When it comes to exercise the best way to track your caloric expenditure is with a heart rate monitor. Although there are plenty of new activity trackers that feature built-in heart rate monitors, the chest strap is still the most popular accessory next to the sports-watch. For years Polar has held a strong position selling their H7 chest strap, though recent years they’ve seen some healthy competition from Wahoo Fitness with their TICKR lineup. And now companies like Scosche have their second generation optical arm sensor, the RHYTHM Plus. Keep reading to learn how they compare.
When I first started using a heart rate monitor to workout it was with the Polar H7 Bluetooth Smart Heart Rate Sensor. Eventually my wife stole that unit off me for her workouts. Then we both upgraded, me to the Wahoo TICKR Heart Rate Monitor, and her to the more advanced Wahoo TICKR RUN. Please be sure to read my full comparison & review of those sensors RIGHT HERE.
Since I’ve already put the Polar & Wahoo units through their paces, this review will focus on the Scosche RHYTHM plus Heart Rate Monitor. From my past review and experiences I’ll draw comparisons against the two heart sensors that my wife/I are still in possession of, and continue to use. Enjoy!
I’ve had countless people tell me they don’t find wearing a chest strap heart monitor comfortable. And that always surprises me, as The Wife and I have talked about this extensively and we both agree that within 60-seconds of our workouts, the strap is completely unnoticed. I’m wondering if perhaps these people are wearing the strap too tightly? Either way, the Polar H7 and Wahoo TICKR line of devices have been great for us here at our home, and we find they are enjoyable to use, and provide excellent feedback. Especially her TICKR RUN unit, with its running metrics recorded.
Still, it can be a bit of a hassle to put on a chest strap. You have to remove or hike up your shirt, which for females could definitely cause a privacy concern. And if your clothing is super tight that adds a complexity. Wearing an arm band would be easier to slide on/off, I’ll admit to that. Which is where the Scosche RHYTHM plus Heart Rate Monitor hopes to win your heart over (see what I did there?).
Included in the box are two straps of varying lengths for people of various arm sizes. Then you also get the unit itself, a charging cradle with USB cable, and some paperwork. It was interesting to note that they claim the legacy Scosche app doesn’t work here, and that you’ll need to use a third-party app. I’ve been really happy with the iOS Wahoo Fitness App and since it works with whatever sensors you want, that is what I used for my testing. It also gave me a linear experience compared to my Wahoo TICKR device.
Compared to the Wahoo hardware, the Scosche is also sweat-proof/resistant, though the Scosche is IP67 rated. Both support ANT+ and Bluetooth protocols. Sadly the Polar H7 lacks the ANT+ capabilities here, should you require that for legacy equipment or a Garmin device. Battery life on the RHYTHM+ is rated at a paltry 8-hours, but then again it can be easily recharged. Still, when you consider the two chest straps last the better part of a year without needing to replace the inexpensive battery it is hard to award the Scosche any bonus points.
Wearing the Scosche RHYTHM plus wasn’t horrible, but I found the suggested placement (inside upper forearm) to be bad for two reasons. Firstly, my stationary bike is a Schwinn AirDyne that has moving arms, so the constant pumping of the handles caused my arm to flex a lot, making the band a bit uncomfortable for the long-haul. Secondly, because of the flex on my arm, getting a solid reading was difficult for the workout. I constantly found myself pausing the workout app to adjust the strap.
Poor quality readings don’t come as a huge surprise, considering I actually tested the first generation Scosche unit some time ago. And at that time my results were similar: lack of comfort, lack of reliable readings. Not much has changed with the hardware, at least from a standpoint of straps and visuals. There are a few less buttons these days, and the device was marginally more comfortable to wear. But, for me at least, the chest strap was far more comfortable. And in my testing, it held a better heart rate signal than the other two chest straps.
Optical heart rate sensors don’t have a great track record (read more here), even though more and more devices are starting to add that feature. I’ve also been testing the Basis Peak the past few days and have been wearing it where they suggested, just above the wrist. During the same workout it had similar reliability issues, dropping signal. When I would pause to adjust the Scosche RHYTHM plus I’d also adjust the Basis Peak as needed. I’ll have a small blog post about that device here soon, but let’s just say it didn’t leave me amazed.
In the end my favorite heart rate monitors come from Wahoo Fitness. For the $59 price tag, the Wahoo TICKR is the best buy on the market today. Give the chest strap format a try, you won’t be let down. It is reliable, and comfortable to wear if you adjust it properly. If you’re a runner, the TICKR RUN is a nice upgrade. And those are the two devices I suggest for recording heart rate during cardio exercise. If you don’t want to use your smart phone during the workout, look at the TICKR X for a few more bucks. Ciao!