Gaiam Touch Heart Rate Monitor SE336 Review

Buttonless Touch Screen Heart Rate Monitor with Chest Strap

Gaiam Touch Heart Rate Monitor SE336M
Gaiam Touch Heart Rate Monitor SE336M. Courtesy of

The Gaiam Touch SE336 is a buttonless heart rate monitor that won a Design and Engineering Award at the 2012 Consumer Electronic Show. It has a lovely design, thinner than any other heart rate monitor wristwatch and nice enough to wear all day as a watch.

If you want a basic heart rate monitor with a nice sporty slim wristwatch, this is for you. If you want more out of your heart rate monitor, keep shopping.

I suggest almost any of my top picks for heart rate monitors under $100 rather than this model, on features alone.

Misadventures in Product Instructions

The folks at Oregon Scientific need to coordinate their product inserts. The slick Quick Start Guide is completely wrong. It starts off mislabeling the touch screen buttons (let's call them dots since they are just dots on the face of the watch) and gives you instructions to press the incorrect ones. You might as well throw it away and just use the less-friendly-looking User Manual. This was a very bad start for a heart rate monitor that touts it's "intuitive interface."

But this doesn't matter once you actually memorize what the touch screen dots do. You'll have to memorize it because they aren't labeled in any way on the touch screen, they are just dots. You will have to keep your wits about you when you use it to remember which one does what.

Luckily, the watch has very few functions, so you will get the hang of it quick enough.

Once I let my frustration about the product insert instructions cool off, I was able to set my user info - gender, age, weight, height, activity level (beginner, intermediate, athlete). You can choose which heart rate zone you want it to target for you -- fat burning, aerobic, or anaerobic.

You can choose whether it sends you an alert when you are above or below the zone.

If you agree to the Toggle function, then when in Exercise mode the watch automatically scrolls through heart rate, exercise time, calories burned and fat burned continuously throughout your workout.

Gaiam Touch SE336 as a Watch

If you wear this as a watch, without the chest strap sensor, you have a nice-looking watch with a comfortable silicone strap and big number display. In Time mode, it shows the hour and minutes, plus AM/PM. You can activate the backlight with the top left dot.

The screen locks after a few seconds of not pressing a dot, which is a nice feature to keep you from accidentally stopping/starting the exercise stopwatch. To unlock it, you tap the screen and it confirms it is unlocking in big letters. I like that, no confusion there.

If you don't want heart rate but want to time a workout, you can tap it to unlock the watch, press the bottom left Mode dot, and when EXE appears, it asks you about your HR belt.

You agree to Skip it and now you are in stopwatch mode. Press the upper right dot to start your workout timing. It displays hours, minutes, seconds, and hundredths of seconds. It won't record calories or fat burned unless you are using the chest strap. You touch the same dot to stop the stopwatch. When done, you press the Mode dot (lower left) to enter the workout into Memory.

It doesn't have any other sports watch functions such as interval timers, countdown timer, lap recording.

Gaiam Touch SE336 as a Heart Rate Monitor

The Gaiam SE336 calculates your heart rate zones automatically for you. Before your workout, you can change which zone you want it to alert you to. But during a workout, you can't change zones, and it only displays beats per minute, not percent of maximum heart rate.

I suggest you make sure your chest belt is getting a good, steady reading before you start your "real" workout. I've made the mistake of putting it on and having the first reading be flaky with an inflated heart rate. Unfortunately, that's what it remembers to display as my top heart rate for the session and it probably skews the average heart rate for the exercise session.

During your workout, it's nice to have it toggle through heart rate, exercise time, calories burned and fat burned. I like that. Or you can choose to have it not toggle.

After your workout, you can review up to 90 past workouts. It gives you total exercise time, time in zone, maximum heart rate, average heart rate, calories burned and fat burned.

You can't download your data from the watch.

Bottom Line on the Oregon Scientific Gaiam Touch Heart Rate Monitor SE336

Pretty watch. Nice big, easy-to-read numbers for aging eyes. Nicely brainless heart rate monitor once you get it set up and memorize the buttons, if you are content with working out in one zone per exercise session. It lacks the multitude of features in many other heart rate monitors. It's a trade-off that can be the right thing for many walkers and runners. I like having a good-looking watch that I can wear all day, then use as a heart rate monitor when I add the chest belt.

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Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer.

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