Review: Scosche Rhythm+, accurate heart rate monitoring from the arm
Heart rate monitoring is fast becoming a standard feature with wrist worn fitness trackers – even the budget kind. While it is generally accepted that these devices dish out fairly accurate statistics when it comes to measuring resting heart rate, it is a slightly different story when it comes to high intensity activities as aptly illustrated by the on-going lawsuit against Fitbit.
You could opt for a chest-strap heart rate monitor instead, but these are not the most comfortable of devices. This is where the Scosche Rhythm+ comes in. The device is a forearm or upper-arm worn heart rate monitor belt that reads your heart rate through your skin with an optical sensor on the back. It is generally claimed that along with the Mio range, this is one of the most accurate optical devices currently on the market.
I strapped one on to find out just how precise Scosche Rhythm+ really is.
Ease of use
Use of information
The tracker consists of a square core and two velcro straps. The plastic has a soft, rubbery top, and three optical heart rate sensors on the back. The velcro straps come in two sizes. One big strap for your upper arm, and a smaller one for your forearm. This is not a bulky device. The core roughly measures 3cm x 3cm and weighs only 22 grams.
The heart rate monitor straps onto your arm and reads your heart rate through your skin with the optical sensor on the back. Rhythm+ contains two green and one yellow optical sensors, which the company claims provide superior measurements with all skin tones. Typically, monitors and watches only employ green sensors. The sensors bombard your skin using a very high rate, hence the accuracy.
To strap it on, you need to thread the two ends ends of the band through slits on the side of the plastic core, and tighten the fit by fastening the ends to the other side of the Velcro. It is recommended that you wear the tracker on your forearm.
I have strapped it to my upper arm with no problems whatsoever. If you wear it on your upper arm you can completely cover the tracker with your shirt sleeve for added discretion. All in all, the strap is very comfortable, a huge improvement over bulky chest straps.
The tracker supports a single Bluetooth connection via Bluetooth Low Energy (BTLE/BLE, Bluetooth SMART, V4) as well as multiple ANT+ connections simultaneously. After a full charge it will last over 7 hours on a person with darker skin, and around 8 hours on a person with lighter skin. You need to use the proprietary USB cradle for recharging.
Rhythm+ is IP67 sweat and waterproof so you can use it in both dry and wet conditions. Which means you can go for a jog in the rain, worry-free. It can even be submerged up to 1 meter. Don’t go swimming with it though.
Ease of use
The device is very simple to use. Setup is a matter of minutes. To turn the tracker on and pair it with a smartphone app, you need to press on the rubbery top. A small indicator light flashes blue and red. When it successfully connects via Bluetooth, the light blinks blue three times. When an ANT+ connection occurs, it blinks red three times. A slow purple blink means the device is on and operating correctly. The unit will automatically shut-off if it doesn’t detect a heart rate within 5-minutes.
You do need to connect the device to something though, in order to collect data as there is no internal memory storage. Most things will pair to this band: Polar, Garmin and Apple Watch to name a few. I connected it to the new Vivoactive HR and it worked flawlessly.
The Scosche Rhythm+ doesn’t have its own app. It works with the most popular fitness apps though – over 200 in all. It is great for use with smartphones, tablets, smart and sport watches, exercise equipment and many other devices that support Bluetooth Smart or ANT+ heart rate data. You can also wirelessly workout up to 100 feet from your mobile device or exercise equipment.
Use of information
The main thing to know about the Scosche Rhythm+ is that this is only a heart rate monitor, so don’t expect a step or calorie count or anything of that nature. You are not going to get it. But do expect a device that will provide you with extremely accurate heart rate measurements. Perhaps, the fact that the company purely focused on one important aspect of fitness, heart rate, meant that it delivered a quality product.
I started testing the tracker against chest straps and a variety of activity, but quickly found that it was pointless. The results were extremely accurate. If there was a discrepancy, it was only by 2 or 3 beats per minute – with very high intensity activities.
As with most optical systems, there may be a bit of trial and error on the part of the user as to where the best location is to get the best results. But the Scosche Rhythm+ shines in performance and is right on par with chest straps.
Most people who exercise will tell you they want to lose weight or simply get fitter. Not many people, however, know what their heart rate is, or where it really should be. They don’t heart rate train and don’t understand which of the five zones they should be in. Which means that often, they are not training in the most efficient way to achieve their goals. All top athlete’s heart rate train, as they know this will help them to reach their top potential in the shortest amount of time possible.
Essential reading: Heart rate zone training with wearables
In order to heart rate train you need a quality heart rate monitor. Advanced heart rate monitors that are used for performance training such as triathlons or marathons can cost upwards of several hundreds of dollars. Luckily for the rest of us, there is an increasing number of fitness devices that track heart rate during exercise. And they are becoming more and more accurate. If you are truly serious about heart rate training, you will be better off relying on a chest strap or Rhythm+ than a wrist based device.
I knew going in that Scosche Rhythm+ was good, but I didn’t realise just how great it would be. The unique device features a great design and you get a few options in terms of where you can wear it. At first I was a bit hesitant to wear it on my lower arm, but once I moved it to my upper arm, I loved the way it felt, and the fact that its was pretty much invisible.
What really impresses though, is the accuracy. In terms of optical heart rate monitors, probably Mio is the one that comes closest. If you are in the market for a new heart rate monitor, or are planning to ditch the old chest strap, you will not go wrong with the Rhythm+.
Retailing at around $79, it is slightly more expensive than chest straps. It is lighter though, less restrictive and you have the added convenience of having a choice of where to wear it, which makes it worth the added expense.
The heart rate monitor is bang for the buck – super accurate, simple to use and well-priced.
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