When it comes to watches, I am pretty particular about which brands I go for. I’ve tried Garmin and Suunto and I know that both have fantastic products, and when you spend upwards of R3 000 on a watch you try to be as sure as you can when choosing 🙂
There are new entrants to the market, however, and they too should have a fair chance. Enter the TomTom Runner Cardio, a funky looking GPS sports watch, aimed at runners and trail runners.
The TomTom Runner Cardio is a neatly packed runner’s watch. A lot (most) feature packed running watches have some decent bulkiness attached to them, but the Cardio sat really neatly against my arm. The strap is really really comfortable, and clips in on the loose end so you don’t have a catch running along the strap – handy.
The Cardio comes in a few colours, all duo tone and some more loud than others. The large square face let’s you see any information you need at a glance, and the block used for menu navigation is completely unobtrusive. The face is quite good looking, and a lot softer than comparable products.
If you’re looking for a feature packed running watch, the TomTom Runners Cardio delivers on most fronts. Speed, GPS, heart rate, calories, training programs and HR zone running are all included. One notable exclusion is vertical gain information. The price point for watches including vertical gain seems to be around R5 000 starting, so this is totally understandable. You can also choose to run on a treadmill which loads up specific presets.
TomTom, being a GPS company, have put some time into the technology in the Cardio. The first win is the slim design, the second win is the QuickFix GPS. This resulted in a noticeable drop in the time it normally takes to find a fix on satellites.
The battery life is fairly short – 10 hours GPS only and 8 hours for GPS and Heart Rate – but can quite easily be worked around. For most runners this will be more than sufficient. The watch also has a handy app to pair with, letting you sync activities and more.
The watches biggest feature (in my opinion) – strapless heart rate monitoring. I’ve always been skeptical of strapless monitoring, but I found this to be more than accurate, and not having a strap on to be surprisingly pleasant. More on this below.
On a recent trip to Cape Town I decided to try out the Cardio on one of the most famous routes – Kirstenbosch up Skeleton Gorge, and finishing off via Platteklip Gorge. The route was hiked due to the rest of the party being non-runners, but it still proved a decent test for the watch.
The Cardio is super comfortable, you barely notice it at all. The slim design makes for a big difference when you’re exploring – I’ve often found that when there are bigger watches, bending my wrist back (when placing on a rock to climb) often ended up squashing the watch and buttons being pressed. This was not the case with the Cardio, a surprising bonus.
The strapless heart rate monitoring was put to the test. I know my zones fairly well, and for the majority of the time the watched seemed to be within range. A few times it lost the mark, showing 110 when my HR was closer to 130, but quickly found it’s way back, I’d say within 30 seconds. Overall, I was really impressed with the strapless technology.
The display was clear and big enough to be able to get any information at a quick glance in shadow or direct sunlight.
One thing I did notice was the calorie count seemed to be off. I’m not sure what formulas are used, but for the amount of exercise and time I would have expected around double or more to have been burned (I say expected as this is compared to other watches which could also be off).
The comfort, endearing look and strapless heart rate monitoring is what sold me on this watch. For athletes looking to buy in this price range, definitely consider the TomTom Runner Cardio. It’s priced very competitively at around R3 100 and will give you exactly what you need as a novice to competitive trail runner.