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Hands-on: Suunto’s Spartan Sport Wrist HR watch

Suunto-Spartan-Wrist-HR-Blue

This week at CES, Suunto has officially unveiled their first optical heart rate capable watch – the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR.  You may remember back this past summer, when news first came out about Suunto’s plans for an optical HR variant of the Suunto Spartan series.  What was most notable about that announcement at the time was Suunto’s decision to go with an optical HR sensor from Valencell.

Valencell is well known as one of the best optical HR sensors on the market, thus raising hopes one might get one of the most accurate multisport GPS watches out there, by way of a combined Suunto/Valencell project.  That project has now arrived here at CES in Las Vegas, and I got a chance for some brief hands-on time to dig into it a bit.

What’s inside and different:

Suunto-Spartan-Wrist-HR-Optical-Sensor2

First up is understanding that Suunto has two major lines of the Suunto Spartan series: The Sport and the Ultra.  The main difference is simply that the Ultra has a barometric altimeter and a bit more battery, while the Sport uses a GPS based altimeter.  As you might expect, Sport is cheaper than Ultra.  This level difference has long been the pattern for Suunto GPS watches – all the way back to the Ambit1 series.  In fact, we often then find a third edition (usually branded as ‘Run’), which takes the ‘Sport’ edition and reduces the features to just running.  But that hasn’t happened here yet.

In any case, the ‘Wrist HR’ that we’re talking about here, is only for the Sport series (sans-barometric altimeter).  Suunto says that they’re certainly watching for whether there is demand for the unit in the Ultra series, but there aren’t any plans for it on the table today.  One concern that both Suunto and Valencell noted with a potential Ultra series is ensuring the optical HR sensor accuracy remains high, despite the higher weight of the Ultra.  Specifically because the increased weight can cause increased bouncing on the wrist, reducing accuracy of the optical HR sensor.

Within the ‘Wrist HR’ series, there are three different colors – blue, black, and pink.

Suunto-Spartan-Wrist-HR-Blue-Pink-Black

But what matters here isn’t the color of the case, but what’s on the inside.  It’s here you’ll find the Valencell optical HR sensor, using two green LED’s and one yellow LED.  That helps it get better accuracy across a broader range of skin tones.

Suunto-Spartan-Wrist-HR-Enabled

This sensor is part of Valencell’s ‘Benchmark’ lineup (seen below), which means that they essentially take the entire reference design as-is from Valencell.  That’s good, as it generally increases accuracy when companies leave it as-is.  Whereas when companies only take portions, or try and do their own thing, it may not lead to the best results.

Suunto-Spartan-Wrist-HR-Valencell

As a bit of backstory, when Valencell licenses their technology, there are differing levels of involvement that the company may assist with. Some companies may just want some of the hardware pieces, while other companies want hardware plus integration assistance, and others yet want all that plus testing/validating assistance.  In the case of Suunto – they’re working very closely with Valencell, more so than most brands.  So hopefully this ends up with a more accurate end-state product.  Yesterday Valencell published some initial data on the Spartan Sport Wrist HR.  But of course any time a company is publishing their own data – you should take it with a grain or box of salt.  That said, I’m largely good with the specific testing protocol they laid out (for running anyway, it omits the more difficult outdoor cycling).

Now it’s important to point out that while the Sport HR measures your heart rate optically, that optical effort is largely focused on workouts.  For example, running, cycling, skiing, etc… It enables the sensor once you enter the workout mode, and disables it afterwards.

Suunto-Spartan-Wrist-HR-WorkoutComplete2

Upon completing a workout (above/below), you’ll get many of the same stats as before, including a HR graph as well.

Suunto-Spartan-Wrist-HR-WorkoutComplete1

Suunto hasn’t implemented a 24×7 HR mode within the unit, meaning that it’s not recording your HR 24×7 like many other wearables do.  Instead, you’ll be able to enter a temporary heart rate screen, that shows your HR and the last 5-minute trend:

Suunto-Spartan-Wrist-HR-Graph

As of present this transient data isn’t saved to Movescount, though coming later this spring they plan to start looking at turning on that optical sensor occasionally throughout the day to look at your HR and then use that data to increase daily calorie burn accuracy.  Meaning, rather than just focusing on displaying your HR graph 24×7, they’re going to leverage the data for better calorie accuracy outside of workouts.  Still, lacking 24×7 HR recording (and thus the value of resting HR), is a fairly big gap compared to virtually every other unit on the market.  Hopefully, they can find some middle-ground by the time they come to market this spring.

Beyond this functionality, the Spartan Sport Wrist HR software is virtually identical to that of the Sport edition.  On the hardware front, you’ll find about a millimeter thicker body, plus another millimeter thicker for the optical HR sensor bump.  Also, the easy way to tell them apart from a distance is the bezel on the regular Sport edition is silver, versus Black on the Wrist HR version.  Of course, that could change down the road with new models.

Suunto-Spartan-Sport-Size-Differences

Last but not least, the watch will set you back $649USD when it starts shipping later this spring (no exact date specified).

A quick video overview:

Want to see the optical HR sensor actually working live? No problem, here’s a quick video I put together talking about the unit and showing a bit of how the HR sensor works:

Don’t forget to subscribe to the channel, as there’s plenty more coming here from CES!

One other Suunto tidbit:

Suunto-Spartan-Wrist-HR-Steps

Finally, eagle-eyed spotters probably noticed the daily steps page shown in the video, right after showing the current HR.  That isn’t new.  But what is new is that starting this spring, that data along with daily calorie data will actually be saved to Movescount online.

See up until this point Suunto hasn’t saved any daily step/calorie data.  It sits on your watch, and then eventually disappears.  This put them at a pretty big disadvantage to competitors who are not only saving that data daily, but also then offering software based recommendations on training, recovery, or life.  In Suunto’s case, they had to do those directly through the device, rather than via the app or websites.  That limited the guidance they could give.

But this spring they’ll roll out an update for both the Suunto Spartan Ultra and Sport series that’ll change that.  It sounds like that’ll be the start of using the Movescount platform for a bit more user guidance and recommendations beyond just scheduling and reviewing workouts.  And that would definitely be good news indeed.

With that – thanks for reading!

Don’t forget to check out all the CES 2017 coverage, as well as continual updates throughout the day on Twitter.  It’s gonna be a crazy busy week.

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130 Comments

  1. Ryan M.

    I’d like to think it was my tweet to you 1:45 ago about the Valencell report that got it’s inclusion in this post, but I know that is just malarkey.

    Will be interesting to the the HR comparisons between the new Valencell reference data and the Polar H10 when it is released.

  2. Pat

    The price seems a bit high compared to the Fenix. Is the Valencell sensor that much better during workouts to justify the higher price without 24-7 recording?

  3. acousticbiker

    Great to see this! Did you hear anything about the Suunto Spartan Trainer? That was also to have wrist HR, was briefly available for pre-order at $269 and may be the ‘Run’ version you allude to in the intro.

    • No, nothing about said product here at CES.

    • Steve stevenson

      You are correct it’s not at CES, we did gather those facts from all the releases.

      Since you felt like you had to mention CES it seems like you already have more information, possibly a demo model already.

      I’d assume those January updates to the Spartan review, might include a new review on the trainer.

      -love,
      Speculating Steve

  4. Josh

    Ray, would you still stay away from this watch based on the state of the spartan series?

    • Not necessarily. Suunto has made some good progress on the Spartan series (I’ll be doing some updates to that existing review over the course of January). I think I’d reserve some judgement to see where the Spartan platform sits by time we get to release of this – i.e. April or whenever.

      From my frank discussions with them yesterday, they definitely and readily admit the Spartan was released too early and wasn’t ready for prime time. So their complete focus is largely on getting that Spartan platform up to speed.

    • Josh

      Interesting. Let us know when its good enough to replace an ambit 3 peak

    • Josh

      Also, there are some really interesting things going on with pricing on amazon on the spartan series. Im seeing the ultra for right around $544 with HR, and the sport for roughly $465. If they have made progress, would you feel confident enough giving a reader the go ahead to buy and if so, sport or ultra?

