Looking for a simple yet sophisticated GPS watch option? Tomtom’s Runner Cardio GPS (MSRP $270) is the way to go.
Now, before trying out the watch, I’d generally thought of the brand as only making those first-generation GPS navigators that hooked up to a car’s dashboard, one of the then-innovative, now ancient devices that came after paper maps (thank God we don’t have to fold those anymore) but before Google maps.
So I have to say, coming from a company whose greatest innovation I’d thought was a direction-giver with an Australian accent, the watch was pretty impressive.
A couple disclaimers
Now, disclaimer #1: I’m not a tech fanatic. I don’t log my calorie intake before a run, listen to music during a run or download data after a run. I do have a Timex Ironman Easy Trainer GPS, which I use to measure my distance as I’m running, but once I’m home, the only thing I want to do is hop in the shower, not hop online to download my data. And yes, I’ll admit it, I’ve been known to roll my eyes when my husband stalls the start-time of our run because he spends 10 minutes “looking for satellites” with his Garmin Forerunner 110.
But that, dear reader, was my first “whoa, sweet!” moment with the Tomtom. After turning the device on, it took about 30 seconds to lock in on something orbiting in space. Not bad at all. And, apparently the Tomtom typically only takes a few seconds to sync up if it’s connected via Bluetooth to a smartphone—and that means it can download data directly to Strava, Nike+ and a slew of others. Alas, I didn’t get to try that feature.
So that brings me to disclaimer #2: I had limited testing time with the Tomtom. I got a chance to wear the watch during a CollaBEERation 5K and Brewfest hosted by Left Hand Brewing and running store/pub Shoes & Brews. That meant I had the device on my wrist for about 20 minutes pre- race, 24 minutes and 2 seconds of real-time testing, and then for another 20 minutes while eating orange slices and Honey Stinger waffle samples post-race.
Tomtom’s features, face and fit
Still, despite the short review period, the watch made an impact. For one thing, it has a built-in heart rate monitor underneath the watch’s face, so there’s no need to wear a heart rate chest strap—which in my book, indicates the brand has some awareness that women like to run too. Runners can select one of five training intensities (from easy tempo training to speed mode), and the watch will use a brief vibration to keep him or her within the range. I loved the vibration indication rather than the standard beep signal, which I’m prone to missing amidst the sound of cars or a chatty friend. Other workout options: set a designated time, distance or calorie burn amount, and again, the watch will buzz when the goal is met.
The face is large and seemingly glare-proof, making stats easy to read even in direct sunlight. A single, square button below the face allows the user to toggle left, right, up and down to reach a variety of different screens and stats, a system I prefer to the individual buttons on the four corners of my Timex’s face.
As for fit: the band was wide, maybe an inch and a quarter or so, which is great for big guys with big arms, but for my rather small (although I wouldn’t call them “dainty”) wrists, the strap did cover a sizable amount of surface area. Still, I was impressed by the overall comfort. Holes along the band helped to ventilate sections of my wrist, but there was a hefty amount of sweat beneath the watch face. No worries since the watch is waterproof, but I should probably have at least one negative comment in the review.
Bottom line: I could see myself using the Tomtom on a regular basis, although my preference would be the Runner Cardio watch’s burly brother, the Multi-Sport Cardio GPS (MSRP $300). In addition to all the runner-specific features, this little number has biking- and swimming-specific features.
Looking for a more in-depth review? Check out triathlete and tech pro DC Rainmaker’s opinion.