TomTom Spark Cardio + Music
Price: $200 U.S. Available in three colors. Check Internet and retail pricing for discounts.
In the crowded category of fitness watches and bike computers, there seem to be new players every six months. Most of the better ones, like the feature-rich TomTom Spark, are reliable performers and highly competitive. With the introduction of the Spark, TomTom has added the ability to load music onto the watch and allows the user to listen with its high quality Bluetooth earbuds, which come with the watch.
Aside from the music feature. the Spark is much like its predecessor, the TomTom Multi-Sport Cardio watch, which we reviewed last November.
Both watches enable the user to select the type of exercise to monitor, including swimming, cycling, running, and more. In the setup, enter your age, gender, height and weight, and the watch will calculate your maximum allowable heart rate. If you use it for swimming, it will tell you distance, time, and speed but will not record your heart rate. The heart rate monitor does not work under water.
At the end of an activity, connect the watch to a computer and it will bring up TomTom’s My Sports app, along with the distance you covered, the amount of time you exercised, your average heart rate (in beats per minute) and the number of calories burned. The app breaks down your exercise into five categories: Easy, Fat Burn, Endure, Speed, and Sprint. The heart rates applied to each category are based on the personal information you enter in Settings.
I use the watch for bicycle rides and it works flawlessly. The software keeps a history of my rides, broken down by month, so I can easily see how many miles I’ve done each day or all month. The same information is available on the watch. Since the watch has a built in GPS, you also get map showing the route you just covered.
Many cyclists and runners like to record their exercise statistics on the Strava website. TomTom makes it easy to use Strava by including a Share button in its My Sports app. Strava is basically a Facebook-like app for athletes. I find the My Sports app perfectly adequate and have no need for Strava. The My Sports user interface is clean and gives me all the information I want, including the map of my route with a breakdown of my heart rate and speed at waypoints along the route.
The addition of a music feature seemed like a major plus. Only a few other fitness watches have anything similar. The problem with TomTom’s watch is that the user can only upload songs or playlists from an iTunes or Windows Media library, with a limit of 500 songs (or 3 GB). I wish TomTom had added the ability to connect to streaming music services like Pandora or Spotify, both of which make iTunes look like a dinosaur on the edge of extinction.
The point of making it possible to upload from iTunes was simply that the user would no longer need to take a Smart Phone along when he or she is exercising. I take mine because I listen to Pandora and don’t want to monkey around with iTunes even though I did upload 3GB of music Fortunately, I can still do that using TomTom’s excellent Bluetooth earbuds. These buds are loud and efficient, and they have a snug and comfortable fit. The cable is designed to rest behind your neck, which places the earpiece speakers at a perfect angle. The earbuds come with three different tip sizes. Both the audio and ergonomics of these earbuds are better than with any of my other Bluetooth headphones.
If you upload playlists or songs, you can change tracks from the phone’s display, but volume can only be changed from the earphone itself. The earphones paired easily with both the Spark and my iPhone when I used it with Pandora. Simply press the UP button on the watch and it will pair with the earphones. To pair with an iPhone, go to Settings on the phone, turn Bluetooth on, press and hold the earphone power button for a few seconds until TT appears in the device list on the phone.
The TomTom Spark is easy to learn and a delight to use. Highly recommended.
MyMac review rating is 9 out of 10.