    • Pierre

      Hi Ray,
      THanks for the update on Suunto.
      Should I return back my Garmin Fenix 3 HR and wait tfor the new Suunto in Spring 2017?
      Regards
      Pierre

    • You’d have to decide what’s most valuable to you feature-wise.

      I struggle (offhand in a taxi) to think of any specific feature that a Suunto Wrist HR unit would have that the Fenix3 HR doesn’t already have.

    • Moe

      Hi Ray, any news on the mentioned updates to the Spartan Ultra review? Or are you delaying it a bit to have sufficient time to implement the newest firmware update as well?

    • The latest firmware (focused on GPS accuracy) just came out last week, so I’ve been using it on all my workouts since. My guess is I’ll continue to do so through next week, and then publish an update after that.

      I’ll be amending the existing post, and focused purely on the changed area (basically: GPS accuracy, sport and data field modification).

    • Moe

      Great, thanks for the info! Just wanted to check, of course it doesn’t come as a big surprise, considering your meticulous reviewing :)

    • alex

      Hello Ray, I found that the Fenix 3 HR was hurting my wrist because of the sensor in the back of the watch, did you feel this as well and if yes do you feel the same for the Suunto one.
      Alex

    • It’s a pretty similar stack height on the Suunto as the F3.

      For me though, I’ve honestly never had problems with it feeling odd on really any optical HR sensor watch. So I may not be the best one to ask. It seems to vary from person to person (and position to position).

    • Eric McLean

      I replaced mine yesterday with the ultra all black. Now this morning I find this out…..

    • Casper

      Hey, Josh. I just read your comment and I’m thinking about purchasing the Sport. I was just wondering if you made a Sport/Ultra purchase, and if so, what’s your experience?

  5. Peter Wood

    Interesting the HR graph is available in the Sport but not yet available in the Ultra. The Ultra buyers having to wait yet again. Disappointingly slow to get the Ultra up to speed.

    Suunto could sell so many more units if they got their software dev fixed and speeded up. I think they are missing the optimum point of dev heads/numbers vs functionality vs sales of the watch vs BAD PRESS.

    • Eric McLean

      I agree, for a premium price there should be flawless software. I know updates are coming down the pipe because I talk to Suunto support before I bought my Ultra black, but come on focus on software dev first before releasing products, and THEN working on functionalities.

  6. Steve J

    Enjoying the updates Ray!

    Will be interesting to see which of these high end watches survive when cheaper ones today have the same (or more) of the “key” features…
    The Garmin Vivoactive HR, which I got from Clever Training on the Black Friday sale, has the optical HRM AND the barometric altimeter (it’s a $200 or less product – I paid $170). So, you spend $650 for the Suunto and you don’t get the barometric altimeter…ouch.

  7. CMV

    It seems that Garmin and Suunto are in a race to increase the price of their high-end sports wearables… after the 599$ fenix 5, we get the 649$ Spartan-with-HR.
    My personal feeling is they’re aiming a bit too high, but time will tell.
    In the meantime, on amazon (at least here in Europe) it’s already possible to find the Spartan Ultra at less than 450€, and the Spartan Sport at less than 350€, well below their MSRP.
    Same for the fenix 3 (less than 350€).
    These “older” watches are probably the toughest competitors for the newer models (much more than an Apple Watch 2 or a Samsung Gear S3, which according to me target a completely different audience).

  8. giorgitd

    Yup, from my own POV, I’m now thinking ‘trickle-down’ in terms of next HRM GPS watches – I’ll buy the previous gen, maybe as a refurb,to get the price reasonable. I’m not sure how to do a comprehensive comparison of devices/capabilities and prices over time, but the latest gen GPS HRM watches seem – to me – to be WAY overpriced relative to their improved capabilities. Sure F5X mapping is pretty unique and, for those who need/want it – it will cost. But the more ‘mainstream devices’? C’mon. the F3 and 920xt deliver 90% of the functionality for less than 50% of the price.

    There’s always room for those seeking a Ferrari. But maybe this approach enables a new class of devices/companies that offer solid, but not cutting edge, devices for 60% ‘discount ‘underneath’ Garmin’. A parallel with lots of ‘mainstream’ car companies. It’s funny, I think of Garmin as a GM/Honda product, not an Aston Martin… Maybe I’m wrong…

    • JR

      I wonder how much of this drive towards more expensive watches is driven by the success of the Fenix 3 and, in turn, how much of the success of the Fenix 3 comes down to the fact that it’s almost the only GPS watch on the market that’s reasonably attractive.

  9. Eli W Allen

    Anything on the more advanced functionality that valencell can do now? Is this watch recording any of that? link to youtu.be

    • No, not really. Looking at the past demos, we talked a bit about that, and the more they learned in testing, the more they determined there’s more to learn. Said differently, things like legit optical HRV are going to be some ways away still. That’s something that was backed up by some meetings I had today with Firstbeat as well.

    • Ze

      Legit HRV? That’s odd as there’s a ppg-based app (HRV4Training) that has had very good results (w/ validation), and my own personal experience (testing on others) shows PPG devices can already do HRV (at least time-domain RMSSD) up to par with ECG.

      Maybe frequency domain metrics less so, but for athletes RMSSD is what is currently used. I wonder what issues they are having.

    • Are you talking at rest or workout?

      Workout is a mess, though at rest tends to guess fairly close.

    • Ze

      Ah that makes more sense. I was talking about rest. During exercise is indeed not practical with PPG.

    • Mike Richie

      Hmm, I thought HRV at rest is what is most important anyways. Isn’t that what is used for stress levels and recovery and training effect? What is exercise based HRV used for that is actually well understood or studied?

  10. Hi Dc,

    I tested out a couple Valencell OHRM fuelled devices in the past on my own wrist, my wife’s’ and couple of colleague’s and never found it to be as accurate, stable and usable as other devices like the Ex-Basis or the MIO Alpha. Same with the Garmin Elevate or FitBit.
    I don’t talk about high intensity, more likely MAF training so dialling in the 140 – 145bpm range.

    Is this going to have a new chipset or algorithm that we’ve seen in past devices ?

    Thanks

    Levi

  11. Joe

    Thanks Ray! Any comment on the usability and accuracy of OHR for swimming? As pairing up an Ambit3 with the Scosche Rhythm+ seems to show some good results?

  12. gk

    Any further details about battery?
    What material is the black bezel or and the whole case, titanium as in Spartan Ultra; if not won’t that add weight together with oHR?
    The best with oHR would be to offer various choices to select, 24/7 hr with recording or as you pre-mentioned occasionally for a few minutes and of course under training modes.

  13. Trent

    Does the watch feel solid? Looking at the pictures of the blue unit it just looks like a hunk of plastic. I expected it to look as sleek and refined as the other Spartan models.

  14. Tim Grose

    I recall with GPS accuracy is it not so much the name of the company that makes the chipset but more the antennae design. I say this because OHR at the wrist has never been done great by anybody has it? The Scosche with the Valencell “works” partly because you don’t wear it on your wrist and is more optimally positioned for OHR although never liked the idea of wearing something high up on my arm. Still will be interesting to see if how this one does.

    • tfk

      re: GPS accuracy: TomTom once said to me that one of their main concerns was the electrical interference between the chips/components within the watch.

  15. Victor Hooi

    Will optical heart-rate work during swimming? (This was one of the things holding me back from the Garmin 735XT – the Mio Link works underwater).

    And will there be a quick-release kit? (Not sure how it’d work with optical heart-rate).

  16. Tanel

    Hi Ray,

    any news on when are you going to have the watch for testing and reviewing ?
    Really looking for your opinion and results on how accurate the Valencell sensor is.

  17. Larry

    I returned my Spartan Ultra after your candid review…I seriously wanted to like it. With all the recent updates do u feel things have improved enough to repurchase! Also, if things have improved will it be worth waiting for this new wrist heart sensor? I currently have no watch to train with…I’m addicted to these watches I guess. I don’t care for the looks of a Fenix….

  18. Is there an option to display in black/white instead of colors ?
    I’m not sure to like the current trends of watches with all those fancy colors. As I’m all about the battery life, I’d rather have everything in black/white like my Ambit2.
    Unless Suunto tells us that colors doesn’t significantly increase the battery usage ?

