The Best Chest Strap HR Monitors for Super-Accurate Workout Data

A man running with a chest strap HR tracker
Polar

While fitness trackers are all the rage, an older gadget might be a better help if you’re looking to hit your fitness goals: a chest band heart rate tracker. They’re cheaper, more accurate, and rarely need a battery change.

These are more niche athlete gadgets and can’t easily be found on the shelves of Best Buy or Academy. But for those who want a simple and effective way to get super-accurate heart rate data, they can’t be beaten. We’ve selected the best on the market.

The Best Overall Chest HR Tracker: Wahoo TICKR

The Wahoo TICKR chest HR tracker
Wahoo

For anyone who wants to make the switch to a chest strap heart rate monitor without breaking the bank, the Wahoo TICKR is the best option. This super-simple tracker runs on a cheap watch battery for months (or even years), and connects to most exercise equipment via the ANT+ wireless standard, with Bluetooth available as a backup for most phone exercise apps. (Wahoo makes its own app, but the tracker works with almost any app that supports external hardware.)

Its simple hardware and snap-on, adjustable strap are just about foolproof. It helps that it’s tiny: The low-profile tracker can easily fit underneath even tight workout clothes. For an accurate upgrade without the frills, you can’t do any better.

Best Budget Chest HR Tracker

Wahoo TICKR Heart Rate Monitor, Bluetooth/ANT+

The Wahoo Tickr is inexpensive, unobtrusive, and easy to use. It’s also among the least expensive wireless trackers on the market.

The Most Accurate Chest HR Tracker: Polar H10

The Polar H10 tracker and chest strap
Polar

Runners and cyclists adore the Polar H10, thanks to measurement accuracy that consistently beats the competition. Its electrocardiogram sensor, waterproof design, and dual Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity (both at the same time, if you need it) means it can be used in almost any situation.

The user-replaceable battery is rated for 400 hours of active tracking, and it can save a workout session in local memory if you don’t have your phone or tracking gadget handy. It also works on the semi-proprietary 5 Khz “Gymlink” wireless standard. And yes, despite the Polar branding, the H10 is more than happy to work with third-party apps.

Most Accurate Chest HR Tracker

Polar H10 Heart Rate Monitor

Polar’s H10 is the gold standard of basic heart rate trackers, and it works with Bluetooth, ANT+, and GymLink.

What to Expect from Google’s Big Pixel Event Tomorrow, October 15

The leaked Pixel 4, from Google's tweet.
Google

The yearly smorgasbord of Google-branded consumerism, aka the Pixel Event, is nearly upon us. And in typical Google fashion, pretty much everything has leaked well before the event arrives. We’ll be on-site to break down everything as Google unveils it, but in the meantime let’s look at what we expect to see there.

To be fair, it’s entirely possible that Google will pull out some major surprises—Microsoft certainly did last week at its similar event. But we can say with about 99 percent certainty that we’re going to see this year’s refresh of Google’s flagship Pixel phones and a new self-branded Chromebook. We’ll probably see a lot of new information on forthcoming Google software and services, too. Other things, like a refreshed Google Nest Home Mini and a closer look at the upcoming Stadia, are less certain.

Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL

The 2019 Pixel phones might just be the most-leaked Google phones ever, which puts them high up on Michael’s Scale of Massive Tech Hardware Leaks (that I just invented). Pretty much every aspect of these phones’ hardware design, and a good chunk of the new Android 10-based software, has been leaked, some of it in the form of early promotional material from Google itself. The highlights:

The Pixel 4 phone on a black background.
Google “leaked” a more or less complete image of the Pixel 4 months ago. Google
  • One big phone, one little phone, with 6.3-inch and 5.77-inch screens, respectively. The big one will be 1440p, the little one 1080p, with super-smooth 90 Hz refresh rates.
  • The rear-mounted fingerprint sensors are gone, replaced by Google’s brand of face recognition, much like FaceID on modern iPhones. It’s using a front-facing array of cameras and sensors.
  • Speaking of front-facing stuff: That unsightly notch from the Pixel 3 XL is gone, replaced by a thicker top bezel to hold all those IR cameras and sensors. Unlike the 3 and 3 XL, the small and large Pixel 4 phones will look more or less the same, complete with a distinct square-shaped camera cluster on the rear. Multiple unconventional colors will be offered, but that two-tone glass from all three previous pixel generations seems to be gone.

