Review: QardioBase smart scale doesn't quite measure up

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QardioBase smart scale and accompanying app for iOS and Android devices

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As someone who likes to stay in shape, I was looking forward to reviewing the QardioBase smart scale and body composition analyzer. The device sits alongside the QardioArm, a smart blood pressure monitor, and the QardioCore, a wearable EKG/ECG monitor, in Qardio's lineup, and was recently awarded a CES 2016 Innovation Award – the third for the company. Unfortunately, after receiving the QardioBase our enthusiasm quickly turned to frustration.

It began with the arrival and initial set up of the first unit we were sent. The company was kind enough to include batteries, but they were dead. Then, once fresh batteries were inserted, a lot of the settings were already in place, which meant our repeated attempts to set it up per the simple instructions kept resulting in someone else's name being displayed and relegating us to guest status. That guest function lets multiple users use the scale just like you would any other, but that's not what we wanted.

Qardio and its PR firm were very quick to respond to our cries for help and sent us a new unit. It turns out that the first one had been a tradeshow unit that hadn't been cleared of its prior settings or sent with fresh batteries.

When the new unit arrived, we were eager to forget the previous frustrations and start afresh. With new batteries in place, the single green dot followed by the smiley face and a digital wink lit up as it should once we stepped on the scale. But it still indicated we were a guest and not the primary user, our weight was shown in kilos and no measurements were appearing on the companion app.

A few more emails with the PR firm and we were advised to check our profile to be sure all of the information was correct. All good there, but the app and unit combined weren't doing their intended job, which was to establish our baseline weight, BMI (body mass index), and muscle and fat percentages.

When all else fails start over, so we hit the reset button. That required finding and entering the last few digits of the serial code, which requires you to take the battery cover off of the back of the QardioBase unit to access. That's easy enough, but unfortunately you have to reset everything while the app is active and you're standing on the unit. You can't do that while it's upside down and you're trying to read the serial code inside the battery compartment. The only solution was to write it down, then restart the reset process.

Voila! That did it. Our name showed up, our weight was in pounds and our BMI, complete with a muscle and fat percentage breakdown, was displayed. We could now put the unit to work. But other issues ensued.

Weight measurements could vary by as much as a pound in a two-minute stretch by just getting off of the unit and back on. Taking a measurement with pants on would sometimes change the weight by more than a worn pair of Levi's would seem to add.

Using BMI as a measurement is another issue in and of itself. It is a value that comes from taking the square of your height divided by your weight. In this reviewer's case, that's 69 inches (175 cm) tall and just under 170 pounds (77 kg), indicating a BMI that was just tipping into the overweight category. Quite a shock for someone who works out religiously 45 minutes to an hour a day, five days a week and has done so for many years.

Here's a better example that puts the BMI into question. Take Marshawn Lynch, an NFL running back who is 71 inches (180 cm) tall and weighs 215 pounds (97.5 kg). Clearly not overweight if you saw him. In fact, he has a habit of plowing through defensive linemen who are even bigger. But a BMI calculation puts him in the obese category. Clearly someone needs to do something to take physical build into account when it comes to BMI.

We decided to put that aside, and just look at BMI as a number to improve against. Tracking progress is really where the QardioBase has the most benefit.

Once you get the app set up, you establish a weight goal. With the app on and the mobile device connected to the QardioBase via Bluetooth (Wi-Fi is also an option), a measurement is taken as soon as you step on it. In fact, it prompts you to do so, just in case you're staring at it wondering what to do. Over time, the app shows you a history of your progress – changes in weight, BMI, fat and muscle. However, readings in the latter categories were also inconsistent from day-to-day.

You can also set up reminders and different modes, and even share your progress with your doctor, family members or significant others if you wish. The pregnancy mode could be particularly helpful to moms who want to track their weight gain through their pregnancy.

The accompanying app works with both iOS (7.0 or later) and Android devices (4.4 or later), as well as with Apple Health and the Apple HealthKit.

You can purchase the QardioBase at Amazon, Target or on the company website for US$149.99. If you buy it, just know that it takes some patience to set up and the numbers may not be consistent. There's no doubting the QardioBase is a nicely designed unit that will look good in any bathroom, but Qardio has some more work to do to get it up to scratch on the performance front.

Product Page: Qardio

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