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TomTom Spark 3 Review

TomTom Spark 3 (Runner 3)
  • Editor Rating
  • Rated 4.5 stars
£109 to £259
  • 80%

  • Heart Rate Monitor functions
    Editor: 85%
  • Heart Rate Accuracy
    Editor: 98%
  • Activity Tracking features
    Editor: 85%
  • Running functions
    Editor: 90%
  • Cycling functions
    Editor: 75%
  • Fitness monitoring features
    Editor: 70%
  • Ease of Use
    Editor: 85%
  • Battery Life
    Editor: 75%

The TomTom Spark 3 is a GPS running watch with wrist based heart rate, route exploration and internal music store reviewed by Tristan Haskins aka CardioCritic (formerly HeartRateMonitor UK). The TomTom Spark 3 is EXACTLY the same watch as the TomTom Runner 3. Throughout this product test I will refer to the watch simply as the Spark 3 …

TomTom Spark 3 Runners watch reviewed and tested by Tristan Haskins aka CardioCritic

Release Date (UK) > October 2016

Product it replaced > TomTom Runner 2 (Spark)

Suggested Retail Price (when new) > £149 to £249 (depending on model)

Who’s it For?

The Spark 3 is NOT just for RUNNERS ! The TomTom Spark 3 is for any person looking for an accurate GPS sports watch with wrist based heart rate, activity tracker who likes to listen to music when training. The Spark 3 is an excellent heart rate monitor. You can train in one of 5 x HR zones from Easy, Fat Burn, Endure, Speed and Sprint. It’s a competent activity tracker giving daily and weekly feedback on steps, distance, calories and activity time (in the watch as well as the App).

Runners, Cyclists, Walkers, Cardio and Swimmers

It has 7 pre-loaded sports profiles including RUN, SWIM and BIKE. When swimming indoors it can count your length, give SWOLF feedback and much more. All in all, the TomTom Spark 3 is an excellent value for money, well designed, competent GPS multisport watch.

Music while you workout

What makes the Spark 3 and it’s predecessor the Runner 2, different to the rest of the GPS running watches out there is it’s ability to store music internally. Store up to 500 songs and listen to them in your favourite Bluetooth headphones. It’s very easy to setup and use, slim, light, comfortable and does everything a GPS sports watch should do.

NOTE > other watches with internal music store are the Polar M600 and the Garmin Forerunner 645

TomTom Spark 3 Video Review by CardioCritic

Next Model Up

This is the top of TomTom’s GPS running watch range. If you are a winter sports enthusiast you may be interested in the TomTom Adventurer with auto-detection of Ski Lift & Ski Run sessions.

 TomTom Adventurer

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Note > for Skiers / Snowboarders the TomTom Adventurer

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  • Internal memory for up to 500 songs
  • 4 x different models to choose from
  • Slim design
  • NEW - route exploration feature (breadcrumb follow)
  • Very bright and clear display in ALL levels of light
  • Wrist based heart rate, one of the most accurate we've tested
  • Multiple exercise modes including Intervals, Zone Training and Lap training
  • Provides swimming metrics and SWOLF
  • Cons

  • Smartphone APP quite slow
  • Backlight activation can be temperamental
  • Next Model Down

    The next models down are the previous incarnations of the TomTom Runner/Spark watch. The Runner 2 is VERY SIMILAR to this model. The main difference being the inclusion of the explore route functions in the Spark 3, more details below … If all you really want is a good GPS running watch with wrist based heart rate without the internal music store or activity tracking then it still offers great value for money.

     TomTom Runner 2 almost identical, just missing the route explore

    TomTom Runner Cardio no activity tracker, no music store, but still good.

    Closest alternative Running watches?

    After general fitness watches, these GPS running watches are the second most popular category and subsequently it’s a very competitive market. Assuming you are predominantly a runner looking for a sports watch with built-in Heart Rate & GPS. Other running specific features would include auto-lapping and the support of a good smartphone app my shortlist as alternatives would be the Polar M430, the Garmin Forerunner 35 and the Polar M200

    Garmin Forerunner 35 user friendly, competent GPS running watch with wrist based HR

    Polar M430 Brilliant GPS running watch with wrist based HR – also support 100+ other sport profiles

    Polar M200 a more basic GPS running watch with wrist based HR & activity tracker

    Update Oct 2017 > If you want your activity tracker to include built-in GPS & wrist based heart rate but remain SLEEK & DISCRETE then Garmin could have the answer … the brilliant Garmin Vivosport fitness tracker. Replacing the Vivosmart HR+, the Garmin Vivosport features built-in GPS, wrist based heart rate, dedicated running functions (auto-lap, pace alerts etc) a full colour display, VO2 max, Stress tests and much more. CardioCritic have awarded the Garmin Vivosport Best on Test in the Fitness Tracker category and expect it to be one of the best selling fitness trackers of 2018.

