I’ve spent the better part of last week listening to classical crossover, ambient and piano music and a bit of instrumental rock. Here’s what was (and is) currently playing on repeat. The links are Apple Music, since that’s what I’m using.
I’ve found Apple Music to have the best sound quality vs. user experience vs. price ratio. Spotify sounds noticeably worse, even with all sound processing switched off, using the highest quality possible, turning off adaptive quality and downloading the files beforehand. All other platforms I’ve tried fall flat on their faces in one way or the other. If you can recommend a service at a reasonable price with great sound quality, selection, user experience and curation I’ve not tried yet, I’m interested.
So far I’ve tried Amazon Music, Apple Music, Deezer, Spotify, Tidal and YouTube Music.
The old site got a little stale and the Nord theme, as well as all dark color
schemes, do not appeal to me any more. I spent the last couple of days
cleaning house and simplifying a simple site even more.
Instead of using a CSS framework, even a simple one, I wrote every line from
scratch. No matter how simple some of them are, I always found myself
overwriting some default within minutes. Unless I finally had enough, threw all
existing CSS out and worked my way from there — a liberating experience in
minimalism. Much like the days past of creating for the web without any
frameworks and JS bloat, when you actually wrote the markup and styles by hand.
I tried my best for the moment to get as reductive as possible without breaking
things and playing code golf. I don’t enjoy that. I do enjoy the readability
and contrast of this new appearance quite a bit, especially when you’re
visiting from a Mac. Like before, this site exclusively uses system fonts,
It looks slightly different depending on the OS you’re using. This is
intentional, as the OS default fonts are usually optimised for display in
their respective contexts.
About two to three years ago I started running. Running, as in endurance
sports, with a declared goal of eventually doing a marathon. I’ve been at it
more or less regularly and enjoy it quite a bit. There have been so many
unexpected benefits to it that I need to write a separate post. This one is
about my experience attempting to find and buy my first running watch.
This can be a daunting task. If you’re anything like me, when you initially set
out, you don’t know the first thing about what makes a good running watch and
have no experience whatsoever to draw from. Which features do you actually need
and which ones are window dressing? Which brand and model to pick? What do I
need to invest to get a decent one?
For the longest time, my Apple Watch 4 was more than sufficient for tracking my
heart rate, distance and pace. I used it because I already owned it, it is
reasonably precise and offers an exceptional user experience. What I quickly
discovered though is that even with all energy saving options enabled, its
battery life is … problematic. While you have to charge it every night with
regular use, GPS running workouts put additional strain on the battery — more
often than not leading to mid-day charges to get through the day. This is
particularly noticeable when playing music while running. That’s when you can
actually watch the battery drain itself, counting down.
Around 18 months ago, I ran a half-marathon distance in 2:45 with a fully
charged watch. Playing music half of the time, I arrived home to notice a
remaining battery level of 10%. It was clear it would never hold up during a
first marathon run, estimated at 4:30 with proper training and preparation. The
half-marathon distance happened organically on a day I felt like I could run
for hours on end — and did.
I realise that an Apple Watch and similar “smart watches” are primarily meant
as a daily health tracking gizmo. They’re a mix of lifestyle and medical
device. I know it was for me. Then, once you start running longer distances,
for longer stretches at a time, an Apple Watch becomes a limiting factor.
Taking the marathon goal serious for 2023, I needed a dedicated running watch.
Being confronted with all the different options, brands and models was (and
still is) overwhelming. I was reminded of my PC building days. Dozens of
manufacturers, building hundreds of different parts, often with confusing and
marginal differences. Also, what’s ANT+? Do I need a pulse belt? Is the
included software any good? Do I need running power measurement?
So I asked an experienced runner. They told me they use a Suunto watch, but
only because of ultra marathons of days past. Before that, they had used a
Polar watch. If the battery life had been better, they would never have
switched in the first place.
Interesting anecdote but not helpful.
So I dove in, a bit anxious, to compare brands, features and prices. I set my
budget at 200-300 EUR. To make an annoyingly long story very short — in the
end, it came down to:
I ended up ordering the Polar and Coros watches, one after the other. Suunto
support took almost two weeks to answer my questions, which was too long for
me. They also had active downtime with their web platform, affecting all
devices, apparently not for the first time. For some reason I quickly dismissed
Polar Pacer Pro
Given that Polar was recommended to me as a safe choice and, coincidentally,
had just kicked off a 25% off promotion, I went with the Polar Pacer Pro.
Delivery was swift and I was pumped to try it.
