TomTom Spark Review – GPS, Music, HR All-in-one

The review TomTom Spark unit used for this review was provided by TomTom India. It was used over a period of a month, and will be returned back to TomTom after the review. Lets begin.

TomTom Spark

Features

The TomTom Spark GPS running watch was announced in Sept, 2015, and brings in a variety of variants, with the following highlight features:

  • Lightweight, designed to be worn 24 hours
  • Bluetooth music with 3GB on board storage
  • GPS for pace/distance
  • Optical HR
  • Activity tracking
  • 168 x 144 high-contrast LCD display
  • Battery life: 11 hours with GPS, 5 hours with everything on including optical HR and Bluetooth music

IMG_20160515_155924

The highlight feature of the TomTom Spark is of course the on board music, which means you no longer have to carry that bulky phone in your pocket or put inside your waist belt. Upload songs, create playlists, grab your bluetooth headphones and run along!

For people who do heart rate based training, the watch has optical HR to guide you. If you need to know more about how to use your heart rate to train better, check out this article from TomTom.

Data Fields

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The watch in running mode has a three field display. One big center field which can be customized on the run to choose any one of those available (via the big scroll button), and the two small ones at bottom left and right, which an be customized from the settings menu of the watch to display the metric of choice. Following data fields are supported on the watch.

Data fields  
DurationLap NumberCalories
DistanceLap DistanceHeart Rate
PaceLap PaceHeart Rate Zone
Avg PaceLap TimeClock Time

Variant Selection

The TomTom Spark comes in the widest combination of models I have seen, ever, in a single watch. Here’s what on offer (current Indian prices from Amazon.in and USD prices from Amazon.com):

  • TomTom Spark (Rs 11,899 / $129)
  • TomTom Spark cardio (Rs 17,999)
  • TomTom Spark Music ($182)
  • TomTom Spark Music + Headphones (Rs 18,699 / $209)
  • TomTom Spark cardio + Music (Rs 19,799 / $246)
  • TomTom Spark cardio + Music + Headphones (Rs 28,515 / $274)

Now that’s a pretty heady mix of variants to choose from. Basic variant just gets you a GPS watch with the usual pace, distance, time stuff (with a basic intervals feature as well). This is very similar to the older watch from TomTom, the TomTom Runner, which is now being phased out. Beyond that you can decide depending on your personal preferences.

IMG_20160515_120939 (1)

Like to hear music on your runs? Go for one with the music option. You can pair that with your own favorite headphones, or pay some more and go for the bundle which has the headphones included. TomTom people gave me the Plantronics BackBeat FIT wireless headphones, a reasonably costly set of bluetooth headphones specially designed for an active lifestyle. The music bundle comes with TomTom headphones if that’s what you would prefer.

Website and Features

TomTom has a basic website, which offers a neat display of your runs. This data is transferred from your watch either via the TomTom mobile phone app or installing the TomTom MySports app on your computer (Windows or Mac) and connecting your watch to it after the run. The runs are further synced to your app of choice, be it Endomondo, RunKeeper, MapMyFitness, Nike+, TrainingPeaks, Strava, besides a host of other supported apps. As you can see in the images below, TomTom does not display the run cadence through the run, but only the final stride rate figure at the end.

Competition

The price range for the TomTom Spark watches ranges from $129 for basic GPS watch to $274 for the highest end all inclusive one. That’s a very wide range. If we consider what’s on offer, particularly in India, in that range, we find the following products:

  • Garmin Vivoactive HR GPS Smartwatch – a great fit for people interested in optical HR and also smartphone notifications and call alerts, a feature lacking in Spark (Rs 28,000/$249)
  • Garmin Forerunner 230 – the mid range runner’s special watch with advanced running metrics not found either in Vivoactive series or the Spark, like VO2Max estimator, Recovery advisor, race predictor, custom workouts (Spark has very basic intervals feature) (Rs 22,990/$249)
  • Garmin Forerunner 220 (and 225 with optical HR) – older versions of the Garmin Forerunner 230/25 series, but very attractively priced.  (Rs 14,990/$124) (235 – Rs 22,000/$219)

Choosing your GPS Watch

So, how to choose a GPS watch given all this? It remains quite simple really, and totally defined by the runner. If you are in for a basic GPS watch which gives you accurate time, distance and pace, then my recommendation is the TomTom Spark basi variant. If is much more complete than other entry level variants from Garmin like Forerunner 15, 25, etc) in terms of battery life, ability to do intervals, Quick GPS fix, stride rate, more data fields, etc.

IMG_20160515_120146 (1)

If on the other hand what you want is an advanced runners watch with custom intervals, race prediction, recovery advisor, etc then again, the choice is very clear. Go for the advanced Garmin Forerunner series like FR 220, 225, 230, 235. These options are simply not available on the TomTom Spark.

