TomTom Multi-Sport GPS Watch
18th Apr 2013 | 09:49
TomTom has always been about getting from A to B in the fastest, simplest way. So the announcement that it would be focusing more on the space in between those points was a surprise to many, despite the fact that TomTom's mapping system makes its GPS watch feel like a no-brainer in many ways.
But with wearable tech the current hot topic of discussion, the initial surprise around TomTom's sports watch has rapidly turned into intrigue. So TechRadar got wrist-on and personal to see whether TomTom could bring its solid reputation as a mapping service to the realm of sports tech.
TomTom's GPS watch comes in two models - the TomTom Runner and the TomTom Multi-Sport. The Runner offers features for the casual jogger, while the Multi-Sport provides additional functions for swimming and cycling, such as an altimeter. Of course, we tried out the Multi-Sport to ensure we got the full TomTom watch experience, but design-wise there's little difference between the two.
One of the most instantly noticeable things about TomTom's watch is that the nice big display isn't littered with buttons. Instead, TomTom has opted for one big button below the screen, where all the interaction is carried out.
Up, down, left and right let you navigate through the watch's menus and we found that the UI was pleasantly responsive, giving out a gentle vibrate for every button press.
The watch asks you to fill out a personal profile, including your age, weight, height and gender. All these factors then get taken into account when it comes to mapping your performance stats and targets.
Then hit right on the button and you're on the list of activities, giving you a selection from running, cycling swimming and treadmill.
The hub of TomTom's fitness watch is called the Graphical Training Partner. This offers three different modes: Zone mode, Race mode and Goal mode.
Zone mode, which we were especially impressed with, lets you set a particular pace or heart rate. TomTom will then measure your performance against this target as you exercise.
Go too fast and the bars on the screen chart will increase and the watch will give a friendly vibrate to let you know. Too slow and you'll also be given a gentle buzz to tell you that it's time to pick up the pace.
Race mode, meanwhile, compares your runs with previous efforts. But while fitness tech usually just calculates an average speed for the whole run, the TomTom Multi-Sport GPS Watch keeps a close eye on every step of your run in real time, meaning it can tell you exactly where you've improved your speed since the last attempt - or exactly where you've slowed down.
Goal mode, as its name suggests, is all about you setting your distance and calorie targets, and hopefully smashing them.
For the swimmers out there, we were shown how the Multi-Sport will record the number of lengths you've taken, the speed at which you've taken them, and the stroke you've done them in.
But where does all this data go next? TomTom will be launching its own backend platform called MySports, but the watch will also be compatible with other popular services such as RunKeeper.
Another thing we noticed was the reception bars on the bottom of the display. According to the TomTom rep, the idea here is that you'll be able to find the maximum strength before searching for a satellite signal, meaning less waiting around. There's nothing more frustrating that waiting for your sat nav to acquire satellite signals, so this is a welcome feature.
Bluetooth connectivity also lets you pair your TomTom watch with various accessories, such as a heart rate monitor should you have one, and opens the potential for hooking the watch up to other fitness tech in the future.
Build and design
What we love most about the TomTom watch is how it feels on the wrist. At just 11.5mm at its thickest point, and weighing just 50g, it's surprisingly light given the screen dimensions. It might be a little big for everyday watch use, but having it on might serve as an ever-present reminder to hit the pool.
The watch is also a product of two parts. The GPS module is built into the watch face, but the rest can be taken off, letting you change the colours when those blacks and pinks start to feel a little moribund.
According to our trusty TomTom rep, the watch packs around 10 hours of battery life when used as an exercise companion. However, this will increase significantly if you're using it as more of a casual timekeeper than a fitness assistant.
But while the watch feels robust and comfortable, some might find the plastic design a little on the tacky side. The other thing we aren't completely sold on is the monochrome display, which feels a bit behind the times despite its high resolution.
With TomTom announcing its new 3D-map-toting TomTom Go just after unveiling the TomTom Multi-Sport GPS Watch, it doesn't feel like a colour screen would have been too much to ask for.
Another thing that became clear very quickly was that the screen is a magnet for fingerprint smears. This shouldn't be a problem given that all interaction is done via the big button, but you're almost certain to get a few smudges on the display when putting the watch on and taking it off, and we can see these being obtrusive in sunlight.
TomTom has a habit of announcing products long before their release date, but we're hearing that the TomTom Multi-Sport and Runner may be arriving this Summer.
Given the physical restrictions of the TomTom venue (and a desire to retain some of our dignity) we weren't able to run around with the watch and give it a proper spin as we'd have liked to.
But we certainly liked most of what we saw. The Multi-Sport's interface is pleasantly simple, and though it might not offer anything wonderful in its display, it has everything that the fitness aficionado could possibly ask for.
That, paired with TomTom's GPS, means the Multi-Sport has every chance of standing out from the crowd when the onslaught of smartwatches come tugging at our wrists.