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Heart rate monitor reviews

Whether you’re an athlete or just keeping an eye on your health when exercising, what can you expect from a heart rate monitor?
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Test results for 18 heart rate monitors

How can you tell if the exercise you’re doing is particularly effective in reaching your fitness goals- are you improving your workout, or just coasting along? Heart rate monitors measure your heart’s beats per minute (BPM) and are commonly used to indicate its response to exercise. Heart rate monitors can be useful tools for a variety of reasons- athletes use them extensively for training and hobbyists can use them for a rough guide to their workout.  

Please note: this information was current as of November 2009 but is still a useful guide today. Our most recent article from 2014, is in our new beta site here.

Working in tandem

All monitors tested come in two parts: a chest belt that transmits your heart rate, and a watch that displays the heart rate. The chest belt has two built-in electrodes that need to be against bare skin - you simply adjust the belt to fit, with the transmitter placed over the middle of your chest. To start you need to wet the electrodes to improve contact with your skin, but during a workout your sweat will keep the connection strong. Heart rate monitors vary in comfort and design, so be sure to try them before you buying.

The heart-rate display watch often comes with a wealth of additional features, such as calorie counting, lap timing and other training functions. Typically, the more features, the more it will cost. You can expect to replace the battery at least every three to five years, depending on your usage. If you use your monitor a lot – as they do at the University of Sydney Faculty of Health Sciences, where they were tested – you may need to replace the chest strap more often than the watch battery.

We assessed the heart rate monitors on:

  • How they perform.
  • Ease of understanding instructions.
  • How easy they are to set-up.
  • Whether they have good screen quality.
  • How easy they are to replace the battery.
  • The ease of using the controls.

Brands and Models tested

  • Cateye MSC-HR10 (A)
  • Cateye MSC-HR20 (A)
  • Kathmandu TO654
  • Oregon Scientific SE102 (A)
  • Oregon Scientific SE211 (A)
  • Oregon Scientific SE300 (A)
  • Polar F4 (A)
  • Polar FS1 (A)
  • Polar FS3C (A)
  • Polar RS100
  • Polar RS300X
  • Suunto T1 (A)
  • Suunto T1C (A)
  • Suunto T3C (A)
  • Timex Ironman Road Trainer T5K214
  • Timex Ironman Triathlon T5F001
  • Timex T5G971
  • Timex T5J031 (A)

(A) Discontinued, but may still be available in some stores.

CHOICE members often ask for ALDI products to be tested. We tested the ALDI Crane Sports F38 heart rate monitor and it came equal best. However, ALDI have stated this was a special only and will not be available in the future.

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