For many, TomTom sounds more like GPS navigation than sports watches. However, since the arrival of the first generation of TomTom Runner, the manufacturer has quickly made a place on the sector alongside giants such as Garmin, Polar or Suunto. After a classic version, then a version integrating an optical heart rate monitor (our complete test here), the brand returns to the front of the scene at the end of the year with the release of two new models available in several versions: the TomTom Spark, and the TomTom Runner 2.
This is especially the TomTom Spark we will look at today since it appears as the most complete and versatile, thanks to an integrated GPS, an optical heart rate monitor, a multi-sport management or an audio player to store his music directly on his watch.
More compact than the previous models, the idea is to be able to train (and record his workouts) without requiring his smartphone or MP3 player on himself. A rather intelligent idea, which theoretically should provide extra comfort during the effort.
As explained above, several versions are available:
- TomTom Spark GPS
- TomTom Spark GPS + Cardio
- TomTom Spark GPS + Music
- TomTom Spark GPS + Cardio + Music
Everyone can choose a model according to their real needs. For example, if you already have an effective cardio belt, for example, you can switch from the “Cardio” function and save around 50 euros. Note that there is also a version offered with a pair of Bluetooth headphones specially designed for the sport.
For our complete review, we have the GPS + Cardio + Music version, so of course, we can give you an exhaustive return on the features of the latter. Also, note that each version has permanent activity tracking.
The new TomTom Spark (or TomTom Runner 2, both models are very close, but with a different marketing approach) comes in a rather classic rectangular box, reminiscent of older versions of the brand’s GPS watch.
A transparent skylight offers a direct view of the model, and note that the watch is available in several colors and two different sizes (thin or wide wrist). A small drawing on the side of the box allows you to pose approximately measure the size of your wrist to select the size that is best (the small bracelet is not only for women).
On, the rest of the box, the main features of the product are listed. It reveals that it is possible to store up to 3GB of MP3, to track its heart rate via the integrated sensor but also its activity and sleep. No need to list here, we will return to all that in detail in the rest of our essay.
Inside, the watch is accompanied by a user manual and a charger. This is often a proprietary cable, and it is also different from older versions.
Design & Ergonomics
Like the previous models of the brand, the TomTom Spark has two parts. The first is the module itself, integrating the “heart” of the watch, its dial and its unique button. The second part is the bracelet, which can be easily changed (several sizes as explained above, but also several colors).
Overall, however, the design is quite similar to the one we had discovered on the first TomTom Runner, but we must recognize that a slight facelift was operated. Thinner, the watch also seems more compact and ultimately rather pleasant visually. Our black version is relatively simple and can easily adapt to a more “classic” outfit. With the colorful bracelets, however, the watch resumes its sporty look.
Obviously, the question of look will depend on the tastes of everyone, and everyone will not necessarily be comfortable with a wrist sports watch permanently (since this is the idea, with the addition of tracking of activity 24/24). Feel free to check out our Tracker Fitness tests if you are looking for a more discreet solution for the day/night.
In itself, the bracelet is always built in a rubber material that looks perfectly resistant and quite soft to the touch (not as much as that of the Polar M400 however). Several perforations are present throughout its length and allow the wrist to breathe a little better. They are also used for the closure system, which in practice is very easy to use and perfectly functional. Two plastic pins hold the watch, and we must admit that it does not flinch during training.
We now come to the module of the TomTom Spark. As on previous versions, there is a large LCD monochrome, with a button below to navigate or validate its actions. Note that the screen, unlike a Garmin Vivoactive, does not have touch features.
Indeed, all orders are managed directly from this large button, rather unsightly, placed under the dial. If question design, it is not necessarily the most beautiful success, we must recognize that the use remains perfectly intuitive. The menus are quite well thought out, and we navigate easily from one page to another ( nothing to do with a Garmin FR25 for example ).
