The battle for our wrist space are heating up with the continued increase in the number of wearables that have reached our shores. Featured this time on the blog is the Mio Fuse. The Fuse is just one of 5 wrist-worn heart-rate (HR) based monitors produced by the Vancouver, Canada company. The others are Alpha, Alpha 2, Velo, and Link. Of the 5, 3 – Alpha 2, Fuse and Link – are now available in Malaysia.
There are 2 flavors of the Fuse, the Fuse Crimson fits large wrists: 156 -208mm / 6.1”-8.2” while skinny wrists like mine get the Fuse Aqua (wrist sizes: 149-179mm / 5.9”-7”). Other than the fit and color, both versions have the same specs. Which brings us to the next section.
Specs & Tech
The selling points for the Mio offerings are that they’re wrist-worn HRMs, and connect to a wide range of ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart (4.0) devices. That means you can do away with the chest strap pair yet monitor your training effects from your smartphones, and your Garmin/Suunto/Timex/Polar watches (see the list here). 3rd party app compatibility (list) are likewise extensive and that includes integration with RunKeeper, MapMyRun/Ride/Fitness, Endomondo, Strava, Wahoo, miCoach, and Runtastic. There’s even a Windows Phone app called Track Runner which works with the Fuse.
Helpful links: ANT+ directory of supported devices [list]
Mio’s wrist-worn HRMs, developed with Philips, feature continuous optical heart rate sensors that measure the heartbeat in real-time using two green LEDs and an electro-optical cell. DCRainmaker’s review of the Fuse mentioned that the same tech was licensed to adidas and TomTom so that certainly add to the credibility of the technology. In fact Mio claims to provide 99% EKG-accurate HR data. More about the technology here.
The Fuse comes in a compact box. Flip the magnetized cover off and you’ll see the device lodged snugly within.
Lifting the container up will reveal the user manual, and the USB charging clip. That’s all there is to it.
As with all things electronic, the first smart thing to do would be to charge up the unit. Here’s a closeup shot of the USB charger bundled with the Fuse. The USB plug is folded into the back of the unit when not in use.
The Fuse isn’t quite a tiny device, nearly as long as my trusty Garmin 620. Even the midsection, where the sensor is located, is nearly as thick as the 620.
I’ve really skinny wrists and here’s how the Fuse looks like in the company of the 620 and the MiBand. Due to the Fuse’s sticky rubber feel, it tends to pick up some dust. It can be worn on the left or right wrist, even though the user guide recommends wearing it as pictured below – right next to the GPS watch. That said, I’ve had equal success wearing the Fuse on my right wrist. The fit feels very snug and assured courtesy of the traditional watch strap and pin combo. No way it’s coming off in the course of a workout.
Flip the Fuse over and here’s how it’s belly looks like. It may not appear as such but the build quality is great, with no rough edges felt anywhere. The Fuse feels really solid and not a single part of it has the dodgy feel of a poorly made device. You definitely get quality for the price you pay for in the case of the Fuse.
See the 2 round pin contacts in the photo above? Those are to be connected to the pin connectors on the USB charger in order to charge up the Fuse. Once it’s plugged in, the device suddenly comes alive with a number of moving LED lights indicating the charging status. Fully charging the Fuse’s lithium polymer battery for the first time took around an hour – I reckon my unit wasn’t completely drained. The battery lifespan will last approximately 300 charge cycles which works out to a lifespan of 5 years based on a weekly charge routine. The battery is non-user replaceable and neither is the strap. Therefore the entire unit needs to be replaced should it die on you, but then 5 years would have already contributed to a very decent ROI. Furthermore, technology would’ve advanced several more steps in 5 years’ time!
Mio GO app
Like any wearables out there, there’s an app for the Fuse. The Mio GO app (available from iTunes and Google Play Store) is needed for all the customization functions, tracking, and syncing the Fuse is capable of. First, the customization. Once the app is downloaded to the phone, pair the Fuse up via Bluetooth. From there, there’s a slew of tweaks you can make, from setting up your profile, choice of data fields to integrate with the iOS Health app, display preferences, your daily goals (by steps taken, distance covered or active calories burned) to a few alert options. The HR function and Always On Display are both defaulted to off. You can also set your HR Zones.
Unlike Garmin, Polar, FitBit and Jawbone devices which all have their online logging and community ecosystem, Mio has none. Thus, all data needs to be regularly synced or backed up to the smartphone. The Fuse can store up to 14 days of daily summary data in All-Day Mode (regular activity tracking) and an additional 30 hours of exercise data in Workout Mode (with HRM turned on). If you continue to ignore the “Low Mem” or “No Mem” alerts, the new data will overwrite the older data on a FIFO (first in, first out) basis.
Tinkering with the app settings is half the fun but being the impatient one when it comes down to new gear, I set everything up quickly and simply head out!
Putting it through the paces
The Fuse is water resistant up to 30 meters so you can continue wearing it while swimming or aqua running. Do note that touch functions as are the wireless link to apps are disabled whenever the Fuse is underwater. Since I don’t swim my activities will pretty much be land-based :). There’s still a chance of me testing it out in wet conditions but that’ll have to wait due to the lightning situation these days.
Comparing the Garmin-HR Chest Strap against the Fuse.