  19. I forgot to ask, does the optical HR allow to measure R-R ? or is that measured only with a HR belt ?

  20. Mirko Surf&Run

    Hallo Ray,
    I would like to know in with position the garmin fenix 3 and the garmin forerunner 235 are in the Valencell test result link to valencell.com.
    I hope that they are in 7 and 8 position (device *4 and device *5 with 87% and 82% of data within +-5% of chest strap), otherwise I would say that they are inaccurate (device *6 have a test result of only 79%, device *9 only 65%).

    • Valencell isn’t releasing that information unfortunately.

    • Zoltan

      I guess their numbers should be very close to each other like no 8 and 9.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      I think that the accuracy of device 9, device 10 and device 11 (under 70% accuracy) is embarassing and that this optical heart rate monitor shouldn’t arrive in the market. I really hope that they are not Garmin devices because I just bought a garmin forerunner 35 with the garmin elevate optical heart rate sensor.

    • rickNP

      One thing’s for certain, if it’s wrist-based, don’t expect anything better than 89% accuracy per their testing methods.

      Given DC’s Apple Watch review I’m going to guess that Device #11 is likely an Apple Watch (unless Series 2 is vastly improved). So for most readers in this thread our wrist-based devices are somewhere between 64-87% accurate to their reference chest strap; a huge variance.

      Sadly, I’m guessing my Fenix3 HR is probably closer to 64 than 87.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      89% accuracy would be good enough for running, I don’t need medical precision because I just use the heart rate monitor to evaluate my effort. I read other DCRainmaker reviews of the other watches in the Valencell test, and I think that there are other wathces with the Apple worse than the Garmin 235 and Fenix3HR, so I would say that device 9 and 10 shouldn’t be Garmin devices. I think that Garmin devices should be between the 6 and 8 position, so accuracy of Garmin 235 and Fenix3HR should be between 77% and 79%. I think this is acceptable for the running purpose. I have a Garmin Forerunner 35 and I’m using it two weeks: I find it quite accurate, the only problem is the consistency: some run are good , in other runs it loses my heart rate and gives for long period of times totally wrong values. But in these occasion I understand it is wrong, because if I’m in the cool down it’s impossibile that heart rate continues to be 170 beats/minutes like in the tempo run.

    • tfk

      I sort of agree.
      1. During running: If you are using HR as a guide to effort/pacing then that might be accurate enough most of the time
      2. Post Running: If you use HR as a measure for TRAINING LOAD then I would guestimate that you need something like 95% accuracy. But ther eis also the worry of ‘losing’ HR for 5 minutes of your run, for example, that would make a big difference to TL figures (I use TRIMP for TL, FWIW)

      Although I’m not quite sure what ‘accuracy’ actually means in this context. Maybe I should read the original test report. eg being exactly 1bpm out is 100% inaccurate but that would be perfect for me.

      Even one *chest strap* compared to another of the same make/model wold likely show differences (Source Valencell ;-) )

    • MirkoSurf&Run

      Hi TFK,
      I don’t know TRIMP, I will try to learn how it works and if it fits my needs.
      Even if they are very accurate, optical heart rate producer till now say that optical heart rate monitor can’t be used to calculate training effect because they can’t read heart rate variability (Valencell is trying to do it).
      Yes, I just use heart rate as a guide to effort/pacing. Today I run 11 miles, 6 miles easy run and 5 miles tempo run. I had forerunner 35 with optical heart rate and forerunner 610 with chest strap for comparison.
      The chest strap was always right. The optical heart rate showed the same values of the chest strap most of the time. But in some occasions it lost the correct heart rate and for two or three minutes showed wrong values (for example if the correct heart rate was 150, for three minutes showed 170). Then it found the correct heart rate of 150 again and all was good for another 10 minutes, then again it showed wrong values for 1-2 minutes (for example 120). Then again good for other 10 minutes and so on.
      At the end of the run I was quite happy, because for the most of the run the optical heart rate showed correct values, and you can really use it as a guide for effort/pace.
      With the optical heart rate garmin connect shows wrong values of training effect. But I don’t take care of training effect of garmin any more. Firstable because it depends on the activity class of a runner and garminconnect asks you to decide in which group you are. So if you choose the wrong activity class, you get a wrong training effect that is not useful to organize your training. Secondly, I found that the training effect values that my forerunner610 showed me wasn’t always the same level of fatigue that I perceived after a run. I find that it is correct for interval training, but with long slow run often it showed low values, but at the end of the run I was really tired. Thirdly, there is very little literature about training effect and the way you can use it for your training. Garmin just say 1 minor, 2 mantaining, 3 improving, 4 highly improving, 5 overreaching. But it is too little to plan a training plan with this number. So I decided to not rely on the training effect of garmin, and after a run I write a number of the perceveid effort that I had of that run. I don’t try to plan a training plan with training effect any more, because I found that often it gave me wrong information. Now when I plan my training, I try to feel how I feel after the run and how I feel the day after the run. If the day after I’m still tired, I know I have to be cautious. If the day after I feel good, I know I can push a bit harder.
      What do you think? Do you fink Training Effect is useful? Do you use the Training Effect of Garmin or of Trimp? Or are they the same value?

    • See my comment bellow.

  21. As a developer, I am really disappointed that they wont have apps in the Spartan watches. The apps were one of the best things about Suunto watches! I guess I should stock up on Ambit3’s while they are still for sale!

    • Brad

      Not sure this is true. It was heavily requested and Suunto is looking into this the last I knew. That may have changed though. As of now apps are not available.

    • Suunto or any other watch maker should look into developning open plaform OS to develop fitness apps. That is next big thing in fitness trackers and GPS watches. Garmin to s ahead, but too far ahead.

    • I believe that’s called Android Wear. ;)

      Of course, it’s not really, because Android Wear sucks from a battery perspective. So for endurance devices, it’s less ideal.

      Unfortunately, you won’t see some sort of platform like that come about. Garmin has too much market-share to want to do anything there. And the others don’t have enough market share to matter in adoption terms.

  22. Ray, I suspect in general all the optical sensor has a sampling frequency, as you can see the light flashing. If the frequency is too low, it is possible for sampling errors to occur, which might explain why the errors seem to occur at the start of the run, as the heart rate is rising rapidly. Sampling error has to do with Nyquist frequency. I think all the optical HR sensors shouldn’t be used for interval training no matter if Suunto Spartan uses HR sensor from Vancell technology or not.

    • Lock errors at the start of a run have to do with separating running cadence from HR. It’s a core reason why it’s super critical to get a HR lock before you start running, since if it doesn’t lock before you start – it’s nearly impossible to find that lock.

      That said, sometimes (rarely) it’ll still trip-up then, until it can see enough separation between run cadence and HR. However, on the whole, I’d say that optical sensors almost always beat chest straps in this area (first 5 minutes of a run), as folks so often forget how problematic chest straps really are in the first few minutes of a run, especially dry ones.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      Can you explain why running cadence can influence or disturb optical heart rate reading?
      Is it possibile that hr reading are calculated by the firmware of the watch as function of optical sensor values and cadence values? Another question: how you can get a HR lock before you start running? Do you mean to wait start running until hr values are stabilized?

    • Gijom

      Optical HR sensors are basically cameras looking at patterns in the change of images. Goal is to identify changes due to blood flow. Unfortunately while running the device moves periodically at each step and what Ray is saying is that it can be seen with the optical sensor and can confuse the algorithm. That makes sense and I will now wait for a look before running too.

    • MirkoSurf&Run

      I have now two optical heart rate monitor.
      The first is a garmin 35 and it is always correct at the beginning of the run (in the warm up my cadence is usually 160 and my heart rate under 130, and there is enough separation between cadence and heart rate). In my case it confuses the heart rate wih the cadence when I’m doing quick runs. In quick runs my cadence is 170-175 and my heart rate is between 165 and 180). I noticed that in quick runs heart rate values in the garmin 35 are exactly the same that cadence.
      The second optical heart rate reader is a scosche rhythm+ (I put it on the upper arm) and it is always correct. The Suunto sport has the same sensor of the scosche, and if it behaves like the scosche rhythm+ it would be a great watch. I hope that in the future other brands will make watches with valencell sensor. I don’t understand why the other big brands (Tom Tom, Garmin, Polar) don’t use the valencell sensor.

