by Marathon Sports Staffer Jamie Norton -

The TomTom Multisport Cardio GPS packs a ton of cool features into a slim and affordable watch. Perhaps its most intriguing characteristic is its ability to detect heart rate without the use of a cumbersome chest strap, utilizing a Mio optical HR sensor. I will explore this feature as well as many others in this brief review of my experience using the Multisport Cardio.

Right out of the box, I was pleased to find the watch extremely easy to use. A single 4-direction button is used to navigate through a few simple screens where you can view your history, start workouts, and adjust the settings. Two presses of the button get you straight from the home screen into run mode. The watch is designed with functionality for indoor and outdoor running, cycling, and indoor swimming. From there, you can break it down into preset auto laps, interval workouts, pace or heart rate ranges, and race mode where you can match up against previous runs or races. Once you are in an active workout mode, the screens are customizable to show 3 different metrics at any given time, one of which can be changed easily by pressing up or down on the button during your workout. Overall, the watch interface was certainly intuitive and user friendly.

The main question we get in the store with any GPS watch is: does it work well? Especially with the optical HR sensor, I was eager to test how this watch stacked up with its competitors as far as accuracy. I had no problems at all with the GPS functionality of the watch. The “Quick GPS” feature keeps a cache of satellite locations stored when you connect the watch to a computer (or to the TomTom mobile app via Bluetooth), and on most days it took no more than 5-10 seconds to connect. For me, this was a huge asset to have in a GPS watch. There’s nothing more frustrating than being ready to run, stepping out into the cold, and having to stand there and wait for 2 minutes to connect to satellites. Most of the time I would get fed up and start running without the GPS connection, which of course defeats the purpose of owning the watch. I also found the distance measurements to be consistent and accurate, which I was pleased to see out of a non-Garmin GPS unit.

For the most part, I also was pleased with the optical heart rate functionality. I am certainly not a hard core HR person, and would never use a strap, so being able to access that data in a non-invasive way was a huge plus; I have started to incorporate it into my training and been pleased with the results. It took me a few times using the watch to figure out the exact position that worked with the HR sensor, but now that I’m used to it I can usually quickly troubleshoot when the sensor gets out of place. When it is locked in and working it seems to be totally accurate. In addition to simply displaying your heart rate, the watch has several screens geared towards HR training. Using the TomTom web interface you can customize the heart rate zones as you would like them to appear on the watch, and then it will tell you what “zone” you are in at any given time. This is useful for people looking to target certain kinds of intensity levels or workout benefits, be it tempo runs or burning fat or recovery. Once you’re done with a workout, the web interface will tell you how much time you spent in each of the HR zones.

All in all, the TomTom Multisport Cardio, along with the rest of their line of GPS watches, provide an excellent option in the ever expanding GPS watch market. Come by your local Marathon Sports and we’d be happy to show you the lineup and talk about how they would fit into your specific training needs!