TomTom Spark 3 review

TomTom's smartwatches may not be the best looking, but with built-in GPS and additional fitness features available, it's an option worth considering if fitness is your focus rather than simple activity tracking. They're also waterproof so you can wear the Spark to swim - many activity trackers are only water-resistant and cannot be worn in the pool. See also: Best smartwatches 2016

Also see: Best Black Friday Fitness Tracker Deals

TomTom Spark 3 review: Price

The TomTom Spark is a range of four different models that vary in price because they have slightly different features.

The TomTom Spark Cardio + Music model is the top end of the range, is available for £199.99.

There's also the Cardio (£169.99), Music + Headphones (£149.99) and the bottom of the range Spark 3 which costs £119.99 from Currys.

They're available in various colours and there are small and large sizes, so be sure to pick the right size before you buy.

TomTom Spark 3 review: Design and build

TomTom Spark review

The TomTom Spark offers little for the fashionable among you. It's a bit on the chunky side, and its squared-off design with reasonably large bezels around the display could definitely be better looking. TomTom has added the option of a large or small strap, though, with the small coming in black or purple and the large coming in black or brown, which is a nice touch.

Menus are very basic, but fairly easy to navigate. The Spark is durable, though. It's water-resistant and the plastic strap was hard wearing in our tests, so you'll be able to wear it all day every day, even when you're on a particularly muddy bike ride or heading out for a swim. Thankfully it's also comfortable and surprisingly light.

If you're looking for something stylish as a smartwatch, the TomTom Spark isn't for you. You should look elsewhere to the Motorola Moto 360, the Samsung Gear S2, the Huawei Watch or the LG Watch Urbane. But if style isn't such a big deal to you and you're looking for a way to enhance workouts and track sports activities then read on, because you might have just found what you're looking for.

TomTom Spark 3 review: Hardware and specs

The TomTom Spark's screen is a monochrome display that has a backlight for an evening jog. It's not touchscreen, though – to navigate you use the physical controller button beneath the screen, situated on the strap.

All of the models available offer GPS tracking, wireless syncing with your smartphone, automatic sleep tracking and audio performance feedback.

If you enjoy listening to music whilst out on the run but don't want to take your phone with you, you might want to opt for the Music model of the Spark, which has 3GB of on-board storage space that'll let you store more than 500 songs on the device itself, which you'll be able to listen to via Bluetooth headphones.

Then there's the Spark Cardio, which doesn't have space for music but does have a heart rate monitor to help improve your workouts.

The Cardio + Music model offers the heart-rate monitor as well as the 3GB storage space.

Having these various models has the potential to become confusing, but we actually think it's a nice idea to give users the option of saving a bit of cash if they prefer to listen to the sounds of nature on their run or if heart-rate tracking isn't something of interest. We'll have to wait and see just how much of a difference it'll make to the price, though.

TomTom Spark 3 review: Software and compatibility

The TomTom Spark range runs TomTom's own software that's pretty basic in terms of looks but is easy to use and encompasses features that'll suit a huge range of people. Paired with the TomTom MySports app, available for Android and iOS, you'll be able to see your steps, active minutes and calories burnt, and you'll also be able to set goals to challenge yourself further.

Multisport mode means you can record training sessions whether you're running, cycling, swimming, at the gum or on a treadmill. And thanks to the GPS, you'll be able to accurately track your speed, pace and distance, even if you've left your phone at home, which is something many rival smartwatches miss out on.

TomTom Spark review

Compared to other trackers, the app dashboard not the easiest to use.

TomTom Spark 3 review: as a running watch or cycling watch

Matt Egan 

I'm a keen runner and cyclist, and much prefer to use GPS-enabled performance device such as the Spark 3 than an activity tracker or a full-featured smartwatch. An activity tracker that measures steps is really no use if your aim is to improve athletic performance.

