Tom Tom GPS Watch

Introduction

If you’re serious about garnering real fitness benefits from your cycling/running, then tracking your performance should be a regular feature of your workouts. GPS sport watches like the Tom Tom Multi-Sport Cardio are a real boon to this endeavor, helping you to track the distances you cover as well as monitor your heart rate to make sure you don’t over-exert yourselves and keel over.

The latest Tom Tom Multi-Sport Cardio builds upon some of the lessons Tom Tom garnered from the previous iterations of the watch. But can it match up to the strenuous requirements of measuring cycling metrics? We find out.

Disclaimer: I do not own a cadence sensor, so I had to borrow a friend’s for purposes of this test. Your overall experience may vary, depending on the operatability of your own unit, and your familiarity with proper setup and execution.

 

Overview

The Tom Tom Multi Sport Cardio probably won’t win any innovation awards. What it loses out to in heart-murmuring marketing gimmicks and tech-forward nomenclature, it makes up for in functionality. It’s a fairly straightforward, utilitarian device that helps you track your running routes, mapping them for future reference with the bundled MySports software. There is also an application for your phone that works in tandem with the watch to keep track of your workout metrics for posterity and training purposes.

It features an extra-large display, with easy-to-read graphics that function as various training tools, and somewhat befuddling one-button control that allows you to navigate around the watch’s various functions.

It features an extra-large display, full-screen graphics that function as various training tools, and a somewhat befuddling one-button control that allows you to navigate around the watch’s various functions.

The watch tracks a range of key metrics like pace, calories burned, time, laps, heart rate (via optional accessory) and distance, all of which are vital components of your workout metrics.

Performance

You might have noticed so far that I have been mentioning running a lot in this review, instead of cycling. This is because after some serious testing of the Tom Tom GPS watch, I have come to the conclusion that is primarily a runner’s watch, albeit one that happens to have some functionality for cyclists and swimmers (more on that later)

The watch utilises GPS technology to help you track the distance and routes you cover, it does very little in the way of actual navigation. But then again, neither do competing products.

What it does do however, it does very well, and without all the clunky clutter that some similar platforms offer. Extremely important, considering that this is a piece of gear meant for runnners and cyclists, who should really be focusing on the road ahead instead of tinkering with too many distracting functions.

The TomTom Multisport Cardio variant supports a dedicated cycling mode. With a couple of taps of the navigation button, you can configure slightly different display screens, and hook up your unit to a cycling speed/cadence sensor.  If you purchase the ‘Performance Bundle’ edition, you’ll also get separate a barometric altimeter in the package. My test unit did not include this, so I will not be adding my personal commentary regarding the functionality of the unit.

In the cycling mode you can also connect to a Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence combo sensor.  This enables functionality across a range of situations. You can use it to measure cadence during your bike runs. You can also use it on your indoor trainer, as well as outdoors, in scenarios where GPS may not be accurate (on the Butterfly trail being pounded by rocks, passing through the Google Maps dead space that is the newly-rerouted Marina Bay area).

An important thing to note, is that your speed/cadence sensor needs to be manually configured with your wheel size, or you will risk inaccurate measurements of the distancs you cover.  If you happen to have the magnet fall out of alignment with the sensor, you’ll get a zero speed/distance value.

In many ways, the cycling mode works very similar to that of the running mode, except the default unit of measurement is ‘Speed’ (i.e. KPH) as opposed to ‘Pace’.

Because I was not using the performance bundle (i.e. with the packaged cadence sensor), the elevation data shown on the site is actually from the server based on my GPS route, rather than recorded by the unit itself.

How do you get around this and track your cycling sessions without fussing with too many bits and bobs? You can actually use the TomTom Runner Cardio in running mode and just change the metric to speed instead of pace. It’ll label your workouts as ‘Runs’ on the MySports software/app, but you can use your imagination, or change the activity type to ‘Cycle’ in a third-party app.

Material And Construction

With some GPS sport watches, you tend to feel like you are not getting your money’s worth. Perhaps it is the amalgamation of plastic and rubber so common to sport accessories that have resulted in the unfortunate aesthetics most manufacturers have chosen to adopt. While the Tom Tom Multi Sport Cardio is crafted from similar materials as its ilk, it does feel a lot more solid and significant on the wrist. Not to the point of hindrance however, but you will definitely feel it there.

The fit of the watch took some getting used to. If you think the watch is snug enough around your wrist, make it one step snugger for the most accurate Heart Rate measurements. This is because of the sensors on the back of the watch, which have their sensitivity adversely affected by light. The small strap buttons may look a little precarious, but they have held up very, very well to several exercise sessions (I even tested the watch while playing soccer, just to see what kind of results it would give me)

Aesthetics

The Multi-Sport Cardio is not a watch you’re going to wear and walk into a boardroom meeting with. You are bound to attract some curious glances with its doughy red-on-black silhouette.

The watch exudes fun and sporty charm, and looks like a serious piece of sports/performance equipment while strapped to your wrist. It’s definitely not going to disappear under your clothes, so we’d recommend only strapping it on for your workouts, or risk looking like a nutter.

Either that, or prepare to have everyone assume you are some kind of sports fanatic, even if your chief event is the 100 meter beer run.

Issues

Setting up the Tom Tom can be a little confusing at first as it is not the most intuitive of designs. Included with the watch is quite possibly the most summarized instruction manual I have ever seen. I had to figure out most of the functions by myself, while accidentally stumbling around the various features, even with simple things like docking the watch in the included charging port. It’s fine for people who like to poke about, but for greater mass appeal it might be a good idea to include more in-depth details about how to work the watch.

Conclusion

While it is not the feature-charged powerhouse that some similar products might claim to be, the Tom Tom Multi-Sport Cardio is a strong contender, from a well-established company looking to make their mark on the burgeoning sport watch market. If you are considering your options, do yourself a favour and put this on your list.