  • Gesture control: Another new tech goodie hidden inside that bezel is a special sensor for detecting hand gestures, which will allow you to perform frequent actions like answering a call or advancing a music track with a wave of your hand. Google calls it Motion Sense, and it’s an offshoot of Project Soli.
  • Cameras: Expect two rear cameras on both phones, 12 MP and 16 MP, with standard and telephoto options up to 8X zoom. (This is probably a combination of some solid sensors and glass, combined with Google’s best-in-class camera software.) A single front-facing conventional camera is hiding in the bezel.
  • Internals: Expect the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset (very snappy, but not the absolute latest model) and 6 GB of RAM (50 percent more than last year), with storage options at 64 GB and 128 GB for both phones. As with previous Pixels, they won’t have MicroSD card slots or dual SIM card slots, and the headphone jack is a thing of the past. Batteries are 2800 mAh and 3700 mAh, with wireless charging.
  • 5G: We’ve heard late-breaking rumors of a 5G model. That will presumably be a spruced-up Pixel 4 XL—those advanced radios are big and power-hungry—and might come later at a much higher price. Speaking of which . . .
  • Prices: We don’t know yet. We would expect them to start at around $800 for the Pixel 4 and $900 for the Pixel 4 XL, with higher prices for storage boosts and that possible 5G variant.
  • Release date: Presumably less than a month after the October 15 announcement, with pre-orders opening day of.

Pixelbook Go

Google has always tried to position its self-branded Chrome OS devices as the cream of the crop, and they have been. But after the critical and sales flop of the Pixel Slate tablet, it looks like they’re hoping to score with a more conventional and less expensive form factor. Hence the Pixelbook Go: a less expensive Google-branded laptop, with a regular (non-convertible) hinge and some cheaper materials.

the Pixelbook Go, a leaked laptop, held up by a model.
9to5Google

According to leaks from 9to5Google, the Chromebook Go looks like Google’s answer to the MacBook Air or Surface Laptop, a step down from the premium notebook category filled by the Pixelbook that’s still more than capable of getting the job done for most users. The leaked hardware uses a 13.3-inch 1080p screen, an Intel Core i3 processor, and 8 GB of RAM. Processor, storage, 4K screen, and memory upgrades should be available too.

The design has a fingerprint sensor for easy unlocking, dual USB-C ports for charging, video out, and accessories, and support for the Pixelbook Pen on its touchscreen. The speakers are front-firing, something that’s becoming rarer as laptop designs continue to slim down. Colors are rumored to be “not pink” (sort of baby pink or salmon, depending on the light) and black.

While it’s certainly more pedestrian than either the Pixelbook or the much-maligned Pixel Slate, the Pixelbook Go seems to be using more premium materials than you’d expect from a budget machine, including a unique ridged plastic insert on the bottom replacing the more usual laptop “feet.” It’s also using the excellent Pixelbook family keyboard. Pricing and release info aren’t available.

New Nest Devices

An updated Nest Home Mini (nee Google Home Mini) has been spotted in regulatory documents, featuring a slimmer design, a headphone jack for connecting to more powerful speakers, and a built-in option for a wall mount. Which is something a lot of people will be happy to see, if the accessory market is anything to go by. We’re also expecting a next-gen version of the Google Wifi mesh networking hardware, this time branded the Nest Wifi. It might feature a built-in speaker, combining Wi-Fi routers and Google Assistant smart speakers into a single, roundish, plastic blob thing.

The G2 wall mount consists of two pieces: a wrap for the plug and a tray for the Home Mini.
Michael Crider

Other New Announcements

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This New Essential Phone Looks Wild, Man

The Essential "Project GEM" concept in hand.
Essential

If you follow mobile phone design, you’re familiar with Essential, an indie manufacturer that lit up the tech press but failed to find commercial success with its first phone. The company is showing off a new concept on Twitter.

While the first Essential phone kept the same basic slate profile of a modern smartphone and attempted innovation with a camera notch and modular add-ons, this “Project GEM” device is a more radical departure, with a much taller and slimmer silhouette. It basically looks like a standard Android phone, if you skewed it to 150% height and 50% width in Photoshop.

In less technical terms: if phone design was a piece of paper in a kindergarten classroom, a standard phone would be a “hamburger” fold. This Essential concept is a “hot dog” fold.

Beyond that, there’s not much to say about the hardware. It’s a phone (or maybe a TV remote? Hard to say.). It’s got the now-standard rounded corners on its super-tall screen. It has what looks like a cutout camera on the front, a camera with a large bump on the back, and a fingerprint reader. It’s running what looks like live (if not final) software, with a custom user interface making more efficient use of that odd-shaped screen than unmodified Android would. It appears to have multiple interactive panels, in a vaguely widget-like arrangement, on its long screen. We don’t know if it’s running Android like the original Essential PH-1, but given the operating system’s open source flexibility, that seems likely.

