Santa is officially on high alert with the impending public release of the TomTom Runner 2/SPARK range on November 1st, starting around £110/US$150.
The Runner 2/SPARK is designed for beginners-to-fairly-serious runners who may also delve into gyms, classes and maybe the odd duathlon/triathlon.
Positives: Some models have a new and improved Optical Heart Rate Monitor (oHRM) and some have inbuilt music. This is great for those of us who like to train with music and equally great for those of us who don’t like to wear or who can’t comfortably wear chest straps (many women, for example).
oHRM & Music: 2 highly distinctive features .
For the more serious runner, intervals are supported and the GPS-based pace/speed is improved over the original Runner model.
There is a motion-based activity tracker for steps and sleep.
The free TomTom MySports App updates quick satellite fix data on the Runner 2 as well as enabling activity uploads to the phone/internet at the end of your session.
The Runner 2/SPARK supports Bluetooth SMART sensors – heart rate straps, bike speed sensors, bike cadence sensors and headphones for audio feedback.
As well as cycling and gym/class usage, the Runner 2 also supports pool swimming by recognising the number of strokes and turns.
The LifeQ/OSRAM optical HR sensor was pleasingly accurate in tests so far (see detailed review) and has the potential to measure blood oxygen levels.
MP3 and AAC format music is supported up to 320bits/sec. Sound quality is great (because it is digital) – the quality comes from the bitrate and the digital-analog conversion which will be in your Bluetooth headphones.
Autolaps can be based on time (yes!) or distance and there are the usual zones.
Smart notification is scheduled to be introduced towards the end of 2015.
Negatives: The oHRM is not presently used to assess sleep quality (this is one of several possible future firmware upgrades). The oHRM is disabled in water sports.
No running footpod support, so running pace can only come from GPS.
Does not support pre-planned, structured and more complex workouts.
320bits/sec MP3s had frequent sound drop outs when worn on opposite to wrist to the side of the body where the earbud’s Bluetooth antennae was located (wear on same side!).
Whilst the Runner 2 could be used in a triathlon it does not have a multiple consecutive sports mode – ie it can be used for multiple sports, singly.
5 hours official battery life for GPS+HR+Music, 9 for GPS/HR, 11 for GPS only.
Comments: If you look at the alternatives (below) you will see that in the TomTom Runner 2/SPARK we have a unique product that, AT THE SAME TIME, will appeal to quite a lot of people with its full feature set. This is quite remarkable.
So whilst the Runner 2 clearly targets other sports watches with its optical HR it ALSO targets the smartphone market with the inclusion of music. It ticks a lot of boxes and it could do very well indeed.
IMO calling it the Runner 2 (UK) is constraining. Probably the Runner name builds upon the success with the original Runner product a few years ago. It’s constraining because it is much more than a running watch; OK some detailed/technical running features are absent but the breadth of what the product offers is VERY good and DOES clearly cover MORE than running.
In the USA it is called SPARK, perhaps emphasising the gym/class side to the product and avoiding it getting erroneously classed as ‘just’ a running watch.
Alternatives: If you went for the top-end Runner 2/Spark option that included MUSIC and OPTICAL HR then you probably would struggle to find anything else that could do that same job other than the adidas miCoach (2013) which does not properly support cycling. Regardless of whichever model you choose you will receive a highly competent running watch.
Note: An optical HRM is incorporated into other products such as the Epson SF-810 and Garmin 225 and other activity bands/watches but none of these have music. Music obviously can come from a smartphone with a running app BUT an additional HRM is required with a smartphone such as a wrist based optical MIO Link. (I don’t count some products like the Apple Watch as ‘proper’ running devices).
Detailed Review: Is (here).
Price: Good starting price for a quality GPS watch especially if you already have a HRM. If not buy the CARDIO Version with the quality inbuilt oHRM!
|TomTom Runner 2 (no oHRM, no music)||£109.99||Link||$149.99||Link|
|TomTom Runner 2 Cardio + Music||£229.99||Link||$249.99||Link|