When it comes to fitness trackers, you can usually follow the age-old adage “cheap, fast, or good” with a few modifications: “cheap, feature-filled, or attractive”, pick two. Depending on what you think of Fitbit’s style, maybe not even two. The LifeTrak Zone R420 aims to change that with an attractive design, a slew of great features, and a wallet-friendly price!
The R420 is very athletic looking, so it won’t blend in with a business suit. However, it’s a good looking watch, one that has gotten a few compliments as I’ve worn it around the last few weeks. In fact, my wife commented that it was nice enough that she would consider wearing it, and she’s very picky about her styles. The bezel is silver and the case is gray, but the band offers a pop of color with the option of red or gray (it’s reversible). I like the contrast of red and gray, and flipped it to the red side out. The screen is fairly old-school digital watch style, but it packs a lot of information into a small area. You can choose to just see the time, or also see the time and date, and you can scroll below the time to see sleep time, distance walked, calories burned, and steps taken. A double clicking of the middle button lights up a backlight so you can check the time in the dark. I didn’t find it to be overly bulky, nor did it overwhelm my wrists.
The R420 can check your heart rate two ways. One is by putting your finger on the middle (largest) button, and holding it down; this grabs a sample of your heart rate that seems pretty accurate. My heart rate generally sits around 50-55 beats per minute, and the R420 reflected that fairly often. I did find that you needed to position your finger just right to get a measurement, otherwise it couldn’t read your heart rate. Sometimes it took two or three tries to get it right, though I did eventually find an angle that worked for me. If you’d like ongoing heart rate measurements while working out, you can pair a bluetooth chest strap to the watch (need to test this).
It’s very easy to move in and out of workout mode on the R420. If there’s a chest strap paired it will track your heart rate, and the only other metrics it can track are distance and time. Obviously this makes it more useful for walking and running, but I did put it into workout mode for strength training a few times, mostly as a placeholder so I could go back and see what days I worked out.
There are three buttons on the R420-a large one that contains the heart rate sensor, and two smaller ones on either side of it. The top button lets you cycle through selecting a workout, viewing a chart of your hourly step counts, and viewing how your activity looks over the course of the day. Double clicking the top button also gets you into the watch settings, where you can adjust your goals and input your height/weight etc, if you didn’t already do so through the LifeTrak app.
The middle (heart rate) button can be single clicked to scroll through your sleep/distance/calories/steps, double clicked to activate the backlight, or held down for a heart rate measurement. A single click of the bottom button flips between a digital readout of just the time, or a readout that includes the date and day. Double clicking it triggers manual sleep measurement (otherwise it will automatically track sleep based on your movements) and holding the button down puts the watch into sync mode. Basically, they’ve crammed an awful lot of features into a few buttons, but managed to make it relatively logical and smooth to use. I didn’t have any issues with the firmware of the watch, aside from the occasional issues measuring heart rate.
Here’s our video take on the R420:
The R420 isn’t a perfect device, but at $99 I think it offers a lot for the money. Once you get below $150 or so, it’s nearly impossible to find a tracker with a heart rate monitor included; you can add a chest strap to some Garmins, but that’s not the same as having a heart rate monitor at your fingertips. It’s also rare to find a fitness tracker that has a screen, heart rate monitor, Bluetooth sync, AND doesn’t require charging. That’s a huge coup for LifeTrak. Misfit and Withings devices can brag about the same thing, but they lack some of the features of the R420.
The LifeTrak R420 doesn’t have the name recognition of Fitbit or Garmin, but it makes up for that with a boatload of premium features at a budget price!
Source: Manufacturer provided review sample
What I Liked: Comfortable; doesn’t require charging; accurate step and calorie counts; works with Bluetooth chest heart rate straps; waterproof; tracks sleep.
What Needs Improvement: App is thin on features; not many partner apps for sync (ie UnderArmour Record, etc); sporty design may not work for all styles; finger-based heart rate monitoring was a bit hit or miss.