When Mio came out with its first generation optical heart rate monitor for the wrist back in 2013, it was ground breaking. The device was funded by a Kickstarter campaign and was very much a novelty. Fast to today, and heart-rate monitoring has become a standard feature in the fitness tracker world.
Heart rate training is, simply, when you measure your heart rate during exercise to see how hard you’re working (or not). It is one of the most effective ways to be sure you’re working at a level that will improve your fitness. The problem with wearing a traditional chest strap monitor, is the fact that they are uncomfortable, unwieldy and you need a compatible watch to view the readings.
Essential reading: Heart rate zone training with wearables
Today, there are a plethora of devices offering wrist based heart rate tracking. The accuracy of some of these products is, however, questionable, particularly at performance speeds.
The Mio range of activity trackers distinguish themselves from the pack by boasting a heart rate monitor the company claims is as accurate as a chest strap. You will also find Mio’s sensors on board some GPS running watches such as the TomTom Runner Cardio and the Adidas miCoach Smart Run.
The company currently sells five fitness devices.
The LINK was launched in 2014 and is Mio’s lowest spec device. This is certainly reflected in the price as it retails for about a third of the price of the ALPHA 2.
The tracker provides accurate heart rate tracking and offers a battery life of 7-10 hours with continuous heart rate monitoring switched on. It has no screen but offers alerts through a set of LED lights which indicate which heart rate zone you are currently in. All Mio wearables are water-resistant down to 30 metres.
Looks-wise there is no doubt the tracker was designed with sports in mind. For this purpose, it is beautifully made. But its probably not something you would be sporting in an office environment or at a formal dinner engagement. The band is made of soft flexible silicone and is somewhat stretchy to ensure a snug and comfortable fit.
With built-in Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ connectivity, LINK lets you stream your fitness data in real-time to dozens of popular iPhone and Android fitness apps, GPS watches, and bike computers.
According to Mio, with a 99% correlation to EKG in laboratory testing, its optical heart rate technology matches or outperforms top heart rate monitor chest straps, even while running and cycling at high performance speeds.
Mio says the second generation LINK 2 will be available later in 2017. The new version continuously measures heart rate from your wrist, forearm or upper arm for up to 20 hours.
Mio VELO was also launched in 2014 and is predominantly aimed for cyclists. The device essentially bridges your existing ANT+ sensors with Bluetooth Smart, so you can track your heart rate, speed, and cadence all in one place.
VELO can send data via both Bluetooth Smart 4.0 and ANT+ so you can see your heart rate on a wide variety of different devices such as bike computers, GPS watches and smartphone apps like Mio’s own Go app, Strava, Endomondo, and so on.
Its main trick however is that it can collect data from ANT+ speed and cadence sensors and re-transmit it via Bluetooth Smart. This allows riders with a smartphone to use it as a bike computer and link ANT+ sensors to a non-ANT+ smartphone.
FUSE is a fitness-tracking wristband where heart-rate monitoring takes centre stage. The device is different to other Mio trackers in that you also get daily activity monitoring similar to that offered by your run of the mill activity tracker.
FUSE has a rugged, silicone-rubber band with a watch-style clasp. At 30mm wide it looks a bit oversized, although it does still weigh less than 40g so is fairly lightweight. The device offers 7-10 hours of battery life in continuous heart rate tracking mode and about double this amount in normal mode.
To view progress, there is a large vertical red LED display. A tap on the raised spots either side of the display will bring up the time, while further tapping reveals other metrics. Just above the display is another touch sensitive surface, which is used to activate heart rate tracking.
FUSE is essentially a heart rate monitor with a fitness tracking features thrown in. These include step counting, distance measuring and calorie burn. The device does not offer continuous heart rate tracking, rather this feature is intended for tracking workouts.
The original Mio ALPHA was the first fitness-tracking wearable to keep tabs on your heart rate using the same technology as the highly-accurate finger-worn pulse oximeters used in hospitals. The device focused on heart rate tracking, but that was pretty much it.
In 2015, Mio revealed the successor to the ALPHA. The ALPHA 2 improves on the original with better software, a built-in accelerometer for measuring pace, speed and distance, and most importantly, a backlight. It also sports a customizable display and configurable heart rate zones.
Now a full-fledged fitness tracker, Mio ALPHA 2 can store up to 25 hours of workout data until it is uploaded to a smartphone via a Bluetooth connection. The data can be accessed by the Mio GO app or other popular fitness apps on iOS and Android.
Announced at CES 2017, Mio SLICE tracks metrics that we have pretty much become accustomed to seeing such as steps, calories burned, distance, all day heart rate and sleep. It will also dish out smartphone notifications and provide vibrating alarms when needed. It gets more interesting, though.
According to Mio, this tracker does something special which will help you live longer and reduce your risk of lifestyle-related diseases. Instead of focusing on the “10,000 steps” rule which has been adopted by most wearables manufactures, Mio has introduced its very own Personal Activity Intelligence (PAI) index. PAI provides you with a personalised target score which reflects your body’s response to physical activity based on heart rate.
Users are told to aim for a PAI score of at least 100, which is calculated over a seven-day period. The quantity and intensity of activity required to achieve that goal is personalized based on a user’s profile, such as age and gender.
SLICE is the only Mio product to display the PAI score directly on the band itself. Owners of other Mio products are, however, able to view scores on the PAI mobile app.
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