As a long term Garmin and Suunto user I was keen to take a look at what TomTom had to offer and my first impressions on unboxing the watch were good.
I'm a sucker for a bright coloured watch and the orange strap with black watch housing really made it stand out. Interestingly the watch unit is designed to easily pop in and out of the strap, making it straight forward to swap straps, something that requires a screwdriver with many competitor watches. To recharge or synchronise the watch via a computer you also need to remove it from the strap however, which made it a little more complicated than other watches I've used.
The user interface for the watch is probably one of the simplest I've seen although it did take a bit of working out, with no instructions included in the box. Below the screen is a single button, which you simply press left, right or up, down to access the various menus and make choices.
The watch itself has built in accelerometer, GPS and an optical heart rate sensor, allowing you to track all your workouts without the need for a heart rate strap, although one can be paired to the device if you wish. The watch will also track your steps, flight climbed and sleep patterns during the day, as is usual from watches in this class. It does not support notification alerts from your phone through, which will be great for some people but an annoyance for others.
Setting up the watch requires you to first create an account on the TomTom MySports website and then synchronise the watch through your computer. The application is simple to download once the registration process is complete, however Mac users beware, you will need to change your default security settings to complete the install. Once the watch has been updated with any available updates, you are good to go!
For day to day synchronisation you can install an application on your mobile and pair the watch with this. In practice I found that the synchronisation would not happen automatically, at least not on an iPhone, and I had to manually initiate this myself on a daily basis. Not a show stopper but another annoyance when compared to other watches on the market.
In terms of the data captured and displayed through the MySports platform and application, its good but definitely lacked the depth I'm used to from platforms such as MovesCount and Garmin Connect. That said it covered all the basics such as sleep, steps and activities, so for many people this will be more than sufficient. This is a new platform for TomTom and I'm sure it will develop in the months and years to come.
Day to day despite being a little bulky, it was comfortable to wear and would fit under the cuff of a formal shirt if that is important to you. In practice I found the button could be knocked fairly easily but you'd get a positive vibration from the watch as you interacted with it, so were quickly aware when this happened and were able to rectify the situation.
Out on runs, it provided me with the basic information I required, such as distance, speed, time, pace and heart rate. Interestingly it also included a real time break down of which heart rate zones you were operating in across your workout, which was useful for more structured sessions, or when you needed to ensure you stayed within your aerobic or recovery zones.
As a comparison I ran with both the TomTom and a Garmin watch using a traditional chest strap. Strangely I found the TomTom would take a couple of kilometres to get "its eye in" so to speak with my heart rate, and would consistently show it significantly higher than it was before settling down, despite playing with the tightness of the watch strap. Once it settled down though it was easily comparable to my other watch on steady state efforts.
For interval or tempo sessions the TomTom would lag behind the chest strap in detecting changes in heart rate. Not such an issue for longer tempo efforts where it would eventually catch-up but potentially problematic if you are doing shorter harder efforts and using heart rate as a guide.
To be fair to TomTom this is an issue across the vast majority of watches using optical heart rate sensors in my experience. This technology is still in its infancy and I am sure we will see innovation in this space by all companies in the years to come. If accurate real time heart rate data is important to you, then I'd opt for a chest strap and TomTom have thoughtfully included this as an option if you need this.
Where the optical sensor is really useful is in tracking your heart rate throughout the day and giving you a feel for your daily resting heart rate. By default this option is disabled on the watch, so you'll have to dig into the settings to turn this on. Once enabled this worked well in practice and I got some nice graphs appearing on MySports.
Although having this option on impacts battery life, and is probably the reason TomTom disables it by default, in my experience I was able to get nearly 48 hours on a single charge, including two ten mile runs as well, so not bad considering.
Finally the navigation features of the watch were something I was keen to try. TomTom have always been one of the market leaders in this area, with their origins in car sat navs. Their implementation worked well, showing me a single line for my route and a marker for my location on or near it. This was easily accessible during the run and you could zoom in and out as you wished.
Routes have to be setup on the MySports online portal initially and then downloaded to the watch. While not the end of the world, the ability to quickly plot out a route on your phone and get it onto the watch would be useful, especially if you are heading out for a run in an unfamiliar area. Again this is not necessarily a feature that other manufacturers support but something that would be a useful addition to see none the less.
So in summary. My thoughts on the TomTom are that its a good looking and functional watch, ticking the majority of boxes for runners and multi sport athletes interested in capturing and using data while training and racing.
There were some annoyances for me, the need to manually initiate the synchronisation through my phone being the main one. The lack of features in both the application or online portal was also obvious. While probably fine for the majority of users or those stepping up to this kind of technology for the first time. For those moving across from more mature platforms this will be obvious at the outset and you'll need to ask yourself whether this is something you will miss.
If these things aren't an issue for you and you're in the market for a new watch, the TomTom Adventurer is a reliable unit and definitely one I would recommend you consider when making your buying decision.