To: Robert Bonfante From: Robert Bonfante Date: 4/10/09 Subject: Purchasing a Heart Rate Monitor Introduction: Ever since I discovered heart-rate zone training, heart rate monitors have become indispensible for my cardio workouts. For the past seven years, I have been using two HRMs, the Polar A3 and the Polar A5. They have worked very well for me, but they usually last from a year or two before the battery dies. Then I have to mail the monitors to a service center to get the batteries replaced. At the moment, the battery to my A5 is dead, and the chest strap is broken. My A3 is still running, but it is starting to show signs of a spent battery (ie. the screen freezes). Instead of mailing the monitors to get them repaired, I’ve decided that it’s time for an upgrade. I am looking for a new heart-rate monitor. Requirement 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Comparison: My cardio workouts involve using different heart rate zones. In most of my workouts, I have to keep my heart rate between 60% - 75%. In my interval workouts, I go back and forth between two zones. My heart rate monitor should allow me to program different zones. The alarm is a key component; if I stray from my target zones, I want the monitor to let me know, so I can adjust my pace accordingly. This is a key component to all good heart rate monitors, and all of the ones listed here have it. target zones with alarm* displays heart rate percentage* < $150 * comfortable chest strap * don’t need to send away to replace batteries watch * computer download ability
My workouts use the percentage of maximum heart rate to create its workout zones. Therefore, my heart rate monitor must be able to display percentage of maximum heart rate. I have no desire to spend time trying to figure out if 160 beats per minute (bpm) is either 80% or 85% of the max rate. It’s much easier if the monitor can relay that information to me. The Reebok Fitwatch 10 M, the New Balance N5, the Polar RS200 and the Performance Axiom HR 306 all have this feature. Surprisingly, the Triax C6, which has a sophisticated zone system, does not show heart rate percentage. I can’t speak for every fitness enthusiast, but be able to see my heart rate percentage while I’m running is more informative than just seeing some number. Cost is fairly important. I’m looking for a relatively inexpensive HRM, but at the same time, I want something with more features than just a basic monitor. My ideal price is approximately $100, but I’m willing to go over. I refuse to pay more than $150. Most basic HRMs are under $100; the more versatile and sophisticated models go over $100, with some reaching $300. The Performance Axiom HR 306, a basic model HRM, costs $69.99, which is a bargain. The much more sophisticated New Balance N5 goes for $89.99. The Reebok Fitwatch 10M costs $99.99. The Triax C6 goes for $109.00, and lastly, the Polar RS200 costs $149.00.
There are two kinds of HRMs on the market: wireless HRMs and those that come with a chest strap. The wireless models are more comfortable, but are slower at getting heart rate readings. The ones with the chest strap (transmitter) are a little less comfortable, but get quicker, more accurate readings. The HRMs I own (the A3 and the A5) both have transmitters, so I’m used to running with the chest straps. I would much prefer to keep the transmitters so I can have more accurate readings during the workout. All of the brands listed here come with a transmitter except for the Fitwatch 10M. The receiver (watch) of the Fitwatch comes with two button-like sensors. To get a reading, you have to press those buttons while running. I would much prefer to wear the strap and then when I need to see my readings, I merely look at my receiver. That is much easier than pressing two buttons while running at a quick pace.
I’ve been pretty happy with the HRMs I have now, but one of my complaints is that when the batteries run low, I have to mail the receiver and transmitter to Polar, so they can replace the batteries. The entire of process of mailing the HRM away and receiving a fully-charged one takes roughly one to two weeks, which is time taken from my workouts. I doesn’t help that every time the batteries do run out, I have to look up the information on the Polar website and then fill out a form that gets mailed with the items. So I would prefer a HRM where I don’t have to go through the all of that hassle. With the exception of the Polar RS 200, all of the HRMs have replaceable lithium batteries.
Ever since I purchased the Polar A3, I have stopped using watches. The Polar HRMs all have watch features. Any HRM I purchase should be able to tell me the time. The New Balance N5 has the best watch; it tells the time, day, date, month, dual time zones, hourly chimes and dual daily alarms. The Polar RS 200 tells the time, dual time zones, day, date and has an alarm complete with a snooze button. The Triax C6 tells time, date and has dual daily alarms. The Axiom HR 306 tells time, date and has a daily alarm. The Reebok Fitwatch 10M is the most basic. It only tells time of day and has a daily alarm. I find all of these HRMs have acceptable watch capabilities with the exception of the Fitwatch, which I find too basic.
The last major feature is the computer download capability. Some of the higher end HRMs can download data into a computer and also retrieve data. This is a useful feature for those who are interested in logging their workouts in the computer. While I might find such a feature useful, it isn’t a required feature—I have done quite well logging my workouts by hand. Of the HRMs listed here, only the Polar RS 200 comes with this feature.
Conclusion: After looking over the five listed HRMs, I believe the best fit for me is the New Balance N5. It has all of the important features—HR %, low cost, chest strap and watch— plus it has the versatility of the more expensive brands. The heart rate zones are customizable, and not only does it have an alarm which goes off when you leave your zone, it also has
an arrow which shows if you are over or under your target zone, which is a great feature! It also has a calorie counter, age-based HR max, resting HR measurement, and chronograph features. The Axiom HR 306 is a great bargain, and it would be a great first HRM. However, it is very basic—it only measure heart rate percentage and its only features are a stopwatch, customizable heart rate zones and a zone alarm. I’m looking for an HRM that offers a little more versatility than the Axiom HR. The Polar RS 200 has all of the features that the N5 does and the ability to download data onto a computer! However, the download ability is what makes the RS 200 much more expensive than the other brands, and I think downloading files is not an important feature. The Triax C6 is very nice, but it is missing one crucial element—it doesn’t show heart rate percentage. Its customizable workout zones are about even with both the N5 and the Polar RS200, but alas, that feature is diminished by the inability to see your percentages. The Reebok Fitwatch 10M is the least recommended HRM. It doesn’t have a chest strap, so there is going to be a lack of accuracy in the readings, and it doesn’t even have watch capability! Ultimately, the N5 has all of the important features at a very good price. The N5 is the heart rate monitor I would recommend.