First Impressions: Contour Next Link USB Meter

Friday at lunch, I came home to a surprise. Minimed shipped out the new Contour Next Link USB meter that they have available. I’ve been waiting for over a month for this little thing. Just so happened that Friday was also site change day, so I put away my Ping and pulled out my Revel so that I could do a run with the full experience.

First thoughts was that this little meter is sleek. It can easily fit into my “meter-case” section of my wallet (VERY important to me… because I LOVE that wallet!) Color screen is cool, and just the fact that the meter is now like the baby of the Contour Link and the CareLink USB device… it’s all-in-one. This same meter that you check your sugar with is used to upload your pump into CareLink. How cool is that? No extra dongle or wires to keep up with.

Setup was easy and just like any other meter – entering in the time, date, etc. No big deal. The screen is bright and, to me, easy to read. Charging it is simple. Just plug it into the charger that it comes with either directly or use the supplied cable to attach it if needed. I ran a few tests against the Verio IQ since I know a lot of people who use that meter, including myself. It tends to read much higher than other meters such at the OneTouch Ultra-family and a few others. And, truth be told, the Link was lower than the Verio, but it seemed to be a consistent amount:

Checking is simple – insert strip, apply blood, and wait. After this, you can tag before or after meal or choose not to have a tag at all. You have the option of including notes that include “Don’t feel right”, “Sick”, “Stress”, and “Activity”. You can even note how long after the your meal this test was.

The pros of this meter (to me) are that the strip goes in on the side. I hate a meter that has a bottom-loading strip. Sure, I could just turn the darn thing around, but still… for some reason, it’s a pain-in-the-butt to me. My hands shake when I try to do little things like lining up my finger to a strip end and it just makes more sense to put the strip on the side or top.

It’s small, compact, and yet still does a lot. It’s, as I said before, a marriage of the meter and upload dongle for the Minimed pump, so less stuff to have to keep up with. The strips for this meter are A LOT less and still fit the newer guidelines for accuracy. These, for 100, average about $75-80!! They’re even less than their prior strips, which were about $110 per 100. (whereas ones for like the Verio and iBG Star are more around the $140-150 range for 100. Trust me… I bought a 50 count bottle of iBG Star ones OUT OF POCKET and the ticket was $72. NOT COOL. I bought a 50 bottle of these and paid only $43.) Why buy them out of pocket? Well, because I like to have more than just 25 strips to test with to “try out” a meter, and I don’t want to go through the hassle of asking my doctor for a prescription for strips for a meter that I’m going to stop using in a week or so anyway. Which this one I may use anyway – Revel or not. I like it. More than the Verio because it’s just hard to get used to the higher numbers of the Verio when this one does read higher, but not as high. It’s sort of middle-ground.

I also like the Glucofacts software that’s on Bayer’s site. I’ve uploaded to it a couple of times and it’s pretty neat. Not perfect, but I like it a lot better than some out there. Oh, and the meter charges while you upload!

And this is where the “cons” I was speaking of in my last post comes in: There is a light around the strip port. But it’s not there to help you see where to put the strip in in the dark. It’s there to show you that the meter is charging. The light flashes as it’s being charged, and stops when it’s done. I think they could have done a better job at making it multi-functional. (ACTUALLY – The port-light can be activated before inserting the strip by double-tapping the power/menu button. Thank you for the comment, Emily!!!) The second “con” is that this meter is only available as a Minimed “Link” meter, not a stand-alone USB like the original Contour USB, and only available through Minimed. This is a great meter (in my opinion) and to be strictly for Minimed sucks because I think a lot of people could benefit from it functionally and cost-effectiveness if they were able to market it to more than just MM pumpers. There is the Contour Next EZ meter, but it’s the bottom-loading disk-shaped one. It is affordable at about $10-ish dollars, but it’s no USB with color screen, and you would have to have a special cable to upload it.

I think I might stick with this meter for a while. I really do like it. I like that I don’t have to use it with the MM pump (I can turn the Link function of it off), and if in a bind and Wal-Mart has an issue getting my strips as they’ve done in the past – I can pay out of pocket for another bottle of these easier than I could for ones for another meter.


12 thoughts on “First Impressions: Contour Next Link USB Meter”

  1. actually if you double tap the “menu” button on the top before putting a strip in; it will turn that orange light on… not as great as the free style flash or the verio IQ..but better then having to fumble with a phone or flashlight to see what you are doing

    1. Thank you for the link! The only thing is (and I should have specified this – Sorry!) that the US doesn’t have one. The link above is for the UK, where all the all of the readings are mmol/l, and it doesn’t have the option to switch it to mg/dl. 🙁 I do appreciate your reply though!

  2. Hi, all,

    I just got an offer from Medtronic to upgrade free to this meter, from my Lifescan OneTouch UltraLink. This would mark the first time I’ve used a non-Lifescan model, and I wanted to get some opinion on the comparison.

    Some background:
    –Cost of the strips shouldn’t be an (immediate) issue: my insurance covers 100% of the strips
    –I track my results on my own, entering them into both an iPhone log and analyzing on a spreadsheet that has grown through the years, so at this point I’m not convinced that I *need* a downloadable meter, or a meter that lets me tag readings. I don’t currently use that stuff.
    –I’m used to carrying around a larger meter; I’m not in the position that I think daily, “I could really use a smaller meter”, but hey, perhaps I would love it and I’m just not anticipating it.