A screenshot of the Essential PH-1's camera attachment.
Essential tried—and failed—to make a splash with modular accessories on the PH-1. Essential

Assuming that there aren’t any huge surprises hiding in the hardware, one might be tempted to dismiss this as either an easy way to gauge interest, or a serious product that’s trying to find a profitable new niche. (And of course, it could be both.) Many manufacturers are looking for an edge with gentle innovations in hardware, like pop-up cameras from OnePlus to kill the screen notch. Sony is trying something similar to this Essential design, but far less extreme, with its extra-tall Xperia 1. The Palm brand has been resurrected to try and make super-tiny Android phones as “secondary” devices. And all that’s without mentioning more ambitious shifts, like folding phones from Samsung, Huawei, and others.

But there’s a more interesting way to approach this. Let’s give Essential the benefit of the doubt and assume that this will become a real flesh-and-blood (um, aluminum-and-glass?) product at some point. What problems would a super-long, super-skinny phone solve? This isn’t one of the radical Nokia designs of the mid-00s, where a company that thought it was invincible was creating insanely weird stuff, just because it could. This is, I would guess, a hardware and software team with specific goals, looking to redefine at least some of the ways that we interact with the ubiquitous slate phone form factor.

Essential

“We’ve been looking for a way to reframe your perspective on mobile,” the tweet says. And it’s not the first company to try and shake up a phone market that’s become predictable, if not outright boring (in a good way). If Essential wants to shift the standard form factor, it looks like they’re going to try to do so in a more gentle way than, say, the Galaxy Fold or Surface Duo. That’s a less exciting goal, but perhaps a more attainable one.

If you’re tempted to dismiss this as a Hail Mary pass from a company that’s failed to gain a foothold in the incredibly competitive smartphone market, I would suggest holding off. Recall that, when the original Galaxy Note came on the market with its “insanely big,” “colossal,” “gargantuan” 5.3-inch screen in 2011, it was met with similar scorn. The Galaxy Note is one of the best-selling lines on the planet, and it’s pushed every single manufacturer on the market into bigger and bigger phone screens, including the normally unshakable Apple. Ignoring seemingly odd design choices is something manufacturers do at their peril.

The original Galaxy Note
The Galaxy Note was “insanely big” in 2011. Today it’s smaller than the newest iPhone. Samsung

That said, the Galaxy Note had one of the biggest tech companies in the world behind it, and even in 2011 it was expanding on a growing trend. By comparison, Essential has name recognition among gadget news addicts, and that’s about it. If they want to shake up the smartphone market, they’ll need to demonstrate how that new form factor can actually benefit users. We’ll be excited to see what they come up with.

WaterField’s CitySlicker Bag Gives the Switch a Touch of Grown-Up Class

The CitySlicker Switch case with a Switch and LEGO set
Michael Crider

The Switch is oddly appealing to grown-ups for a portable Nintendo console, so it makes sense that at least some of them want to treat their handheld to premium accessories. WaterField’s CitySlicker bag serves this market.

The CitySlicker is a compact case for the Switch and a few mobile-friendly accessories, suitable as a travel clutch on its own or as an organization and protection tool to drop into a bigger bag. It’s pricey at $80, but considering the quality of the materials and construction, not unreasonably so. The CitySlicker should serve well for people who want a more grown-up way to carry their Switch, with real leather replacing Mario’s face on the exterior.

A closeup of the cartridge slots on the CitySlicker case.
The case has five slots for cartridges—too bad I don’t have one. Michael Crider

A single-flap design hides a surprising amount of organization inside the clutch. Open the main leather flap, a dark red on our review unit subtly emblazoned with “WaterField, Made in SF,” and you’ll immediately see a row of tight leather tabs for easy access to spare Switch cartridges. It’s got smart little finger holes in the bottom to quickly pop them out; I only wish I had a cartridge around to show you. Since I’m all-digital with my games, an SD card will have to suffice.

Inside the case, with Joy-Cons in two pockets.
The case interior has a couple of small pockets and super-soft felt lining. Michael Crider

Inside the main pocket, you’ll find super-soft, felt-lined protection for the Switch itself. A dedicated microfiber patch cleans the screen every time you remove it. There are two slim pockets on either side, but with the compact nature of the case, they can’t hold anything more substantial than a spare Joy-Con controller or two—and filling them both at once would stretch the bag to capacity. There’s just enough room for a slim hand grip, if you find the Switch’s controls a little cramped.

Around back is a zipper pouch stretching the length of the bag. This isn’t big enough for a full-sized controller, but the stretchy material gave it just enough room for an AC adapter and my trimmed-down dock. More typically, it would be a good spot for a rechargeable battery and some headphones.