Finally, for the music fans, this is where the Spark excels. With 3GB of music capacity on board, there is no need for carrying the phone along with, a feature not offered by any other mainstream GPS running watch currently. This is also immensely useful for people like me who are no fans of music while running, but make use of music to run to a fixed cadence. For example, I wanted to try running at 180 spm, and so I searched online for music which has beats at 180 bpm. Running to music for a target Cadence is much easier than running to a monotonous metronome beat, and is easier to pace to it.

So, there it goes. This is my review of the TomTom Spark. You can check it out on the Amazon.in store online and buy it there, or get it shipped from someone coming over from the US if you buy it on Amazon.com.

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ADHM Registrations Closed? Register For Grand Prix Run!

gpr_early_bird

It’s Sept 30th, and that means its the last date to book your Grand Prix Run ticket at the special early bird rates. From tomorrow, the rates go up a bit. You would also have seen that the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon registrations closed yesterday. If you want to experience a well organized run with great support and volunteers, fantastic venue, the best racetrack in India actually, chip-timed, simply put, there will not be better race to capture all that.

Event Categories

  • Half Marathon
  • 10K, 5K, 3K Runs
  • 5K * 4 Relay

What you get when you register for the Grand Prix Run?

  • Run on India’s best racetrack.
  • Enjoy the lovely mid-December Delhi NCR weather.
  • Complete support for every runner, slow or fast. We don’t pack our stuff till you do.
  • Extended 4 hours support for runners looking to do their long run as part of Mumbai Marathon training, at no extra cost. Just register for 21K, and rest is free!
  • Beautiful F1 themed finisher medal and online timing certificate
  • Event chip-timed by Timing Technologies, the best in class timing solutions in India. 
  • Event is expected to get recognition as a 2017 Mumbai Marathon qualifier
  • A variety of events to meet the needs of every runner, from 3K to Half Marathon, including a Kids only run.
  • No problems of traffic, police, red-lights, etc. You own the track on Dec 13th!
  • All this, at really value for money prices. 

Register for the event at Grand Prix Run website and take advantage of early birds rates ending on October 1st.

Don’t forget to like our Facebook page to keep yourself up to date with all event updates. And do forward this message to your friends and colleagues, the more the merrier!

#GetReadyToVroom

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TomTom Spark Announced – Quick Preview

So this prediction I got spot on after the slew of ongoing discount deals on Amazon. A new TomTom runners watch, the TomTom Spark has been announced. Here is what on offer in a nutshell:

TomTom Spark

  • Lightweight, designed to be worn 24 hours
  • Bluetooth music with 3GB on board storage
  • GPS for pace/distance
  • Optical HR
  • Activity tracking
  • Phone notifications coming later
  • 168 x 144 high-contrast LCD display
  • Battery life: 11 hours with GPS, 5 hours with everything on including optical HR and bluetooth music

Highest end model (TomTom  Spark Cardio) with everything hits stores in Oct at £189.99. There are several models, with basic one with no music or optical HR not yet priced.

Too early to say if this could possibly be my next watch. Waiting for Garmin to show their hands before I decide to go ahead with something, or stick with my current love, the TomTom Runner.

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Shivnath Singh – India’s Marathon Record Holder (2:12, 1978)

India’s marathon legend and record holder, Shivnath Singh. We have only heard about him, here’s a chance to see what he looked like in this photo from coach Savio D’Souza’s files (extreme left: Savio, extreme right: Shivnath Singh). Shivnath holds the Indian national record for the best marathon time (2:12:00), a feat that he achieved in Jalandhar in 1978, and which remains unsurpassed till date. Yes, it has been 37 years!

savio-shivnath

I had read that Shivnath created the record in the national marathon championships in 1978, running 2:12, and used to wonder if this time was true, if the route was accurate, etc, since current generation of Indian Marathon runners have struggled to hit 2:16. I tried to analyze a bit and came to the conclusion that the record was probably good. Shivnath had done a 10K same year in 28:58.

Analyzing the two performances together, and predicting a 10K finish time from a 2:12 marathon gives us a possible 28:35 finish for 10K. Not too far away from the 28:58 Shivnath did. And vice versa, a 28:58 10K finish indicates an equivalent marathon performance of 2:13:28. Legend he was.

Shivnath expired in 2003.

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Running For The Joy Of Running

Gathering some thoughts on this subject below.

I disagree to a certain extent when I hear everyone talking about the joy of running. Not everyone has to run for the joy of running. Not everyone feels bad about pushing themselves and getting injured. I have run for the joy of running, I have run for pushing myself to goals which seemed unachievable. I don’t call them joy of running. They are simply my targets.

joy_of_running

Such people may be a minority in the runners community. But let’s accept them for what they are. I carry my injuries with pride. They were my teachers. I learnt from them. Secretly, I enjoyed those injuries. That’s just what I am. And I love it.

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