Thursday, April 17, 2014

TomTom Multi-Sport GPS Watch review

This is a short-ish review of the TomTom Multi-Sport GPS Watch.

Principally I am going to relate my comments and overall justifications for buying this watch.   It's difficult to compete with professional reviewers like DC Rainmaker!

So read his review for the detail then the following for my persectives:

Why use a running Watch?
Why indeed.  Although my wife Agata swears by the product I have been very skeptical.  My luddite attitude is normally:

Just get out there and exercise, and ...

I really don't need a gadget to tell me how slow I am going :-)

So What changed?
1. I became more obsessed with my heart rate and using that <awful> chest strap thingy  you can measure it.  Contrary to most people, I like to see how LOW I can get my heart rate whilst exercising.

2. I normally use the Runkeeper  app on Android or iPhone platforms but this means I need to carry a rucksack.  On non ultra races I don't carry a rucksack.  So for races a GPS watch would be useful.

3. Some GPS watches including this one can link to a Bluetooth Bicycle monitor for cadence.  Cadence i.e. RPM of your legs whilst cycling is thought to be important.

4. Agata kept telling me I was missing out so basically I caved!

Why TomTom?
I previously had a Garmin 405 before giving it away and so this time I thought I'd give TomTom a shot because

a) The user interface looks appealing

b) Display size was BIG

And so the findings are:
Best Points About the Watch

  • Simple menus
The menus are very simple.  I really like that.  I want to use the basic functions, nothing fancy
  • The display size is huge
One thing is presented in huge characters and this is easy to see on a race, or in poor light situations.  Uncluttered == very good

  • Go time - excellent
The watch get's location quickly  (consistently faster than Agata's Garmin 910XT) 

  • Night mode - yes
You can setup the watch to be have the backlight on continuously

  • Swim mode
The watch can be used for Swimming (laps) and Running and Cycling.  One watch for everything which is great.

  • Bluetooth
The connection to the heart rate monitor and the Cycle cadence is via Bluetooth not Ant+.   So actually you can use the heart rate belt and Bike sensor with other Bluetooth knowledgeable apps say running on your Smartphone

  • Gloves on Controls

I'm often wearing gloves even in the Summer / running to combat sun allergies.   With this watch the brilliant mechanical 4 way selector, not touch screen or annoying small buttons control the watch function.   This is just brilliant.  This and the large display size were the killer features for me.

You Won't believe it BUT

  • No Altitude display

I bought the expensive version of the product and it has a separate hardware barometer.  However no menu is able to display the Altitude whilst you are using the watch.   Unbelievable!

After a run, it could use the GPS coordinates to determine the most accurate altitude information.  So what the heck is the point of this expensive hardware I purchased!

  • No Instruction Manual.
Again I am not kidding.  The firmware keeps updating but where is the uptodate manual TomTom!

  • Website disorganisation
There are 3 principle websites you need TomTom, MySports, and MapMyFitness.  They are all separated.  Worse there are some pathetic flaws like lockout from MySports website cannot be fixed (there is no password recovery option on the website).

I reported the MySports issue to support 16 days ago.  Still no resolution.  Again, I am not joking.

  • No off switch
You can't switch off the watch, so if you travel away for one race you better take your charger, because being /on/ all the time, unless the race is close, your batteries will probably die on you

  • Limited Phone connect
Only recently is there the ability to upload and interact with the watch via your phone.  But not on Anroid, just for iPhone.  So as an Android user I am still forced ONLY to charge and upload data via a PC connection.  Again .. ridiculous.

  • Fixed Screens
You cannot customise any screen.   Garmin by contrast allows you to customise how many fields and what is in each field on your watch display.

Would I buy TomTom again?
The large uncluttered display and gloves on, mechanical 4 way control are the best features of the watch, and they are not available on other platforms  (Adidas is closest).   These two essential features I would miss on an.other branded sports watch.

The nextgen smartwatches will incorporate heat rate sensors on the watch underside, although we'll have to see how reliable this is in competition and in all weathers.

So if/when I make the switch it would be to either a higher function TomTom product with the knowledge that some of the stupid omissions above are rectified, OR probably back to Garmin.