Basis Peak – The Best Fitness Tracker You Can Buy

Basis Peak Fitness TrackerI love the new Basis Peak fitness watch. I have tried several other fitness trackers including, the Fitbit Flex, Samsung Galaxy Gear 2, and the Basis B-1. I can tell you the Peak is the best one out there – hands down!

What is the Basis Peak?

The Basis Peak is a new fitness and sleep tracker that also happens to be a smart watch. This means a single device that provides fitness and sleep analysis – including heart rate during exercise – with smart watch notifications (coming soon). Check out the video below for a complete overview.

Why is a Fitness Tracker Important To Me?

I have been blessed with a number of cardiac conditions. These conditions have motivated me to exercise. I have also been blessed with an addictive personality, which means I exercise quite frequently, sometimes to an extreme.

One of my heart conditions, arrhythmia (A-Fib), means my heart rate can race out of control at times, especially while exercising. I have an implanted defibrillator that will shock my heart back to a normal rhythm when this occurs. However, I like to avoid that shocking experience as much as possible.

How do I avoid these shocks (for the most part)? I monitor my heart rate during exercise.  When I see my heart rate approaching the magic number that will fire my defibrillator, I back off on what I am doing.

The Stinky Solution

Over the years, I have used a variety of devices to monitor my heart rate. I started with watch and chest strap combo devices. In this scenario, the watch is typically a big ugly plastic device wirelessly paired with a monitor that is attached to a band wrapped around your chest.

I then moved on to a chest strap that paired with an app on my phone. This got rid of the ugly watch, but meant I needed my phone with my while exercising.  Also, not as convenient as looking at the watch to see my heart rate since it was strapped to my arm.

Honestly, either scenario was somewhat of a pain. The chest straps have to be adjusted to fit just about every time they are worn. The contacts on the straps need moisture in order to work, which usually meant rubbing spit on the contacts or using Electrode gel. On top of that, the straps start to smell bad after enough runs!

The Almost Right Solution

When Basis came out with the B-1 activity tracker last year, I thought all my problems had been solved. The B-1 was capable of tracking your heart rate through sensors on the back of the watch. Another amazing feature – It could tell what activity I was doing (run, bike, walk, sleep) with no input required from me. Magically, all the data gathered by the tracker would show up on the mybasis website. Pretty cool stuff. However, there were several problems with B-1:

  1. The heart rate monitor was inconsistent. The measurements were not as accurate as a chest strap monitor and were not real time.
  2. The strap kept breaking. An obvious design flaw.  In their defense, Basis sent me a new watch both times this happened.
  3. It was butt ugly. It looked like the first digital watch I had in 1978.

I loved the concept, but couldn’t trust the heart rate monitor. So, it was back to the clunky watch and stinky chest strap.

The Right Solution

When all the Apple watch talk started, I began to get excited for a solution to my fitness tracker/heart rate monitor needs.  However, when the specs finally came out, I saw a little more focus on style and apps, and less of the true fitness tracking I was looking for.  Then something arrived in my inbox – an email from Basis (since acquired by Intel) letting me know that help was on the way – the new Basis Peak!

I preordered my Peak immediately.  Once it finally arrived in late November, I was not disappointed.  This watch has everything I was looking for (and more on the way).  The best thing about the old Basis B-1 holds true in the new Basis Peak – no need for user interaction.  Unlike the Fitbit or Samsung, I don’t have to tell my Peak when I am going for a run, bike ride, or even a nap – it automagically knows and starts to track my activity.

So what happens to the data captured by the Peak?  It is synced, to your phone and uploaded to the mybasis website.  This first image is a snapshot of all my activity from a single day.

Basis Peak Activity Details

As you can see, there is a lot of information displayed on this chart.  You can toggle what is display based on your preferences. Of note here is the spike around noon.  On this day I went for a run at lunch.  The heart rate and perspiration went up, but the skin temp went down. Makes sense since the outside temperature was in the mid-30s and I was not wearing a jacket.  It’s impressive to see all this data tracked at such a detailed and accurate level.

The next image is a more detailed snapshot of what was going on during the run.

Basis Peak Run Activity Detail

The green bars are the calories burned during the run.  I also turned on the heart rate and skin temperature toggles.  You can see that my skin temperature continued to go down the longer I was outside (it was cold).  Also interesting is the missing heart rate data around 12:40.  I didn’t die, the Peak just lost contact with my skin briefly.  In my limited use of the Peak, this happens occasionally.  Around 12:50 my heart rate starts to go up.  This tracks very will with the course I was running – think hills.  And remember, I am watching my heart rate live on my watch to make sure I don’t push it too far.

This next image provides insight into how I slept on the night of the run.

Basis Peak Sleep Activity

Sleep continues to be the weak link in my overall fitness.  Although a 90% sleep score looks good, I need to get more sleep and at least a little deep sleep.  I got up a couple of times and slept lightly for the majority of the night.  This was after getting up early, working out in the morning, running at lunch, and working all day.  Something to work on.

This final image is very interesting to a HeartGeek.  Pattern charts are available for heart rate, calories, steps, perspiration and skin temperature.

Basis Peak Patterns

My pattern is pretty consistent, which is a good thing.  My heart rate is at it’s lowest while sleeping and winding down in the evening – makes sense.  There is a spike around 7 AM which is the time I usually workout – again, makes sense.  What’s odd is my heart rate goes up occasionally around noon and 6PM. This could mean I am a very active eater and I get excited to go home and see my family.  It could also mean that I usually walk somewhere to buy my lunch and get in my car at the end of the day.  For the record, I am excited to go home and see my family at the end of the day!

