Review – TomTom Runner 2 Cardio + Music (aka SPARK)

TomTom Runner 2 - SPARK - Music Cardio GPS

TomTom Runner 2 – SPARK – Music Cardio GPS

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

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0 thoughts on “Review – TomTom Runner 2 Cardio + Music (aka SPARK)

  1. I have a TomTom Multisport, would you say the HR monitor is more accurate on this one? I have light skin, I mostly do running and would love the MP3 part, but I don’t want to shell out a lot of money only to get MP3 capability 🙂

    Also is the display improved so more data can be displayed at one time or customized at least?

  2. I pre-ordered the watch and was eagerly awaiting to received it to try out the Music function, the true unique selling proposition of the device IMO.
    Quite disappointed to say that the watch is guaranteed to work only with 6/7 rather high-end bluetooth headsets out there. Many (including some posters above) have reported audio drop outs when the watch is not perfectly line-of-sight with the headset (which happens every toher step when running right?). I have 2 mpows and Motorola BT headsets and none of them work properly. On the Tomtom support forum they are saying that they are working on a solution but again can only guarantee compatibility with that short list of expensive headsets. If you havent bought it yet and you are not willing to shell out an extra $90-100 on a new headset, I’d wait for if/when the solution will be found.
    In my personal opinion, this is a major technical issues and one that Tomtom should be handling better with loyal customers who have jumped the gun to get this product.

    • I tried with cheap low-end ear buds and also expensive ones…all worked equally as well and none were the recommended ones by TomTom.
      I too experienced the audio drop out. But when the Bluetooth receiver and sender of BOTH devices were on the same side of the body this dropout did not happen for me – not ideal. Bluetooth signals do not travel through water – maybe they have difficulty passing through the human body?? I can only report what I found.
      Bluetooth is not such a ‘standard’ as most people think – for example, the major smartphone makers have all had issues implementing decent Bluetooth SMART connectivity in Android 4.4.4 and earlier. Of course, you could equally have issues with other Bluetooth headphones/players. Readers might want to go with the TomTom headphones if unduly concerned or find a friendly retailer who will let them test their own beforehand.

      Edit: NB not all companies have implemented Bluetooth Low Energy in the same way. Google it and you will see.

      • Hi Race Leader,
        actually bluetooth is a standard: 25.000 telecom, consumer electronics and networking companies belong to Bluetooth Special Interest Group and outline inter-operability among all devices and peripherals that use this wireless technology (source: wikipedia).
        I take your point that no one guarantees 100% compatibility with all bluetooth peripherals but in the case of the Tomtom Spark Cardio + Music it’s quite the opposite: they guarantee compatibility with six 3rd party headsets (1 proprietary) out of hundreds of headsets out there. There is not a single mp3 player out there that limits compatibility to such a small number of headsets.
        The fact that you experience audio dropout by simply placing the watch on the “wrong” wrist (the wrist furthest from the bluetooth antenna on the handset) is proof that Tomtom has messed up the implementation of bluetooth on the device. Bluetooth audio peripherals are usually Class 2 meaning the can up to 10 meters (30+ feet) from the source. having it on the wrong wrist may add 20-30cm (1 foot) distance but not more. AS an example, my mpow headsets (best selling bluetooth headset on Amazon) work up to 8-10 meters away from my iPod Nano. If I use them with the Spark and swing my arm behind my back as if i was running the audio drops out. This is clearly a major technical issue with the device. Search on the internet “TomTom Spark bluetooth audio dropouts2 and you’ll find plenty of forums with people complaining of the issue. Including Tomtom’s own support forums where they admit they are having quite a bit of trouble solving this issue.
        Your advice about buying the watch with a Tomtom branded headset is valid but greatly changes the economics of the purchase.
        I was a big fan of the tomtom multisport cardio and i’m very dissapointed with the Spark.
        My advice to your reader instead would be to wait for Tomtom to fix the issue.

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