May 302012
 

A few more of you wrote in to tell me that I neglected a few popular HRM watches in my list, so today I thought I’d post an update with these watches added. – John

A few of you who are new to training have written in and asked if there is a good heart rate monitor training watch that doesn’t cost hundreds of dollars. I thought I would pop up a quick post that covers the most popular watches under $100.00. Actually, the highest price for the watches shown below is $129.99, but this is the retail price of the watch. If you look around, you should be able to find them cheaper.

 

 

 

Here is the short list:

Polar FT1 – In depth review here

  • Retail price $69.95
  • For the first step into heart rate-based training.
  • Shows heart rate on large and easy-to-read display
  • Helps improve your fitness with manual heart rate target zone
  • Displays a summary of your latest workout
  • Simple one-button start and coded heart rate transmission to avoid cross-talk
  • Safely exercise within your target zone
  • Records average and maximum heart rate

 

Polar FT2 - In depth review here

  • Retail price $89.95
  • For recreational exercisers who want an easy start to fitness.
  • Shows heart rate on large and easy-to-read display
  • Helps improve your fitness with automatic age-based heart rate target zone
  • Displays a summary of your latest workout
  • Simple one-button start and coded heart rate transmission to avoid cross-talk
  • Records average and maximum heart rate

 

 

Polar FT4 - In depth review here

  • Retail price $99.95
  • For those who want basic heart rate-based features to keep their fitness training simple.
  • Shows when you’re improving fitness based on your heart rate
  • Displays calories burned
  • Comes with comfortable fabric transmitter and coded heart rate transmission to avoid cross-talk

 

Suunto M1 – In depth review here

  • Retail price $99.00
  • Real-time guidance: heart rate and calories burned
  • Automatically switches between three heart rate zones to help reach personal exercise targets
  • Suunto M1 comes with comfortable Suunto Basic Heart Rate Belt, compatible with most gym cardio equipment
  • Easy to use
  • 9 languages: English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Dutch, Portuguese, Swedish and Finnish
  • With easy and comfortable monitoring of real-time heart rate and calories burned, Suunto M1 is equipped with the essential tools you need to reach your fitness goals.
  • It monitors you while you exercise to ensure you stay within the most effective training zone. If you’re going to burn those calories, make sure every move is a smart one.

 

Suunto M2 - In depth review here

  • Retail price $119.00
  • Real-time guidance: heart rate and calories burned
  • Automatically switches between three heart rate zones to help reach personal exercise targets
  • Suunto M2 comes with Suunto Dual Comfort Belt: comfortable textile belt, compatible with most gym cardio equipment and Suunto Fitness Solution
  • Easy to use
  • 9 languages: English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Dutch, Portuguese, Swedish and Finnish
  • With easy and comfortable monitoring of real-time heart rate and calories burned, the M2 is equipped with the essential tools you need to reach your fitness goals.
  • It monitors you while you exercise to ensure you stay within the most effective training zone. If you’re going to burn those calories, make sure every move is a smart one.

Timex Personal Trainer

  • Retail price $70.00
  • Target Heart Rate Zones
  • Time in Zone
  • Percentage of Max Heart Display
  • Calories Burned
  • Recovery Heart Rate Timer
  • Automatic Activity Timer

 

Timex Zone Trainer

  • Retail price $100.00
  • Target Heart Rate Zones
  • Graphic Heart Rate Zone Display
  • Average Heart Rate for Workout and Lap
  • Time in Zone
  • Percentage of Max Heart Display
  • Calories Burned

 

Timex Ironman Road Trainer

  • Retail price $110.00
  • Target Heart Rate Zones
  • Graphic Heart Rate Zone Display
  • Average Heart Rate for Workout and Lap
  • Time in Zone
  • Percentage of Max Heart Display
  • Calories Burned

 

Blink 1 

  •  Retail price$74.99
  • One button functionality – easy to use
  • Only HRM watch that has a blinking multicolor LED to let you know if you’re in your optimum heart rate zone
  • 3 color zones
  • Blue LED blinks to indicate below the training zone (low intensity effort)
  • YELLOW LED blinks to indicate the mid training zone (a moderately intensive effort)
  • RED LED blinks to indicate the high training zone (high intensity effort)

 


Blink 2

  • Retail price $84.95
  • Flashing light that is the color of your heart zone
  • Average, current, and peak heart rate
  • Out of zone alarm with audio off function
  • Calories burned during your workout (kcal)
  • Blue LED blinks to indicate below the training zone (low intensity effort)
  • YELLOW LED blinks to indicate the mid training zone (a moderately intensive effort)
  • RED LED blinks to indicate the high training zone (high intensity effort)
  • Stores time in each of the three training zones
  • Comes with ZONING program inside

