What is it?
The Epson PS-500, the ‘Pulsense 500’, is an activity monitor from Epson, that features a built in heart rate monitor. This uses an optical sensor, and in fact, if you take the watch off while the heart rate monitor is on, you can see that it is lit green. It measures your activity using accelerometers, and your heart rate using the sensor, while various LEDs as well as vibration feedback let you know what ‘heart rate’ zone you’re in, followed by other activity feedbacks on the screen such as distance travelled, steps taken, etc.
Look and feel
I’ll be honest. It isn’t stunning. It is quite chunky, and it looks very 1980s, or 1990s. It features a dot-matrix screen, which gives you time, your heart rate feedback, and other information you may want to see. It also lets you know the status of the Bluetooth connection, battery as well as vibration. A line of 5 LEDs at the bottom can give you feedback in your progress and heart rate zone, and to be quite honest, they were a bit too bright for my liking. The screen also comes with a green backlight, that can be activated by ‘tapping’ the screen. It features a couple of chunky buttons on the side, and connectivity pads on the left side. The back shows off the sensor.
Getting started and ease of use
The device comes with a ‘Getting Started’ manual that helps you charge the device, download an app on your phone, connect via Bluetooth, and go. Unfortunately it stops there, and doesn’t really go into more detail about functionality. However, the device, as a stand alone unit is fairly easy to use:
- The bottom button cycles through different screens
- Top button can be used to toggle heart rate monitor on/off
- Tapping the screen turns on light
- Double tapping the screen goes into menu mode, which lets you pair, turn on/off LEDs and Vibrate
- It vibrates every time you go from one ‘zone’ to another, i.e. as your heart rate moves from one area of numbers to another
- LEDs also indicate which zone you’re in
Set of features
It offers the following features:
- Activity monitor, measuring steps and distance
- Sleep monitoring
- Monitoring state of mind
- Wake up alarm, based on your sleep status, to wake you up gently
- Bluetooth connectivity promises to let you know of calls, emails, scheduled events
- Bluetooth connectivity to monitor data so far
- PC connectivity to upload data as well
- Ability to store data for up to 20 days
How well does the heart rate monitor work?
Pretty well. It is good at letting me know how ‘worked up’ I am, and is fairly quick. If you’re running or cycling to targets, the vibration and LED alerts can be useful too.
I am a light sleeper at the moment, and sadly it tells me that I am only sleeping properly on average at about 30 minutes a night, with about 6-8 hours of restlessness. I feel it, so I won’t deny it.
Like any pedometer, it will easily measure the number of steps taken. However, the distance is far from accurate. This is not that unheard of, and pretty common in fitness devices that do not feature built in GPS. For example, the accelerometer just can’t keep up if I am cycling.
Wake up alarm
This was a feature I was most interested in. This is the first device I have actually tried that seems to give me that functionality properly. I have been woken up ‘gently’ all of this week, and while I am currently a light sleeper, it worked pretty well. This is why, despite it being bit of a chunky thing to wear, I have been sleeping with it, and intend to do so in the future.
State of mind
I am still trying to understand this feature. Not sure if it is a gimmick, or just corresponds to heart rate based on ‘lack of movement’. For example, it shows me as excited when I am with friends, which is good, but the only way to judge that is the fact that my heart rate is high, but I am not moving. Would be interesting to know the algorithms involved.
Oh, it was all going so well, wasn’t it. The ‘app’ that comes with this, at least on Android, leaves a lot to be desired. The Bluetooth connection keeps breaking, and when it connects, it may break in the middle of data transfer. This means that your settings may not be stored, or you get half the amount of data you’re hoping to get. The PC connection works well though, and I have resorted to using the device through the PC.
The bad connectivity of the app also means that you won’t be getting any notifications from your phone. No phone calls, emails or calendar items were sent to the PS-500. I imagine it is something that can be fixed by updating the app. The app on Google Play said that it had been tested with the Samsung Galaxy S4, and while I tried originally with the LG G3, I moved to the S4 just to check. No improvement was found. In fact, I thought maybe having a Pebble connected would get in the way, so I uninstalled anything to do with the Pebble, and that didn’t help either.
The best way I found to make the Bluetooth connection work was to unpair, and register the device again. This is obviously annoying.
Presentation of information
Information presented via the PC, or the app, is pretty good. You get graphs that map your heart rate over the day, week or month, with peaks showing calories burnt, quality of sleep, steps taken, exercise etc.
Price and more information:
You can find out more about the PS-500 directly from Epson’s website:
It comes in black, and retails at £169.99.
There are negatives and there are positives. It is chunky, and the apps struggle. However, it measures heart rate quite accurately, and provides a good feedback for people who are trying to work out to specific targets. PC connectivity helps you get over the original problem, it charged the device too. The price is pretty standard for devices of such type. All in all, a good useful device, specially for the fitness conscious, and once the app gets an update (connectivity fix), this will be a top device for any fitness obsessed person.