Wireless Heart Rate Monitors

Wireless Heart Rate Monitors

Do you use a heart rate monitor when you exercise? Heart rate monitors have come a long way in recent years, now integrated with GPS and training programs, and connected to smart phones. Gone are the days when you need to fiddle with the chest strap, trying to pick up a reading, and interrupting your workout. Wireless heart rate monitors that read your heart rate through the skin on your wrist have hit the market, and you now have the chance to change your workout for the better.

I have used a Crane heart rate monitor from Aldi, which was rated one of the best by Choice, for the past couple of years. It finally seems to have decided to give up the ghost and I am in the market for something new. I am tired of stopping and starting my workout to try and adjust the chest strap (and probably receiving funny looks from people in the gym while I fiddle with my shirt!). Last Christmas, I saw some new wireless heart rate monitors at Rebel Sport. Using technology similar to pulse ox used in hospitals, the watches continuously monitor your heart rate so you can get more out of your workout. Since then, a few other monitors have been released so there is now a little more choice to be had.

While I haven’t tested these monitors personally, I have researched their features, and chatted to sports store staff about their recommendations.

Mio Alpha

1. Mio Alpha Heart Rate Monitor – $249 AUD

This was the first wireless heart rate monitor to enter the market. It has been heavily tested for accuracy, and is integrated with a variety of health and fitness apps including My Fitness Pal. The watch is water resistant to 30 metres, meaning that you can use it while swimming, although this may reduce accuracy a little as the contact to your skin is effected. The simple screen displays your heart rate, the length of your exercise session, and the time. This is the first edition of this watch, meaning that there are things they would change next time, including the fact that the screen is not back lit. While this might be an issue if you run outside a lot at night, you would not notice this difference in the gym or during the day. Mio’s Go app allows you to choose a variety of places to virtually train in, with videos and images being displayed on your screen. It would certainly make that run on the treadmill a bit more interesting! The cool thing is that the images move in real time, with your heart rate dictating the pace at which you will move through the course. With 20 hours of continuous use battery life, this watch seems like a great addition to your gym bag. The Mio does not have GPS capabilities, but if this is a feature that you are not worried about then this may be the perfect watch for you, at a fantastic price. New editions have been released in various colours and strap sizes. You can purchase the Mio Alpha from all good sports stores, or online here. Mio wireless heart rate monitors without screens are also available at a cheaper price point.

Tom Tom Runner Cardio2. TomTom Runner Cardio – $349 AUD

The TomTom works in a very similar way to the Mio Alpha, with the added benefit of GPS technology. This is fantastic if you enjoy walking or running outdoors, as it will accurately track your distance, time, pace and calories burnt. It has a large screen so the display can be seen easily while you are exercising. Five intensity zones will help you set training goals and accurately monitor your health. The MySports website by TomTom will help you track your exercise progress both online or through an app. The watch will stay charged for 8 hours of use, and is waterproof to 50 metres but says it is not suitable for swimming. It comes in three colours, and can be purchased here, or at various sports stores.

Adidas Mi Coach

3. adidas miCoach Smart Run – $500 AUD

The Rolls Royce of wireless heart rate monitors appears to be the adidas miCoach. It has a lot of bells and whistles including GPS, a music player and two coaching modes (training and marathon). You can purchase an additional wireless headset, which allows your virtual trainer to talk to you and encourage you along the way. Motivational messages can also be displayed on the watch’s touch screen. The display is very simple to read, making it ideal for glancing at during your training. The device has a 4GB memory which can be used for music or data storage. One of the best things about the miCoach is that it eliminates the need for any other device, and if you have wireless headphones you won’t be attached to anything bar the watch. The battery will last for eight hours in training mode, and four if you are training with music.

My Choice

At this point, I think I will be tossing up between the Mio and the TomTom. I just need to decide how important the GPS feature is to me, but the price points are both quite good. With all new technology, there are going to be teething issues, but both of the companies have been making products like this for a long time and are well trusted in the market. When speaking to staff in sports stores, the recommendations have been for TomTom watches due to their advanced technology, and for the Mio due to lots of satisfied customers. It looks like I have some more research to do!

Do you have a wireless heart rate monitor? What brand do you have, and what would you recommend?

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11 thoughts on “Wireless Heart Rate Monitors

  1. I don’t have a wireless heart rate monitor but certainly can see the benefit. My advice on whether to go with the one with GPS is a resounding yes. I bought a HRM watch without GPS and paid plenty for it. Only to less than 12 months later want the GPS. It was an expensive exercise. The GPS is a really handy training tool even if you aren’t a serious runner. It can help you push yourself a little bit further (whether you are running or walking) and you can keep track of what you have achieved. Coming into the warmer months … it is a great time to get outside and make use of it.

    • Hi Kelly – good to ‘see’ you! I’ve missed your comments 🙂 I will definitely have to do some more research but the GPS does look really good, as do the training programs. I normally work out in the gym but am looking entering a couple of 10km walks and runs so it would be great when training for that I think. What brand did you get?

