Even the most passive football fan can see the difference between a tightly-wound spiral and a flailing, wounded duck. But even a blue chip QB recruit can't tell his throw's speed (in mph), RPMs and spiral efficiency. Until now.
The ball itself won't be available until September (though customers can pre-order it now on Wilson.com), but STACK tested one in advance of the full launch.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the Wilson X is the fact that it's virtually indistinguishable from a normal, non-smart football. The weight and shape are familiar, and there are no odd protrusions from the ball itself.
The Wilson X is also totally wireless—there's no charging port, the built-in battery reportedly lasts for 200,000 throws, and the ball connects to smart devices via bluetooth.
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Set-up was easy on my iPhone 6, as the app quickly connected to the ball. However, the ball did have some trouble connecting to an early-gen iPad, potentially because of outdated bluetooth tech. Once the ball is connected to a smart device, users can choose from five different game modes.
QB Warm Up is the most basic, allowing users to instantly see the distance, speed, spin rate and spiral efficiency of every pass. The app also displays a Wx score, an overall rating of the quality of a throw. The app does a nice job of giving context to these statistics so you know how your numbers compare to different levels of quarterbacks.
Precision is a game mode that rewards consistency over 10 throws, while Elimination is a group mode that supports up to eight players vying to see who can throw the tightest spiral, fastest pass, furthest bomb, etc.
Elimination is probably more of a party game than an actual training drill, but the STACK team had a blast seeing who could throw the best ball. (Brag of the day: It's me!)
The other two modes are Game Time and Final Drive. These allow users to put themselves in the shoes of the starting quarterback for any one of the 32 NFL teams and take on a virtual opponent. You can choose from a variety of plays prior to the snap, adding a strategic quarterbacking element to the experience.
As far as we could tell, the data gathered by the Wilson X was accurate. Wobbly throws displayed a low spiral efficiency rating while tight spirals displayed a high spin rate and good spiral efficiency. We didn't have the technology to corroborate the data, but it almost always seemed to mesh with our naked eye observations.
The Wilson X also comes packaged with a wrist coach, meant to hold your smart phone on your non-throwing arm during activity. I never played quarterback, but the wrist coach didn't seem cumbersome enough to skew my throwing mechanics. The app also has a number of interesting ramification elements. Trophies and achievements are unlocked for strong performances and your stats can be compared to both local and global leaderboards.
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Although the Wilson X probably won't turn you into the next Aaron Rodgers, it is a durable, intelligent piece of equipment that can better inform a quarterback's training. Assume the Wilson X helps you notice that your spiral efficiency takes a nosedive on throws over 15 yards. You can use that knowledge to fine-tune your training and address that specific weakness in your game.
For those who aren't competitive quarterbacks but enjoy tossing the pigskin with their buddies, there is certainly fun to be had with the Wilson X. The ball costs $200 and is available here.
Check out the video in the player above to see more of our hands-on experience with the Wilson X.