The GPS watch market is becomingÂ quite busyÂ withÂ mostÂ manufacturers offering a watch for all occasions, making it difficult for consumers to choose whichÂ is the best for their needs. However with specialist modelsÂ availableÂ for running, cycling, swimming, triathlon, and various other sports, is there any one product which covers â€˜all of the aboveâ€™ and if so, is it good enough to cover all sports effectively, as well as functioning as an actual watch?
In October 2016, alongside a refresh of their Spark and Runner watches, TomTom launched the new â€˜Adventurer GPS Outdoor Watchâ€™ and as we love a good trail eventÂ at Trek and Run, we decided to put it through its paces during two trail marathons (one of which is dubbed â€˜the toughest off-road trail marathon in the UKâ€™)Â and through my winter training as IÂ work towardsÂ my first full-distance Iron triathlon next year. Hereâ€™s how I got on…
Using the TomTom Adventurer while running…
TomTomâ€™s historyÂ withÂ sports watchesÂ comes from their runningÂ devices, and without a doubt itâ€™s clear theyâ€™ve got thisÂ areaÂ down to a T. In November 2015 I reviewed TomTomâ€™s Cardio Multisport GPS watchÂ (http://product-reviews.trekandrun.com/2015/11/14/tomtom-cardio-multisport-gps-watch/)Â and while reviewing Iâ€™d been disappointed at times when the distance shown had beenÂ inaccurateÂ which can throw out the pace calculation â€“ not good news when youâ€™re training or racing to a set pace â€“ however this time the distance measuredÂ were much more accurate, and I found the displayed pace was much more stable,Â offering much greater reliability.
TomTomâ€™sÂ FastGPSÂ has also improved and I was often picking up GPS signal before Iâ€™d even left my house,Â and on the odd occasion when I didnâ€™t, it would connect within 30 seconds of leaving my front door. While there havenâ€™t beenÂ any majorÂ changes to theÂ MysportsÂ app and website, it continues to offer a great summary of activities with enough information toÂ satisfy any data geeks, as well as the ability to share data with other popular applications such asÂ Strava,Â RunkeeperÂ andÂ TrainingPeaks. As someone whoÂ has previouslyÂ trackedÂ myÂ steps on Fitbit I was disappointed not to see their app on the list, however I found it was possible to gain Fitbit credit for steps indirectly by linking both apps toÂ Myfitnesspal, althoughÂ through this methodÂ only steps taken during activitiesÂ were tracked, which inÂ some cases only counted for a fraction of my daily steps.
One of the big featuresÂ settingÂ the Adventurer apart from TomTomâ€™s other GPS offeringsÂ are the â€˜Trail runningâ€™ features which make use of a built-in Barometer to track altitude and 3D distance (offering the ability for much more realistic distance tracking), alongside features for tracking your route and setting up either a breadcrumb trail (to find your way home following the same route) or the ability to pre-load your own routes. Iâ€™ll admit that at first I was wondering whether the trail features would be gimmicky â€“ more of a Unique Selling Point rather than anything of use during a trail race â€“ however during the Beachy Head Marathon IÂ foundÂ knowing the gradient of each hillÂ meant I couldÂ judge the effort I should expend on each climbÂ â€“ i.e. walking when the gradient showed it would be inefficient to keep runningÂ â€“Â plusÂ post-event,Â having that extra level of detail with the elevation dataÂ offeredÂ a further wayÂ toÂ analyse my performance.
Using the TomTom adventurer while swimming…
Again, looking back to my 2015 review of the Multisport Cardio one of the things Iâ€™d complained about was the inaccuracy of the swimming feature, however this hasÂ been addressed and I was much happier with the results from the Adventurer watch.Â As GPS mode isnâ€™t enabled during swimming the watch instead relies on sensingÂ both theÂ change in direction and push-off from a wall to measure the start and finish of each lapÂ withÂ user input is required to tell the watch the length of the pool, however the watch was incredibly accurate (even sensing the end of a final lap whenÂ I stopped swimmingÂ â€“ something lacking on other watches Iâ€™ve tested) and I found this led to much more accurate feedback with reliable distances quoted.
