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Friday, 18 December 2015

Review: Hi-Tec Trek Plus Activity Tracker

Years ago (and I do mean many years) I bought myself a Silva pedometer, as I had an idle curiosity about how far I walked every day (I had an outdoor job with a hefty commute to London every day for three years) and the fascination stayed with me for about a month or so, until eventually it was put in a box of precious things for safe-keeping, never to emerge in anger again.

And then, those awfully nice chaps at Mustard PR and Hi-Tec got together to ask me if I would like an early birthday present. As a sucker for presents I accepted with alacrity and so a couple of weeks back I received in the post a "Hi-Tec Trek Plus Activity & Sleep Tracker + Smartwatch with Heart Rate," to give it its full title, that is printed on the box it came in. It is a far more jazzier version of my old Silva pedometer; That's a bit like comparing a Typhoon fighter with the Wright Brothers' aeroplane, really...

It looks like this:

HI-TEC TREK PLUS


Recently I have noticed that quite a few of my friends have devices called 'Fitbits' and they regularly post on Facebook about how many steps they manage each day/week/month/year. It all seems highly competitive (but always in a good fun sort of way) and having once been a competitive sort, I thought it would be interesting to compare notes, from the sidelines, using my own data collector - for that is what the device is.

As you will have noted from the device's name, once strapped to your wrist, it tracks the number of your steps, converts this to distance (using your height and assumed stride length - which I'll get onto later), the calories you've burned walking this distance (it also takes into account your weight), the cumulative time you have been 'active' and, as long as you remember to tell it to do it, how long you have slept for. And on top of all that it connects to your smart phone (which may be buried in your jacket pocket) and vibrates on your wrist when things like emails and phone calls come in, which, surprisingly, I have found to be a very useful feature. Oh yes, it also measures your resting pulse during the day and lets you know the following day what it was - which I'll talk about later.

Ah - I have forgotten to let you know that it also tells the time and date: Handy, as it's on your wrist.

How do you extricate all these data from the thing? It's connected by bluetooth (I'm at the ragged edge of my techno-geekery here, I hope you'll understand) to your smartphone, when you remember to turn the bluetooth on on your phone.

I'll show you now in pictures what information it provides:

HOME SCREEN

So from here, if you tap the 'steps' button, up pops the following screen:

STEPS SCREEN

Haven't I been a busy boy! Now, swipe to the right and up pops how far you've walked; I've chosen to do this in kilometers:

DISTANCE SCREEN



Swipe again to see how long I've been "active."

TIME ACTIVE

It looks like I was a bit of a slug on Thursday - but the truth is I had forgotten to strap the watch on until late in the afternoon. (I am currently wandering about with a wristwatch and my tracker. I feel slightly over-gadgeted...)

And swipe again to see how many chocolate bars you have metabolised...

CALORIES SCREEN


And again:

RESTING PULSE

Quite what I was doing on the Sunday to have a resting pulse of over 90, Lord only knows!

SLEEP SCREEN


It appears that I have massively erratic sleep patterns... (More later)

If you now go back to home screen and swipe upwards, you will find this screen:

2ND HOME SCREEN

It is possible to link up with friends who have these Hi-Tec trackers to see how you compare to their efforts. But I don't have any friends. Well, none that have this device, so I'm a sad Billy-No-Mates who has no-one to trounce or be trounced by. Quite what the "Chat" is for, I am at a complete loss.

And that's a problem. This device came with the very bare minimum of instructions. All the written instructions tell you is how to charge it up, (it comes with a separate USB charging cable and adapter) how to do the strap up (which I find irritatingly fiddly) and that you have to download the Hi-Tec App to your phone. Of course, those brighter and younger than me will, in all likelihood, scoff at my dinosaur-like predilection for written instructions. But I struggled (yes, I know, we all have our struggles...) getting the device to do things.

Which leads me on to the sleep screen. Boy, have I struggled with this! I have deliberately chosen a week to display where I was moderately successful with the sleep function. Mostly, I am not. Setting this up to work seems to be a pretty random process. I have followed the 'tips' link from the drop-down menu at the top of the screen for instructions, but I have pretty random success with it.  I put the watch on in the morning after my breakfast & shower, and so the watch, sitting on my bedside cabinet, thinks I am blissfully sound asleep and gives me up to ten hours in the land of nod.

Other times, you will notice, I have not managed to turn the sleep timer on at all (even though I thought I had). If I were Hi-Tec, i would dump this pretty useless function. I can't make it work all the time and it is always only going to be accurate if you wear the thing 24 hours a day.

