Reviews

Mio Alpha 2 In-Depth Review (Updated 7th March 2015)

February 1, 2015

Mio Global has consistently churned out wrist worn heart rate (HR) reading trackers over the years. Notably, the Mio Fuse was it’s first device to feature all day activity tracking on top of Bluetooth and ANT+ connections. Alas the lack of an always on display somewhat marred its outstanding performance. An upgrade over the previous Mio Alpha, the Mio Alpha 2 is near identical to the Mio Fuse save for the inclusion of an always on display, audio beeps instead of vibration and the removal of ANT+ capabilities.

I had the Mio Alpha 2 for a week and here’s what I have to say.

LOOK AND FEEL

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Mio Alpha 2 unboxed

The optical sensor HR monitor is embedded within the silicon strap and looks pretty slick. There are only 2 buttons on the Mio Alpha 2.

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Mio Alpha 2 front and profile view.

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The Mio Alpha 2 strap is filled with fitting and ventilation holes.

The watch strap is silicon based and comes with a multitude of perforated holes that make for good ventilation for the skin and also as sizing holes for the user.

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The Mio Alpha 2 charging cradle.

The charger is proprietary and is magnetic in nature. One end fits a standard USB port and the other to the Mio Alpha 2.

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Mio Alpha 2 worn on wrist.

The Mio Alpha 2 is pretty thick and I’ve had comments like “thick band” to “sports bangle?” I’m Asian and have a skinny wrist but if you’re bigger than me, you should be, it should do fine.

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Double tapping the screen activates the back-light that goes off after a short while.

I particularly like the large and crisp display. Double-tapping on the screen activates the back-light which will come in useful during night runs. Mio Global has nailed it in terms of ease of use.

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A small HR zone indicator light sits below the watch display. Here it’s trying to find a HR.

An additional indicator light blinks the current HR zone colour which makes for ease of reference for the user and allows Mio Alpha 2 to conserve battery usage by not lighting up the entire watch display.

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The back of the Mio Alpha 2 houses the optical sensor.

The Mio GO app is not my favourite in collating training data. Thankfully the Mio Alpha 2 transmits HR data to 3rd party apps like Polar Beat, Strava and many more.

The Mio Alpha 2 is also water proof to 30m so it should pose no problem transiting from water to land for the biathlon in you.

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Close up views of the Mio Alpha 2.

Without daily activity tracking, I’d be lying if I say this is a piece of equipment I’d wear 24/7. For exercise usage, The Mio Alpha 2 should serve the user well.

FUNCTIONS AND DATA PRESENTATION

Distance calculation without smartphones

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3 rounds of a 400, stadium track and the Mio Alpha 2 was spot on.

Like the Adidas FIT SMART, the Mio Alpha 2 features pace, speed and distance calculation without the need to be connected to a smartphone.

I took the Mio Alpha 2 for a 1.2km run round a stadium track and it was spot on with what I thought was an acceptable margin of error; about 5% in this run.

HR monitoring from the wrist.

Mio Global has been at the forefront of optical sensor HR measurement from the wrist. I’ve had good experiences with wrist worn HRMs like Adidas Fit Smart, Basis Peak and Mio LINK Heart Rate Monitor Wrist Band. Nonetheless it’s customary to compare chest worn HRMs to wrist worns. So here goes.

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The Mio Alpha 2 was compared versus the Scosche Rhythm+ and the Polar H7 HRM.

The Mio Alpha 2 was compared versus the chest worn Polar H7 Bluetooth Smart Heart Rate Sensor and a Scosche RHYTHM plus Heart Rate Monitor Armband. Selfloops Group Blue app was used to connect to all 3 devices for ease of comparison. Readings were near identical at both low and high intensity.

Configurable HR tracking zones.

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1-zone setting for for the Mio Alpha 2 on the Mio GO app.

The HR zone can be configured to either 1 zone display or 5-zone display. This will affect the number of colours that show up on the HR indicator light.In 1 zone display, the Mio Alpha 2 will indicate if you’re working too hard OR not hard enough which simplifies things for the user.

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1-zone setting for for the Mio Alpha 2 on the Mio GO app.