Although I didnâ€™t completeÂ anyÂ open water swimming over the winter, one feature still missing from TomTomâ€™s watches is an open-water swim setting utilising GPS while swimming. Understandably this can be an awkward function to provide as GPS doesnâ€™t work in water so Iâ€™d imagine someÂ prettyÂ smart computing power is required to make this function effective, however as itâ€™s a function otherÂ manufacturers offer,Â itâ€™s one Iâ€™d love to see built into TomTomâ€™s next model as the lack of this ability alongside the lack of a true multisport function (i.eÂ the ability to switch sports during activities) is something I feel is still holding back TomTomâ€™s watches from being considered â€˜Triathlon-suitableâ€™ and while this wonâ€™t be an issue for most athletes, it does rule out a number of potential customers in the fast-growing Triathlon market.Â Bring on the TomTom Tri-sport in 2018!
Using the TomTomÂ Adventurer while cycling…
While I found theÂ Adventurerâ€™sÂ elevation features useful duringÂ trailÂ running activities, they really came into playÂ when looking back over cyclesÂ as they offered a chance to check out pace and heart-rate against elevation (very useful for judging efficiency) as well as the much more important ability to bragÂ and/or justify that extra slice of cakeÂ when highlightingÂ how many feet you climbed throughout your â€˜gentle Sunday-morning 50 milerâ€™!Â AlongsideÂ outdoor mode, the watch also features an â€˜IndoorÂ cyclingâ€™Â setting whereÂ GPSÂ is disabled so the watch can be usedÂ in a spin class or onÂ aÂ turboÂ trainer. In this mode the Heart Rate monitor felt very accurate, allowing me to monitor my zones effectively as I completed spin workouts.
OneÂ minorÂ complaint here would be the factÂ aÂ bike mountÂ isnâ€™t includedÂ in the pack so there will beÂ anÂ extra expense if youâ€™d rather the screen was easily viewableÂ on your handlebars rather than on your wrist, however the amount of information viewableÂ by flicking through the screensÂ is more than adequate for most cyclists, and the Adventurerâ€™sÂ â€˜Trailsâ€™Â mapping featuresÂ could beÂ especially useful for cyclists who may have previously relied onÂ a bike computerÂ to monitor performance stats and route mappingÂ at the same time.
Using the TomTom Adventurer as a lifestyle tool…
While earlyÂ multi-sportÂ GPS watches would typically beÂ bulky andÂ used during sportsÂ thenÂ swapped out for a normal watch at other times, consumers are increasingly wearing their devices 24/7 so I thought it would beÂ alsoÂ worth looking at how the Adventurer fares as a daily timekeeper as well as a sports device.
At first glance some might be unsure about wearing the Adventurer all the time as the bright orange strap isnâ€™t exactly subtle, however I received a few positive comments when people noticed it, with one person even stating â€I can tell youâ€™re sporty by your flashy watchâ€.Â Itâ€™s also worth noting the device can be easily popped out of the strap (for use with a bike mount or a different coloured/style strap), although at time of writing there arenâ€™t any other straps available just yet despite the fact the device is shown in a plain black strap on TomTomâ€™s site,Â butÂ I imagineÂ theyÂ will be available eventually.
While the watch is slightly bulkier than a standard watchÂ orÂ other fitness devices, I foundÂ the sizeÂ didnâ€™t cause too much grief unless I was wearing aÂ jumper or jacketÂ with tight sleeves, although IÂ didÂ feelÂ uncomfortable wearing it during the night, which obviously affected my ability to use the device to track sleep.Â As with most fitness trackers and sports watches the Adventurer alsoÂ featuresÂ the ability to trackÂ daily and weeklyÂ steps,Â alongsideÂ daily and weeklyÂ measurements for â€˜calories burnedâ€™,Â â€˜distance travelledâ€™ and â€˜time activeâ€™, all of which can also be monitored within theÂ MySportsÂ app.
