Ever since I started running I’ve been using MapMyRun app on my iPhone. I love the versatility of using my phone for activity tracking, but the more I ran, the more I craved a more convenient way to check my pace while on the go. So, I did some research and decided to go with the TomTom Spark 3 Cardio + Music GPS watch. It was a combination of cost, functions, and ease of use. I’ve enjoyed it so much I figured I’d share some of my thoughts.
The Gist: What is the TomTom Spark 3?
Just as the name suggests, this is the third generation of GPS watch from the satellite navigation experts at TomTom.
The Spark 3 has different modes for running, cycling, swimming, treadmill, and gym tracking, alongside daily activity (steps) and sleep monitoring. It features a built-in optical heart rate monitor and can store up to 3 gigs of music on-board to playback through Bluetooth-connected headphones, which are included in some package options. All this adds up to a complete package that doesn’t require either a chest strap or smartphone for use.
I was able to find the TomTom Spark 3 Cardio here on Amazon for only $149.99! It was a bundle with wireless headphones.
Heart Rate Monitoring:
A new feature on this watch is that it offers heart rate monitoring. It uses an optical HR monitor, which some people say is not too accurate. However, I found that if you wear the watch fairly snug during your workout, as directed, it works really well. I haven’t compared it to a chest strap but based on the intensity of my workouts, it seams to be really accurate. When synched the dashboard shows how long you were in each heart rate zone during your workout. This is a feature I really like. Also worth pointing out is that the heart rate tracking does not work while swimming.
One of the biggest reasons I hadn’t bought a GPS watch before this was because I love to listen to music while running. However, now that this watch features storable music, it was a no brainer for me. The TomTom Spark 3 has a music storage of 3 gigs, which is a lot of music. It allows you to upload playlists and easily change songs while on the go. The wireless headphones that came with the watch paired easily and are very comfortable. However, I wasn’t impressed with the sound/bass quality of the headphones, but they were definitely good enough. especially because I feel the watch was an incredible value even without the headphones. Lastly, the watch gives you great audio prompts at certain intervals on your time and average pace while you’re running. This was a nice feature that I was used to from MapMyRun.
When it comes to GPS tracking, TomTom is a true veteran. The Spark 3 is a great example of this with super-accurate and consistent GPS tracking and quick acquisition of GPS signal. If you have a phone with you the watch offers QuickGPSfix, which uses the phone’s location to help triangulate the watch faster. Although I haven’t used the Spark 3 for GPS tracking a swim or bike ride yet, I feel that it is really accurate. However, the first couple of runs I also had my iPhone tracking as well through MapMyRun. MapMyRun showed I ran a quicker pace, which I liked, but I’m not sure which one is most accurate. However, if the TomTom shows a slower pace, I feel that may make me train that much harder. My suggestion is not to track with both, but to instead only go with the watch.
Design & Display:
The Spark 3 looks exactly like the original model, however it just has upgraded features. It’s the same size and weight, at 2.7 by 1.5 by 0.5 inches (HWD) and 1.8 ounces. It’s lightweight and comfortable, and I had no problem wearing it all day. I wouldn’t say it’s exactly fashionable, but I think it’s overall look is par for the course for a sports tracker.
Most GPS watches have buttons on the side, or are a touch screen. The TomTom Spark 3 has a large square toggle button below the face. I loved this feature as it made it really easy to use while sweaty or using gloves. One press is usually all it takes to change an option, view a metric, or select a music track while working out, though pausing or stopping a workout requires you to hold a button down for 2-3 seconds. It’s interesting to note the GPS receiver is located behind the button so that it’s positioned toward the sky.
The strap is very comfortable and it has little plastic prongs that click in to secure the watch at three locations. This is nice so there is no excess strap sticking off the watch.
The new Spark 3 has the same 2-inch monochrome LCD with 168-by-144-pixel resolution as the previous Spark model. The letters and numbers are big and bold, and they’re easy to see in direct sunlight. It is a little difficult to see in the dark, but if you use your opposite hand to cover the watch, it activates the backlight to come on quite brightly for about 10 seconds; which is a nice touch. The display can be popped out to charge or to change straps. It also allows you to mount it onto a bike for cycling mode.
One of the biggest improvements for the new TomTom spark 3 is the battery life. The battery lasts up to 11 hours with only the GPS enabled, and up to five hours with GPS, heart rate, and music all going at once. When only tracking activity (steps) the battery can last up to three weeks! The last generation TomTom only lasted 5 hours while running the GPS only.
Setup and Pairing:
Right out of the box the watch will track steps, but to set it up the instruction manual instructs you to download an application for your computer and your phone. The computer app updates and registers the GPS device, and the phone app sets up the users account and dashboard. Pairing the watch via Bluetooth was very easy. The app is very user friendly and tracks pretty much every meaningful metric runners desire.
The TomTom Spark 3 also auto synchs well with other fitness apps. I like using MapMyRun because I partake in their challenges and it keeps track of all of my workouts and long-term running stats. With the auto synch feature, when I go into MapMyRun, my run stats, even if the phone was left at home, are in the app. There are numerous other apps the watch synchs to.
Should I buy the TomTom Spark 3?
No doubt in my mind. Yes! I did a ton of research and I could not find another GPS watch that had nearly as many features at such a reasonable price. Amazon for only $149 here. I’m not a professional runner, and I haven’t tried a ton of GPS watches. But this one exceeded my expectations and has other features I haven’t even fully utilized yet. It is comfortable and stylish enough to wear as a day-to-day activity tracker, though it would have been nice to have on screen alerts for phone calls and text messages. Plus having GPS, a hear rate monitor and music playback, allows you to leave your phone at home. This is a huge bonus that totally makes it worth it.
In short… Highly recommended.