The nut: It does what it claims, but the new software features aren't very useful. The new vibration function, however, is. For people good at sleep, but awful at waking.
The Sleeptracker Pro watch uses a built-in accelerometer to guess when your are most close to waking while asleep, then gently nudges you with its vibration or beeps to wake you. By catching you at the right point of your sleep cycle, rather than at an arbitrary time you set before you went to sleep, the Sleeptracker aims to help you wake refreshed.
I haven't been using the Sleeptracker Pro for very long—about a week, and not every night—but I've already been surprised at how well it works at waking me up at a point where it doesn't feel like I'm about to have a heart attack. So that's an improvement right there. I have the privilege of being able to set a fairly large window for it to wake me within. I gave it a full hour window, although it will go as large as an hour-and-a-half, and as narrow as twenty minutes.
Because you have to set that initial window, I wasn't able to just slap it on my wrist and crash out the first time I used it. In fact, because I needed to thumb through a manual to figure out what to do, I put it aside for a few nights before I was ready to futz with it. Because it's a watch and not something with a larger screen, this is more difficult than it might have to be. The stilted, overly technicaly language in the manual doesn't help.
(The whole setup process could be humanized simply by asking three questions: "Roughly when do you want to wake up?"; "Okay, so somewhere between 6 and 7 AM?"; "Let me know when you're going to sleep!" Hard to do on a watch, unfortunately.)
Once configured, though, using the Sleeptracker was as easy as holding down the "Down" button to indicate I was going to bed. In the morning it would wake me—at least when I wouldn't wake myself a few minutes before it did. Something about anticipating being woken by a new clock made my body's internal clock more sensitive.
The Sleeptracker Pro is ugly. You could wear it all day if you wanted to—it works just fine as a regular watch—but you won't because it's orange and because its small LCD window on a moderately large face makes it look cheap. On the other hand, the orange highlights make it easier to pick out on a cluttered desk in the twilight.
The "Pro" in Sleeptracker Pro indicates a few upgraded features from the previous (and still available) model, most notably bundled software that allows you to download and compare your sleep history to track how restless you may have been in the night. But because the Sleeptracker Pro only has enough storage inside for one night's data, if you miss a night you're out of luck. I also didn't find the provided data to be all that interesting or useful and the included software was unattractive visually and experientially.
That doesn't matter much, though, because the Sleeptracker Pro is only $30 more than the $150 Sleeptracker Standard, and it's worth $30 alone to get the vibration feature, which the cheaper model does not have.
One morning the Sleeptracker went off on my desk. I'd forgotten to wear it. Apparently Sleeptracker does not do any baseline movement monitoring to tell if it's on your arm or if you are dead.
The way the USB connects to the watch is kind of neat. Rather than having a standard mini USB port on the side that would compromise water resistance—and you definitely want a watch that wakes you from sleep to resist morning showers—there are three small discs on the bottom of the watch. The included cable has a USB port on one end for your computer and a three-tooth clip on the other. Syncing doesn't happen automatically, though. You'll have to switch the watch to data mode, attach the clip, open the software on your Windows PC, and press a sync button. It's a hassle.
Would I buy one? For the average person, $180 is too much for an alarm clock, no matter how personalized and feather-like its touch. But if you are the sort of person who always seems to wake up in a blur, it might be worth a shot. Waking up well is important. Frames your whole day. You could also try going to bed earlier, not setting an alarm at all, and telling yourself roughly when you're like to wake up. You might be amazed at how accurate your brain alone can be.
Product Page [Sleeptracker.com]