I had anticipated not to like the TOMTOM Spark Music GPS Fitness Watch, I had some preconceived snobby ideas that as a ‘GPS’ this was not a serious watch for a runner.
I was wrong.
But not completely wrong.
Before reading on, let me cut to the chase and tell you my conclusions after testing the watch for a few months – I love it! It has limitations and it’s not perfect, but, if you want to train and run with music, the Spark Music is just brilliant. The downside by far is the battery life and therefore if you plan on training or racing for 4+ hours, this watch has limitations.
The TOMTOM Spark Music will hold 3GB of music (approx 500 songs), links to earphones via Bluetooth, works for running, swimming, cycling and indoor training, interval training settings, has GPS tracking, goal setting (steps, etc.), sleep tracking, wireless syncing to a phone app, water resistant to 50m, custom/ changeable straps and all in a very sleek looking ultra-slim design with a backlit face that glows after placing the palm of your hand over the face of the watch. In addition, you can get the watch with two different strap sizes, small and large. This is particularly good for those with a smaller wrist who hate a watch flapping around because they are unable to tighten the strap enough.
Importantly, before using the watch, connect the watch to your computer and download MYLAPS (TOMTOM software) and go to https://mysports.tomtom.com/app/login/ and create an account.
When you connect your watch, it takes you through a step-by-step process and it also keeps the GPS up to date.
First off, the Spark Music is a good looking watch. I chose the all black version but colourful versions are available. It’s a slim watch and sleek and the strap has a unique three-point fastening system that works well. The strap is removable so that you can re-charge the watch and connect to your computer via a USB cable. This function allows you to purchase replaceable straps or maybe you’d like a selection of straps? That way you can colour co-ordinate… not something I am interested in but the option is there. Using the Spark Music just as a watch, with an alarm set every day, the battery lasts somewhere between 2-3 weeks but it does vary. Start to play music, use the GPS and so on and this changes dramatically. More on that later.
The watch face is backlit and to turn it on, you cover the face of the watch with the palm of your hand. Remove your hand and the screen glows for a few seconds – magic!
The watch is operated by one large square button which toggles 4-ways. Up, down, left and right.
You see a menu:
- ABOUT – tells you how much battery you have left, storage, if ‘QuickGPS’ is on, what version of software
- CLOCK – alarm, time and 12/24 hour options
- TRACKER – set goals and sleep
- PLAYLISTS – tells you what music is on the watch
- SENSORS – heart and bike (for this version, they are extras)
- PHONE – sync and pair
- FLIGHT MODE
- OPTIONS – units, buzz, demo, night, lock
- PROFILE – voice, weight, height, age, gender
This is how you connect Bluetooth earphones and play music
This scrolls through – Steps today, steps this week.
You can also scroll up and down after clicking left which shows – Sleep, calories burnt, distance covered etc.
Shows you the sports and you then click DOWN to select your chosen sport – RUN, CYCLE, SWIM, TREADMILL, GYM, INDOOR, FREESTYLE, STOPWATCH. Once the sport is chosen, you then wait for the GPS to connect (if applicable).
The watch will say, ‘Please Wait’.
Once connected it will buzz and say ‘GET GOING’.
HOW IT WORKS
Depending on which version of the watch you have, you may have earphones supplied or you will need to purchase Bluetooth earphones. Pairing at first was a little tricky but once paired, every time I wanted to listen to music, the earphones and watch connected seamlessly. Music plays automatically but you can go into the menu and fast forward, reverse or pause. Sound quality was excellent on both supplied earphones and pair of £29.95 Philips Sports Earphones. I say excellent, I mean great for running. The watch does come with some pre-loaded ‘Running Trax’ by Ministry of Sound which is upbeat and has a good tempo.
Choose the sport you are doing as listed: RUN, CYCLE, SWIM, TREADMILL, GYM, INDOOR, FREESTYLE, STOPWATCH. Needless to say you can’t listen to music while swimming and it’s a very bad idea to listen to music while cycling.
The GPS took around 5-minutes to connect on the first use and then after that, usually 10-30 seconds. Obviously if you move to a new location or country, connection may be slow for the first time while it acquires satellites.
The display is clear and it’s easy to see elapsed time, pace and so on by scrolling through the screens.
To stop the watch in exercise mode you press LEFT and you are given a ‘Pause’ screen. Another press LEFT and you have stopped a session.
Once home, you can upload your train session via Bluetooth to the ‘MySports’ TOMTOM App on any smartphone. I recommend that you use the USB cable provided and connect the watch to your laptop. By doing this, you not only transfer your training session but you also make sure the GPS data is up to date and your watch charges.
You can also send the data to other accounts such as STRAVA.
This watch is perfect for daily training sessions when you may be out for just 20-minutes or maybe up to 4-hours. The ability to run, go to the gym, run on a treadmill and have music playing via Bluetooth earphones offers real freedom. It’s a huge selling point of this GPS unit and for my daily run sessions of 40-minutes plus it has become my preferred unit. The main reason being that I no longer need to carry an iPod or Phone to play music.
As a watch it works. Nuff said. It tells me the time and I can set an alarm for the morning. One nice function is that the watch monitors my daily steps, movement and keeps track of my sleep and daily distance. For those of us who need an incentive to cover 10,000 steps a day, this unit is great at encouraging this.
The recorded information from any training session is pretty standard. You get a map of your run, splits, pace, elevation and so on. Within MySports you can also send the recorded data to other websites such as STAVA.
In comparison to my Suunto and Garmin GPS units, the Spark Music records GPS data (speed, time, distance) in line with the other units. As I always say, any GPS will have some +/- discrepancy when recording data.
The cycling function is basic but it has support for cycling sensors that can record speed/cadence. You can also connect a HR strap should you wish.
Swimming works in a pool and NOT open water. You need to configure the pool size in settings and then off you go. As is the case with all swimming watches, it works both with flip and open (non-flip) turns. The Spark works by measuring acceleration, and unexpected changes.
Other functions exist for indoor training and there is a stopwatch.
The charging cable is solid and connects to the watch in a reassuring way.
The Spark Music is very much designed for enthusiasts and those who like to go for a run, the odd cycle and maybe regularly visit the gym or pool.
It also works as a great tool to incentivize more activity and the daily activity tracker is great for giving an idea of how active or in-active you have been.
The music player for me is the big reason for using this watch. Combining a sports watch with music just makes sense and it works really well.
This watch is not for those who run, cycle, swim or do any sport for a long time as unfortunately, the Spark Music’s biggest drawback is battery life. As a watch it will last 2-3 weeks but if you run for say 60-75mins with the GPS active and music playing, the battery can drop to say 50%.
BUT… and this is a big but, I still think the TOMTOM Spark Music has a place. During a normal week, my training sessions are usually anything from 40-minutes to 2-hours (if I am lucky) and the watch/music combination is brilliant. As a tip, just make sure you charge the watch daily. Like I said earlier, when you return from a run, cycle, swim or indoor session, take off the watch, connect to your computer, let your training upload and then remove the watch when it is charged.
The TOMTOM Spark Music wouldn’t replace or do the job of an all-singing and all-dancing Suunto or Garmin device. But then again, Suunto or Garmin don’t play music! This is why, for me, the Spark Music has a place when training.
If I was out on a big adventure, running a long race or training session or I was on a multi-day adventure then the TOMTOM just wouldn’t be up to the job. But it does daily sessions really well and listening to tunes while sweating is a huge plus. I guess it’s all in the name, TOMTOM call this a ‘Fitness Watch’ and for most people it will be an ideal addition to help provide motivation on a daily basis.