    So I’ve got some questions, perhaps I can get your input:
    –Is there a software package for downloading from the meter to Mac OS X that I’ll be happy with? I used CareLink for a while to upload data from my pump for a while, but I was very dissatisfied with the features for users. Perhaps it’s improved in the last couple of years. But I would definitely love to be able to just plug in my meter once in a while and simply download everything, even if it’s just to a CSV file.
    –Even better would be a way to wirelessly send data to my iPhone, to a companion app!
    –As a Lifescan user, I’m used to placing the strips in the TOP of the meter…the review mentioned putting strips in the bottom, but how do people here like putting it in the side, compared to the top?
    –My UltraLink has been durable. It’s been on its first battery now for two and a half years. I’ve never had a Lifescan meter go dead on me. Are Bayer meters durable? Do they feel cheap, do they feel like you have to be careful handling them?
    –Can I charge a USB meter by plugging into any USB wall charger (like, say, the one for my iPhone)?
    –Of course, importantly, do you all have confidence in the technology? Can I feel confident that the readings I’ll get will be accurate?

    Sorry for all the questions. Changing meters to Bayer means having to set up new refills on strips, it can be a pain in the neck. Trying to evaluate whether it’s all worth the effort.

    Thanks for your input!

  3. Hi Lee. I’ve been using the NextLink since the beginning of November, and overall I’m quite pleased with it. (When, due to a strip shortage I thought I might need to go back to the OneTouch, I was not happy!). It’s not perfect, and I wrote about some of the ways it fell short of my expectations on my blog here: ), but overall I’d suggest trying it out.

    But to address your specific questions:
    – I don’t “tag” my blood sugar readings either – I turn that option off – nor do I download data from the meter. I do, however, download reports from my pump via CareLink, which includes meter results as well as insulin delivery, carb counts, and CGM data. You can remove the cap from the end of this meter and plug it into a computer’s USB port to have it interface, wirelessly, with the pump. Pretty easy.
    – The smaller meter is nice – it fits in my pocket better. That said, I always leave the meter in its case, so it’s really the size of the case and not the meter itself that’s important to me. The buttons are smaller, but I rarely have an occasion to use the buttons anyway (except to turn the light on, as described in the first comment) so that doesn’t matter.
    – I have no idea what software Bayer uses for the meter or if it works with the Mac. I can tell you, though, that Medtronic has updated their CareLink system; results are now generated as PDF files rather than HTML web pages, which I find easier to save, print, and manipulate. No idea about a CSV format though.
    – Since the meter stays in my case, the test-strip port is still at the top (since the meter is on its side), so no difference there. The strips are a little easier to handle, I feel (not as sticky), and one end is tapered so you know which is the “insert-here” side versus the “apply-blood” side by feel. However, a consequence of this new shape is that he readout is sideways. If you’ve ever used the OneTouch Ultra Mini, it’s not much different.
    – My meter doesn’t feel cheap at all. The battery lasts about 200 tests or so before needing to recharge. Charging is via a standard USB port (not a micro- or mini- or anything). The cable they give you is nothing more than a USB extension cable that extends from a PC or from a wall power plug – you really don’t need it but it makes things a bit more convenient. The wall plug is like any other — two prongs to go into the wall and a USB port to go to the device. The USB port on the meter is generally capped (at the opposite end from the test strip port), and I sometimes worry about losing it when plugging it in, but that hasn’t been an issue so far.
    – I have plenty of confidence in this meter. Although it’s difficult to ascertain, I do believe that it is more accurate, or at least more consistent, than the OneTouch. It seems to trend my CGM more closely, and since the CGM is based on fingerstick calibrations, that indicates some consistency. Accuracy is harder to determine unless there is a basis for comparison, but published literature indicates tighter tolerances than the OneTouch.

    I hope this helps …. and Sarah, I’m sorry if I stole your opportunity to reply!

    1. Scott, thanks for your in-depth and helpful reply!

      I spoke with Medtronic today and it occurred to me that I might as well just have them send me the meter, and I can try it out with no obligation.

      I haven’t used CareLink in well over a year — I was never a fan of the reports it puts out. I don’t actually keep a record of my carbs. I count them of course, but I haven’t found a good reason to keep a *record* of them. Any thoughts on that?

      I learned today from Medtronic that there is no on-the-computer piece of software, it’s still just the CareLink web app. So, assuming I’m still not thrilled with it, I expect I’ll not be using that functionality anyway; I’ll just evaluate between the two meters based on their actual in-the-moment performance. Your review you linked to hit some things spot-on: waiting for my UltraLink to move from the coding screen (which has always been 25) to the ready state is the biggest pain point for me. And sitting and waiting eight seconds for a reading may drive me batty. Though I do occasionally experience strips sticking together, for me it’s rare, and I don’t ever remember having trouble sticking the wrong end into the meter (I never test in the dark, I guess).

      What I *do* think is a pain is that my strips supplier sends me 50-strip vials instead of the 25-strip vials I used to get from my drugstore. When the vial is recently opened, I find it difficult to get out the strip.

  4. I’ve done a few tests and my initial impressions are toward the negative side, when compared to my UltraLink…though that is probably just years of LifeScan use talking. Not a fan of the dynamics inside the case, of the power button being positioned under the strap, of the confusing loops meant to hold the strips vial and the lancing device. Probably just familiarity or lack of it.

  5. I just got the new meter from Medtronic and cannot get past the case that came with it. It pretty much render the device useless or makes it really difficult to use at best. I dont really see an option to leave it in the case while testing.

    It is the worst designed thing I have ever seem. Seriously. It is amazing to be how not thought out this case is…

Tell me what you think!