Mio Alpha strives for accurate heart rate readings (hands-on)

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/ Updated: February 28, 2013 1:06 AM PST

BARCELONA, Spain--Track your heart from your wrist with the Mio Alpha, yet another smartwatch launched by Kickstarter and shown off at MWC 2013. For $199 the Alpha is water resistant and built to reliably read the rate of your ticker.

With clean lines and smoothly rounded curves, the Mio Alpha looks and feels both futuristic and sporty. As well it should since the Alpha is essentially a timepiece and fitness gadget for people looking for serious feedback about their workouts.The watch's soft silicone wrist strap is comfortable, too, and it's clear this gizmo was designed to wear for hours at a stretch.

This device has clean lines and smooth curves. Sarah Tew/CNET

Let's be clear, however. The Mio Alpha is not a lifestyle or wellness product meant to be strapped on your person around the clock. For instance, the Mio Alpha does not measure sleep or even how many steps you take daily. Neither will it try to nudge or guilt you toward adopting a better lifestyle. If you're looking for a gizmo to do that then the upcoming Fitbit Flex or Jawbone Up will be more up your alley.

Similar to the Under Armour Armour39 system, the Mio Alpha is squarely targeted at serious athletes who crave a way to accurately assess their physical performance during workouts. It has one primary purpose, besides telling the time, and that's to measure heart rate. On the Alpha's underside are two large, green LEDs which pulse light into the skin at your wrist. An optical sensor analyzes the results, scanning for blood flow in real time to supply heart rate data.

Big, green, LEDs help read blood flow. Sarah Tew/CNET

Mio also says the Alpha is extremely accurate thanks to its two huge LEDs combined with sophisticated measurement technology patented by Philips. I can definitely verify that the Mio Alpha's green lights are massive and extremely bright compared with those on the Basis Band from Basis Science. I can't confirm just yet whether the Alpha trumps the Basis in terms of heart rate performance.

The Mio Alpha measures heart rate during exercise. Sarah Tew/CNET

Another nifty trick the Mio Alpha can do is communicate live heart rate stats to both Android and iOS devices via a wireless Bluetooth connection. One caveat though is that while Mio says it's working on an in-house app, you'll have to use third-party applications such as Mapmyrun or Enomondo to link the Alpha with your phone. Also slick is how an LED will flash in either blue or red to indicate weather your heart rate is under or over your zone for optimal performance.

Does the thought of owning a Mio Alpha get your blood flowing? The gadget costs $199 (or 199 euros depending on the market) and can be bought directly through the Mio Web site.

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Where to Buy

Mio Alpha

Part Number: ALPHASMARTWATCH

MSRP: $199.00

See manufacturer website for availability.