Activity Trackers: review MIO Link

MIO Link Design
If you’ve ever worn a classic chest strap HRM, you know the only benefit of its design is being able to thump that hard lump of plastic at your breastbone and pretend you’re Tony Stark. You have to wear them quite snug, and they don’t give you any information about your heart rate in the moment. If you’re not sweaty enough, you have to lick or spit on them to get the heart rate to conduct. It’s gross. I know.

MIO Link

The MIO Link£63.26 at Amazon, on the other hand, is all around better. It’s a comfortable and sleek wristband with a single LED light that flashes different colors as your heart rate reaches different zones. You do have to strap it on tightly enough that it doesn’t slide around, and it helps to wear it slightly higher on your arm than around your wrist bones. It’s still way more comfortable.

The strap comes in two colors, gray and whitet, and two sizes: S/M (4.8 inches to 6.9 inches) and L (5.9 inches to 8.2 inches). The hardware component pops out of the strap, so you can change the bands if you want. The strap itself is one of the best designs I’ve seen for a wearable sports device. It stretches, feels soft, and has clasp holes along the whole length of it so you can customize exactly how tight or loosely it fits. The loose end has two prongs that securely connect into the back to the band; this way it never flaps around when you’re being active.

The MIO Link is the half-priced little sister to the MIO Alpha ($199)$164.99 at Amazon, which looks more chunky and funky thanks to a full watch-face display. The Link, on the other hand, looks like nothing more than a pliable band. It’s thinner and lighter, and the battery life is great—running seven to ten hours in active mode with the ability to last for weeks when in standby.

One of the key differences between the Alpha and the Link is the Alpha shows your exact heart rate and works as a stopwatch. The Link, on the other hand, has no display other than the one indicator light that changes color with your heart rate zones. To see the history of your exact heart rate with the Link, you’ll need a compatible app.

Mio LINK Heart Rate Monitor Wrist Band

$78.49

BT4.0 and ANT transmission to mobile apps and sport devices; Works with Mio GO fitness app (to be released in conjunction with Mio LINK); One button "Start/Stop" and "Sync" activation; Tri-Color LED ...

Made by: Mio,

Testing the MIO Link
The MIO Link really does work like any other HRM, so there isn’t any setup required. You simply pair the device with any supported app, such as Strava (shown below), Map My Run, Endomondo, Runtastic, Wahoo Fitness, or any otherapp for fitness that supports Bluetooth Smart (4.0) or ANT+ devices.

Strava App works with MIO Link wrist-worn heart rate monitor

As you work out, the LED indicator will flash from time to time in different colors as your heart rate increases: blue (50 percent of maximum heart rate), green (60 percent), yellow (70 percent), magenta (80 percent), and red (90 percent).

If you want to customize the heart rate zones, you’ll need the MIO Go app (available for iOS and Android). The app has a calibration activity, as well as some neat videos you can watch while working out on a treadmill or stationary bike. The videos take you on a first-person perspective journey up mountains or along coastal bike pathways, and the speed of the video interactively changes based on your heart rate. For example, if the video is of a hiker’s perspective climbing a mountain, the footage slows down if your heart rate is low and speeds up as it increases.

To activate the MIO Link, you press on the top of it. There’s a button beneath the strap, on the hardware component, but it doesn’t require any precise way to engage it, which is ideal for runners in motion. I’ve seen plenty of other activity devices, including the Samsung Gear Fit$119.00 at Dell, with buttons or touch screens that are impossible to use accurately when you’re moving at a good pace or are wearing runner’s gloves. The MIO Link gets it right. The TomTom Multi-Sport watch$179.99 at Amazon also gets it right, with one giant button for all functions you’d need while running, cycling, and swimming.

Speaking of swimming, the MIO Link is water-resistant to 30 meters (98 feet), but the company says it doesn’t conduct heart rate reliably underwater. In other words, you don’t have to remove the Link to swim, but you won’t get any benefit by leaving it on. In comparison, the TomTom Multi-Sport has some advanced features for swimmers, but it doesn’t track your heart rate. A lower cost activity tracker (with way fewer features than the TomTom watch) that supports swimming is theMisfit Shine£64.67 at Amazon, which also doesn’t record heart rate.

I wore the MIO Link for a few days, mostly while bicycling. I had no trouble getting it to pair with apps, and the heart rate collection worked great, even when I was pedaling at full speed. I kept the MIO Link on my wrist throughout the day, dropping it into Standby mode by pressing the top of the band once until the LED glowed a steady blue and then went off. I like the simplicity of the interaction.

Ditch the Chest Strap
If you’re very specifically in the market for a new heart rate monitor for high-endurance activities, and you don’t want to wear a chest strap, the MIO Link is a solid device. It works very well, wears comfortably, is simple to use, and includes both Bluetooth and ANT+ functionality. The MIO Link is a comfortable and reasonably priced HRM. Don’t mistake it for a full-blown activity tracker, stop watch, runner’s watch, or device that does anything more than read and record your heart rate. But among HRMs, it’s fairly advanced and reasonably priced.

  • PROS

    Comfortable wrist-worn heart rate monitor. Works with many apps. Indicator light changes color with heart rate zone. Button-less design ideal for runners, cyclists, and sports enthusiasts. Water resistant. Has both Bluetooth Smart and ANT+.

