While you can spend hundreds of dollars on a heart-rate monitor, you can also spend far less for a useful workout aid. You won't find lots of features -- or any at all, in some cases -- but several sub-$100 units do an outstanding job with the task that matters most: delivering accurate heart-rate information during workouts.
The best of the low-priced heart-rate monitors is our Best Reviewed Polar FT1 (*Est. $45) . It's among the least expensive, but performs reliably and accurately. You won't find much of note in the features department, although settable target zones are an exception. That feature lets you set an intensity zone for your workout, and warns you with visual and audible alarms if you leave that zone. The FT1 also uses Polar's OwnCode technology to cut down interference from other gear for more reliable communications between the chest strap and wrist-mounted display.
Another heart-rate monitor in this category is the Omron HR-100C (*Est. $35) , which is cheaper still and comes with a few extras. It also has selectable heart-rate target zones and adds a stopwatch feature, but its lack of a chronograph makes it unsuitable for interval timing. However, some reviews call its reliability into question.
No budget heart-rate monitor has more bells and whistles than the Sportline Duo 1060 (*Est. $85) . Its list of goodies includes a stopwatch, interval timing, pre-set and custom target zones, and a pedometer and speedometer that allow users to track speed and distance without a foot pod or other accessory. It comes with the standard-issue chest strap, as well as technology that lets a user measure his or her heart rate by placing a finger on the face of the wrist unit for a few seconds. User feedback isn't extensive, but we did see enough dissatisfied owners to rate it less highly than the Polar FT1. Some of the Duo 1060's features are said to be either flaky or hard to use, and some owners find its overall reliability iffy.