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I just had to do a mioPOD Review as Mio were one of the first optical heart rate companies to enter the fitness market with a good product a few years ago. Now they are back, this time with a clearly superior product…but how does it stack up against today’s competition?
What is mioPOD?
mioPOD is an optical heart rate monitor designed to be worn on either your upper-arm or fore-arm. It should work with just about any sports watch or app as it supports BLE and ANT+ – so that would include the Nike, Under Armor and Zwift apps as well as a Garmin or Polar watch.
The ‘point of difference’ with the mioPOD is that it has a nice app that is, in part, powered by market-leading Firstbeat sports algorithms to deliver assessments of the effects of all your workouts as well as your readiness to train. The market-leading Valencell optical HR sensor is also used.
Who is going to buy mioPOD?
Mio Labs are targetting the mioPOD towards gym and fitness users as well as to some runners and cyclists who perhaps don’t want to wear a chest strap but who do want accurate heart rate data.
Perhaps you don’t want to wear a sports watch? Perhaps you are becoming more aware that different types of training are needed to get fitter more quickly and that you are not always equally as ready for them every morning.
Who is the competition?
To some extent, heart rate monitors on sports watches and chest strap heart rate monitors are the competition, but let’s ignore those and, instead, just look at similar technologies.
You may not have heard of all of these – Polar OH1+, Wahoo TICKR Fit, Scosche Rhythm+/24, Whoop and Biostrap. And you almost certainly won’t have heard of Runar but suffice to say, there are many more arm-worm heart rate monitors, however, those I’ve listed there are the best (I have a RUNAR but have not tested its accuracy, seems alright and cheap).
The Polar, Wahoo and Scosche products come with relatively straightforward workout-recording apps. Whereas the Whoop strap and Biostrap are more expensive parts of wider solutions that help you Bio-hack or deeply-understand your body and its readiness-to-train. They are generally for more serious-minded athletes, rather than someone looking for a simple sensor that will be accurate and work with ‘pretty much anything’.
You might wonder why Sunnto and Garmin (kinda) don’t have a more focussed product offering in this space.
mioPOD Review – Aesthetics & General Design
Its size is like the porridge in Goldilocks…just right. Any bigger and it would look a bit silly and if it were any smaller, the battery life would be compromised and it also would be prone to flipping over.
It’s comfy and it looks nice enough, although most of you will never see it underneath your T-shirt sleeve. I guess it looks a little weird on my forearm but any band looks weird there, in my opinion.
mioPOD Review – Using It
The mioPOD paired well with everything I tried over ANT+ and BLE. It only seems to pair with one BLE (Bluetooth Smart) device at a time so make sure anything else you have previously paired to is not present otherwise you will not be able to pair to a new device.
The on-off button needs a good press but that’s OK. Around the same button are some coloured LED’s that indicate the status of the mioPOD (ie is it on and recording) as well as HR zones.
I can’t see the point of showing colour-coded HR zones on the LEDs on my upper arm, it’s just not a convenient place to look. However, I will concede to you my earlier cynicism if you intend to wear the mioPOD on your forearm, as the zones will be very clearly visible there.
There is also ‘haptic feedback’. That’s just a 2020 way of saying that it vibrates! But don’t knock the vibrations, as vibrations go, it’s nice.
mioAPP – Using It
I sense that the app will be expanded in the months ahead. Yet even as of January 2020, it’s a good but basic app. It looks nice and all the key, post-workout information is displayed clearly.
If you’ve chosen to use the mioPOD away from the app then any cached data is reliably sync’d to the app.
However, the standout features on the app are those from Firstbeat.
You get your weekly INTENSITY MINUTES, TRAINING LOAD and RECOVERY STATUS as well as the ANAEROBIC TRAINING EFFECT and AEROBIC TRAINING EFFECT for every workout. There is some good and actionable information there for mainstream fitness geeks and wannabe athletes. At least it’s ‘good’ if the source data (HR) is accurate and, as we shall soon see, IT IS ACCURATE! (enough).
mioPOD Specs & Features
- 24-hour operation (claimed, not tested)
- Performance-level Optical Heart Rate
- Resting Heart Rate
- Burned Calories
- Fitness Level
- Heart-Rate LIGHT Alerts
- Haptic Alerts
- Running Cadence
- Training Insights
- 5 ATM Water Resistant (50m…you can swim with it, I’ve not tested that)
- Syncs with mioAPP
- Caches/Internally Stores 30 Hours Of Workouts
- NFC / BLE / ANT+ Connectivity
- Charger – (included) and compatible with a Garmin Forerunner/Fenix 2019 charger.
