Epson is building a line of smartwatches because…why not? The printer and projector hardware firm is jumping head first into the crowded health tracker market with two new wrist devices for measuring calories, sleep, steps and heart rate. Epson says that its new Pulsense series has three stand-out features: price, exercise-grade heart rate, and a slim form factor.
There are a slew of available health trackers that measure steps and sleep (Jawbone UP, Fitbit Force, Nike FuelBand SE), but the only other health tracker on the market that measures heart rate is the Basis B1 band. The Basis, however, can’t measure heart rate during exercise, so it’s not much use to swimmers, runners, or CrossFit enthusiasts who want to quantify the intensity of the workouts. Exercise enthusiasts need something with a heart rate strap, such as the Polar.
Another competitor, the Mio Alpha, is a strapless wristwatch for heart monitoring only, but I’ve found that it’s terribly inaccurate for anything but steady-state running (no intervals, cross-training, etc.).
It would be fantastic for exercise nuts if someone could finally crack the heart rate problem. The early Pulsense demo that I tested couldn’t measure my heart rate beyond 115 beats/minute (intense exercise is around 160, for me). So, they have a ways to go before it’s ready this Summer.
Compared to the Basis, the Pulsense is slightly thinner. My Basis watch tends to snag on my suit jacket and backpack straps, so size is not a trivial issue. I wouldn’t ditch my Basis because of it, but the form factor is an advantage for the Epson.
Like the Basis, the Pulsense with a numbers display is also $199, but they have an LED version for $129. Epson evidently believes there is a sizable portion of the exercise market that it is willing to skimp on a numbers display to save $70. The Pulsense will launch this Summer.