When you think of TomTom, running watches may not be the first thing that springs to mind but believe it or not the TomTom Runner isn’t the first foray into the lucrative GPS watch market for the company best known for in-car SatNavs. TT joined forces with Nike two years ago to develop the Nike+ SportWatch GPS and have been going from strength to strength ever since.
The TomTom Runner is the first standalone GPS running watch that the company have brought to market. As well as the basic edition (costing £149.99) triathletes and multi-sporters can also buy version that is capable of tracking swimming and cycling for £179.99.
So by now we all know what GPS running watches entail. You turn them on, enter your basic stats, wait for a GPS signal and then go running. So what exactly is it that makes the TomTom watch special and how does is separate itself out from the competition?
Well this TomTom Runner review is going to highlight the main pros and cons of the watch from my past two weeks of running with this sleek and snazzy gadget. For a full review, check out the post over on my London Triathlon blog here
GPS Lock Speed
Without a shadow of a doubt, the TomTom Runner is the fastest watch that I have ever used to find a signal straight from the boz. Whilst other watches are quicker to locate a signal once they know that you are in the same general area as your last training sessions, the TT managed to find a signal within about 15 seconds, with no additional software updates or hand waving. This is a big plus point for the watch as there is nothing more annoying than having to stand outside in the cold for minutes prior to your run waiting for a signal lock. TT win!
I have bene lucky enough to try out a few GPS watches over the past few years and so I know my way around a few different user interfaces. Having said that I still get lost in the detail when it comes to some of the more advanced units such as the Garmin Forerunner’s and Suunto running watches. The beauty of the Nike+ Sport Watch was its shear simplicity and this is something that Tom Tom have echoed in their new model.
You can navigate to almost every corner of the menu system with a few clicks due to the simple “side to side” interface. if you want to make a change you simply click the left or right buttons without having to navigate your way around a spiders web of settings. This should really appeal to anyone who doesn’t want to deal with detail and just wants something that can be ready to run in a few clicks. This makes it perfect for casual runners.
This is slightly a personal issue for me as I have never forgiven my old Garmin Forerunner 405 for running out of battery during my first marathon. As a result of that particular upset I am very wary of any watches that have a small battery life as their uses are limited. For example, the Motorola Motoactv has a full colour screen with mapping. This is great if you want to be able to see your training statistics in a variety of different colours (why?!) but kills the battery life.
Thankfully the TomTom GPS watch has 10 hours of battery life which should be enough to last even the longest of endurance marathons and triathlons.
Something that I will come to later in this short review is that the TT online training portal is pretty basic. However all is not lost as they provide a nifty piece of software that allows you to transfer all of your hard earned training data from the unit to a couple of different online training portals, including Run Keeper and Map My Run. This is really useful as if you are like me and like to have complete control of your own data to use as you will instead of being tied into one particular company then this watch is for you.
Having given the TomTom GPS watch a glowing review so far there are some slight issues with the watch that are worth mentioning. There is nothing majorly wrong with the watch (remember the disaster launch of the Nike+ Sportwatch?!) but there are a few little points that once solved will make this watch a big hitter.
MySports Online Training portal
As already mentioned, the TT online training portal, MySports is rather sparse and basic at the moment. Although everything works seamlessly, the portal only really offers you a place to store your data, view a map and summary statistics of a particular run and view some total stats. There is nothing really to get excited about at the moment but then again they are seven years behind the likes of Garmin and three years behind the likes of Suunto. I hope to see their portal grow into something as fun and social as the Nike+ website but we will have to see…
This really is nit picking now but I actually find that the user interface may be verging on slightly too simple to use…let me explain. When you are running with the watch, in order to pause your workout you tap the left hand button once. If you tap it twice then the watch ends your training session and thinks you have finished you run. Now whilst i was getting used to the new buttons (which are places on the watch strap not around the watch face) I found that I was accidentally tapping the button twice and ending my workout. It is easy to do, especially when running at speed. All that needs to be done is for a small software prompt to be added to the UI so that the user can confirm that they indeed meant to end their workout. I dont think that this would be too hard to add and it really would make the world of difference to those with fat fingers like me!
Tom Tom GPS Watch Summary
So there you have it, a quick run through of the main good and bad points for TomTom’s first stand alone running watch. I really like how simple and easy the watch is to use as well as how accurate it is but I question the relatively high price tag compared to the Nike+ when the online training portal isn’t near the level of the colorful Nike+ Running portal. Having said that it does come down to personal preference. If you value GPS signal lock speed and battery life over the online data stuff then this is the watch for you. If you are also a runner who already uses either Map My Run or Run Keeper then the seamless uploading of your training data to these services via the MySports Connect software is a big plus point for this.
Just on a quick last point, it looks great as well! Sleek and slimmer than any other watch I have used, this is something that I don’t mind wearing at all!