Getting yourself geared up to hit the gym can be such a chore with all the gadgets most people take with them – I know personally I have to bring my iPOD, a heart rate monitor, a pedometer (for when I’m on the treadmills or ellipticals), and a pair of headphones.  If I don’t have everything in my gym bag (because kids like to take things out when they go, and don’t like to put them back), then my workout suffers a bit because I’m not keeping my heart rate at its optimal level, and I can’t keep track of steps.  It might seem silly to need all of that, but I know people that wouldn’t even begin a workout session without everything I just listed.  Now New Balance in conjunction with iHOME are trying to make things a little bit easier.

With the new NB639, you get a lot of features wrapped up into a neat little package.  For starters it’s a pedometer – and a fairly accurate one at that.  There was some discrepancy when I compared it to both FitBits that I have, but it was only a few steps difference that could even be attributed to where I was wearing each.  Next, it has a chronograph that you can use to time your workout, which eliminates the need for a stopwatch (I used to use mu iPHONE for that).  The NB639 also has a built in heart rate monitor, where you just place your thumb over its sensor and it delivers real-time information.

How does it deliver the information?  It’s quite ingenious really – by talking to you.  You see, while you can plug your mp3 player into one end of it to listen to music while you workout, the device itself also makes use of the headphones to tell you things in a pleasant voice.  It can tell you not only your heart rate, but the number of steps you’ve taken, the calories you’ve burned, or the distance you’ve traveled without ever having to pause your music or stop your workout.  It’s a great feature because when I’m in the middle of an intense session, the last thing I want to do is stop and lose my momentum.

The headphones themselves are pretty comfortable, and during every 90 minute workout that I used them on, they never got uncomfortable to wear.  The NB639 comes with bunch of different attachments to ensure a proper fit for just about every ear type, so that they’re actually useable in a workout.  That’s really important because I know I’ve gone through a ton of ear buds searching for ones that won’t fall out during exercises.  The headphones are also sweat-proof, which is again something desperately needed if you’re exercising correctly.

On the software side of things, the NB639 comes with the “HeartPal” graphing software that allows you to monitor your information by days, weeks, and months.  It also gives you a nice summary of your performance data, allows you to set goals, and keeps all of your graphs managed nicely.  While it may not be as comprehensive as the software for some of the other dedicated heart rate monitors out there – it’s not designed to be.  The NB639 doesn’t track all the information that some of the other things do, but it tracks what it’s meant to track well.

The only think I would really change are the drivers in the ear buds themselves.  They’re not bad as far as ear buds go, but at high volumes there’s a good amount of distortion present.  At low to medium volumes though, the sound that they produce is more than adequate for anyone not totally obsessed with perfect audio.  Aside from that though, they’re really a pretty nifty little gadget.

Editor’s Rating:

Rating: ★★★★½


The Bottom Line: While the NB639 is a “Jack of All Trades” sort of gadget, it’s also convenient as all hell – being able to ditch multiple devices to only carry one is something really useful.  You’ll pay a premium for that convenience though.

You can pick up a pair of the New Balance NB639′s from the iHOME online store for $99


  • Extremely convenient to only have to bring one little device to the gym with you
  • The ear buds are very comfortable, and don’t fall out while moving around
  • The included software really does the trick of setting it apart from other fitness devices


  • Since it’s a jack of all trades model, there are other things that are better at each individual feature
  • The ear buds crap out with distortion at high volume levels
  • the $99 price tag could be a deterrent for some people