I love running and mostly everything that goes with it … especially cool gear. This particular piece of gear is similar yet distinct to anything I have in my running closet. I’ve had my fair share of running watches and have probably 3-4 heart rate monitor straps laying around somewhere, but the Mio Alpha is both in one sleek wrist watch for a truly unique and new technology.
This might be the secret piece of equipment you’ve always been looking for – a game changer … or not. It depends on you, how you like to train, your personal preferences, and what equipment / gear you already use.
Mio has released a few iterations of their wrist-based heart rate bands / watches each a bit different from the other. Both the Mio ALPHA and LINK monitor your heart rate through your wrist instead of your chest as traditional chest straps do.
LED lights and an electro-optical cell “sense” the volume of blood under the skin. From there, sophisticated algorithms are applied to the pulse signal so that the heart’s true rhythm can be detected, even while running at performance speeds.
The differences between the LINK band and ALPHA watch are depicted below (click image to enlarge) and at mioglobal.com.
(Note: The product I tested was a Mio ALPHA that was given to me free to use, review, and give honest feedback)
I was able to test through the winter, spring, outside, inside on the treadmill, with short sleeves, long sleeves, and even just around the house / work in everyday life. Before getting into all my particular likes and dislikes, I will say this is a very impressive technology. The watch does what it advertises to do. It finds my heart beat, it displays the heart beat, and gives alarms if you’re outside of a pre-determined zone. I was able to also use the Bluetooth technology to link it to my Android phone and see my heart rate charted and displayed using the BLE Heart Rate Monitor app. If you have an iOS device and use it during exercise linking the ALPHA opens up a whole world of apps such as MapMyRun, Strava, and many more.
The one minor inconsistency I sometimes came across was an abnormally high heart rate reading within the first 1-2 miles of a run and sometimes more “spiking” later in the run if the outdoor temperatures were cold (under 15F). The one annoyance I had was needing to wear the watch noticeably tight for optimum use – not too tight where it was painful or cutting off circulation, but I could just kind of “feel it” when I ran.
Other than that, it was great for the purpose it served … giving you a total time, time of day, and your heart rate. I love the chime & color LED scheme to easily show if you’re 10+ beats below, <10 beats below, within, within <10 beats above, or 10+ beats above your given heart rate zone. It also has a GREAT battery life obviously compared to GPS watches I’m used to … weeks of training without a recharge. Whether this watch is going to change your world is really up to you. In my opinion this is a GREAT addition (although still a bit pricey) if you can identify with any / all of the following:
- you don’t want to wear a heart rate chest strap
- you already bring your iOS device / smartphone with you while running
- you truly only care about heart rate and overall time
For myself, the most valuable feature was being able to eliminate a chest strap and still monitor my heart rate – as it’s the only technology out there that can do this. I do not carry a smartphone when I run so I use it as a simple running watch when I want to get out and run easy recovery runs … don’t care about pace or distance, but need to put in a certain amount of time in a certain heart rate zone. But unfortunately, the ALPHA will not be my ‘go-to’ watch as there is much to be desired (for my needs) with all the other features of my current and past GPS and non-GPS running watches … pace, distance, intervals, and laps primarily as well as altitude, better screen display resolution, navigation, and configurable display.
What is incredibly promising for Mio Global for somebody like me would actually be the cheaper Mio LINK – the $99 wrist heart rate BAND (no display) that could link to my current ANT+ heart rate watches – essentially a bare bones heart rate strap on my wrist instead of chest (also comes with Bluetooth connectivity for those that carry smartphones). What would be THE MOST promising pursuit for Mio Global in my opinion would be to get this technology on the back of the already incredible top of the line GPS watches made by Suunto, Garmin, Timex, and the like. That would be the no kidding all-in-one solution.