SNEWS® gear testers have used a lot of heart-rate monitors over the years, dating back to prehistoric time. Well, OK, maybe not quite that far but before they were as common and certainly before most knew what a maximum or target heart rate was.
So having been through a number of brands and models over the years we were excited to try one of the New Balance-branded monitors by Highgear.
Being pretty serious about what we do, we were sent the N5 Max Training Monitor since we were told it not only had heart rate monitoring but a chronograph with the ability to display lap times as well as a memory function. The website describes this model as “for dedicated runners and endurance athletes.” It comes in both a small face and a larger face to accommodate those with smaller or larger wrists; we chose the large one only because we don’t care much about fashion when we are running or working out – it’s just all about seeing the numbers quickly and easily.
We worked our way through user setup pretty well. Luckily the manual isn’t a book and we appreciated that although like most manuals for electronics these days it takes some focus. The buttons are positioned a little differently than others but you just have to learn where to press or not.
It did not take long for us to discover something that didn’t make sense: There is indeed a heart-rate monitoring mode where the face with its two lines shows a user’s heart rate and a timer. But that is separate from the chronograph mode, where you see lap and cumulative times. They both work well enough but you have to decide: Do you want lap times (e.g. in a running race or doing intervals indoor or out) or do you want heart rate? Seems to us that having BOTH at one time would be dang practical. Of course we also discovered that although the one we tested was the highest-price model, it is described only as a “training monitor” as compared to another model called a “running monitor” that seems it may do what we wanted – go figure.
OK, so, those who want laps and heart rate at the same time shouldn’t consider this monitor but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work well. For those just interested in fitness training, including calories used, percent fat burned (for whatever that’s worth) and heart rate features such as above or below target zones, this could be just what the doctor ordered.
The memory is easy to access and, once there, you get all kinds of fun data – albeit no laps and splits for the interval geeks. You get total workout time; average heart rate; maximum workout heart rate; time in selected zone, above zone and below zone; percent calories from fat; and total calories used.
There were a couple of annoyances: Once you put on the transmission belt (chest strap) the monitor starts quietly clicking and doesn’t stop. Start/stop controls for the chronograph and heart rate monitor timer are different buttons so you have to keep that straight. The heart-rate start/stop button is finicky; unless you hit it square on and firmly it sometimes doesn’t register.
All that aside for the correct user – e.g. someone interested in straight fitness training and not laps or interval – this monitor is decent and gets the job done. We just wish it could do more.
SNEWS® Rating: 3.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $90
For more information:www.newbalance.com/accessories