 

 

Garmin FR70

  • Retail price $129.99
  • Tracks your time, heart rate and calories burned inside or outside, while running, cycling or during other fitness activities
  • Calculates speed and distance when paired with our optional foot pod
  • Includes ANT+™ technology, which allows it to connect to other ANT+ compatible devices, such as the included heart rate monitor, optional foot pod or ANT+ compatible fitness equipment, and then share data wirelessly with your computer
  • Offers advanced training options, such as workouts, intervals and Virtual Partner®, when paired with our optional foot pod
  • Tracks weight, body fat, body water and 6 other measurements when used with the Tanita BC-1000body composition scale
  • Features 2 time zones, alarms, 20 hrs/100 lap memory, configurable training pages with Auto Scroll, Auto Lap®, 5 heart rate zones and alerts
  • Transfers data to your Windows® or Mac® computer wirelessly when in range. You can then use Garmin Connect to analyze, categorize and share in our online community

 

So what do you get in a watch in this price range? Here is a quick comparison of the watches:

FT1 FT2 FT4 M1 M2 FR70
Heart Rate x x x x x x
Average Heart Rate x x x x x x
Max Heart Rate x x x x
Heart Rate Zones x x x x x x
Percentage of Max Heart Rate
Graphic HR Zone Display x
Color LED HR Zone Display
Time in Zones x x x
Calories Burned x x x x
Multiple Stored Workouts x x
Optional Foot Pod x
Wireless Transfer x
Vitual Partner x
Optional Bike Speed/Cadence Sensor x
Interval Training x
Customizable Screen x
High End HRM Strap x
Training Alerts x
Price $69.95 $89.95 $99.95 $99.00 $119.00 $129.99

 

 

Timex Personal Trainer Timex Zone Trainer Timex Ironman Road Trainer Blink1 Blink2
Heart Rate x x x x x
Average Heart Rate x x x
Max Heart Rate x x x
Heart Rate Zones x x x x x
Percentage of Max Heart Rate x x x
Graphic HR Zone Display x x
Color LED HR Zone Display x x
Time in Zones x x x x
Calories Burned x x x x
Multiple Stored Workouts
Optional Foot Pod
Wireless Transfer
Vitual Partner
Optional Bike Speed/Cadence Sensor
Interval Training
Customizable Screen
High End HRM Strap
Training Alerts x
Price $70.00 $100.00 $110.00 $74.99 $84.95


Standout Features and things to look closer and check out 

  • I really liked the Suunto M2 comfort strap. It is definitely comfortable
  • I also liked the Polar FT4 comfort strap
  • I like the look of the Suunto  watches the best
  • The Blink 1 and Blink 2 uses an LED, which is very easy to see, to tell you that you are in your optimum training zone
  • The Timex HRM units make nice watches
  • The Garmin FR70 has the most features. I particularly like being able to download and connect to Garmin Connect, and I also really like Virtual Partner, and the capability of connecting an optional footpod. Of course, this watch is also the most expensive of the group.  If you don’t know what Virtual Partner is, check out the video below

Overall, if you are just starting out training, you can’t go wrong with any of these watches. Look closely at the features, and make sure you get the features that you really care about. You can also check out our more in depth reviews on these watches.

I hope this is a quick answer to your question.

Happy Training!

 

Here are a few videos of some of the watches:

Polar FT1:

Polar FT2:

Polar FT4:

Garmin FR60/FR70 Stup:

Garmin FR60/FR70 Heart Rate Monitor Strap Use:

Garmin Virtual Partner:

Using A Timex Ironman Heart Rate Monitor:

Programming the Blink HRM’s:

Suunto M2 – First Settings:

Suunto M-Series Exercise:

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May 032012
 

Today we are continuing on our  journey to learn more about heart rate monitors, and the best way to choose the right one. Today we review the Polar H7 Low Power Bluetooth 4.0 Heart Rate Monitor.

 

Before we get started, we should probably have a quick discussion about Bluetooth Low Energy. So what is Bluetooth Low Energy?  Bluetooth Low Energy is a feature of the latest Bluetooth specification, Bluetooth 4.0. Different manufacturers call it by different names; Bluetooth Low Power, Bluetooth Low Energy, and Bluetooth 4.0. Thew advantages of Bluetooth Low Power is that they consume a fraction of the power of  classic Bluetooth products. So why should you care? Because products that use this new Bluetooth protocol may not be compatible with old phones. As an example, the Polar H7, which uses Bluetooth Low Energy (which we will call BLE from now on), is only compatible with the iPhone 4S and the Motorola Razr Droid. So even though all other smart phones have built in Bluetooth, those phones are not compatible with the Polar H7. To solve this problem, Polar makes two versions of Bluetooth heart rate monitors. Polar makes the Polar H7, and the Polar Wearlink+ heart rate monitor straps. The main differences are shown below. This was taken directly from the Polar site:

You can see that the Polar Wearlink+ is compatible with Symbian, Blackberry, and Motorola Droid phones. This review will cover the Polar H7, connected to an Apple iPhone 4S.