By default, the dial displays the time and date of the day, and the commands provide access to the following pages:
- List of menus: Pressure down
- Statistics of the day/night: Pressure to the left
- Audio player: Pressure up
- Sports activities: Pressure to the left
Note that the backlight of the screen is not activated at each end pressure, but just cover the screen a small second with his hand to illuminate. Honestly, we would have seen an option to activate it with each action on the button (or pressure on the screen), except only a “Night” mode is available, illuminating the screen permanently during night training.
On the other side of the dial is TomTom’s new optical heart rate sensor. Unlike the first TomTom Runner, the TomTom Spark does not have an MIO sensor, but a “home” solution developed with the company LifeQ. The sensor has not a single green LED as is often the case, but a combination of 3 green LEDs, a red LED and an infrared sensor. The idea behind this system is obviously to improve the accuracy of the recording, especially on the different types of skin.
Always on the back of the dial, there is also a 4-pin connector, on which we will position the base of the charger. It works directly via USB, and can also be used to download your data (even if it can be done via Bluetooth) or update the watch.
The whole is rather solid and should be able to accompany you for a long time. After more weeks of use, the TomTom Spark seems like new, especially since it is possible to wash it since it is waterproof up to 5 ATM (or 40 meters).
Follow-up of daily activity
- Like the recent Garmin FR225, the TomTom Spark incorporates in all its versions an activity sensor to track very simply its movements and energy expenditure throughout the day (and night).
- In principle, the watch records the standard data, namely the number of steps, the distance traveled, the calories burned (including those naturally), the activity time or the number of hours of sleep.
- To access this information, simply click to the left on the button to display the various screens concerning this data. By default, the dial then displays a circle filling as you walk with the TomTom Spark wrist. The number of steps is indicated in the center of the circle, but it is impossible to know the exact purpose of the day directly from this screen.
- The other data (distance, calories, etc.) are then accessed by scrolling the dials up or down. Pressing again on the left, we get his statistics on the week. This is a rather interesting point, since in practice we can easily end up with a day where the goal will be largely exceeded, and another where on the contrary we will remain much quieter. By displaying a piece of information about the week, you can get a much more general view of your week at a glance, which can make sense for many people.
- Although the presentation of the various screens is rather well done, some points remain to be deplored. First of all, the navigation between the different pages (and especially to go from the main screen to the number of steps) is particularly slow and can be a little painful in the long run. This problem is directly related to the second: the fact that it is simply impossible to consult the number of steps directly from the main screen, as on the vast majority of watches incorporating this feature.
- On the accuracy side, the data seems consistent by comparing them to my average results but also to other activity sensors such as Garmin Vivofit 2 or Jawbone UP2. Apparently, it is good to keep in mind that you will never get two completely identical values on different products, with the algorithms varying between each company. The main idea, of course, is to obtain trends, and to analyze these results to the nearest degree has very little meaning in our opinion.
- Regarding heart rate, it’s worth noting that the TomTom Spark does not record your resting heartbeats, as some activity sensors like the Fitbit Charge HR might do. The recording of this data is reserved for sports training (and this obviously saves considerable battery life).
- All information can then be sent directly to your Smartphone (via Bluetooth) or transferred to your computer (via the USB cable). They are then uploaded to your TomTom account and can be viewed via the manufacturer’s MySpace Internet platform or from the TomTom MySports mobile app (available for free on iOS and Android).
- We find on the first screen the activity of the day and the week, with below the objectives for these same periods. By pressing the number of steps, you can access additional details. The steps are displayed on a graph according to the different times of the day, while the total is written below. It is accompanied by the calories burned, the active time, the distance traveled or the hours of sleep. Two arrows can then navigate from one day to another, and it is also possible to display the results by week, month or year.
Running with the TomTom Spark
- If adding an activity sensor is an interesting point, the TomTom Spark is above all a watch for athletes and fitness enthusiasts. By clicking to the right, a new page opens and allows you to select the type of sport that you want to practice.
- The default, of course, proposes the race mode, but we also find cycling, swimming, treadmill, gym (include bodybuilding), indoor cycling or a “Freestyle” mode for all other activities.