    • There are two challenges with the Valencell sensors:

      A) 24×7 HR mode from a battery burn standpoint. As noted, Suunto isn’t leveraging that upfront. It’s just not designed for that.

      B) Price. With the Valencell offering, companies pay more than they would either in-house or through other companies.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      Activity tracking with 24 x7 HR is now the big deal because it brings sport watches to the masses and now I understand why company like garmin decided to produce their own optical heart rate chipset (elevate). First, they offer activity tracking on all watches. Secondly, if they can keep the price of the watches low, producing their own chipset, they can reach a bigger volume of users and they can sell more units.
      I think that it was better for users like me if Garmin put the Garmin elevate chipset only for some series of watches with activity tracking, for example the vivoactive and the fenix. In other watches it was better if garmin had thinked only for athletes that don’t care so much about activity tracking. For example in the forerunner series they could have install the valencell sensor. So it would have been two big categories of garmin watches, all around watches with activity tracking and the garmin elevate sensor (for example vivoactive, fenix, triathlon watches,watches for ultras) and watches thinked just for normal runners with the valencell sensor (the forerunner series). The normal runner puts his sportwatch on when he runs and then switches it with a normal watch at the end of the run. But you are right, with the Valencell sensor the watch would have cost more and probably it was not a good idea commercially. If the price of the forerunner series was higher they had sell fewer watches, and on the other side the number of athletes that are not interested in activity tracking is much smaller than people interested in both things (sport and activity tracking).
      If Garmin produce their chipset in-house, maybe with time they can reach the accuracy of the Valencell sensor.
      Thank you for your great job, I’m waiting your in depth review about HR accuracy of the Suunto Spartan Sport Watch and the New Balance watch, that I think are currently the only watches with Valencell sensor.
      In the meantime, I’m happy with the Scosche Rhythm+!

    • Raul

      I’m curious: if you’re using your device for sport only why do you want wrist measurement?

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      It’s six years that I’m using the chest strap and I had a lot of problems. The garmin soft strap must be changed every year, because after one year it begins to give incorrect data, even if I washed it with cold water after every run. I tried also a polar soft strap with a garmin sensor. The polar soft strap is better than garmin soft strap, is always correct. I’m using it two year and it is still good, but this winter I had big problem of chafing of the chest strap in the position where is the sensor, maybe because the soft strap is a bit old. In a long run that I made last month I was fast bleeding at the end, because the skin day after day becomes weaker. So I thought there were these options:
      1- to buy a new soft strap
      2- to buy a Wahoo strap, I read that it hasn’t problem of chafing because the strap attaches directly to the sensor
      3- to buy a watch with optical heart rate monitor
      4- to buy an arm optical heart rate monitor to use with a watch like the Scosche Rhythm+.

      After six year I wanted to get rid of chest strap so I decided for the third option. I bought a Garmin Forerunner 35. In slow easy runs and in steady run it is good, but in intervals and in quick runs sometimes is good, sometimes not. So I bought also the 4 option and with the Scosce Rhythm+ I’m very happy also for intervals. I’m not using the chest strap since january and I think that maybe I will use it just for intervals. For the rest of the runs I will use optical heart rate and I’m happy with it, it is not so accurate and reliable but it is much more confortable. The garmin optical heart rate is not good as a chest strap, but the Scosche Rhythm+ behaves like a chest strap. The scosche Rhythm+ has a Valencell sensor like the Suunto spartan sport hr watch, if this behaves like the rhythm+ it will be a good watch, but it’s quite expensive. I just hope that some brands will do less expensive watches also with the Valencell sensor.

    • Raul

      Clear! I’ve used chest straps since they were invented (I guess…. 1985 Polar) Sometimes wear them all day. Only 1 (Garmin) ever went into the garbage can, after likely 1000’s of hours. Now use a straightahead Polar & Garmin HRM. Almost never wash them. :-) It seems wear also depends on the composition of the sweat. Which I don’t have much to begin with. Alas, too many variables……

    • Webvan

      Interesting feedback, thanks. I was pretty much in the same boat, bar the chaffing/bleeding. I really got annoyed with the FR235’s oHR this winter (a difficult time for oHRs due to degraded blood circulation) and I couldn’t get good readings from my old Garmin/Polar straps + the “simple” black HRM (no runner on it). I got a brand new Garmin Premium HR Strap (fabric+black HRM) and I was still having consistency problems. So before trying the Scosche I dug out my old Viiiiva and put it on a 4$ eBay strap and…bingo. Might still try the Scoshe though ;-)

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      When I bought the Garmin Forerunner 35 with optical heart rate monitor was winter (january) with temperature circa 5°C/40F. Now temperature are above 15°C/60°F and the optical heart rate of the Garmin Forerunner 35 seems to be better, two or three times in a run it confuses with the cadence just for two or three minutes but then it locks again with the correct heart rate.
      The scosche rhythm+ is always coherent and never locks with the cadence. Even in the winter I hadn’t any problem with cold weather because I put the scosche in the upper arm under the clothes and the arm is always warm even in cold weather.
      In january with cold weather sometimes the garmin 35 was a disaster, but I found that if I put it under the clothes and under the glove using the broadcast function it was good.

  23. gk

    Any further details about battery?
    What material is the black bezel or and the whole case, titanium as in Spartan Ultra; if not won’t that add weight together with oHR?
    Any latest news on market release?

  24. Matthew B.

    Any updates on a release date?

  25. Just as a heads up – I’ve dropped an unboxing video of the Wrist HR model here onto YouTube: link to youtu.be

    Stay tuned for a the first run and a look at HR accuracy piece shortly!

    • Mike

      Have you tested HR accuracy between the Fenix 5 and the Spartan Wrist HR yet? How do they compare as of right now?

      For the price, do you think the better buy is the Spartan Wrist HR?

      I see that they are doing sampling during the day for calorie adjustment, now, as well. That was supposed to come later, but it looks like Suunto is trying to gain back some market share from Garmin.

      To be honest, I welcome this. My Garmin’s over the past few iterations have become less and less usable. Forerunner 235 had GPS accuracy issues and interfered with my BLE headphones; Fenix made my skin break out, so they gave me a Fenix 3 HR. Heart rate accuracy was abysmal.

      Hopefully the Spartan Wrist HR is a step in the right direction, at the right price!

    • John

      Understand about it not having 24×7 HR and using HR for workouts. But is there an on-demand HR without having to start a workout? In other words, even in non-workout mode, can a button press show an HR at a point in time?

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      I heard today a review in youtube of the spartan sport hr from Rizknows. If I understood well, he says that in the future with a firmware upgrade 24×7 HR will be introduced even in the spartan sport hr. I’m wondering if it’s true, because Ray Maker said that the Valencell sensor uses more power (and it is true because the sensor of the Scosche Rhythm+ with the Valencell sensor has a battery life of only circa 7 hours), so it’s unlikely that the Suunto Spartan will have 24×7 HR.
      I believe to remember that I read in the DCRainmaker review that if you press a button it will show HR at a point in time, but it will not register it in the memory.

    • It has the little insta-HR feature, but it’s just a far in the wind. It shows you it, and it’s not recorded anywhere. Sorta like the older Garmin FR225 had for a while (with the Mio sensor).

      There is talk about potentially turning it on occasionally to grab a HR reading, but nothing has been finalized there. Be it frequency of that grab, or even how to store it. I’ve heard no talk of any planned firmware updates with any level of concrete detail. I’d say any talk I’ve heard as more been along the lines of “it’d be great if we could”.

      Still, I’m headed up there next week to meet with them – and such clarification is certainly high on my list.

      Regarding accuracy – hang tight on that! I like to get a least a few activities worth of data in different environments before publishing some stuff (even when I publish my ‘First run’ type videos, they’re often published after I’ve got a few activities in place to ensure things are trending in the same direction – good or bad – as my first activity).

