Mio Fuse Review
Established fitness monitor company Mio Global has introduced a new activity band to complement their already impressive lineup of wrist worn heart rate monitors. This new model, the Mio Fuse, is marketed as an exercise-centered band taking advantage of Mio’s excellent optical heart rate sensing technology. Aimed directly at the fitness conscious searching for a band to keep track of specific workouts, Mio is keeping the Fuse simple and to the point.
As soon as the Fuse is removed from its cheery packaging, its size makes an impression. This is not an activity tracker designed to be worn and forgotten during the day; it’s a piece of workout gear. The Fuse’s chunky profile fits in a large LED screen, optical heart rate sensor, and all the functionality one would desire for a workout monitor.
The silicone housing and strap of the Fuse is a feature all on its own. The extremely comfortable, flexible material doesn’t feel heavy or sticky when worn. The strap is also quite breathable, featuring more than seventy holes throughout the size Large band. Speaking of which, the Mio Fuse comes in two wrist strap sizes, each of which is colored differently: the aqua blue size Small (5.9-7″), and the red size Large (6.1-8.2″). Understand that since the display and heart rate sensing unit are permanently encased in the strap, the straps are not interchangeable. If you want the other size or color, you’ll just have to buy a second complete unit.
With that in mind, it must be said that there really is a ton of adjustability in these bands. Not just for ventilation, each of the paired center holes is an adjustment point. Rather than using one of those little rubber loops to keep the extra length of strap from flopping around, Mio has gone with a two-prong snap system. This looks really slick and is very easy to operate with one hand, but tends to come unsnapped just as easily. When roughhousing or working out vigorously, it can be a bit irritating to have to constantly reattach the strap.
Opposite the clasp is the interface screen, with the heart rate sensor on the underside. The large LED screen is clear and easy to read, even in bright sunlight. On either side and on top of the display screen are touch-sensitive buttons in the form of a series of three small raised bumps. Belying their small size, the buttons are surprisingly responsive and easy to use. The left and right buttons are mostly used for scrolling through screens and features, while the top button is for starting and stopping the workout mode.
The unobtrusive optical heart rate sensor is a nice alternative to those uncomfortable chest straps for all-day use. Optical heart rate sensors work by flashing a bright light onto and through a wearer’s skin to record the movement of blood through the illuminated capillaries or arteries below. Optical sensors can be a little finicky compared to the EKG-style chest strap units, so it’s important to follow instructions closely and experiment a little bit to find exactly the right way to wear it for best accuracy and consistency. Mio suggests the Fuse be worn one to three inches above the wrist bones for just this reason. This position feels a bit strange at first, but adds to the accuracy of the heart rate measurement a great deal. When not in the heart rate measuring workout mode the band can certainly be worn in a more typical watch position.
It’s so refreshing to find fitness bands that have a decent degree of water resistance. Swimmers and frequent shower-takers rejoice; the Fuse is fully submersible up to three atmospheres (30m). Keep in mind that while the Fuse won’t be harmed during a swim, it’s important to note that the optical heart rate sensor can be thrown off in wet conditions.
When talking about fitness tracking features, it becomes pretty apparent that the Mio Fuse is designed as an activity band with workout-recording functions. The Fuse doesn’t track sleep or stairs. There’s no alarm clock or smartwatch-style phone notification functionality. In fact, the Fuse isn’t even designed to track heart rate throughout the day without killing the battery in no time flat. It does away with all those extra gadgets in order to provide a comparatively large LED display screen, a workout mode that’s extremely easy to use, a conservatively accurate step counter, and a distance and caloric expenditure estimator. In addition, the Fuse is equipped with ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart technology. This allows the Fuse to integrate with most common running and cycling computers and gadgets, providing basic utility as a heart rate strap.
As alluded to earlier, the real beauty of the Mio Fuse is its use in workout mode. To enter workout mode, simply hold down the top button until the Fuse flashes its green heart rate light. At this point, the band is searching for a heart rate. Once found, heart rate will be displayed on screen. From here, pressing the top button again will activate workout mode and start the timer. Navigating with the left and right buttons during workout mode will show workout-specific data related to heart rate, distance, time, and calories burned. To pause the workout, just tap the top button again.
