Lets face it, there are many many many wearable fitness measuring devices out in the market and they all seem to do pretty much the same thing: they count steps, calories, distance. So when TomTom sent me the Spark Cardio unit to review, I thought it would be just another device.
As I unpacked it, I realized that this was different and can not be lumped into the “Just another fitness wearable” bucket – here is why:
One of my biggest issue with fitness wearable is that they feel flimsy and could come off your wrist at any time. I lost one device in the river while boating as the ski rope got caught in the unit’s locking mechanism and sank to the bottom of the river. With the TomTom Spark there is no chance of that happening. It has an incredibly strong band with three locking clips and spikes that ensure that it stays right on the arm regardless of the action. It is water resistant up to 40 meters and when I tested it while water skiing, at no point was I worried that it would fall off. With other devices I was too nervous to run it through the same test without tying a string to it in case the pressure of the power boat and water ripped it off my arm.
Charging The Spark
To charge the Spark you need to remove it from the plastic band and plug it into the special cable and then into the USB wall socket charger. This is the only element I would love to see TomTom change. As it is a special cable, it meant that I couldn’t just charge the Spark when I was away and left the cable at home. Therefore, the data for the rest of that trip was lost. If TomTom would make that a MicroUSB cable that would really help !
All in One Controls
What I really like about the Spark is that it is an all-in-one device. This means that you don’t need an external app to access the functionality but everything you need is right there on the watch. Yes, there is indeed an accompanying app which has enhanced stats and data, but you could see all your vital info right on the large display of the Spark.
You can also see historic info such as your sleep and steps for the day and even the previous week.
The Spark is not a touchscreen device. It is controlled with a “jog dial” type of pad where you press left , right, up or down and this is how you navigate between the options. Having these large controls makes it so easy to operate the Spark Cardio even under sever movements (such as water skiing). Running…eh…I mean bouncing along the treadmill and changing options on the unit doesn’t leave you off balance as you press and navigate around.
The Spark tracks not just the usual running as other devices do, but it is also able to track cycling, swimming, treadmill, weight lifting, stationary cycling (Spinning class?) and freestyle which I can only assume is activity such as parkour or dancing or other heart-pounding activities such as <insert your own activity here> .
There is also a stop watch in case you need to time yourself and an option that allows you to set a training modes such as Goals, Intervals, Laps. Should you fall behind a large arrow appears encouraging you to hurry up and pick up the pace!
Clear and BIG
The display is just that – clear and big. A quick glance at your wrist and you can see exactly what is being measured and reported on the device. Some other units have the information but you really need to focus on it to read the screen. This means taking your eye of the action.
Music and headphones
One of the big advantages of this unit is that it stores your music so there is no need to carry yet another device or phone. The Spark is Bluetooth enabled and it synchronizes to the TomTom Bluetooth headset so you have a complete package with no wires. Changing tracks to the next or previous track is simple with that large jog-dial controllers and Play/ Pause is done via the headphone.
The headphones are over-the-ear type and they stay in place. After three lapse on the go-cart track (which included spinning out into the tires) they didn’t budge and I didn’t need to push them back into the ear . The headphones are light enough to wear for an extended period of time and they charge via MicroUSB so finding a charger is not a problem. I even charged mine from my portable power bank and that worked great too seen as I was using the headphone to link up to my tablet when flying across the USA. I consistently got around 4 hours of battery life out of the unit.
So in Summary:
Lets be honest, I am by no means a fitness nut so I did not push the Spark anywhere near its capabilities but I just used it as a “normal” person would.
The TomTom’s large display means that I never took it off as it became my watch which also meant it was constantly monitoring my activities or lack thereof. I did notice that I became much more conscious of my step count and parked my car further away from the entrance just so that I can get those extra steps in.
So the TomTom Spark actually made me change my routine something the other units never managed to – now that is the most impressive bit !