It can be challenging to stay motivated at the gym. Your workouts get redundant and unless your keeping a close eye on your accomplishments you’ll soon find yourself bored if not deterred from visiting the thing so many people loathe. So how do you stay motivated? Gear. You buy new shows, new shorts, workout gloves or in this case a simple yet effective watch that measures your heart rate and tells you when to take a sip of water.
I’m referring to Oregon Scientific’s SH201Tap On Elite Heart Rate Monitor with Hydration Alert. It includes a wireless heart rate strap, a chronograph and a little meter that tells you – roughly – when you need a sip of water. There is also an alarm, HiGlo backlight (this button doubles as a key pad lock when held), lap function and a water resistant body up to 50 meter. Not bad for $100.
The watch has a total of 4 buttons: backlight, start/stop, set and mode. I found the setup to be a bit cryptic since it’s not blatantly evident which buttons you use to increase or decrease your input. But after some trial and error it will be apparent, though I would heave preferred a 5th button setup that would have distributed the start/stop function over two buttons as opposed to one, and left a dedicated mode and setup button. I should mentioned – I just realized this – that the buttons are denoted by a set of symbols, which include +/-. Yeah, a duh moment.
During setup the watch will ask you for your height, weight, sex and age so it can determine your proper heart rate zone and calculate your calories burned during a workout.
To enter the workout mode you just tap on the lens and it enters into your selected preset, which you chose during setup. You’ll need to use your finger tip nail and some heft in order for it to activate this feature, otherwise the watch will do nothing. Fortunately you can switch to workout mode just by cycling through the modes using the mode button.
But, before you begin your first workout you’ll need to choose between a heart rate zone, which is a percentage of beats per minute based on your age or set the amount of beats you would like to accomplish – you do this in the setup mode for the “auto” function. I suggest the “zone option” since this is based on your age and takes the guessing out of the equation.
The heart rate monitor is wireless and provided you’re within a few meters of the watch it will automatically detects it’s presence, which is depicted by a flashing heart on the display. Eventually your BPMs will be displayed and the watch will keep you abreast of whether or not you’re above or below your targeted heart rate. Connectivity comes by way of a digital signal. A button on the face of the heart monitor, when held for 4 seconds converts it to an analog connection, allowing it to be used with most pieces of gym equipment. A nice feature if you spend time on a treadmill and don’t want to refer to your watch for information.
I workout with headphones on, which rendered the audio alerts useless and there is no vibration function as I found on the Forerunnner 310XT. You can disable these audio alerts if you don’t wanna disturb fellow gym patrons by pressing the ST/SP button.
A mainstay of the Oregon’s SH201 is the hydration meter. During my 5 workouts with the watch the meter neither increase or decreased. Did I not enable the function despite wearing a heart rate monitor and activating the workout mode by tapping on the lens? There’s nothing in the manual about starting the hydration meter. UPDATE: It goes down slowly. After a 1 hour work out today one segment disappeared.
Nonetheless, there are 5 segments on the hydration bar. Each disappearing segment represents about 4-8oz of liquid that needs to be consumed. Once the bar is fully drained it will not automatically reset – fair enough.
The SH201’s battery is not rechargeable, but it is user replaceable. To do so, which I didn’t, you just pop off the back plate, remove the old battery and insert a new one. The included instructions detail this process. The same process essentially applies to the heart rate monitor.
The strap of the watch was sufficient, but a bit cheap. It’s not very malleable, or manipulatable and more often than not the strap would slip free from the keeper loop. Not a deal breaker, but an annoyance while working out.
Some people might have concerns about a watches’ backlight and display. The SH201 was easy to read under a variety of lighting scenarios and the backlight was sufficient. No problems there.
Unlike Garmin’s 310XT your workouts can’t be transferred to a computer or uploaded to a website for review. Keep in mind this watch costs less 1/3 of the Forerunner 310XT, so its not a fair comparison.
Which brings me to my conclusion: would you rather spend more on a watch and get more out of it, or skimp and get a bare bones device that gives you data during and only during you workout? It all depends on the user. Personally I’d rather the 310XT, which includes GPS, trackback information and keeps track of calories burned, speed (running, walking or biking), heart rate and more. These are all of the things that the SH201 lacks. To be fair, you can review up to 99 laps of data on Oregon’s SH201, though the process isn’t as useful as the 310XT which tracks your stats over time and graphs them in a neat and easy to digest graph.
While I can’t speak negatively of Oregon’s SH201 Heart Rate watch, I’d prefer a lower price, a slightly cooler look or more functionality.
- Simple functionality means low learning curve
- Includes wireless heart rate monitor
- Display is easy to read and include backlight
- Strap is a bit cheap
- Can’t download workouts to a computer
- 4 button setup makes for slightly cryptic functionality