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TomTom Multi-Sport GPS Watch Review (Part One)

After doing my first triathlon last year and loving it, I've set out to do three this year.  Since there is currently 27 inches of snow on the ground outside, I've already bought a trainer and wheel block so that I've been able to ride indoors through the winter.  

I'm also a data addict-- I have more spreadsheets and plans than you can imagine-- so I wanted something to help with my triathlon training.  In the past, I've used apps like Runkeeper with my iPhone, but since I got rid of of my iPhone, I've been looking around at options.  Plus, to be honest, I got really sick of gathering a whole mess of stuff before I exercises, so I wanted something simple (I use an inexpensive iPod Shuffle for music, by the way).  

I've been looking at triathlon watches for awhile, including the very expensive Garmin 910XT triathlon watch, which seems to be the established leader, at least as best as I can tell.

TomTom's triathlon watch is much cheaper, seems to have had a few growing pains, but I really liked the lack of bulk and what appeared to be a really intuitive user interface.  Plus, when people have had complaints or feature requests TomTom seems to be very responsive, communicative, and they've already made a number of changes to it.  So, my lovely wife bought it for me for Valentine's Day (early!).

I've been using it for the last week, so this is my initial review-- I'll do another one after I've used it for awhile and also get it in the pool.

I bought the entire triathlon bundle, which includes the display / GPS, charging / sync dock, removable watch band, bike mount, bike cadence and speed sensor, and the heart rate monitor and band. 

I unpackaged it, downloaded TomTom's MySport Connect software, plugged the dock into my iMac, and it immediately recognized that it needed an update and began that process.  The watch came about 2/3 charged and has this little animated charging graphic while it is charging in its dock.  I was able to enter in my vitals:  age, weight, height, etc., and the computer's time, date, etc., went to the watch.  I also set up my profiles at the two websites that would be the storehouses for my exercise data.

Not one to read instructions, I went for a short run to try it out.  One thing I noticed right off of the bat was how quickly it found the satellites-- since I've run with it a few times now, I'd say it takes, on average, 20 seconds or so to find satellites.  I walk out the door and by the time I get to the road it is ready to go!  The heart rate monitor was found by the watch just fine and all went swimmingly.  I couldn't figure out how to stop it at the end of the run at first (again, no instructions for me!), but I figured out that you needed to hold the directional switch down, most likely to avoid accidental starts and stops.

I came back and synched my run.  TomTom has elected to sync to two sites:  its own MySports site and the much more mature MapMyFitness website.  More on these two later.

The next day, I removed my old cycling computer from my bike (now Jen gets it!  Hand me down electronics!) and installed the TomTom.  This was pretty easy to do.  At this point, I encountered my first problem, as the sensors refused to be found by the TomTom watch.

I did some research online and found out that people have had success with fixing this by doing a factory reset on the watch, so I did that, and started to set the watch up again.  For some reason, it then refused to allow me to finish the setup, because it had no way to recognize that I had previously registered with the MySports website.  This was frustrating.  I called TomTom and they did a reset of my account and an hour later everything was up and running again on that front and, lo and behold, the bike sensors worked as well!

Now that I've gone for a few runs and a few bikes (indoors on my trainer) here is what I like so far:

1) I like the interface of the watch.  It is easy to navigate with the directional buttons at the bottom and has a large and easy to read display.

2) I like how fast it finds satellites and the other sensors (heart rate, cadence, bike wheel / speed sensor).

3) I like how easy it is to do a training plan-- I've been using a heart rate range for each workout and getting that going has been easy and it does a great job of keeping me in the zone that I choose.

4) I like that it physically vibrates to alert you of things-- going outside your heart rate zone, for instance.

5) I find the MapMyFitness site to be just fine-- I have some experience with many of these sites-- Runkeeper and others-- and so far it is perfectly adequate at showing me where I've run, elevations, heart rate, or with my cadence on the bicycle.

6) Reading the feedback at Amazon, you quickly see that TomTom is responsive and keeps updating the watch based upon user feedback.  

7) Price-- this is $200 cheaper than Garmin's alternative!

Things that I don't like:

1) The TomTom MySports website is just not up to speed.  Often I'll select something and it just spins with a note saying "gathering data."  It "gathers" for a long time, but doesn't always actually work.  This is frustrating.  It also doesn't have the range of features that you get with MapMyFitness, but it is probably adequate for most.

2) I didn't like the hassles that I had with the bike sensors.  I also had a crash once while the MySports Connect was syncing, requiring me to Force Quit the application; when I restarted the app, it updated itself, and it hasn't happened since.  I also didn't lose my workout, which was nice.

3) The heart rate band is kind of thin and cheap in comparison to some that I've used. After you use it, the material gets bunched up, which makes it slightly uncomfortable; TomTom take a look at the bands from companies like Wahoo-- they are thicker and don't bunch up.

4) Here's my biggest beef so far:  I have not yet found a way to turn off the GPS sensor, so when I'm riding on the trainer in the basement, it picks up a weak GPS signal and then screws up all your data-- calories, distance, etc., which you could get with the wheel / speed sensor.  This is dumb and needs to be fixed.  For now, I wrap a piece of aluminum foil around the GPS sensor to block that signal. (This doesn't seem to be working as well as I thought it would... back to the drawing board!)  Again, dumb and this should be an easy fix.

All in all, I really like the watch so far!  I used an online coupon code to reduce the price of the MapMyFitness MVP membership to $20 for a year (their free service is perfectly adequate, but I wanted the greater fidelity on heart rate, cadence, etc.).  TomTom should either get their own site fixed or just work a deal with MapMyFitness to give away that service for free, at least for the first year.

So far I'm pleased with TomTom's effort with this watch!  It comes in three flavors:  the Performance Bundle, which includes all of the stuff I mentioned in this initial review, for about $300; the watch with the heart rate monitor (and not the bike cadence / speed sensor) for about $250; or the GPS watch alone for about $200.  Using any of these links to purchase benefits our site without costing you a penny more, so thanks!

I'll do a part two of this review once I get it in the pool to see how well it does there and after I've had more time to use it in general! 

Here's TomTom's video of the watch in action:

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