AW tries out TomTom’s latest model, the Runner Cardio GPS watch

Athletics Weekly was among those to give the TomTom Runner and Multisport watches glowing reviews when they hit the market last year. British GQ even included it in their “best 100 things in the world”.

Since then TomTom has been busy creating their new Cardio GPS range, again including the Runner and a Multisport version for running, cycling and swimming.

Its features are almost identical to that of the previous watches, but the new versions have a built-in heart rate monitor, eliminating the need for a separate chest strap. It works by using an optical sensor to monitor changes in blood flow by shining light through the skin.

tomtom_hrmThe accuracy of the sensor has been pleasantly surprising so far. When hooked up to a medical ECG device both the ECG machine and TomTom Cardio gave almost identical stats, something even the medical professionals present admitted they were impressed with.

One of the aims of the new watch is to make it easy for people to train in the optimal heart rate zone. Users can select one of five intensity zones to match their training goals and the watch gives alerts to let the athlete know if they need to speed up or slow down. As well as distance and pace info via GPS, users can also view real-time heart rate information at a glance. Although the watch needs to be snug our tester didn’t find it had to be uncomfortably tight to work.

One of the big pros of the first TomTom watches was the simplicity. One button navigates the sensible options list. We also found the GPS signal to be similarly reliable to that of the first versions and when connecting the device to a computer (or Bluetooth synching it) stats can be downloaded to MapMyFitness or TomTom’s own MySports website.

The device pops out of the watch strap so you can connect it up to a computer. One of the cons of the first version was that it came out quite easily. The straps designed for the Cardio versions seem to hold the device a little tighter.

At £249.99 for the Runner Cardio and £279.99 for the Multisport Cardio the technology isn’t cheap, but the built-in heart rate monitor means you don’t have to spend out separately on another gadget to do the job.

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