The best heart rate monitors: 4 options for watches and chest sensors

Table of Contents

The best option is the Polar Vantage M2 smartwatch.

Tracking heart rate during training has long ceased to be of interest only to professional athletes: today, amateurs have also learned to train by heart rate, as it is more effective and safe. At the same time, monitoring the heart rate, heart rate, is often also vital: some diseases of the cardiovascular system require this.

Choosing a heart rate monitor can be  difficult . There are sensors built into watches, and there are those that are attached directly to the chest and transmit data to a phone or watch. It is also important to consider a number of criteria to select the best option.

Team criteria

For a person who is thinking about buying a heart rate sensor in one form or another, the question is: “Do I just want a watch with a built-in heart rate monitor, or am I ready to use a chest heart rate monitor that transmits data to the watch?”

There are pros and cons to both options.

Type of heart rate monitor and quality of heart rate measurement. There are two types of heart rate monitors: chest straps, which communicate with watches or other devices via Bluetooth, and wrist monitors, which are built into the watch.

For the most accurate heart rate measurement, it is better to choose a chest heart rate monitor that will be connected to the watch via Bluetooth. Such models are attached to the chest using a belt and provide minimal error, since they work like a miniature ECG. The heart contracts due to electrical impulses. Using electrodes, the heart rate monitor records these impulses and converts them into heart rate information. It then transmits this data via wireless communication channels to a compatible device.

On average, the weight of a chest heart rate monitor is up to 150 g. This is the optimal value, and modern heart rate monitors rarely weigh more.

During training, wearing the device does not cause any inconvenience, although it will take some time to get used to. Data from the heart rate monitor is displayed on the watch display, which collects statistics, analyzes them and helps track your training. The downside is that a chest heart rate monitor can hardly be used for continuous heart rate monitoring, as it is uncomfortable to wear it all the time. The watch and heart rate monitor can be sold as a set or separately.

Watches with a built-in heart rate monitor are more practical: you don’t need to get used to them; they count your pulse on your wrist. Wrist heart rate monitors are optical and work using optical plethysmography technology. But wrist-based heart rate monitors are never perfectly accurate, and the more intense the activity, the less accurate they are. It is better to choose watches that have light diodes installed to reduce errors. Usually green diodes are used, but sometimes red and yellow ones are used in addition – blinking of one or another light can be seen from the back of the watch.

If you already have a watch with the function of connecting to a separate chest heart rate monitor, you need to consider models of heart rate monitors without a watch.

Belt material. It is better to choose polyurethane for the belt material, as it reduces friction and slipping to a minimum. This increases not only the level of comfort, but also the accuracy of the measurement. There are also nylon and silicone straps, but they are more likely to cause allergies and also cause friction with the skin when worn.

Availability of wireless communication and navigation. Chest heart rate monitors are always equipped with Bluetooth, but it is important to ensure that they can connect specifically to a watch and not to fitness equipment.

Regardless of the type of heart rate monitor – chest strap or built-in – it is important to choose a watch with GPS, without this you will not be able to track your workout, for example, running speed and pace . It also helps you plot a route, record the distance covered, count the distance to your destination, and even determine your altitude—not necessary, but fun.

Information content of the watch display. The watch display should not be overloaded. The main indicators that are important to reflect on it: heart rate, training time, actual time, distance traveled. All other data can be accessed upon request in the menu. As an addition, the numbers on the screen should be large to ensure easy readability during active activities.

Operating time without recharging. Chest heart rate monitors usually run on batteries and last quite a long time – several hundred hours. Considering that they are almost never used for continuous heart rate monitoring, this is sufficient.

As for watches with a built-in heart rate monitor, it is convenient when they monitor your heart rate constantly, and not just on request during training. On average, watches in the budget segment should work up to five days without recharging.

Moisture and dust protection. Helpful, but not required. There are almost no watches without dust protection, but moisture protection is a common option for chest sensors: the chest area absorbs more sweat during training. At the same time, water protection in the watch, for example, makes it possible to run in the rain.

Dust and moisture protection is measured according to the IPXX standard. The first digit of the standard is the degree of protection against mechanical damage, that is, penetration and impact of solid objects. The second is the degree of protection against penetration of moisture or water into the housing. For dust protection, the countdown goes from 0 to 6, where 0 is no protection , 6 is maximum . For moisture protection – up to 8. If you want the watch to be 100% protected from dust and water, the specifications should say IP68.

Additional functions. It is important that the heart rate monitor not only calculates heart rate with a minimum error in real time, but also can record heart rate zones – it is understood that they can be set. In addition, the device should block heart rate zones: when you leave the desired heart rate zone, there should be some kind of alarm or vibration on the wrist.

But the accelerometer, calorie counter, inactivity reminder, smartphone search, sunrise and sunset times, rest reminder, women’s calendar, change of dial design, water balance, calendar, stopwatch, timer, alarm clock, gyroscope, incoming call notification and other options are optional on the watch and increase its cost.