TomTom Runner GPS Watch Review: Running Watches

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Those on a budget

Review of TomTom Runner GPS Watch

Are you looking for a new GPS running watch? If you're on a budget, but still looking for a high-quality product, the TomTom Runner GPS Watch may be for you. Read on to find out why.

A GPS watch is at the top of my list of priorities as far as running gear is concerned. This surpasses shoes, socks, headphones, and, if state laws allowed, even clothes. Call it obsessive, but I need to know how far I’ve run after each and every step. When I decide I’m going to run 8 miles, I’m going to run 7.99 and land on my doorstep by the time it hits 8. This is serious business.

That being said, most watches are inaccurate. You’ve likely discovered this unfortunate fact during a race when your watch was almost half a mile ahead of the posted mile markers. No, there’s no need to curse the race directors; your watch was at fault. As your watch is using satellites to track your location, there can be hiccups. When you think about it, it's actually pretty incredible how few hiccups there are. You try going to space and accurately calculating whether a person in Cleveland ran 7.5 or 7.57 miles. I imagine it’s hard to do. There’s also an issue in that GPS watches have a hard time accounting for your swerves around parking meters, your sudden bolts across streets, and your few steps back to avoid being hit by cars. Technology is great, but it can’t keep up with every human unpredictability.

Despite their flaws, GPS watches are reliable enough to make them very useful tools for runners. I was in love with my Garmin Forerunner 305 for many years and the decision to turn my loyalties elsewhere was hard. What I loved about my Garmin was that it was nearly indestructible and it did one thing well—track my distance. When I began my research for a new watch, I was overwhelmed by all of the bells and whistles that came with each device. I found myself screaming at my computer,

“No, I don’t care if it shocks me when I’ve been sitting for too long! Just tell me how far my two stupid legs have taken me on my morning run!”

All of the features I didn’t need made the watches too expensive, too full of technical glitches, and wasted too much of my time with unneeded metrics. This is not true with the TomTom Runner GPS Watch. Yes, they have multi-sport and cardio options that will give you as many features you could ever want, but the Runner is focused solely on running.

What I Love About the TomTom Runner GPS Watch

Picks up Signal Quickly and Doesn't Drop During a Run

Review of TomTom Runner GPS Watch 6

This means I don’t have to loiter next to my neighbor’s house pretending to stretch while waiting for my watch to kick in. Depending on where I am, the TomTom Runner GPS Watch can take anywhere between 15 seconds to a minute to pick up the GPS signal. That is pretty fast.

What’s even better is that once the TomTom Runner GPS Watch has found the signal, it holds onto it. I have yet to go on a run where I have lost tracking abilities. I have run into the depths of forests where my cell phone was long gone, yet my watch continued to chug along and record my run.

Tracks Distance Consistently

The accuracy of the TomTom Runner GPS Watch is up for debate, as I’ve never barged my car through my regular forest trails to track my runs and be sure I’m getting an accurate reading. When I ran the Boston Marathon, my watch clocked in at 27.96 miles, instead of the 26.2. Granted, I ran the race for fun and was swerving back and force across the street to high five spectators. I even turned around at one point and caused a collision because I missed a great photo opportunity. So, the big discrepancy I found in my distance during the race may have been my fault. Overall, I have found the TomTom Runner GPS Watch to be fairly accurate. What the watch is especially good at though is being consistent with itself. After using it for hundreds of runs now, I have found that it lands me at my doorstep right at the desired mile mark each time. This was my number one priority when choosing a watch and, so far, I’m pleased with the results.

Has Goal, Lap, Zone, Race, and Treadmill Mode

If you want to add an extra element to your runs, the TomTom Runner GPS Watch gives you a number of options for challenging yourself and marking your progress.

  • Goal mode lets you set a goal for yourself based upon your distance, time, or calories burned. Throughout your run, the watch will tell you how far along you are in your progress to the goal you’ve set.
  • Lap mode lets you set a desired time or distance at which the watch essentially starts over. This makes it easy for you to keep track of your splits and track your progress in smaller chunks.
  • Zones mode lets you complete your runs while trying to stay within a certain pace or target heart rate. While not included, there is an additional heart rate monitor that can be purchased to use with the TomTom Runner GPS Watch. Personally, I wanted a standalone heart rate monitor and found one that was cheaper than the TomTom attachment. You can check out my heart rate monitor here.
  • Race mode lets you “race’ against one of your previous times or a predetermined time programmed into the watch. If you’re looking to complete a certain distance within a certain amount of time, this will let you see how far off you are from your goal.
  • Treadmill mode lets you track your run as you, well, run on a treadmill. If you have doubts about your treadmill’s accuracy with tracking your mileage, throw on your TomTom Runner GPS Watch and see how it fares. Without the need for any additional equipment, the watch tracks your foot strides to calculate your distance traveled.
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You also get to look really cool wearing two watches on your wrist.

