TomTom Spark 3 review: A fitness watch for all

£200
Price when reviewed

But how does it actually perform? As I mentioned earlier, I wore the TomTom Spark 3 for around three weeks, during which time it took in a number of five-a-side matches and a few 5k+ runs. I should add that in one of the five-a-side matches I was ordered to take it off by the referee – it’s not as discreet as a fitness band.

At every opportunity I pitted the TomTom Spark 3 on my right wrist against the Fitbit Charge 2 on my left. The key difference between the two wearables, of course, is built-in GPS, meaning that in football – theoretically – the Charge 2 should be markedly less accurate than the TomTom as it would be separated from my phone, where it cribs its GPS data from.

That seems to hold true, as evidenced by the sample five-a-side game below. That’s the TomTom on top, which gives a reading of 1.65km in 35:42. Below that is the Fitbit, saying I covered 2.08km in 36 minutes. Heart-rate readings are even more inconsistent. Where Fitbit says I maxed out at 146bpm (110bpm average), TomTom gives a far more realistic 179bpm (126bpm average).five_a_side_tomtom_spark_3_vs_fitbit_charge_2

Distance-wise, which is right? For that, it’s impossible to say with any certainty, without someone following me around the pitch with a trundle wheel. For that reason, Park Run gives us the perfect second opinion: the courses are accurately measured out to be exactly 5km. So which won here – bearing in mind that in this instance the Fitbit was piggybacking on my phone’s GPS?tomtom_spark_3_vs_fitbit_charge_hr_2

Neither, as it turns out. On every park run I took part in – across three separate venues – both the Fitbit and the TomTom Spark 3 consistently underestimated the distance traveled. Here is just one example, taken at Beckton Park Run in East London. The course was 5km, but the TomTom Spark 3 says I ran for 4.81km, while the Fitbit Charge 2 guessed 4.87km. To be fair, neither were significantly out, but it goes to show there are limits to GPS. Once again, I’m more inclined to trust the heart rate estimated by TomTom (high: 174bpm, average: 153bpm) over the Fitbit (high: 146bpm, average: 135bpm).tomtom_spark_3_vs_fitbit_charge_2_heart_rate

While I used the TomTom Spark 3 for football and running, it isn’t limited to those activities. Take swimming, for example, where the watch will count your strokes, lengths, speed and display your overall distance, and there are also gym, treadmill and cycle training modes. With Bluetooth compatibility, it’s also possible to connect to Bluetooth accessories, such as a chest belt for even more accurate heart-rate measurement. However, there isn’t support for ANT+, which is disappointing.

But this is a fitness watch and not a smartwatch. There are still no smartphone notifications to distract you from the open road, say.[gallery:4]

TomTom Spark 3: Different models

Before closing, I should talk a little bit about pricing, because the range can be a little bit confusing. First off, I should say that for every model – even the cheapest – to include GPS is a brilliant step forward. Previously, the cheapest GPS-enabled wearable I can think of is the Garmin Vivosmart HR+ at £170. The cheapest TomTom Spark 3 comes in at just £120.

Of course, to get that version, you’re making some sacrifices. While the £120 Fitbit doesn’t have GPS (you’re looking at the slightly long-in-the-tooth £200 Fitbit Surge for that), it does have a heart-rate sensor, something the entry-level TomTom Spark 3 lacks. For that, you’re looking at a steep increase to £170, putting it level with the brilliant Garmin Vivosmart HR+.

On the other hand, if you don’t care about heart rate, you may still want to stream music so you’re completely phone-free. For that, you’re looking at the Music + Headphones model, which comes in at £150.

To get music and heart rate, the price leaps again. This time to £200:

Finally, there’s a bundle with all that and TomTom headphones, for an eye-watering £250:

My feeling is that while the base product is very good value indeed, it quickly loses the advantage it has over its rivals as soon as it closes in on £200. My personal pick of those is the Music + Headphones model for £150 – that’s all you need to be truly phone-free outside, and that’s still pretty reasonable. Any more than that and its rivals become more competitive – although it’s true that local music storage is an unsung feature outside of TomTom’s world.

TomTom Spark 3: Verdict

It’s hard to believe that the TomTom Spark 3 and the TomTom Touch are part of the same range, and that’s a good thing for the Spark 3. While the TomTom Touch coupled flaky operations with battery life that some mayflies would feel shortchanged by, the TomTom Spark 3 is a solid operator that includes everything you need from a fitness tracker, and a little bit more.[gallery:5]

Whether or not the upgraded version is for you depends on the type of runner you are. Are you, like me, stuck in your ways and rotate a set number of running routes that you know inside out? If so, the Spark 3 is probably overkill and you may as well get the previous version, which we still like a great deal.

If, however, you love running in strange new places, but can’t bear doing it without the crutch of Google Maps on your phone, then the TomTom Spark 3 is practically made for you. It may not look too stylish, but it’s hard to think of a better combination of features for the price.

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