TomTom MultiSport

Back in August I reviewed the TomTom Runner, which was the Dutch GPS giant’s first solo effort in the sports-watch arena. Today I’m looking at the TomTom Multi-Sport, which is a more feature rich version of the Runner, designed to appeal to fitness enthusiasts who partake in multiple pursuits.

While the TomTom Runner could measure your outdoor running as well as your indoor treadmill sessions, the Multi-Sport will do that as well as track your cycling and swimming. So, it’s not hard to see that TomTom has triathletes firmly in its sights with the Multi-Sport.

The problem with creating a sports-watch aimed at the more serious athletes is that they expect more, especially when it comes to features and granular detail within the captured data. So, can the TomTom Multi-Sport provide everything that the hardcore fitness enthusiast would want?

What’s in the box?

As with most sports-watches, what you get in the box depends on what you need, and how much you’re willing to pay. TomTom sent me the basic bundle, which includes the Multi-Sport watch, the proprietary USB docking cradle and the handlebar mount.

The next bundle up the food chain includes a Bluetooth Smart heart rate monitor, which is pretty much essential if you’re buying into the functionality of the Multi-Sport. Then the top-end bundle includes the watch, the heart rate sensor and a speed/cadence sensor – ideal if cycling makes up a good chunk of your training.

TomTom MultiSport

Having different bundles is a good idea, especially for anyone who may already have Bluetooth sensors in their toolbox. It also allows buyers to build on their TomTom system – perhaps buying the basic bundle at first then adding the heart rate sensor, and maybe the speed/cadence sensor further down the line.

The slightly confusing aspect of TomTom’s bundle strategy is that you only get altimeter functionality built into the watch if you buy the top bundle. Essentially you get a different watch with the full-Monty bundle, which allows for real time altitude readings. So, if you buy the basic watch and then add all the sensors, you’ll never have the altimeter functionality.

The other problem presented by this bundling strategy is that if you happen to already have a Bluetooth heart rate sensor or speed/cadence sensor, you won’t be able to get the altimeter functionality without paying for accessories you don’t need.

TomTom MultiSport Speed Cadence

All that said, having real-time altitude readings built into the Multi-Sport when you buy the top bundle, does make it something of a bargain. So if you don’t already have Bluetooth sensors knocking about, the full bundle is definitely the way to go.

The basic bundle costs £179.99 while the middle package with the HRM will set you back £229.99. The full bundle with the speed/cadence sensor and HRM costs £279.99. That puts the TomTom Multi-Sport in the mix with other, similarly featured offerings like the Polar RC3 GPS.

Design

The TomTom Multi-Sport looks pretty much identical to the TomTom Runner. The only cosmetic difference is that the Multi-Sport has a wider strap with a two-prong buckle. However, the watch itself shares the same dimensions as its sibling, so the Multi-Sport will quite happily slip into the Runner’s strap and vice versa.

TomTom MultiSport

There are a few different strap colours available too, so you can buy whichever suits your personality of training gear. And for real fashionistas, you can buy extra straps, allowing for coordination no matter what you might be wearing.

TomTom has made quite a big deal about how slim its new sports-watches are, and with good reason. The Multi-Sport is very unobtrusive on the wrist, even small wrists like mine. The watch face isn’t too large, and having all the controls on the four-way rocker beneath the screen makes it seem even smaller.

TomTom MultiSport

The Multi-Sport is physically identical to the Runner – straps are interchangeable

As sports-watches go, the new TomTom units are probably the sleekest and slimmest out there. So if you’re looking for a sports-watch that you can wear all day, every day, the TomTom Multi-Sport is a decent option.

Touching the screen on the right edge will activate the backlight, or if you flick the Night Mode switch under the options, the backlight will stay illuminated for the duration of your training.

Getting started

The first thing you need to do is install the MySportsConnect software on your computer, then plug the TomTom Multi-Sport into its USB docking station. This will allow the watch to download the latest firmware updates and also the latest QuickGPSFix data.

Once you’ve done that, you can start to personalise the device by creating a profile for yourself. This will involve the usual data such as height, weight, age and gender.

You’ll also need to tell the Multi-Sport what sensors you want it to connect to. I paired my Wahoo Fitness BlueHR heart rate sensor with the watch, and the two worked flawlessly together.

TomTom MultiSport

Although my review bundle didn’t include the speed/cadence sensor, last week TomTom shipped me one, allowing me to test the full functionality of the Multi-Sport for this review. Pairing the speed/cadence sensor is relatively simple, although the watch didn’t pick it up as readily as the heart rate sensor. Once it was found, however, the pairing was solid.

