What it is?
The Suunto SMART Belt is one of the best HR straps on the market. It has lots of positive points where it scores very highly and a few points where you need to do your research before buying.
In more detail then…
It’s the heart rate chest belt that partners nicely with the Suunto AMBIT3 sports watch using Bluetooth 4 Smart (BLE – Bluetooth Low Energy). Data from your training sessions would then go to MOVESCOUNT for logging and analysis.
You: Oh. It’s just a HR strap then.
The end !
Well no! Because of course there is more.
Firstly it’s an itsy-bitsy strap. Nice and small. It looks beautiful (if there can be beauty in a HR strap). It is very small and comfy. By far the best of any strap in terms of aesthetics and comfort. I’ll put a picture up sometime comparing it to the Garmin HRM-RUN and the WAHOO TICKR-X…MUCH smaller than both of them although the strap itself is the same size.
It is at least as accurate as a Polar H7 in my experience. And, in fact, I now use it every morning for my HRV recording. My smartphone app finds the Suunto faster than any other HR strap. Only a few seconds faster but faster and more reliably.
As this is a Bluetooth based strap then it will also work with MANY other fitness applications on iOS and Android.
Which is all well and good but that’s still just a HR strap and most definitely NOT the reason why I would want to take a look at it.
So, why am I testing it? The strap partners with the high-end AMBIT3 triathlon watch. Most of us haven’t got one of those, but most of us do have a smartphone and here’s the rub…
Currently Heart Rate monitoring is trending in two directions: firstly, with wrist/arm-based optical monitoring; and secondly with functional innovation. The Suunto falls nicely into the latter camp.
HR strap innovation may not set the world alight for many people but I LOVE the one direction that Suunto has taken this product. It has a memory.
That means you can go off and do your session, wearing your strap, and not have to worry about carrying your watch or phone. This in itself only has a marginal appeal, especially as you have to effectively turn the strap on from the app (or watch) before leaving the app (or watch) behind and running. However the big appeal for me is using this type of functionality for swimming.
Unfortunatley what Suunto have missed out on is heart rate recording whilst swimming. To be clear IT CAN record HR whilst swimming but only when you initiate the strap using the watch. Enabling the MOVESCOUNT app to do this is scheduled for 2015 (EDIT: YES! This should now work on the apps for both Android and iOS)
You might train by heart rate in which case you could sort out your zones for swimming and then you can target sessions accordingly. You could argue that you can take your HR manually at the end of each set. Of course that’s true. It’s a faff; but it’s true. If you were doing 20 lots of 100m then, let’s face it, there’s no way you would remember to take your HR at the end of each set AND take it accurately. The Suunto AMBIT3 plus this strap will do it for you. In fact it also records the HR during the set so getting a correct recording of your effort for the entire session.
So I trust none of you will be looking at your mid-stroke heart rate (ie whilst you are still swimming). Well, even if you do, you won’t see anything as the BLUETOOTH signal will not travel through water. So the only use for the data is when you are either temporarily or permanently out of the water ie looking back in some way and certainly not for an instantaneous reading.
I will be using HR swim data to complete my overall training stress/training load measuring/recording.
I look <here> in some detail at how to combine this data into your Garmin pool swims. Basically you can use tapiriik.com to synchronise a MOVESCOUNT account with, for example, SPORTTRACKS MOBI or GARMIN CONNECT or TRAIING PEAKS. That’s ‘basically’ it, but there are more involved nuances for those of you who want to analyse HR against other pool metrics.
If you already use the AMBIT3 then you are sorted. If you use SUUNTO MOVESCOUNT, you are fine (fuller functionality in Spring 2015).
But what about getting the data elsewhere?
For example you could be longstanding Garmin user who just also wants a cheap and easy way of getting HR swim data (like me!) and/or you could be a FIRSTBEAT user. The thought of JUST having to purchase a new strap and then using an app is a good idea.
Here’s what you should need to do
- For Garmin users who use FIRSTBEAT. EASY!. Firstbeat will automatically link to both MOVESCOUNT and your local GARMIN data, taking RR data from both. So in FIRSTBEAT this is how you can use all their fancy tools with the RR data it requires from swimming. [Edit: with the newer Garmins like the 920 this has to be done manually]
- GARMIN CONNECT. You can’t connect it easily. Here are the steps
- Connect MOVESCOUNT to STRAVA
- Connect STRAVA to tapiriik
- Your exercise/Move MUST contain GPS data for the MOVESCOUNT to STRAVA export to work. Strava only accepts GPS (outside) data. So you have to choose a sport where GPS will be recorded!
- Link your desired service to tapiriik such as training peaks, garmin connect or sporttracks mobi (you need the latter to get your data to sporttracks local)
- Tapiriik can also send your data to Dropbox as a tcx file. So you have a local copy that you could import into software of your choice. I would use this to import into a local version of sporttracks. Here I would combine the swim HR R-R data with my Garmin 910/920 lap information.
- Is it r-r? Yes ! And that is important if you are considering a wrist based approach. Wrist based monitors don’t usually give accurate RR data.
- how good is the end of lap/set upload? Good, but it only works on the AMBIT3 at present NOT THE APP.
- how good is the connection to the body? It’s good.
- how do you link with the ambit3 for swim as opposed to the app. The app doesn’t work with retrieving cached data from the belt. Either on ios or android. The swim data caching to the app directly will work Spring 2015 at the earliest (Source: Suunto). Realistically on iOS first. Eesh.
**EDIT** : 31 March 2016: A couple of users have noted that the caching used in conjunction with the MOVESCOUNT app appears NOT TO WORK if an AMBIT is NOT present. I have asked Suunto for clarification.
- Looks good
- Accurate and reliable
- Comfy, it fitted great under my clothing.
- Bluetooth SMART only NOT ANT+
- Priced appropriately against the competition.
- Caching only really works with the AMBIT3 at present. MOVESCOUNT app direct connection will be in 2015 I am told by Suunto…let’s see.
- Does cache/record RR HR data.
- The app or watch are required to initiate the caching (unlike the WAHOO TICKR-X where you tap the HRM to record)
- Once the app properly works with it, it will be my swim HR strap of choice. Until then I’ll use the WAHOO.
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EDIT: Late 2015 saw Garmin release the HRM4-TRI and HRM4-SWIM bands that cache underwater HR data. Polar of course allow underwater HR by using data frequencies that travel through water.
|HRMs Comparison June 28th 2015||Amazon||UK||Amazon||USA|
|4iiii Viiiiva V100 HRM||£79.99||Link||$77.00||Link|
|4iiii Viva Mini||TBC|
|SMS Bio Sport Ear Bud||£114.97||Link||$150.00||Link|
|Garmin Heart Rate Monitor (Hard)||£29.95||Link||$39.60||Link|
|Garmin HRM-RUN (Soft)||£51.93||Link||$99.99||Link|
|Garmin Premium (Soft)||£33.07||Link||$42.44||Link|
|Jabra Sport Pulse||£199.95||Link||$174.49||Link|
|LifeBeam Smart Helmet||£99.95||Link||$228.00||Link|
|PowerTap PowerCal ANT+||£80.99||Link||$89.95||Link|
|PowerTap PowerCal Bluetooth||£90.36||Link||$99.95||Link|
|Suunto Smart Belt||£49.00||Link||$55.91||Link|
|Under Armour Armour39||$70.95||Link|