- By selecting the “Race” mode, we find a screen identical to that of the first versions of the TomTom Runner and Runner Cardio. A screen asks us to wait while the various sensors start, depending on the model you have. In our case, the optical heart rate sensor lights up, while the GPS sensor searches for different satellite signals. To our surprise, the catch is done very quickly with the two sensors it only takes a few seconds to be ready to embark on its first running session.
- Still, from this screen, it is possible to access a history of the last outputs by clicking up or to adjust some options of his training by clicking this time down.
- On this screen, we find the same features as on the TomTom Runner, and it is possible to assign objectives to its output (depending on its pace, heart rate, distance traveled and many others). It is also possible to set up a system of intervals to carry out interval training. This functionality has also been improved, since it is possible to choose a time or a distance of warming up, work, rest, the number of series or the recovery time at the end of the series.
- You can also choose how the towers are recorded. By default, the recording is segmented into fragments of 1km, but it is possible to vary this distance or to record your turns (practice when making several park tours for example).
- Finally, the last point regarding racing options, the ability to choose his music playlist. We will come back to this new feature of the TomTom Spark a bit later, but note that it is, therefore, possible to prepare musical lists and select them for training.
- Once ready, new pressure to the right starts recording the training. On the screen, we find the primary data of the page, with each time below two smaller boxes displaying “fixed” data. We can, for example, keep permanently in these two boxes the distance traveled and heart rate, while scrolling the other data up or down a page via the navigation button.
- The principle remains the same as that of the TomTom Runner, except that the fixed information is now displayed at the bottom of the screen and no longer at the top. Note that, these two pieces of information can be selected in the race options, listed a little further up.
- The TomTom Spark displays the following indicators: time, training time, distance traveled, pace, pace, speed, average speed, calories burned, heart rate and heart rate zone. You can also view additional graphs, such as pace or heart rate.
- Overall, the display is rather clear and readable. The navigation is intuitive, and the large button can easily go from one page to another, without batting to find the right button as some competitors.
- However, we can make some reservations about the split mode. If it seems in theory rather complete during its implementation, in practice, all is not perfect. We regret, for example, that it is not possible to announce voice announcing whether it is time to slow down or speed up since it is possible to connect the watch to a pair of Bluetooth headphones.
- Once the session is over, the session is saved and can be transferred to your TomTom MySports account. The small black point, however, the watch does not display a summary of his training once it finished and recorded. It’s a shame; it’s often one of the first things we want to see after giving everything (that, and a big glass of water, we grant it). To access it, you will have to return to the race screen and open the session history, not very practical.
- As for data on activity monitoring, training data can also be consulted via the mobile application or the manufacturer’s Internet platform. We find the last training directly listed on the main screen of the application, under the activity of the day and week. By clicking on the output of your choice, you will obtain details about it.
- The upper part of the screen shows the distance traveled, the duration, the calories burned, the average pace, the altitude, the average heart rate or the frequency of strides. Below, there is a map showing your course. We can zoom in on it, and the different segments (or tour) are also described.
- Even lower, a table displays the different race data interval by interval. We find for example for each kilometer its pace, its speed or its average heart rate. Finally, a graphical view allows you to display your session as curves. One can then consult the evolution of its pace, its heart rate or its speed. It is possible to display two curves simultaneously, to analyze the correlations between several indicators. Also, note that a button displays on the screen the time spent in each heart zone (with the associated percentage).
- From the Internet platform, we also find all this information, sometimes with some additional details. Obviously, we have a much larger space on a real screen rather than a smartphone, and the display is clearer as can be seen in the image below.
- Regarding performance, the results recorded by the GPS are very correct. Obviously, there are sometimes some disparities with reality, but it is the case on the vast majority of models. The new optical heart rate sensor is also getting off to a great start. By comparing the results between the optical sensor and a conventional sensor placed on a belt, the results are very close. However, it should be kept in mind that optical sensors may be slightly more sensitive to temperature, and therefore sometimes less accurate in the first minutes, especially during the winter.
