TomTom GPS Watch – Review Update

TomTom Runner GPS Watch
TomTom Runner GPS Watch

Back on February 27, 2014, I initially reviewed my TomTom GPS runner watch and since then I have used it almost daily, so it is time for an update to that review.

What kind of relationship do I have with TomTom – none. I purchased this watch from Clever Timing using a discount code from Pete Larson’s RunBlogger site – yeah with my money, so I can say what ever the hell I want about this product as strictly a consumer.

What I wanted originallywas a dead solid watch that quickly gets the GPS signal, keeps signal, tracks my treadmill workouts, gives mile splits, charges quickly and accurately uploads my data, along with some simple workout programs that I can set up and listen for the beep or buzz to start/stop different parts of my workout.

So is that what I got?

For the most part I am very happy with my choice of the TomTom Runner GPS watch, but like all things electronic, it does have a few quirks and things that I do not like.

My Needs

GPS Connectivity

Most of the time, I have satellite connection within 30 seconds, unless…it is right after a software update and then the first few times it takes longer, in the 2-3 minute range. Which is frustrating since I am spoiled by the usual quick connection times. At races I have no problems with holding the connection (even when the start is delayed by long-winded speakers). This can be a real pain in the ass, worrying about whether you are going to get/have satellite signal and the start of a race is looming.

Treadmill

The TomTom Runners Watch’s ability to track my treadmill workouts is the one thing that sets it apart from other GPS watches in this price range.

Uploading to Strava and other sites or manually to Running Ahead works quickly and easily – so it met that need, especially since many sites manual upload provides limited data (i.e. Strava)

Strava Treadmill Run - Manual Entry
Strava Treadmill Run – Manual Entry

and uploading with the TomTom gives you the full array of the sites features – So that was a big plus.

TomTom Treadmill Upload to Strava
TomTom Treadmill Upload to Strava

TomTom GPS watch has a built-in accelerometer and bases the distance on arm-swing and while this should work in theory. In practice the reliability between the treadmill and the TomTom watch are closer, only if you keep up a steady pace. However if you are going to be changing speeds (like faster intervals) the reliability between the two decreases quickly.

You can attempt to calibrate the watch to meet your personal stride, but I found that the default setting was closer to the treadmill than the calibrated setting???? Not sure why, but that was my experience.

One thing I do like is that the watch allows you to calibrate the final mileage at the end of a treadmill run, to match your mileage to what the treadmill gave (which is what I use as the “official” mileage). Unfortunately, doing the calibration screws up your last mile split. Not a big deal, but one of those things.

As the review in DC Rainmaker stated and I found out too — was 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 room for improvement and I believe that TomTom has made several “adjustments” to the treadmill tracking software, since I bought the watch.

Accuracy

GPS systems are for getting a close-enough idea of your mileage, it just the way the system is designed. However, from what I have seen the TomTom is close and fairly reliable most of the time.

It doesn’t like heavy tree cover, tunnels or lots of big building – all those things that block GPS signals, but otherwise it does what I want and is a close enough estimate of the actual miles to meet my needs.

It would be nice if the accelerometer took over for those times when the GPS signal is weak or gone, as far as I know it does not.

Waterproof

According to the literature and reviews the TomTom GPS is waterproof to 50 feet. I have swam, showered, washed dishes, run in downpours, etc. and did have any issues with my watch.

Online Compatibility

I really like that TomTom has made it so that it will automatically send data to

  • Strava
  • MapMyFitness
  • RunKeeper
  • TomTom-MySports

My watch also allows you to download the data to a file on your computer, so that you can manually upload your GPS data to a site that is not supported by automatic uploading. I primarily use Strava now and it has worked flawlessly, it populates the data fields and automatically opens Strava,along with the other sites it read to, which lets me see the new entry.

Strava Stats 7-25-14
Strava Stats 7-25-14

However, due to how TomTom averages/interprets the GPS data points on graphs almost all of my runs look like am doing interval work, versus the fairly steady pace that I am actually running.

It also provides data to your TomTom – MySports account, which I do not really use, but I like that it has a Stride/min or cadence field that is populated when you upload your data and transfer that data to my Strava entry. While there might be a lot of work going on in the “back end” or behind the scenes on this site, it does not really seem to be all that many improvements from my perspective, so the TomTom MySports site is more usable than it was in February? Yes – does it do what I want – not enough that I use it for more than getting my cadence number for a run and a place to back up my runs.

The TomTom GPS watch does what I need when it comes to exporting data to my online running sites and I really like that it can also download various file types to your computer, so you can manually upload your data to other sites, if you do not use the ones they support.

Ease of Use/Reliabiliy

Like all electronic devices, the TomTom GPS watch has it own quirks that you get used to as you use it, but I did find most of the functions intuitive and useful.

I like the square (instead of the traditional buttons or touch screen) and the navigation screens are easy to use.

TomTom is supporting their watches with software updates, that seem to happen pretty regularly. One thing is when they do an update it resets the satellite tracking and the first time or two in a location it seems to take forever (2-3 minutes) to get signal. They have improved their treadmill tracking and accuracy (because for a while it was reading .98 or .99 for 1 mile splits on some of my online sites – it is not now).

