“Withings BPM Core blood pressure and ECG monitor breaks our heart with inconsistent performance.”
- Reliable blood pressure measurements
- Useful ECG analysis
- Long battery life
- Solid Construction
- Digital stethoscope fails to record heart sounds
- Stiff cuff is difficult to adjust
Withings wants to revolutionize the at-home health industry with wireless scales to track your weight, smart pads that measure your sleep, and app-connected thermometers to take your temperature. Now the company is tackling the exploding market for at-home blood pressure monitors with the $250 Withings BMP Core. The Core has a relatively hefty price tag, but there’s a reason for that. It’s the world’s first blood pressure monitor with an onboard electrocardiogram (ECG) and digital stethoscope.
Being a do-it-all device is tough, and though the Core nails two out of three, that last one is a bugger for Withings.
Withings tries to cover all the bases with the BPM Core. It includes a wireless blood pressure monitor to detect hypertension, a three-lead ECG for atrial fibrillation, and a digital stethoscope to detect valvular heart diseases. All of these tools are packaged into a relatively small and stylish device that rolls up to about the size of a small nerf football. It fits easily in a backpack or duffel bag, but it’s a bit too big for a purse or messenger bag.
Similar to the BPM Connect, the Withings BPM Core doesn’t look like a medical device. It has a stiff grey cuff with a white and silver cylinder that houses the blood pressure monitor, one lead of the ECG, and the display. There’s also a digital stethoscope on the side, which is designed to fit against the rib cage while performing an ECG. The display is a dot-matrix style LED that displays information one line at a time. I much prefer larger display panels that show all your information at once, but that’s the price you pay for a compact device.
The BPM Core is challenging to use. The blood pressure cuff is molded to fit your arm, and it was a bit too big for my small arms. I had to fight a bit with the cuff to get a snug fit. I also had to be careful not to wrap the cuff all the way around as that would block the digital stethoscope. Your mileage may vary.
Speaking of the digital stethoscope, you have to position it flat against your ribs or else it will not record your heartbeat. Withings counsels you to rest and relax for five minutes before taking a reading, but after fighting with the cuff and worrying about positioning the stethoscope, I felt like my rest period was completely ruined.
The Withings BPM Core is unique in that it measure three metrics in one session. The unit begins with your blood pressure and then simultaneously measures your ECG and heartbeat sounds. When it comes to measuring your blood pressure, the Withings BPM Core delivers. The device matched my at-home blood pressure monitor as well as the one at the doctor’s office.
The ECG also worked reliably as long as my heart rate was above 50 beats per minute. I have a low resting heart rate (45-50bpm), which often produced an inconclusive result. This is something we’ve seen on devices like the Apple Watch, which can’t conclusively test for ailments like atrial fibrillation on heart rates lower than 50bpm. When my heart rate was up a bit, each scan I performed was graded as normal since I have no underlying heart condition. If I have any concerns with my inconclusive results, I can send the reading along to my doctor in a few quick steps.
Unfortunately, the Core couldn’t measure everything quite so accurately. In fact, the digital stethoscope failed — a lot. Of the 50 or so readings I took, I was only able to accurately record my heartbeat a handful of times. It would record the heartbeat each session, but the unit would not be able to analyze the recording. I tried measuring my heartbeat in a quiet room to minimize background noise; that didn’t work. I tried it while wearing a lightweight t-shirt to minimize interference — still failed.
The digital stethoscope failed — a lot.
I even lifted up my shirt to give the stethoscope skin contact and it still didn’t work consistently. In the end, I positioned myself best as I could to do the heartbeat recording, but I gave up hope that I’d record any meaningful data.
The Withings Core is powered by a USB rechargeable battery rated for six months of battery life. Even with multiple blood pressure and ECG readings a day, I only charged the battery once and that was when I first received the device.
I am more than two months in and still working off that first charge.
The $250 Withings BPM Core is still awaiting approval by the FDA and is not yet available in the U.S., but can be purchased in Europe from Withings’ website.
The company offers a one-year limited warranty on its digital health products.
The Withings BPM Core accurately measures blood pressure and ECG, but it stumbles when recording heart sound, rendering it nearly useless. Because of this shortcoming, it’s not worth its $250 price tag.
Is there a better alternative?
If ECG isn’t of particular importance to you, the $100 Withings BPM Connect lacks ECG capability but accurately records blood pressure and measures your heart rate, storing all this data for future analysis as the BPM Core does.
Another solid choice is the $55 Omron 10 blood pressure monitor which sends your data wirelessly to you smartphone or tablet.
How long will it last?
The Withings BPM Core is solidly built with a durable cuff and rugged casing which houses the display. Expect the unit to last three years or more under normal usage.
Should you buy it?
The Withings BPM Core may deliver reliable ECG and blood pressure measurements, but its inconsistent stethoscope prevents me from recommending this device.
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