This being my first running watch, the disappointment happened the moment I
turned it on: the display is of an entirely different quality than pictured in
the marketing shots. In fact, it has almost nothing to do with it. The
marketing imagery is all Photoshop. Even the typography and kerning are way,
way off. Coming from the Apple Watch with a high-resolution OLED screen, it was
quite a shock. This goes for all running watches though, the Pacer Pro just had
the misfortune to be my first exposure to this kind of display in a watch form
Rationality persevered and I realised that it’s basically a colored e-ink
display, much like a Kindle, which saves tremendous amounts of precious battery
runtime. Also, in daylight, it offers superior contrast and readability, at the
expense of resolution and fidelity. Everything’s a trade-off.
I don’t want to go into too many details, as it’s boring and mainly an
intellectual exercise in comparing raw features. Ultimately, it comes down to a
gut feeling. Having handled something, does it feel right? Is it pleasant and
frictionless to use or does it add complexity? Is this the right fit for me?
Having grown up being a rather rational person, I have slowly learned to trust
my instinct and gut feeling as well as my other senses along with my analytical
I am sad to say: the Polar Pacer Pro never felt quite right to use. It always
felt off in a way it’s impossible for me to precisely put my finger on. It felt
incomplete, lacking passion, conflicting. Something like that. Its UX is rather
unintuitive and convoluted, the choice of presentation uninspired, a nylon
watch band annoying to mount and a there’s a wide bezel around the display.
Oh, the bezel! That freaking bezel. Even beyond all the UX issues, this
remained what irked me the most. It’s almost a centimeter wide and is entirely
static, lacking any function. In an outdoor watch, with a protective rim around
the display glass, I can see why that may be. But here, in a watch targeted
towards runners, it adds a distinctly dated look, despite the modern tech
inside. It just feels old, like a product meant for a different time. It
possibly simply lacks focus. In a way it’s all over the place. It cannot decide
what it wants to be and tries to be mostly everything to mostly everyone. Which
leads to being average across the board and missing its chance to be
Like Bose speakers, classic Birkenstocks and white Falke tennis socks, the
watch is of decent quality and well made, providing a good ecosystem — and is
entirely, utterly, comprehensively wrong for me. If you like the Polar style
and ecosystem, it may be worth a look. If you can look past its dated exterior,
are a triathlete or enjoy many different sports and want to track that
activity, it could be just what you are looking for. But no matter how you look
at it, its branding seems off to me. It’s a multi-sport watch, not a running
watch. It’s a confusing product, billed as a running watch but it’s not. It
offers advanced features only available in higher-end models but misses
recovery tracking. It’s bulky. I wouldn’t have seriously considered it at the
regular retail price of 329 EUR. The discount made all the difference. As it
turns out, unfortunately.
I sent it back. I’m still waiting for the refund. The parcel had to get to the
Netherlands and be processed, which took almost a week. For some reason I
noticed several return centers being located there. Once they had received it,
the refund notice happened the same day. Now I’m waiting for the credited
amount to arrive in my account. This was an uneventful purchase-trial-return
cycle, which is exactly what I had hoped to experience. Perfect score across
the board for the online shop.
Coros Pace 2
Next up on my list was the Coros Pace 2. I’m not big on ordering and returning
stuff, so I considered it well. This watch is consistently recommended online
by runners as great value for the money. Also, it’s the new kid on the block.
(Sorry, that was right there.) I have always been one to root for the
underdog, so I gave them a chance. Since I was unsure about whether I’d fit my
requirements, I asked their German online retailer beforehand if I could return
it in case of dissatisfaction. They assured me that it wouldn’t be a problem,
as long as I returned it within 14 days. This sealed the deal.
Delivery was quick, setting it up was a snap and I’m happy to say that it spent
most of that time up to (and including) today on my wrist. Currently, it rivals
my Apple Watch for wrist time. It truly is a running watch. Everything you need
is there, including recovery time and training load. You even get running power
measurement, which I hear is all the rage with runners. For now, I haven’t
worked with this value but it’s good to know that it’s there. There’s an
adaptive running fitness measure, including an overview of predicted race
times, given your current state of training. At the time of writing, my
marathon estimation sits at 5:09:55. I hope to gradually improve this to
The UI is well thought-out and gets you where you need to be with a minimum
amount of interactions. It features a digital crown and a dedicated “back”
button instead of Polar’s choice of 5 buttons on the Pacer Pro, of which one
turned out to be a dedicated backlight button. No redundancy here, just a crown
and “back”. UX is intuitive and consistent with no-nonsense menus and
customisable list contents. I didn’t need a manual at all, whereas it took many
attempts and wrong interactions to use the Polar somewhat smoothly.
