Do you enjoy going jogging regularly? Or maybe you want to get back into jogging and would like to be able to plot your performance and see your improvement visually on a graphical display. Either way, the Runner GPS Watch by TomTom is a great option for those who like to keep track of their runs but who don’t want to deal with the hassle of dragging their smartphone along. This watch also has the ability to pair with a wireless heart rate monitor, however one was not included for me to use in the review, so I will not be able to report on its functionality or effectiveness.
As with most gadgets these days, the setup process is certainly not straightforward. On top of that, the instruction manual only consisted of four pages in English that basically just tell you to connect the watch to your computer via USB and then provided a web-link to type into your computer’s Internet browser. If you are not computer savvy, I suggest you get a friend to help you set it up.
Once your account is set up, and the software is installed on your computer, things do get a little easier. The TomTom software on my Mac quickly detected the GPS watch plugged in via USB and informed me that there was a firmware update available for the watch. This process only took a few minutes, followed by the watch restarting. My only complaint with the USB cable is that it is a proprietary design, which won’t allow you to recharge with standard USB cable; only the included USB cable can be used. Luckily, the battery is rated to last up to 10 hours of GPS use. Based on my testing, that estimate is fairly accurate. After leaving the GPS running constantly several times, I found the average battery life to be consistently around 9.5 hours.
I highly recommend updating to the new firmware as it greatly improves the features and interface of the Runner GPS watch. One such improvement is the additional ability to connect the watch wirelessly to your iPhone via Bluetooth. This is really handy considering many people don’t own computers anymore and rely on their iPhone and/or iPad for all their daily computing. While testing, I found that syncing this watch with an iPhone via the app was quite easy to do. However, it does take a while for the Bluetooth sync to finish.
With the ability to sync via Bluetooth, it would have been a nice additional feature to utilize the Bluetooth connection to do more than sync running data, such as adding the ability to display incoming alerts pertaining to phone calls, txt messages, and emails. I am sure this could be accomplished with a firmware update as well as an iPhone app update.
One fun feature of this GPS watch is that the user can quickly and easily swap between the different color wristband options. I can see this ability really coming in handy for couples that jog separately and use the same watch. I found the band to be a comfortable fit, easy to put on and take off, as well as being nicely ventilated to help reduce sweat buildup. The four-way button interface is simple and easy to use. The display is clearly readable in both direct sunlight, and in low light when using the backlight.
Considering this watch has a GPS and digital compass, I am surprised to find that there are no navigational capabilities. For instance, the ability to see your actual latitude/longitude, altitude, compass heading, or the ability to save a simple waypoint of where you parked your car before heading out on a run would be handy for finding your way back if it gets dark or if you’re running at a new and unfamiliar location. Again, these features could easily be added with a firmware update.
If you are worried about this watch surviving in the rain, don’t be. It is water resistant down to 165 feet. Just don’t push any of the buttons while the watch is fully submerged. I found that the GPS signal strength would reduce considerably or disappear completely when inside buildings. This could seriously effect the usefulness of this watch if used at an indoor track that has a thick roof, and/or metal roof.
All things considered, this is a really cool and useful gadget for accurately keeping track of your speed, distance, elevation, route, pace, heart rate, calories burned and more. If a GPS watch for running is on your shopping list, then I highly recommend taking a closer look at the TomTom Runner GPS Watch. It’s definitely a high quality option in its class.