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      If I buy a new watch, I like the new Fenix5 so much but I think it’s not worth it because the elevate sensor hasn’t improve in workout mode and I want to wait till Garmin releases a better sensor. I think that it’s difficult that Garmin will improve optical hr accuracy only with firmware update, I think they should also improve the sensor. This means that they need time, so I think I must wait the Fenix6. The Suunto Spartan HR is now on the top of my list of “to buy”, but only if HR accuracy is in the same category of the Scosche Rhythm+. They both have the same Valencell sensor, but the Rhythm+ is worn in a better position for optical heart rate measuring (upper arm versus wrist). So the only thing now is to wait the in depth review of DCRainmaker about HR accuracy. The only thing I would miss would be the barometric altimeter, that Fenix5 has it and the Suunto Spartan Sport HR doesn’t have it. Ray, why in your opinion suunto removed barometric altimeter in the Suunto spartan sport wrist hr, while is present in the Suunto spartan ultra? Problem of battery life? If you meet Suunto, can you ask if they will release in the future a suunto spartan wrist hr with barometric altimeter? If I buy a big sport watch, I would like to have barometric altimeter also.

    • Webvan

      All good points, as you say the location measurement is going to be the “problem”, Valencell’s testing link to valencell.com shows that the Spartan does pretty well at 89%…but not a lot better than other wrist based devices, Garmin could well be at 87% or 82%. My own testing shows that 85% can look pretty bad and they didn’t do the testing in the cold where wrist based devices can struggle very badly…where you (and others) have found the Scosche to keep a good level of performance.

    • Mike

      According to their firmware update page they have already enabled capturing heart rate to adjust calorie intake. It would also seem that they are actively working on utilizing throughout the day pictures of your heart rate and recording it on Movescount.

      Of course, this is all based on what I’m reading from their website and PR material.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      In Valencell test Scosche Rhythm+ positioned in upper arm has 92%, Suunto sport 89% , so they should be very similar. Let’s wait if Ray Maker has the same result (I hope so!!).

      I find my garmin 35 so accurate in steady slow run (it shows always the same of the scosche), but in quick runs and when the pace varies quickly it often locks with the cadence, usually just for one minute every kilometer, but it is really annoying. The scosche never locks with the cadence. By the way, Valencell calls this “crossover problem” and they are proud that they could solve this problem.

    • Raul

      Think I missed something. The cadence is the stride value I assume? (cadence was originally used for pedal rotations) I’ve used foot pod and HR for years……
      When did this phenomenon come into existence? How can 2 different signals become mixed up?

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      I had the same question. The best anwer I found is in the article in the Valencell website

      link to valencell.com

      In this page they describe the problems with optical heart rate monitor.
      Yes, the cadence is the number of steps in a minute. Optical heart rate have an easy job when you are still, but when you run the movement creates a disturb that make them fail. Valencell says:
      “Crossover problem – One of the most challenging aspects of optical noise for OHRMs that is created by motion and activity happens during what is known as periodic activity, which is activity that involves continuous repetition of similar motion. This is most often seen in the step rates measured during jogging and running, because step rates typically fall into the same general range as that of heartbeats (140-180 beats/steps per minute). The problem that many OHRMs face is that it becomes easy for the algorithms interpreting incoming optical sensor data to mistake step rate (“cadence”) for heart rate. This is known as the “crossover problem”, because if you look at the measurements on a graph, when the heart rate and step rate crossover each other, many OHRMs tend to lock on to step rate and present that number as the heart rate, even though the heart rate may be changing drastically after the crossover.”
      I think that the problem is not that two signals mix up, the problem is that the algorithm of the optical heart rate sensor gives wrong results. Valencell has patents for their algorithms to avoid this problem.
      In the same page Valencell describe in which way the accelomerometer can enter in the algorithm to calculate the heart rate (probably for active noise cancellation):
      “3. Accelerometer – the accelerometer measures motion and is used in combination with the
      DSP signal as inputs into motion-tolerant PPG algorithms.
      4. Algorithms – the algorithms process the signals from the DSP and the accelerometer into
      motion-tolerant heart rate data, but can also calculate additional biometrics such as VO 2 ,
      calories burned, R-R interval, heart rate variability, blood metabolite concentrations, blood oxygen
      levels, and even blood pressure.”

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      If you can’t fine the page of Valencell, just search in google: “Valencell:optical heart rate monitor: what you need to know”

    • Michael Coyne

      The problem isn’t that the 2 signals get mixed up – the heart rate sensor doesn’t accidentally pick up electrical signal noise from the acceleratorometer like long, unshielded speaker wires picking up radio signals or something.

      So crosstalk really isn’t the right word at all. It has to do with how optical heart rate sensors work – by measuring the difference in reflected/absorbed light in oxygenated blood vs non-oxygenated blood. When your heart beats, there is a surge in oxygenated blood in the capilaries of your skin everywhere (though some places are easier to measure than others). However the differences in light are very subtle and can be affected by many things. Any gap that forms between your skin and the sensor and allows even a little outside light through could be mistaken for the led light being bounced back, and thus as a proper reading if it’s at an acceptable light level/rate. Furthermore, since it’s measuring the light levels in your skin, even a gap NEAR the optical sensor between your skin and the rest of your watch could potentially cause this problem if the light bleeds through your skin the same as if you shine a flashlight through your hand.

      Lastly, it bouncing around (or even just getting pressed a tiny bit more or less into your skin with each bounce, without ever losing contact) may make it’s OWN light absorption/reflection change in intensity as it gets pressed more or less into your skin – even if it doesn’t lose contact it this would have an effect.

      What makes it very hard for the sensor is that unlike normally where it can reject those readings because they may be at rates that make no sense for a heart rate (5 “beats” per minute or 500 or whatever), the motion of running may introduce these false readings at a rate that totally makes sense for heart rate, and therefore is MUCH harder to separate from the real deal.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      Good post. Another beautiful article of valencell about optical heart rate monitor is “active signal characterization”, similar to active noise cancellation in headphones.
      link to valencell.com

      Extract from article:
      “Active signal characterization is a term to describe the process of actively identifying and characterizing different types of raw signal data from the biometric sensors found on many wearable devices today. Think of active signal characterization as similar to Active Noise Cancellation in headphones, but for biometric signals being generated by the sensors in wearables of all kinds, including smartwatches, wristbands, earbuds, or others.”
      “The detectors in these devices capture ALL the light hitting the sensor – blood flow, sunlight, other ambient light, motion noise, and much more. At rest, this isn’t such a problem, as the blood flow signal may be the dominate time-varying signal for someone who isn’t moving their body. But during motion, this presents a huge challenge because the blood flow signal can be as little as 1/1000th of the total light collected by the sensor. This is very much like finding a needle in a haystack.”
      “Engineers having expertise in digital signal processing (DSP) may be tempted to measure the motion with an accelerometer, using this information as a noise reference to subtract motion information from the optical sensor information. This approach can certainly help alleviate motion artifacts, but a key problem with this approach is that not all motion/environmental noise is created equal, and subtraction alone may result in erroneous heart rate results during various physical activities.
      This is where active signal characterization comes in. This process proactively identifies the biological, motion, and environmental signals as they come in from both the optical detector and accelerometer and categorizes the data sets in the context of physiological models. The active characterization of the signal data is important, because (as mentioned above) different types of motion noise must be processed differently in order to properly filter the optical (PPG) blood flow signal.”

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      Reading the valencell articles I think that the algorithms of optical heart rate monitor use also the data of accelerometer to calculate the heart rate. But I don’t know if Garmin with the elevate sensor uses also the data of the accelerometer as input of the algorithm (when I asked garmin support, they told me “no, heart rate data comes just from optical heart rate sensor and cadence data just from accelerometer”). And I don’t know if the scosche rhythm+ sensor has also an accelerometer inside in order to filter motion artefacts. Optical heart rate producer write very little about the technology that it’s inside.

