Sunday, May 03, 2015

Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless Review

I had previously reviewed the Jabra Sport Wireless+ about 18 months ago and was liking the wireless (Bluetooth 4.0) ability. The unit was on loan and i returned it back to Jabra Malaysia. Fast forward to earlier April this year, I received a call from their PR company that they would like to share with me a new Sport-enabled unit for review. This time around, I get to keep it for a long term review of the unit. Today's sharing will be for the Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless. 
This unit is a pair of wireless in-ear headphones that have one special feature – the ability to monitor your heart rate through your ears. It retails for RM799 RRP (Recommended Retail Price). This review include the App review for the Jabra Sport Life essential to the Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless functionality.


This is a 5mins unboxing video I took and uploaded to my YouTube channel. Click on this link here to view to find out what to expect in the packaging and how the unit can be used immediately out of the box.
If you are not the video type, here is the write up.
My first impression of the Unit when I opened the flip-box was impressive.  The 3-distinctive features were placed on the inner packing where the unit claim of a premium wireless sound via the Dolby system (optimise using Jabra Sound app on iOS or Playstore, free), Heartrate detection and reporting, and being able to use the unit to focus on your training, without distraction.
Nice packing presentation
Removing the unit from the box involves removing some of the twist cables that held the unit in place. There is a box at the bottom that houses a carry case, various attachments, a micro-USB cable for charging and the manual. What it also has is a card with some code number - and this is essential for you to activate the Jabra Sport app on iOS or Playstore. The Jabra Sport app will be "talking" to this unit for full functionality.
The different attachments for the correct fitting. Yellow are the "Eargel" and the black are the "EarWing". The smaller attachment below left are to secure the cables.
Including the attachment that came with the Pulse Wireless, there are 16 ways to fit into your ear canal (combination of the EarGel and EarWing). Instruction for fitment is clearly spelt out in the manual and you should spend some time to read through them and understand how to get the right fitment for measurement of the heartrate. 
Fitted into my inner ear
It took me about 5-minutes and I landed on the standard EarGel bud and M-EarWing. More of this fitment later in this blog.
Unit un-box
The unit came with the black-yellow color scheme which made them striking when left on the table and subtle as you position it into your ear. I like the carry zipped bag that comes with it. It provide a secure way to keep the unit. It is semi-hard as well, so your investment will be well protected when you place them into your everyday carry bag.
The zipped carry case
Going into a bit more details, there is an inline remote built into the cord nearest to the right side. This should allow you a quick identification even in the dark on which side goes where. Of course, with the EarWing, there is only one way to ensure correct fitment anyway. The inline control handles the standard functions such as adjusting volume, redialling, activating Siri if you're using an iPhone, and control the music such as skipping tracks via a number of different button presses. It's well positioned and easy to reach.
Side profile : the "+", multifunction "O" and the "-". Visible is the microphone hole
You be forgiven to think that these are the typical ear buds. However, it will comfort you to know that these are IP55 rated headsets which meant they are both dust and water protected. This is only true to a certain extend and should not have any worries if you immerse the unit in water or wash them under running water for a minute or two. Just don't push it by putting it in washing machine ;-) (it's common sense really). 
On the same side as the inline controller is the micro-usb charging port that is cleverly concealed in the silicon EarWing.
Yes, that is the universal symbol for USB
Pulling it aside will reveal the port. It's a bit tight when new and after charging it for about 12 times, it's still very well secured.
Pull the silicon aside and voila!
On the left side is where all the heart-rate monitoring happens. It need to be positioned inside your inner ear correctly or you will hear "heartrate not detected". 
The optical sensor module on the left ear.
The technology behind this is the usage of an optical sensor that shines light (maybe non-visible like infrared) against the skin inside your ear to detect your pulse by mean of blood flow on skin surface to generate a reading. I tried seeing if there are lights on the unit being emitted, there is none. The ear is the part of the body packed with small blood vessels and Jabra reckons it's almost as accurate as the ECG machines - and I will share more of this in today's review.
The left side with HR detection, Clearly marked in case you forget. Also note the rubberised button in the middle, it's where you press to get workout feedback/status
On the left side is the Sport button (photo above) where you press it and it gives you update on your progress that includes distance, time, heart rate and other tracking metrics. The default voice is a women and it speaks American English, if you wonder ;-). This is useful as you can keep your phone safely tucked away and don't need to look at it until you want to end your workout (to stop and save it). By the way, pressing this button also starts, pause, enable your workout and a longer press up to 10seconds will disable the HR.
Linking up With Jabra Sport Life App
You can download the app for Android and iOS using the keyword "Jabra Sport Life". 
Ensure correct developer to reduce chances of fake apps
There may be another Apps that will be required to run the services and do allow it to be installed if prompted (Jabra Service App).
Install this too
The app is easy to use and when you run it the first time, It will guide you to "fit" your device to your ear.
There is another app called Jabra Sound, which requires you to key in a code (see my video) to utilise the Dolby system. However, this app is dissapointingly unstable. Out of the 10 times I tried to run it, it fails all 10 times. I've sent a notification on Jabra Facebook but yet to find a solution.

