TomTom's taken a dip into the GPS sports watch category with the release of the TomTom Runner and TomTom Multi-Sport watches, and Pocket-lint's donned both devices to get a feel for what they're all about.
There's no price and no full specification available as yet, so we can't fully contextualise how these latest devices sit against some of their competitors - but we have worn both the Runner and the Multi-Sport, the latter shown in the above lead image.
The rubber-like band of the devices is typical of a sports watch, meaning that it's comfy, easy to adjust and sits snug against the wrist. It needs to be fairly tight to avoid any slipping to ensure that the screen is easy to take a quick glance at.
The weight is almost non-existent at 50g too, which, although heavier than the likes of the Nike Fuelband by a significant percentage, is lightweight for a screen-based device. We barely noticed wearing it, apart from the obvious tight-fit feel, further helped by the relatively trim 11.5mm total width.
READ: Nike Fuelband review
Control-wise the TomTom press release's claim of a "one button control" button is, well, it's false. To the lower portion of the strap there's a large, button-like appearance pad that is better described as a four-way directional pad. This actually makes far more sense than a one-touch button ever would have because it's possible to filter forward, backwards and through menu options with relative ease, accompanied by a subtle vibration upon each adjustment to help confirmation - it can otherwise be a bit tricky to see where you're at when out on the move. Most competitors opt for four or five button controls based around the corners of the watch face.
The Multi-Sport's screen - which is said to be "high resolution", but we don't know to the exact pixel what that resolution is yet - may not be an HD panel, but it's got a lot more resolution than more primitive displays of, say, Garmin's Fenix running watch. Figures are easy to view at a glance, although you'll need to cycle through them using the up/down key rather than having everything on display on the one screen - for something like cycling, which the Multi-Sport is set up for, that's fine enough, but it's less expansive than a dedicated cycling computer.
READ: Garmin Edge 810 review
In addition to numerical displays the watches also offer graphical displays - whether that's percentage of a workout's completition in a circular format, or a ghost-runner position on a track to give you a quick reference as to where you're at in your personal race. We've not been able to use the devices properly on a run, cycle or swim so real-world testing isn't something we've undertaken as yet - but we do think these graphical illustrations will be useful for quick glance reference.
The Runner and the Multi-Sport each have a subtle backlight which is activated by tapping to the right side of the screen. It's not particularly even but it gets the job done. However, as neither device has a touchscreen we have no idea why the backlight button is embedded to the screen's side - it results in greasy fingerprint marks with each touch which could have easily been avoided if designed differently. A small thing, but a thing nonetheless.
One design quirk is that both the Runner and Multi-Sport come with the ability to pop out of their frames so that different colours bands can be used. The main unit simply pops out with a firm push, as shown in the image above. Battery life is said to be 10 hours per charge - not something we've been able to test at yet.
There's no Wi-Fi or from-device sharing which, given the current market, feels like an omission. If the absence of such means that the Runner and Multi-Touch come in at a fair price point then we can see why it's not made the list, but as we're yet to hear the final prices we can't pass judgement now.
Included in the box of the Runner is a heart-rate monitor which ties around the chest, while the Multi-Sport includes this and a cadence monitor for cycling. The Multi-Sport is also separated from the Runner by the inclusion of a built-in altimeter to measure climb and a swimming motion sensor for increased accuracy in the pool. We've seen the Multi-Sport locked on to bicycle handlebars with the included bicycle mount where it not only looked good, but it was here that the directional pad made best sense - it's easy to touch and intuitively redirect through screens all from the one pad.
One thing TomTom has done to ensure it will get a strong reception is to open the devices up to multiple platforms - there's no lockdown to TomTom's MySports website, for example, as MapMyFitness, RunKeeper, TrainingPeaks and MyFitnessPal are all also compatible with both devices. That kind of thinking will open up the device to a much wider audience. Just the ticket.