You’ll be glad that you updated the QuickGPSFix data when you first come to use the Multi-Sport, because much like the Runner before it, this watch locks onto satellites extremely quickly. I usually leave my GPS watch on a windowsill to get a satellite lock while I’m getting my running or cycling gear on, but that’s simply not necessary with these TomTom devices, so quickly do they find the required number of satellites.

Treadmill Running

Running with the Multi-Sport is pretty much identical to running with the TomTom Runner. If you choose treadmill running, the Multi-Sport will rely on its built-in accelerometer to measure your steps as you run. This is a pretty neat feature except that just like the Runner, the Multi-Sport isn’t particularly accurate.

In my tests I found that both the TomTom Runner and Multi-Sport underreported the distance travelled on my NordicTrack T14.2 treadmill. Of course you can calibrate the device after a run so that it ties up with what the treadmill is reporting, but that calibration doesn’t result in a more accurate measurement next time.

TomTom MultiSport Treadmill

To be fair, it has to be more difficult judging distance with an accelerometer on your wrist than it is using a footpod on your shoe, since once you’ve calibrated your stride length, a footpod can be reasonably accurate.

It’s also worth noting that the TomTom Multi-Sport is no less accurate than, say, a Nike+ enabled iPod nano – something that I use regularly when running on my treadmill. Despite having to correct the distance after every run, it’s still very convenient to be able to sync my data just by plugging the device into my computer.

Outdoor Running

The Multi-Sport is in its element when you’re running. As already mentioned, the GPS fix is incredibly quick, so by the time you’ve done a few stretches, you’ll be ready to hit the trails.

TomTom has been smart enough to include vibrating alerts; something that Polar should definitely take note of. So, if you want to know when you complete each kilometre, you can configure the watch to vibrate when you do so.

TomTom MultiSport Running

Vibrating alerts are great, because you simply can’t hear audio alerts when you’re out running, especially if you run with headphones in, as I do.

The simple four-way button is also a plus point when you’re out running. It’s very easy to cycle through the different info screens, with a simple up or down press. You can switch between speed, pace, distance, time, heart rate etc.

The large main display also makes it easy to glance quickly at the watch without breaking your stride. The two user-configurable sub-screens at the top of the display aren’t quite so easy to check while you’re pounding the trails though, especially if you’re eyes aren’t as sharp as they used to be.

TomTom MultiSport Running Stats

You can set yourself goals while you run, whether that be beating your previous time for a set distance, or simply completing 5km in under 25-minutes. The watch will show you how far ahead or behind you are as you’re running, so you know whether you need to pick up the pace to achieve your goal.

The Multi-Sport can be configured to auto-trigger laps based on time or distance – so you could log a new lap every 1km, or every five minutes depending on whether you’re looking to analyse pace over distance or distance over time. Unfortunately there’s no way to lap by position, which is a great feature if you’re running a circuit multiple times.

Cycling setup

If you’re a keen cyclist you’ll probably want to use the TomTom Multi-Sport with its speed/cadence sensor to gather the most data from your rides. Unlike many cycle computers or sports watches with cycling support, the TomTom Multi-Sport doesn’t support ANT+ sensors. So if you already have an ANT+ speed/cadence sensor on your bike (as I do on a couple of mine), they won’t work with the Multi-Sport.

Luckily my winter training bike didn’t have a speed/cadence sensor strapped to it, which meant that I could mount the TomTom Bluetooth item without having to rip something else off the chainstay first.

TomTom MultiSport Speed Cadence Sensor

The initial photos of the speed/cadence sensor made it look similar to a Garmin ANT+ device, but the sensor that I eventually received was very different.  The sensor itself is an arched affair with a sub-sensor attached to a coiled wire. The latter is the cadence sensor, which needs to be positioned close enough to the crank arm to pick up the magnet as it passes by.

There are two magnets provided – one to attach to your spokes for the speed sensor to pickup, and one to attach to the crank for the cadence sensor. As is often the case, the speed sensor magnet won’t fit if your wheels have aero spokes, this problem can easily be resolved with a small file though.

The cadence sensor magnet, meanwhile, is an odd piece of kit. Whereas most cadence sensor magnets are relatively flat, this one stands quite proud from the crank arm. This means that you need to be relatively careful with the positioning of both the sensor and the magnet to make sure they don’t catch, while still ensuring that they get close enough to register each revolution.

TomTom MultiSport Handlebar Mount

Unlike Garmin devices, the TomTom Multi-Sport won’t automatically calculate your wheel size for the speed sensor, so you’re going to have to measure your wheel manually and enter the value into the watch. This isn’t the end of the world, and anyone who’s been using cycle computers for years will be used to the procedure, but with GPS built in, you shouldn’t really have to.

