 C] to cold with freezing rain and snow with temps below 24 F [-4.4 C]. Current temps are still a bit below normal, averaging at around 65 F [18.3 C].

The watch accompanied me on my 4-day-a-week training runs as I trained for a half marathon I completed in the first week of January. I also took the TraiLeader Pro along with us on a week-long trip to Firestone, Colorado over the winter holidays. Although we didn't get to do the hiking and skiing I had hoped we would, I was able to test the watch in much different conditions than I would at home. The weather in the Denver area was blustery and snowy the day we arrived, with temps around 19 F [-7.2 C]. The rest of the time we were there, it was clear and dry with lows around 12 F [-11 C] and highs around 32 F [0 C]. The area we stayed at in Firestone is at an altitude of about 5670 ft [1728 m].

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Although I had set my stride using the online tool provided by Tech4O and it appeared to be set correctly, I never really could get accurate distance or speed readings when hiking or running during this test period. Because the watch doesn't use GPS satellites to track my location and instead relies on an accelerometer, I found discrepancies in my speed, distances, steps and pace measurements in spite of following the instructions for setting the stride length. The watch usually over-measured; meaning that if I ran 2.38 mi [3.83 km], the watch would show I had run over 2.5 mi [4.03 km] -- which did wonders for my ego, but not as much for my fitness levels. It's most likely a learning curve, but I still find the entire process for setting my stride length very time-consuming and convoluted. [The process is explained in my Initial Report above.]

I had fun with the weather forecaster; which is essentially a function that is accessed from the main Time menu. By pressing the ST./STP. button while in the Time/Date mode, a little graphic will show whether it will be/is sunny, partly cloudy, cloudy or even raining. It works indoors as well and I found it to be quite accurate if the watch has not changed locations drastically for a couple hours. The temperature function works best when the watch is not on my wrist. My body's ambient temperature influences the reading by making it at least 10 degrees higher.

The compass is tricky to calibrate and it took me several times to get it right. This entailed having me turn 360 degrees in a clockwise circle while holding the watch horizontal and ensuring the watch was in the compass calibration mode. I did this outside my house and by the time I completed the calibration, the neighborhood kids were all staring at me.

Hiking
Hiking


The Dual function of the watch was a great help when we traveled out to Colorado. With our east coast time being 2 hours ahead of Colorado's Mountain Time, I was able to tell at a glance what time it was in both places. The watch displayed both times simultaneously, with the alternate timezone [Mountain] showing larger than our home timezone [Eastern]. I enjoyed keeping the watch in Altimeter mode as we drove in and out of the mountains; I set one of the alarms for 6,000 ft [1829 m] and it went off as we went up and then went off again on the way down as we passed that set point.

High Altitude
High Altitude


Due to the problems I was having with inaccuracies with regard to distance, speed and pace, I wore another GPS-enabled wrist device along with the TraiLeader Pro on my training runs for the half marathon. Since this was training for a major race, accuracy was extremely important and although the TraiLeader Pro was close with its output, it was not spot-on. I wore the TraiLeader Pro on my right hand during these runs, and found that I was able to easily maneuver the menus with my left hand. For the Big Race, I only wore the GPS-enabled device, as running with as few things as possible hanging off of me is usually best.

The heart rate monitor worked fantastically for my training runs and I was able to keep a daily log of my heart rate during those workouts. Unfortunately, while trying to save the data to my computer, I ended up wiping it all out. Although I'm sure it's something I did, it still made me quite angry. I have a screen-shot of a log book entry I made while at the office so that I at least have something to show for the HR monitor.

Log Book
Log Book

SUMMARY

So far, in spite of how negative my reaction appears to be with the accuracy of the accelerometer, I am enjoying the use of this watch. It gives me hours of fiddling and playing -- and once I learned the layout and structure of the menus, it was much easier to navigate the instructions to find what I needed.

