Review – Bayer Contour


Boredom comes in many flavours. Waiting for trains that have been delayed yet again by damp leaves or suicidal cows on the line are boring. Watching the end of documentary on geese farming in Essex while you wait for that new comedy to come on the TV is boring. Impatiently waiting your turn in a dank, dripping, seedy Bangkok bordello is boring.

But with the new Bayer Contour blood glucose meter I’ve found a brand new flavour of boring.

Up front the Contour is a perfectly fine meter – it tests your blood and spits out a result, which is I guess what we’re all after in a meter; but the Contour seems to do it without the slightest interesting feature to raise it up above the morass of other meters currently available on the market that fight for the attention of the pancreatically-challenged populace.

Looks-wise Contour is okay, it’s certainly not as sexy as the funky Nano, but it’ll do. I guess. It’s similar in a way to those Toyota Corollas which come in that hideous watery light-blue that seem to be driven exclusively by old age pensioners. It’s not entirely offensive to the eye but it hardly sets the world on fire with an eruption of thrilling colour and design.

In terms of features, the Contour has everything you would expect from a modern meter. On the plus side, it has a reasonable memory for your results and it doesn’t need to be calibrated with each new set of strips which is always a welcome addition.

On the minus side at 0.6μL the Contour needs quite a large sample size which is a bad thing as I prefer to keep my blood in me rather than smeared all over multitudinous test strips. The test time of five seconds is also relatively sluggish but just about acceptable.

Perhaps a redeeming feature is that the Contour can be used in two modes – what I like to call “Idiot Mode” and “Clever Mode”. Idiot Mode does nothing but take your blood and spew out a reading which I suppose is handy if you can’t be bothered faffing about with extra features and functions. However, the “Clever Mode” where you can turn on pre and post meal markers and note unusual readings isn’t really all that clever in that these are functions common to pretty much every meter out there; but at least you have the option to turn them off. Clever Mode also includes an alarm which can remind you to do a test after a meal – again mildly handy for the negligent diabetic.

The Contour generally performs as well as any other meter when it comes to using it in the pitch dark – in other words not very well, meaning you have to turn on the bedside light and wake up your slumbering wife – though I did find the smooth buttons harder than some to use.

So all in all, the Contour is certainly not a bad meter – it does most things reasonably well – but with other meters out there that offer so much more this meter’s going to be confined to the boring bottom of my boring spares drawer.

Sample size - 2/5
0.6µL, hmm somewhat vampiric

Test time - 3/5
5 seconds – slightly sluggish, but acceptable

Test strip calibration - 5/5
No calibration needed. Yay!

Test strip slurpiness - 4/5
Yum, nice n’slurpy

Memory - 4/5
500 readings

Sexiness - 2/5
Dull as a train spotter at Reading station

Beeping - 5/5
Can thankfully be turned off

4am test - 2/5
Smooth buttons difficult to find in pitch darkness, backlight is fine but no light on the test strip

Grand total – 27/40

Read about our blood glucose meter reviews or check out the manufacturer’s web site.

Poll results – what medical identification should a diabetic use?

Odd Sverressøn Klingenberg
Odd Sverressøn Klingenberg, Norwegian Minister of Social Affairs 1920-1921, who might have voted in this poll. Possibly.

Well, well, well, well, well, well, well, it’s that time of the month again – the eagerly anticipated poll results post. Huzzah!

Last time we asked what medical identification should a diabetic use. As usual the silly result came top, with “Tattoo saying ‘diabetic’ on forehead & brass bell” garnering 46% of the vote and thus commanding a clear majority. I’ve rushed out to buy shares in brass bell companies this afternoon and I advise you to do the same.

In second place came “A discrete bracelet or dog tag” with 35% of the vote. This is my preferred option. Though I’m afraid to report that my dog tag generally remains in my bedside cabinet and rarely graces my neck, which entirely defeats the purpose of owning said dog tag.

Down in the dog-end of the results came “Nothing – I hate wearing medical ID” with 7% and the deeply cynical answer of “Nothing – nobody would look at it anyway” coming close behind with 6%. Finally, “Wallet ID” trailed in last with 6%.

So there we have it.

