No matter whether you wanna make like Mo and run for gold, or just improve your cycle home, being able to track your heart rate during exercise is essential, and it’s never been easier or more convenient to do.
No matter what level you’re training at you’ll see the benefits of a heart rate monitor very quickly indeed. If you’re training for a specific event then HR data will be a key indicator of your performance way ahead of the big day.
However, choosing the best best heart rate monitor has never been more complicated, with literally hundreds of devices hitting the market, ranging from high-end smartwatches and fitness trackers like the Apple Watch and the Sony Smartband 2, through to bespoke training tools such as the Garmin 225 and Polar chest strap.
Read on to get the lowdown on the best heart rate monitors available in 2015!
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Garmin’s flagship running watch with inbuilt HR tracker is one of the most powerful devices here, but also one of the most expensive. The inbuilt HR monitor is the latest from Mio, so pretty accurate, and along with Garmin’s training smarts it’s a very strong combo. Garmin have tried to smooth off some of the edges of their top-end runners tools, and have upweighted their tech by adding a fitness tracker in order to appeal to a more midrange market of non-olympians. If you’re in search of a top-end running watch it’s a definite winner, but it’s still serious stuff, and the granular data can easily bamboozle the uninitiated looking for daily HR tracking.
£239.99 | Garmin
Fitbit’s a big name in fitness trackers, and the Surge is one of their big plays for the serious fitness market, with the addition of a built-in optical HR monitor. The HR monitor is accurate enough for casual use, and to be fair the Surge is styled as a watch and fitness tracker first, HR monitor as an extra. If you’re looking for a general fitness picture this is a great choice, with added excercise detail layered on top of everyday activity tracking, decent battery life and a price that won’t break the bank. However, if you’re looking for serious HR training smarts then you’ll find this a little lightweight.
£199.99 | Fitbit
Polar H7 BT Chest Strap
Literally the Polar opposite to the Fitbit – ho ho! – the Polar H7 strap isn’t a watch at all, just a chest strap which pairs over Bluetooth with a free smartphone app, Polar Beat. If you’re looking for the lowest cost, but most accurate way to get up and running with an HR monitor, this or the Wahoo Tickr are your best bets. Chest straps tend to be more accurate and hassle-free when actually exercising than wrist-mounted HR trackers, but are slightly more hassle to put on in the first place of course. The Polar will pair with a range of gym kit as well as the app, but it’s real party-piece is that it’ll track your HR in the pool too, and in real time at that, by transmitting on the underwater-friendly 5kHz band.
£64.50 | Polar
Moto 360 Sport (2015)
Motorola’s update to the Moto 360 has already wowed with it’s design, but the Sport version looks even more interesting, specifically designed for sports tracking. A dedicated built-in optical HR monitor will be accurate enough for casual runners and in the gym, and being able to control your tunes and track your runs with GPS via compatible Android Wear apps should be a compelling combo. Meanwhile, a silicon band should keep things fresh even on longer runs, and Moto has promised a hefty two day battery before you’re hunting a charger.
TBC | Motorola
The Mio Fuse is one of the most accurate wrist-mounted HR trackers on the market, and Mio has done such a good job that Garmin has started using Mio’s sensors in their HR trackers. If a chest strap HR monitor really isn’t for you, this is the most accurate alternative. Mio claim the Fuse is as accurate as a laboratory EKG, which should be enough for most training plans. The bad news is that the Fuse itself is a chunky beast, doesn’t have GPS and has a slightly limiting LED display. On the plus side battery life is good, it’s lightweight at 39g, and the price isn’t too salty. If you’re just after accurate wrist-mounted HR but none of the other data from a running watch, this is the one for you.
£129.96 | Mio
The Tickr is - like the Polar H7 - a chest strap HR monitor that’ll track your ticker as accurately as possible outside a lab setup. The Wahoo’s big trick is that it transmits on both Bluetooth 4.0 and ANT+ bands, meaning that it can connect to most smartphones and any training device that supports ANT+, like cycle computers, older training watches, etc. The cheaper model stops here, but the more expensive versions add in accelerometers to track running cadence and other technique-improving data and even storage, so there’s no need to carry a phone to record sessions. If you’ve already got a favourite training app you want to keep, or regularly use another ANT + device, this is a great choice.
from £49.99 | Wahoo
TomTom Spark Cardio + Music GPS Fitness Watch
TomTom has launched an all-out assault on the fitness market, with a six-flavoured salvo of fitness watches based around the TomTom Spark. However, as with their existing range, the ‘Cardio’ moniker indicates which ones have built-in optical HR trackers. The existing TomTom cardio HR monitor is a strong contender, and the Spark add multisport functions, an activity tracker, updated design and an inbuilt music player that’ll stream your tunes to a pair of Bluetooth cans. The Spark boasts 3GB capacity and a preloaded ‘Running Trax’ mix from the Ministry of Sound - no excuses for not hitting your PB wearing one of these!
£189.99 | TomTom
The Band’s optical HR sensor is one of a whopping ten sensors packed into this little band, and one of the most widely discussed. Accuracy can vary, so attempting serious HR zone training with the Band isn’t really advisable, but alongside the nine other sensors it’ll give you a good broad brush picture of your fitness. The Band can track your HR over the course of the day, and uses this to calculate overall fitness, as well as using the data to more accurately log calories burned. Microsoft has put a lot of development time into the Health aspect of the Band, and is rolling out regular software updates to improve accuracy and functionality, so expect improvements.
£169.99 | Microsoft
Sony Smartband 2
The lifestyle-focussed Sony Smartband 2 looks and feels like it's made of Haribo – it's actually seamless silicone – but will track your pulse (HR) as well as your heart rate variability (HRV) constantly throughout the day, to give you an overall picture of your fitness and stress levels. An accelerometer keeps tabs on periods of activity, and also warns when you’ve been stationary for too long. The Sony Smartband 2 is super lightweight at just 25 grams, and can track HR and activity for 10 hours before needing a wall socket. It's not for getting fit so much as observing what your heartrate is doing over a period of time. This can have health benefits and warn of potential problems looming, but it's mainly just kind of interesting to see.
£99 | Sony
Jabra Sport Pulse
The leftfield choice - headphones with an HR monitor built in. If you’re usually listening to tunes while exercising, and don’t mind losing the beat if you remove them, then the Sport Pulse are well worth a look. Once paired via Bluetooth to your phone and companion app you can fire up the power ballads, set your zones and hit the streets with confidence. Accuracy is decent enough, the only real downside is the audio quality, which is satisfactory but not great for a £200 headphone, and the fact that you’ll have to use Jabra’s training app to track your HR, although Jabra also claims to work with a slew of apps including Endomondo, Strava and Runtastic.
£199.99 | Jabra
Withings Pulse Ox
The Withings Pulse Ox follows on from the Withings Pulse, which is still an extremely capable heart rate monitor. The Pulse Ox can be worn on the wrist, unlike its predecessor, so it's more ergonomically friendly. It is capable of tracking blood oxygen levels, too. Not the best looking, but the lengthy battery life and feature list make it tough to beat.
£69.99 | Withings
Runtastic Bluetooth Smart Combo Heart Rate Monitor
This monitor uses Smart Bluetooth technology to transfer information to Runtastic apps on all the latest Android and Apple devices. Using 5.3 kHz signals the monitor also works with most cardio equipment in the gym, and if you buy you’ll get a free upgrade to the fantastic Runtastic Pro App.
Price: £44.99 | Runtastic