We started off a few weeks ago with our post on Heart Rate Monitor Straps – Which One To Choose? Today we are continuing on our journey to discover and review the latest heart rate monitor straps. So today we are reviewing the ithlete Cardiosport Bluetooth SMART heart rate monitor strap. The ithlete Cardiosport Bluetooth SMART is compatible with the iPhone 5, 4S, iPad 3 and iPod Touch 4. The suggested retail price is $84.99, or £54.99. The Cardiosport is available in the UK, Europe, US, Canada and Australia and New Zealand.
Since we haven’t said this recently, before we get started, we should tell you a little bit about us and how we perform product evaluations. We have a group of 4 people who do product reviews. Typically, one person is the lead on a piece of gear, but everyone can have an opportunity to evaluate the product. We have 2 guys and 2 ladies, so it’s a good mix of people. It gives us better insight, and we get a better review overall. If there is a major disagreement between reviewers, we will note it in the review. If you want to know who these people are, check out our About Us page. Four of us are seasoned triathletes, and 2 of us are are also full time Pilates instructors. We swim, bike, run, do Pilates and Yoga, and use all of the gear on a daily basis. Also, many of you have read the FitnessElectronicsBlog disclaimer, but here it is in case this is your first time reading one of our reviews. For the record, we are in no way connected with ithlete or any of the companies whose gear we review. We remain disconnected, in large part, because we love playing with the latest technology, and we couldn’t keep our hands off this stuff if we tried. We call ‘em as we see ‘em. It keeps us honest. So, enough with the babble. Let’s get to the review.
You should also know that the ithlete Cardiosport heart rate monitor uses the Bluetooth SMART protocol. As such, it is designed to work with the iPhone 4s, iPhone 5 and later iPhones. It does not work with the iPhone 3G, 3GS, and iPhone 4. If you want to learn more about Bluetooth Smart or Bluetooth Smart ready, check out our page “What’s the Difference Between Bluetooth, Bluetooth Smart, and Bluetooth Smart Ready?”
So what do you get?
Here is an image of the product:
Here is a closeup of the electrode pickups:
Here is the hook that is used to keep the strap connected:
The product comes in a mailing envelope, with a quick start guide.
So what are the features and specs?
The ithlete Cardiosport specs are shown below:
- Compatible with iPhone 4S and later iPhones
- Bluetooth Smart (Bluetooth Low Energy 4.0) transmission
- Typical transmit range greater than 10 feet
- Claimed battery life up to 700 hours
- User replaceable battery CR2032
Using the ithlete Cardiosport
As usual with all of the watches and heart rate monitor straps that we test, I wear them for an extended period of time to get a feel for how comfortable the strap is. I then put them through a number of workouts to get an idea of the comfort of the strap, from walking around the house, to sweating profusely 🙂 To get rolling, I put on the strap, opened up an app (in this case, it was Endomondo PRO), and paired the Cardiosport inside the app. It was as simple as going into settings, searching for a new heart rate monitor strap, and hitting the pairing button:
Now comes the comfort test. I will typically wear the HRM strap that I’m testing around the house, going about my normal business. Here I am answering comments and emails:
So how do I rate it for comfort? The ithlete Cardiosport is one of the most comfortable straps we tested. We definitely give it good marks in this category.
During the comfort test, as I wore the strap around the house, I always kept a close eye on the heart rate display, looking for any dropouts of any kind. I also reviewed my workout data on the computer after my workout for the same issues. I did not have any dropout issues with the Cardiosport.
So what about compatibility with exercise apps? Most of the newer apps work with any of the Bluetooth SMART heart rate monitor straps, but check out the app you use to be sure. I quickly tested the Cardiosport with Endomondo PRO, Polar Beat, Bit of Exercise, iSmoothRun and LogYourRun, and all connected with no issues. If you want to learn more detail about different apps, check out our app reviews.
The next step was to head downstairs to the spinning bike and check for spikes and dropouts. I usually put on a dri-fit workout shirt, and hit the trainer. The dri-fit shirts are great at shedding water, but they tend to create a static buildup as they rub across the heart rate monitor transmitter on some HRM straps. This can cause spikes in your data, especially at the beginning of your workout before the sweat starts to flow 🙂 I also look for dropouts caused by poor electrode connections on the strap. As always, to help alleviate this issue, it always helps to wet the pads on the heart rate strap.
Our basement is where much of the pain occurs during the winter months:
To start my first test, I applied some water to the pads on the HRM strap, put it on, hopped on the spinning bike, and started to spin. I used the Spinning app by Digifit for iPad for my initial test. You can see during my warmup that there are no dropouts or spikes. I tried different positions on the bike (standing, climbing, sitting) to find any issues. Everything went well:
Here I am about 30 minutes into the workout, and everything looks good:
I used the Cardiosport for my daily spins and runs for a few weeks with no issues at all. The Cardiosport works well, and passed the dropout and spike test well. The connection was always solid from the from the strap to the phone, with no connection issues at all. Once again, high marks.
There’s one other neat feature of the the Cardiosport HRM strap. It is compatible with ithletes‘ apps that measure Heart Rate Variability. So what is Heart Rate Variability, and how is it useful? Here is the definition of HRV, taken from the ithlete site:
“Heart rate variability (usually known as HRV) is a relatively new method for assessing the effects of stress on your body. It is measured as the time gap between your heart beats that varies as you breathe in and out. Research evidence increasingly links high HRV to good health and a high level of fitness, whilst decreased HRV is linked to stress, fatigue and even burnout.
ithlete measures your HRV, as well as your resting heart rate, every morning during a 1 minute test. After you have built up a baseline over a few days, the ithlete software algorithms compare your daily readings with baseline to determine if any significant changes have taken place. These are reflected in traffic lights for today’s training and a chart to help you track trends.”
So you can use HRV as a way to determine if you are under or overtraining, and when to rest, or hit it hard. If you are currently using, or plan to use HRV to determine when to exercise, you can use the Cardiosport as your daily HRV measurement device. We will be covering Heart Rate Variability, including an in depth review of ithletes’ HRV apps in a future article, so stay tuned.
Thoughts, Opinions and Summary:
So, after using it for a while, what did I think of the hardware? The device paired easily, and works well with apps that connect to Bluetooth SMART HRM straps. The Cardiosport is one of the most comfortable straps we’ve tested. We had no issues with dropouts or spikes, and if the battery life claim is accurate, its pretty amazing.
- The product was easy to use
- Easy to pair with exercise apps
- The connection was very good
- The strap was extremely soft and comfortable
- The Cardiosport claimed (we could not verify) battery life of 700 hours is the best that we have seen quoted for a Bluetooth SMART HRM.
- The manual/quick start guide could be a little more in depth