Using the audio player
- In its GPS Cardio + Music version, the TomTom Spark integrates as its name suggests a music player. In practice, it is possible to store, but also to read his music directly from the watch by connecting it to a Bluetooth headset (or a pair of Bluetooth headphones).
- As explained a little earlier, TomTom also offers a bundle including the watch and a pair of headphones. We have unfortunately not had the opportunity to test this one, and we will only advise you to consult our different tests of sports headphones by clicking here.
- If some products can already manage his music via Bluetooth, few products allowed until today to dispense the use of a smartphone or MP3 player during his workouts. This is a good initiative from TomTom, although as we will see, not everything is perfect yet.
- To connect a wireless headset to the watch, simply press up from the main screen. The watch then automatically searches for the Bluetooth device and connects to it immediately. At this point, the music starts and the controls are then managed directly from the headphones or headphones.
- It is then possible to select the playlist to listen (in order or random) or to choose to open all the music randomly. To switch from one track to another, you can directly use the button of the TomTom Spark, but it is not possible to adjust the playback/pause or volume from the dial, and it is rather unfortunate.
- During training, it is also possible to choose a random play among all the tracks or to choose a particular playlist. One can, for example, imagine something a little quieter for a bike ride, and another playlist a little more dynamic during a session running or bodybuilding.
- Where the tool shows its limits is in the import and management of music. By connecting the Spark to a computer, it is possible to add its MP3s with a simple “drag & drop,” in the same way as on a USB key. However, you cannot create playlists by creating folders or subfolders.
- To manage the playlists, you will have to go through the TomTom MySport Connect software. We can then select the folder containing his MP3, and the tool automatically scans it to list the various playlists already available. It’s possible to import playlists created from iTunes, but if like us, as you’re not a big fan of Apple’s software, things get a little trickier.
- In our example, the software automatically adds the various recognized playlists in .m3u format, sometimes available with albums. But this is unfortunately not always the case, and ultimately only a very small percentage of our music is automatically generated in the form of a playlist. In the idea, it would have been simpler to be able to create his files and add the music of his choice. Hope that a future update will solve its flaws.
- In the current state, without iTunes, the best solution remains in our opinion to add his music in bulk and let the random mode do its work. The watch has a storage space of 3 GB, so there is plenty to do.
In bulk, a few last points concerning the TomTom Spark before concluding on its use. First of all, the watch is not only intended for runners, since it is a multisport model. It can also be used to track his cycling outings but also for any training (skiing, walking, basketball, in short, a little everything you want). However, keep in mind that the recorded data is similar and that the idea is primarily to separate your activities on your account.
Also, it was not specified, but even if the Spark has its optical sensor to record the heart rate, note that it remains possible to connect a conventional belt. Also, if you are not necessarily adept optical sensors, do not hesitate to opt for the classic version of the watch or just the TomTom Music.
It can also be pointed out that it is possible to deactivate the activity monitoring if you are not interested, to improve the autonomy of the watch. We are coming here.
Allow about three weeks of battery life using only activity tracking. With the GPS enabled, the latter goes down to about ten hours. Finally, by simultaneously activating the GPS, the cardio sensor and the music streaming via Bluetooth, it is only for 5 hours that the watch can be used.
In practice, count one to two refills a week if you train regularly in music. Not necessarily a very good point then, but we could imagine that so many features would have a rather negative impact on autonomy.
If the first version of the TomTom Runner Cardio was already a very good product, this new TomTom Spark sets the nail. Finer, more compact, it has especially new features welcome for athletes. By integrating GPS sensor, cardio sensor, an MP3 player into a single product, the famous GPS manufacturer should continue to make a beautiful place among athletes and especially runners.
Admittedly, not everything is perfect, with an application certainly less thorough than the competition (but regularly updated), an intuitive design but not necessarily very pretty and exceptionally relatively weak autonomy. However, difficult to make complete than the Spark for a rate culminating. If you already have a pair of Bluetooth headphones, it can work well together to effectively record your workouts while managing your music from your wrist.