Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Optical Heart Rate Monitors

In the past, exercise heart rate monitors have used EKG technology on a chest strap to track heart rates and thus exercise intensity. Recently, however, a a number of companies have released a new type of sensor that presses against your skin and flashes light through the top layer and measures your heart rate via the capillaries there. The technology works quite well. These devices communicate over both Bluetooth and/or ANT+ with a GPS watch or smartphone to record heart rate data.

Two devices in the exercise market that have capitalized on this new technology are the Mio Link and Scosche RHYTHM+. I originally purchased the Mio Link and liked it, but it's not quite perfect. It was certainly a step up from the chest strap I had been using. For whatever reason chest straps frequently gave me heat rash in the humid Houston weather. The Mio is worn on the wrist like a watch and needs to be placed fairly firmly against the skin in order to provide solid tracking. Even so, I did notice an occasional drop in the signal; no worse than the chest strap, but still not perfect. I also discovered that the signal was a bit weak. When I was using an older device like my ForeRunner 610 to track the data I actually had to wear the Mio and the 610 on the same wrist in order for it to pick up the signal.

Despite the issues, I still quite liked the Mio Link, but the blogger I follow who reviews exercise gadgetry started saying a lot of good things about a similar device called the Scosche RHYTHM+. I decided to give it a try and found it to all of the good of the Mio Link with none of the niggling issues. The Scosche can be work on the wrist or pretty much anywhere else on the arm. I wear it around my upper arm. It's extremely comfortable as it has a stretchy cloth-like strap. I often forget it's even there. The signal is quite strong and I've never had any issues with drops.

As you can see, the Scoshe comes out way ahead and I can't recommend it highly enough. I wear it on every run and it's been flawless. 

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