€269 TomTom has been doing wearable fitness tech for a while. There was the partnership with Nike that saw it release a GPS watch to link in with Nike's running platform and fuel points system. Then TomTom went it alone last year with the Runner and MultiSport watches, offering users a choice depending on what sport they were interested in.
This year’s update for the sports watches brings a heart-rate monitor into the mix, making it more convenient for runners to get started.
Although controls stay the same – the buttons below the watch face rather than a touchscreen interface – TomTom has also tweaked a few things too, making the GPS unit feel a little more secure in the watch strap and changing the design slightly to make the watch more of a rugged sports watch than its predecessor.
You can still choose to run outdoors or on a treadmill, but there are more training options for runners, and the new version also includes a stopwatch function.
So how does it stand up in our tests?
The good . . .
The big change is obviously the heart-rate monitor. Here, TomTom is following in the footsteps of devices such as the Mio Alpha and the Galaxy Gear Fit, offering an optical heartrate reader on the rear of the watch.
That eliminates the expense and inconvenience of having to invest in a separate device, and you can start training right out of the box, adding in the ability to train to heart rate zones and get a more accurate reading of calorie burn without needing to strap any extras to yourself.
It also means you’ll have to strap the watch fairly tight though to get an accurate reading.
The GPS signal picks up quickly thanks to TomTom’s QuickGPS technology, so there’s little waiting around. You can be ready to go in two minutes, which is an improvement on some of the watches we’ve tested in the past.
The bad . . .
Although you no longer have to shell out for a separate heart-rate monitor, the Cardio Runner is more expensive than its predecessor. And if you already own a heart-rate monitor that can connect to the original Runner watch, it makes little sense to spend out the extra for the newer version. You can still connect your separate heart-rate monitor though.
You still need to dock the watch to charge it, which was one of the chief downsides of the previous Runner watch. When TomTom had its partnership with Nike, there was a USB charger/data transfer connection built into the strap, which was far more convenient.
Docking the watch takes only a few seconds but it’s another thing that runners can lose and, without it, there’s no way to boost the battery.
. . . and the rest
Designwise, there is little radically new about the TomTom Cardio Runner, although there have been some minor tweaks. It feels chunkier on your wrist and the silicon band is very sportswatch-like.
Whether that’s a good or bad thing will depend on your own preferences.
However, it’s not the only way to get data synced any more.
This time out, there’s support for wireless syncing with your smartphone, so you can transfer your running stats to your iPhone or Android device.
The battery lasts up to eight hours on a single charge if you are using the heart-rate monitor, which gives you a decent amount of running time.
The heart-rate monitor does affect the battery life – if you use it just as a watch, that battery life is extended to 10 hours – but getting into good habits of charging with the dreaded docking station will eliminate any battery worries longer-distance runners may have.
**** If you are a newcomer to the fitness watch market, the TomTom Cardio Runner is well worth considering.