Testing at The Hammacher Schlemmer Institute was intended to identify the strapless heart rate monitor that was accurate enough to be deemed The Best. Unlike older heart rate monitors that require users to wear a chest strap, which many find uncomfortable, these strapless wristwatch style monitors take readings directly from one's wrist. Unfortunately, none of the units tested consistently measured users’ heart rates with enough accuracy for us to recommend it any of them in good conscience. Though we were disappointed with the outcome, we will continue scouring the marketplace for a model that meets The Institute’s quality standards. Until that occurs, Hammacher Schlemmer will not offer the Best Strapless Heart Rate Monitor in its catalog, website, or retail store. However, should a strapless heart rate monitor possess a compelling feature that solves a particular problem, Hammacher Schlemmer may choose to offer it to its customers, but it will not be called "The Best".
Before undertaking testing, The Hammacher Schlemmer Institute surveys consumers to learn which attributes are most critical when purchasing a Strapless Heart Rate Monitor. Their answers reveal that a device’s accuracy is most important, followed by its ease of use and features.
Panelists are also asked which features matter most when shopping for a Strapless Heart Rate Monitor. Their answers indicate that the following are essential:
The Hammacher Schlemmer Institute then researches the marketplace and obtains Strapless Heart Rate Monitors that possess these desired attributes and features. The Institute may eliminate a model from consideration prior to testing if it does not have a required attribute or feature or if it has an obvious quality issue. Conversely, if a sample offers a unique benefit that distinguishes it from other models, The Institute may at its discretion include it in testing even though it may be lacking a critical feature or attribute.
Strapless Heart Rate Monitors are rigorously tested by Institute analysts, a consumer panel, and a cardiology nurse, who evaluate each model for its accuracy, ease of use and features.
Accuracy is determined by comparing each model’s heart rate readings with the readings taken by a professional nurse. Measurements are taken while panelists are seated, during exercise, and after they have engaged in 30 minutes of vigorous exercise, and the percentage of deviation between the monitor’s and the nurse’s findings are noted.
During testing, we found the monitors accuracy to be off by as much as 38% for 1 model and 23% on another model.
For each Strapless Heart Rate Monitor, analysts evaluate how easy it is to:
In each category, the easier it is to perform a task, the more points will be awarded, while tasks that are more difficult to perform will receive fewer points. After testing, an average ease-of-use score is calculated for each monitor.
Analysts determine whether a Strapless Heart Rate Monitor has any of the following features:
Monitors receive points for every feature they have, weighted according to how important that feature is to consumers. After testing, analysts calculate an average features score for each model.
The Hammacher Schlemmer Institute recommends that you consider these features when shopping for a Strapless Heart Rate Monitor to ensure you will be completely satisfied with its performance:
During testing, we found that the strapless heart rate monitors' readings were off by at least 25% and as much as 38% compared to those taken by a cardiology nurse. In contrast, when we tested fingertip heart rate monitors, none varied by more than 5%.
The Hammacher Schlemmer Institute will continue to search the marketplace for a strapless heart rate monitor that successfully meets our criteria for The Best. However, until this newer technology has proven itself more accurate, we recommend that users steer clear of strapless heart rate monitors and instead opt for models that have a chest strap or a fingertip reader which we have found to be much more reliable.
A heart rate monitor measures the number of heartbeats per minute-vital information for tracking a cardiac condition or for assessing the intensity level of a workout. Traditional monitors are strapped around the chest under clothing and require a separate wireless device for displaying results, prompting frequent complaints about the hassle of putting them on, their uncomfortable fit against the skin, and the maintenance needed to keep the strap clean. Newer strapless monitors, in contrast, are worn around the wrist like a watch, so they are quick to fasten on and comfortable to wear, all while offering real-time, immediate results on the device’s LCD screen. Users simply touch a finger to the monitor’s metal detector, and the built-in electrodes measure the heart’s electrical activity to determine the number of beats per minute. When users input personal health data, many monitors also interpret where results fall in relation to the optimal heart rate and target zone for their age and gender. Stopwatch, timer and pedometer functions gather additional data on a workout, and monitors that store results from several exercise sessions help athletes monitor their progress toward fitness goals.
The Hammacher Schlemmer Institute was founded in 1983 as an independent, not-for-profit corporation to provide independent testing and consulting services for Hammacher Schlemmer.
Although funded by Hammacher Schlemmer, the Institute functions independently of Hammacher Schlemmer. The Institute consults Hammacher Schlemmer and fulfills its mission statement without regard to product prices, brand names, margins, or other commercial considerations. Decisions on specific products to test, the types of test to perform and how to interpret the results lie exclusively with the Institute's research staff. In addition, the Institute's status as a separate entity from Hammacher Schlemmer prevents access to sensitive information, such as inventory levels or product cost, which might influence testing decisions. The Institute's independence assures products are researched, evaluated, and rated objectively without commercial bias.