The Battery Last a Long Time and Charges Quickly

I’ve never pushed the TomTom Runner GPS Watch to empty, but I’ve often run a good 6 or 7 hours by the time I charge it. When they say it lasts for up to 10 hours, this is definitely true. When charging is needed, this watch reaches full capacity fairly quickly in about forty-five minutes.

It Looks Nice

Let’s all take a second and marvel at the beauty of this watch…..

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Done? Don’t worry, you’ll have more time to stare at it when it’s on your wrist. While it sounds silly to praise its good looks, the TomTom Runner GPS Watch surpasses its competitors in the aesthetics department. Instead of looking purely functional, this watch is sleek and doesn’t call itself out as a running watch. Gone are the days of wearing a control panel on your wrist.

Rain is No Problem

This is one I’ve been hesitant to test in full force, but I’ve taken this watch out in a light drizzle and seen it survive. The company claims the TomTom Runner GPS Watch is fully waterproof up to 165 feet and, while I can’t promise success in a full downpour (let me know if you’ve tried it!), this watch will definitely withstand heavy sweating and other wet forces.

The Metrics on the Website are Neat

When I load my runs into the TomTom phone app, they are automatically synced with my account on their website. From there, it’s easy to see each individual run, as well as the lifetime totals. When you click on an individual run, you will see your distance, time, individual mile splits, calories burned, average pace, pace per mile, speed per mile, and strides per minute. Underneath, there is a customizable graph that lets you see how your pace, speed, and elevation are correlated for each mile. What I find especially useful and impressive though is the map indicating your exact route and how the elevation changed throughout it. This not only reassures you that your watch kept signal and accurately tracked your run, but also gives you a great collection of running routes over time that you can revisit or share with friends.

Review of TomTom Runner GPS Watch 8
Review of TomTom Runner GPS Watch 8
Review of TomTom Runner GPS Watch 8

Here's what my watch tracked during the Boston Marathon

Price

The quality of the TomTom Runner GPS Watch is phenomenal given the price. Running watches can cost you upwards of $300, while this watch will put you out less than $100. This is so cheap for a running watch that there’s really no reason not to give it a try. If you end up liking it, you’ve saved yourself a lot of money.

What I Don't Love About the TomTom Runner GPS Watch

It's Easy to Accidentally End a Run

Review of TomTom Runner GPS Watch 6
Review of TomTom Runner GPS Watch 6

I have only done this once and, being as clumsy as I am, this means it isn’t a big problem. The same button both pauses and ends a run. If you aren’t paying attention, it can be easy to accidentally push the button when it is already in pause and stop your run prematurely. Again, this isn’t a huge issue, but it’s important to be aware that you are pushing the correct button when you are unpausing the watch.

It Can Only Display 3 Metrics at a Time

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One of the downsides of the TomTom Runner GPS Watch’s beautiful screen is that it doesn’t fully lend itself to functionality if you are hoping to see multiple metrics at once. If you primarily care about one metric though, this display is ideal. As my biggest concern is mileage, setting distance travelled as the primary metric makes it easy for me to quickly glance at my wrist when I need to know my progress. On the other hand, the other two metrics are so small that I don’t even bother to set them or look at them. This may be a drawback if you need to know your distance, pace, overall time, heart rate, and calories all at once.

It Takes a Long Time to Sync with the Phone App Post-Run

TomTom has its own app and website that can be used to store and keep track of your runs and metrics. While the design is user-friendly, it can be slow. Even though the TomTom Runner GPS Watch can communicate quickly with a satellite thousands of miles away, it struggles to connect to my phone sitting on the dresser next to it. I log my miles on Evernote and am not concerned about the functionality of the app for this reason. If you are hoping to primarily use TomTom’s system though, this is an issue to consider. The amount of time it takes for the watch to connect with the phone app and log runs can be frustrating.

My Recommendation



Overall, I’m more than pleased with my decision to buy a TomTom Runner GPS Watch. It’s a quality product for the price and has proved capable of effectively completing all of the tasks I need it to. I have no doubt it will be joining me on many more marathons in the future. Are you ready to take the plunge and get one for yourself? Use the link above to head over to Amazon and pick one up. Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think. Happy running!

One thought on “TomTom Runner GPS Watch Review: Running Watches

  • September 12, 2016 at 9:34 pm
    Permalink

    Great review Diana. I never cared too much about my secondary metrics on my Runner Cardio but it is tough to see more than Total Distance, Total Time, and current pace plus heart rate and average pace all at once.

    I liked that you pointed out the ridiculous low cost for such a nice GPS running watch (yay TomTom)

    Reply

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