What’s the best heart-rate monitor?

I'm dumbfounded by all the choices with regard to heart rate monitors. Should I stick with the well-respected Polar or try other brands? Tracy Los Angeles, California

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Heart-rate monitors have, in my view, entered a realm already occupied by multi-tools, hydration packs, and Gore-Tex parkas: the Land of We Have Enough Already. OK, maybe it’s good to be able to download 12 hours of workouts and chart your heart rate during six workouts. But unless you’re training for the Tour de France—and training to win—is it really necessary?

I’m convinced that for 90 percent of the people out there—even those who are serious enough about training to watch their heart rate to ensure they don’t over or under train—a monitor with the bare minimum of functions is fine. And no, it doesn’t have to be Polar, although that brand makes excellent monitors. An exceedingly good bargain monitor, in fact, is the Polar A1—just $50. It has current heart rate, average rate, and time exercised. For the same price, Performance Axiom’s HR-150 adds full watch functions, plus programmable target= levels and memory recall of time spent in the target=ed zone. Peformance’s electronics are all pretty good, so I should think that would be a reliable buy.

If you want to go with a luxe monitor, Polar’s S210 ($175) is a great one—it has a wide range of options for setting and recording maximum heart rate, shows calories burned, has full watch functions, and is water-resistant. A great monitor.