Ever since I started training for the Nike Women’s 15K last year, I started tracking my runs to see progress. I usually use my phone on an armband, which I found cumbersome. For Christmas, I got an Apple Watch and was excited to be able to work out phone-free, only to realize to track any GPS, you need your phone there too! I was super excited to have the chance to test drive the new TomTom Spark GPS Fitness watch and share an in-depth review of my experience using it.
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TomTom Spark Review: Run Tracking
At first, it was a little bit difficult to get the TomTom Spark watch to connect to a GPS satellite and start my run. It’s likely because I was running in a cemetery and found it easier to start during my warm up on my street. But as I have used it on several other runs, I’m finding that it connects faster to a GPS signal now.
The navigation on the watch is simple, and after figuring out how to pause my runs (by pressing the left button), I was able to accurately record. It would be amazing if this unit had the ability to automatically pause a run (like my iPhone), but I’m sure that can be developed later. When the run is paused, it even gives a two-minute recovery time and beeps to let you know you’ve recovered! It’s great to motivate new runners, or encourage speed demons to take some time to recover.
I liked how I had the options to display heart rate, distance or speed, and that there is an option for goals or an open run as well.
TomTom Spark: Data
The best part about this unit are the extensive analytics accessible online following a run. When I finished a run around the Capital, I plugged in the watch to recharge and my data automatically loaded. Aside from the nifty map, I loved that I could see my heart rate, speed and other important figures from my run. That day, I was so proud of my speed on the hill, and it came as a huge surprise having been my first outdoor run of the year (evidently from the first picture, I still didn’t figure out how to pause my runs!). You can use the data to compare progress and work towards goals as well. I find the data really easy to read, and I like that it can be accessed on my computer on the MySports app, on my phone via their iOS app, as well as a shorter version on the watch itself. It’s really motivating to watch your pace improve, and I like the easy access this system provides.
TomTom Spark design & battery life
As for the fashion of the watch, I like that it’s simple and black. I would have preferred a silicone band to make it more comfortable to wear, but I suspect that as the unit pops out, you could swap bands as well. My main complaint is that the plastic on the back of the unit makes for a hot and sweaty device. I tried loosening the watch a bit but if it’s too lose, I worry it won’t be accurate in its heart rate measurements. I think this has more to do with the shape and design of the watch, and perhaps a method for ventilation would improve the wearability for me on a sweaty run! I find the all black to be really sleek, and in comparison to other GPS run watches out there, the design is incredibly aesthetically pleasing, and I have worn it a few times throughout the day to track my steps. During the day, I like that the time display is always visible, as well as the date. I also like that in a couple buttons, I can access my steps data and heart rate information. I find the navigation and accessibility of the data much simpler than on my Apple Watch.
As for the battery life, I found I could wear this watch for a few days in a row to track steps and a couple little workouts and a run or two without losing power. This is MILES ahead of my Apple Watch, which I need to recharge once a day (especially if I track a workout). I would definitely feel more confident going into a race with the TomTom Spark, because I know my tunes would keep playing, while the device would continue to track my run.
TomTom Spark Review: Music Player
My second favourite feature of this device is that it plays music directly… no need to lug an iPhone around anymore! It felt really freeing running without being tethered down to a heavy phone, while still enjoying my tunes. The music is loaded up onto the device like an mp3 player. This is fairly simple to do if you never upgraded to Apple Music (which has a habit of holding your files hostage). You simply open up album folders you want, or playlists and add them to the device. Obviously, streaming services won’t work with the TomTom spark, as it does not connect to WiFi, but luckily for me, I still store music in this way because of data-less trips to the cottage.
As for the sound, I reviewed the TomTom Spark with the coordinating Bluetooth headphones. The sound was fairly good (a little bit better than iPhone headphones) though a little tinny with instrumentals or heavy bass… but for a run in the city, it’s more than adequate. The headphones are not noise-cancelling but still remove some ambient noise. I think it’s a good balance for safety reasons, especially if you run in the city like me.
Overall, I found the TomTom Spark to be an excellent device. Minus a couple issues (pausing runs automatically and connecting to a satellite), I love that this device has GPS and music built in to it so I can exercise phone free and focus on my speed instead of being tethered to a bulky phone and armband!