TomTom Runner 2 (Spark)

TomTom Runner 2 (Spark 2)
  • Editor Rating
  • Rated 4 stars
£99 to £160
  • 80%

  • Activity Tracker Features
    Editor: 80%
  • Heart Rate Features
    Editor: 80%
  • Heart Rate Accuracy
    Editor: 95%
  • Running Functions
    Editor: 95%
  • Cycling Functions
    Editor: 85%
  • Fitness Features
    Editor: 70%
  • Ease of Use
    Editor: 85%
  • Battery Life
    Editor: 85%

Following on from the highly successful and very popular Runner Cardio & MultiSport Cardio is the TomTom Runner 2. This watch comes in several guises and is also sometimes referred to as the TomTom Spark. Referring to it as the “Runner 2” implies it is predominantly/solely aimed at runners, however, in my opinion it’s simply a great all-rounder for anyone who runs / bikes / walks / gyms for fitness. The model I was sent to test was the TomTom Runner 2 Cardio + Music. I will discuss the other available products later. This is the top of the range with OFF the WRIST heart rate sensor and 3gB (500 songs) of internal storage for music files. This version comes with some high quality Bluetooth headphones . This great GPS sports watch has been reviewed by Tristan Haskins aka CardioCritic (previously HeartRateMonitor UK)

TomTom Spark (Runner 2) reviewed and Tested by Tristan Haskins aka CardioCritic (was HeartRateMonitor UK)

Who’s it For

If you run and maybe bike / gym and want a product that incorporates activity tracking functionality with some fairly high level training tools like INTERVAL TRAINING and RACE (allowing you to chase yourself over a given distance with a pre-determined time goal) – then the TomTom Runner 2 Cardio could be for you. If you want MUSIC while you run and you’d prefer NOT to carry your expensive smartphone with you, then please consider the TomTom Runner 2 Cardio + Music

NOTE > Please be aware there is a NEW TomTom Runner 3 / Spark 3 now available (since Oct 2016). The new model is very similar to this one, the main difference being the ability to follow a previously run route using TomTom’s route exploration feature. For more details please pop over to the review of the TomTom Runner 3 (Spark3) here. HOWEVER, if you’re not to worried about the ability to follow a GPX breadcrumb trail this model still offers EXCELLENT value for money and comes highly recommended …

Quick Links

Runner 2 & Spark – what’s the difference?

Please note, everything in this review of the Runner 2 also applies to the TomTom Spark. The Spark range is exactly the same as the Runner 2 range.  It just has a different strap and is sold through different retail channels.  There are six variants in both ranges. Prices in the (brackets) are the suggested retail price.

  • GPS Fitness Watch (£109.99)
    • [music disabled, headphones – NO, heart rate sensor – NO]
  • Cardio GPS Fitness Watch (£149.99)
    • [music disabled, headphones – NO, heart rate sensor – YES]
  • Music GPS Fitness Watch (£149.99)
    • [music enabled, headphones – NO, heart rate sensor – NO]
  • Cardio + Music GPS Fitness Watch (£189.99)
    • [music enabled, headphones – NO, heart rate sensor – YES]
  • Music GPS Fitness Watch + Bluetooth®  Headphones (£189.99)
    • [music enabled,  headphones – YES, heart rate sensor – NO]
  • Cardio + Music GPS Fitness Watch + Bluetooth® Headphones (£229.99)
    • [music enabled,  headphones – YES, heart rate sensor – YES]

Next model UP

The TomTom Spark 3 features ROUTE EXPLORE added functionality. This new feature works in two ways. When you run outside it creates a breadcrumb trail of where you’ve been. If you get lost, you can follow the trail to find your way home. Alternatively, you can UPLOAD gpx routes to the watch, via the MySports website. To follow one of these preloaded tracks just select the desired route from the TRAILS menu before starting your ride/run. If this is NOT a feature that excites you, then I would still very much recommend this Spark 2 / Runner 2 model, especially now that our shopping partners have reduced the price.

Spark 3 / Runner 3  with route exploration functionality

Next model DOWN

The next model down is the TomTom Runner Cardio. It’s a very similar product but it is lacking the ACTIVITY TRACKER and the MUSIC storage facility. This newer model is also a bit sleeker / slimmer. If you want a sensibly featured running watch with built-in heart rate and GPS then I still recommend this original Runner Cardio as an excellent value.

TomTom Runner Cardio

Alternative models from Competitors?

From the current line up of GPS running watches with wrist based heart rate sensors, the one that has the most similar essential features would be the Garmin Forerunner 35. If you are after a more TECHNICAL running watch with a lot more feedback regarding recovery, personal records and other performance related running metrics then I’d recommend the Forerunner 235. Neither models have the ability to STORE music locally, but, they can control your smartphone’s music via Bluetooth.

