There are many types of Heart Rate Monitors, the most popular being, Polar. Polar has dozens of different models on offer ranging from $99 to $850 (Retail AUD). This guide will help you determine which one best suits you.
Polar sells 5 categories of Heart Rate Monitors; Fittness, Weight Management, Running, Cycling and Outdoor Sports. Fitness and Weight Management models all include a watch and a Heart Rate (HR) transmitter, these models are overall cheaper and cater for the standard person who does not need all the features.
The other three categories are, on average, more expensive. But these categories include bonus features not included in weight management or fitness models. Running, for instance has the option and capability to have a cadence sensor. This cadence sensor is attached to the shoe and relays information about the users speed and distance to the watch, where it is displayed in a similar way to the heart rate. The top of the line models, the SX625, allows altitude to be graphed with speed and the users heart rate. This model retails for AUD $675. A more affordable model such as the RS200sd still has features of speed and distance but does not include altitude. Beware, there is also a model named the RS200, note there is no "sd" on the end. This means that the footpod/cadence sensor is not included in the package.
Cycling compatible HR monitors are also available. They attach to the bike in a similar way to a bike speedo/ cats eye. Like the running computer, they relay information on speed and distance to the watch whilst still showing a HR reading. The top of the line model is the S725X which retails for $650. There are cheaper models that are limited to basic features and retail for as little as $200.
The final category is Outdoor Sports, these models are stylishly designed and include many helpful features such as vertical speed, barometer, compass and an alitmeter. The top of the line watch is made of titanium, the AXN 700 retails for $849. Cheaper models again have less features and are not wholly titanium, but can be purchased for as little as $450.
So upon deciding to purchase a HR monitor, decide what you want out of it. Are you a regular runner? A cycler? A treker? If you are just looking for a basic model to monitor your health, the the Fitness and Weight Management models will be more than sufficient.
Upon deciding on a category, price becomes an issue. Take into account the model of the Transmitter included (i.e. the belt worn around the chest to measure HR) and any other features such as a footpod or cyclo computer. The FS1, for $99 is still a high quality model, but a running or cycling computer for the more active may be great for motivation, preparation for an event or for maintaining a high level of performance/fitness.