Otherwise, I have not had any issues with charging, battery life, being able to read the screen or figuring out how to use the watch’s functions (once I read through the manual-yeah it helped). Most of it is pretty intuitive, but to get the lap/interval to play nice I had to read the instructions and then it made perfect sense.

Pricing

The price for the TomTom GPS base watch still is in the $150 to $200 range. So the pricing is still in the range I want.

What I Do Not Like?

Module/Watch Band

I am not a big fan of the way the module connects/friction clips into the watch band.

TomTom Watchband and module
TomTom Watchband and module

The watch module usually falls out of the band when I take it off, which is a pain-in-the-ass. It works great when you have it on your wrist, but when you take the watch off, due to how it is designed, the module is likely to fall on the floor, ground, etc. if you are not paying attention. No in my opinion it is not a great design for the long-term survivability of something electronic.

At some point one these drops will eventually damage/break the module and make the watch rather useless – which would not make me a happy runner. So I am very careful about where I take the watch off to upload my data and charge the module (something I do almost daily, since it only keeps the last 10 sessions).

Due the watch’s design this problem will only get worse, because the watch band connection point is plastic and the small lip holding in the module will wear down to the point where keeping the watch module in place when it is not on your wrist becomes more and more difficult.

Charging Cable

The charging module connection wire is not very sturdy.

TomTom Charging Cable issue
TomTom Charging Cable issue

As you can see in the photo there is bare wire showing and this happened after about three months of use. I have used USB cables since USB came out and yet I have never had a cable wear like this in the past. Yes, it is an easy fix by putting electrician’s tape over the problem area (I have), but I believe that a charging cable needs to be sturdier than this.

Data Point Read Default

The speed/time graphs that are generated with the default GPS data provided by the TomTom watch to sites is not very smoothed out. It appears that their default reading for GPS data points is every 10 data points. This might make it so that getting a current pace during your run is more accurate and many people find that feature more important than what their pace graph looks like.

Personally, I don’t use the current pace capability because it is just too distracting and wait until I get to when the watch beeps/buzzes for the end of an interval to see what my overall pace for that interval was whether it was a quarter, mile or whatever.

The light blue radically alternating points on the graphs are all the collected GPS data points as interpreted by Running Ahead, and at what point their software is programmed to average the GPS data makes a huge difference in how your pace graph looks.

TomTom Data Points 10 Default Graph
TomTom Data Points 10 Default Graph

 

TomTom Data Points 50 Graph
TomTom Data Points 50 Graph

 

TomTom Data Points 100 Graph
TomTom Data Points 100 Graph

Personally, I prefer a pace graph to average every 50 – 100 data points, at TomTom’s default reading rate, there is just too much variation in the GPS data that the runner cannot control. It makes it look as though your pace is all over the place, which really is not the case and just frustrates me when I look at the graph, because I know I ran a lot more consistently than it is showing.

I know for many people this is a relatively minor point, but I gain a lot insight from using graphs, that just having numbers does not give me.

Auto-Stop

There is no Auto–stop/start or pause option. The pause button works but I am lazy and do not want to have to think about too much other stuff during a run or (more likely) wonder if I am going to screw up my run by hitting pause and then holding it too long and ending that workout – which I have done more than once.

If I want to stop and take a picture, have to stop for traffic or other things, I like the auto-pause feature, which my TomTom GPS watch does not have.

The reality is

I do like my TomTom GPS runner watch – a lot!

No I am not looking to replace it any time soon, like the how simple it is to operate and how accurate it is.

However, it does have some issues that make it so that I will be looking at other options the next time I am in the market for a new GPS watch

  1. how the module is connected to the watch band (according to the website this is something they are aware of and are working on improving)
  2. the charging cable wear through issue

These two issues do not mean that I will not or would not buy another TomTom GPS watch, but they do make me want to look at what other GPS watch systems in the same price range offer.

Even though I am critical of some things, I think that my TomTom Runner GPS watch is a very good product for a 1.0 edition and TomTom is working to improve their product and create a usable GPS watch system that seems to be getting better with each software update and with the new hardware that they have coming out.

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 next time.

Until then I will happily keep using my TomTom GPS watch and its no fuss method of doing most everything I want, as long as I do not drop the module and break it.

2 thoughts on “TomTom GPS Watch – Review Update

  1. I have the TomTom runners watch as well. Been using it since December. Mine does not pop/fall out of the band like you are having issues with. I also enjoy it very much. I guess my only complaint so far is the fact it doesn’t report my splits. I would like to have that data. I just do my best to pay attention to my mile markers and figure it out from there. I think the thing I really enjoy is the quick find GPS!

    1. Yeah I agree with you on the wishing it showed splits at the end of the workout – on the watch, instead of having to wait to see them when you upload them. You are lucky on the not having the pop out/fall out issues, they are a pain in the butt and sooner or later I am going to take my watch off and it will fall onto something and not work after – my nightmare, because I do like the watch a lot. The quick SAT pick-up is something that my Garmin and Timex friends are jealous of when we run together, I am connected and they are still holding on to their wrists 🙂

Leave a Reply, but I moderate all comments

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.