Fitting The Sport Pulse Wireless Correctly
The below are series of setup photos from the Jabra Sport Life App (Android based) and it was a good as I don't need to read the manual to get things right.  Very straight forward and my comments in the photos, if any. 

Your details and your unit preference. 
Tutorial starts
If you are not sure which is left or right... read above again
Take note, this is where the various sizes of EarWing comes into play. Do not be shy to use different fitting for different ear
I do this all the time when I wear them to ensure correct fit
EarGel to ensure good fit in the ear canal. Too tight you feel not too comfy, too loose you won't get good sound due to leakage
The standard is M
M+ for me, initially and now I am on big L.
Once you get the correct fitment, you can fire up the headset and link the unit to your phone via Bluetooth. Hold the "O" on the inline controller until blue light comes on at the right earbud, a voice feedback will also come through to prompt you that it is ready to link. Remember to set your phone and Jabra to be able to "see" each other. I got it right the first time, so there is no issues/drama to this.
Calibrating the Heart Rate Function
The app will next prompt you to setup the HR functions and it will ask you to stand still and then jump for 15 seconds each time. This is of course, assuming you managed to position the unit correctly in your ears with the right fittings.
You can't skip this step
STAND ya, not sit, or lie down

I did this behind closed door ;)
After the jumping
The apps has the capability to report the battery (estimated) of the Pulse Wireless. The unit came with 2hours worth of power. More than sufficient to allow you to test the features and capability.
Feature laden apps

Heart Rate Accuracy vs ECG Accurate Devices

Things I do to check for 
product reviews
For this purpose, I use my Garmin 920XT which is a verified ECG accurate device to compare the reading of the Jabra Sports Pulse in-ear function. After charging it fully, I hooked the unit up into my ears and the HR was detected after a twist or two on the left side.
I wore my Garmin 920XT HRM-Run and the 920XT picks up the signal almost immediately. With larger surface (strap to chest at sternum level), I am not expecting any less for the Garmin to detect and report.
Happy to note that at resting or minimal movement, the accuracy of the unit when compared to an ECG accurate device is same. I see both fluctuates within 1 beat per minute of each other only.

I then hook myself up for a run on treadmill with both the 920xt and the Pulse Wireless to see what and how consistent the tracking is.
The strap stayed secured during the run
The Apps has the ability to customise your workout. 5-stages from "light" to "Maximum" can be chosen and the voice prompt will ask you to speed up or slow down to ensure you "keep to the zone". Here are a few screenshot I've taken while running on treadmill 
I targeted an easy "Cardio" and ended up "Maximum" the training

The field above are all customisable

As comparison, the above run did not differ much from what my Garmin 920XT recorded. The differences are small and it should not alter your training outcome much. The full data can be accessed here : Treadmill April 6
The Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless April 6. (5km)

The Garmin 920XT Treadmill April 6 (averaged over 6.4km and not 5km)
Battery Life test
Sugar Beach, Toronto
With the unit fully charged, It was an opportune chance to use them until it ran out of power. So, at 12.37 as the unit were re-charged after the earlier treadmill run, I set off to walk around and stream the music from my phone to the Pulse Wireless via Bluetooth.
HR, Music and Tracking all switched on.
Felt like some secret agent?
The Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless kept me entertained while recording my HR and the distance I walked on that day I explored Downtown Toronto. I spent a longer time in their "REI" equiavalent aka MEC or Mountain Equipment Co-op. For you outdoor freaks...go google them up and you will understand how i ended up spending 2-hours inside the store.
Westin Harbourfront, Toronto
At 4:15 of the unit function, I got a voice prompt to tell me that "battery is low", and there is a 0.5hours reserve still; but can it last that additional claimed time?
9.8km in 4hours? Tortoise speed!
It appeared that the app and unit sort of accurate with the battery life. The unit kept running until 4:44:59 before I stop hearing music being streamed over, 1 second short of 30mins? I say that is forgiven ;-)

