Review: The Mio Fuse

I was excited about the Mio Fuse, the latest offering from Mio’s line of fitness wearables. I loved my Mio Alpha, and have generally found Mio devices to be no-nonsense workout tools. While there are minor flaws in the design of the Fuse, on the whole, I was not disappointed.

Of all the watches I’ve tested lately, this one might just be the most straightforward in terms of look and function. For the fashion conscious, this might not be the watch for you. Aesthetically, the Fuse is little more than an unattractive silicone band on your wrist and the clasp is a bit of a nuisance; it regularly popped out during my workouts. This design element could certainly be improved upon.

In terms of utility, the Fuse has an LED display that clearly shows real time, limited workout data. Small visual indicators and a vibration function alert the user with feedback on heart zones. Along the LED indicators are three touch points that allow you to interact with the watch. I found these to be sporadically clumsy; sweaty hands make it difficult to get accurate touch recognition.

Mio is well known for its excellent heart rates monitors and the Fuse is no exception. It functions via an optical sensor, and I loved the fact that I could use this to constantly monitor my heart rate on the readable display. The Fuse has no touch screen; however, as with the TomTom, this didn’t bother me. I prefer to not deal with the glitches and lags I’ve encountered when operating a touch screen during a workout. Smart devices with touch capabilities are not the most reliable around moisture and perspiration.

Other specifications for the Fuse include water resistance up to 30 metres and motion tracking using a 3-axis accelerometer. It has an offline memory capability that allows it to store up to 2 weeks of daily activity data and 30 hours of workout data, and it operates as a chronograph timer.

The Fuse connects extremely well with third party apps, working in conjunction to monitor progress and goals. As I’ve stated in other fitness watch reviews, my favorite app is Map My Fitness, which cooperated well with this device. It’s great to not have to go through the hassle of converting or exporting limited aspects of your data after every workout.

When it comes to the Mio app itself, I generally found it to be pretty good. Although Mio Global is continually working to improve it, there are some inherent glitches. The app has a new update that allows you to monitor your sleeping patterns, a nice addition to its data on steps, active and total calories burned, distance travelled, goals, 5 customizable training zones, and pace when running. However, in order to measure some of these stats, it’s necessary to keep your phone on you during the workout routine. The Fuse has no GPS antenna, so the app must rely on your phone’s built in software for that level of tracking.

Another great feature of this watch is that it easily syncs to other devices and equipment using Bluetooth Smart (4.0) and Ant+, a wireless technology that allows devices to talk to one another. That being said, the Fuse tends to be a touch and go unit. I don’t see it as a device made for constant interaction. For some of us, however, this isn’t necessarily a drawback. I found this to be a great device for Crossfit; it felt as though I was essentially wearing a malleable band that had the flexibility to move with me. Personally, I don’t stop in the middle of an all-out workout to see what heart rate zone I’m in or monitor other stats; I prefer to process this information after the fact, something that the Fuse accommodates well. I even chose to turn off the tactile vibrations that kept me notified of my heart zone as I found this to be distracting. After a workout, I can sync the data to my phone and monitor my performance there. (The Fuse has an app with iOS and Android, but there currently is no desktop version — this information can only be accessed through a mobile device.)

In terms of software connectivity, I had some trouble; the Mio easily connected to an iPhone, but was less cooperative when it came to recognizing my Android. It didn’t work well with the latter and wouldn’t transfer all of the data easily.

The Fuse has a fantastic battery. I generally could go 5 — 7 days without a recharge. This length occasionally varied depending on how often I exercised, interacted with it, or how long I kept the heart rate monitor running for. The Fuse’s battery life was much longer than that of any other device I’ve tested.

The watch charges via a docking station with a magnetic platform that hooks onto the back of the watch. This design is innovative in its simplicity and extremely easy to use. Having said that, I worry about its lifespan after my experience with the Alpha. I’ve been using the latter for a couple of years now and its charger has gradually become more and more difficult to connect, as sweating tends to create a build-up of residue and oxidation on the contacts. When the Alpha is connected, it beeps to let the user know that it isn’t charging properly, and this annoyance persists until you finally get those buttons on the back to make a solid connection, which can take some trial and error. Hopefully this was an isolated condition in my case — time will tell.

Despite some of these minor flaws in the product design, I have to admit that of all the devices I’ve tested lately, the Mio Fuse was best suited to my personal needs. It’s an excellent freestyle workout watch, and if I had to select one for my own activities, it would be this one. The Fuse doesn’t have a lot of frills, but excessive features can sometimes hinder and distract. This is the barebones option on the fitness watch market, and as with any good exercise regimen, sometimes it’s just best to go back to basics.