Monday, October 28, 2013

MIO Alpha Heart Rate Monitor Review

Hey... happy Monday!

Going to kick this week off with a review of a cool gadget from MIO!  So, what does MIO make?  Well, their most current product is the MIO Alpha heart rate monitoring watch.  I received this watch several months ago, but have only recently begun to really use it.  I also have an HR strap that works with my Garmin that I had used a few times, but am using it more now as well.

Why? Well, I've made the change over to doing some heart rate (HR) based training.  I became interested in this when Mark over at Paleo Runners started a tracking/training exercise on Facebook and also wrote a great blog post about HR training.  Click HERE to check it out.. and then come right back :-)

Back?  ok..  so I did a MAF test a few weeks ago, and am going to retest later this week to see if I can see any improvement.  During these few weeks I have been limiting my HR to the threshold rate (for me 132-142).  At first that meant a lot of walking.. but I'm slowly building up a better pace at this fixed HR... pretty cool!

 Anyway, so this is where the MIO Alpha comes in.  What makes the Alpha so cool is that it doesn't require wearing a chest strap (which can be uncomfortable, and more so for women runners is my guess).

Instead, the MIO Alpha uses an optical sensor in the base of the watch to gather HR data accurately and easily.  When comparing the data from the Alpha and my Garmin chest strap, I found that they were pretty much in synch, with the Alpha reflecting a more stable count than my Garmin, which bounced around once in a while.   Also, my Garmin strap doesn't monitor very well until I get a little perspiration going, then it seems to settle down.

The MIO Alpha is really easy to use.  Once you put the watch on (snugly), and hit the button, it takes anywhere from 20-40 seconds to find your HR.  And once it does, it stays locked on pretty well.  The only time I experienced any issues was when it was well below freezing and my arm was exposed. (After looking at the specs, the operating environment is 41F to 113F, so I guess I should keep my arm warmer :-) ).

The Alpha comes with a slick little magnetic USB recharger that makes it easy to charge.  And, in exercise mode, the watch will run 8-10 hours on a charge, and obviously much longer in watch mode.

Other features include a visual cue for your HR tracking while exercising.  The blue light you see above will pulse blue when you are below your set HR threshold, green when in the range, and red when you go over your max threshold (that you can set to whatever you choose).

Beyond that, the watch will track elapsed time and time of day as well.

Now, as far as other features go, this is where I think the MIO Alpha is a bit challenged.  The model I tested is Bluetooth Smart (4.0) compatible, which means it can talk to a several smartphone fitness apps like Strava and Wahoo Fitness.  My problem is I don't own or run with a smartphone.  Yes, I realize I'm probably one of the last few people out there that haven't made the leap!   So, without that connectivity, I don't have anyway to track my HR stats against a workup, which I can do with my Garmin.  For me however, I am not as concerned about that, as my primary need is a way to accurately know where my HR is so that I can slow down or speed up accordingly.  For this purpose, the MIO Alpha works outstandingly well.

The only negatives I can offer about this watch would be the potential connectivity issue AND it has no backlight!!  That really drove me crazy.. especially when running in the dark.  Finally, when you couple that with a $199 price tag (more than I paid for my Garmin 410 which is a full featured GPS and HR), it may be hard to justify a purchase.  That being said however, there is no question that the technology is amazing, accurate and easy to use. The watch is really comfortable, and I think it looks great too! If you can't use a strap, or hate using them, and run with one of the compatible fitness apps.. and you are focused on HR training.. then this could be a great fit.

If you want to see more info and specs, check out MIO by clicking HERE .  And, if you are interested in reading more, check out this be all/end all review from the master gadget reviewer DC Rainmaker by clicking HERE.

Happy Trails!


1 comment:

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