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Tag: Fitness Tracker (Page 1 of 9)

Review: Running or not, you’ll want the Polar M430 on your wrist

Video shot/edited by Jennifer Hahn. (video link)

Polar continues to improve on its existing running watches with the new M430 tracker. It's an upgrade to the M400 in many subtle ways, including an improved accelerometer, longer battery life, and the inclusion of Polar's own optical heart-rate monitor. Although it's positioned as a runner's watch, you can do much more with the M430 thanks to Polar's sport profiles. But runners will appreciate the convenience of having an accelerometer that can handle indoor and outdoor activities well, an onboard heart-rate monitor, and a GPS that doesn't make you wait when you're ready to run now. While it has stiff competition in the TomTom Spark 3, Polar's device combines enough essential features to hold its own.

Design

Although the M430 has all-day activity tracking features, its design is best suited for training sessions. It has that rounded-rectangular shape many other Polar devices have, featuring two left-side buttons for the screen backlight and navigating back, and three right-side buttons for scrolling up and down and selecting options on the display. Physical buttons are easier to use (and more accurate) than a touchscreen would be on a serious training device, so I don't mind having them on the M430. In fact, I would have preferred them on the TomTom Spark 3 instead of its awkward touchpad below the display.

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Sleep it off: What you can and can’t learn from sleep tracking wearables

Beddit

Fitness trackers didn't always monitor sleep, but the feature is now a sought-after staple in most devices, as sleep is just as important as exercise to a healthy lifestyle. Most wristbands monitor sleep now, and there are even specialized devices that go on your head or bedside table that can also keep track of how long and how well you sleep each night.

But sleep tracking isn't as simple as step tracking, and you need more than a simple accelerometer to measure it accurately. While motion is an indicator, it's not the only metric you should track to get a full picture of how well you slept.

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Garmin Vivosmart 3 review: Shots fired at Fitbit, but some don’t hit

Video shot/edited by Jennifer Hahn. (video link)

The thinner-and-lighter trend isn't just dominating smartphones and laptops—fitness tech companies are constantly trying to make "the next big thing" as thin and light as they possibly can. Fitbit recently slimmed down its $150 Alta HR fitness tracker, and now Garmin is countering with its new $139 Vivosmart 3 wristband.

The newest device in the accessible Vivo line takes last year's Vivosmart HR to the next level with new rep counting and stress-evaluating features, as well as a slimmer design. Garmin just manages to undercut Fitbit on price here, but just because it's cheaper and has the Garmin name doesn't mean it's the better choice.

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Polar updates algorithms to make heart rate sensor better in new M430 running watch

Enlarge (credit: Polar)

It has been nearly three years since Polar first released the M400 running watch, and now the company is updating it. Polar announced the $229 M430 today, a new version of the previous runner's watch with slight improvements to the device's design and software that may be unnoticeable at first but should make a big difference during workouts.

The general design of the M430 is very similar to the M400—it's a bulky, rounded-square module with five physical buttons and a soft-touch silicone strap. The external features of the module haven't changed much, but Polar made the strap thinner, lighter, and more perforated to allow for better ventilation. It looks quite similar to Nike's Apple Watch Series 2 straps, with three rows of small holes covering the band. Those types of bands make it easier for the skin on your wrist to breathe and easier for sweat to escape. The module itself is 12mm thick and weighs 51 grams, and Polar claims its design combined with the improved strap will decrease pendular motion that occurs while running (those are the small movements that the M430 is subjected to every time you swing your arm during a run). If worn properly, fitness trackers don't seem to move at all while on your wrist, but they are adjusted and jostled slightly with every bit of arm movement.

The M430's accelerometer has also been improved to provide pace and distance metrics for indoor running on treadmills in addition to outdoor trail running. Most fitness trackers, and running devices in particular, only provide accurate pace and distance calculations when you're running outside, whether they have built-in GPS or not. Now all kinds of runners can use the M430 to its fullest extent no matter where they're running or what their training plan suggests.

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How wearable heart-rate monitors work, and which is best for you

Enlarge / Module outside of its headband. (credit: Valentina Palladino)

If you want to get a fitness tracker, you have to decide is if you want one that's compatible with a heart-rate monitor. Learning your heart-rate patterns, both during a workout and during daily activity, can show you a lot about your health. According to Harvard's Health blog, your resting heart rate is a key factor to determining your overall current and future health, and monitoring heart-rate changes over time can give you more of the information you need to lead a healthy life.

Chest straps and optical heart-rate monitors are the two most common types of pulse trackers available for modern wearables, and they both use similar methods to measure your pulse. However, their key differences in methodology and design will dictate which device you choose when picking a workout companion.

Chest straps

Heart-rate monitoring chest straps are both loved and hated. Most of them are made of a long, belt-like elastic band that wraps snugly around your chest, a small electrode pad that sits against your skin, and a snap-on transmitter. These heart-rate monitors work differently than the ubiquitous wrist-bound monitors on new wearables because they use electrocardiography to record the electrical activity of your heart. This process requires electrodes, which live in the shiny, flat pad against the skin. That pad needs moisture water or sweat to pick up any electrical signal. When you're working out and sweating, the electrodes pick up the electrical signals given off by your heartbeat, and they send that information to the transmitter.

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