The CitySlicker's rear pocket, with spare battery and cable
The rear zipper pocket holds some bigger accessories thanks to its stretchy material. Michael Crider

Two small leather pouches on either side of the CitySlicker look nice, but I couldn’t find anything useful to do with them—you might just be able to cram a MicroSD card in there. A small strap running along the bottom-center seems decorative, too.

What I like most about the bag is that big flappy flap. The full grain genuine dead cow looks fantastic and should get a nice patina after a few months. It’s secured with two magnetic clasps that are firm enough not to come undone in your bag but have enough give that opening the CitySlicker with a single hand is never difficult. The choice of tougher nylon for the body and felt for the interior is appreciably utilitarian.

The CitySlicker with the Switch sliding out.
Michael Crider

The CitySlicker costs $80, a pretty decent chunk of the Switch’s retail price. But if you constantly carry yours with you, and you want a bag that shows off some sophisticated style instead of broadcasting, “I’m carrying a game console,” it does a nice job. The bag is available in a variety of colors with add-on accessories, and sizes for the Switch, Switch with a hand grip, and the new Switch Lite are on offer. WaterField also makes a CitySlicker for the older Nintendo 2DS XL and 3DS XL, among other bags and cases for the Switch.

Tile’s New Mate, Pro, and Slim Trackers Are Winners, but Skip the Sticker

Various keys, a wallet, and a tablet, all with Tile trackers.
Michael Crider

Tile is the current front-runner in the awkwardly-titled “little Bluetooth ringer gadgets that help you find your stuff” category. With refreshed Tile Mate, Tile Pro, and Tile Slim products for 2019, it remains so.

The latest versions of the square Tile Mate and Tile Pro look largely unchanged. They’re ideally suited for keys and other common items, but they’re now louder and work across longer distances. Both still have coin batteries that you can replace when necessary.

The Tile Slim has a new body with a credit-card footprint. It’s perfect for slipping into an easily-lost wallet and a definite step up in terms of usability.

The last member of this refreshed line—and the only completely new product—is the Tile Sticker. This is the cheapest, smallest Tile yet, but it’s also objectively the worst. Outside of some very specific uses, it’s a hard sell versus the much more versatile Tile Mate.

The New Tile Mate

The workhorse of Tile’s line is the Mate—a 1.4-inch square with a removable watch battery. It has a hole so you can slip it onto your keyring, and then you can find it with your phone via its chirpy little speaker. If you press the button on the Tile Mate, you can find your phone, instead.

Car keys with a caribiner and Tile Mate tracker.
The Tile Mate is the best option for basic finding, Michael Crider

The revised Tile Mate claims you can activate it from up to 200 feet away, which is pretty optimistic, according to my tests. With a line of sight, I could only get it to ring at about 150 feet away. And it failed to connect at a little over 50 feet in my house through several walls and a backpack. When I went to a different room (eliminating one wall), it rang from 40 feet away after it searched for a bit. If you have a larger home and don’t mind wandering, this should be more than enough for most people.

The tile Mate's user-removable battery, exposed.
Swapping out batteries for the Tile Mate is easy. You can find a replacement at any drug store. Michael Crider

The mate is nice and loud. It registered 70 decibels on my phone’s audiometer. Its battery claims are a bit harder to test, as I don’t have a year to write this review. But even if they’re not completely accurate, since you can remove the battery cover and find a CR1632 cell at any department store, this is forgivable.

New Tile Slim

The former Tile Slim was a big square coaster. It fit with Tile’s branding but was only practical for purses, backpacks, laptop bags, and other things that already have enough space for a Tile Mate. Or you could stick it on a tablet or laptop if you supplied the tape. The redesign is much sleeker, with a standard credit-card footprint. The internal speaker, Bluetooth radio, non-removable battery, and activation button are crammed into just 2.5mm (0.1 inches) of vertical space.

The Tile Slim sliding into a wallet
Tile’s Slim has been redesigned to fit into standard wallet pockets with ease. Michael Crider

As a dedicated wallet-finder, the Slim is brilliant. It slips into my small bifold a bit tightly, but not so much that the cheap stitching on my wallet was endangered. It’s loud—the same 70-decibel level as the Mate. And it works even better; I was able to get a connection at the full 200-foot range with line of sight. In my interior test, it couldn’t quite take the maximum 50+ feet of my house, with two walls and a backpack in-between. However, from 40 feet and through just one wall, it connected almost immediately. I assume all that extra surface area allows its interior antenna to work better.

The Tile Slim, TIle Mate, and a credit card.
The Tile Slim is just 2.5mm thin, barely thicker than a credit card. Michael Crider

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