Garmin Forerunner 235  technical running watch with wrist based HR

Garmin Forerunner 35 everyday runner’s watch with wrist based HR

Polar M200 similar to the Forerunner 35, an everyday runner’s watch with wrist based HR

Wearable Tech Running Fans

If you’re in to wearable technology then Android users may want to consider the Polar M600, powered by Android Wear or for users of iPhone the Apple Watch 2 Nike+. Both these watches feature built-in GPS, are swim proof, have wrist based heart rate and can store music on their internal memory for playback via Bluetooth headphones.

Polar M600 Android Wear connected smartwatch, supports Strava application

Apple Watch Nike+ iPhone connected smartwatch comes with Nike+ Run Club pre-installed

Pros

  • Ease of use
  • Built-in music storage with Bluetooth connection to headphones
  • Wrist based Heart Rate - very accurate
  • Exercise Type options - eg. Intervals, Laps, HR Zone, Pace Zone etc
  • Clear / Bright display. Highly visible in ALL light conditions
  • Partially customisable display views (lower left & right)
  • Cons

  • TomTom MySports App slow compared to others
  • Activating backlight sometimes a bit tempremental
  • New Features and Functions

    The TomTom Runner Cardio and MultiSport Cardio were, and still are, very competent GPS sports watches. TomTom have taken these two great products and added the following enhancements.

    • Slimmer – the new model is considerably sleeker
    • Activity Tracker – TomTom have added 24/7 activity tracking to help you achieve a daily target of steps, distance, calories or time active
    • Sleep Monitoring – you can now keep a track of the quality and duration of your sleep
    • Internal Music Storage – you get 3 Gig of internal memory for up to 500 songs. The music is transmitted to a high quality pair of TomTom Bluetooth headphones. * Note > headphones in pictures and videos are NOT as supplied.

    Music On the Go

    If you purchase one of the MUSIC versions you get some great TomTom sport headphones. Getting your music in to the watch isn’t super simple and it really depends on whether you are on PC or Mac and how competent you are at navigating around your computer. After 5 minutes playing I found the SETTINGS for locating the music on my MacBook. After that it was simple and I just selected the Albums I wanted to upload to the watch.

    >> back to TOP

    When training you can change the VOLUME from the physical control on the headphones. The playlist can be played in order or shuffled. To manually change to another track – as far as I have been able to deduce, you have to PAUSE your exercise and navigate to music controls skip to another track / playlist… If you make a good Playlist in the first place, this shouldn’t be necessary…. It would be handy to have a shortcut to TRACK selection though.

    Heart Rate Monitor OFF your WRIST

    It’s amazing how quickly things move in this field of techno gadgetry. It was only a couple of years ago that Mio Global introduced their GROUND BREAKING strapless heart rate sensors. High powered LED’s that read the blood pump under the skin, behind the back of the watch. Polar, Garmin, Epson and TomTom now all have their own versions of this great technology. NO MORE chest strap ! However, if you cycle and want to have your Runner 2 on your handlebars, you can still pair the watch with a Bluetooth Smart heart rate belt, like the Polar H7 or Wahoo Tickr.

    >> back to TOP

    Training in 5 x Heart Rate Zones

    The Runner 2 Cardio is all about training with a heart rate monitor. You can get realtime feedback on time spent in each of the 5 heart rate zones. If you’re not too sure on how to train within heart rate limits, please visit our HR zones and Max HR calculator pages. Having the heart rate taken from the wrist is a huge advantage. I only really wear a chest strap nowadays for cycling – with my GPS/HRM mounted on my handlebars.

    >> back to TOP

    Showtime – roll the Videos

    I have made 4 short videos to better explain the functionality, navigation and features of the Runner 2 / Spark. The 4th video relating to the TomTom MySports APP can be found at the bottom of the page.

    Video 1 – Time of Day / Activity Tracking

    In this first video I have focused on the features available from the home screen (time of day) and BACKWARDS (left navigation toggle) to the ACTIVITY TRACKING functions. The Runner 2 keeps a daily and weekly track of STEPS – CALORIES  – DISTANCE and ACTIVE TIME. I also discuss how the MUSIC is accessed and controlled from the watch and the earphone controller. Please watch the video to save me having to type much more …

    NOTE > the headphones featured in the videos are NOT as supplied. TomTom offer their OWN branded Bluetooth headphones

    >> Back to Top TomTom Runner 2 Review

    Video 2 – Exercising with the Runner2

    In this second video video I have try to cover in as much detail relating to the EXERCISE functions of the watch:

    • Interval Training – how to set up an interval training session
    • Display fields of the training pages
    • Available Exercise modes (Run, Bike, Gym, Swim etc)
    • Setting a Goal (distance, calories or time)
    • A peek at TomTom MySports App on smartphone
    • General navigation while training
    • What you can expect to see while training including TIME in Heart Rate Zones x 5 and Heart Rate Graph

    NOTE > the headphones featured in the videos are NOT as supplied. TomTom offer their OWN branded Bluetooth headphones

    >> Back to Start TomTom Spark Cardio Music

    Video 3 – ZONE Training & RACE function

    In this third video I take a look at training within a heart rate zone and also racing a previously recorded track or setting up a custom race objective.

