Winter is coming. The air is becoming chillier and the sky grows darker earlier, which means those whose mood, energy, and overall health are affected by the changing season are at risk of turning into real-life white walkers!
Just in time for the year’s end, Salutron has released the LifeTrak BRITE R450, a new wrist-worn fitness tracker that does the usual step, sleep, and heart rate tracking, but also has a couple extra features up its sleeve. The focal point of the BRITE R450, as the name suggests, is the “LightTrak” monitor which simultaneously monitors the amount of blue and white light you are exposed to. Blue light has been shown to be beneficial to enhancing one’s mood, boosting energy, and improving sleep, but can also be detrimental when a person is exposed to it at the wrong times.
Salutron was kind enough to send us a R450 to try, so here’s our take on whether it’ll help with your seasonal affective disorder.
Design and Hardware
We found the look of the BRITE R450 to actually be quite refreshing. Not necessarily because it was a major change from the Zone C410, but because it’s actually a smartwatch fitness tracker with a round face! There’s something timeless about the BRITE R450’s circular face with its protruding crown on the side. It’s no Rolex by any stretch of the imagination, but in a market saturated by smartwatches with corners, such as the Pebble, Fitbit, and the upcoming Apple Watch, the R450 kind of stands out. The display itself is a low-resolution LCD display surrounded by a ring of metal. Along the right edge is the aforementioned crown (actually a button) and two additional buttons above and below. The watch face is 42mm in diameter; with the addition of the protruding buttons, it was wide enough to leave some indents in the back of our hand when we’d bend our wrist back.
Like the Zone C410, the band uses a “SureSnap” mechanism. We’ve never been fans of this type of fastener. It’s a little tricky to put on at first, and the holes that the pin goes into made our wrist sometimes look like Swiss cheese after a day of heavy use.
The display, as we mentioned, is a low-resolution LCD, but can show quite a bit of information, including crude bar graphs of trends and smartphone notifications (more on this later). The display is backlit, but you have to press one of the buttons to activate it.
Finally, powering this wearable tracker is a simple coin battery that is stated to keep the R450 running for 6 months. 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!
Let’s start with what hasn’t changed. Like the Zone C410, the BRITE R450 has heart rate monitoring technology and step counting built in. We won’t go into these features, as our experience was largely unchanged from our review of the C410. But to summarize: heart rate tracking was reliable, but tedious because of having to press and hold a button to start it. Your mileage may vary for step counting, so don’t rely on it to give an accurate number, but rather use it to compare your day-to-day activity.
Sleep tracking has a new feature: in addition to automatically knowing when you fall asleep and monitoring how well you sleep, the R450 now includes a vibrating alarm that can wake you up at the most optimal time based on your sleep quality. This new feature was hit or miss; as with the C410, we still had days where it wouldn’t register our sleep, wouldn’t wake from a sleep tracking mode, and gave a widely inaccurate sleep measurement. As the smart alarm relies on the sleep tracking working properly, you can probably guess that we were thankful for our rude cellphone alarm on a few occasions when our wrist failed to vibrate to wake us up. We honestly wouldn’t want to wear the watch to bed every night anyway.
We mentioned above that the R450 is able to receive smartphone notifications. While this feature worked, we were somewhat disappointed by its implementation. As a comparison, we wore a Pebble on our other wrist, which has reliably delivered various alerts for years. We were puzzled to find that during our first Saturday of testing, the Pebble would continuously deliver our college football scores, but the R450 failed to do so. Only after syncing the watch to the LifeTrak app would notifications be pushed to it. We also found it very annoying that the LifeTrak would always push all notifications to the watch unless we cleared them from our iPhone. Finally, we felt that the layout of the notifications on the R450 made poor use of all the available pixels and necessitated pressing through multiple screens to view the entire notification. Needless to say, notifications work but still need a lot of work.
And now to address the BRITE 450’s pièce de résistance, the “LightTrak” component that constantly monitors the amount of blue and white light that you are exposed to during the day. We thought it was a great concept that could provide useful information for this time of year. We quickly realized, however, that while light tracking is good in theory, it was poorly executed. The main limitation is the form factor of the R450 itself. As the days grew shorter and the weather got colder, we found ourselves switching from t-shirts to long sleeves. Unfortunately, in an effort to keep our arms warm, our sleeves would also cover the R450. This had the unfortunate effect of almost always alerting us to get more sunlight, even on days when we took walks outside to breathe in the cold air. We don’t doubt that the “LightTrak” monitor is accurate and potentially useful. However, this sensor would be far more useful in a form factor that isn’t covered by clothing during cold, dark winter days.
Moreover, we didn’t find the sunlight exposure graphs on the LifeTrak app to be very useful. The breakdown of the amount of light in “lux” we were receiving meant little to us in terms of our health. We think LifeTrak should have de-emphasized quantity and focused on general goal progress and potential health benefits for this statistic.
Since we reviewed the Zone C410, LifeTrak has developed an improved version of its own syncing app. The app is useful in adjusting all the settings on the watch (as the watch itself is still rather confusing to navigate), but we had issues being able to sync reliably and consistently with the app. We’ll be more forgiving here, as we were evaluating a beta version of the app.
The app otherwise did a decent job at displaying all of the data collected from the watch. It’s not the cleanest and most visually appealing design, but it’s straightforward and gets the job done.
- Refreshing, circular design
- One year battery life with an inexpensive, replaceable coin battery
- Sunlight exposure tracking unique to wearables and good in theory…
- …but its implementation in a smartwatch makes it useless with many types of clothing
- Notifications feature is buggy and poorly designed
- Vibrating alarm hit or miss due to quirks in sleep detection
Conclusion: Save yourself $30 and go with the $99 Zone C410 if you want a product from a lesser known wearables company. You probably won’t find the light exposure tracking very useful unless your winter wardrobe consists of short sleeves, or you know exactly how much light you need to avoid cabin fever.
Buy a LifeTrak BRITE 450: Product Page…