It's clear that the Steps, Distance, Time Active and Calories screens are identical in shape - only the vertical scale changes - which is to be expected, as all the results stem from the steps taken. Of course, everything comes down to your stride length. Hi-Tec estimate this for you, from your height. But you do have the ability to alter this manually if you know your real stride length. For my height (a smidgen under six feet) I have quite long legs (34" inside leg) and I'm pretty certain that it is underestimating my stride length. As an aside, Andy Walker, who has tiny little legs for his height has to walk zillions more paces than me to cover the same ground - He's a short-arse! Phil Lambert, on the other hand, is perfectly proportioned, or so Miss Whiplash claims. I need to be nerdy and go and count my strides over an exact known distance to work this all out. I expect the geeks amongst our congregation know this information already. I shan't tell. 

The Resting Pulse screen is interesting. Apparently the watch takes measurements when you are not leaping about being a mad young thing. However, the results are way higher than when I asked the watch to measure my pulse when resting - by about 10-15 bpm. It must choose moments to take the measurements when I'm swigging a gallon of coffee or staring at the internet of mad & crazy people doing and saying mad & crazy things. But, still, it is interesting to see that some days are obviously more stressful than others. I think a far more useful function would be a maximum pulse rate. That really would be thought provoking.

Battery life is about two days, which is a bit disappointing, as the blurb says it should last "up to five days between charges." Still - it's liveable and no big deal.


There is one niggle that I do wonder about: I've noticed a couple of times that I had an itchy rash under the wristband of the tracker. This only happened when I was changing the sheets of a bed - stuffing the bottom sheet under the heavy mattress and perhaps chafing my wrist. Another time I was carrying cardboard boxes around the place for a day. I had to take the tracker off and apply a cold flannel for a while to get the rash relieved. Could this be an allergic reaction to the plastic brought on by a sweaty wrist? I don't know, but am am now very conscious that it may be a problem.


So - the million dollar question: Would I buy this device with my own money?

I've worn it for over a fortnight now, (with some gaps when I forgot to put it on) and I am still interested to see how far I actually get around during the day. It would be far more interesting if some people I know had them and I could compare notes with them. Have Hi-Tec missed the boat here? Have Fitbit grabbed the market by the scruff of the neck? Who knows - only time will tell.

I shall continue to track my daily waltzes around the place, at least for a while. The Trek Plus won't be consigned to the 'precious things box' along with my Silva pedometer.

It's £80, all bar the shouting. There are cheaper versions, which you can find from Hi-Tec's site - click HERE to go there. I would probably go for the 'Hi-Tec Go', which doesn't bother with the pulse, but has all the other functions, at £60.

So, Yes: I would buy the Hi-Tec Go, but probably not the Hi-Tec Trek Plus. For £60, it's a good laugh and a bit of a motivational tool to get out more. Instead of sitting at home writing reviews, I would be out having a walk.


You can buy the Hi-Tec Plus on Amazon - see HERE for details - it's a penny below £80.


19th FEBRUARY 2016: UPDATE - DO NOT BUY!

It's been two months since I wrote this review and so now I have been living with the Hi-Tec Trek Plus for quite a while. I have to say that over time I have become more and more irritated with it. 

The reason for this is as follows:

  • Certain functions have simply stopped working. The heart rate monitor has stopped - completely. I have no idea why, as there is not a web resource or email or phone contact  to find out how to fix it. The lack of this resource is a major flaw with this device.  
  • The distance function is never correct when you connect to your smart phone (until the next day) and always lags behind the steps taken by a considerable margin. Again - I have no idea why as the calories burned and the time active *are* in sync. 
  • Some days the device simply does not record any information at all onto the smartphone - even though during those days the device has been recording it all faithfully on your wrist.
  • In sunlight the device's display is almost impossible to read. There is no way to increase the brightness.
  • When tip-toeing along muddy footpaths in walking shoes I've noticed that the thing doen't record my steps. My guess is the thing isn't receiving the bump or jolt necessary to record a step. On a walk of eight miles - about half on muddy footpaths - it under-recorded by about one and a half miles. This alone makes it pretty useless.

So, to summarise, my advice after ten weeks or so of use is NOT to buy this device. It is unreliable and there is no way of sorting it out with Hi-Tec. All in all, very disappointing,

26 comments:

  1. Nooo, don't buy the Hi-Tec Go - buy a Fitbit and join us all in our little league! The Surge even does clever stuff to work out when you're asleep, without having to tell it anything.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think I could possibly contemplate wearing anything called "Surge"
      It would make me come over all un-necessary. At my age too!

      Delete
  2. Those same guys were supposed to be sending me one of those too, but it's not turned up. If it does, it seems you may have saved me the trouble of thinking up a review - maybe I'll just copy yours ;-) At the very least I'd be able to resolve your Billy No Mates issue. It does seem like a lot more faff than my Fitbit which I simply stick in my pocket and forget about.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've just been speaking to Mark (Mark's Walking Blog) on twatter. He has one as well, so we could be three Hi-Tec friends (eventually). I think Fitbit seem to have this sewn up in our circles. Could we be a break-away group? Shell we leave the peloton behind in a mad dash to the line?

