Thursday, September 23, 2021

Suunto T1C heart rate monitor review

December 23, 2008 by · 26 Comments 


I have been trying to get into shape before the holiday season… call it a warmup to the new year’s resolution. However, I’m trying to be a bit smarter about it this time around, as opposed to the usual ‘gym hard 4x a week’ mentality.

So I started reading up on heart rate monitors. These little gadgets essentially tell you what your body’s exertion level is during any activity. With the disciplined and educated use of the heart rate zone method you can target different types of improvements, be it endurance, fat loss, or speed burts. I’m no doctor, so consult your physician before beginning any kind of exercise regime regardless of how enthusiastic you are about a gadget helping you out.

Heart rate monitors, therefore, allow you insight into not only how you are doing at any moment during an exercise, but also allow you to analyze your performance afterwards and track it over a period of time. Whilst the extent on how to do that is outside of the scope of this post, there are many different types of methods to determine that on the internetz. Some new gadgets like the higher end Suunto and Polar models can even help you also determine if you’re under training or over training depending on your goals. However, this review will focus on the most basic product of the Suunto T series line, the T1c.

The T1C has all the basic functions a beginner needs:

  • A comfortable heart rate chest strap (improvement over the non ‘c’ model)
  • Current heart rate
  • Current zone (determined as a percentage of your max)
  • Heart rate limits and alarms
  • Calories
  • Averages
  • History log
  • Stop watch, Dual time, alarms, etc.
  • User replaceable battery

What it lacks relative to its more expensive brothers is the computer upload capability, the ‘training effect’ calculator, and the Suunto coach feature (both of these features are from First Beat Technologies). Because I use a Garmin EDGE 705 for my cycling and I upload stuff via that device, I use the T1c heart rate monitor mostly for my indoor cross-training efforts on ellipticals and the like, and don’t really need the PC upload features, for those will be generated by my Garmin, but you may have different needs.

Now that I understand what the Training Effect feature is about in the T3C and T4C devices, however, I wish I had also looked at those in greater depth, but as long as I keep within my schedule and follow a structured plan, there really isn’t a huge need for those additional features. Those features, particularly the Suunto Coach feature, does seem to be able to help structure a plan for you, though, so it would be nice if you have the money, otherwise you’ll have to make due without it and just try and structure a medically sound plan yourself (not always easy!).

The T1C itself is a sharp looking device, and so far it does what it advertises well. It has a circular display that shows you in a car-dashboard like fashion where your heart rate is, and what your accumulate calories burned are. I found this to be very useful at a glance since I believe people are more receptive to the analog relative display of information rather than symbolic representations of values.

However, it isn’t without its drawbacks. Let me enumerate them through a simple list:

  • The screen, made of plastic, is easily scratched. Some companies, such as sell protectors, but I have never tried them.
  • The inverted contrast display (see picture) is very hard to see at any angle other than dead on, and in the darkness of spinning classes, you constantly need to use the back light to see your heart rate (probably not good for the battery). This is probably my biggest gripe at the moment, but you can easily solve this by getting the models that don’t have this inverted display.. it does look cool however, and that was perhaps a wrong decision criteria for a HR monitor.
  • The user interface and button locations are far from intuitive, and it took me, someone that likes to play with gadgets, longer than I’d expect for something that is designed for techies and non-techies alike.
  • There is no button auto-lock feature, you have to manually do it. If you forget to do it you will accidentally trigger the heart rate mode, and battery will be wasted as the device will be searching for the heart rate belt.

All in all, I would recommend the T1c as a good simple HR monitor that is attractive and can be found at cheap prices. However, if you plan on using it as a serious training tool, and not just a cool looking watch, I’d recommend you get one of the versions that doesn’t have the inverted contrast display, since it is just too hard to see at a glance during exercise. I’ll update this post as the watch ages to see how durable it is in different activities.

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