When I first saw this watch, I made the age-old mistake of judging a book by its cover.
The TomTom Spark 3 Cardio + Music GPS Fitness Watch felt like the largest fitness watch I have ever worn, with the longest product name to match. It’s big, clunky, and the overall style reminded me of a vintage Cassio Illuminator. I was curious as to how the size of this watch would suit someone with a smaller hand than my own; when I asked a female coworker to try it on, the face was far too wide for the span of her wrist. (This watch is available with a smaller band, but the face dimensions are the same — a whopping .87 x .98 in.)
Because of my initial reaction to the watch’s physical appearance, I had admittedly lowered my expectations of how it would perform. However, there’s a reason we teach kids from an early age to not judge a book by its cover, and once I got past my initial impressions, I came to realize that this is a truly impressive device. Sure, it won’t be named the greatest fashion accessory of the year, but for those who want to monitor their fitness regimen in a customized and comprehensive way, the TomTom is a formidable option on the fitness watch market.
Despite not being overly impressed with the watch’s physical design, I will say that I really loved the band. The three-point clasp is secure and dependable. One of my pet peeves in a fitness watch is when the end of the band unsnaps during a workout and flops around. I never needed to worry about the TomTom’s band coming undone, regardless of the intensity of the exercise. I also liked the toggle, which serves as the watch’s lone control function; there isn’t a touch screen, but this didn’t bother me, as sometimes it can be hard to operate a touch screen with sweaty hands in the middle of an exercise routine.
The TomTom has no smart connectivity, which means that it can’t receive push notifications, emails, or texts — an aspect of this device that I personally loved. When I’m exercising, I like to be focused and temporarily freed from the distractions of work or personal life. Sometimes it’s important to be untethered.
One of the TomTom’s best features is the Bluetooth headphones. These allow the user to listen to music during a workout without having to deal with tangling chords or the added burden of carrying a phone. With 3 GB of storage, the watch can hold over 500 songs — another perk, as listening to the same songs over and over again while working out gets monotonous.
The screen of the TomTom is so simple that it’s extremely effective. Its main screen displays the time, but during exercise, there are many different metrics and monitors that can be made visible. Not only does it keep track of daily calorie exertion, the number of active hours in a day, steps, and distance, but it also tracks the amount of time you sleep. (It doesn’t provide the user with specific metrics on sleep; it just tells you that you did, when, and for how long, making it easy to track certain patterns.)
The watch has a very accurate built in GPS antenna, which provides additional freedom during a workout; those of us who like to exercise outside the gym, namely runners and cyclists, don’t have to feel tethered to their phones for tracking their path or mileage.
The battery on this watch lasted me, on average, 2 full days (which would include 2 intense workouts). I personally didn’t rely on the sleep tracking and and preferred to charge it every night so that it was ready to go in the morning. It’s a common complaint that the batteries on smart watches just don’t last long enough, but I’ve come to accept the fact that when it comes to wearable devices, you just have to learn to manage your time and remember to charge them regularly.
After a workout, all of the data automatically transfers to the TomTom app on the user’s smartphone, which can also be accessed on any desktop. Here you can really monitor your data in great detail. The watch is highly customizable to suit individual needs; although it’s got settings for some standard workouts like running, cycling, and swimming, you can set the watch to monitor any tailored form of exercise. It has the ability to record data based on goals, endurance intervals, and laps. There are also 5 customizable cardio zones for monitoring heart rate, and visibility on the main screen makes it easy to keep an eye on those stats in real time.
The one drawback of such extensive customization capabilities is that it requires more set up time before every workout. This also means it can take a little longer to learn how to use, though once you familiarize yourself with the extensive navigational system and optional settings, it’s pretty straightforward. It would be nice to have the software become a bit more intuitive for workout regimens like Crossfit and interval training, but I’m confidant that TomTom will expand in this direction in future models. It’s only a minimal annoyance in its current state, and the results it produces are impressive. It’s like Adobe Illustrator vs. Microsoft Paint — sure, Paint is much easier to use, but once you learn how to use Illustrator, it will provide far better results. The TomTom Spark 3 Cardio + Music is a serious fitness watch for serious athletes, and its tailor-made features will be sure to please.