    • tfk

      for other ohr companies they use the accelerometer, I believe, to determine if some form of activity is happening and then apply the algorithm. eg to determine how to smooth sport-specific motion artefacts.

      so it’s used to TRIGGER an algorithm rather than IN the algorithm

    • Raul

      Tks guys, just back from some tiring days full of crosscountry skiing and cycling I overlooked this aspect (this kind of HR measurement being optical instead of electrical)
      No urge for me to go for optical. Wrist type is even impossible due to aforementioned sports.
      Coincidentally this week my chest strap measured HR disappeared for a while in the middle of a bike reg. I only noticed after uploading. I can only guess what happened. It started when I was having a short break. Cold? Came back spontaneously.
      Maybe (also) the battery?

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      Cold is a problem with wrist optical heart rate monitor because with cold weather the body tends to give less blood to hands. But it could be also a problem with chest strap because if you don’t sweat any more, the sensor can’t record because electrical impulse needs humidity. It’s the same thing that happens when you start a run and the chest strap gives problems because you’re not sweating, then when you begin to sweat is all ok. Polar for examples reccomends to humidify the sensor with water before an activity. Chest strap function with electrical signal, and this is why with my chest strap I always have problem with technical shirt: for chest strap to function correctly I must use cotton (algodon)shirt that doesn’t give electrostatic interference (by the way, i found that shirt from brand xbionic have the same effect of cotton shirt and doesn’t have the disadvantage of cotton, chafing). An advantage of optical heart rate is that they don’t have problem when you are not sweating and they don’t suffer of electrostatic interference, so you can wear every type of shirt even in wind and in dry weather. But in the DCrainmaker reviews I read that optical heart rate are not so good in other sport else of running (if you read some reviews of optical heart rate monitor of DCrainmaker, you notice that with bike they function always worse than running).
      That said, it could also be the battery or it could be that the strap is old and you need to replace it (but you don’t need to change the sensor). If you use garmin or polar sensors, in amazon you find the polar soft strap for 20€ (20$)

    • MirkoSurf&Run

      Thank for the explanation. I just found an interesting comment, the number 275, of the DCRainmaker Scosche Rhythm+ review. Joshua Duffy writes: “Hi Ted, there is an accelerometer in RHYTHM+ as a critical component of the blood flow measurement and heart rate algorithms.” I think that Joshua Duffy works with Schosche, so it’s sure that the Scosche Rhythm+ has also an accelerometer inside.

    • Raul

      I think most people use saliva to humidify the sensor :-). I haven’t experienced problems with shirts but maybe I was lucky. I use polypropyleen, polyester, cotton.
      What makes optical not suitable for cycling? (transmitter type off course)
      My Polar strap is pretty new, the sensor is Garmin. Today I used it during indoor training, no drop outs at all.
      By the way: how do you judge accuracy of heartbeat measurements?

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      If you had just one only drop in just one activity, I wouldn’t worry so much and if in the next activities all is ok, I wouldn’t change anything.
      I have now a polar strap (now two years old) and a garmin sensor (5 years old) and the only problem that I have with this combination are tech shirt. I tried mizuno, adidas and salomon shirts and always problems of spikes, especially at the beginning of a run when I don’t sweat. But with xbionic shirt (they use a special Hydrophile polyester) the chest strap monitor is very very accurate in every condition, because they keep a small amount of humidy in the shirt like the cotton shirt. With the old garmin soft strap the results were not so good.
      Unfortunately this year I began having problem of chafing (I don’t know why last years I didn’t have any big problem of chafing) and I passed optical. I’m new with optical heart rate monitor, so at the beginning I always had both chest heart rate monitor with my old garmin fr610 and the optical heart rate monitor (the new garmin 35, used with his optical heart rate monitor or synced with the scosche optical heart rate monitor). When I run, I see the two watches circa once in a minute: if they give similar result, for example 155 and 157, all is ok. If the chest strap gives 155 and the optical heart rate monitor gives 145, something is wrong. At the end of the run I use the website http://www.mygpsfiles.com and I can see the graphs of the chest monitor and of the optical monitor in the same page, one over the other, and I can evaluate the difference. It’s quite easy to see when the optical heart rate monitor fails, because in general they are quite the same with the chest strap. But when they fail, they fail of 20 beats and more. So if you are in an easy run where you usually have 140 beats per minutes, it’s easy to understand that 160 beats per minutes is wrong. When I use mygpsfiles, the graphs of the scosche and of the chest strap are impressive similar. With optical heart rate monitor of garmin 35, they are usually very similar for the big part of the run, just in three or four parts of 3-4 minutes each the garmin 35 has spikes.
      I use heart rate monitor just for running, because this is now my principal activity. Cycling for me is a secondary activity and just for recovering, so I can’t tell you much about cycling and optical heart rate monitor.
      In DCrainmaker I read that the Scosche Rhythm+ is good also in cycling (you can see the graphs). But reviews of other brands (Garmin and Polar) show that in cycling optical heart rate monitor struggle a little bit more than in running. I don’t know why, because one could think that when cycling you don’t have the periodic motion of the arm so it should be easier for the optical heart rate monitor. But the reviews show the opposite. Maybe because the vibration of the road comes to your hand and give a motion disturb to the optical heart rate monitor. By the way, I tried cycling with both the scosche with the garmin 610 and with the optical heart rate monitor of the garmin 35 and in slow steady cycling on asphalt they showed always similar values. So I think that also in cycling the problem is with interval training or with hills, when there are quick changes in heart rate, and when the road is not plain (like cobblestones or trails).

    • Raul

      Is not the fact that there’s not much oxygen use in the upper body playing a role in cycling? Though on the other hand the blood still has to go round and cannot take shortcuts as far as I remember from biology lessons :-) Can there be a difference in speed? Maybe less ‘amplitude’?

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      Let’s wait DCRainMaker review of the Suunto Spartan Sport HR, maybe it’s good also for bike!
      I think that the big problem of optical heart rate monitor is that they are being used for sport just recently, so the producer need time to find hardware and algorithms finalyzed to fitness. But I have great hope for the Suunto Sport HR, because the optical sensor producer (Valencell) has enough experience even in product finalyzed just for short sport activities. The other big brands are more interested in activity tracking than in sport activities, for example Garmin still reccomends to use the chest heart monitor for hard workouts. I think that Garmin intends to use optical heart rate monitor inside the watch especially for 24×7 activity tracking, but it’s not interested so much for optical heart rate monitor for workouts. Valencell has the right knowledge and also the will to produce optical sensor thinked just for workouts.

    • Raul

      on Garmin and GPS: would be ridiculous if they wouldn’t even manage to have that work OK!!!

      @Mirko on SSS and cycling: cyclists don’t use a wristworn device…. (except for dua/triathlons but then there will be a bar mounted device too)

      @Ray on GPS accuracy: wasn’t the SS (by far?) winner of the tunnel test? Or older model?

      @Ray on SS update (incl. upgrades): that didn’t appear yet did it?

    • @ Raul re accuracy

      Actually, that’s a valid point, it did do well in that single tunnel test. I’ll give it credit there. The Fenix5 did less well on that test, but that was now a month ago during beta, and they’ve since made some changes as a result of that test. I haven’t had a chance in the last few weeks to repeat it, but it’s on my radar.

      Re – update:

      No, not yet, sadly. Trying to get there.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      I agree, and by the way in cycling there is no problem of chafing so it’s better to use a simple chest strap monitor and to avoid the complication of optical devices. I’m not a serious cyclist, so I don’t have bike computer like Garmin Edge or Element Bolt. Just for testing, now I’m mounting my garmin610 on the bar of the bycicle and I’m using the broadcast funtion of my garmin 35 to transmit wrist optical heart rate to the garmin610. But just for fun, for cyclist I can’t see any reason to go to optical. Maybe could be an interesting feature just for recreational rider.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      TIME TO SAY GOODBYE
      Today 6 intervals of 1km with circa 3 minutes rest between each.
      I had the Scosche Rhythm+ positioned in the left upper arm connected with a garmin fr610 and a chest strap (garmin sensor+polar soft strap) connected with a garmin fr35. Temperature was 15°C/60°F.
      The graphs of heart rate are fast perfectly overlapping, even in the recovery period.
      I’m sorry, dear chest strap, you wear a great friend, but it’s time to say goodbye…
      @ X-Bionic: I don’t need your expensive shirt to avoid electrostatic interference anymore
      @ Scosche: keep leave the Rhythm+ as is and don’t change anything
      @ Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR: if you are as good as the Scosche in monitoring heart rate , you’ll be always on my mind (I don’t need, the more battery of the Ultra, but why they don’t give you the barometric altimeter?)
      @ Garmin: why don’t you produce just one model of the Forerunner series with the Valencell heart rate optical sensor (and with a barometric altimeter included?). I don’t need all the extra staff you are offering (virtual pacer, virtual partner, virtual racer etc. etc., Training Effect, Vo2max, vertical oscillation, resting heart rate etc. etc.)