    Garmin Vivosport Best on Test – a sleek, discrete fitness tracker with GPS and wrist based heart rate

    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

    Key Features

    • GPS based sports watch – ideal for running, walking, cycling, cardio, treadmill, indoor workouts  and swimming
    • Wrist Based Heart Rate – highly accurate
    • Swimming Metrics – including SWOLF score
    • Store up to 500 songs in the internal music player’s memory (playback via Bluetooth headphones)
    • Battery life expectancy – Activity tracking: up to 3 weeks, GPS: up to 11 hours, GPS + Heart Rate + Music: up to 5 hours
    • Water Resistancy – 40 m / 130 feet (5 ATM) in other words, surface swim proof
    • Activity Tracker – 24/7 giving feedback on steps, distance, calories and sleep quality/duration
    • Route Exploration (new feature) – follow a pre-saved GPX trail
    • Multiple exercise modes – including Intervals and Zone controlled workouts
    • Digital Compass
    • Automatic breadcrumb trail generation – navigate back to the start
    • SUPER clear display – even in the brightest daylight
    • Skip to CONCLUSION and Price Checks

    What’s the difference ? Spark 3 vs Runner 3

    Nothing other than the exterior aesthetics. For some reason, I still can’t quite understand, TomTom’s marketing team decided to give the same base product different names to appeal to different customers in different market places….

    What’s the difference V2 & V3?

    The key difference is the Spark 3’s ability to perform ROUTE EXPLORATION. This works in two ways.

    Trail Follow

    If you have already followed a route and it’s in your TomTom MySport history you can “send it” to the watch as a TRAIL. Alternatively you can IMPORT other people’s previously explored GPX trails in to MySports and transfer them to the watch. Next time you exercise start the session by selecting your preferred TRAIL. The watch will show you by way of a breadcrumb trail where you need to go. Simply follow the trail and you should able to get around the track. NOTE. It’s NOT an auto-routing feature, it does NOT lock you in to the course nor does it provide prompts when you stray off course.

    Trail Exploration in practice

    Trails is one of the 6 training styles available on the Spark 3. Assuming you have some pre-saved trials in the watch simply select the trail you want to follow. The example below is one of my local 3.6M loop around Hunstanton. 1) Select the Trail you want to explore


    2) Once GPS has locked on the watch will inform you that it is ready to go with a “GET GOING” message. Simply press the right hand toggle button and begin your run. Remember, it’s up to you to find the start of the trail. The watch will show you but you need to find your own way to the beginning. If you need it, the COMPASS can help as the watch always displays the trail with NORTH UP.


    3) When started there are TWO views of the trail. The view shown below is the zoomed out view, it is possible to zoom in for a much closer look, useful when you are approaching an area with various options.


    Trail Exploration Summary

    I found the trail explore easy to use and a useful new feature to this already competent GPS training watch. It’s NOT auto-routing but it’s definitely a feature I would use when in an area I’ve not ridden or ran in before.

    Live Breadcrumb creation

    As you exercise outdoors the watch will draw a live breadcrumb trail of where you’ve been. This can be used, if you’re OK using a basic map, to navigate your way back home. This new feature is handy when running / riding in a new environment. The Spark 3 also includes a digital COMPASS to help you decide which way you need to turn. I will emphasise again though, it’s NOT an auto-router, just a follow the trail aid.

    Wrist Based Heart Rate

    Like many of the fitness watches I have the tested and reviewed the TomTom Runner 3 has wrist based heart rate. Your heart rate is measured from your WRIST without the need for a chest strap. There are many watches on the market that acquire HR from the wrist, however, there are NOT many that are as ACCURATE as the TomTom. I have tested it in parallel to a chest strap on several occasions and I have no hesitation in recommending it. I found it to be 99% accurate for 99% of the time. One of the best wrist based heart rate sensors I have used.


    The images below show the heart rate graph acquired from an interval training session performed on my turbo trainer. There are 3 x STEADY zone 3 intervals for 2-3 minutes each, then 1 x V HARD interval for 1 minute, followed by 1 x 2 minute Z3 and 1 x Z4/5 for 1 minute. The HR graph shown below is identical to the heart rate graph acquired with a Suunto Spartan Sport with BlueLeza Bluetooth heart rate sensor (my CONTROL)

    Heart Rate from TomTom Spark 3 (Runner 3)


    Interval Session Heart Rate from CHEST STRAP on Suunto


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    Activity Tracking with the Spark 3

    The TomTom Runner 2 added activity tracking to the TomTom Runner Cardio. You get daily and weekly feedback on steps, distance and calories burnt. All your daily activity is uploaded to the TomTom MySports app on iPhone and Android devices.



