Available for a little over a year now, we had not yet had the opportunity to test the TomTom Cardio GPS watch. With the upcoming arrival of the new TomTom Sparks range (as well as the TomTom Runner 2), it was time for us to try the current model to better judge the evolution of the range.
In the idea, the TomTom Runner Cardio takes the main features of the TomTom Runner that we had already presented a few months ago. On the program, a watch designed for runners, apparently including a GPS but also an optical heart rate monitor, similar to the recent Garmin Forerunner 225.
It is cheaper than its competitor but can compete regarding ergonomics, features, and performance? Answer in the rest of the article.
The watch is offered in a small square box, whose upper part is designed in rigid and transparent plastic, allowing the product to appear directly. The main features are quickly listed on the back, and TomTom naturally emphasizes the integration of the heart rate monitor, to track your heartbeat without wearing a cardio belt.
Inside, in addition to the Runner Cardio, there is a multilingual user manual, a small sheet explaining how to wear it on the wrist and a USB cable (or base if you prefer) to recharge the watch. Note that the latter is only compatible with the recent products of the brand and it will be necessary to be careful and not lose it.
Design, Look and Ergonomics
- As for the TomTom Runner, the Cardio model is made of two parts: the dial itself, and the bracelet. However, unlike the previous model, the maintenance between the two parts was improved, and no game is noticeable once both nested.
- The bracelet is available in several colors, a relatively sober black version (which we are testing today), and other slightly more colorful versions with red, white or gray tones. It is constructed from a rubber-like material that looks rather strong and provides excellent support while allowing the skin to sweat through multiple perforations.
- These holes also allow obtaining an excellent hold on the wrist thanks to a slightly revised closure system. The watch now has a clasp with three branches to which are added three plastic pins to block the outgoing part of the bracelet. The photos below will probably be more meaningful.
- The second part of the watch, therefore, concerns the module integrating the display dial, the navigation button, and the optical heart rate sensor at the rear. It is also an MIO sensor, similar to the one on the MIO Fuse bracelet recently tested by us (also present on the Adidas MiCoach Smartwatch ).
- The size of the screen is 22 x 25mm, and it is a monochrome model, unlike the Garmin FR225. However, readability is very good with relatively large writes and a backlight that can be easily activated.
- Under the screen, a small module can navigate the menus of the watch. It is a square whose edges can be operated by simple pressure. The set is slightly responsive and often remains more convenient to use a touchscreen during a race.
- Overall, the look of the watch remains oriented “Sport,” especially in its red versions. The black version that we test will be able to integrate into an outfit of every day but remains much less discreet than a Garmin Vivoactive for example. No activity tracking is present on the TomTom Cardio Runner anyway, so wearing it all the time does not necessarily bring any benefits here.
Running with the TomTom Runner Cardio
Once the watch is set, including your gender, weight, and height, you are ready to attack your first race. From the main screen (displaying the time and date), just press once to the right to get to the screen for sports activities. FYI, a downward pressure returns to the watch menu (especially to manage a little all its parameters), while a left-hand pressure shows a page detailing the remaining battery life, memory used or even if the QuickGPS option is up to date.
In the menu of activities, three choices are available: Race, Carpet, and Chrono. Some rather explicit choices, the first to start a classic race, the second on a treadmill and the third simply launching a stopwatch (it may sound silly, but many models of sports watches do not have a stopwatch). By choosing the “Race” option, a new page is displayed, and the watch starts to search for the GPS signal and your heartbeat. Note that from that moment, the optical sensor lights up.
While the watch is starting your training, you can view the history of your previous outings by pressing the top button. We then find the list of the last training, with the date and the number of kilometers traveled. By choosing an output, you can get more details about it.
Still from the Course screen, pressing the bottom button this time opens another menu to manage the type of training and the units used. Several training choices are available:
- Objectives: Allows you to assign a goal of duration, distance or calories burned to your workout. A gauge ranging from 0 to 100% is then filled with your efforts.
- Intervals: The option allows you to create your routines to perform split training according to your shape and your performances. Setting the time or the distance on each step is possible.
- Tours: Create tours based on distance, duration, or manually.
- Zones: Here, we can select zones of speed, pace or frequency to maintain during its exit.
- Race: By choosing this type of training, you can measure yourself on one of your previous outings. The speed of your “opponent,” so to speak, is calculated according to the average of the previous output selected. Note that it will not be possible to judge if you are more or less fast on a hill compared to your last training unless you perform the same course.
Note that each of these specific training then offers additional dials when you start your activity.
Speaking of activity, after a few moments (sometimes a little longer to catch the GPS signal), you are ready to start your race. A “GO” indication will be displayed on the screen and press to the right will start recording. Several pages of data are then available, and it is possible to switch from one to the other via the button under the dial. Two data are permanently displayed at the top of the screen while the main data of the page is displayed roughly on it. By default, the watch displays the distance and the duration of your exit in the upper boxes, but it is possible to choose the statistic of your choice from the options.
