TomTom GPS Runner Watch Review 2014

TomTom GPS Watch - Runner
TomTom GPS Watch – Runner

I have had my TomTom GPS Runner Watch for a couple of weeks now and for the most part I am impressed with how well it works  for me and does what I want from a GPS watch.

Getting a new GPS watch setup to do things the way that you want, especially a different brand takes a little while to figure out where stuff is and how to make the changes that you want.

So I have made mistakes, had to change things around, lost data and all that other stuff. In other words there was a bit of a learning curve while I was getting used to the differences between TomTom and Garmin.

Nothing serious, just the way it is.

Background

Over the past 2-3 months, I had been increasingly unhappy with my Garmin Forerunner 10 and how it was not working the way that I want it to. I know that it is Garmin’s bottom-end GPS watch and probably my expectations for this model are too high, however, I still expect it to do certain things.

Specifically the issues I was having were

  • Slow GPS connection – several times it took over 10 minutes of staring and glaring at my wrist waiting to get started on my run – frustrating.
  • No ability to automatically track runs on the treadmill.
  • Dropping signal in the middle of a run, even when it was clear outside.
  • Getting some moisture inside the crystal, when running in the rain, which resulted in a couple of dropped runs.

Those are the major reasons that I decided to do a lot of research to see if I could find a reasonably priced  GPS watch that would do what I wanted:

  • connect quickly,
  • be able to add in treadmill automatically, without an extra accessory,
  • be reliable and a very important consideration – be reasonably priced ($150-$200 range).
  • be waterproof

My needs are  much more basic than many runner’s. I do not use a heart rate monitor (no MAF training here in the foreseeable future) and I don’t want to have to use more accessories (footpod, etc.) .

What I want is a dead solid watch that quickly gets the GPS signal, does a good job of keeping signal, lets me  know when I go past a mile split, charges quickly and accurately uploads my data to my online running log – Running Ahead.

After spending a lot of time on the DC Rainmaker website (he has the most comprehensive GPS watch review-no question), reading many other blog reviews and manufactures websites, it came down to  the TomTom GPS watch being the only reasonably priced GPS watch in my price range that met my needs.

How has it done?

So far I am very happy with my choice. The more I use it the more I like it.

My Needs

GPS Connectivity

Since I got the TomTom, I have put it head-to-head against the Garmin Forerunner 10, five times and each time the TomTom has gotten GPS signal at least 3 minutes faster than my FR10 , especially one of those 8:00 minute frustrating waits.

So far TTR has averaged  about 45 seconds to getting a GPS signal. In other words, by the time I finish up my 100 ups, my TomTom is connected and ready to go, while the FR10 was still searching for a signal and I had to stand around waiting – which sucked.

Today was a good example, I have not connected to the website since Monday and within 30 seconds I had GPS connection and the watch was ready for me to use. That is what I want and expect from my GPS watch.

Accuracy

They are reasonably close, I like the measurements provided by the FR10, because they seem to give me more distance for the same courses than the TomTom does. It isn’t significant, averaging around .07 after 5.0 miles, so both seem to be reasonably accurate or at least close enough for my purposes.

On other runs, the TomTom consistently comes in about .05  below what the Garmin FR10 read for those same courses.

Comparing Garmin FR10 versus TomTom Runner GPS
Comparing Garmin FR10 versus TomTom Runner GPS

I have run the same snowmobile trail course a couple of times and had 7.42 the first run and 7.41 the second time. I know this is a small sample, but it is close enough for my needs.

Treadmill

This was the deciding factor for getting the TomTom, it is the one thing it does that other GPS watches in this price range do not have. I had to use the Treadmill quite a bit this winter and wanted an easy way to upload the data to my online running log.

The TomTom has a built-in accelerometer and bases the distance on arm-swing. I have had mixed results with this, when I use it at a consistent pace, it comes out fairly accurately. However, when I mix up the speeds, the results are not as accurate and can be WAY off. If I programmed my workout intervals, instead of just going with it, it would probably be more accurate.

One thing I do like is that it does allow you to calibrate the final mileage at the end of the treadmill run, to match your mileage to what the treadmill gave (which might or might not be accurate).

As the review in DC Rainmaker stated and I found out it was accurate if calibrated correctly, but if you stop swinging your arm with the watch on it to get a drink, adjust the controls or other reasons, it does cause a blip in your readings.

While I like the treadmill feature and it meets my needs, there is still A LOT OF ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT in it.

Waterproof

According to the literature and reviews the TomTom GPS is waterproof to 50 feet. I am not a swimmer, so while being waterproof that deep is nice. I am more concerned about if I dump my kayak, decide to suddenly go swimming, get thrown in a pool, running out in a downpour or simply wash the dishes I don’t want t have to  worry about dunking my watch and it not working afterwards.  No problems here.

Online Compatibility

TomTom has their own website – MySports, which is very rough around the edges and still in the Alpha or early Beta stages, which means it is not quite ready for prime time – usable yes – does what I want – no.

TomTom Website 2-27-14
TomTom Website 2-27-14

You can program/use check boxes on their software to automatically upload data to MapMyRun or RunKeeper (which in my experience works the best for accurate uploading of data), with other sites being added in the future.

One thing that I do like is that you can upload different file types to your computer, which allows you to manually upload the data to other online logs/sites or spreadsheets, including .gpx, .fit and other major styles. It doesn’t mean that the website will accurately read the data, like it does for a Garmin, but it does upload data to those sites.

TomTom Files
TomTom Files

Their website and ability to easily export data to other websites is something TomTom is behind some of the other GPS watches out there, but seem to be working on to improve their customer’s experience.

