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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.

Longevity

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.

Music

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.

Route Finding

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?

Step counting

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.

Summary

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.

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Comments

  • iiiinteresting, the boy is looking for a gps watch. Good review, though I was distracted by Victoria Pendleton. Not a bad thing.
  • I really like the idea of bluetooth music built into my running watch. It's probably the only thing that would make me buy yet another running watch in the near future (on that note... anyone want to buy a second hand running watch? Huge selection available).
  • Sounds like a decent piece of kit. I often get fed up waiting for my garmin to get a signal. I tend to go for tech with a long battery life especially now that I have started doing ultras. Really like the breadcrumb trail though as I am er directionally challenged! Would certainly have a closer look when I am in need of an upgrade.
  • Sounds like the full package. It would be interesting to see if the TomTom site is reliable and good it is at integrating your data into other fitness apps.
  • Have they fixed the issue with the data from programmed intervals not showing properly?
  • The fast lock-in is a very welcome feature. I won't miss the mannequin challenge time spent outside the front door. I'm in the market for a running watch so this is very helpful, thanks.
  • Ooh, looks good to me! I like the idea of the wrist heart rate monitor. I like my Garmin vivoactive without it, but I fancy this for an upgrade.
  • I wear my TomTom 18x7 now and all of the family have one now (their choice, not mine). It's a decent watch by itself and and excellent run logger. Small gripe that the quick GPS data only seems to last 3 or 4 days - less than the battery life! Many people don't realise that to quickly start the sync with the iPhone app you need to flick on to the 'about' screen on the watch - an odd quirk to reduce battery use I assume.
  • The music function sounds interesting - one less gadget to carry (my phone is limited with music, so I have to take my iPod for choons).
  • Any result or feedback on the accuracy of the wrist-based HR? Maybe going for a run whilst wearing 2 devices (one chest strap, one wrist) and comparing results would be interesting.
  • Brilliant review. Thank you.
  • Is there anything it doesn't do? Good to have a HR monitor without a chest strap
  • Never knew that Tom-Tom did this sort of thing. I'll probably consider them now next time I change my monitor.
  • When my 310xt died, I went for a Suunto (used one from eBay) and did not consider Tom Tom as I thought they were too basic. Sounds like they have come on a fair bit while keeping the price realistic, whereas latest Garmin and Suunto offerings are really getting beyond a joke, price wise, so competition is hotting up, which can only be a good thing.
  • Ooh. Could be tempted particularly with the wrist HRM and it's much nicer looking that hubby's Garmin that does similar.
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