From the heart rate display, you can also get additional information on the heart rate by pressing to the right. The result is a graph showing your heart rate in the last minutes of the race, as well as bars displaying the heart rate zones where you ran.
If you have selected a workout like those described above, a screen specific to this one will also be present on display. For example on the image below, training with a distance objective of 8km. Notifications, accompanied by vibrations, appear on the screen when you reach 50%, 75% and 90% of your goal. It is possible at any time to pause your recording by holding down the left button for about 3 seconds. This avoids inadvertently pausing your activity and is quite well done. The pause screen displays the main details of your training. At this point, you can either continue this one or click again on the left to save it. Unlike the Garmin FR25, no screen shows all the details of your race directly after the registration of it.
As explained above, you can still find the details of your latest activities directly from the history of the latter on the watch. The best way to analyze its performance, however, is to go through the mobile application of TomTom or the associated web platform. We present you this below.
The TomTom MySports app
Available free on iOS and Android, the MySports application allows you to synchronize directly via Bluetooth all your results to your Smartphone. As with most sports watch apps, you’ll find complete details and graphics on each of your outings as well as other cool options.
Once the application is installed, it will be necessary to create your MySports account and connect your Smartphone to your TomTom Runner Cardio watch. For this, it is necessary to activate the Bluetooth and follow the indications on the screen.
A code appears on the screen of the watch, and it will be necessary to inform this one of your application to couple the two devices. Then, the data recorded on your watch will be automatically transferred to your account (and therefore the form). On the main screen of the application, we find the latest activities performed. By clicking on that one of one’s choice, one then obtains all information relating to this one.
On this page, you can check the distance traveled, the duration, calories burned, your average pace and of course your average heart rate. Below, your route is transcribed on a map with each tour indicated (1km by default). There is also a table showing your data turn by turn and a graph describing the evolution of your pace compared to your heart rate for example. We can see in this example the frequency increased towards the end of the training, in parallel with the pace. The strong descent of the pulsations in the middle of the activity corresponds to a small pause to rehydrate.
On the application always, you can also view its totals since the account was created, including the total distance traveled and the overall average pace. It is also possible to modify certain information relating to your account.
The TomTom MySports web platform
The data available on the application can also be viewed from a web browser by connecting to the MySports platform. We find mainly the same statistics, but the reading is obviously simpler (bigger graphs). It is possible to zoom the curves to obtain details at a time T of your training.
From the site, it is also possible to configure certain options, such as heart rate zones. Indeed, if the zones proposed by default correspond to the majority of the population, it can be interesting to adjust them according to your level of training.
The last point concerning the MySports platform, it is possible to export its data to integrate them to many other applications, like RunKeeper or MapMyFitness for example.
Performance and quality of measurements
One of the big advantages of the Cardioversion compared to the classic version is apparently the addition of the optical heart rate sensor. With the new TomTom GPS watch, you do not have to wear a belt to measure the pulsation, but is there accuracy?
Simply put, the system uses two green LEDs to detect fluctuations in your blood flow between A and B to calculate your heart rate. For this to work properly, it is important that light does not pass between the sensor and your wrist. In practice, the results seem rather consistent with those obtained using a conventional cardio belt. However, we sometimes noticed some inconsistencies, where for example the frequency decreased precipitously without any particular reason (see graph below). After some research, it seems that perspiration can sometimes hinder the accuracy of the recording.
Regarding GPS, performance is similar, see a little more accurate than the first version of the watch. Also, the QuickGPS function makes it possible to cache the various satellites to speed up the connection towards them during future uses. All in all, the performances are more than satisfactory and being able to consult your pace or your heart rate at any time is a real advantage during training. Not wearing a cardio belt also provides extra comfort.
Regarding the battery life, the battery of the TomTom Runner Cardio allows training a good week without requiring a full charge. Count around ten hours with the GPS and the active heart sensor. If you connect the watch to your laptop after each session, you should never end up with a drumming battery during a running course.
The TomTom Runner Cardio is not given but is now one of the most affordable Cardio GPS watches on the market. With ergonomics neat, but not as attractive as the Garmin FR225, the TomTom watch is simple to use and suitable for all users, from beginners to more advanced.
During the training, the different sensors offer very good performances, both in the calculation of pace and that of the heart rate. Being able to take advantage of these data during the effort is a real advantage to follow its progress. Admittedly, the price remains high compared to a more classic watch, but we must take into account the fact that it is no longer necessary to buy also a cardio belt (usually about fifty euros).
In the end, the TomTom Cardio is a good evolution of the first Runner, and we are looking forward to testing the next version which should be available soon.