In 5 zones settings, the user get the whole works from 65% HR all the way to maximum HR, with each zone corresponding to a specific colour; blue, green, yellow, purple and red.

Customisable workout timers

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Workout timers.

User can choose between Chronograph, Timer or repeat timer when customising the workout timers.

Transmitting HR data to 3rd party apps.

3rd-party-apps-connection

I had no issues transmitting HR data to 3 different 3rd party apps on seperate occasions.

Like previous Mio Global HR tracking devices, the Mio Alpha transmits HR data to 3rd party apps. Truth be told, companies like Polar Beat, Endomondo and Strava produce much better apps than what Mio GO has to offer for now. Unfortunately, that would mean the user must carry a smartphone. Time to consider a FlipBelt perhaps?

Last activity recap from watch

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Users can also check out the last activity they tracked right from the Mio Alpha 2. The HR measurement watch allows 6 tracked stats to be displayed out of a list of 12. Users can instantly see the outcome of the training without needing to sync the stored data to a smartphone device.

Mio GO app

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Mio GO app summary screen capture.

The Mio GO app serves as a central housing for all Mio Global devices. The service is basic and offers little in terms of analysis. That we have other 3rd party apps to take care of.

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Expansion of an activity brings up with details of a tracked workout.

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Mio Alpha 2 settings screen.

The Mio GO app allows a multitude of options in customising the Mio Alpha 2 to the user’s preference.

ANYTHING ELSE?

The Mio Alpha 2 is waterproof to 30m so it’s practically pool safe. Battery life is a superb 3 months without activating the HR functions. And up to 24 hours straight of HR measurement. Thats should suffice for ultramarathoners or the potential ironman. I’ve had the device worn for a week with close to 2 hours of heart rate tracking and the Mio Alpha 2 still indicates nearly full battery status.

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The Mio Alpha 2 with HR zone indicator light on.

People who uses GPS enabled watches like Polar M400 GPS Sports Watch or the Garmin fenix 3 will have to grapple with the issue of fitting 2 large chunks of devices on the wrist.

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iOS interface presents a HR trend graph which is also available for Android users.

The iOS interface differ slightly from the Android version but with the latest update, HR graph is now available on both iOS and Android versions of the Mio GO app.

Most of the configuring must be initiated from the app. For example, If I wanted to tweak the timer, I’d have to do it from the Mio GO app. This is not a big issue but it would have been helpful if I could do some minor adjustments from the Mio Alpha 2 itself.

I also wished I could tap on the audio beeps as an alarm option but that’s not possible for now.

IN A NUTSHELL

Pros:

  • Wrist worn EKG accurate heart rate monitor
  • Tracks distance, pace, speed and calories
  • Configurable heart rate zones with LED indications
  • Wireless connection via Bluetooth 4.0 to compatible smartphone and fitness apps
  • Memory holds up to 25 hours of data
  • Water resistant to 30m
  • Battery life of 20-24 hours with heart rate monitoring turned on. Up to 3 months without heart rate monitoring.
  • Customisable display items with easy-to-activate back-light
  • Beeps notification
  • Last activity review
  • HR zone indicator light
  • Compatible with select Android and iOS devices

Cons:

  • No daily activity tracking
  • No ANT+
  • No vibration
  • No alarm
  • Premium pricing

Once again Mio Global has produced another worthy fitness companion, one that not only tells the HR but even distance, speed and pace. And all that without the need to be tethered to a smartphone. Freedom from chest straps, freedom from smartphones. At a premium no less.

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Bringing the Mio Alpha 2 for a stroll at the reservoir at 1814 hours.

Daily activity tracking in terms of step count would have been icing on the cake, a feature that should seal the deal for potential buyers. The Mio Fuse, at $149, does have slightly more features that the Mio Alpha 2. Consumers are essentially paying for a screen and beeping sound at the loss of ANT+, vibration and daily activity tracking.

Depending on your exercise and training needs, both Mio Fuse and Mio Alpha 2 are worthy considerations.

The Mio ALPHA 2 Heart Rate Monitor Sport Watch is available in punch, black or yellow at a RRP of $199.

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