What's more fun: getting hold of some of the coolest new athletic technology, or giving it as a gift? You could end up buying two of each of these noteworthy innovations.
Smartphone golf coach
SwingTip: A 2-ounce, 3-D Bluetooth motion sensor that attaches to any golf club and instantly shows you a video animation and metric analysis of your actual golf swing, so you can identify problem areas and make adjustments. Images are stored for later viewing.
Likes: It works, showing you what your swing looks like and providing valuable analysis, including your swing speed, whether the swing was inside-out or outside-in or whether the club face was open or closed. It can be used with or without a ball and on or off the course. Pro tips are provided too. Setup is simple; download the app, set up a profile and password at swingtip.com, then instantly clamp the 2-inch-long sensor and around a club shaft. 5.1 or higher Apple iOS or 2.3 Android or higher is required.
Dislikes: Although our tester loved the concept, he felt that the recording function was too limited. Instead of labeling each swing with the specific club used (i.e., a 9 iron versus a 4 iron), you are given a choice of the categories "wood," "iron" or "driver." The problem: You swing each club differently. So when you get back home, replay your swings and see "1:31 pm iron," it doesn't help you much if you can't remember what club you were using.
Price: $129.99. http://www.swingtip.com
Pivothead: Sunglasses that have a stealthy, hidden 8-megapixel video and still camera built into the bridge.
Likes: A great idea, ingeniously executed. A very stylish, natural, unobtrusive place for a camera. You don't have to stop to fish out equipment. The control buttons are simple and effective — one for video and one for stills, each a simple on-off. The 1080p HD MP4 format video is fine quality, with decent stills despite a soft focus. It records at 30 frames per second. A mini-USB port connects to your computer for charging.
Dislikes: This camera really needs a fisheye lens for a wider field of vision; its standard 75 degrees is not enough. I found that I was looking down at the ground too much while mountain biking and trail running, and even after I learned to keep my head up, there still wasn't enough sky in the frame. The 8 GB capacity is quite small; you run out of storage very quickly. Another design flaw is that the blue on-off light and flashing red video light, which are located on the left arm, were not visible to my eye. I had to pull the sunglasses forward to see them — a hassle. Of course, you can't view the video until you load it on your computer.
Price: $299. (646) 588-1137; http://www.pivothead.com
Intelliskin: Skin-tight, moisture-wicking, anti-odor nylon-Lycra athletic shirt that uses reinforced shoulder and back fabric panels to improve posture by pulling your shoulders back and allowing you to achieve a more natural, vertical, non-kyphotic posture.
Likes: Simple and effective. The reinforced panels exert some rearward pull on shoulders. The styling looks good enough to wear in the gym and comfortable enough to wear as a base layer. Note: The shoulder pull seems to be much less pronounced than that of a competing product, AlignMed, which was favorably reviewed in this column two years ago (it lets you use Velcro straps to yank your shoulders rearward).
Dislikes: There's no real science backing the company's assertions that the product reduces athletic injuries and stimulates muscles (but it does feel good).
Price: $95 (tank), $100 (T-shirt), $105 (long sleeve). (949) 797-2813; http://www.intelliskin.net
Poor man's power meter
CycleOps Power Cal: The first-ever device that calculates your cycling power output from your heart rate and a "secret" algorithm, all at a fraction of the cost of a standard power meter (which measures the force you put on the pedals and can run $1,200 to $2,000). Includes a chest strap, which you pair with your own compatible bike computer.
Likes: Although not able to provide moment-by-moment accuracy, as with a true power meter, PowerCal provides a good approximation of your power output over an entire workout. The algorithm uses your heart-rate variation and actual heart rate to come up with a power value. It is ANT+ compatible, simple to set up, easy to use and displays real data in real time. I love that you can use it on your road bike, mountain bike or on a spin bike at the gym, allowing relative comparisons.
Dislikes: Cannot accurately measure short, hard efforts, such as surges or intervals, like a true power meter.
Price: $99. (800) 783-7257, http://www.CycleOps.com