2014: Mio Link Review – Wrist HR Band

MIO Link

MIO Link – Less Than £80 (June 2014)

by Race Leader

All sport wrist bands were not created equal.

The newly released MIO Link (April 2014) clearly highlights this.

The acid test: Would I buy a new one if I lost it?

Answer: Yes!

This is a great piece of kit. Perfect for some uses, great for others. You just have to know what those uses are and whether or not you will use it in that way.

What do you get?

Out of the box you get the band and a USB charger. Your Android phone has a configuration utility – which you don’t NEED in any case. However the configuration utility is useful in that it can be used to set HR zones for the flashing lights on the band. So if you plan to use this with a sports watch you don’t need to configure the band, if you plan to look at the band and not your phone then DO configure the band.

Your iphone has the same configuration utility and an app as well. The MIO Android App will follow in due course. You might as well use the free “WAHOO Fitness App” and configuration utility if in doubt. There are LOTS more alternatives as well – some free, others not.

What else do you NEED?

You need a device to record (and display) your stats. That can be your Bluetooth/ANT+ enabled phone or it could be a sports watch such as an ANT+ compatible Garmin watch.

The MIO Link does NOT record data. IT just ‘streams’ or transmits it to something that can listen to it.

(Although technically you could exercise based solely on the colour of the flashing lights and not record the session)

If you are looking for a wrist based solution with a display then look <here> at the brand new PulseOn at GBP100. It’s good too but can’t go underwater. Alternatively MIO have new products out towards the end of 2014; try and look at the MIO Fuse <here>.

So, hang on a minute, it’s just a HR monitor then?

Yep.

You: Oh!

‘Just’ is probably a loaded word so I’ll clarify. This is a wrist based optical HR band.

I’ll just put that bit in special boldy-font-thingys

Wrist-Based, Optical HR Band

That’s SO cool and here’s why.

  1. You might be a lady. Anatomically some women have issues with straps and they simply don’t work. This wrist-based strap WILL work for ANYONE with a wrist.
  2. You might not like the faff of wearing a HR monitor. Let’s face it they’re not nice. NONE of the brands – soft/hard/comfort straps – none of them are nice.
  3. Being optically based it will not have the same contact and HR spike issues of ALL the branded chest straps. IE it might actually be reliable (more on that later).
  4. The MIO Link is absolutely not a glorified pedometer. Some of the other bands are NOT the same as this. Some of the others simply do not measure heart rate. Some estimate it. But, in my opinion, most people should look at HR if they are looking to measure and improve on their fitness.
  5. It looks nice. Very few wrist based sports devices (OK, watches) look nice. The MIO Link borders on beautiful from a design point of view. I absolutely love it as does everyone I’ve seen.
  6. It’s waterproof to 30m…that should be deep enough.
  7. Battery life is 10 hours.

So. As a supposed athlete I would use it. My sister would use it. My nephews and nieces said they would use one. All for different reasons.

Where’s the catch?

The catches are all different takes on what I’ve put above as great features. If you need a 14 hour battery life then a 10 hour battery life is no good. Doesn’t mean it’s a rubbish product, just that it might not be right for you. OK here goes:

  1. Battery life of 10 hours is fine for most people but will not be enough for some who are looking for long race monitoring or 24×7 monitoring. I can live with that. Maybe configuration could allow us to turn off either Bluetooth or ANT+ – that might save some power.
  2. Whilst waterproof it cannot record HR during swimming. Or at least that’s the official line. See below for how it does actually record HR underwater if the band is RIGHT next to the watch. Super Cool.
  3. It has no display. But you knew that when you bought it right? If you want a watch buy one. There will be watches released in 2014/2015 that have built in HR monitors. I haven’t seen any that look nice yet. I can live with that.
  4. It has no recording ability. This is a bit of a shame for me and for some people who don’t want to either wear another wrist device or carry around their mobile phone.
  5. Doesn’t have in-built step/pedometer/cadence functionality. I can live with that.
  6. Accuracy – yep, it’s accurate!
  7. Range (distance from ‘other’ device) – see graphs below showing range is a factor.
  8. HRV R-R ‘compliant’
  9. Longevity – I will update if I get problems. None so far.

Apps

Apps are where the added value comes in and are out of the scope of this review. You can get lifestyle apps, sports activity trackers, scientific athletic apps…lots of them will work with this unit.

This wrist unit is compatible with many SmartPhone apps. I’ve used it with a professional sports HR analysis app “BioForceHRV” and with Endomondo. Here is a list of supported stuff: http://www.mioglobal.com/apps/default.htm. If you are relying on a Bluetooth connection then do your research there are issues with Polar SMART Bluetooth devices and their compatibility with various apps but the issue lies in the way the APPs handle Bluetooth AND also on how the device manufacturer (eg Samsung) implement Android – similar issue with iphones.

To be clear: This works for me on Samsung S3/S4 with Android and Bluetooth. This works for me with ANT+. It works with more stuff than any other strap I’ve ever owned. Although that’s no guarantee it will work in your precise scenario.