This month to tie-in with Diabetes Week (woo.) we’re asking how many people you tell about your diabetes. Cast your vote over there (**points slightly downwards and to the right of your screen**)

Those results in full:

Tattoo saying “diabetic” on forehead & brass bell (46%, 61 Votes)
A discrete bracelet or dog tag (35%, 47 Votes)
Nothing – I hate wearing medical ID (7%, 9 Votes)
Nothing – nobody would look at it anyway (6%, 8 Votes)
Wallet ID (6%, 8 Votes)

Happy New Lancet for 2011

Celebrate the new year ShootUp style with a shiny new blood letting device

As a somewhat lax lancet changer, a new year is always a trigger for me to change a lancet. There’d be nothing worse than starting 2011 with a  blunt finger poker.

With that, I’ll offer you the now traditional (well we did it last year too) ShootUp new year greeting…

Happy New Lancet to you all.

Review – Abbott Optium Xceed

The Exceed - the AK47 of the meter world
The Exceed - the AK47 of the meter world

Think back to the wonderful day you were diagnosed with Type One. Ah, what lovely memories. The smell of hospital detergent, the sinking feeling in your belly as you realised with a dread chill that your life would never be the same; the moderately caring but slightly detached consultant; wondering what the hell diabetes was and how long you had to live. Such happy days.

After the initial shock you would – hopefully – be given a crash-course to teach you how to stand in for your pancreas, now that the stupid bloody thing had decided to conk out on you.

Weighted down with leaflets about driving with diabetes, drinking with diabetes, eating with diabetes and booklets detailing the thrills and spills of peripheral neuropathy you would have probably be issued with one of these little beauties, the almost completely ubiquitous Optium Xceed.

The Optium Xceed is the AK47 assault rifle of the blood-glucose meter world. Simple to use, easily available, known all the world round and standard issue to the newly-diagnosed. While quite a lot of us gadget-obsessed geeks have moved on to something slightly more sophisticated, I bet pretty much all of us have one of these in a bottom-drawer somewhere if they’re not in actual active use.

The main reason for the Xceed still hanging around is that it’s one of the very few meters that can check for ketones. I’m probably a negligent diabetic but I never, ever, ever, ever check my ketones. I know I’m diabetic (obviously), I know sometimes my blood glucose goes high (obviously) and I know that, as sure as day follows breakfast, that I will sometimes produce ketones when I’m high. I don’t really need a meter to tell me something so strikingly obvious aside the occasional exceptional emergency.

Though saying that, I do own an Oregon weather station that tells me it’s raining outside (it does a lot of that in Scotland) when I could simply look out of the window. I didn’t need that meter to tell me that but I still have it. So maybe, the whole ketone measuring thing does have a place after all. Or maybe they’re just pandering to the lunatics who adhere to the late, lamentable Atkins’ diet; who calculate the diet isn’t working unless they’re producing ketones. Nutters.

Anyway, getting down to blood glucose measuring itself, the meter needs to be calibrated with each new set of test strips, which is a bit of pain. The test strips themselves come individually foil-wrapped, which I’m sure is great for something but the extra unwrapping just annoyingly adds another step to the tedium of testing. Also your bag also soon fills up with a tonne more crap compared to other meters.

The strips themselves are relatively slurpy, require quite a small sample of 0.3µL and tests take 5 seconds. All in all not world class, but acceptable. Just. Moving on down the specifications list, it has a 450-test memory and 7, 14 and 30 day averaging. You can also download your results to your computer, should you choose too.

So, if it wasn’t for the ketone measuring thing, this meter would be consigned to the bin. But because of the ketone-thing and the fact I once saw this model on an episode of BBC’s Casualty when they had some poor bloke falling into a diabetic coma, or something, on an episode – I nudged my wife excitedly, “I’ve got one of them!” So for that reason alone it deserves to remain in the drawer with some out of date test strips for emergency use.

So to summarise:

Sample size > 5/5

Test time > 2/5
5 seconds

Test strip calibration > 2/5
Yes, each batch needs calibrating

Test strip slurpiness > 2/5
Perhaps slightly waterproof compared to other strips

Memory > 2/5
450 tests

Sexiness > 2/5
Too ubiquitous to be sexy – a victim of it’s own success

Beeping > 5/5
Yes, can be turned off

4am test > 3/5
Comes complete with backlight and is relatively straightforward to use

Grand total: 23/40

Read our other meter reviews

Comatose and rotting toes – the lighter side of insulin dependency