Most folks interested in training with heart rate understand that the exact beats per minute (BPM) number isn’t important; rather, it’s only necessary to know the current BPM range of heart rate, known as a zone. Mio has put a lot of energy into ensuring the Fuse has easily understood zone alerts. First off, there are a series of colored LEDs that illuminate in different colors to correspond with certain heart rate zones. The lights are fairly bright, and are easy to see with a quick glance. In addition to the lights, there’s a vibrate mode that will cue the user in when zones change. This is particularly handy in long sleeve weather or during certain calisthenics or other workouts where a user’s wrists may not be easily seen. Zones are fully customizable and easily set for each user in the Mio Go app.
Regarding accuracy of heart rate measuring, Mio’s experience has really paid off. The optical sensor in the Fuse is something Mio has gotten quite right. The Fuse is by far the most accurate and consistent of available activity bands with an optical sensor. In comparison testing with a reliable chest strap, the Fuse was within 6% accuracy under even the most difficult testing conditions. Way to go, Mio.
Battery life on the Fuse deserves a round of applause. Using workout mode for only an hour and change each day, the Fuse regularly lasts around a week between charges. Since the heart rate sensor is what really drains the battery, total battery life will vary depending on how frequently and how long workout mode is activated. If left in workout mode, a dead battery can be expected in less than twelve hours.
Charging the Fuse doesn’t take long, but isn’t without its difficulties. The cord on the charging unit measures a mind-bogglingly short two inches. It’s not long enough to reach the floor from an outlet adaptor or from a USB port on the back of a desktop tower. The charger certainly packs easily, though, and the nagging irritation of the short cord is easily overcome by simply charging the Fuse through a laptop resting on a table.
On the daily fitness tracking side of things, Mio covers the bases. The Fuse has taken full advantage of the large LED screen when it comes to displaying progress toward a daily fitness goal, such as number of steps. To illustrate progress there’s a large rectangle, sized seventeen-by-five LEDs. Progress toward a daily goal is marked by the rectangle filling up.
The step counter and distance tracker have proven to be pretty accurate, if a bit conservative. Mio claims to have developed their step counting algorithm to minimize the false positives registered by many fitness trackers. As such, don’t expect many freebies from spirited driving, vigorous hair washing, or those hard-to-scrub greasy dishes.
The Mio Fuse App
Naturally, the Fuse is designed to be paired with Mio’s proprietary app, Mio Go. The Mio Go app is iOS and Android compatible, assuming the phone is Bluetooth 4.0 enabled. Currently Mio Go is sufficient, but leaves a bit to be desired in the way of details. Mio is aware of this shortcoming, and actually recommends that users wanting a more features or data to use a third-party app with the Fuse. Additional functionality is provided by the Fuse’s compatibility with most common fitness programs and apps such as Strava, RunKeeper, MapMyRun, and the like.
One thing the Mio Go app is necessary for is programming of the Fuse band. Small but necessary settings like organizing heart rate zones, determining daily fitness goals, and customizing of displayed screens are all accomplished through the app. Though functionality of the app is somewhat lacking, it’s pretty easy to use and links to the Fuse without much fuss.
With respect to seeming lack of basic features on both the Fuse band (sleep tracking and alarm) and the Go app, Mio is hard at work. This review isn’t the only one that’s pointed out some of these shortcomings, and Mio has been quite responsive to the criticism. Many of the features folks are asking for are simple software or firmware upgrades; one should expect to be seeing some of these updates available from Mio in the coming year.
All in all, the Mio Fuse is a relatively inexpensive, incredibly easy to use activity tracker. A knee jerk reaction is to desire extra functionality such as smartwatch capability in the Fuse, but that might be a slightly misdirected way of thinking. The Fuse doesn’t provide many complicating extraneous gizmos, instead focusing on its application as a simple workout band with excellent heart rate tracking. This leaves the door open for buyers to use a slimmer, more visually appealing fitness monitor for daily activity tracking and phone notification tasks. Meanwhile, the portly silicone Fuse band can be saved for more workout-specific applications. For tech-minded consumers wanting a tool that works very well for a task, rather than an average device that touches most of the bases, the Mio Fuse provides an excellent choice.
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