What I don’t get about sports watch manufacturers (and not only them) is their
insistence to plant their name and logo on the watch face itself. Coros at
least offsets it to the left side, nestled in the decoration around the outer
bezel. It’s a neat visual trick to obscure both the bezel and blend in the
name. At the same time it’s recognisable by others when you hold your arms in a
natural position, as opposed to prominently subjecting the wearer to it all of
I tend to know what kind of watch I wear and don’t need constant reminding,
thank you very much. Have some backbone and don’t plaster your brand name over
anything you possibly can. The Polar is a stellar example of what not to do:
it offers a watch face that mimics traditional analog watches, including the
manufacturers’ branding on the watch dial. That means you now have two logos
on your watch, one in software and hardware each. Wow. How about some
restraint, taste and quality control?
In short, Coros get most of the things right that Polar gets wrong. Their watch
face selection is vast and ranges from the whimsical to novelty to elegant,
although few truly usable ones. It’s lighter (30.2 grams including nylon strap,
not 29 grams as per manufacturer specification, measured it myself). It offers
all the features important to running. Its usage is intuitive. Sync between
watch and app happens automatically instead of manually (the Polar has yet
another button for that of course). Access to notifications and timers is
instant as opposed to being hidden away several levels deep.
The battery life is phenomenal. Since I got it, I’ve done around 100 km worth
of walking, running and biking in workout mode and only had to charge it this
morning — for the first (actually: second) time since getting it. Today is
approximately 9 days later. That’s more than I expected it to be.
Speaking of things that I didn’t expect to happen: I’ve barely worn my Apple
Watch since then. In preparation for my latest run, I even disabled its fitness
tracking features and put it on my other wrist to use as a fancy Bluetooth
music player. And then again, playing music for 1.5 hours to my AirPods Pro
drained the battery from 100% to 70%. So the best I can hope for is using it as
a lightweight music player with enough charge to keep working throughout an
eventual marathon run. Well, at least that’s something. I like to use my
devices for as long as possible, extending their life cycle. Maybe I’ll go back
to the Apple Watch at some point. I don’t know. It sure doesn’t look like it.
Apart from tracking my runs and listening to music, my most used functions of
the Apple Watch are receiving notifications from my phone (mainly messages and
phone calls) and setting timers. The Pace 2 receives audible notifications from
my phone that also vibrate and has a dead simple way to set timers. I now find
less and less reasons to wear the Apple Watch at all. Amazing.
Of course there are some trade-offs and rough edges here and there, especially
with the iOS app. For the price of 199 EUR, you don’t get a blood oximeter, the
case is all plastic, the crown’s action is sometimes finnicky and imprecise and
occasionally digs into my arm hairs. The training calendar cannot move or
remove scheduled workouts you didn’t get around to doing. Importing workouts
and training plans is awkward. There’s no integration with the regular Apple
calendar (the Polar Flow app creates separate calendars for this) and syncing
with Apple Health is all but rudimentary (no active burned calories and more
Once I have used it for longer, I’m likely going to revisit those issues, to
see what’s changed and go into more detail.
I get around the latter by syncing from the Coros app to Strava to Apple Health
instead of directly integrating with Apple Health. The amount of privacy
options I had to enable and public sharing options to disable to make my run
data non-public on Strava was staggeringly absurd and a topic for yet another
post. I’d like to track my regular runs, not exhibit myself.
None of the rough edges are deal breakers at all. The Coros Pace 2 works great,
its battery lasts forever and most importantly, it feels right. I’m very
happy with it. Given its price, handling and feature set, it’s probably the
best advanced-level running watch available on the market today. I know I’ll be
using it for all my workouts and my first official marathon run this fall.
Ever since upgrading to macOS Ventura, I encountered a peculiar issue with
Night Shift. At the scheduled time, instead of shifting the white point towards
warmer colours, it appears to do the inverse: suddenly my display turns
Manually turning Night Shift off and on resolves this issue until the next day.
At the scheduled time it happens all over again.
I’m using my MacBook Pro in clamshell mode with an external display attached.
I’m not using any other display control software. This has never been an issue
for me before.
Searching the internet yields a couple of similar complaints, including a
report that this already happened on Monterey (for at least one person) and a
theory that it may be related to using external displays with the lid down.
What to take from this — other than another example of how Apple’s software
quality is in continuing descent? It’s the details, the sweating of the small
stuff that they used to more often than not get right. That extra bit of
attention at the margins that delights, the tiny polishes that make an
experience feel effortless and reliable. Today’s Apple appears to have lost
interest in pursuing it.