Most helpful positive review
66 of 70 people found the following review helpful
Well Integrated Website, Simple to Use Device
on February 2, 2012
Here is our summary review of our Biggest Loser SlimCoach. We are also keeping daily notes on how well the device functions, so feel free to ask any questions you want, and we can provided detailed responses on our experience with the unit.
First, a bit of background. My boyfriend and I have been writing about exercise / weight loss for over ten years now. We have thoroughly tested a variety of scales, blood pressure devices, exercise devices, heart chest monitors, watch monitors, pedometers, cholesterol testers, and more. So we greatly enjoy the "scientific query" involved in figuring out if devices do what they claim to do and comparing them with other devices.
We purchased our Biggest Loser SlimCoach with our own funds in order to do this examination on this unit. We watch the Biggest Loser series on TV and were curious just how well this device worked.
The box that arrives is fairly small - about the size of a thick paperback. It has very little in it. The SlimCoach device itself is fairly fragile plastic and is about the height of a business card, and shorter in width. It's about a finger thickness deep. You also get a plastic belt clip, a micro-USB cable, a short nylon lanyard, a postcard with your ID code, and a slim warranty booklet. That's all. There is no software or user guide provided.
In order to get started you absolutely must go to their website and download the software. When prompted, you then connect your SlimCoach to your computer via the standard micro-USB cable to initialize it. Your purchase provides you with a year access to the website. It's critical to note that once that expires, if you choose not to renew, then in essence your SlimCoach no longer becomes helpful. You will not be able to upload the raw data from the unit to their website to view your statistics. So you constantly need that live web account in order to keep using your unit.
The software installation and account setup is fairly quick and easy. You put in a few basic statistics to create your account - gender, height, weight, and so on. Then you can customize what you want to do with your future. You can set a designated weight goal as well as a rate of 1-4 pounds a week to lose.
There's a full menu area where you set up the foods you eat each day. It's fairly well designed, allowing you to store favorite foods for easy access and to set up meal plans. You can track not only the basics like carbs and calories but also more detailed items like trans fats and sodium. You can set your own limits for each item. On one hand you have to enter the foods one by one, but on the other hand their library of known foods is immense and once you get your favorites set up it's fairly quick to choose from them and be set for the day.
So far in our testing the website seems fairly easy to use and provides helpful information. While it might be a bit sluggish at times, the data input went fairly quickly and once it was set there was no reason to tweak it much after that. Really, we are using the website just as a data tracking system, not as something to surf on for hours.
The unit itself, while a bit flimsy, is also easy to use and seems to be responsive. We will post more detailed information on the unit's comparison with our other devices, including our heart rate monitors, in a short while. In the meantime feel free to ask questions! So far the unit gets a 5/5 rating - with the caveat that you have to understand that you are locked into paying them eternally for its usage. So think of it as a NetFlix account, where you keep paying each month (or each year) to get continued access to the system.
UPDATE AFTER ONE WEEK:
The unit has held up nicely, including going into a sauna. It is so lightweight that even while golfing it is completely unnoticeable (which is of course important). It gets great kudos for doing its job in a very unobtrusive manner. Compared against a variety of pedometers and other tracking devices it is accurate.
The website's nutrition area was useful and easy to use. Updating and maintaining daily menus was simple. Having the stats there helped motivate more healthy eating. One downside is that the stats for a given day show you red and green as a simple color of reaching or not reaching a goal. So for example if my goal was to eat 40% of my daily intake as protein, it would calculate that to grams and then show me red all day long for protein until I crossed that level. I get no indicator if I'm close or far from my goal - I.e. should I eat a lot of protein at lunch or just a little. A bar graph would be much more helpful, to glance at and know what my remaining meals should look like.
The website's exercise area does its job. You tell the system what types of exercises you enjoy, and they let you know what you'd need to do in each to reach your calorie goals. Their options are a wide range of activities from walking the dog to canoeing to gym equipment. So whatever it is you enjoy, the system will offer ideas with that in mind.
We were a bit disappointed on day week-plus-one. The system had kept saying it would revamp our goals and assign us an "animal symbol" once we got through the initial evaluation week. Instead, the daily calorie goals once we crossed that point were exactly the same as they'd been before. The animal symbol was a snail - their lowest - even though we did over 2 1/2 times their set goals every day. We almost wonder if everyone starts out as a snail so they can "show progress" in subsequent weeks.
UPDATE AFTER ONE MONTH:
OK, downgrading this to 3 stars, and it could drop lower. Literally the day after I posted our one week summary, the unit failed completely. After working with their tech support we had to send it back. We wonder if it was the sauna that did it, even though the temperature in the sauna was clearly within its operating range. So with the new unit we did NOT bring it into the sauna. It went for daily two hour workouts in a gym, though, on treadmills, ellipticals, and so on. This time it lasted a month before it failed. I think it failed at the 28 day mark. Since it was primarily being exposed to indoor activities, it wasn't rain or sun or dirt or anything else. The only thing we can guess was that it was sweat, since the plastic is not well sealed and sweat could easily get into it.
At this point to test it we ordered a THIRD SlimCoach - this one in black instead of white (we're testing every theory here). So we've had both of them at this point. Now rather than having it go with the gym-guy it's staying with the dancing-girl so it's not even leaving the house. I do Wii dancing as my exercise. And I don't sweat like gym-guy does. So we'll see how long it lasts in this situation.
So if we assume that the physical unit does fine with me, after a month of use we like and dislike the website interface. The nutrition tracker is great - but it isn't used in their calculations. That is, it's fantastic for knowing all the stats of what you eat each day. But in terms of their goals and progress, they completely ignore those numbers you enter. Instead they solely go with your weight you report and the calories the unit tracks. So they claim you ate whatever the difference between the two is. Which makes absolutely no sense, because, as a female, at least a quarter of my life I'm dealing with water gain issues from my period. So their data is inaccurate a quarter of the time for me. Also, they won't let me hand enter calories I've burned. So if I go kayaking and don't wear the unit to keep it safe (since it appears a half drop of water can kill the thing) then all of that is now "invisible calorie burn" to their system. They trust me to enter my weight accurately. They trust me to enter every item of food I eat every day accurately. Why can't they trust me to enter my other caloric burn information accurately? That makes the online system less than fully accurate for my tracking.
Also - and this is really bizarre - their numbers don't seem to add up. I started at 135 pounds. I told it I wanted to lose 2 pounds a week. They told me my body naturally burns 1350 calories a day just by existing. So they asked me to add another 160 calories a day of activity to that, and to eat 1200 calories a day. That's a net calorie deficit of 310 calories a day. At that rate it would take me 12 days to lose a single pound. How does this equate to losing 2 pounds a week?
And related to that, their goal chart is inaccurate. They show you a visual graph of how you start with slow activity and work up to higher level of activities over the time period. They tell you how many calories to burn along the way and what your base metabolic rate (that 'natural burn' of your body) is. However, for the entire time period - let's say 3 months - they use your STARTING BMR value. Your BMR is based on your size - which is shrinking! So at the end of the time period your BMR will be *lower* because of your weight loss. So the chart becomes inaccurate on day 2 and becomes more and more inaccurate as time progresses.
I will post more after I use this unit for a few weeks, to see if it dies as quickly with me as it did with gym-guy.
We kept far more detailed notes than this; this is necessarily brief to keep this review manageable. Let me know if you have questions.
FINAL UPDATE: It appears the website is completely down, which makes this unit completely non-functional. It is just a piece of plastic now. If someone knows otherwise, please let me know.