 

What’s in the box?

Here is the product box:

Here’s what is inside the box:

The product includes the Bluetooth heart rate monitor strap, transmitter, manual, and box.

 

So what are the features and specs?

The Polar H7 heart rate sensor is designed to be used with a smart phone, or connected to one of the Polar training computers. The features are shown below:

  • Compatible with iPhone 4S and Motorola Droid Razr
  • Bluetooth Low Energy transmission
  • Compatible with Polar training computers, including the FT series, RS100, RS200, RS300, RS400, CS100, CS200, CS300, and RCX5
  • Also compatible with Polar compatible gym equipment using the 5 Khz coded protocol
  • Can transmit up to 30 feet
  • Battery life up to 350 hours
  • User replaceable battery CR2025
  • Soft, washable strap

 

Using the Polar H7

Before I could use the strap, I needed to decide what software I would use to log my workouts. I found that Endomondo and CardioMapper work, but I also found a trick on the internet that will get you up and running with Runkeeper. It seemed to work for me. Here is the video:

I used the Polar H7 with MapMyRun, RunKeeper, and Endomondo. It worked well with all three apps. I have included a few screen shots for fun:

The strap connected to all three apps, but to get it to work with RunKeeper, I needed to follow the video shown above. The strap felt great and worked well, with no dropouts or issues.

Thoughts, Opinions and Summary:

So, after using it for a while, what did I think of the hardware? The device paired easily, and the strap felt good. As is typical, I wore the strap for the day to gauge its comfort. I also used it during workouts, and it definitely felt as comfortable as any strap on the market. The Bluetooth connection was great, with no signal or dropout issues noticed in my data. I think as time goes on, more applications will support the Bluetooth Low Power heart rate monitors. Claimed battery life is better for the BLE heart rate straps than the standard Bluetooth HRM’s, but we have not verified the battery life of the Polar H7.

 

Pros:

  • The connection was great.
  • The strap was soft and comfortable.
  • Claimed battery life is excellent for a Bluetooth HRM.
  • Works with other Polar training computers and gym equipment using the built in 5KHz radio.

 

Cons:

  • Not as many apps support BLE protocol yet.
  • As with any phone application, all of the data that is based on GPS location information, such as speed and distance, is only as good as the GPS capabilities of the phone. The iPhone is pretty good, but not as good as a good GPS HRM watch.
So would I recommend the Polar H7 Bluetooth Low Energy HRM? Definitely. If you are using an iPhone 4S (and also if you are thinking about buying an iPhone 5 when it comes out), this is the HRM to buy. The retail price of the Polar H7 is $79.95.
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Jan 172012
 

Yesterday, we covered the Garmin Vector power meter pedal system. Today, we are going to discuss the Polar Look Keo Power pedal system. Polar had their Polar LOOK Kéo Power system at the  CES show. The system is a combination of  Polar P5 transmitters and Look Kéo Power pedals. The installation is as simple as replacing pedals, and allows easy switching between bikes. The Polar transmitters plug into the back of each spindle. Each transmitter has a replaceable battery.

Polar does not use the ANT+ protocol; instead they use their own protocol called W.I.N.D. Therefore, you will need to use a Polar bike computer to display and log your ride. The Polar CS600X and the Polar CS500 are both compatible with the Polar Look Keo pedals. The CS600X also displays left and right power balance, and Cycling Efficiency as well.

Once your workout is complete, it can be uploaded to Training Peaks or to PolarPersonalTrainer.com. You can also use Polar’s Pro Trainer 5 software to fully analyze your ride. If you want GPS/mapping features, you will need the optional Polar G5 GPS pod.

Here is a short video of how the pedals mount.

At the CES show, the Polar representative told me that the Polar Look Keo Power pedal system will ship in Q2 2012, and cost $1500.00.

We will do an in-depth review as soon as we get our hands on one.

Jan 082012
 

Polar talked about their new Bluetooth low energy HRM at the CES show. The Wearlink+ Bluetooth Low Power HRM works with popular mobile training applications such as RunKeeper, Sports Tracker, and Endomondo. The price is $79.95.

Polar will be replacing their current W.I.N.D.protocol technology this year. This should make their HRM’s compatible with other manufacturers’ products, displays, and their displays compatible with other Bluetooth Low Energy HRM’s.

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