      Delete
    2. I think the answer to that last point is now clear! Fitbit have this sewn up for a good reason - their devices work. Still trying to foist my Trek Go onto Mrs Hillplodder

      Delete
    3. Indeed Sir!
      Good luck with that - I hope she doesn't read blogs...

      Delete
    4. Indeed Sir!
      Good luck with that - I hope she doesn't read blogs...

      Delete
  3. Fitbit! Join us! You know you want to!
    Although...no, don't. I don't need anyone else to trounce me, stay with Hi-Tec...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I *seriously* doubt if I would trounce young Louise, what with her twentyfive mile saunter each morning through the tundra wastes of northern Scotlandshire...
      ;-)

      Delete
  4. I'll stick to paraffin and wicks, brass stoves and dubbin but each to their own - watch out for EMP Sun flares !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I still have my beautiful one pint Primus paraffin stove, in its original red and gold tin box. I bought it forty six years ago. It's still working perfectly.

      I constantly watch out for flares. Always been a straight-leg man myself.

      Delete
  5. But Sir! Do we really “really” want to know this? The time is good to know and i would probably have a heart attack reading how long i sleep for. I like sleep you see, so the rest of the info would be so small as to pail into insignificance.
    Good job it doesn’t count how many times i lift my right hand up, woops nearly spilt some then. Hic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Surely, as a chap who weighs his shoes to the nearest gram, you must be just slightly interested, Al?
      :-)

      Delete
  6. Don't bother.
    You know if you are fit.
    You know what you do.
    I don't care a toss what you run, walk, swim, etc each day.

    Fight, fight, fight! ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

    Lucy has a Garmin one.

    On a plus note, you can get reduced medical insurance if you log the data.

    Although you're probably uninsurable.๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think it's about knowing if you're fit. It's about encouraging you to get out more. You have Labradors to do that, of course.
      I'm still using it. It shames me, very successfully, into going for a walk...

      Medical insurance. Tee Hee!

      Delete
  7. Al, you're being lured into the world of E.L. Wisty. Indeed I slipped into Wisty voice reading one or two paragraphs.

    Please, please throw the bloody thing in the bin - the chally approaches and I couldn't stand two weeks of detailed information about your pulse rate, sleep pattern, calorific output ... aaaaarrrrrgh!

    The sheer mundanity of the information about one's bodily functions, combined with the compulsion to "share" surely turns the wearer into a hi-tech version of Peter Cook's creation

    Or am I missing something?

    ReplyDelete
  8. When I wake up in the morning I sometimes stare at the alarm clock and count - very old fashioned, I know - my heartrate. My Resting Pulse is 45 bpm. My Exciting Pulse will probably be as high as your RP.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Does anyone know how to read the daily sleep graph? This device is spoilt by the lack of instructions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Suzanne.
      The sleeping hours (for that's all it records) are displayed on your smartphone, as shown on one of the screenshots in the post above.
      I think that at last I have cracked the sleeptimer. I operate it now solely from the phone, making the watch timer slightly irrelevant, as all I'm doing is activating an egg-timer, really!
      I do agree that the device really should come with better instructions, and maybe a website with videos showing what to do!

      Delete
  10. Join the Fitbit team Alan, and get some tuition from Gayle on how to prepare the sophisticated graphs you'll need in order to stay alive.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I would like to know that too Susanne, of course you're right Alan it does record the hours you've slept, however in the app on your phone you can switch to a daily view, this view is to my mind indecipherable. Thanks for the review, I share, for the most part your experience, sticking with it :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there
      I can only switch to 'Daily View' for sleep, and all that tells me is the time that I switched the sleep function on and off.
      Disappointing, really.
      I have also lost a complete set of data for my resting heart rate - it disappeared into the ether. With no website or anyone to contact for help I'm getting more and more brassed off with the tracker.

      Delete
  12. I have the hi tec trek plus your right about the sleep mode would be good if it knew when your regular bed time is so it would automatically enter it

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Butch.
      I'm getting more and more despondent with the device - it keeps losing great chunks of data. There's no forum to discuss the problems and as far as I can see no way of getting a solution from HiTec. It's also becoming a pain in the bottom to read the display - having to attack it with taps until it fires up. All in all I'm getting less and less impressed with it.

      Delete
  13. Being slightly (!) prone to doing things differently, I bought something similar called a 'Misfit' (good name!). Shortly thereafter I changed my phone. On the new phone there's an app which records my steps etc etc. As I mostly have my phone on me when I'm out and about I now stick with this. I don't want to be comparing myself to other people so no Fitbit for me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooh. I shall look into this, Laura. I'm afraid my Trek Plus will be joining my Silva pedometer in the box of precious things, before it is turfed out for good in an annual clear-out.

      Delete

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