The TomTom Runner is a GPS sports watch for runners who want to track their performance outdoors and on the jogging mats at the gym. All race data can be uploaded to the TomTom MySports site or a slew of other sites.
TomTom has already collaborated with Nike on the latter’s SportWatch. Like Asus and the Google Nexus 7, Nike received all the attention while TomTom designed the watch. This time TomTom is embarking on the adventure alone.
If you’ve seen Nike’s SportWatch, the Runner will bring back memories with many similar features. There is a large and visible screen, and the same menu is easy to use. The display takes up a bit of space at the top and bottom of the screen, making it closer in size to that of a sports watch like the Garmin Forerunner 10.
The TomTom Runner is available in several colors and comes in two parts. There is the dial, made of a scratch-resistant LCD screen and a One Touch control that surrounds the GPS receiver. The one-touch power is not exactly correct as a description since it’s a block with four buttons. Along the screen, you will find a row of three dots that once pressed activates a backlight bright enough to make visible the screen during the night races.
The screen and the control block can be separated from the wristband to load in the dedicated charger. And the integrated USB plug is gone, which is a shame. There is also a selection of different colors for the bracelet if you are in fashion.
The perforated elastic strap is thin and very light. The small rows of asperities inside the bracelet make the TomTom Runner not directly on your skin, which is more comfortable and prevents sweat from sticking when you want to remove it.
With its 50g the Runner is lighter than the Nike Sportswatch (63g) but more substantial than the Garmin Forerunner 10 (42g). 11.5mm thick it is much thinner than many other sports watches, and therefore ideal to be worn every day. Like the Forerunner 10, the TomTom Runner is waterproof up to 50m. We can at least confirm that she can survive a shower in the morning and a few laps in the pool.
The watch is well maintained in the bracelet when running, but not really when you remove it from the wrist. The dial is then attached very poorly to the bracelet and detaches easily. If you throw the watch unconsciously in your bag, be ready to search it to get the dial when the time of the next race arrives.
The TomTom Runner has an integrated accelerometer and sensors to work both outdoors and indoors, providing the data you expect for a sports watch. You can see distance, speed, step length, calories burned, and lap times in real time. Bluetooth Smart allows you to synchronize the TomTom Runner with other devices, such as a heart rate monitor if you want to train in specific cardiac areas.
There are also the functions of regular watches, such as time in 24-hour format, and an alarm option if you need a little warning shot to wake up for this morning jog. As on the Nike Sportswatch, there are vibratory alerts if you run while listening to music, to make you go further.
The new graphics training partner is there to push you to work more during your races, whether to race with your previous record or with a specific goal for a session. When you run against yourself, the training partner will display the current race and the previous race on the screen. If you have set the goal as 10km, the Runner will show the progress in percentage.
One of the most important features is QuickGPSFix technology: many sports watches, including the Nike Sportswatch, are riddled with GPS signal problems. TomTom has incorporated the technology it uses for its navigation satellites to improve the time it takes to receive a GPS signal. The choice to separate the GPS receiver from the screen is part of the desire to shorten the connection time.
Once you have finished a race, you can synchronize and share the data with the online tool TomTom MySports. Working with MapMyFitness, the tool allows you to upload your data and includes support for transfer to MapMyRun and Runkeeper. You can also export the data in a series of formats like the FIT if you want to keep them as part of a training plan.
Before you can take the Runner with you for a little loop, you have to give it a simple adjustment. You will need to download the TomTom MySports Connect software from the site and fill in the boxes for standard details such as weight, height, age, measurement system and watch settings. This is also where the QuickGPS feature is programmed.
Once this is loaded, you are ready to go. Once again the system menu that TomTom has incorporated is flawless. If you click on the left button of the control block, you can see the remaining battery, the memory, the status of QuickGPS and the version of the software.
To start the observations, click on the right button of the control block to indicate if you run outdoors or on a treadmill. Clicking once more we have the GPS Finder screen. One click up allows you to see the history of previous races when a click down will allow you to see your graphics training partner. There you can choose between objective modes, turns, zones, and race. The race section has pre-loaded challenges ranging from 10km in 50 minutes to 5km in 20 minutes.
Once you have chosen your training session and the GPS has tuned in, you can click on the right to see the data in real time. The screen is presented in three sets of digits: large digits indicate speed, average speed, duration, distance, stride, pulse and the current time. To change the screen, you can simply press the bottom button. The two series of small digits give data according to what the large ones in the center represent.
While testing the QuickGPSFix in the suburbs of Lyon, the GPS synchronized in the 30s, but my first attempt from the office took three long and frustrating minutes to get a signal. TomTom recommends synchronizing the GPS signal every two or three days to improve accuracy, and actually, at our second and third try GPS sync took less than two minutes and then less than a minute: it’s worthwhile to put Runner update regularly.
Regarding the accuracy of information, the TomTom Runner gives data consistent with those of the Nike app and Withings Pulse O2, so we have nothing wrong with the Runner in this area.
Connecting to the TomTom MySports site and uploading the data is very simple: connect the dial to the dock, and the data is transferred. The online tool is divided between a dashboard and account settings. On the dashboards everything is pretty basic, there is a map of your race and information on distance, time, calories burned and pulse.
TomTom announces 10 hours of battery life in GPS mode, and the Runner should last much longer when used as a watch. Over-use of the backlight or connecting accessories such as a heart rate monitor can affect battery life too.
With a full load, we could hold two and a half days, wearing the Runner to sleep. During this time we ran twice for about 60 minutes. At the end of the second race the battery was exhausted, so it’s not as good as outdoor sports watches like Garmin’s Fenix and its 16-hour GPS mode, but it’s still better than the Garmin Forerunner and its 5 hours of autonomy. You’d better keep the feeder handy though.
Do I have to buy the TomTom Runner?
The Runner is about the same price as the Nike SportWatch GPS but more expensive than another Garmin watch, the Forerunner 10. All three have a light and comfortable design, a nice big screen and lots of features to help you stay motivated.
Crucially, the Runner has better autonomy in GPS mode than its two competitors, some useful training modes and QuickGPSFix technology that improves the speed at which the watch synchronizes on a GPS signal even in urban areas.
It is designed specifically for runners, so if you want equipment with an altimeter to follow a bike race or sensors for pool lengths ( see the Garmin Swim ), you will need to untie your purse and spend more to have a suitable device.
There is an often heard argument that one could simply download a racing app like Endomondo or Runkeeper and use GPS on his smartphone, it will collect the same type of data. In the end, it depends on whether you want a dedicated armband on your arm and see the battery of your phone melt or not.
But if you’re a serious and motivated runner to buy a watch that faithfully tracks your performance, the TomTom Runner is a great option.