Hands on: Parrot Zik Sport review

They promise to track your run and soundtrack it epically

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

A stylish and innovative product that could be many a runner's best friend, so long as they can afford it…

For

  • Star Trek styling and excellent head-gripping
  • gives you a wealth of running data
  • Zik's heritage suggests audio will impress too.

Against

  • Some of the running data is of questionable usefulness
  • this wasn't enough near enough to a finished product for us to really judge it.

How about this for a plethora of innovative features? The Parrot Zik Sport, designed by Philippe Starck, has an unusual, slightly alien shape that gives great grip and noise cancelling, but with a "Street Mode" option that allows ambient sound through (thereby reducing your chance of being run over by an unheard bus while out jogging - a plus, I'd say).

It also packs sensors and an attendant app to track heart rate (using the same light-reflection tech used in wrist-worn pulse trackers such as the TomTom Multisport Cardio and headphones such as the Jabra Pulse), cadence (steps per minute), vertical oscillation (variation in your body's height as you run – making sure you're not too bouncy in your run, and thus wasting energy), and even step analysis, tracking how long each of your feet is in contact with the ground (the idea there is shouldn't be too much emphasis on one foot).

Zik Sport app

The last two of those are seriously esoteric, and that's compounded by the fact that that the app in its current form doesn't really offer any context for the data it provides. "We are not physicians," Parrot's man in Vegas told me, which is fair enough, but it leaves those stats feeling a bit gimmicky for all but the most serious of athletes.

Zik Sport detail

However, much else about the headphones impresses, from the light weight (the finished device will be 75g; this was even lighter as it was a 3D-printed prototype) to the grippy but comfortable headband, which holds onto your head in no fewer than five places, to the promised audio, which mirrors the high-end Zik 2 in allowing graphic equalisation of tunes, noise cancelling and general all-round splendidness.

Parrot Zik Sport

The reason I say "promised audio" is that the ones on display at CES, er, had no audio. That could be described as an oversight when showing off a pair of earphones, but the other Zik headphones to date sound pretty damn fine, so let's assume these will too, shall we?

The app was very well laid out and pretty, and seemed to be accurately tracking the movements of the lady Parrot had imprisoned in a human-sized hamster wheel for the occasion.

So yeah, okay, it is stretching a point to call this a hands on, given that the key functionality - audio - was missing from the device.

However, we've seen enough to be intrigued and impressed. It's doubtful so much tech has ever been packed into a pair of earphones before, and for hardcore runners who are also major music lovers, they look like a godsend.

There is the question of how useful this would be to the serious runner though, as most will already have a heart rate monitor strapped to their chest, and a watch which can track all the above too. The convenience of it all being in one place is a good one - hence the rise of the watch with the HRM built in - but if it comes at the cost of accuracy then these headphones will be a hard sell to the more in depth runner.

It's a shame Parrot hasn't teamed with a proper running brand to offer helpful hints - or even video tutorials - on how to improve running form and show those stats improving, as that would have been perfect for this beautiful app.

And on top of that, these headphones won't be cheap - Parrot's giving no details, but come on, of course it'll be expensive.

Techradar's coverage of the future of tech at CES 2015 LIVE is brought to you courtesy of Currys PC World. View Currys' full range of the latest audio and multi-room speakers here

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.

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