TomTom launched the strapless Runner Cardio GPS sport watch with cutting-edge heart rate technology in South Africa on Thursday 14 August. The Runner Cardio has a built-in heart rate monitor, eliminating the need for a separate chest strap.
The media were invited to a morning of experiencing the new unit. After a screening of the cheeky The Joy of Strapless Running video, we got to put our hearts through their paces on stationary bikes, while the units recorded without the fuss of a fitting chest strap.
Back at base, this reviewer has done several runs and observations are:
- The Runner Cardio feels really light on the wrist, especially when compared to a more traditional (and purposefully beefier) GPS unit on the other arm.
- It does need to be fitted close and tight to prevent ambient light interfering with the Mio® optical sensor’s reading the pulse through the wrist’s skin. This might make it an issue with people with sensitive wrists, but I had no problems with the slightly greater pressure.
- Unlike the TomTom Runner, which still uses a chest strap (yes, how arcane!), the GPS itself doesn’t easily pop out of the strap. It can (to swop out different colours or to give it a good clean, for example), but there’s no need to do this for charging. You simply separate the two enough to allow the charge cradle to connect. I think this works better than having the two separated – the possibility of misplacing one is just too obvious for athletes under pressure, or waking early with a fuzzy brain and hunting for gear.
- The left-right scroll through readings is intuitive and I prefer it to multi-button systems where I almost invariably forget which is which and pause the workout or worse still, go to a mode I battle to back out of.
- Readings seem to more conservative at the start of workouts, compared to a more expensive (but older) rival brand I am using as a comparison device. I think the older unit is misreading. After 20 minutes of reading, both units tend to agree on heart rate values.
- The GPS pick-up is the quickest I’ve seen for any brand and consistently beats the other unit (which to be fair, is now three years old).
- The Runner Cardio is a watch I’d recommend for someone who wants the most important heart rate training functions but doesn’t want to actually navigate with it.
- It’s the answer to prayers from women (and men) for an alternative to often uncomfortable chest straps (read the comments at tail of this article).
- I think it’s going to be a game changer, provided the Mio® optical sensor technology pleases the users in the months ahead. I cannot see why not. We may have a training revolution brewing. Review: Deon Braun, TRAIL magazine
The company’s press release promises that “the TomTom Runner Cardio makes it easy to train in your optimal heart rate zone. Runners can select one of five intensity zones to match their training goals and will receive alerts to know whether they need to speed up or slow down. Road and trail runners can see real-time heart rate, distance, pace and other essential running information at a glance, while running.”
“Once again, TomTom is making innovative technology accessible to everyone,” says Daan Hendrickx, Country Manager of TomTom Southern Africa. “We know that heart rate monitoring is the single most accurate way to understand how the body is responding to exercise. Now, with the launch of the Runner Cardio, all runners can easily use heart rate training to improve their performance.”
The Runner Cardio accurately measures heart rate with a Mio® optical sensor, which monitors changes in blood flow by beaming light through the skin.
After the activity, you can view your route and other key stats on TomTom MySports, other popular sites as well as using the MySports app on devices, so that you can continue to monitor your progress. You can upload activities automatically with the TomTom MySports app.
The TomTom Runner Cardio became available from 14 August at selected retailers with a recommended retail price of R3,799.
Also available now is a Multi-Sport Cardio sport watch at selected retailers at R4,599.
A third option is the Multi-Sport Cardio Bundle which includes Altimeter, Cadence and HRM for R5,599.
Comments from TRAIL magazine readers: