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TomTom Multi-Sport GPS Watch Review: Run, swim, cycle and record where you want

The wearable tech industry is booming and GPS watches are a large part of that growth. People enjoy tracking statistics of their workouts and sharing that data, TomTom allows you the most flexibility on where that data gets shared.

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Topic: Mobility
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1 of 50 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

TomTom Multi Sport GPS Watch

A couple of months ago I wrote how and as the wearable tech industry takes off the advances truly are helping to motivate me to exercise more than I would without this gear. 

I am testing out the latest TomTom Multi-Sport GPS watch and am impressed by its modular design, ability to track activity, and open nature to archiving and using the collected data.

Hardware

I was sent a TomTom Multi-Sport unit along with a heart rate monitor and cadence/speed sensors for my bike. This full and complete package is sold for $299.99, but you can also buy the Multi-Sport GPS Watch in pink or gray without the heart rate monitor or cadence/speed sensors for $199.99. A unit with just the heart rate monitor is $249.99. When you compare these prices to other multi-sport watches you will find TomTom is very competitive with their pricing and options.

Inside the retail package you will find the TomTom Multi-Sport main unit, a wrist band, desk dock with USB cable, bike mount (2 pieces), and a User Guide. You can buy other color wrist bands for $25 each if you want to get different colors as well.

In the complete package I am testing, a Bluetooth heart rate monitor ($69.99 separately) and speed/cadence sensor bike kit ($59.99 separately) were also included. If you may use these accessories for working out, the best deal is to purchase the full kit to start with.

The main module has a 0.85 x 1 inch display with a 144x168 mono display with a large button located below on the curved part where it fits around your wrist. It is not a touch display, but when you tap the three dots to the right of the display the backlight will turn on.

The center of the large button is just used to help you get to the right area and then you press up, down, left or right on the edges to perform different actions. From the main screen, down takes you to settings, right opens the activity menu, and left opens the status screen. Throughout the software you can use these directional buttons to navigate.

The main module snaps into the back of the wrist band where there are openings for the main display and large button. There are plenty of holes on the band so that you can get the perfect fit on your wrist. I found the TomTom Multi-Sport to be very comfortable and liked wearing it daily as a watch.

You wear the watch in this manner for both running and swimming, with differences in the way the software is setup for capturing data. In cycling mode, you take the bike mount dock and rubber strap and then place the module in the cycle dock. The rubber strap goes around your handlebar and secures the cycle dock and main TomTom module in place.

The installation of the speed and cadence sensors on my bike took a bit of time since the directions were presented as a vague sketch. I found YouTube videos showing the installation and after making some adjustments was able to get them installed properly.

The first thing I did was plug in the USB cable to my Surface Pro and place the main module in the dock. The small dock has a rubber base to keep the module form moving around and a rather long cable connected to USB. The module sits upright in the dock. You sync and charge via the dock connection, there is no wireless upload capability with this device.

GPS Watch Software

The TomTom Multi-Sport is very easy to use and the large button with edges that press in make it easy to control while running.

Pressing the left button shows you battery, storage, quick GPS, and software version information. The TomTom unit can be used in conduction with regular syncing to offer much faster GPS signal reception. I found the unit obtained a signal within 15 seconds or less every time and was very pleased with that functionality. When I traveled to DC with the older TomTom-powered Nike watch I was unable to get a signal even after 15 minutes.

Pressing the down button gives you access to the clock, including setting an alarm, sensors (heart and bike), options (units, click, demo, and night time mode), and profile. In the profile section you select your language, weight, height, age, and gender.

To begin a workout you simply press the right button and then select run, cycle, swim, or treadmill. One more press to the right and then the sensors are connected and GPS fix obtained, as applicable to your selected workout.

There are specific settings in each mode and you should press the down button to configure these the first time you use the TomTom watch. After setting up your training mode, length of pool, bike tire size, goals, intervals, and more then you can begin your workout and see the status appear live.

There are many settings in each mode that I won't cover here in detail. I actually highly recommend you read the full review from DC Rainmaker as he is an avid triathlete that has used every feature extensively.

Different status screens appear as you workout and it is very easy to tap the up or down button to switch views on the go. When you are done working out then you simply tap the left button. To resume, tap the right button or to end tap the left button again. It is very easy to use and the large fonts are helpful on the go.

There are options to race against yourself and see a pace arrow appear on the display. Since it takes time to build up your training performance, the unit is loaded with some default times to race against. You can set goals and easily see the status of that goal as you exercise. There are also lap and zone modes.

Online Data Software

Last year I trained for a couple of half marathons with the Motorola MOTACTV and it honestly still remains one of the best devices out there for the runner. I also enjoyed using the that was powered by TomTom, but did not like that the data collected was restricted to the closed Nike ecosystem.

The new TomTom Multi-Sport device is one of the most functional and open devices you will find that should meet the desires of most athletes looking to record their workouts.

Through your PC connection you will see a TomTom GPS Watch utility appear. Here you can see the software version, name your watch, setup links to MySports, and choose where to upload and export data. I have already seen at least three software updates for the TomTom Multi-Sport since I have been using it with the software currently at 1.4.1.