What’s Great About the Peak

The Basis Peak’s ability to automatically track activity and sleep sets it apart from the competition.  Also, the continuous heart rate monitoring provides the best accuracy of any wrist worn device out there.  Here is a summary of the good:

  1. It does the work – No pressing buttons to let the watch know I am going on a run or going to sleep.  Put it on and forget about it.
  2. Constant heart rate – Very important for a HeartGeek.  Much better than the previous version.
  3. Waterproof – Can be worn while swimming or in the shower.
  4. It’s always on – I don’t have to tap the screen or flick my wrist to see the time.  But, I wish the date was always on also.
  5. Good insight – The web app is great and provides a ton of insight into your activity and sleep.  I am not sold on the mobile app yet.
  6. Shares data – My heart rate is shared with Endomondo, another fitness app I use on my phone to track distance.  It also works with Strava and MapMyRun.
  7. Slim design – This thing actually looks halfway decent.  It much smaller and more fashionable than the previous version.
  8. It’s a watch – I like watches.  I don’t like wearing a fitness band and a watch.
  9. Comfortable – The strap is very comfortable.  I wear the watch 23 hours per day and no complaints yet.

What’s Just OK About the Peak

I love the Peak, but it is not perfect.  A few things that could be improved:

  1. Heart rate monitoring – there are occasional dropouts for heart rate monitoring.
  2. It does not track distance – no GPS.
  3. It’s a watch – only a negative if you don’t like wearing a watch.
  4. Mobile app needs some design work.
  5. It has to be charged – They all do and the battery life is decent (4-5 days), but I am holding out hope for better battery performance in the future.

As you can see, the positives outweigh the negatives, and things are about to get better.  In the next couple of weeks, Basis will release a firmware update that provide realtime notifications.  This means you’ll be able to get notifications for texts, calls and calendar events without having to look at your phone.

If you are thinking about buying a fitness tracker, the Peak is the one to get – hands down.

My Favorite Heart Health Gadget

AliveCorWhen I started heartgeek, I promised I would provide information and reviews of technology related to heart health.  In doing so, I found a way to justify my uncontrollable appetite for new phones, watches, fitness trackers, and miscellaneous gadgets.  The first piece of tech up for review is the AliveCor Heart Health Monitor.

What is This Thing?

The AliveCor heart monitor is a serious little piece of equipment that allows you to monitor your heart health in realtime by  providing a personal electrocardiogram (ECG) on your phone.  AliveCor sells the unit integrated into cases ( iPhone 5 or Samsung S4 only) or as a universal attachment plate that can be stuck on the back of any phone.  The universal attachment is a good thing for someone like me that changes phones every 6 months.

Why Use It?

I use it to satisfy my inner geek of course.  But  I also use it to monitor my heart health, particularly my arrhythmia or a-fib episodes.  I can fire up the app on my phone, put my fingertips on the device, and within 30 seconds have an ECG readout.  I am not a doctor, but I can pretty quickly identify a normal or abnormal reading.  So what if there is an abnormal reading?  We will get to that further down.

Is it Hard to Setup?

The setup is very simple.  I attached the AliveCor pod to the back of my phone in about 10 seconds.  It can also be attached to the back of a 3rd party case.  The pod is held securely by what I imagine is some type of 3M adhesive.  Be forewarned, it takes a bit of work to pry the pod off when you change phones.

Next, I downloaded the AliveCor app (free) from the Google Play Store.  Once the app was downloaded, I had to enter a bit of personal information.  AliveCor assures users that all of their personal data is kept safe in two places.  First, in the AliveCor app itself and second, on the AliveCor servers.

AliveCor states that their servers are secure and HIPAA and EU Data privacy compliant.  Fine by me.  If you have looked around this site, you know that I am not too concerned with privacy.

Is it Hard to Use?

Using the device is almost as easy as setup.   Fire up the app, put your fingers on the device, and your live ECG appears on the screen almost instantly.  After 30 seconds, the readout is final and is then stored on your phone and the AliveCor servers.

Now here is the really cool part.  You can print a PDF of the reading or send it directly to your doctor or anyone else who may be interested.  For a small fee, you can send your reading (via the app) for further analysis by a U.S. board certified cardiologist or cardiac technician.

The image below shows a reading I took earlier this year.  As you can see, the heart rate is very low.

Sinus Bradycardia 54

As I mentioned, I am not a doctor, but that reading didn’t seem good.  I decided to use the AliveCor ECG analysis service to get some more insight.  The two levels of reporting and pricing are shown below.  I believe I chose the $12.00 report for this reading.  Although turnaround time is quoted at 24 hours, the report came back in about 10 minutes.

Here a sample of the report I received back.  Honestly, not that informative.

Bradycardia Report

In their defense, AliveCor does have a Education feature in the app.  As shown below you can lookup just about any cardiac term your heart desires.

AliveCor Education

Should You Buy This Device?

If you have arrythmia, I highly recommend purchasing this device.  Although not cheap ($199), the AliveCor device is FDA approved and very good at what it does.  It is simple to use and can provide peace-of-mind anytime, anywhere.  If nothing else, it is a great way to entertain family and friends by letting them see where they measure up against a heart patient.