    • Raul

      Haha Mirko, you’re an idealist! (perfectionist etc.) I know that! The brands will will keep on putting as much in the devices as they can because they:
      * think we want that (while the by far largest part of the buyers never use 90% of it)
      * have shareholders that want the most yield (is that the word?) profit is what I mean
      * (also for that) want to legitimate the price of $ 600, 700, 800.
      * are in a competition battle with each other?
      We can only hope someday someone will stand up that understands. But then…… it’s hard to start from scratch…… the Chinese? They don’t understand nothing (logically), the spin doctor should be some western bright guy. Or TomTom……….

      What about a phone that has the altimeter & can receive Valancell arm band?

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      Hi Raul, you asked me about “heart rate monitor accuracy” and how to evaluate it. In the Valencell test (see the link above link to valencell.com) the Scosche Rhythm+ positioned upper arm has 92%, the Scosche Rhythm+ positioned forearm has 90%, Suunto Spartan Wrist HR has 89%. They test in this way:
      1-All data was compared to the Polar H7 BLE chest strap heart rate monitor as a benchmark
      2-All subjects performed the same test with all devices: an 8-minute indoor dynamic treadmill test, commonly known as the “Valencell Test” done in this way:
      30 seconds stand, 45 seconds walk, 3minutes 15seconds self-selected run speed between 5 and 9 mph, 1 minute walk, 1 minute run between 6 and 9 mph, 30 seconds walk, 1 minute stand.
      3-The accuracy is the percentage of data +-5% of chest strap
      I think that it’s better to wait DCRainmaker review because Valencell test is done on a treadmill, while Ray tests it on the road with real runs of circa 1 hour and not just walking or slow runs for just eight minutes.
      About the question of phone with altimeter -> unfortunately I don’t have a smartphone, I still have an old Nokia 3720 with buttons :) … and when I run I never have the phone with me, I try to bring with me as little as possible. I think that to carry a phone is unconfortable. This is also why I want to get read of the chest strap, one thing less to carry with me. I think that barometric altimeter is useful because if you run in trail, you have an accurate value of the elevation gain and this is an important thing for evaluating your effort. I live near mountain and, I think you can’t trust GPS altimeter in trail running in mountains. So if I buy a new watch, is one thing I would be interested. For my other needs, I think my old garmin 610 and my garmin 35 are enough. I tried to train myself with the training effect of my garmin610, but then I gave up because I’m not sure it was really giving me the right indication about how tired I was and about how I was improving. Garmin gives not enough indication how to use training effect, so I think it’s better to evaluate myself how hard was a run and how long I need to recover.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      My previous post was not polemic against Garmin, I would just be happy if they add to their lines of products with the garmin “elevate” sensor one product with the things I want (valencell heart rate optical sensor and barometric altimeter): maybe the new forerunner 930?

    • Raul

      Interesting! And disappointing. I read here link to heartmonitorhq.com that H7 was within 1 beat of reference device which means 99.something% accurate. So no change in my gear here.
      Regarding the ‘mothership’: I’m sure that will be my phone soon. Just pretty stupid it takes so long for the ideal 2nd screens (wristworn/barmounted) to come on the market. Also because the average user is terribly slow adopting new ‘inventions’ I guess.
      I’m taking my phone already with me most of the time. Wanna be able to call for help if I break a leg.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      @ Raul
      If the chest strap is confortable for you, this is the best choice. Also a good optical heart rate monitor like the Scosche Rhythm+ has his disadvantages and you must accept compromises for the added confort:
      1- short battery life, circa 7 hours, because the Valencell sensor needs more energy of other optical sensor (probably because his sampling frequency is higher, or because the light it emits is stronger, because it was made for calculating heart rate beats not for “activity tracking” where heart rate is under 100 beats/minutes but in hard work-outs where heart rate grows over 150 beats/minutes. )
      2- with optical heart rate monitor you can’t have Training Effect. The algorithm of Firstbeat (that Garmin uses) calculates the Training Effect based on R-R data variability of heart rate, and optical heart rate monitor at the moment can’t calculate R-R data during workout, just during rest. If I sync my Garmin Forerunner 610 with the Scosche Rhythm+, at the end of the run it gives me a training effect but it’s wrong, for example in the workout I did two days ago it gave 2,7 (mantaining), while using the chest strap I usually get for this type of workout 4,2 (highly improving).
      3- Most optical heart rate monitor fail when the cadence is similar to the heart rate. The Scosche is better, but if you see the graph, not perfect. In the recovery period it is identical to the chest strap. During the workout, my heart rate rises after circa 2 minutes to the frequency between 170 and 180. My cadence when I run an interval is circa the same, between 170 and 180. You can see in the graph that the line of the chest strap sweetly increases from 170 to 180 from the middle of the interval till the end of the interval, and when I looked at the watch I could see 172, 174, 176 ecc. The graph of the Scosche is very irregular, and when I watched it was kind of a mess : 176,172,178,171. Probably the disturb of the cadence was too much for the Scosche in order to give a good result. It was always near the exact value, but it hadn’t the smoothness of the chest strap. The good thing of the Scosche is that when I ended the interval, it could immediately follow the heart decreasing rapidly. The Garmin elevate sensor usually can’t understand that the heart rate is decreasing, and it gives wrong results, it usually can’t understand that the heart rate is decreasing after I stop and it continues to show 160-170. In my experiences, the Garmin elevate sensor just can’t handle a workout of that type (intervals after wich you stop completely). Probably the algorithm of Garmin was simply NOT thinked for this type of workout.
      Maybe Garmin is doing the right choice. Garmin reccomends the chest strap for serious athletes, so they have accurate heart rate-data during the workout and after for analyzing training effect and stress score. They put their elevate optical heart rate sensor in the watch with algorithms thinked for activity tracking and for calculating resting heart rate, and maybe for recreation athlete that don’t care so much about accuracy of heart rate during a workout. Probably they think that optical heart rate monitor are still not accurate enough for workouts and quick runs.

      At the end of the whole story, I accept the compromises of optical heart rate monitor for the added confort and in the future I will use the Scosche for intervals and the Garmin optical elevate heart rate sensor in the slow runs (where it is usually enough accurate). But you are doing the right choice to continue using the chest strap monitor. In this way, you are sure you have always accurate data, and I admit I hate when my watches give me inaccurate data. And yes, the Valencell test is really disappointing about heart rate monitor accuracy of optical sensors.

    • Webvan

      All good points, as for Garmin doing the right thing, well…on the F5 you can use the oHR for all the advanced metrics (VO2Max, Training Effect 2, Training Load, Performance Condition) apart from LTHR and Stress Score (the one that always gives 1 !) and in theory they’re HRV based so I’m not sure what value they really have…variations around the Pace/HR ratio ?

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      @Webvan
      in your experience, in the fenix5 the advanced metrics (VO2max, Training Effect2, Training Load, Performance Condition) that you have when you use the garmin “elevate” optical heart rate are similar to the results that you have when you use the chest strap? Or it’s hard to make a comparison?

    • Webvan

      Yes the only way to compare would be to have a second F5 connected to a chest strap, do a hard reset on both of them and then do the same runs for a week.

    • I agree. Though, I would argue that realistically you’d need more than a week. You might see some initial comparisons in a week, but you’d really need closer to a month of side by side exact usage to really form a clear trend on the impact of optical vs HR strap on the metrics. The way the FirstBeat analytics work they start to gain steam after a few weeks.