While it is not automatic, I can get most of the data to my RunningAhead site by doing a manual upload. Sometimes the data doesn’t translate or the mile splits do not appear correctly, but usually I can get the data I need and then put in manually into the site  – which is my problem since I choose to use RunningAhead.

RA Stats 2-27-14
RA Stats 2-27-14

However, I would love to see them work something out with RunningAhead and use that online service versus what they are doing now. I believe, it would meet the needs of runners better.

I understand licensing issues and all that, but the direction that TomTom is headed with their website, seems much less helpful to me than something like RunningAhead is to tracking my running.

To me their compatibility with other online running log/workout sites works well enough that it is worth the workarounds that I am doing now to keep my data in my preferred log (which is not as mainstream as many of the others), however, it still needs work.

Ease of Use/Appearance

The TomTom GPS watch has it own quirks (like any others) that you have to get used to, but I did find most of the functions intuitive and useful.

Personally now that I have gotten used to the square (instead of the traditional buttons or touch screen), I like it – a lot. It makes the navigation quick and easy. The navigation screens are easy to use and the only issue that I haven’t quite figured out yet is getting it to vibrate/beep on mile splits when using GPS – probably just something that I am missing. I figured it out, just before I went out for my run today and it worked great. Otherwise – everything has been very straight-forward.

TomTom Watch Band/GPS Module
TomTom Watch Band/GPS Module

The watch itself looks good, fits comfortably, but I am still not that crazy about the modular design of how the watch itself fits into the watch band. So far I have accidentally dropped the watch module on the floor, it has slid into the crevice of my easy chair and when I was taking it off before shoveling the roof last Sunday to put it on the steps (so I wouldn’t screw it up while working on the roof), the module dropped into the snow bank.

While the module might be fairly heavy-duty and resilient, I do not get the warm and fuzzies, when I drop electronics this often. The fit of the module into the watch band is only going to get looser, as it stretches and wears – just the way it is – that does worry me, because I don’t like it just dropping out of the watch band every time I take the watch off.

I would prefer a better attachment system to the watch band – the press fit is not the most secure system when I take off the watch and is something I would like to see improved – just how I am not sure, but there has to be a simple way to improve the watch strap to module connections so it stays there until I want to take it out, instead of it dropping out.

What is missing?

Auto – stop, the pause button works fine, but if I want to stop and take a picture, stop for traffic or other things, I like the auto-pause feature the my FR10 has.

I didn’t notice this in my reading or maybe I missed it, but it would be nice if the accelerometer kicked in automatically during a run if the watch loses GPS signal.

For me that is all, that I can think of for now.

The reality is

That I do like my TomTom GPS runner watch and it has the potential to become a very, very good GPS system. Even though I am critical of some things, I think that TomTom is working to improve their product and create a usable GPS watch system.

TomTom GPS Watch - Runner Model
TomTom GPS Watch – Runner Model

It has some design, web and software issues that not everyone will/would want to deal with at this time. The treadmill function, still has a ways to go. If it gets to the level of iSmoothRun – iPhone App or better – I would be very happy and the website – well in my mind it is still in the Alpha Stage of development, but it does work well with RunKeeper and you can manually upload files to Strava, RunningAhead , etc.

However, from reading their forums and comments TomTom representatives have made on other reviews – they are listening to what the users want and are saying

I will be interested in seeing where they are, when it is time for me to choose my next GPS watch and if I decide to buy a TomTom model due to the progress they have made to meet my needs, versus their competitor’s offerings. That will be the real test of how far they have come – when I put my money where my mouth is.

I like the direction they seem to be heading and I do like my TomTom GPS watch – runner model so far.

5 thoughts on “TomTom GPS Runner Watch Review 2014

  1. Great review on this GPS watch. I have had mine for a couple months now and love it so far. With the weather in Chicago I have only used it outside one time and the GPS connection was super fast. Other than that I use it on the treadmill 3-4 times a week and I like that it has this feature. So far, great GPS watch.

  2. Cool review – glad to hear you are enjoying it!

    I think it is funny with GPS trackers – I have the Nike+ watch powered by TomTom and ALWAYS had GPS issues, and with the Garmin I had no problems with losing signal, and it connected much quicker. It must be regional, because at the marathon in my area there are a million synchronized Garmin beeps and a couple of folks with Nike I talked to never got a signal!

    1. The TomTom has a lot of potential to be a good value GPS watch and has a lot features that I like, but just have to mature.

      I have had lots of wait time with my Garmin, ever since i got it, so it might be regional or just something we don’t know about???

      I like my GPS but at the same time, I could easily go back to just using Timex triathlon and be very happy, so we will see how this one works out. However, I am very happy with it so far, but they does need to get some kinks worked out.

  3. I’ve had three Garmin’s and they have all taken forever to synch. My current watch is the 610, not a cheap watch and it still takes forever.
    The way the TomTom module pops into the wrist band seems odd. I agree that over time the fitting will only get looser. Why is it designed like that? Do you need to remove it to recharge it? Do they have stylish wrist bands to switch up?
    I like the treadmill mode, but I see how it could have issues.
    Garmin just updated their web site but I havn’t had a chance to check it out yet. It seems every 6 months or so they do an update.
    But they still can’t find a satallite!

    1. It pops out to re-charge and synch data with the charging system they have – I am not a big fan of this design and can see it causing problems down the road by dropping the module on the floor too often. They have other bands available which is nice, but I would prefer a different way to secure it into the band.

      I like the treadmill mode and if they could get it tamed , it would be a big selling point for a lot of runners.

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