    • Exercising within a ZONE. This can be speed zone, pace zone, heart rate zone or cadence zone
    • RACE. This features lets you race against a virtual racer. You have 3 options when selecting the type of race.
    • Race – RECENT – There are also some pre-programmed RACES eg. 3 mile in 25 mins / 5km in 26 mins / 6 miles in 50 mins etc
    • PREVIOUS – race against a recent exercise that is currently in your watches memory
    • CUSTOM – perfect. Simply set the DISTANCE you want to run and the TIME you wish to achieve and it will pace you along. For example. Set TIME to 40 mins and DISTANCE to 5 miles and it will pace you to 8 min/mile pace

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    You want INTERVAL TRAINING – no problem

    I love interval training – it’s what makes us stronger, faster and fitter. Everyone should try and perform 1 interval session per week, whether it’s an adhoc Fartlek style session or something planned in advance. The beauty of the Runner 2 is the simplicity of setting up an interval set. The video above explains it in best detail

    Setting up an interval set is simple

    Interval settings on TomTom Runner 2

    Performing an Interval session

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    No escaping the Activity Tracker

    Well… actually you can just turn it off. The Runner 2 lets you set a daily activity goal of either, STEPS, DISTANCE, CALORIES or TIME ACTIVE. It’s simple to set up and you can view progress at anytime by pressing the BACK (left toggle) button. NOTE > The Runner 2 does NOT give MOVE NOW alerts like you find on many other activity trackers. (at least I couldn’t find how to activate it?) Would I like it to? Yes, I probably would actually. I sit 8 – 10 hours a day at my desk. Everything is important and it’s too easy to stay rooted to my chair. An activity alert every hour or so just highlight the inactivity.. so, YES please TomTom, can we have Activity Alerts?

     

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    Summary Conclusions

    Should you buy one? I really like the fact I could go for a run WITHOUT my smartphone and listen to music straight from the watch. Some people might find it a bit tricky getting music to the watch, but it’s not rocket science and the TomTom MySports desktop application does make it quite easy. The off the wrist heart rate sensors are accurate and reliable. The activity tracker is personalised and motivational. It has some advanced training functions that are very easy to access and set up like the Interval settings. The ability to see Time In Zone real-time is a great feature for those with a training agenda. The ZONES feature allowing the user to set a ZONE goal based on PACE, SPEED, HEART RATE or CADENCE is great for owners looking to stay within a dedicated intensity/speed/pace.

    Quick Links – lowest prices

    PLEASE use the links below to check for the lowest online prices of the TomTom Runner 2 GPS watch.

    Thank you for your valued support .. Tristan

    Amazon sell this product

    Last Word – could be better

    The only things I’d like to see added to the TomTom Runner 2 Cardio Music are

    • Movement Alerts (get moving Haskins !!) – I personally find these motivational
      • TomTom are looking in to this as it is something quite a few customers have asked about
    • The APP could be a bit quicker. It might be just my Android phone.. but all other APPS are reasonably fast. RESOLVED, new APP (March 2017) is far better and totally up to scratch with other brands ….
    • Smartphone Notifications… whoops… that hot potato. I have seen a few people moaning about this on forums. If you want smartphone notifications in your watch, RIGHT NOW, look at something else. It might be a “coming soon” feature but it seems it’s been coming for some time.
      • This is WORK in PROGRESS… and we hope to see it sometime soon, but there is no firm date
    • I’d love a HOTLINK button to get access to MUSIC tracks and playlists. I may be wrong, but I had to PAUSE my activity to get to the music controls? Please tell me if I am wrong
      • TomTom will get back to me regarding the feasibility of a shortcut to track selection. Again, something other people have requested

    >> back to TOP

    TomTom MySports APP – quick summary

    Just a short video to give you a feel for the APP that supports the TomTom Runner 2

     

    >> TomTom Runner 2 Review – START

    Pros

  • Ease of use
  • Built-in music storage with Bluetooth connection to headphones
  • Wrist based Heart Rate – very accurate
  • Exercise Type options – eg. Intervals, Laps, HR Zone, Pace Zone etc
  • Clear / Bright display. Highly visible in ALL light conditions
  • Partially customisable display views (lower left & right)
  • Cons

  • TomTom MySports App slow compared to others
  • Activating backlight sometimes a bit tempremental