AnotherÂ great lifestyle feature is the ability to load the device with music (uptoÂ 3gb of space is available so plenty of room for a few albums) and stream the music wirelessly to a set of Bluetooth headphones, either during day-to-day use or during exercise activities. I tested this during one of my longer training runs and although I found the initial setup slightly awkward as you need to ensure music is playing before starting your activity, the sound quality was great and it offered a great way to store and play music without running your phone battery down. HoweverÂ itâ€™s worth noting this feature currentlyÂ only works with actual physical music (i.e. mp3 files),Â so if youÂ typicallyÂ stream using services such asÂ DeezerÂ or Spotify rather than purchase tracks, you may find yourself needing to buy some music to use with the Adventurer.
Using the TomTom adventurer overall…
Iâ€™veÂ tested the TomTom Adventurer over a period of around 3 months and although lÂ did findÂ a fewÂ small items to complain about, Iâ€™ve absolutely loved using this device! Admittedly there are a few features youâ€™ll find you need to get used to such as the fact you need to cover the device completely to activate the backlight rather than just tapping the screen as with most other devices,Â howeverÂ the extra functions TomTom have added into this product makes it ideal for the sports I love to take part in, and a huge improvement on the last TomTom product I tested.Â Itâ€™s also worth pointing out that in addition to the sports I covered, the Adventurer also features Hiking, Ski and Snowboard modes (with the last two able to determine when youâ€™re using a ski-lift and adjust your settings accordingly) making it a great all-rounder for adventure sports.
One minor complaint would be regarding the deviceâ€™s battery life as I often found myselfÂ panickingÂ duringÂ longerÂ events and heavy training days as the battery indicator would head towards empty while running/cycling/swimming, although thankfully it never died on me. TomTom quotes a battery life ofÂ 5 hoursÂ when usingÂ GPS,Â HRÂ monitor and music, 9 hours for GPSÂ andÂ HRÂ andÂ 11 for GPS usage onlyÂ (extended to over 20 hours inÂ â€˜hiking modeâ€™Â by only taking GPS readings every 2 seconds) and while this should be generally ok, itâ€™s worth noting if youâ€™re travelling for a long period of time or arenâ€™t able to charge the device,Â you may need toÂ keep the HR and musicÂ switchedÂ off to conserve battery.
The accuracy of wrist-basedÂ Heart RateÂ monitors are still an area of contention with many athletes, however I feel thisÂ is one area TomTom have improved drastically since their last product I tested. This time round the reading felt much more accurate,Â meaningÂ I wasÂ much more confident whileÂ usingÂ it for Heart Rate training â€“ i.e. keeping my heart rate in â€˜zone twoâ€™ for sustainable endurance activities such as distance runs or long turbo sessions. TomTom also provide a setting where 5Â heart-rateÂ zones can beÂ identified andÂ indicated according to the classicÂ HRÂ equation â€˜220 â€“ ageâ€™, and whileÂ itâ€™s a shame these zones canâ€™t be manually adjusted as a number of exercise professional agree this is a very roughÂ estimate and not ideal for everybody,Â theyÂ offerÂ a rough ideaÂ whichÂ someone new to Heart Rate trainingÂ could find useful.
In summary, the TomTom Adventurer is an excellentÂ all-roundÂ device and a great indicatorÂ of howÂ TomTomâ€™s dedication to runners and athletes in general is strong, as their products continue to improve in this market. Better still, the price tag (currently around Â£250) makes this device a lot more affordable than similar offerings, and a great way to step up from a basic fitness tracking device or sports watch.
To find out more about the TomTom Adventurer, visit:Â www.tomtom.com/en_gb/sports/outdoor-watches