CatEye Q3a Cycling Computer/Watch Review

Q3a Cycling Computer/Watch

The CatEye Q3a is a recent offering from CatEye, in an effort to provide a more elite-level bicycle computer to start competing with some of the more premium computer brands out there. It offers speed, cadence, distance, time, heart rate, elevation, temperature and more features. It measures pretty much everything short of power, so if you don't have or need a power meter, this computer may be a good choice for you.

The CatEye Q3a is labelled as a multi-sport watch, but it's really optimized towards being a wireless bicycle computer. It can be worn as a wristwatch and can be used for running and swimming (triathlons) but excels more on the bike. If using it as a multi-sports watch, you should turn off the auto start/stop which runs off of the speed sensor that is specifically for the bike.

The watch, bike handlebar mount, speed/cadence sensor, wheel magnets, HR strap, manual, software CD and a nifty case are all included with the purchase of the CatEye Q3a computer.

Setup & quick start

So this part gave me a little trouble because I didn't read through the instructions first (I've used bike computers for a while and figured I could handle this). Well, there's a small piece of plastic behind the battery in the watch you need to remove. I mixed that up with the piece of plastic that is the battery holder and removed that instead. So the small white piece is what you need to remove to get the watch going, not the black piece.

Run through the paper Quick Start Guide that comes with the computer, or you can run the program provided on the CD instead, which makes it go a lot smoother. The CD wasn't working on my computer, so I downloaded the software from CatEye's website and all was good.

Q3a speed and cadence sensor

Everything else is pretty much like setting up a regular bike computer. The one additional step is that you need to have the watch search for the sensor and HR strap. It's a lengthier process than I'm used to, since many high-dollar computers have simpler ways to navigate menus. But since this realistically doesn't need to occur very often, it should only be a pain once or in the rare occurrence you need to get a new sensor or HR strap.

Note: I had issues with setup after I caused an error on my Q3a computer by pushing in a bunch of pairs of buttons trying to find the "sfync" selection in the menus (because I didn't read the setup guide like I should have). I lost functionality of the watch's SSS button when navigating the setup menu. You know if you can make a selection by a small black dot on the screen by the button. If the button isn't doing what the setup guide states, this may be your problem. A reset/format is what you should do to fix this; it's the same process you do at the start of setup with pushing in all of the buttons.

Performance

In use, the computer did everything it said it would. You switch to "sport mode" when using the watch for more than just a timepiece. Heart rate is the main/center metric displayed by default (most important for training along with time, since intervals/training are a certain intensity for a certain time) with something at the top and another something below, both of which are selectable and can be scanned through easily by pressing the button on the right side of the associated display line.

I did not go through all of the special features of the watch because there are a lot of them. In the past I've found these things to be more work than necessary for the small reward I get from them. Examples are: setting a HR zone alarm and setting a countdown timer (this is actually nice for intervals if you do the same workout repetitively, but I don't repeat workouts enough). These are described in the manual under "Training Function."

Processing the data

CatEye provides software that allows the data from the watch to be uploaded to their program. Unfortunately, this requires the addition of the CatEye dongle which is NOT included with the Q3a. However, the data can also be accessed directly from the watch via the data mode. From there you can put the data into whatever software or spreadsheet that you have manually for tracking purposes.

Who will like it

I think this computer is for a wide range of people, from those who are interested in some serious training to those who simply want to improve their fitness and see more information while riding. The computer does a decent job of giving information while on the bike, making it a useful training tool for real-time measurements. Where it is lacking is in its ease to use that data for later analysis like using a program like Trainingpeaks.com or Strava.com for data tracking.

If you have one or two bikes you want to use this for, it can easily handle that if you buy an extra speed/cadence sensor. The watch has the options to select between "bike 1" and "bike 2" sensors.

Who won't

Data junkies. If you want to be able to get a lot of information and be able to do a good hard review of it later on, then this may not be your item. The software is fairly basic, and without the added dongle it can be troublesome to get a lot of long-term data out of the unit. With the dongle, it gets a few more points for usefulness, but at the added cost of the dongle you're approaching prices of better units from Garmin or Polar, which have better tracking software for post-workout analysis.

If you have several different bikes (more than two) that you ride regularly, then you may want something different. The Q3a is basically limited to two bikes and would be some hassle to switch between more bikes (cutting the zip ties mounting the speed/cadence sensor and remounting it to a different bike or re-syncing the computer to a different sensor).