Likes
Water resistant
Large display is easy to read
HR monitor
Weather forecaster
Dual Timezones
Log Book
Daily Logs

Dislikes
I deleted all my logs accidentally [probably my fault]
Accelerometer is not easily calibrated to stride length
No online data access for storage of data or tracking of use
Temperature readings are influenced by body heat


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

In the approximately two months since my Field Report, the Central Florida locations and conditions for my Long Term report have been essentially the same. Temperatures have been markedly cooler though, and we've had several nights where we got below 32 F [0 C]. I've worn the TraiLeader Pro on every day hike and during at least 5 trail runs and several road runs during this phase of testing. I estimate the total number of runs/hikes to be around 48.

I have been utilizing the TraiLeader Pro as a training aid while on my runs by using the heart monitor to assist with determining fitness levels and as a gauge to assist with increasing my running speed.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

During this testing period, I focused almost exclusively on the heart rate monitor with this watch. Being a trail runner and a road racer, I was intrigued with using this tool to help me train properly based on what my body could tell me. Although I've been running for over 30 years, I'd never used a heart monitor to assist with training.

The trick to using the heart monitor correctly is to determine the proper heart rate at which you're able to run your easy runs. To find my maximum heart rate (MHR) I used a pre-determined formula of 209 - (0.7 * Age). This predicted my MHR to be 176. The best way to use the heart monitor is to ensure that easy runs stay easy and hard runs are hard. So my easy runs should have a rate somewhere between my maximum and my resting heart rate (but closer to my MHR).

Using the watch with the included heart monitor, I found there were several factors that would influence my beats per minute (BPM), which were accurately displayed on the TraiLeader Pro. Dehydration will cause my BPM to increase dramatically. While running on the trails in 80+ F (26.6+ C) degree heat, I noticed after about a half hour that my heart rate had increased. I had set points on the TraiLeader Pro for high and low BPM and the watch had started to beep. This notification made me realize that I needed to stop and hydrate myself.

It's funny to notice that on days when it was particularly stressful at work, my BPM would be markedly higher than usual, even on easy runs. And on days when I could find no reason for an increased heart rate, it made me realize that maybe I needed to pull back a little on my training and give running a rest for a couple days. Hiking always fills the void nicely.

Over the almost six months during which I've been testing the TraiLeader Pro watch and training for races, it's been interesting to make note of how my resting heart rate (RHR) has improved. I've gone from having a RHR of around 67 to one now closer to 55. I partially credit this improvement to my infatuation with the heart monitor on the TraiLeader Pro.

One of the best features of the TraiLeader Pro is the size of the watch face. Although I occasionally end up pressing buttons inadvertently, the size of the watch face gives me a display I can easily read -- this helps enormously, as my eyes are in transition (old eyes) and reading small print is becoming more and more frustratingly difficult.

I like that I can set high and low set points on almost everything the TraiLeader Pro tracks -- and that I can log almost everything it tracks. Being able to go back through several month's worth of hikes and runs to see heart rates, temperature changes and changes in the weather gives me more insight into what is physically more comfortable for me during activities.

Calculating my stride still has not come easily and so I still wear a GPS-enabled device on my other arm. I don't know how much larger the TraiLeader Pro would have to be to include a GPS, but it would make the watch that much more invaluable a tool for me.

The compass, while a nice tool to have, doesn't work well at all while on my wrist. Having to calibrate it by spinning in circles while trying to hold the watch horizontal is quite the feat and messes with my coolness factor. Even after what I believed to be proper calibration, the compass had difficulty keeping its bearings and would suddenly begin to display incorrect data. This was the case each time I attempted to utilize it. Maybe its my magnetic personality.

SUMMARY

The TraiLeader Pro has become an integral part of my training gear for trail and road runs. I could find no flaws or complaints with regard to the heart monitor and its functioning. The design of the watch, although large, allows for easy reading of the display, even without glasses. I was able to use the watch with no problems on my right and left wrists, losing no functionality. Although the accelerometer and the compass were not up to the same standards as the other features, I really love this watch.

CONTINUED USE

The Tech4O TraiLeader Pro watch will continue to be part of my running and hiking gear. As long as the heart monitor holds up, I will continue to use it as a training tool with regard to trail and road racing.

This concludes my Long Term Report. Many thanks to Tech4O and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this great piece of equipment.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.


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