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Withings Body Cardio Scale review: A stylish smart scale that isn't worth the extra cash

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The Withings Body Cardio isn't your typical smart scale. While it can measure weight and sync its data online like Withings' other scales, this new version's selling point is being able to measure cardiovascular health. This is the first scale that can measure Pulse Wave Velocity, a term I wasn't even aware of before. It's a measurement used to determine arterial stiffness and is said to be a key indicator of heart health.

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6.3

Withings Body Cardio Scale

The Good

The Body Cardio can measure weight, BMI, body fat and body water percentage, bone mass, muscle mass, standing heart rate and arterial stiffness. Sleek design, long battery life, works on hard floors and carpets.

The Bad

Expensive. Its chief selling point is cryptic, and the "arterial stiffness" measurement doesn't always work.

The Bottom Line

The Body Cardio provides a new way for measuring heart health, but it's not worth the time or money over a simpler connected scale.

In addition to this new metric, the Body Cardio can also measure weight, Body Mass Index (BMI), body fat percentage, total body water percentage, muscle mass, bone mass and standing heart rate. And since it's a smart scale, there's Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to automatically upload your information to the Withings HealthMate app on Android and iOS.

This smart scale measures your heart health in addition to your weight

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All of this sounds appealing, until you you consider the $180 (£140, AU$290) price tag, which makes the Body Cardio one of the most expensive consumer scales on the market. After using it for close to a month, I wasn't sold on its value.

The scale failed to measure my Pulse Wave Velocity on numerous occasions, and even when it worked, I still found it hard to decipher what its value was to my everyday health. I recommend the more affordable Withings Body smart scale for $130 (£100). It's essentially the Body Cardio, but without the standing heart rate data and the finicky Pulse Wave Velocity measurement. Trust me, you won't miss them.

What is Pulse Wave Velocity?

Pulse Wave Velocity is used in clinical tests, research labs and some hospitals. My personal cardiologist and three others I called in New York City didn't measure it, but studies have found it to be a reliable measurement for heart health.

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James Martin/CNET

To determine your Pulse Wave Velocity, the scale is equipped with special sensors that are said to be able to determine the exact moment when blood is ejected from the aorta and when it reaches blood vessels in the feet. The time between the two is then compared to your height (which you provide during the initial setup of the scale) to determine your Pulse Wave Velocity, a number that is measured in meters per second. If your eyes glazed over during that explanation, you're not alone.

The entire process of measuring this and all other metrics takes about 30 seconds from start to finish. Unfortunately, it didn't always work. About one out of every five times I received an error that stated the scale was unable to measure my Pulse Wave Velocity, but I didn't know this until I opened the app on my phone. That's because the small display on the scale only shows weight, BMI, bone mass, muscle mass, standing heart rate and a timeline of past weigh ins. It doesn't actually show the Pulse Wave Velocity measurement.

What happens after it measures you?

My Pulse Wave Velocity was found to be between 6.8 to 5.9 meters per second. The app classified this as "normal" for someone my age and gender. I would have assumed it would be higher due to my high cholesterol, but I was unable to verify the accuracy of it because testing isn't widely available.

But after reviewing the number, I wasn't sure what to do next. Withings had said the app would offer personalized feedback, but to me it seemed vague and kind of generic. It mentioned how losing weight helps improve Pulse Wave Velocity, and a second tip said that a diet high in vegetables and low in processed food could do the same. None of this made me feel like Pulse Wave Velocity had become an important, life-changing metric for my daily health.

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James Martin/CNET

Sure, I could maybe lose 5 to 10 pounds, but I already have a relatively healthy diet. Withings should know that, considering the HealthMate app syncs with MyFitnessPal, a popular nutrition tracking app that I use religiously. I was hoping for something a little more substantial. This is the kind of generic information I could have received from a simple Google search.

Features

Smart scales, compared

Withings Body CardioFitbit AriaGarmin Index Smart ScaleUnder Armour Smart Scale
Price $180, £140, AU$290$130, £100, AU$180$150, £130, AU$249$400 (as part of HealthBox)
Platform Android, iOS, WebAndroid, iOS, Windows, WebAndroid, iOS, WebAndroid, iOS
Connectivity W-Fi, BluetoothWi-FiWi-Fi, Bluetooth, ANTWi-Fi, Bluetooth
Number of users 88168
Battery One year, built-in rechargeable4 Double A4 Double A4 Double A
Max Weight up to 396 lbsup to 350 lbsup to 400 lbsup to 396 lbs
Body Mass Index (BMI) YesYesYesYes
Body Fat Percentage YesYesYesYes
Muscle Mass YesNoYesNo
Body Water Percentage YesNoYesNo
Bone Mass YesNoYesNo
Other Measurements Pulse Wave Velocity, temperature, standing heart rateN/AN/AN/A

Should you buy it?

The design of the Body Cardio is appealing (for a scale), and it works while sitting on both hard floors and carpet. It can automatically recognize up to eight different users, and can display the weather (when connected to Wi-Fi) as well as your previous day's steps if you use a Withings fitness tracker. An added perk is the built-in battery. The Body Cardio features a microUSB port for charging, but the battery should last up to a year.

Aside from the mixed experience I had with Pulse Wave Velocity, I found weight and body composition measurements to be on par with other scales I tested. I did notice some fluctuations with standing heart rate, though. On multiple occasions it measured my heart rate at over 100 beats per minute, even though it was actually closer to 60 bpm.

I wouldn't recommend the Body Cardio until the flagship Pulse Wave Velocity feature is improved, or justified. Even then, $180 would be a hard sell without truly personalized feedback.

There are better scales out there, especially if you are already invested in the Fitbit or Garmin ecosystems. The Fitbit Aria and Garmin Index Smart scales are both solid choices. If you aren't already part of an ecosystem, the more affordable Withings Body is worth checking out. You don't need the heart measurements in the Body Cardio.

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6.3

Withings Body Cardio Scale

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 5