HR Data Underwater

“The ANT+ signal does not travel underwater”.  This phrase is often quoted and it is sort of true. But also sort of false. It DOES travel. Just not very far. And with a HR chest strap…it’s too far. I tried putting the Mio Link next to my 910XT in water in the sink. The readings went haywire. I put it on tighter and went swimming. Here’s what I got:

HR Swim Data Mio Link and Garmin 910XT the5krunner.com

HR Swim Data Mio Link and Garmin 910XT the5krunner.com

I think the HR track shown was there or thereabouts. I was doing sets/intervals, explaining the ups and downs. Maybe some bits were missed. But add in a smoothing algorithm and it would be better. (Ignore the blue pace line, the 910XT only records HR in run mode and I left the GPS on).

HR Data Range

Here are two charts showing one identical run after another (well in reverse). The only difference is that in the first chart the band and watch are on different wrists. In the second they are immediately next to each other. Clearly, in the case of me, they should both be on the same arm as the first one had many drop out and the software filled in the gaps afterwards. Looking at the watch during the session HR was frequently not being displayed.

I have had the MIO Link working perfectly over a longer distance so I can only assume that either I did not have the strap on correctly or there was an issue with the signal travelling through/round my boddy rather than directly through the air.

HR Run Data Mio Link and Garmin 910XT Different Arms

HR Run Data Mio Link and Garmin 910XT Different Arms

 

Same wrist follows:

HR Run Data Mio Link and Garmin 910XT Same ArmsHR Run Data Mio Link and Garmin 910XT Same Arms

HR Run Data Mio Link and Garmin 910XT Same Arms

We can argue this until we are blue in the face but you are best to have your phone/watch on the same arm/wrist as the band. Doesn’t look too great but it works. I can easily live with that.

Accuracy

I had a pyramid-style bike session with rest intervals. I linked my Garmin 910XT to my Garmin HRM3 strap and I also linked my Mio Link to another ANT+ recording device. The start and end time (over an hour) were exactly the same. The data tracks are clearly not the same. However they are VERY similar, the TRIMP calculation shows 71 for the Garmin and 72 for the MIO. So a 1-2% difference. But who is to say which one is correct?

So assuming you have your MIO within range the data will be accurate enough for most of us to use without needing to worry.

MIO Link Chest Strap accuracy

MIO Link Chest Strap accuracy

Garmin 910XT with Garmin HRM3 Chest Strap accuracy

Garmin 910XT with Garmin HRM3 Chest Strap accuracy

HRV R-R Capability

The manufacturer states it is “EKG accurate”.

If you don’t know what this is don’t worry too much! It looks at how the variation of your normal IRREGULAR heart beats. Some fitness apps will use this. Anyway, as the chart below shows the MIO is perfectly able to send beat by beat info to anything that can receive it (by ANT+ at any rate) – NOTE I am not sure that the R-R data that is sent is correct!!!

hrv R-R data from the MIO Link

hrv R-R data from the MIO Link

Compatibility

I think this is a list of POTENTIALLY compatible Bluetooth SMART 4 devices: http://www.bluetooth.com/Pages/Bluetooth-Smart-Devices-List.aspx#Smart

And here is a similar list for ANT+: http://www.thisisant.com/directory

User Manual – Quick Start Guide

Here is a link to the quick start guide / user manual for the MIO Link.

Manufacturer and other Videos:

Price:

You can pay £100 for a glorified pedometer…or you can get one of these FOR LESS THAN £80 (UK June 2014). If you are a Garmin user one of these costs only a tad more than a new premium chest strap.

If you are looking for a wrist based solution with a display then look <here> at the brand new PulseOn at GBP100. It’s good too but can’t go underwater. Alternatively MIO have new products out towards the end of 2014; try and look at the MIO Fuse <here>.

 

 

7 thoughts on “2014: Mio Link Review – Wrist HR Band”

  1. Be warned that if you live outside the USA you will be charged an import fee. In my case (Canada), it was $31. They claim that they will refund you this fee but repeated attempts to contact their support have gone unanswered.

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    • probably true. That’s the fault of your customs service. Note also that in the US I would imagine that prices are quoted EXCLUSIVE of sales tax. So in the UK you pay an import duty and sales tax when importing from the US….kinda amounts to the same thing ??? The problem we have in the UK is that US$ and GBP prices for MANY items always seem to use the same figure despite the 1:1.6 exchange rate.

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  2. It will work with a ant+ and a Bluetooth device at same time?

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    • YES (Just tested Samsung S3 + Garmin 910XT). BUT there are lots of bizarre implementations of Bluetooth by different manufacturers and certain apps on phones also require certain vesions of Bluetooth, so you need to do your research.

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  3. Hi, agree it works swimming, cycling etc but have you had any joy getting the 6 colour LED to show anything other than red, green and blue? I’m failing repeatedly …

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    • COLOUR DESCRIPTION LOWER HR LIMIT UPPER HR LIMIT
      Cyan Resting 0% of MHR < 50% of MHR
      Blue Warm Up / Recovery 50% of MHR < 60% of MHR
      Green Fat Burn & Endurance 60% of MHR < 70% of MHR
      Yellow Aerobic Fitness 70% of MHR < 80% of MHR
      Magenta Anaerobic Intensive 80% of MHR < 90% of MHR
      Red Peak Performance 90% of MHR 220 BPM

      check your HR zones are correct

      Like

  4. This blog was… how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally
    I’ve found something that helped me. Thanks!

    Like

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