Through the MySports link you can have your Multi-Sport sync to TomTom MySports (currently in beta) and/or MapMyFitness. To test out the functionality, I have both being synced at this time so that both services get this data, along with data from my Fitbit.

One reason I am likely to pick up my own TomTom Runner, I do not swim or bike that often, is that you can setup from a number of upload services. I currently have this unit setup to upload data to my RunKeeper Pro account and also create a TCX file on my computer for future use. Other supported services include TrainingPeaks, KML for Google Earth, CSV, GPX, and FIT formats.

While the TomTom MySports site is still in beta, I see it does sync my Fitbit One pedometer data. Activity data includes duration, distance, speed, heart rate, calories, and more. You can also view a map of where you went. Data on the right is broken down into runs, rides, and swims. My Fitbit One pedometer data does not appear here, which is great since I don't want that messing up run pacing.

The MapMyFitness site is quite comprehensive and lets you log food, create a fitness journal, and much more. I have just been using the free version, but there is also a MVP level that gives you more detailed analysis, access to training plans, coaching, leader boards, and more. Many of the advanced features require an iOS device too.

Usage and experiences

I have not been on as many runs as I planned due to some other obligations keeping me from hitting the road, but I was able to go on several runs, one swim, and a short bike test. I am primarily a runner and will likely pick up the Runner version of this device. However, I did find the cycling part to be quite cool and I can see the Multi-Sport motivating me to get out and ride more.

My MOTOACTV has served me well, but it has a limited battery life and is much clunkier than the TomTom Multi-Sport. With my MOTOACTV I enjoy the ability to sync to the Motorola servers wirelessly, but then always had to manually export and then import the data to RunKeeper. The ability of the TomTom unit to sync to other services so easily is a major benefit for me personally.

The TomTom Multi-Sport is comfortable, has a great module concept, has easy to operate buttons, and has software that provides what I want in a manner that is easily viewable. The lower button area does move around a bit in the watch band, but that is also a function of my wrist shape and size.

Pros and Cons

To summarize my experiences and the specifications of the Moto X, here are my pros and cons.

Pros

  • Large display and fonts
  • Easily manipulated controls
  • Solid battery life
  • Excellent modular design
  • Powerful sync and export capability
  • Competitive pricing

Cons

  • Bike sensor setup a bit confusing
  • No mode to switch seamlessly between activities and modes
  • No smartphone or ANT+ connectivity

Pricing and availability

The basic TomTom Multi-Sport unit is $199.99 with options for heart rate monitor ($249.99) and bike cadence/speed sensors ($299.99). Given that the TomTom Runner is $169.99, I would spend the extra $30 if you ever plan to track swimming or cycling. You can track your cycling with the Multi-Sport without buying the cadence/speed sensors too.

The competition

Garmin is a leader in fitness tracking and has a couple of multi-sport products in the Garmin Forerunner 910XT and 310XT, priced at $450 and $250, respectively. Adidas just announced their that looks like a good alternative for the runner, but swimming and cycling don't appear to be a focus. Suunto also has the Ambit2 devices available for the multi-sport athlete.

Specifications

  • 0.85 x 1 inch display at 144x168 resolution
  • 10 hour battery life in GPS mode
  • GPS + Glonass
  • Bluetooth Smart technology
  • Waterproof to 165 feet (5 ATM)
  • Thickness of 0.45 inch and 1.75 ounces

Conclusion

The TomTom Multi-Sport is a very user friendly device and as a casual athlete it works well. The serious triathlete may want to wait for TomTom to refine the product a bit since you can't perform a multi-sport workout without recording separate workouts.

I found it very comfortable, GPS acquisition was fast, the large fonts helped keep me on pace, and the modular nature seems like a good design.

The ability to export and sync to multiple services is key and something I would like to see all fitness devices do. Let the user decide what to do with the data they collect from using your device.

Contributor's rating: 8.5 out of 10

Further reading

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Opening up the retail package

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TomTom Multi-Sport box contents

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Bike mount and strap

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Other side of bike mount

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Desktop dock and cable

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Back of the Multi-Sport

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Multi-Sport on my wrist

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Bottom showing the green highlight

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MOTOACTV, TomTom, and Nike+ SportWatch

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MOTOACTV, TomTom, and Nike+ SportWatch

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Nike+ SportWatch, TomTom, and MOTOACTV side view

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Large navigation buttons

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Gray strap design

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Many holes are available to make it fit

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Other Multi-Sport accessories

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Bluetooth heart rate monitor

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TomTom heart rate monitor

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Monitor module snaps in place

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Cadence/speed sensore kit

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Checking status

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Sensor connectivity

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Viewing clock settings

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Selecting a workout

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Ready to run, note the sensor status at the bottom

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Workout underway

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Workout status

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Calories burned

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Heart rate status

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Heart rate monitor package contents

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Setting up the bike sensors, need some adjustments

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Bike mount kit

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Mounted and making the sensor connection

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Choose to cycle

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Ready to go

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Rear sensor now in place

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Front sensor ready to go

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Now everything is setup properly

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Quick ride down the street

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Goal status

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Average speed

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Calories burned

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Workout paused

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Selecting a service

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Setting up TomTom MySports

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Watch utility

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TomTom MySports activity

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Another activity view

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MapMyFitness dashboard

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RunKeeper dashboard

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