Review: TomTom MultiSport Cardio with built-in heart rate monitor

Sport watches in the market these days usually come with standard features like GPS, water resistance, compass, speed, and distance logs. The chest strap heart rate monitor has always felt like an afterthought, and really, who likes to strap that cumbersome band around your chest?

Dutch GPS company TomTom thought so too, and it decided to up the ante with the launch of its second-generation sports watch series featuring a built-in heart rate monitor, compatible with iOS and Android devices.

Aptly branded the Cardio series, the TomTom Runner Cardio, and the TomTom Multi-Sport Cardio have been rejuvenated with a nicer strap (and a nicer colour), and still retains the large display which, as I have noted in my review of the first-generation watch, is exceedingly clear even in unforgiving weather conditions.

The built-in heart rate monitor works through a sensor that monitors changes in the blood flow in your wrists, by shining light through the skin and detecting the changing light reflections.

TomTom claims that independent testing has shown its built-in heart rate monitor to be highly accurate, comparable to electrocardiography (ECG).

However, the added feature comes with a price. The TomTom Multi-Sport Cardio is 2.8mm thicker than its predecessor (13.88mm) and weighs 13g more (63g).

The Cardio series come with five "intensity zones", or modes according to your training goals: sprint, speed, endure, fat burn, and easy.

I tried using the speed function over a two-week period to train for my Navy fitness test at McRitchie Reservoir. For someone who is lackadaisical, I passed the fitness test at my first attempt, a feat I attribute no less to my sheer determination... and the motivation to train with the TomTom Multi-Sport Cardio on loan.

There are two components to the watch - the wrist strap and watch module. The watch module looks similar to the first generation GPS series, retaining the clunky GPS component below the screen, which also doubles up as a one-button control.

The periphery of the wrist strap curves down to wrap around your wrist, which protects the light sensors in the built-in heart rate monitor.

Hardware upgrades aside, TomTom releases software updates for its watches to improve the performance and accuracy of its products periodically. In Feb 7, the TomTom MySports mobile app was launched for iPhones, while the Android version was launched on Aug 4.

Barely a few months since the launch of its inaugural TomTom GPS sports watch series, the second-generation lineup is a marked improvement from its GPS range. It remains to be seen if TomTom can produce from more tricks out of its bag to cater to other niche sports and improve on its existing product range.

The TomTom Runner and Multi-Sport Cardio watches are priced at $449 and $499 respectively. Purchases made at the Harvey Norman stand (6138) during the upcoming COMEX 2014 will entitle you to a bonus travel case.

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