TomTom Runner 3 Review
For the last few weeks, I've been trying out the TomTom Runner 3. I have had a Multisport Cardio since April 2014 (when Victoria Pendleton was a zombie) which I've enjoyed using - so I was really keen to see the improvements they've made since then. The new kid on the block comes in several different flavours, allowing you the option to mix and match optical heart rate and music features.
Look and Feel
As much as I enjoyed pretending I was in Blake's Seven with my Multisport Cardio, the new watch is sleeker and more streamlined, down to 50g from 63g (not that I'm suggesting this in itself will enhance your speed). The wrist-bands are interchangeable (and come in two sizes), so if you really want, you can get a bright one (mine is black with green trims).
The wrist-based heart rate monitor (which is by far the best reason to consider this watch if you're sick of chest chafing) means that you need a snug fit - and the strap does sometimes feel as though the holes are just either side of where I want them to be - but overall it's comfortable to wear for long periods.
Get Going (Quicker)
Starting up the watch when it's time to run gives you the first indication that this is a company with a sense of humour. When the GPS gets a lock, it doesn't just sit there waiting, it displays a message that says "Get going". It's a small thing, but it makes me smile. The GPS lock can be lightning fast if you plug the watch into your computer occasionally. It has a feature called QuickGPS, which downloads the latest data on satellite positioning, so that it can get a quicker lock. Whether you choose to buy a TomTom or not, this is definitely a feature you should consider when choosing any GPS watch - particularly if you don't like standing around by the bins with your teeth chattering.
Viewing & Uploading
The watch itself doesn't give you a lot of summary detail when you've finished - it's all top-level stuff. I do miss being able to stagger homewards whilst pawing through my splits to find out where the wheels came off. However, the watch comes with a bluetooth feature that allows you to send your data straight to the TomTom website with an app on your phone (and the app also lets you view the detail that the watch doesn't show). It would be nice to see bluetooth connectivity between my computer and the watch too, for those moments when I can't find the charging cable.
Once your run has made it to the TomTom server, it's really easy to get it into Fetch. Their API makes it pretty straightforward for you to give your permission for Fetch to access your TomTom data - and then it's just a couple of clicks to get your runs in.
Battery power seems reasonable - I used the watch for five days before needing to charge it. I juiced it up on Wednesday afternoon, then ran on Friday (4 miles), and Sunday (10.5 miles), wearing the watch continuously to allow it to do step counting. By Monday it was bleating when I tried to put it into run mode, but it still lasted the rest of the day as a step counter.
The watch connects to a pair of bluetooth headphones, and can store 3Gb of tunes, which is about 750 songs. If you've ever used an iPod, the watch control pad is a familiar way to navigate your choones. In my case, I usually take my phone when I run, so I probably wouldn't fork out for the music capability. However, it's still a very tidy wire-free and waterproof solution if you like accompaniment on your run. In practical terms, the only usability issue I've discovered is that you need to remember to activate the connection before you start running.
This is another new feature that's very handy if, like me, you have a poor sense of direction. If you're out for a run, the watch has a screen with a little breadcrumb trail on it, so you can see which way home is, and a compass so you can orient yourself (you need to calibrate the compass, by rotating the watch about - it could do with some kind of progress bar to show you when you've done this enough, because I felt like a bit of a lemon).
If you have the opportunity to plan ahead, you can also copy existing routes to the watch on the TomTom website, and then use the breadcrumb trail to guide you. What's more, you can upload these as GPX files, and as of this afternoon, all Fetch routes now have an option to export as GPX files. Cool huh?
Another thing. The watch functions as a step counter, which is a nice addition. There's a little animation when you hit 10,000 steps. There's also a nice fifty-pence-shaped summary of your last seven days, so you can smooth out the days on which you run. There's no corresponding app to get nice visuals on all of this just yet - but I imagine it's coming.
As the watch is effectively grabbing your cadence data in real time, I'm hopeful that a future update might also include a time-based cadence graph amongst the running data - all it provides at the moment is one overall stride rate.
Swimming and Biking
It's a nice extra in a watch billed for runners that it can handle biking and indoor swimming too. The brains of the watch detach from the strap, so you can stick it in a bike mount (not included), and the large display becomes pretty useful. In swimming terms, it's decent enough - although I often find that the counting is a little bit off - it tells me I have done 39 lengths, when I most definitely have done either 38 or 40! But it does feel like an improvement on my older TomTom, which was often a few lengths out.
Some decent improvements on previous models, especially the route finding and step counting tools. Worth considering whether the music feature adds sufficient value to bolt it on. Still some room for improvement in software terms, but judging by the pace of improvement, and the intuitive usability of what's already in place, TomTom is worth considering.