      • You too Sarah – I am pleased to see you back posting more regularly!! I had a Polar HRM which was great and have a Garmin GPS. I ended up going with a run out model (which was a great price) because I thought I don’t need the latest and greatest but I can kind of see why it was a run out, it is seriously hard to use. My partner has a better model Garmin and it is much better and less bulky too. Good luck with the 10km events … watch out, they can get addictive and it is a nice way to enjoy the fabulous weather we have.

  2. Did you know that Mio licences their optical heart rate tech to Tom Tom & Adidas for these watches? All of them have a Mio HRM built-in. All these watches are great because of that, so It really just comes down to what you’re looking for. Mio’s watches sync with other 3rd party apps and are open, while the MiCoach and Tom Tom have built in features like GPS, speed, etc., but they don’t have the same openness to other apps that Mio does.

  3. I saw a review, via internet search (sorry, can’t remember where), which compared chest strap versus wireless versus hospital-grade chest heart rate monitors. It said that the wireless ones were only accurate when you are not moving. When moving they can be wrong by something like 30 to 50 per cent, which means the wireless ones they tested (which I think included Mio, which would also be relevant to any other brands using Mio’s technology) are no good for running. The ones with chest straps we’re very accurate when moving or stationary. There are some new brands of wireless/chest-strapless HRMs coming through “Kickstarter” type funding which claim to use different methods of reading heart rates, but I haven’t seen any reviews. Aldi were recently selling a different version of their GPS HRM sport watch with chest strap for 99 Australian dollars, & some stores still have them. They’re having a clearance sale from 1 to 7 November of various items, so maybe they’ll be even cheaper.

    • Thanks for commenting, Colin. There is a monitor I came across after writing this that has been crowd funding and it looks pretty cool – check out Atlas Wearables. I’m on the waiting list to try it and hopefully I can let you know how it goes. It can tell you what kinds of weights you’re lifting, how many reps you have done, and the optimum time between rests depending on your heart rate. Very clever!

  4. Some Aldi stores have the GPS sport watch with heart rate monitor via chest strap for $49.99 (e.g. Top Ryde in Sydney), some still have it at $99.99. I haven’t tried it out yet. There’s a bike mount included.

    Do a Google search (covering the last year) for “tutorial video aldi gps watch” & there are 2 youtube videos dated “Mar 10, 2014” for this current model – there’s a promotional video & a tutorial video. I was going to put the web addresses here, but I found they wouldn’t work when I typed them into my browser, even though they worked when selected from the Google search.

    The previous model last year seemed good, except occasionally the Start/Stop button didn’t work, & I returned it. Hopefully, especially at half the already low price for the features, this model will work better. It has a 3 year warranty. According to the manual, it’s rainproof but not bathroom showerproof (isn’t this similar to rain?) nor swimmingproof. And it says don’t press Start when the watch is wet.

    It has a compass, altimeter, data can be transferred between the watch and a Windows or Apple computer, access to software to view your training as numbers, graphs and maps (including Google Earth) on a computer screen, waypoints, assisted GPS via download (A-GPS reduces GPS start-up time), customisable watch screens, with 3 lines of data per screen, & 3 screens to scroll through giving up to 9 different pieces of data available at any time during exercise. E.g., current heart rate, maximum heart rate, average heart rate might be one screen, total time, total distance, current speed on the second screen, lap time, total calories used, time in target heart rate zone on the third screen. There are the same 22 different pieces of data to choose from on the first & third GPS training mode screens, 9 for the second screen (23 different items altogether).

    The watch charges via a USB connection. I’m not sure whether the watch’s pre-installed, rechargeable battery can be replaced. The chest band is black & its non-rechargeable (replaceable) battery is pre-installed.

    3 colours for the watch & watch band are available: dark pink; light, brightish, lime green; & black. The pink colour in the promo video is not accurate.

    I hope I haven’t taken up too much space, & that this is useful for someone. I hope I’ve caught all the typos – this particular (Samsung) phone swiping keyboard I’m trying out keeps randomly inserting and deleting words and characters, and even duplicating whole phrases – makes things interesting!

  5. This was meant as a PS to my previous entry, but my browser ate it! If you see the box for the Aldi GPS sport watch with heart rate monitor, you’ll see it says “Water Resistant to 30 Metres”. This might puzzle you given what I said previously about it’s limited use in the rain & no use for swimming, which comes from the user manual. Unfortunately, on ANY product, water resistant ratings do not mean what they say. “The Checkout” on ABC-TV had a (slightly amusing & disturbing) segment featuring Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, explaining a bit about the confusion caused by water resistance ratings. The ratings are based on the device and the water being perfectly still, in a laboratory. If you want to wear a device for swimming on the surface of the water, then you need a water resistance rating for 100m or 10 atmospheres of pressure (some sites say 50m/5atm). Any movement increases the effective pressure. Soaps & detergents reduce water resistance, which might be why showering is out, but rain is in for the Aldi. Water resistance ratings should also come with a use by date as seals wear out, age & corrode. So back up your data as often as possible. And only operate the buttons of any device when there’s no water around the buttons.

    Good luck if you’re looking for the Aldi watch – they’ll be getting harder to find. If you find them for $99.99 at your local Aldi, maybe tell them the price is only $49.99 at other Aldis. Bye.

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