I like running, perhaps to a fault, if only because while running you basically can’t pay attention to anything else once you get up to speed so long as you’re doing it right. So basically I like it because it deprives the brain of oxygen. But that also means that most high-tech running aid gadgets are too sophisticated for their own good; TomTom’s newest GPS sports watch doesn’t suffer from that problem.
- 8 hrs battery with GPS and heart rate tracking
- 63 grams
- Silicon strap
- Waterproof to 5ATM
- Bluetooth Smart
- Optical heart rate monitor from Mio
- MSRP: $269.99
- Product info page
- Watch virtually disappears when you need it to
- Accurate heart rate tracking
- Expensive, not a multipurpose device
TomTom’s Cardio GPS smartwatch is an update to its existing line of sports and fitness watches, with a built-in optical heart rate tracker. It’s lightweight, weather resistant, durable and surprisingly comfortable given the width of its strap and size of its face. This is of crucial importance if you’re going to be using it for distance running, or even just the short 5km runs I tend to do on a regular basis.
The ample hole options on the strap ensure you’ll get a snug fit, and even though you’re supposed to cinch it in fairly tight to make sure the optical sensor on the underside of the face can get a good read of your heart rate, you won’t notice it’s there after you get underway. And the colors in the design, while somewhat flashy as is the case with virtually all running gear, isn’t absurdly so; you still probably can’t wear this thing to a board meeting without catching a few glances askew, but it’s also not a bold declaration of your inability to see color.
This watch also has a highly readable display, with a central stat of your choice displayed large in the middle of the square screen, and supplemental info smaller in the corners and edges. All was visible in any lighting conditions that occurred while I was running, and you can also activate a backlight if you’re one of those creepy night joggers.
TomTom’s Cardio line, which comes in both Runner and Multi-Sport variants, offers a lot of flexibility if you dig deep enough, but also manages to put most of its most generally useful features near enough the top of the experience that novices don’t have to futz about to get started. There’s interval training, sure, but it’s also very easy just to start running and have the watch provide both visual and vibration feedback about when you hit your ideal target heart rate.
My running habits generally just involve getting out of my house for 30 minutes and seeing how far I can go in that time. The TomTom Cardio helps with that, but it also provides an extremely accurate history of my runs over time, and the heart rate element has changed my habits in terms of giving me new targets to shoot for and new awareness about the impact of my habit on my body.
The best part about the watch, though, versus others on the market and previous versions is that it can get you going quickly; the software can download positioning information to help it get a head start on nailing down a location fix, so you don’t have to wait around jogging in place or extend your walking warm up just to let your watch find a direct line to its GPS satellites.
TomTom’s Cardio GPS sportswatches improve upon their predecessors, and the addition of heart rate monitoring is no incremental update. If you’re a running enthusiast, or just someone who likes to get out and hit the track or trail on a semi-regular basis, it’s a very handy gadget to have around. But if you’re looking for an activity tracker that works for stuff like just going about your day, plus the occasional spurt of action, then look elsewhere. But TomTom set out to make a device aimed at runners, designed by runners, and that’s exactly what they’ve done.