TomTom Multi Sport

A modern-day fitness watch designed for easy setup, simple use and clear analysis.

Cost: £250

Why to get one: It’s easy to use straight out of the box, can be used for running, cycling, swimming and indoor, looks nice and has enough features to keep every level of athlete happy.

Alternatives: Polar V800, Garmin Vivoactive,

Good bits: Easy to use, simple functions, built-in heart rate monitor

Bad bits: Standard watch strap makes it look like a toy, GPS takes a while to gain a signal

In detail:

Not too long ago the GPS watch was a hailed item owned almost exclusively by high level athletes attempting to knock milliseconds from their time trials. Well, that and people who just had a lot of disposable income; the same people who would stand at the start of a race angrily pushing buttons and emitting erratic beeping noises in an attempt to make the massive thing on their arm work.

Nowadays things have moved on a bit. No longer do you need a higher education knowledge of fitness technology to set up detailed training programs. Most of them are in fact relatively simple to operate. With the advent of smart phone apps like Strava and Nike+, manufactures such as Garmin and Polar seem to have moved towards a universal theme of simplicity; meaning use of their products is not exclusively for the technically minded.

TomTom have taken things even further in that direction with their range of sports watches, making a dramatic move towards simplicity. Unlike most of the competition their products move away from a complex number of buttons dotted around the face to something which looks more like a child’s toy. Operations use a cursor positioned on the strap to navigate easily to menus and settings within the interface. There’s even a light on the screen which appears when you tap it.

Their latest model, the Multi Sport, improves on the previous Runner product by including tracking support across cycling, swimming and indoor workouts; which means it’s heavily tailored towards an ever-growing population of triathletes. Each of the disciplines works well after being tested save for a consistently lengthy time to locate a GPS signal – if you wait until the start line of a race to press go you’re likely to lose a few hundred metres from your final distance.

Using the navigation is ridiculously easy and unless you’re looking to access some of the more intricate features most people could probably go for a run with it within a couple of minutes of opening. Each of the four directions on the pad lead to a different menu, once you know where they are you’re always just a couple of clicks from finding what you want.

The watch syncs with the online reporting dashboard via the supplied USB cable (which also serves as the charger) or by using the built-in Bluetooth functionality. If you download the TomTom app you can even sync with the watch on the go if you’re desperate to run through a more detailed overview of your results. There is unfortunately no ANT+ support so you can only use the Bluetooth connector for accessory linking.

One of the most impressive features of the watch is a built-in heart rate monitor. A pair of little green light sit underneath the watch strap and shine beams into your skin to monitor the speed of blood flow between each. It’s very clever and means you don’t have to wear an uncormfortable strap which you inevitably end up forgetting to wash or replace the battery.

Functions in the watch itself include a handy screen light which comes on if you tap the face, an easily customizable selection of screens to switch between during exercise and, our favourite, a clever little race system which allows you to run against yourself on a previous session with the aid of a nice visual tool.

All in all the TomTom Multisport is an impressive little package which makes the tricky world of exercise GPS monitoring ridiculously easy. The likelihood is that, as GPS ready smart watches become more commonplace, we’ll see these standalone models disappear in the not too distant future. But for the time being the TomTom Multi Sport is a wise purchase for anyone in the market for a training watch from beginner to seasoned athletes. You may just want to buy a new strap for it though otherwise people are likely to think you stole it from an eight year-old.

Specifications:

Display size: 22x25mm

Sensor (wireless): Bluetooth® Smart

Indoor Running: Yes

Waterproofing: 50m/165 feet (5 ATM)

Battery lifetime: Up to 8 hours (GPS+HR), up to 10 hours (GPS)