In-depth review: TomTom Spark running watch

With the TomTom Spark, the Dutch navigation company makes its mark on the mid-range running watch category with a few simple but significant updates.

March 5th, 2016 by | Posted in Electronics, Running Gear | Tags: , ,

TomTom Spark
The TomTom Spark comes in a range of colours and at three different and affordable price points.

With the TomTom Spark, the Dutch navigation company makes its mark on the mid-range running watch category with a few simple but significant updates. We spent a few weeks alternating between the new TomTom Spark and their previous model, the Runner Cardio to see where they are taking their new GPS watch.

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We’re pleased to say that, overall, the Spark maintains their streak of affordability and functionality while stepping it up in a few key areas.

The Great

Price: If you’re on a budget or just know exactly what you want in a watch, the Spark offers three price points: a $200 GPS-only model, a $250 unit with its new music player feature (see what runners these days are listening to) and a deluxe $300 model with the heart rate monitor built-in.

Sports Tracker: The Spark has you covered for cycling, swimming, gym, freestyle, and, of course, running (outdoors and on the treadmill). We found GPS sync to be consistently quick and pace stability was good. And although it’s nothing new, it is also great to have third-party support (you can upload to Strava, Run Keeper, Nike+ and others). All the usual metrics are present (clock, duration, distance, pace, average pace, speed, average speed, calories, heart, heart rate zone) and we really loved the many training options available from the watch and the ability to race against previous runs you’ve logged.

TomTom Spark
The GPS-only TomTom Spark. More deluxe editions include the TomTom Spark Cardio and the TomTom Spark Cardio + Music.

The Good

Navigation: Using a touchscreen can be a bit of a struggle while on the move, especially during Canadian winters. So it’s nice to have TomTom keep the four-way button they had on the Cardio. Even with sweaty or frozen hands, it’s easy to get through the menu, pause the watch, adjust your workout or switch songs. However, triggering the monochrome display backlight isn’t exactly intuitive – you need to cover it with the palm of your hand for a second to get it lit.

Activity Tracker: We’re now at the stage of demanding a little more from our running/sport watches so TomTom has wisely included an activity tracker to count steps, distance (estimated by arm movement, not GPS), calories burned and even sleep and metrics all seemed accurate during testing.

Music: The fact that this watch comes with built-in music storage (3 GB) is pretty sweet. Songs and playlists are transferred drag-and-drop from your computer via the TomTom MySports app and are pumped through Bluetooth headphones. All this means that if you like listening to tunes while running, you can ditch your smartphone and get out there.

The Bad

Honestly, there’s not much lacking here. We would like to see the MySports app improve a bit as it’s pretty bare bones at the moment. But it sounds like TomTom is readying updates.

The Ugly?

Style: The Spark is much nicer to look at than the Runner Cardio but it still ranks low on the style scale. That said, it is comfortable – though maybe not for sleep – and you can still shop around for other strap options (colours and thinner straps for women) if you want to personalize it a bit.