TomTom has a good reputation with runners and cyclists, and I have previously enjoyed using both TomTom's Multi-Sport Cardio and the Microsoft Band 2 to accurately measure performance during and after exercise. Knowing how fast and far you are traveling as it is happening is critical if you are looking to improve. So I was looking forward to testing the Spark 3 Cardio + Music. I tested it on multiple occasions running and cycling outside. There are also indoor cycle and treadmill functions, which we didn't test (indoor exercise is always an approximation anyway, and you can get the data from your exercise equipment). 

The TomTom Spark 3 offers several great features for performance athletes. For one thing the GPS locks on as quickly as any device I have tested. This is a movable feast, and depends on the weather and atmospheric conditions. But in my testing, I got a GPS lock within a few seconds of stepping out of the door and hitting run or cycle. TomTom advises regularly updating your Spark 3 to ensure a fast fix to GPS satellites.

I am also a fan of the interface. The display is monochrome, but the big clear numbers are displayed in such a way that I always know how fast I am traveling - at all times of the day, on foot and on the bike, in all weathers. The full waterproofing helps here too: I have lost a device or two to running in the rain, and so it is great to be comfortable that the water won't hurt. As an adendum to that point, the ability to play music from your watch is a bonus here too. Not a core function for athletes, but it does mean that you don't need to take your phone with you in order to listen to music. 

The heart rate monitor is always on, and seemed to be accurate in our tests. It certainly mapped my bursts of effort as I experienced them. You can use the heart rate monitor to set the level of exercise you want to attain, which is a nice feature for those who are aiming for weight loss or similar. 

Software and app support is great, if somewhat standard. You can pair with your laptop via the charging cable or your smartphone via Bluetooth. Then record all of your performances and track improvement. 

TomTom Sport

One feature that is worth checking out is Route Exploration. I recently moved house and although I know the area, it was cool to select a trail I didn't know, and follow the watch as it led me around hill and dale. Every runner knows that the best way to explore a new area is on the hoof, and a feature like this makes that whole process much more fun.

In general, then, I am a big fan of the Spark 3. It's not cheap, as is the case with GPS-enabled devices. But it works well, and with waterproofing and Route Exploration offers a grea feature set. If you are serious about improving times and distances, it will help.

TomTom Spark 3 review: as a swimming tracker

Where trackers like the iHealth Wave let you down in the pool, the TomTom Spark offers a ray of hope. You get plenty of data, not in the most downloadable way, but it does give useful information. Unlike the iHealth it does not record changes in stroke, though. The TomTom is simple to use, but we're not convinced about its accuracy. 

You get basic distance and time recording plus strokes per minute and speed. However, the Spark showed 7 strokes per minute lower than the £180 Garmin Vivoactive HR when tested at same time, and we're sure it's the TomTom figure that's too low rather than the Garmin being too high. The Spark may be a lot cheaper but it doesn’t offer any unique swimming functions and displays very little usable analytics.

You might also like: Best swimming trackers

TomTom Spark 3: Specs

  • Battery lifetime: Activity tracking: up to 3 weeks, GPS: up to 11 hours, GPS + Heart Rate + Music: up to 5 hours
  • Waterproofing: 40 m / 130 feet (5 ATM)
  • Display size: 22x25 mm
  • Steps, active minutes, distance, calories burnt and sleep
  • 3 GB storage
  • 11.5 x 35 x 206 mm
  • 71 g
  • Battery lifetime: Activity tracking: up to 3 weeks, GPS: up to 11 hours, GPS + Heart Rate + Music: up to 5 hours
  • Waterproofing: 40 m / 130 feet (5 ATM)
  • Display size: 22x25 mm
  • Steps, active minutes, distance, calories burnt and sleep
  • 3 GB storage
  • 11.5 x 35 x 206 mm
  • 71 g

OUR VERDICT

TomTom knew exactly who it was targeting when it designed this fitness tracker: fitness fanatics that simply want a way to track their activity and improve their workouts without complicating things with additional features. GPS makes a huge difference to the quality of fitness tracking, and with the ability to store music right there on the watch it's the only tech you'll need to take with you on your run or bike ride. However, to keep the cost down, it does lack some features you might like such as touchscreen and colour display. But as long as these things don't bother you and you don't need really detailed swim stats, it's a decent choice.