    >> Back to Top of review

    Customised Display – Training views

    The user has the choice of what training metric is displayed in the TWO small display fields. These two fields are displayed in ALL training views. Personally I like to have time of day and current running page. When on the bike I have time and average speed. It is possible to set a different combination of metrics based on each sports profile, eg. RUN, WALK BIKE etc.


    Left and Right Training View options

    The two display fields can be set to any of the following : Clock (time), Duration, Distance, Pace, Average Pace, Speed, Average Speed, Calories, Heart Rate or Heart Rate Zone. This is a training view I have when reading. The display fields are set to TIME of DAY and AVG PACE.


    These are the options available ….



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    Styles of Training.

    One of the best features of the TomTom Runner 3 (Spark 3) is the ability to quickly and easily set a training style before beginning a workout. There are 6 different training modes :

    1. None
    2. Goals
    3. Intervals
    4. Laps
    5. Zones
    6. Race



    None – as you’d expect, a training session with no pre-set goals, zones or controlling factors

    Goal Setting – Calories, Distance etc

    Goals – are for user who are motivating by achieving a predefined goal. The options for goal setting are :

    • Distance
    • Calories
    • Time

    An example would be setting a running distance goal of 3 miles. The watch will give you feedback throughout the run on percentage of target completed.

    Interval Training Made Easy

    Intervals – please watch the video to fully appreciate how easy this is. It’s one of the key features of this brilliant watch. Quickly set-up an interval session with warm-up, interval effort, interval recovery, repeat x N and cool down. The photo below shows the clear navigation controls involved in setting up an interval session. Each session is a ONE OFF and not recorded in memory for recall next time you train. It would be nice if you could save it with a memorable name eg. 5 x 3 mins or similar. However, it’s so easy and quick to set up it’s no hassle at all, just 1 minute from start to finish to configure.




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    Zone Training

    Zones – is another innovative and easy to use training tool that I enjoyed using. Before stating a session simply select whether the exercise is to be Heart Rate Zone or Speed/Pace Zone controlled.


    Selecting whether ZONE is to be either

    • PACE (running eg min/mile or min/km)
    • SPEED (cycling eg MPH or KMH)
    • ZONE – heart rate zones


    If you select Heart Rate you have to option of 1 – 5 heart rate training zones.

    1. SPRINT (90%+)
    2. SPEED (80%)
    3. ENDURE (70%)
    4. FAT BURN (60%)
    5. EASY (under 60%)

    Choose the intensity of the training session that interests you and select it. Throughout the session the watch will alert you if you stray outside your chosen HR zone


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    Swim Metrics – count your lengths and more

    The TomTom Spark 3 features a built-in accelerometer that can track your swim training. Set the pool length and leave the rest to the watch. The clever gizmos inside the watch will count your lengths, monitor your speed and even provide a SWOLF score, telling you how effective your swimming is. The SWOLF score (also used by Garmin) is useful as it gives an indication of your swimming efficiency.


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    Music while you Train – Bluetooth transmission

    The TomTom Runner 2 was one of the first GPS sport watches to acknowledge the fact that many people like to training WITHOUT their smartphone, but also want to listen to music while they train. The Spark 3 has internal memory reserved for music, up to 500 songs. I have tested this feature on both Mac (iTunes) and Windows using locally stored music from Google Music. Having music stored in the watch is great. Your training tunes are transmitted to any Bluetooth compatible headphones. If you’re interested in music while you train you may also be interested in the Polar M600 powered by Android Wear …


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    In Conclusion …

    If you’ve got this far then you must be interested in the TomTom Spark 3. It’s a GREAT GPS sports watch for everyone but the most dedicated multisport athlete. The only thing it does NOT do is allow multiple sports in the SAME session, something you only find in TRIATHLON watches like the Forerunner 735XT, Polar V800 and Suunto Spartan Sport. This MINOR issue aside I have NO HESITATION in recommending the TomTom Spark 3 to anyone looking for a competent GPS sports watch with both performance monitoring and activity tracking functionality..

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    Available Versions

    The new TomTom Spark 3 is available in 4 different packages. I’d suggest you ensure you buy the one you want as some things can’t be added later. If you but the NON-HR version, you can’t add it later… get the model that has EVERYTHING you think you might want, even if you’re not 100% certain.

    Base Model > No heart rate, No music, No headphones.

    Basically, a competent GPS sports watch / activity tracker


    Heart Rate Version > No music, No headphones

    Comes with built-in heart rate sensor (on back of watch)


    Music Version > No Heart Rate

    Comes with built-in music storage and Bluetooth headphones


    Cardio Music Version > No headphones

    Comes with built-in Heart Rate and music storage

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