We've tested out a wide variety of chest straps, wrist units, hip units, arm units, and other metabolism-tracking systems over the years. Our current favorite happens to be the Body Media unit. We've tried a number of chest-strap-requiring devices, and were quite interested to see how this Omron HR-500U Strapless Heart Rate Monitor compared. We wanted enthusiastically for it to work well.
My boyfriend tried it first. He works out daily and does a mix of bike, treadmill, weight, and other activities. He simply could not get the monitor to record his heart rate well. He's 5'10" so medium sized. The unit would find him for a moment, then lose him. Then find him again. He tried both arms, a variety of locations, including moving it around the wrist to the back side. It just wouldn't work.
So he handed it over to me. I do lighter exercise. Yoga, walking, Wii dancing, kayaking, that sort of stuff. I'm 5'6" and the unit would find my heart rate and show it at least most of the time. It did still have issues with losing me. And when it showed a value, it was often in the correct range (compared with other devices we have which we have shown are accurate) but at times it was off. Sometimes a little bit, sometimes wildly.
I tested it for a full month, really hoping I could figure out some combination of location and tightness and such to get it to work. I don't like chest straps and would love to not have to wear one. But this HR-500U just isn't ready for prime time.
I appreciate that it has the computer connector. I appreciate that it can be worn as a watch. But if it doesn't show correct values reliably, then I just won't bother wearing it. There too many other options out there that do work well.
I was sent a review copy of the Omron HR-500U from the Amazon Vine Program in order to do the review. Thank goodness. I would have been fairly grumpy if I had paid for this. I'll lend it to a few friends to see if any of them can get better results, and I'll post updates if they do figure something out. But I don't have high hopes.