Posted: April, 2012
The Contour USB meter is the only meter I am aware of that has a built in USB port, however if you never remove the end cap housing the USB plug, you would still have a compact, easy to use glucose meter. You would have to remove the end cap at some point to charge the meter since it has no serviceable batteries and does require periodic charging.The meter can charged though a supplied wall plug power transformer or though a powered USB port. Most USB ports built into a computer are powered. If you use a USB hub, you need to verify that it provides powered ports. The meter comes with a 1m USB extension cable which I found useful because even though I have powered USB ports on the front of my desktop, the meter is too wide to plug into a USB port if you have another port next to it which is in use by something which can't be removed. In my case my wireless mouse receiver. Kudo's to Bayer for realizing this might be a problem and providing the cable.
The meter is about the size of a Peez dispenser at 3.82 inches long, 1.18 inches wide and only .63" tall. Even though I found the meter easy to hold and use, I think it would be good for children or adults with small hands. I did have a hard time getting the strips to auto turn on the meter on insertion but that seems to have improved after a few dozen strips or so.
The display is bright with clear text and a nice text layout and the menu system is logical. After you take a glucose reading, the meter gives you the choice of tagging the reading as "Before Meal", "After Meal" or "No Selection".
There is a built in timer you can set for between 15 min and 23 hours 45 min except the timers alarm volume is so weak and only sounds for a few seconds that I only heard it once out of a dozens times I tried it. Do not expect the timer to be of much use unless your in a quiet room or have superman hearing.
The meter has built in adjustable target ranges for the "Before Meal" and "After Meal" settings. Each target range and be set between 79 - 99 for the low end and 89-250 for the high side.
As you might expect the USB port does more than just charge your meter. The Contour USB has built-in software to view your glucose data on your computer or you can install a desktop version, downloaded from Bayer. Both the desktop software and the meter software are called Glucofacts Deluxe, however there are some differences in the two versions even though they are called the same. That is a little confusing and should have been better thought out. Both versions are reviewed in my software review section, but I will address some issues unique to the Contour USB meter.
When you first plug the meter into your computer you expect the embedded Glucofacts software to auto launch. That is what should happen if you are using Windows XP / Vista, of course only after all the device drivers load and if you have auto play enabled and your antivirus software does not block the application and if your firewall does not stop JAVA from executing. Once you authorize all those things it should run smoothly the next time you go to use it. In Windows 7 however Microsoft disabled Autorun.inf from executing on USB drives. This was a security measure to reduce the chance of you plugging in a USB drive with a virus on board. There are several so-called work arounds floating the internet, but what may work for one person, does not always work for another person. Bayer has on their Contour USB website a page where you can download a file (InstallDesktopShortcut.bat) to aid in launching the software. As of 4-20-2012, the link does not work. You are instead directed to a page to download the latest desktop version.
When you plug the meter into a Win7 system (with auto play enabled) you should see two pop up boxes. The meter shows up in your systems as two available USB drives. The first drive called CONTOUR USB and the other is called Glucofacts. Both drives are full accessible and can be used as you would any portable USB thumb drive. The COUNTOUR USB drive comes empty and has 511 MB of available storage. The Glucofacts drive is 409 MB in size and is loaded with the Glucofacts Deluxe software, which leaves 371 MB of free storage.
To launch the software you navigate to the Glucofacts drive and click the Glucofacts.bat file.
Bayer gives a simplified set of instructions for launching the application. (link opens new window).
You will be given an option to download the full desktop version of the same software. If you are using a computer that you wish to use for future management of your meters data I would go ahead and download the full version. The additional features are covered in the software review, but there is another advantage. The desktop version installation also installed a little code to monitor your USB ports. When you plug in your meter, you still get the auto play "What do you want to do" box, but the meter is detected and a box opens up asking which version software you wish to use. If you are using your own computer, I would highly recommend downloading the full version, but if you are at work or at the doctors office and their computers don't block the software for security reasons, it does provide you some flexibility in viewing your software.
I found the test strips to be the weakest part of the whole system. I used FreeStyle strips for years and that experience gave me an insight to the Contour Strips I may not otherwise have realized. The Contour Strips require a 0.6µL blood sample size compared to the FreeStyles 0.3µL. That by itself is not a big deal. What I did find bothersome is not the sample size, but how much blood you needed to get that sample size properly into the strip to avoid an error thus wasting a strip. I test on my forearm 95% of the time and more than a few times I had an error on the meter for lack of sample size. To reduce errors I, like most I suppose, made sure I had a nice big drop of blood to sample. When I plunged the strip into the sample and got my reading, I then removed the strip from the meter getting the extra blood from the strip on my fingers. Ok, I know this is REALLY nit picking, but I never had that problem with the FreeStyle because those strips have a 60 second window to soak up its required sample size. This meant you didn't need to start off with an oversized blood sample. If you do not have enough blood, you wait a few seconds for more blood to become available.
|Assay (Test) Method|| Electrochemical Sensor
FAD glucose dehydrogenase and potassium ferricyanide (FAD-GDH)
|Automatic Shutoff||3 min after last user contact.|
|Battery Life||5 years - Non-serviceable|
|Altitude:||Up to 10,000 feet|
|Meter Storage Temp||NA|
|Timer||15 min to 23H 45M|
|Extra Memory||1G user accessible via USB|
|Operating Relative Humidity||10 to 93%|
|Operating Temperature||41° - 113° F|
|Power Source||280mAh rechargeable lithium polymer|
|Resulting Range||20 to 600 mg/dL|
|Sample||Fresh capillary and venous whole blood|
|Sample Size||.6 microliter|
|Size||1.18" W x 3.82L x .63D|
|Weight||1.2 ounces (34 g)|
Being a border city has advantages and disadvantages, one disadvantage is having to always refer to imperial and metric units against your will. Sometimes you end up with a strange mix, I usually refer to temperature in the summer in F and temperature in the winter seems to make more sense in C.
If you know anyone in the US and have ever had a conversation about blood sugar, it may surprise you to hear how happy they are to have their fasting sugars below 100 (which in Canada would equate to about 5.5), or them to hear you explain how you had a SLIGHT low of 3.5 (which in the US would actually equate to 63).
People with diabetes must take extra precautions while traveling. According to an article in USA Today, travelers with diabetes should keep the following tips in mind while traveling during the holiday season: