Mio Link Heart Rate Monitor Review

Good morning, friends! Last week was spent in Salt Lake City on a work-cation. We went to Outdoor Retailer, the biggest outdoor retail industry trade show around— it’s the one week out of the year where store owners, retail buyers, and big outdoor brands/new entrepreneurs hoping to get their products into stores descend upon Utah. Not a lot of time for running, but we did have an opportunity to run in the mountains – complete with cold rain, hail, rainbows, and a close-up moose encounter!
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The best part of the show is seeing new products that either haven’t hit the market yet, or just aren’t as mainstream as the Brooks Adrenaline or North Face Denali jacket.
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I posted a pic of one of my OR goodies on instagram later that day — you guys were equally excited and curious about the Mio Link!
  • A wrist-mounted heart rate monitor?? …SO MANY IMPLICATIONS (and questions)!!!
  • Like: No under-boob chafing!
  • Easy on, easy off – no longer will I look like I’m about to flash someone when the HR monitor goes on/off!
  • Does it work with Garmin?
  • How accurate is it?
General stuff:
The wristband uses a bright light to detect your heartbeat. There has to be direct contact with your skin (or close) so that it can see differences in bloodflow, and then count it as a beat. The wristband comes in 2 different sizes, S/M and M/L, and the HR monitor device fits inside it. The device comes with a cool little compact magnetic USB charging cable – just pull out the unit from the wristband to charge it.
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So how did it fare?
With 6 runs with this heart rate monitor now, 1 with a heart rate strap on for comparison. I’d also be failing you completely if I didn’t point you to the DC Rainmaker review from January, which is extremely thorough. So, go there if MUST know more!
Key Features:
  • Mio Link smartphone app allows you to set up heart rate zones, see your HR data, and check battery life
  • Colored LED flashes and corresponds to heart rate zones
  • USB-Rechargeable battery, with battery life of ~8 hours
  • Price point is $99
Notable Experiences
Run #1: Ben synced his Garmin 620 to my HR strap, and I synced my Garmin to the Mio Link. Right out of the box, it was fully charged – thank goodness! There’s just one button on it to turn the device on and off. The strap was easy to put on, and fits even my freakishly-small wrist (you can also get it in a size Large as well). I chose to put the sensor on the inside of my wrist, even though the directions state that you’re supposed to wear it on the top of your wrist… a Mio rep said this generally wouldn’t make a difference. t blinking light on the unit shows whether it’s “caught” your HR — just like “catching” the satellite on your Garmin, it took about 30 seconds to get a HR read brand new and out of the box. It was really easy to pair the heart rate band with my Garmin 620.
I watched the HR screen on my watch carefully for the first 5-7 minutes of the run. The first thing I noticed was that it was reading as low — way too low. I can’t be sure if it was because I wasn’t following the directions perfectly, or because it just needed to “get to know me,” but it eventually began reading exactly as I had hoped without any surprises.
Top: Mio Link; Bottom: Garmin HR Strap
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Run #2:
Run at a comfortable pace. My heart rate was found within 10 seconds of turning on the device once on my wrist. I wore it on the top of my wrist this time, and heart rate showed nothing notable, working as expected. Uneventful isn’t a bad thing!
Runs #3 & #4:
I felt like the Link could be as much as 2-4 bpm on the high side, compared to my perceived effort. Then again, I’ve just come off of a week of vacation with limited running and eating myself silly! One of these runs was my first track workout in over a year. Mid-workout HR seemed just fine during and after each rep, but the warm-up and cool-down HR seemed slightly off. I wish I had been wearing a HR strap on to compare! Ultimately, too many variables (sleep, hydration) at play to be positive that it was really off. The drop-out you see is legit— I stopped my watch, stood around for a minute, got a drink, and then continued running home.
(Blue – pace; red – heart rate)
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Run #5:
Run at a comfortable pace. I wore the Garmin Phoenix (which was having its own issues, argh) synced with my heart rate strap to compare BPM. The max discrepancy between the strap and wristband was about 7 beats, and that happened only when I came to a dead stop from running. While neither strap nor wristband consistently displayed a higher or lower heart rate than the other, the average discrepancy between the two devices was no more than 1-2 beats during the run itself. This is the heart rate graph from a typical run with the wristband:
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The HR discrepancy between strap vs. wristband may be because of differing sampling period/refresh rates.
Run #6: Oh boy… this was a 19-miler, including 10 miles at marathon pace. Besides a HR spike (which happens with me even when I use a strap), it seemed to cut out intermittently during my mid-miles at pace. It’s possible the strap was looser than it should have been (because I remember trying to push it higher on my wrist while I was running), but at the same time, a researcher friend of mine says that wristband HR monitors are potentially prone to error as heart rate elevates and it becomes more difficult to discern each beat. Basically, I’m still not convinced this isn’t user error. If anything, I learned that it has to be snug.
Notice the drop-out on this heart rate graph below. (Blue – pace; Red – heart rate)
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To sum up…
What I love:
  • ANT+ and Bluetooth-enabled. Yes, it plays nice with Garmin AND your cell phone
  • Rubber wristband is convenient, quick to clean, and easy to put on
  • Functions without a Garmin/GPS watch – heart rate zones are indicated by the colored light during workout, and the wristband syncs so you can view results later
  • Strap fits small wrists very comfortably (the size large wristband can expand to fit larger wrists)
What could be better:
  • Reading is inconsistent at high heart rates… sometimes?
  • Battery life is shorter than a HR strap (I am generally interested in my HR for the first part of an ultra anyway, making this a non-issue)

BOTTOM LINE:

The Mio Link heart rate wristband is like a driving a shiny, sleek, new car – but the steering’s slightly loose. Some people like it and some people can’t stand that! The device generally reads within 2 beats of a heart rate strap. At higher heart rates (in my case 90+% of HR Max), it has trouble picking out the heartbeat accurately.
The Mio Link is a great staple for someone who’s training using the Maffetone method (majority of runs at comfortable/easy pace with minimal hard-effort workouts) and can’t stand the chafing/discomfort from wearing a heart rate strap. If trading a bit of precision for convenience is fine, then this Mio Link is for you!
If you’re training in the more traditional sense — track workouts, pace runs, and high-intensity runs — the Mio Link may serve best as a second option in addition to your heart rate strap.
Coming SOON to a running store near you!
*By the way – I didn’t receive any perks, payment, or product for writing this review, but I felt like this would be good information to have if your’e entertaining the idea of trying out a new product. See for yourself!
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