  • CONSMust wear high on wrist. No readouts; indicator lights for heart rate zones only. Proprietary USB charging dock. Doesn’t conduct heart rate well underwater.
  • BOTTOM LINE

    If you’re in the market for a new heart rate monitor and are sick of wearing a chest strap, the MIO Link is a reasonably priced wristband that will meet your needs rather precisely, and that’s all you should expect from it.

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Mio LINK Heart Rate Monitor Wrist Band

BT4.0 and ANT transmission to mobile apps and sport devices; Works with Mio GO fitness app (to be released in conjunction with Mio LINK); One button "Start/Stop" and "Sync" activation; Tri-Color LED ...

$ 78.49

Buy on Amazon
amazon Activity Trackers: review MIO Link amazon.com
You're probably wondering what could make me outright say I am ditching my heart-rate strap, and also why I am giving this 4 instead of 5 stars with such a statement. To give some background, I started running in April 2013, so it's been just over a year (this review is written in April of 2014). I have used my Garmin Forerunner 410 for every run, uploading training plans to get me ready for my first 5k last May, 10k in July, Half Marathon in October, and ultimately leading up to my first Marathon in April 2014, finishing in 3:55. So I still consider myself a relative newbie, but I have been figuring out what works and what doesn't.I was using the Garmin HRM2 chest strap for awhile, but found that on dry days I would get errant readings for the first 1-2 miles of my run until I started to sweat. The Garmin HRM3 was a bit better, but it's still not the most comfortable to wear a strap around your chest, and I still had issues with accuracy when I wasn't soaked in sweat. Chest strap monitors have been around for years, and they function by picking up the electrical impulse across your chest from your heart. The advantage is that once you are sweaty, they tend to be fairly accurate. The disadvantage is they can be uncomfortable on the chest (a wet strap that doesn't dry quickly) and can chafe.My first optical HRM was my Basis B1 activity tracker. The problem with that one is that it is good at getting an occasional heart rate for monitoring activity, but it fails to pick it up during strenuous exercise. It also didn't work with my GPS watch or my iPhone. Other optical HRM's have similar limitations.When I read on DCRainmaker's blog about the new Mio Link, I knew I just had to try it. The new Mio Link is just awesome and worked amazingly as I will describe.Read more ›
April 28, 2014
Second Update July 18, 2014- after a few more months running with the Mio, there are a few more details that I can report with absolute certainty.First - Moving the band up my arm (say 2" closer to my elbow than where I wear my watch) makes a big difference in accuracy. However, drop-outs still do occur with some regularity. There's no other way to explain consistent heart beat rates suddenly dropping by 20 BPM for a minute or two, and then jumping back up to where they are supposed to be.Second - The yellow, low battery, warning light that is supposed to come on at the 30% (or less) charge level has proven somewhat unreliable. By my calculations (in review below), it should show when you turn the unit on and have roughly 2 and a half hours charge or less. So when I turn it on - and see no yellow light - I think I'm good to go for a two hour run. So it's disappointing when 3/4 into the run the unit runs out of power.Third - At times the unit spontaneously turns off. I've got no idea why. This has happened several times, and each time upon turning it back on, its still has plenty of battery life. I don't run but three or four times a week. But over the last few months this has happened three or four times (if that gives any idea of the frequency of the occurance of this problem.)Fourth - The little blinking light is just too infrequent to be of any real benefit. For me running with an iPhone and the Run Keeper app, which periodically announces my BPM reported from the Mio Link, is what makes it worth having. Without an app like Run Keeper (or something like it), I'd not even bother with the Mio Link. But with such an app to announce BPM, it is worthwhile. The Mio Go app may do this too.Read more ›
May 1, 2014
I pre-ordered the device with very high hopes I could ditch my old heart rate strap(s). Over the years I've been through various big name soft strap models -- each seems to die with erratic static induced spikes eventually! I think I tried 4 different manufacturers straps until I went back to the older rubber / plastic style chest strap!After receiving the LINK I paired it to my phone through BT and also to several of my ANT+ devices -- FR 610, Edge 800, vivofit, for example. Recording of data with any of these devices was really no problem.Why such a bad rating then?!Very often my numbers don't make sense. With enough HR recording over the years I have a decent feel for where my HR should be. I may not know it to within a beat, but certainly I am usually within 30... unfortunately the MIO often is not.I eventually recorded an old HR chest strap simultaneously with the MIO for several exercises. I did a treadmill run, outdoor long run, indoor spinning session and several outdoor rides. Nearly every time I had periods of completely wrong data -- 20-30 BPM off for minutes at a time. This, to me, is just unacceptable.I've even tried different arms, different locations on my wrist and tightness variation. Some places do seem to work better than others, but I haven't found one that works reliably enough, and always playing with the location is annoying.Also, if the device is too far (read... > 4 ft?) away from the recording device I see occasional signal drops -- HR to "---" or 0. I can't say the distance precisely, but if I don't use the same arm, then I see between 4-5 drops in an hour.Read more ›
April 23, 2014
Activity Trackers: review MIO Link
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