      And honestly, that’s mostly going to be based on the accuracy of the base BPM data.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      IN DEFENSE OF GARMIN “ELEVATE” WRIST OPTICAL HEART RATE SENSOR.
      Today I run a 40 minutes slow run with the Scosche Rhythm+ armband in the left upper arm synced with a Garmin Forerunner 610 watch, and a Garmin Forerruner 35 in the right wrist with his “Elevate” optical heart rate sensor.
      Temperature was 15°C/60°F.
      The graphs are very similar, so I can say that the Garmin Elevate sensor is good for me for slow runs. I read that slow runs shoud be 80% of the totale mileage of the week, so I can say I can use the Garmin Elevate sensor for 80% of the time. For the other 20% of the run (intervals or quick runs) I will use the Scosche or the chest strap. In slow runs I have a cadence of circa 160 and a heart rate between 140 and 150 beats per minute, and for the “Elevate” sensor is easy to filter the disturb of the motion from the signal of blood flow. I have to do this before the start of a run:
      1- clean the sensor with cotton, as showed in the manual
      2- I put on the right wrist, a bit far of the wrist bone, at the 8 hole (not one more or the watch becomes uncomfortable because it becomes too tight, not one less or the watch moves and I have inaccurate data)
      3- before starting to run, when the icon of the heart rate blinks anymore and becomes solid, I wait another two minutes, to be sure that the watch takes the signal correctly.
      The Garmin Elevate sensor was accurate during the entire run and it gave circa the same values of the scosche.
      The Garmin Elevate sensor is like a girl, if you treat it well, it behaves well. If you makes something wrong, it behaves bad.
      For intervals and for quick runs it’s not for me, but it could be that it’s just me. At race pace I have a cadence between 170 and 180, and the heart rate is between 170 and 180. Usually when I have 175 of cadence, I have also 175 of heart rate. In this case, I think that it’s very difficult for heart rate monitor to filter the disturb of motion from the signal of blood flow.
      It could be that with other people the garmin elevate sensor function correctly even at race pace, for example if they usually have a heart beat of 160 and a cadence of 175, or they have a heart rate of 190 and a cadence of 175.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      I read the DCRainmaker in depth review of the Garmin Fenix 5. There are some recent heart rate graphs of runs that Ray did with the Suunto Spartan Sport HR (20,21,22 march):
      1- Very bad news, the Suunto Spartan HR optical heart rate monitor is very bad
      2-there is a graph where Ray is doing intervals with the Fenix5. In these intervals, Ray has a cadence of circa 180 and a heart rate of 180. The Garmin Elevate Optical Heart Rate Sensor of the Fenix 5 has no problem of crossover and it is accurate also in this difficult workout
      3- So it could be that the problem that I have in intervals and hard workouts is not a problem in general of the Garmin Elevate Optical Heart Rate Sensor, but just of the watch Garmin Forerunner 35 (perhaps the firmware of the Fenix 5 is better of the firmware of the Forerunner 35, or perhaps Garmin changed the hardware of the sensor in the Fenix 5 and the new hardware is better).
      4- It could also be that the Garmin Forerunner 35 is just fine, and I must find a better position or a better way to use the watch
      5- By the way, the graphs of heart rate monitor of the optical heart rate sensor of the Garmin Fenix 5 are quite impressive, maybe no need to wait the Fenix 6 (for sure no need to wait the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR).
      6- Unfortunately Valencell must have done a wrong test of the Suunto Spartan Sport HR.
      7-It’s possible that Suunto changes something in the firmware before they begin to sell the units, but till now it’s a big disappointment

    • Webvan

      Yes the Spartan’s oHR is disappointing but don’t think the F5 will always behave like that, I’ve seen it lose the plot exactly like the oHR of the FR235. Same hardware and there’s so much you can do in software…

  26. mathias

    is it posible to use the watch with a chest belt, e.g. in the winter when wearing the watch over a jacket?

  27. Thomas

    Hi Ray! Do you know when the HR-accuracy review will be out? I would really like to pre-order it, but it kinda depends on your word about it. Best regards

    • kg

      Same here! I would count very much on your review since I am looking forward in buying it. When are you planning to post it?

    • Likely first week of April. Working to get in as much activity as possible with it, across as many sports and conditions as possible.

      If my brain cooperates on the flight this evening, I’ll likely publish a test run video I’ve gotta edit, tonight. Again, dependent on my brain cooperating. And my Mac….

    • Thomas

      Ok, thank you so much! Eager reader of your page, love the work you do!

  28. Rascha

    Hi Ray,
    I love your reviews, and like some other said, they are my guideline for next purchase. In this moment i am without a sportwatch. I have sold my Fenix 3, because i break my leg, and will not train from now 2 months more. I am thinking about buying Fenix 5 or 5x, or Sport HR. I like how 5x looks (similar to 3), but i dont need maps, and i think that OHR will be less precise then on 5 (because of extra weight). The question is will be ordinary fenix 5 slower then 5x because of less memory, or maybe slower chip???
    The most important thing to me is OHR on this watches, because i have WPW syndrome, and have to watch my pulse during exscercising, and find chest strap kind annoing. I had scootche rhytm, but i lost it in water, strap was a 6 months old. SO i want watch with built in OHR.
    The main difference to me between Garmin and Suunto is that according to official specs, sport will be able to measure heart rate from wrist during swimming, and i think that Sport will be (with updates) more precise in GPS and HR then fenix 5, about which owners on their forum already report strange GPS behaviour.

    What do you think about these things? What should i choose?

    • I haven’t seen any tangible differences in speed between the 5 and 5X in regular use. I primarily use the 5, and it’s quite quick to respond (certainly faster than the Spartan series).

      As for optical HR on the Spartan Wrist HR, I’m still gathering data across multiple sports (cycling, running, even skiing – and soon swimming).

      When it comes to GPS accuracy, I haven’t seen any evidence the Spartan series will be better than the Fenix 5 series. The majority of my recent testing evidence shows the opposite, I can’t think of any workout in the last two 2.5 months where the Spartan (of any variant) has given me a better track than the Fenix 5. I’ve used them together on the vast majority of workouts.

      As for reports on the forums, I’ve been watching rather carefully, and while there is a large GPS accuracy thread already for the Fenix 5, overwhelmingly it’s actually people reporting good results. I think I saw one or two people report a brief disparity in a section of a track and that’s it (+ then piles of discussion about those singular tracks).

      Just my two cents…

    • Rascha

      Thanks Ray for very quick reply.
      One more thing, as i am old man (47), and i need glasses for closer things, i am also considering buying Suunto, if it is more readable then Fenix. As i had no opportunity to look on those watches closer, and compare them in hand one next to another – can you tell me which watch has bigger numbers, and which is more readable. I ask that, because there is a difference in resolution on them. Does that difference makes Suunto more user friendly.
      And you haven’t told me what do you think about that ability to read HR during swimming. Is that the typing error on Suunto site, or they just got it already, and Fenix will have it probably in the future.
      Thanks.

    • Ridhwaan

      Suunto just sent me the RRP: USD 540. Release date 30th March 2017.

      Update from Suunto, it will feature 24/7 HR tracking.

      So for an average joe like me that just likes toys, is there anything separating the Fenix 5/5s from The Sartan HR besides USD60. The decimal points of accuracy in HR and GPS don’t bother me.

  29. Mirko Surf&Run

    Tweet of @dcrainmakerblog one hour ago:
    “The Spartan Wrist HR will soon track last 12hrs of HR, incl min. Samples every 10mins for one minute. Doesn’t however save data to app/site.”

  30. Mirko Surf&Run

    Interesting webinar of Valencell, the producer of the optical heart rate sensor of the “Suunto Spartan Wrist Watch HR”
    in youtube. They talk about optical heart rate monitoring accuracy and about the infamous “crossover problem”
    Webinar: Building A Wearable With Heart Rate Monitoring
    “h ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bstv6B3-6cs”
    link to youtube.com

  31. kg

    Any news Ray? Will you post the video of your testing?

    • Trying to get it done, just got backed up getting the Fenix 5 review out this morning.

      That said, if you look at the data section of that review in the tables, you’ll see some initial data to dive into (just look at the last few days).