This is one of the most pleasant reviews I’ve had the pleasure of writing – it is a story of redemption for the TomTom Cardio watch. Previously I purchased the watch from a third-party reseller and wrote a review that pointed out how poorly the watch functioned. I ended up getting another watch directly from TomTom after hearing that there was a small chance I had gotten a defective watch. It turns out that the TomTom Cardio works great and the previous watch I had gotten was in fact defective. Now I’ll review the watch in full detail, talking about the optical heart rate monitor and all the other features that make this watch great.
TomTom Cardio Features
The TomTom Cardio has a very special feature that most watches are just getting to market a year or more after TomTom has – optical heart rate monitoring. The optical heart rate monitoring is the main selling point this watch and it works quite well. On the back of the watch there is a couple special lights and a sensor that calculates the reflected light coming back from your skin and very accurately calculates your heart rate. I have found it to work accurately through all levels of running, during the day or night, and even for obstacle racing.
Another interesting feature, that is more of a clever design side effect, is the main button placement. There is one central button that you can push in four different directions, kind of like for an old Nintendo controller. This is a feature because I can’t count how many times I have accidentally stopped my watch when my wrist bends during a barbed wire crawl or some other obstacle that gets my hand bent fully back. It also makes for a really simple few choices of how to navigate the watch while you are running. To stop the watch takes more than a quick click, you need to hold it for about 2 seconds, so that also gets rid of the accidental stoppages.
The GPS is fairly fast from a cold start but still a little slower than most of my newer Garmin watches. I have a theory that this is based on the frequent GPS updates pushed out by Garmin and the lack of updates pushed by TomTom.
TomTom Cardio Usage
I’m always a little sad to switch between my current GPS watch to the new one I’m reviewing and this one was no different at first. I no longer had a touch screen or the customized screen layouts I was used to. What did have me pretty happy from the get go was the built in HR monitoring. Normally I would only choose to wear my monitor if I wanted to check against a benchmark workout or if I was trying to make sure I ran hard enough or more commonly easy enough (I tend to go too hard without checking myself). Now I always would have that data available to me if I wanted to peek at it or I could just ignore it. But what this means is that all of my runs now have HR and GPS data from here forward – now technically every run can be used as a benchmark run with context to my previous HR and GPS or just on its own.
As much as I enjoy the seamless heart rate and gps integration the watch isn’t without a few flaws. The simple navigations means that it also has simple screens that aren’t always what you want to see. The actual data screen is very simple and navigated mainly through up and down clicks on the center button. The choices you have are Clock Time, Duration, Distance, Current Pace, Average Pace, Calories Burned, Heart Rate, and Heart Rate Zone. But only one at a time plus the little bar at the top that always has duration and distance. There is also no lap times or alerts at the end of each mile. This is the one of the areas that most Garmin Watches excel with the customization you can choose or choose not to do.
Another unfortunate problem I found out at a recent obstacle race was that sand or dirt can get stuck in the main button. I was able to wash it out after the race but I couldn’t really navigate the watches menus or stop button when I finished. So that center button being a surprising clever feature I mentioned early also cuts in the other direction under certain circumstances.
And one final small detail that isn’t a big deal to most but something I had grown used to on my Garmin watches is the post run recap on screen. When you end a run on the TomTom Cardio you just get back to the main time screen which is great for letting you know you are done and the battery isn’t being drained any more. But to get to your post run details you need to do the following:
Compared to a watch like the Garmin 620 the tracking was also very similar. Here I wore both watches and I overlaid them in photoshop so you could see how closely they lined up while running through city streets with buildings all around.
Overall I would say using the watch for running outside and even on a treadmill has been great. It’s as accurate as any other GPS watch I’ve used plus always having the heart rate data without a chest strap is just amazing. The charging and syncing to their site online after running is fast and easy with their included USB plug. A cool thing about their charging to the computer is that it doesn’t ask or require you to eject the device prior to unplugging unlike all other GPS or Smart watches.
TomTom Cardio Durability
The TomTom Cardio has held up pretty well to all the running, trail runs, and a few OCR races. It did have the problem I mentioned with sand and dirt getting stuck in the button. I would say that it is functional for OCR but a little flawed, otherwise it will stand the test of time for all other types of running. The battery life seems to still be the same after months of usage and my irregular charging schedule – usually batteries start to show problems in 6+ months so I would love to hear from anyone that has one about the long term battery life.
TomTom Cardio Pros and Cons
- No heart rate chest strap needed, optical HR built into the watch
- Multiple watch bands and bike handle bar mount included
- GPS and heart rate integration looks great on website after syncing
- Very affordable at only $199.99
- The in watch interface lacks display options while running
- A little slower to acquire GPS signal than competition
- Not very fashionable as a normal watch
- Some people have issues with HR accuracy – contact TomTom
TomTom Cardio Competition
|TomTom Cardio||Garmin 225||Fitbit Surge||Microsoft Band 2|
|Battery Life||8 Hours||4 weeks as watch, 10 hours with GPS||7 days without GPS, 5 hours with GPS||2 days without GPS, 2-3 Hours with GPS|
|Heart Rate Monitor||Optical||Optical||Yes, optical||Optical|
|Waterproof||5 ATM (50 Meters)||5 ATM (50 Meters)||50 Meters (no swimming)||Water-resistant IPX7, Up to 1 Meter|
|Weight||2.22 oz||1.91 oz||1.8 oz||2.1 oz.|
|Phone Compatibility||Android, iOS||Android, iOS||Android, iOS, Windows||Android, iOS, Windows|
TomTom Cardio Verdict
As of the moment I am writing this review this watch has become my primary running watch. I enjoy not having to think about wether or not I’m in the mood to put on a heart rate strap since it is integrated. I would however want more options and settings that I can change. I like to see more things at once on my watch, especially lap splits at every mile. I would also very much like to have something like an UltraTrac mode that the Garmin’s have. So my final word on this watch is buy it if you want a feature rich watch for an affordable price without the ability to customize as much as other GPS running watches.