New Toy – Garmin VivoActive HR

After a very long period of deliberation, I finally got myself a watch for activity tracking – the Garmin VivoActive HR. 

VivoActive HR - Tracking My Weekly Swim
VivoActive HR – Tracking My Weekly Swim

Technically, the choice shouldn’t be so difficult since there are myriads of choices from Garmin, FitBit, Polar. But in actual fact most of the watches or trackers do not have 1 important feature I need – Water resistance. Water resistance is only available for the higher end Garmin or Polar trackers. Those can cost about SGD 500 and they are really for professional atheletes. I’m just an amateur who can’t resist gadgets. :)

Anyway, the first brand I looked at was actually FitBit. Thanks to their marketing, fitness tracker = Fitbit, for me at least. My criteria was heart rate + built in GPS because I want it to be independent of my phone. The only model that has this combination is FitBit Blaze. But after looking the specifications, I realise that the watch is non water resistant. So it was dropped immediately. 

The next 2 I looked at was TomTom and Garmin. Polar wasn’t in my list because non of their affordable watches had GPS and heart rate. And they were mainly still trying to sell their chest strap. 

TomTom has this Spark Cardio that is quite decent. And it looked like a proper watch. And I trust TomTom to have good GPS hardware and software like Garmin. The problem is that this Spark Cardio has a couple of versions and it seems like it is the music player option that increases the cost of the watch. So TomTom was dropped. 

So the VivoActive HR was the only choice left. The prices of that various watches are about the same so just for the water resistance portion, it’s already more value for money over the other 2. (I don’t want count MP3 player as a feature.) 

The immediate test that I did with the VivoActive HR was swimming. I wanted to see if the lap tracking is accurate. And indeed with every turn, the lap count increases. And on top of that, the number of strokes are also being counted. 

Garmin Connect app on iPhone
Garmin Connect app on iPhone

Garmin has an app that syncs with the watch and gives you nice looking stats. From what I understand, it’s really a mobile extension of their original Garmin Connect site. All workout and training stats are also uploaded. 

There are alot of other smart watch features like notifications from phone, displaying my WhatsApp message etc. The only thing I’m complaining about this watch is that it doesn’t look as sexy as the the FitBits. Other than that I feel that it’s value for money. High end enough for comprehensive tracking but not too expensive to put me off. 

Next, I will be trying HIIT tracking. I understand that the programs can be customised to incorporate training plans. Still reading on that. Will share more once I get around doing it. 

New Toy – Hobbyist Telescope For Children

A photo posted by Hong Chuan (@hongchuan) on


 

How do you impress your 6-year old at home? With tricks like this. Lol!

I bought a telescope from Taobao as my daughter’s Christmas gift. We didn’t really get started with this because it rained continuously for a few days.

So after one of my night runs few days back, I noticed that the sky was clear and the moon was in full view. I got the telescope setup quickly when I got home.

This is a budget telescope, very entry level. It has 60x magnification, cost me about SGD $90 including shipping from China.

Hobbyist Telescope from Taobao
Hobbyist Telescope from Taobao

IMG_1667

The build quality is not fantastic, but acceptable for the price. This is truly a beginner’s set.

Anyway, it took some time to get the hang of using the telescope. It didn’t help that the tripod was wobbly when fully extended. And it gets worse with the iPhone attached to the end of the telescope for snapping pictures.

The moon was very bright that night, so basically what I saw was one big bright patch when I got the telescope zoomed in on the moon. I was expecting to see the craters. So I went back to the instructions, they said use the ‘Moon Filter’. Missed that trying to get things setup fast.

This was the result which the filter.

View of the moon with filter
View of the moon with filter

Now the craters are clear. I was pretty excited at this point. It took me a while to get a clear shot.

Shot of the moon with telescope
Shot of the moon with telescope

So the result is the picture above, after turning it into black and white. My girl was pretty impressed when I showed her the picture the next morning. Shall try this again when we have the next full moon.

Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor From Taobao

While I’m not a very consistent runner, I still make use of gadgets and apps to track my run. The geek can’t resist gadgets. One of the gadgets I’m using is the Polar Heart Rate Monitor. This heart rate monitor works with the Polar watch. Lately, the monitor has been giving me cranky readings. Imagine me running and it says my heart rate is at 69bpm. I change battery, washed the belt etc. but still couldn’t get it working, so it’s time to get a new set.

The new heart rate monitoring that I’m getting must have Bluetooth, so that it can work with my phone directly. I use Runkeeper to track my activities, so it must also work with the app. The recommended monitor is Wahoo, which is USD $59.90. As usual, I head over to Taobao to look for good deals. And this this what I found.

Alatech Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor
Alatech Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor

They are very specific. It works with Runkeeper. And the cost of this monitor? It’s only RMB $159 which is SGD $36 approximately. And now Taobao has direct shipping, i.e. the seller will ship to Taobao warehouse and Taobao’s courier partners will deliver the item right to your door step. Compared to the old ways where items have to be shipped to a forwarder, and then wait for the forwarder to calculate the shipping charges, the direct shipping method means that you already know the total cost upon checking out the item.

Taobao Direct Shipping Option
Taobao Direct Shipping Option
Taobao Direct Shipping Charges
Taobao Direct Shipping Charges

So the items + shipping charges is RMB $198, which is about SGD $44. I think this is really value for money, so I went ahead with the order. Taobao’s direct shipping was efficient, from order to arrival in Singapore took them 5 days.

Alatech Heart Rate Monitor
Alatech Heart Rate Monitor

The heart rate monitor is slightly bigger compared my Polar, but it’s still comfortable. And as stated in their website, it works with Runkeeper. The Bluetooth Pairing was very straightforward. I also got it to pair with Argus, another one of my tracking app. The irony is that it doesn’t work with their own Alacoach app.

This is a great buy. Comparing the price with the big brands like Polar and Suunto, this guy definitely gives the competitors a run for their money.

Link to Taobao is Taobao Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor.

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