- The strap should handle your 40cm biceps (if not, wear it on your smaller forearm)
- The strap can be changed but the provided strap should handle smaller32cm biceps. My PR sample came with a spare strap but I’m not sure that the commercial ones do too. You could probably fasten two straps together to make it longer, I didn’t try.
mioPOD Review – Competitive Evaluation
I mentioned the competition earlier.
- Scosche Rhythm 24 – I’ve heard some stories about reliability and won’t test this.
- Scosche Rhythm+ – this was a superior product back in its’ day but I think it has had its day. I have one but never use it.
- Polar OH1+ – This is a superior product and it’s usually cheaper than the mioPOD. However, the mioPOD has a better strap and caching is more easily enabled on the mioPOD. The mioPOD also has a superior battery life to the Polar. Hmmm 🙂 maybe I should use the mioPOD?
- The Wahoo Tickr FIT strap does not cache data but has a slightly superior battery life (30 hours). Tickr Fit is generally accurate but I have had a few wobbly data moments over the years and have previously always favoured the Polar OH1/OH1+ just for its cache.
Techy Bit From Me About My Personal Use: I currently use the Polar OH1 in my comparative product tests as it simply caches HR in its own right, it’s accurate and doesn’t rely on pairing to anything else. I’m struggling to find any reason why I shouldn’t use the mioPOD instead of the OH1. Oh. there is one thing, I just can’t get the cached data off from Mio’s app. If it automatically sync’d to dropbox/Google Drive it would be perfect FOR WHAT I DO. It does sync to my Apple Health but I’m not entirely sure how to get an unadulterated historical copy out of there. SIMPLE/AUTOMATIC tips please, on a postcard below (Rungap doesn’t work for me…I gave in 15 minutes after buying their ‘swag bag’)
OK, it’s crunch time. I’ve used the mioPOD for well over 20 hours of exercise. Outdoor running, treadmill running, outdoor cycling and indoor weights have all put the mioPOD through its paces. I mostly have one data set to compare mioPOD to for each workout but I’ll show the occasions where I got 3 or more data sets too. Interestingly when comparing, sometimes, to an HRM-TRI I strongly suspect that the mioPOD was CORRECT at the start of the workouts when the two devices differed – of course, I can’t ‘prove’ that with two data sets #Sigh.
Let’s start with one example of that from today, as it happens. Spot the part where Tish Jones joined me for a few KMs. Hint, it wasn’t the bit where I slowed down 😉 I just about pretended not to be out of breath at 160bpm which was tricky…because I was.
This was a fairly long bike ride on bumpy Surrey roads plus a long cake stop in the TeePee/Tipi in Shere (Dabbling Duck). We had a lot of cake. I can’t seem to get the data out of the app but it looks about right on these two side-by-side charts
This ride was a grumpy trip on my own to Windsor. Remember there is no way that the HRM-TRI can pair to the Polar Vantage so the two HR tracks really are nearly identical. You will hardly ever get this quality of HR from a wristwatch with oHR.
Here are some changes in pace on a treadmill, this time with a 3rd device, also caching its own HR track. #Perfect
Here you can see the performance using gym equipment and free weights. There are 4 dropouts here for the mioPOD which is not good. These probably coincide with a specific exercise where I was only working out asymmetrically. From a personal perspective, at these low HR levels, the errors don’t bother me at all. But if you can get your HR levels higher with weights then this sort of potential error might be a concern for you.
So, tentatively I’d say it looks accurate. I’d like to be more definitive but I’m not going to spend any more time on mioPOD for this review.
Price & Availability
It seems to be only available from the manufacturer right now for $99 and from Amazon in Europe/UK for £89/Eu125.
That pricing level is not too bad but is slightly ambitious. If you buy it from MIO to import into the UK/Eu you will be ALSO charged about Eu/£40 in import duties and fees. ie only buy it if you are in the USA or by from Amazon in the EU/UK.
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