The Omron HR-100C is the best budget heart rate monitor on the market. In this review I tell you why and discuss the pros and cons of this training tool.
I’m not a big distance guy; I mainly run 5K and 10K races. But I’m very competitive and always on the lookout for ways to try and improve my time. I had read that heart rate monitors were one of the best training tools you could use in terms of boosting your performance. I really like the science behind the whole thing. You can track your heart rate and run within zones with each zone getting a certain amount of training time each week.
When I first started looking at heart rate monitors most of the prices were well over $100 with most in the $300 range. The Omron is under $50. Since I had never used a monitor before I really just wanted the basics so that I could try it out and see if I like it. Here’s what I found out about the Omron HR-100C.
The best budget heart rate monitor on the market right now is the Omron HR-100C. You won’t get a lot of fancy software or tracking reports, just the meat and potatoes basics. The two main things to look for in an inexpensive monitor is that it’s accurate and that won’t break after just a short time. I found that the HR-100C easily meets those criteria.
How Accurate is the Omron HR-100C?
The testing labs at Consumer Reports showed the Omron HR-100C to be highly accurate when compared to an actual EKG (electrocardiograph), which is a device used by hospitals to measure patients’ heart rates. Several other sources that conducted similar tests also reported highly accurate data coming out of the HR-100C. So you’re getting a good device here.
How Do You Train With The HR-100C?
The Omron HR-100C bases its training levels on percentages of your maximum heart rate. Omron recommends using the basic age formula to calculate your maximum heart rate where men subtract their age from 220 and women 230 to get the max heart rate number. There are better ways to do this as we discuss on this site. The good thing though is the Omron monitor gives you the chance to input your own heart rate max and you can use any calculation method you’d like.
You set up one training zone based on your goals for each workout session. If you want to train in a different zone the next time you’ll need to readjust the settings. Omron recommends three different training zones to improve your fitness levels.
The Weight Management Zone is the lowest training intensity level at 60%-70% of your max heart rate. This zone is good is you’re just starting out and for recovery type workouts.
The Aerobic zone is 70-80% of your max heart rate and is designed to increase strength and endurance. You burn a lot of calories in this zone.
The third zone is the Anaerobic Threshold zone at 80-90% of heart rate max. You work in this zone to build speed and power.
To see how you would program the HR-100C, take a look at this example. If your goal is weight loss and you’re a 40 year old man, you would calculate a lower heart rate limit of 108 (220-40 x 60% = 108) and an upper limit of 126 (220-40 x 70% = 126). Then you would simply input these numbers into the monitor.
The nice thing about the Omron HR-100C is that you have total flexibility on programming. You can do your own heart rate max calculation and training zone percentages and input that information into the wrist monitor. It’s very easy and the instruction manual walks you through it step by step.
The Omron HR-100C is Your Own Personal Motivator
A really cool feature of the Omron is the alarm system. You’ll hear a beep-beep sound if you stray outside of your target zone for that training session. So, if you’re not working hard enough, you get some positive encouragement from your monitor. The same goes if you are working too hard, the Omron will tell you to back it off a little and get back in your zone. This can help you a lot if you are prone to overtraining. Many heart rate monitors will only offer an alarm if you go above the zone or if you get below your zone only, not both. So this is a great feature on a monitor that’s so affordable.
The Omron also has some other basic sports watch features such as a standard watch, alarm and stop watch.
- Easy to use and program – The instruction manual is very straightforward and everyone says that the watch is very easy to set up and program.
- Good price – Finding a heart rate monitor under $100 with these features is a real bargain. The accuracy and durability add even more to the value as well.
- Accurate – In lab testing, the Omron did just as well as an EKG.
- Comfortable chest strap – Several reviewers mention that they forgot that they had the strap on after about 10 minutes or so.
- Alarm – This can be set to go off if your heart rate goes too high or too low outside of your set training zone. The Omron also has a basic alarm setting where you can set it to go off the same time every day, like an alarm clock. There is also an alarm that sounds when the wrist unit gets too far away from the chest transmitter.
- You can get a quick reading – The watch face is large and very easy to read, plus there is a backlight if you are working out at night.
- Limited features – The main thing we would like to see on this monitor is a measure of your average heart rate over a training session. But given the price, the features on this baby are excellent.
- No coded transmission between chest strap and watch – This means that the Omron HR-100C can pick up interference from other heart rate monitors or other types of equipment around the gym. This is not a problem when you run outside, but can result in inaccurate heart rate readings in the gym.
- Transmitter – This is the part that presses against your chest and records your heart rate.
- Transmitter chest strap – made of a comfortable stretchy material designed to fit chest sizes from 12″ to 44″. The strap can be detached from the transmitter for easy washing.
- Receiver wrist monitor – Ventilated and water resistant with a watch style readout.
- Receiver mounting bracket – You can easily attach the watch receiver to bikes and treadmills if you don’t want to wear it around your wrist. Basically this is like a clip that hooks onto the handle and you put the watch around it.
- Storage case – this is soft and zippered
- 2 lithium CR2032 3V batteries – one for the receiver watch and 1 for the transmitter, both are already installed in each device
If you would like to read more about the features of the Omron HR-100C, we have the actual Omron owner’s manual loaded up on this site for you to download.
HeartRateMonitorAdvisor.com Consumer Reviews Summary
There are over a thousand customer reviews of the Omron from a variety of different retailers and consumer review websites. The average rating is 4.0 out of 5 stars.
Summary of the most helpful positive reviews:
Everyone loves how easy this monitor is to use. They especially like the heart rate zone training program and the alarm warning when you move out of the target heart rate zone. Many felt that this really helped them with their workout and motivated them to work harder. Many owners feel that the chest strap is comfortable and not bulky at all, which was one of their fears before buying the Omron. Everyone loves that you can change the battery yourself without have to send it back to the manufacturer. Almost all the owners overwhelmingly feel that the Omron is a real bargain for the price.
Summary of the most helpful negative reviews:
Several people would like to see some more advanced features like a calculation of average heart rate. They also say that it would be nice to see several measures on display at once. You can’t look at your heart rate and stopwatch time at the same time for example. You have to toggle through to see each read out. However, everyone did feel that for the price, the Omron HR-100C is a good deal and has all of the basics you need.
Where Can I Buy the Omron HR-100C Heart Rate Monitor?
I found several retail stores that offered the HR100-C, but the online retailer with the best price is Amazon.com. They also have a ton (over 800) reviews about this monitor.
More About Omron
Omron is a Japanese based healthcare company. You can read more about them on their website at Omron Health Care.