First of all, it's a relief to know both vest and device are comfortable to wear. The Lycra top is stretchable and breathable, and available in seven different sizes, so finding one that fits shouldn't be a problem. The Playertek itself slots into a pouch on the back.
It's certainly very tight and secure in there, and we'd say virtually guaranteed never to pop out during a match. That said, being on your back, you can't hit the on/off button very easily – you really need to get it up and running before you pull the vest on.
Three lights on the back of the device, which fits easily in the palm of your hand, let you know when it's on and when a GPS lock has been found. Playertek says you'll get seven hours of battery life between charges, but we didn't test it for that length of time.
A simple on/off button is all the tracker has, with everything else managed via the associated apps for Android and iOS. We can't complain about the number of stats collected, which include distance covered, number of sprints, and top speed. Everything synced over seamlessly after we'd finished playing.
The Playertek app also displays a heat map of where you've been on the pitch. Rather cleverly, after your session, you can use satellite imagery to show the app the dimensions of the actual pitch you were on – that pitch can then be saved for future games.
Less smart was the way you have to split your game up into halves, even if you don't want to. To be fair, this first-and-second-half format will fit most situations, and you can edit the half timings and lengths, but a bit more flexibility here would be welcome.
Does it work though? Well, as best we could tell, yes it did – the heat maps, sprint stats and distance covered seemed to map what we could remember from the game, and matched up closely with a separate fitness tracker we put on for the occasion.
As you play more games, the Playertek device and apps become even more useful, telling you how your performance varies over time, whether that's during a match or over a month. If you tend to slack off during the second half of matches, the Playertek will tell you about it.
We were left impressed with the tracker both in how comfortable it is to wear and the barrage of stats it picks up along the way. If you want to know more about your movements and performance during soccer games, this will certainly help.
In fact, it's one of the most solid and useful wearables we've come across yet, even more of a feat considering GPS technology can be notoriously difficult to get right.
Playertek says it's got interest from teams involved in soccer, rugby, American football, and lacrosse, and it definitely makes sense for professional coaches who want to track performance across multiple players at once. Being able to get that kind of analysis at an individual, amateur level isn't something we've seen much of up to this point, so kudos to Playertek.
If this is the start of a new wave of wearables that are genuinely useful, actually accurate, and (relatively) affordable, we might see mainstream take-up start to improve. To date, while a small portion of the population will wear a tracker or smartwatch on their wrist, fitness wearables have hardly become must-have gadgets.
The Playertek is good enough to make us think that might change in the years ahead. You can buy a Playertek solo kit, including vest, tracker and USB charger, for US$199. Extra vests will set you back $35 each.
Product page: Playertek
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