When I first started driving TomTom was the big name in satellite navigation. In fact, you wouldn’t even call a sat nav a sat nav… you’d call it a TomTom. You know, just like when you call washing up gloves “marigolds” or when you say you’re going to “hoover” the stairs. And up until recently, there has been one brand that’s dominated the world of GPS running watches… Garmin. To the extent of there being t-shirts that say “if you see me collapse – pause my Garmin”.
But now TomTom could be stepping in to take over the running world with the fantastic TomTom Cardio Runner, and Multi-Sport Cardio. I was very lucky to receive a trial product in the shape of the Multi-Sport Cardio, and this is what I thought…
It reads your heart rate through your wrist?!
I’d wanted to try out this watch from when I first heard about its launch. I’m a bit of a gadget geek and the idea of a watch that could read your heart rate through a light amazed me. That and the fact that I now wouldn’t be faced with having to lick the pads on the back of my chest strap… don’t pretend you haven’t done it!
Basically, there are two green LEDs on the back of the watch that use changes in blood flow to calculate your heart rate. So clever. To get an accurate reading the watch must be positioned snugly against your arm, just above your wrist bones. The watch itself is very comfortable to wear, so luckily having it at the right tightness to get a clear reading is no bother.
One thing that helps to make the strap so comfortable is that, rather than a loop to tuck the loose end of the strap into, the TomTom has pins that slot nicely into holes punched around the strap. Oh, and did I mention that you can remove the strap so that the watch can be mounted in to the bike mount, which by the way comes as standard with the Multi-Sport? Nice touch, TomTom, nice touch.
So back on trial…
I first wore the watch for a country run. Perhaps not the best time to use a GPS watch for the first time, but the TomTom had no trouble latching on to the satellites. By default there are three sections on the screen, but by using the up and down buttons you can view different data elements – e.g. current pace, average pace, HR, speed, etc. I personally like to know my current pace, so I can see when I drop off and pick up. Being a Garmin user since my first GPS watch, I wasn’t sure how easy I’d find the screens to use, but I soon got used to the layout and what the watch was showing me.
This could be the turning point where runners say “have you started your TomTom”, rather than “have you started your Garmin”
I’ve now used the TomTom for a number of runs, and the heart rate monitoring has been bang on. I also used an app on my phone alongside the watch to check the distance and pace calculations and they were very much in sync, giving me a comfort feel that the watch was accurate (but with sat nav gurus on the case, it always was going to be!).
One issue I did have was about 800m towards the end of a race when my battery died. Unfortunately it had looked as though I would have enough battery to last the race, but it conked it at the final hurdle. Having checked out the software updates, though, they have improved battery level indication in the latest release (October 2014).
There is one particular gripe of mine that I would love to be updated ASAP, which is auto-pause. Currently you have to manually pause the watch when you stop at a roadside, whereas other models (and even most apps) will automatically detect the drop in pace and pause it for you. This is a feature that I really think would be a quick win for TomTom to include. Though it is on their list of future enhancements (please do this soon TomTom!).
I’d also quite like to be able to switch easily between sport modes, especially if I was to wear this for a duathlon or triathlon race.
Unlike some other reports, I had no trouble with my watch counting extra laps. I think this could be highly variable between different swimmers’ techniques though. I also don’t mind that the heart rate monitoring doesn’t work under water, as this wouldn’t be what I’d be focusing on anyway – and even those pesky chest straps can be unreliable in the pool, especially if they slip. Personally I would prefer if there was an option to manually count laps as well, as the accelerometer means that if you’re doing drills that don’t involve your arms, or slower arm speeds, you will certainly miss laps.
I absolutely love the fact that this watch already comes with a bike mount – this is almost always an “optional extra” for sports watches. It’s also so easy to fit with it’s quick-release style. One thing that does make switching between watch use and bike mounting is that there is no obvious way to “lock” the buttons, meaning you get a whole load of menus going through while you’re fiddling with the watch. But it’s a small point, as long as you don’t accidentally delete any data!
Following a quick set-up process on the computer you can then completely wirelessly transmit all of your data on to a tablet or phone. This is great if you don’t often use a computer or laptop anymore, which a lot of people don’t these days. The sync can take a little while, but the data is great and the app really slick. I love having a good graph to check out after my runs!
Whether you’re an indoor or outdoor runner, a cyclist, swimmer or gym-goer, the TomTom Multi-Sport Cardio has a setting for you. The watch is comfortable, stylish and accurate in its data and the app that goes along with the watch is great for finding out a bit more about your performance. On a cost basis, the Multi-Sport Cardio is very competitive at £249.99 (correct at time of writing), especially when you take into consideration the built in heart rate monitor, and the bike mount that comes with the watch as standard.
In my opinion, this could be the turning point where runners say “have you started your TomTom”, rather than “have you started your Garmin”.
Thank you TomTom for letting me trial this fantastic product.