Fremont, CA based Salutron may not be a name on your list of fitness wearables you’re considering this summer, but it recently released the LifeTrak Zone C410, a very capable fitness tracking watch that it hopes can contend with the big boys of fitness wearables. The Zone C410 has the step tracking functionality of all the other wearables, but as Salutron has its roots as a pioneer in on-demand ECG heart rate monitoring, it prides itself in having advanced heart rate monitoring technology.
We’ve spent the last couple months with the Zone C410 on our wrist to judge whether Salutron might be the “Cinderella” of fitness wearable companies this year. Here are our thoughts for your consideration!
Design and Hardware
We’ll be honest: the Zone C410 won’t win any awards in the looks category. Consisting of a low-resolution LCD display encased by plain black plastic and a black and blue resin band, it reminds us somewhat of the Casio and Timex sport watches that we used to wear back in the day. It’s not ugly either, but it’s not something you’d want to wear to black tie parties. However, it’s significantly narrower, thinner, and lighter than the Basis band that we reviewed last month, which means less bulk on your wrist that you have to carry around.
The band, which utilizes what Salutron calls a “SureSnap” mechanism, is similar to most of the other wrist-worn wearables out there in that it’s a little tricky to put on at first. Moreover, the holes that the pin part of the band goes into are also part of the band’s design, which made our wrist sometimes look like Swiss cheese after a day of heavy use. On the plus side, the bands are very easy to switch if blue isn’t your color.
The display, as we mentioned, is a low-resolution LCD, but can display quite a bit of information, including crude bar graphs to show trends. The display is backlit, but you have to press one of the buttons to activate it; no wrist-shaking for this wearable.
Finally, powering this wearable tracker is a simple coin battery that is stated to keep the C410 running for a year. We of course couldn’t verify this claim, but simply not having to plug another device in to charge is a huge plus in our book!
Since we mentioned that Salutron is known for its heart rate monitoring technology, we’ll start by saying it outperforms the Basis band. While Basis has said that its heart rate monitoring feature didn’t work during exercise, we constantly checked our heart rate on the C410 while running and found it to be within 5 bpm of our chest strap measurements. This was greatly beneficial in helping us determine whether to pick up the pace or stop for a breather. Our only wish was that the C410 could constantly monitor the heart rate, or at least that we wouldn’t have to press and hold a button to start it.
Step counting is pretty much what we’ve learned to expect with all digital pedometers – your mileage may vary (literally). While it would be nice to determine an accurate number of steps we take each day, we’ve concluded that it’s probably most helpful to use this number more as a baseline for establishing your goals and comparing your performance day to day.
The Zone C410 also has an automatic sleep detection feature. Like the Basis band, there’s no need to press any buttons to activate it; the C410 uses the accelerometer and the heart rate sensor to determine when you’re asleep or awake. The sleep detection feature was a little buggy, however; one day it didn’t register that we slept at all, on another day it measured three hours less than our actual sleep, and on another day, it still said that we were sleeping even after we had put the band on for the day and started walking. Moreover, the sleep statistics are a little lacking (more on this later).
Finally, we found the watch somewhat difficult to navigate. Sure, it can display a lot of information, and things such as settings and goals can be programmed directly on the watch, but they all required various combinations of button presses to perform. We actually kept a copy of the user manual nearby for the first week of testing just in case.
The Zone C410 uses Bluetooth Low Energy to sync data between itself and an iOS or Android device. In addition to your biometric data, settings and goals can also be synced, which kept button pressing on the tracker itself to a minimum. Syncing was fairly quick, but required us to press and hold a button on the tracker as well as initiate the syncing process on the app.
Speaking of the app, Salutron released it a few weeks into our testing. Scott ran into trouble and was only able to sync his C410 once, however, Ben found the app interface is clean and easy to read. He thinks the graphs could be improved visually with stronger bars or more smoothing. The C410 also syncs with Argus, an app we reviewed last year that turns your smartphone into a fitness tracker. Syncing with Argus was fast and easy; upon syncing, separate honeycombs appear in your timeline with the data from the C410. Step, distance, and calorie trends over the day can be viewed by tapping on their respective honeycombs. We were disappointed that sleep data was limited to your sleep and rise time and the duration of your sleep; more detailed information required an extra app that costs $1.99. Heart rate data was also a little sparse, but was expected since it’s not continuous monitoring.
- Accurate heart rate monitoring that works even during exercise
- One year battery life with an inexpensive, replaceable coin battery
- Competitively priced at $99
- Not huge fans of the overtly sporty design
- Low-resolution LCD display difficult to read
- Sleep detection has some quirks
Conclusion: Overall, the Zone C410 is a great choice for what we would call a 2nd-generation fitness tracker. Design opinions aside, it’s a great value at $99 if you’re looking for a wrist worn fitness tracker that you can sync wirelessly with your smartphone. Basis, Fitbit, and Jawbone should beware!
More information: LifeTrak website
Thanks to editor Ben Ouyang for contributing to this review!