Fitness devices with heart rate measurement functions today will not surprise anyone. They are in bulk. But most of them measure only the pulse at a particular moment, without fixing its changes. However, this can be important for training — for example, if you run, it is useful to know in which zone your heart rate is and control it, sometimes slowing down or accelerating (if it is lower than the aerobic zone, this is not effective in terms of burning fat, higher in for a long time — can be dangerous due to excessive workload on the heart).
So far, the only and most accurate option for measuring a constant heart rate is chest heart rate monitors (in English — heart rate monitor). I have tried two heart rate monitors and want to share some of my impressions.
First, a little theory. Heart rate monitors usually work either on the Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy protocol or on the ANT + protocol. The first option is optimal for connecting a heart rate monitor to a smartphone (since most smartphones do not support ANT+), and the second option will be useful for those who use, for example, sports watches (for example, Garmin Fenix 3) or fitness bracelets that support this protocol. Those heart rate monitors that will be discussed now work using the Bluehtooth 4.0 protocol, and also support signal transmission at a frequency of 5.3 kHz, designed for specialized sports equipment.
In principle, there is no big difference for the user which protocol the heart rate monitor uses — it seems like ANT + is more economical in terms of battery consumption, but it is problematic to check this, because most devices support either one or the other. To close this question, I will give a link to an iXBT.com article about a Garmin heart rate monitor — it just works using the ANT + protocol
Now let’s go directly to the heroes of the article. These are Runtastic Heart Rate Combo Monitor and Nexx Heart Rate Monitor. The first costs about $630. The second one is one and a half times less, about $430. Accordingly, the question is: is it worth paying more for Runtastic?
Let’s start with unpacking. The Nexx Heart Rate Monitor bundle is as modest as possible: in addition to the heart rate monitor itself with a non-detachable belt, there is only a black and white leaflet. The leaflet contains a user manual in Russian, but there is one important drawback: it does not say anywhere which application to use to work with the heart rate monitor. It just says «download the app». It is logical to think that we are talking about a special Nexx application, especially since there is a QR code on the right, but it turns out that the QR code simply leads to the Nexx website, and you can use any application that supports third-party heart rate monitors.
The manufacturer of Runtastic Heart Rate Combo Monitor took care of the user more. In addition to detailed color manuals, the box also includes a flyer with a code to activate the Runtastic Pro app. Actually, this saves money (the application costs $30 in the Google Play Store and $30 in the Apple App Store), and immediately removes the question of which application to connect the heart rate monitor through.
However, I repeat that both heart rate monitors are compatible with any fitness applications where there is a corresponding option. For example, with Runkeeper.
The design of the heart rate monitors is generally similar — it is an adjustable strap made of elastic material and the main unit, which should be located in the center of the chest when the heart rate monitor is on. The difference is that the Runtastic has a detachable block, so the belt can be completely washed after a workout. The Nexx heart rate monitor, in principle, can also be washed, but be careful that water does not get into the electronics unit.
As for the feeling of use and wearing comfort, the material of the belt from Runtastic is perhaps more pleasant here. However, the Nexx has a more compact main unit (which is a plus). And yet, choosing between one and the other solely on this parameter, I would choose Runtastic.
There are no buttons or other controls on the heart rate monitors. Just connect them to your smartphone via the fitness app and start using them, they will work automatically. True, for both heart rate monitors, we had to pull out and insert the battery back before the first start (this is a CR2032 “tablet”). But this is not such a difficult operation. Just don’t panic if you suddenly fail to connect the heart rate monitor to your smartphone the first time. It doesn’t mean it’s broken at all.
Now — about the operation of heart rate monitors. As I said in the introduction to the article, chest heart rate monitors are by far the most reliable way to fix a constant heart rate. Perhaps progress in the field of optical sensors will gradually lead to the emergence of bracelets with truly accurate heart rate measurement, but so far it seems that few attempts (Mio Fuse, WMe 2) are still inferior to chest heart rate monitors. Another thing is that not everyone likes the feeling itself, when a belt surrounds the chest, which, willy-nilly, sometimes slips or gives other unpleasant sensations. By the way, it is important that the zones on the belt adjacent to the main unit are wet for good contact, otherwise the transmission of information about the pulse may stop. These are all inconveniences, but if you really want to capture a constant heart rate and you need high accuracy, then there is nothing to do — you have to adapt to working with chest heart rate monitors.
But what to choose? I did not notice a fundamental difference in the operation of the Nexx and Runtastic heart rate monitors. Maybe the Runtastic is a little nicer on the skin and sits a little better, but that’s a matter of taste. From the point of view of accuracy and stability of work, there seems to be no difference. I wouldn’t be surprised if the electronics are pretty much the same. Therefore, if you want to save money and, moreover, if you do not plan to use Runtastic Pro, then you can take the Nexx Heart Rate Monitor. Pros of Runtastic are a promo code for the app, slightly nicer material, and a removable main unit. And also the brand, of course. If you are willing to overpay $230 for it (which, in general, is not so much in absolute terms, but not so little compared to the cost of Nexx), then you are unlikely to be disappointed.