I can safely conclude that it will provide up to 4:30hours of battery. The battery life is expected to be this limited due to the various capabilities - the HR, the Bluetooth, the voice feedback. Surprisingly, it doesn't drain the phone battery more than expected, like when it is set to track on GPS. And the coincident of the unit dying right at the iconic CN Tower? Priceless.
Right outside Rodger Centre (think Baseball) and CN Tower
Using it Outdoor
Running around Toronto - spot the cable coming our from my Buff and into my jacket. It was -1DegC with 40km/h wind
Being on business trip and in a foreign country meant a chance to explore on foot to see the country a little more. Toronto is not really a "running" route city but I did noticed many people running from 5.30am (from Hotel window) and I typically head out at 6am when it starts to get bright. The weather on my trip there was between -2 to +3 Deg C. I was hoping for Snow and I got ice rain (meaning the rain freeze up upon hitting the ground, resulting in slippery surface). I have typically up to 90mins until my meeting starts, so nothing is left to waste. We will sort out the sleeping and jet lag later because running to explore is more important!
Skechers GoRun4 In Action
Love these vehicles
Trail in a city!...but it was too slippery for me to run through
With map
Bicycle friendly city
Fishing is allowed at Lake Ontario...and they gives you guidance on what is safe to eat
Spot the inline controller out of the Buff. After 5km, the body started to heat up despite the -1DegC @ 40km/h wind
Spotted a man running to work. Spoke to him for a while. He was clocking in at 4:25min/km pace. How I know? Press the Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless left button for voice feedback!

Was contemplating to go with just my sleeveless running vest like how i did in Amsterdam...but the wind was just too strong and cold!
The photos above were from my short 10km run along Toronto waterfront area. My Garmin Data is per the embedded sharing below.
How did the Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless hold up in terms of accuracy to the Garmin 920XT which is an unit with both GPS and GLONASS capabilities?
As good accuracy/tracking on Apps as on Garmin
Recorded 10.5km
The unit was pretty accurate based on the Jabra Sport Life (app) + Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless. What we are interested is the record of HR, as that is a good indication of how it differs when on a longer run, outdoor.
Here is the HR profile of Jabra vs Garmin.
Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless 

Garmin 920XT
3-dips per Jabra
You will see a large differences between the two average reading which is 149bpm (Garmin) vs 170bpm (Jabra). This is a huge differences and I suspect it is because I lost signal a few times on the Jabra due to the strong wind and the movement of my head to look left/right when crossing/changing running lane. I remember having to adjust it more often that when running on Treadmill, and this has perhaps limit the apps from recording those portion, and hence, the overall average. As we speak, I am still testing this out as much as I can to see if this is the actual performance or otherwise. 
Other Use
Perfect for anything from commutting to just gym workout where you can set the level of intensity and has the voice feedback to you. I use it for gym-weight workout where I "run the rack" to get the cardio and strength burn out in 30minutes.
BT connection meant you can leave your phone at one corner (to take photo of you) while you listen to voice feedback and music of your choice.
The Jabra Sport Life app has another fitness features where it will be able to use your resting HR and classify your fitness.
I was hitting 42bpm until 2 months ago due to lesser training load
It also has a recovery adviser(orthostatic) and a Rockport test that measures your VO2 using "walking". it may not be the most accurate, but I will try doing it and will report back against my known VO2Max done previously.
Requires the Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless to work with the app to maximise on the capability
As the unit has a microphone, it is a legit BT handsfree device when you are on the move. However, I would strongly suggest you not to use them for driving as distraction can potentially kill. If you need to use your mobile when driving, I would suggest you stop somewhere safe to perform this task.

At this point of time, I can connect the Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless to my (office) laptop. Because of the company restriction on installing software/driver to run this for my conference calls, I can't realise my hope of using it to it's full potential. At this point of time, I will be happy it links to my Android phone. 
The Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless
Wrapping Up
- Small unit, light and highly usable even as a daily BT headset for calls and audio
- Feature laden in a small pack
- Solidly built including military grade IP55 (dust and water proof to the IP standard)
- Quick Charging. I managed to get it from 0% to 100% (4.5hours) in less than two hour on standard USB laptop connection.
- You can workout with or without music. You get to choose if you just want it for voice feedback. This may save a bit more battery? (not verified)
- Ease of mind with Jabra warranty (in country where you bought it)


- Short battery life compared to other BT headset devices. Frequent user may have to charge it everyday. If you forgot and went for a longer run/exercise, be prepared for it to die on you.
- Requires the Jabra Sport Life App to fully function, including the HR readout. So, you still can't go "fully mobile device-less". Putting things in perspective, many of us does run with a phone in case of emergency nowadays.
- Price is on the high side if you are looking specifically for a device for workout and tracking. At RM799, you can get a GPS-enabled watch with HR straps; but that won't get you the music factor if you need it for your workout or daily commute (my current best friend for LRT rides)

Unboxing Video

You would think I would not had posted the embedded video isn't it? Here is the Unboxing Video if you have not seen it yet.

This unit of Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless is courtesy of Jabra Malaysia via their PR agency. Retailing at RM799 and is available at most IT stores. Visit Jabra Malaysia Facebook and give them a LIKE. This review is my own personal opinion and not influenced by Jabra Malaysia, or their affiliated companies.

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