Chris Daniels

Digital business editor for nzherald.co.nz

Hands On: TomTom Multi-Sport GPS watch

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TomTom's multisport watch - tracks swimming, cycling, running. The only button is the one on the strap, which acts similar to a mouse - up, down, left and right.
TomTom's multisport watch - tracks swimming, cycling, running. The only button is the one on the strap, which acts similar to a mouse - up, down, left and right.

I've had a GPS running watch for a few years now - a Nike-TomTom joint production that's been a fine piece of running kit - set before leaving the house, it accurately tracks the run (distance, speed, time etc..) easy to download into my PC's USB port it sends the data to my Nike+ profile and adds up all the kilometres.

Simple enough with a pretty decent mapping function.

Good enough for pounding the pavements - but that's before the cycling addiction hit. Tracking rides, metres climbed and speed suddenly became more important. And since the discovery of the awesome Strava app (turns my iPhone into a brilliant running and cycling GPS device - best of all it can wirelessly update rides and runs without the hassle of plugging into the computer.)

The natural course of a running and cycling addiction inevitably led me to triathlon and here's a watch designed to cover each of the three disciplines.

Before I could endorse it as a multisport Christmas gift I needed to give it a good test across the spectrum, so I set three challenges for the TomTom multi-sport watch - a long swim, a long run, then a decent bike ride.

First up a decent ocean swim -the Round North Head Classic. A beautiful Devonport morning and my first ocean swim of the summer 2.4 km swim around North Head.

Verdict - brilliant. I can't check a wristwatch during an ocean swim but it vibrates and buzzes as each kilometre ticks over but perfect for keeping track of how far I was from the finish line. There isn't a specific open water function, but the GPS tracking worked perfectly (though no map on the TomTom Mysports screen when I later downloaded the swim data).

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Second, a decent run - the Auckland Marathon. Now this was a tough ask I was very keen to get a personal best this year so I was nervous about not having the timing right. No problem it kept great track and I nailed my 3 hr 30m target time down to the minute.

Verdict - Great. It's good as my previous Nike TomTom watch, but thinner and easier to use.

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And last, a bike ride - the 105km Bike the Bridge cycle event/race. - Even a fairly basic bike computer has the same basic trip functions as the TomTom watch, so with distance and time being shown on my computer I didn't use the watch much on this ride. B

But after downloading its contents into the computer, the map looked great - where I was going slow and fast (especially how fast I was going when a fellow competitor took a downhill corner too fast and went flying off the road into the gravel - just a metre or so from a parked ambulance.)

Verdict - Fine . No real need to mount it on my handlebars (though it comes with a rubber strap that allows this. There are add-ons that can be bought for the watch that include cadence etc.. but when you're heading into that territory I'd imagine there are high-end bike computers that would be more suitable.

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There are many different menus and functions included in the watch, but this doesn't mean it has a lot of buttons. In fact there's none next to the watchface at all - just one underneath the main display that operates like a mousepad - left, right,up down - click forward or back through the menus.

It took me a while to get used to this - it's often more intuitive for me to just a menu button, with options from there. But I see the point of it now, especially pushing buttons while in the water, or on the bike, it's much easier just to have the one, main button. TomTom says this makes it easy to use in all weather conditions and can be used while wearing gloves, too.

It's already had one software update since I've been using it - with different training modes and a stopwatch function added. This came through in a pretty quick upgrade one day when I was downloading its data through the PC.

Since swimming is (by far) my weakest link when it comes to multisport, the TomTom has been great - impressing even the veteran swimmers at the Mt Roskill Masters club I showed it to. By accurately counting lengths of the pool and distance swam each session, it's been a big help in training.

So I was sceptical whether a new watch was really necessary - after all, I used by iPhone with its Strava running function for both running and cycling and I used a GPS watch for running as well.

But a good watch to help with swimming is something pretty new and pretty impressive. Maybe it'll be on every watch in ten years' time, but for here and now - the ability to track distance and effort in the pool or the sea makes it a pretty good Christmas gift for any swimmer or multisport fan.

Here's a frame grab from the website showing the downloaded data from my Round North Head Classic swim (confirming that I am a slow swimmer.)
Here's a frame grab from the website showing the downloaded data from my Round North Head Classic swim (confirming that I am a slow swimmer.)


What is it? The TomTom multisport watch

What does it do? Tracks with GPS distances and speeds for running, cycling and swimming

Does it work? Sure does, the cycle and running functions you'll likely have seen before - but the swim function's a winner.

How much does it cost? $299 for the Multisport, the Runner watch is $249.

Here's some watch specs that TomTom have given out:

• Ultra-Slim Design: At just 11.5mm, the slim design of the watch module, comfortably fits men and women, and all wrist sizes
• Graphical Training Partner: Users can take advantage of the three Graphical Training Partner modes- Race, Goal and Zone -to set a goal for their workout, and to see how they are performing at-a-glance throughout the workout.
• Indoor Tracker: Accurately track indoor runs using built-in sensors to count strides, so that users can monitor pace and distance even while running on a treadmill.
• QuickGPSFix: Get started faster by using the latest in GPS and GLONASS satellite technology to quickly find their precise location.
• Desktop Multi-Platform compatibility: Sync, analyse and share stats on popular running sites and community platforms, including the TomTom MySports website, MapMyFitness, RunKeeper and TrainingPeaks.
• Super-Tough Display: Scratch and impact-resistant glass stays easy to read, workout after workout.
• Weather and Waterproof: Waterproof up to 50 metres/5ATM
• Long-lasting battery: Up to 10-hour battery life (GPS Mode)
• Heart Rate monitor*: Use the Bluetooth- Smart Heart Rate Monitor to track training zone for weight control, performance or speed.

TomTom Multi-Sport includes all the features included in TomTom Runner, and also allows multisport athletes to track their distance, time, speed and other key metrics when they cycle or swim. The TomTom MultiSport is also enhanced with the following features and options:

• Dedicated Bike Mount: Easily see key stats at a glance with the specially- designed bike mount

• Cadence Sensor**: Track cadence, speed and distance, indoors and out.
• Built-in Altimeter***: Accurately track elevation, ascent, descent and grade with the built-in barometric altimeter
• Swimming Motion Sensor: Check detailed swim metrics such as laps, strokes, time and speed, and calculate a SWOLF score to show swim efficiency.
*Optional accessory with TomTom Runner and TomTom Multi-Sport

**Optional with TomTom Multi-Sport
***Not available in all products

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