The Pulseware Max heart rate monitor follows Highgear's tradition of offering high-quality electronics for casual participants or for those folks who prefer simpler devices that are easy to use.
We tested the Pulseware Max watch while hiking, running, riding an exercise bike, weight training and even while walking steep hills to prepare for a climb. It proved to be a handy, fun tool that's user-friendly, though its limited features prevent it from being as performance-oriented as other heart rate monitors we've tested.
Perhaps the greatest appeal of the device is that it doesn't use a chest strap -- it will appeal to people who want to monitor their heart rate but may think the straps are cumbersome, uncomfortable, awkward, embarrassing, or just too bothersome to put on. Though the Pulseware Max doesn't use a strap, we found its heart-rate reading to be quite accurate. It has a sensor on the back of the watch that connects to your wrist and picks up a pulse, while you touch sensor buttons on the front to get a reading -- thereby completing the loop through your body to your heart.
We also liked the sleek, low-profile design of the watch. Though it's a little thicker than your everyday casual watch, you won't feel like you're balancing a laptop on your wrist. The buttons don't protrude much either, so it not only looks clean, but it doesn't poke and prod your wrist.
If we had any beef with the basic design, we'd put the heart rate sensors at the top of the display screen rather than on one side. This would make it much easier to reach the sensor buttons and depress them. With the current placement of the sensors, users have to cock their arms out, which proved awkward to our tester and was actually pretty difficult while running. Another beef with this type of sensor button watch (this actually applies to any of this style no matter what brand) is that it's not easy to hold the sensors properly without looking down at the face of the watch for several seconds -- up to 10 or 20 seconds if a person has some trouble connecting. This just ain't a mighty good idea if you are running on rough terrain such as trails or near traffic. And it just isn't advisable at all for outdoor bike riding -- unless you're the derring-do type who likes to pedal along with no hands. For this reason, this watch works best while using a treadmill, a piece of stationary exercise equipment or perhaps fitness walking or jogging at slower paces.
One other disadvantage for those who live in colder climes or have chilly hands and wear gloves often: Users have to remove the gloves to get a reading, and if it's cold they won't be so inclined to do that.
This technology (again, as it appears in any brand) does not gives users continuous heart rate monitoring, but only offers how they are performing in that moment in time when they touch the sensors for a reading. In this case, the Pulseware Max is said to monitor the entire workout (after users enter their personal information), providing data, for example, on calories burned. But since the device is not automatically updating and capturing data at regular intervals, its assessment of a person's workout will not be totally accurate. (Although it's not stated in the product manual, Highgear recommends that users record their heart rate every three minutes. And believe us, it's hard to remember to do this if you're cranking during a hard workout.)
Nevertheless, a newcomer to heart rate monitoring will appreciate the features, lack of chest strap and looks of the Pulseware Max. It's also easier to use than many, too, since it has only six major modes of operation (time/date, chronograph, countdown timer, calorie display, alarm and heart rate display) -- great for those who want a streamlined and relatively easy-to-navigate product and don't want to wade through a bunch of settings they'll never use.
As a whole, this is a solid piece, albeit entry level or for the user who chooses simplicity over technological wizardry and who detests the idea of a chest strap.
SNEWS® Rating: 3.5 hands clapping
Suggested Retail: $85
For more information: www.highgear.com or 888-295-4949