If you are a fitness enthusiast and use a sports watch with a built-in wrist based optical heart rate monitor, you will likely have experienced a lot of inaccuracies. Depending on the sport and the level of rigorousness that inaccuracy can vary from a small amount to being completely useless.
Wrist-based options are still great for casual tracking, I can’t be bothered setting up a chest strap every time I use the cross trainer in the gym, but for runs or long bike rides it is a statistic I would like to track more reliably.
There are a lot of options out there, and with smart Bluetooth devices, they work across platforms. There are platform specific options, and they can sometimes offer some nice advantages, but for this article, I will just cover Bluetooth cross-platform options.
If you want to improve your accuracies here are some of the options available to you today:
Traditionally these have been chest-based devices, but recently there has been a trend towards upper arm optical and a couple of other interesting options.
This is the cheapest option on Amazon and a bargain at £22.99, I bought one last year, and it worked fine for a while. I used it daily, and eventually, it started to either not track my heart, or became very unreliable.
To be fair over the years, I have used this, Wahoo and Polar, all of which started to fail at some point. When I have a working device, I will wear it daily during exercise, and I am a very very heavy sweater when working out, so I think I break devices more than a normal person.
With 98 reviews at 3.9 stars, this is one of the better-reviewed models on Amazon.
This is probably one of the best options on the market regarding cost/performance. I had one for a year before it started to become unreliable, again I break these things easily. When it worked, it worked well; it was accurate and easy to pair.
I think £40 is a decent price point; once you get into the £60 range, I think it is quite a large investment that I would need to consider seriously.
Reviews are some of the best out of all the options too, 354 reviews with a 3.9 rating.
Wahoo do other TICKR chest options including the TICKR X, which has a built-in memory, it is priced at £64.99 but only has a 3.5-star rating so I would opt for the cheaper model myself.
I bought this back in 2013, so it has been out a long time if I remember correctly it was one of the only Bluetooth options available at the time. As with the other 2 options, it did die on me after a while.
It has better reviews than the Wahoo with 833 and a total rating of 4.1. However, it costs £54.15, so it is quite a bit more expensive, and that’s why I would choose the Wahoo over this.
A new wave of heart rate monitors is coming to the market that uses upper arm based optical tracking. Its basically the same as the wrist-based option but the large surface area, lack of movement, and less hair means a much more reliable reading. These sit somewhere between chest and wrist-based in terms of reliability and convenience.
Reviews are a little mixed at the moment, and this is often the case for early adopter the Polar has 20 reviews with an average of 3.7. It costs £62.40, so it is 50% more expensive than the Wahoo TICKR but much more convenient to use.
It also has a built-in memory with 150h of training time recording so that you can sync your data at another time.
It only has a 12-hour battery life, this is fine for most people, but it is maybe pushing it for some endurance events.
In my case, I would hope it is less likely to die. I am hoping to get a review unit soon so we will see.
An alternative to the Polar Oh1, this is priced about the same and has Bluetooth and ANT+ which improves compatibility over just Bluetooth on the Polar. There is no onboard memory, but the battery is claimed to last 35 hours.
This only has a 3.3 out of 10 reviews on Amazon, so I would be tempted to go with the Polar.
One of the first optical armbands on the market, the Scosche is well reviewed with 35 reviews totalling 3.9-stars. However, it is priced at £83.99 and not sold directly by Amazon, nor is it in stock at the moment.
A no-brand version of the Wahoo and Polar armbands, but priced at a bargain £35. Only one 5-star review at the moment, but due to the pricing I have just bought one myself, and I will be reviewing it soon.
A different spin on HRM the Moov HR tracks your heart rate via wearing a sweatband. Similar to the armband options, this is designed to reduce the inaccuracies of wrist-based tracking as the sweatband won’t move around as much
With 180 reviews at 3.5, the opinion appears to be mixed, but this seems to cover multiple products. It is priced around £95 and sold by a third party on Amazon, so I would probably go with one of the other options.
This is a unique and expensive option, and I love the headphones as for listening to music when working out. They will also pick up your heart rate using a pulse point in your ear, and I have mixed feelings towards this function. If you get a good fit and don’t touch them while training you will get a reliable and accurate result. However, I have found that it is quite easy to lose the heart rate connection, just touching the right earpiece will disconnect the tracking for a few seconds. When tracking is lost, Bose will tell you, and if you are mid-run and keep losing connection, it can become very annoying.
If you are already considering an expensive pair of Bluetooth earphones, then the Bose SoundSport Pulse is a worthy consideration.
There are plenty of options out there my personal recommendations would be:
- Wahoo TICKR Chest Based – I think this offers the best balance of cost and performance
- POLAR Sensor Oh1 – Improved convenience makes this an appealing choice.
- Smart Cardio Bluetooth – for £23 you can’t really complain, if you buy from Amazon there are easy returns if you have problems with it, Amazon will also look after any warranty issues