Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Testing the Finis SwiMP3

Just last week I bought a Finis SwiMP3 for $138 from with 128 MB of storage, which is used for playing music while swimming. Now I see that there is a new version with 256 MB of storage for $180. It appears that the hardware is the same, however.

I should note I am NOT an audiophile. This is my first MP3-playing device (and in fact I'm militantly opposed to wearing iPods, etc., while running or cycling on the roads or trails). I just wanted something to ease the boredom of lap swimming a little bit. Get in harmony with the water, become a mermaid, and all that.

Initial impressions:

The device comes with big rubbery goggles, which are okay, but not my favorite type. It did not come correctly mounted on the goggles, though, and when I took the straps out of the goggles to assemble it, I couldn't get them back in for love nor money. No big problem because I plan to use my own Speedo Vanquisher goggles with it anyway, but it was still annoying to unsuccessfully fight to reassemble the goggles that came with it.

The unit is kind of weird and bulky and ugly to wear. It seems like it really should be smaller, considering the small storage capacity, but perhaps that will happen in the next generation of hardware. The wires attached to the cheekpiece speakers seem flimsy and probably easily broken. It also uses an old 9-pin type connection (covered with a rubber plug which is not completely watertight) for connecting to the computer, which also seems like a strange choice and an easy place for hardware failure to occur. The directions say to dry out the unit completely before plugging it in.

The music software that comes with it (MediaMonkey 2.5.4) is available as freeware, and it was also annoying to immediately get solicited to buy a software upgrade when I installed it. The interface seems fairly cluttered and cumbersome to me, too, compared to the iTunes program. But I was able to get it to work and sorted out some music to listen to and downloaded it into the unit without too many problems.

It held about 1:45 worth of songs, I believe, which should be plenty to get me through all my planned swim workouts. However, if I want all new music, I'll have to reload it after almost every swim. That may be a big reason to pay the extra $42 for the 256 MB version, to have to reload it with fresh tunes every 3 swims or so. Personally, I find sorting through music on the computer a fairly tedious process.

It uses the plug into the computer to recharge (not separately into an outlet). The battery life is supposed to be about 4 hours. The red charging light switches from fast blinking to slow blinking when fully charged - I'd like to see a green light or something a little more definite.

First tryout at the pool: It fit a little tight and pulled my goggles hard against my eye sockets - I need to loosen them a bit! I didn't really notice the back-of-the-head unit, but perhaps I might if I did flip turns. I occasionally hit my shoulder against the cheek pieces, but it wasn't really an issue. At least you always know the unit is securely on your head, since it's attached to your goggles.

The sound is tinny and hollow out of the water. But IN the water, it's nearly perfect. Doing freestyle you always have one ear in the water, so it's perfect for that. In breaststroke, with both ears coming in and out of the water, the sound is kind of choppy.

But the bottom line?

Swimming with music is a THING OF BEAUTY. It is INFINITELY BETTER than just staring at the black line and getting bored out of your skull. Especially when you hit a song that has just the right tempo for your stroke and you can really swim along with the music, it's just like skating. Or dancing.

If you find lap swimming excruciatingly boring, buy one. The $138 model gets you plenty enough tunes for swim workouts of an hour or more. Load it with happy music. No Jaws theme.

I suspect that prices on the 128 MB model may go down from $138 after Christmas when retailers try to unload their stock, now that the 256 MB model is available. If you're in doubt, wait a few weeks and see if you can find a more tempting price.


Wendy said...

A fellow was wearing one last month at an evening lane swim where I go. He had no difficulty with flip turns. But he did point out you must wear a cap when using it. After his workout he let me try it. I was impressed.

Spokane Al said...

I feel the same way you do about iPODs and that kind of stuff, but this has my interest.

I do wonder how much of a problem I would have in keeping count of my laps. I have problems now whenever my mind starts to wander and can only imagine what would happen if Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run start blasting in my ears!

Do you have problems in this area?

nancytoby said...

Well, I hit my watch timer on each lap, which slows me down a little but it's habitual now. So this didn't affect it.

bunnygirl said...

Thanks for the product review, Nancy! I may look into one of these, since I don't like swimming in the first place, and the "Black Line Blues" don't help.

Hmm... Isn't Santa on his way in another few weeks?

Ellie said...

I still like my idea of somehow showing movies on the pool bottom.

nancytoby said...

I do the next best thing - 90% of my tunes are from movie soundtracks!!

Downhillnut said...

It looks VERY geeky, but I appreciate the value of music while swimming. Hope it continues to work well for you.

Will you be able to listen to talking books or podcasts on this thing?

Not sure about the the pool bottom movies idea - but I can envision a slide show.

Kewl Nitrox said...

NAAaaaNCY!! You have the uncanny ability to read my mind, I was just wondering about this Finis stuff and here you are reviewing it for us. Thanks!

A BIG BIG sorry for being "silent" for so long. I did go to Ironman "live" to check up on you and my heart did bleed a little... I then tried to come to your blog but there was an "INTERNAL SERVER ERROR", then life basically took over and I have been away from blogs for some time.

You may not be an Ironman (yet), but you are such an INSPIRATION. I turn 40 next year, and just noticed that Ironman 70.3 (half ironman) is coming to Singapore next year... Seeing as how I already DNR (Did Not Register) for the Olympic that I intended to do this year, do I have the guts to sign up? Hmmmm........

Oh and I love the IMFL bike pics. Esp the red finger nails! I would've expected yellow to match the bike, but racer red is definitely the hotter colour! :D

runr53 said...

Nice review! I have to second, or third?? the Ipod discussion but can see where that might be nice in the pool! Run Good!

Mojo said...

You've got to download "Part of Your World" from Little Mermaid since you were talking about swimming like one.

That is a very cool mp3 player. I may ask for one for Christmas. I am a music junkie.

Iron Pol said...

It's sort of interesting that I find myself sort of on the other side of the fence, here.

While I totally oppose the use of MP3 players on bikes (which is illegal in many locations), I do use one on solo training runs. With volume low, I've never had a problem hearing things around me.

In the pool, however, I'm fairly certain it would lead to my sudden and tragic departure from this earth. I have enough problems when I start to THINK about anything other than swimming. Knowing me, I'd start singing some song, promptly ending my swim set.

It is cool to hear it works so well. And Nancy, you should be able to find a cable that plugs into the MP3 player and an outlet for charging the unit. I have one for my Fitbeats unit and there are now phones that use the same system.

mrfxn said...

I rec'd my Swimp3 as a gift. I love it! Or at least I did. Since I got it I quit counting laps. I just load up 60 minute minutes of music and away I go.

But I have a problem now.

The right ear piece quit working last night. I guess the little wire is broken because I can wriggle it and get sound intermittently.

I got it for father's day.

Too old to be covered by warranty. Too new say I got my money's worth and get a new one. What to do, what to do?

By the way, I took good care of it. I always put it in a hard sided case to keep it safe while in my duffle.

Can these be reparied or am I out lots o' $$$?

nancytoby said...

Well that sucks! I thought those wires seemed flimsy. Perhaps phone the company and see what they say?