Review: Tickr X heart rate monitor and fitness tracker

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The Wahoo Fitness Tickr X is a chest-worn heart rate monitor and fitness tracker (Photo: Simon Crisp/Gizmag.com)

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The Tickr X is a chest-worn fitness tracker from Wahoo Fitness which can be used to track a wide variety of fitness information including heart rate and motion analytics data, whether you are into running, cycling or working out at the gym. We recently spent a bit of time with the tracker to see whether it's worth strapping around your chest.

What's in the box?

Sitting at the top of the Tickr line-up, the Tickr X is a waterproof and sweat-proof fitness tracker which is worn around the chest and wirelessly connects to smartphones and other devices. In the box you'll find the minimalist tracker, a band for attaching it around your chest, and directions to download the Android or iOS Wahoo Fitness app.

The tracker itself is a solid-feeling flat plastic pebble which measures 64 x 13 x 38 mm (2.75 x 0.5 x 1.5 in) and weighs 8.5 g (0.3 oz). On the back of the device are a pair of contacts which are used for connecting the band, and access to the CR2032 battery, which can last for up to 12 months. There are also a couple of logos which let you know that the Tickr X packs connectivity goodness in the form of both Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ compatibility.

Around front there's not too much going on other than a big Tickr X logo and two little LED lights which are used to display connection (blue) and heart rate detection (red) information. With no screen on the device itself you'll be reliant on these lights, along with taps, vibrations, and the accompanying apps to interact with the Tickr X.

How does it work?

There are two main ways in which the Tickr X can operate. The first, and most comprehensive way of using the Tickr X is in conjunction with corresponding apps to get real-time tracking of your exercise. For this, there are a couple of apps from Wahoo Fitness itself, and information from the device can be compatible with over 50 other fitness apps including Nike+ Running, Runkeeper, Strava, and MapMyFitness.

When connected to the right device and app, the Tickr X can record an impressive array of fitness information. This includes heart rate and calories burned, along with running analytics such as smoothness, cadence, vertical oscillation and ground contact time. Cycling cadence can also be measured, and even if you are stuck inside the gym there’s a treadmill mode and indoor cycling cadence. Rep counting is also possible in a 7 Minute Workout app.

For the times you don't want (or it's not practical to have) your device connected during a workout, there's also an offline mode which can be used to track your heart rate, calorie burn, and workout duration, and then sync information (up to 16 hours of workout info) later.

How did we test it?

For our test, we primarily used the Tickr X with the Wahoo Fitness and 7 Minute Workout apps on a Moto G (2nd Gen) and an iPhone 5. Unfortunately, we didn't have an ANT+ watch on hand to test that functionality. We used it for tracking running, cycling, general gym exercises and rep counting. We also looked at the various information sharing options for users of other fitness tracking services.

If you've not worn a heart rate monitor on your chest before, strapping on the Tickr X is going to feel a little strange compared to wrist-worn trackers like the Fitbit Charge HR. The strap gives it the feel of wearing a sports bra (we imagine), while the LEDs on the unit have a touch of Tony Stark's glowing chest about them.

Luckily, once you've pulled on a T-shirt (I don't exactly have the physique of the bare-chested male runners plastered all over the Wahoo Fitness website) the lightweight nature of the tracker means it's easy to forget. Given there's no screen on the device, you are not going to need to look at it during your workout anyway.

Time to get sweaty

We found the Tickr X paired easily and reliably with our phones, and the flashing blue light gives you the reassurance that everything is running as it should. Within the Wahoo Fitness app it's easy to select the type of exercise you're about to embark on, and instantly see your information updating as you go, in a surprising amount of detail.

When tracking running, we were able to monitor it in more detail than we expected. In addition to distance, pace and heart rate info, we could also check out running smoothness, cadence, vertical oscillation and ground contact time, and view a map of where we'd been. Again, while overkill for plodding runners like ourselves, this information could be very insightful for more serious athletes. We also took the cycling tracking for a quick spin and were happily able to track speed, distance and cadence during those workouts too.

Something worth noting on the heart rate tracking is that while we've previously been impressed by the tracking of the likes of the Fitbit Charge HR, the Tickr X seems to be in a different league. There's no waiting for the device to catch up with what your old ticker is doing and heart rate tracking feels more immediate and accurate. Users are also able to enter their own set heart rate zones which is handy when trying to maintain a certain workout intensity level, which Wahoo Fitness categorizes as Burn (to maximise fat burn) or Burst (improve speed and performance).

In a gym setting, the Tickr X was great for keeping track of heart rate info to maintain workout intensity, and the tracking of treadmill running and indoor cycling also works as advertised, meaning that the Tickr X can be used to track a lot more data than many of its rivals. We didn't use the tracker while swimming, but with a IPX7 waterproof rating, it should be good for that sort of use too.

There were also a couple of other little features of the Tickr X that impressed us. In addition to marking a workout, double tapping the device can control music playback start/pause/resume on the wirelessly connected phone. This handily means not having to stop running to retrieve our phone from a pocket to do the same. The Tickr X also counted the number of reps we were able to muster in the Wahoo Fitness 7 Minute Workout app. This worked well and was more compelling than it sounds, though it's a shame the app does not log rep counts to tell you how your performance is improving over time.

However, our main disappointment with the Tickr X was how it works when not connected to another device. While offline tracking means you don't need to have your phone with you to record fitness information, you are going to get far less information and insight that way. Offline workout information is limited to heart rate, calorie burn and duration. The lack of a screen also means you are not going to have access to even this information until you sync.

All workout information stored in the Wahoo Fitness app can be shared with a multitude of other apps and services, which means its detailed specific workout data can be used alongside more general all-day type tracking. We shared information across MapMyRun, Nike+ Running and Strava services with no problem.

Summary

On the whole we were impressed with the Tickr X and the workout information it was able to record, even if it was overkill for our exercise regime. This device isn't targeted at the casual exerciser or people wanting to monitor their activity levels; it's for those who are serious about working out and want to do it smarter.

Information such as cadence, vertical oscillation and ground contact time could make a massive difference for people like serious runners who might be training for a marathon. Tiny tweaks in form made on the back of this information could have a big impact on performance.

At US$100, the Tickr X seems very reasonable and affordable for what it is able to do, and costs less than a pair of running shoes. Whether or not you should invest in one will depend on how serious you are about tracking your fitness, and what other devices you already own. Just don't think this is going to mean you can leave your phone at home and still record the full array of fitness information you could otherwise.

Product page: Tickr X

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