To kick things off, you’ll need to trigger the Workout Mode by lightly holding down the HR Touchpoint located in the lower center of the display (see photo below). The optical sensors will light up and the Fuse will take between 15-20 seconds to acquire your HR. To the left and right of the display are the Scroll Touchpoints where depending on your setup, will toggle between your HR, Pace, Steps, Distance and Calories. These touchpoints are quite sensitive and all you need to scroll through the screens is to lightly brush them. The Touchpoints are disabled when the Fuse is in a vertical position – this is to avoid accidentally triggering the controls.
Once the Fuse acquires your HR, the display will show your HR and the device will stay in standby mode. This is a simple yet nice touch so that you manually trigger the start of your workout only when you’re ready to get going. When I was finally ready, I started the 620 followed by the Fuse.
All through the workout duration, the Fuse did its job quietly, gently vibrating when it detected a change in the HR Zones. Pausing the recording requires just a light touch on the HR Touchpoint.
Once you’re done with your run, hold down the HR Touchpoint to first change the status to Pause and then to End the recording. Up to this point, the data are still stored on the device until you sync the Fuse with the phone. The total distance and pace will obviously not be as accurate as that recorded by a GPS watch but the HR readings, especially that of the Average HR (AHR) is very close – 138 on the Fuse versus 137 on the Garmin. The Max HR (MHR) are off 173 vs 160 but the example below was my first run. Notice too the difference in distance which is expected of a non-GPS device. Calibration is off but I understand that the readings will get more accurate with repeated use.
Linking the Fuse with the Garmin
Since the Fuse is ANT+ ready, connecting it to the Garmin 620 is a cinch. I reckon this will be the most popular setup amongst runners who are users of Garmin/Polar/Suunto watches looking to ditch the chest strap.
To connect the Fuse to the Garmin, hold down the HR Touchpoint. The Fuse will switch to the Workout mode and the HRM will be enabled. Again, the Fuse will be in a paused mode. A few seconds of pulse acquisition will take place afterwhich you’ll be able to see your current HR. The next step would be to enable the HR sensor on the 620. Pairing them up is easy and you’ll be prompted accordingly. To start the workout, you’ll need to start the Garmin and Fuse separately. Due to this 2-step start/stop process, there’s bound to be a little difference (negligible, if you ask me) between the readings on the Garmin and Fuse.
It was an ultra short run due to the terrible show of lightning. I love the rain but did dare to take any risks with bolts endlessly streaking across the skies. Back at the base, I synced the session back to the phone.
I’m not sure why but there were still some differences following the sync but again, the difference is negligible.
Fuse with the Mio GO app
Linking both the Mio GO app with the Fuse is simple enough but it gets quirky. Due to some strange design oversight, despite being connected, the Fuse and the Mio GO app don’t communicate the start of a workout between them. Hence starting the run on the Fuse will not start off the app tracking and vice versa. It’s truly a bummer to have to trigger (and stop) a workout twice.
Otherwise the other metrics are all captured and displayed on the app, real-time as the activity takes place. A nice touch is the breakdown of the time spent on each HR zone which means you’re able to tell if you’re sticking to the training objectives or are overdoing it on a recovery day.
After 2 weeks of usage, I can say that my Garmin HRM chest strap is no longer seeing active action. As a runner-deep-in-training, the Fuse is quicker to put on, easier to wash and dry. It pairs quickly with my 620 and there’s little fussing around and because it’s on my wrist for a large part of the day, there’s less chance that I’ll misplace it. I can see a greater appeal of the Mio Fuse to fitness enthusiasts who, in the absence of a GPS watch, can rely on its feature set for what it is. The lack of an online logging site, sets it back a bit, and so is the lack of a sleep tracker, something which can be remedied with a firmware update. However if you don’t place much importance over the negatives, then the Fuse is worth checking out.
- ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart (4.0) ready means plenty of integration with other devices such as GPS watches.
- Many choices of apps to interface with.
- Goodbye chest strap!
- Accurate and reliable HR reading.
- Provides a great option for HR based training.
- No allergic reaction to the silicon material.
- Decent battery life.
- Pricing is reasonable.
- Can’t truly replace the watch due to the absence of alarms.
- Starting a run from the app somehow doesn’t start off the activity on the Fuse and vice versa.
- There are rooms for improvement, feature-wise:
- No sleep tracker.
- No interval reminders to get off the chair.
- No online logging hence near impossible to track and view long term progress.
- Needs regular syncing with the phone.
Mio products are now available from the following outlets:
- Fahrenheit 88, KL
- KLIA 2, Sepang
- Mid Valley Megamall, KL
- Pavilion, KL
- Sunway Pyramid, Selangor
- 1 Mon’t Kiara, KL
- Publika, KL
- IOI City Mall, Selangor
- Mid Valley, KL
- Sunway Pyramid, Selangor
- Suria KLCC, KL
- The Gardens Mall, KL
- Bangsar Shopping Centre, KL
- Jaya Shopping Centre, Selangor
- Paradigm Mall, Selangor
- Bintang Plaza, Sarawak
The Marathon Shop
- Lot 10, KL (Coming soon)
- Sunway Pyramid, Selangor
- Gurney Plaza, Penang
- Gurney Plaza, Penang
Disclaimer: The Mio Fuse is a review unit provided courtesy of Distexpress (M) Sdn Bhd, the authorized distributor of Mio in Malaysia. It is now available in the country and retails for RM639. The Mio Alpha 2 retails for RM799. For a comparison chart of the different Mio products, hit this link. Thinking about the Mio Fuse? Stay tuned for a purchase offer for followers of the blog in the next few days.
Originally published: Apr 27th, 2015