Some athletes want to monitor their pulse, be it for health purposes or just out of curiosity. Scosche's myTREK Wireless Pulse Monitor syncs with Android and iOS devices to provide real-time updates on your pulse, as well as other details of your workout such as calories burned, distance and speed. Should you make this $99 device your workout partner?
Editor's note (6/7/12): When we initially reviewed this product, it was only compatible with iOS devices. It is now compatible with Android, and we have amended the review to reflect that change.
The lightweight, comfortable Scosche myTREK Wireless Pulse Monitor let us exercise without being weighed down. The black-and-gray armband is about an inch-and-a-half thick, and the center is slightly smaller than an iPod nano. Although the device isn't as sleek-looking as the Nike+ FuelBand and is clunkier and less-modern looking than the BodyMedia Fit Link, when it's on your arm, you hardly even feel it. However, in order to get the most out of the myTREK, you have to carry your iOS device with you, too.
The simple design features three buttons. The middle S button turns the device on and off and controls music playback. Press the button once to start music and press it again to stop. If you press twice quickly, you can skip to the next track, and pressing three times quickly rewinds to the previous track. The other two buttons control volume.
Simply adjust the Velcro on the stretchy armband to tighten or loosen it. Scosche advises not to adjust the band too tightly as not to cut off circulation. Though we think the plastic surrounding the rechargeable lithium-ion battery could be a bit more durable, we understand Scosche's reasoning for using the lightweight material.
The myTREK takes your pulse through integrated dual LED/optical sensors that produce real-time updates. It comes with three armstraps of different lengths so you can adjust the strap to whatever feels most comfortable for you. The smallest measures 4.3 inches, while the medium and large measure 6.3 and 9.6 inches, respectively. When we say lightweight, we mean it: Depending on what armband you use, the myTREK ranges from 1.25 to 1.45 ounces.
You can tell how much juice is left in the armband using the Main View of the app on your iPhone or iPod touch, so you'll know when you have to recharge it.
We charged the armband until it lit up green, turned on our iPhone 4's Bluetooth, then turned on the myTREK. Within the Bluetooth settings, we paired the myTREK with our phone. Our iPhone then prompted us to download the Scosche myTREK app. After attaching the armband to our upper forearm, we entered our age, gender and weight in the app, and accepted the default minimum and maximum heart rate.
You can structure a workout based on type of activity, target training zone and type of workout. There are a lot of options from which to choose: You can select Running, Cycling, Mountain Biking, Yoga, Walking, Aerobics, Resting or Other for type of activity. For target training zone, the options are: Free Training (default), Resting Zone (Warm Up), Weight Loss Zone (Fat Burning), Fitness Zone (Endurance Training), Performance Zone (Performance Training) and Red Line Zone (Maximum Effort).
As for the type of workout, you can choose from Free Workout (Default), Free Distance Workout, Time Workout, Time Workout + Distance (where it tracks distance and sets a duration), Distance Workout (where you set a distance goal) and Calorie Workout (where you set a calorie burning goal). The Distance Workouts are calculated using the iPhone's GPS.
When we tested the myTrek, we made our goal to burn 400 calories. As we were jogging, the app showed us how many calories we had burned at that point and what percentage that was of our goal. A bar on the bottom also showed what zone we were in, and whether we were working hard enough. For example, when we jogged on flat ground, we were in the weight loss zone, but when we started jogging on an incline we made it up to the fitness zone, exceeding our goal.
Afterward, we looked at a graph of our workout in the app that documented our pulse throughout (pictured). We could also see how long our workout was, how many calories we burned and our average pulse (bpm). We liked that we were able to view information on more than just our pulse, so the myTREK becomes a multifunctional device.
We then had the option to share the workout results using Facebook, Twitter, email, RunKeeper or MapMyFitness. After accumulating several workouts, we could see our progress in the app's calendar view.
You can also pull your music from iTunes or your Music account so you can listen and control playback without exiting the app, a thoughtful touch.
The Settings menu allows you to turn on a voice prompt that gives you words of encouragement during your workout such as "Go faster," a helpful feature that gives you hints on where you can improve.
Scosche says the myTREK can be as far as 33 feet away your iOS device, but we found the connection to be spotty from that distance. However, since you'll have both your iPhone and myTREK on your body or very near when working out, this limitation isn't a big deal.
Scosche claims that the myTREK's lithium-ion battery provides up to five hours of workout time. In practice, we were able to get more than that. However, keep in mind that the app uses a lot of your iPhone's juice, so your phone's battery may not last that long. Although Scosche says there's a two-hour charging time, it took us about three hours to get our device fully juiced.
Although Scosche's myTREK was designed to measure your pulse, it does a lot more than that. We wish it didn't take as long to charge, but the lightweight, easy-to-use armband and accompanying app has a good mix of features for pretty much anyone looking to monitor their fitness. And at $99, the myTREK is a good deal.