It proved quite tricky to get both parts of the sensor picking up their relative magnets, but once everything was positioned and lined up optimally, both sensors reported consistently to the watch.

The handlebar mount is well designed and takes full advantage of the fact that the Multi-Sport can be clipped out of its strap. The Multi-Sport clips securely into the handlebar mount and is held tightly in place while you ride.

TomTom MultiSport Handlebar Mount

The handlebar mount is secured by wrapping the rubber tongue around the bars. This is a preferable approach to using cable ties, especially if you use carbon handlebars.

The mount will easily wrap around normal sized handlebars, but as the photo above illustrates, it can even stretch around relatively wide bars. It’ll take a bit of muscle to stretch it that tightly, but once clipped into place, the mount and the Multi-Sport aren’t going anywhere.

Cycling

The large main display on the Multi-Sport makes it very easy to read when it’s strapped to the handlebars. Even when wearing polarised sunglasses, the Multi-Sport was readable at a glance.

Of course the downside is that the only thing you can really read is the main display. The two sub-displays at the top are simply too small to read easily at a glance, and you really don’t want to be giving your cycle computer more than a glace when you’re travelling at 50kph on the road.

It’s probably unfair to compare the display of the Multi-Sport to a proper cycle computer like the Polar CS500 or Garmin Edge 810, but even compared to other multi-sport watches, it’s display is relatively basic.

TomTom MultiSport Cycling

This isn’t so much of a problem when I’m running, but when I’m cycling I like to be able to see multiple data feeds at a glance – speed, distance, time, cadence and heart rate for instance. Obviously other watches like the Polar RCX5 can’t show all that on one screen, but with four data fields I’d probably only have to flick between two screens to see it all.

Assuming you’ve got all the sensors attached, you’ll have a significant amount of data at your fingertips while you ride. The Multi-Sport will display current speed, average speed, time, distance, cadence, heart rate etc. Although TomTom didn’t send me the version of the Multi-Sport with built-in altimeter functionality, you will be able to view elevation post ride when you sync the watch.

While the handlebar mount is a good one, using it means that you miss out on those useful vibrating alerts. Although I don’t find distance markers as important when cycling as I do when running, it’s still nice to feel the Multi-Sport vibrate every time I clock another five or 10km.

Swimming

I’m not a great swimmer. It’s the one thing that’s always held me back from doing a triathlon – I can manage the cycling and running, but by the time I’d finished the swim, other competitors would have completed the race!

But despite my lack of swimming ability, my desire for thorough testing saw me heading out to my local pool to swim some lengths. And of course I’d forgotten how hard it is to swim 40-lengths, so I was a little surprised that I could barely lift my arms after leaving the pool.

TomTom MultiSport Swimming

Being that I was swimming in an indoor pool, there was no GPS tracking on offer, so the Multi-Sport was using its built-in accelerometer to measure my strokes, distance and laps. But as with the treadmill running, the data gathered wasn’t as accurate as I would have liked.

I noticed after a few laps that the Multi-Sport was being quite generous with its measuring, and pretty soon it was reporting that I’d swum many more laps than I actually had. In fact, by the time I’d swum 1km, the Multi-Sport was reporting that I’d swum 1.5km – that’s an over-report of 50 per cent.

TomTom MultiSport Swimming Stats

However, I was swimming breaststroke – I did mention that I wasn’t a great swimmer right? So I switched to front crawl and the Multi-Sport tracked my lengths, distance and strokes to perfection.

The only problem is that I can barely swim four lengths of front crawl, so I can’t testify to whether it would remain that accurate, but I’m inclined to believe that it would.

On-board data

If you really want to dig down into all the data that your sports watch captures, you’re going to use whatever online portal it synchronises to. There you’ll be able to get as granular as you like, and compare results over time. But sometimes you want to examine your data on the device itself.

Unfortunately, this is an area where the TomTom Multi-Sport comes up short. Although the Multi-Sport has the option to look back through historical workouts, the amount of data you’re presented with is minimal.

In a cycling log you’ll find duration, overall distance, calories burned and average speed. In a run log you get duration, overall distance, average pace and calories burned. While a swimming log actually presents the most information, with duration, overall distance, calories burned, strokes per length and swolf.

TomTom MultiSport Cycling Stats

By contrast, the running data files in the Polar RC3 will show you time-of-day when you started the workout, duration, minimum heart rate, maximum heart rate, average heart rate, calories burned, percentage of calories attributed to fat and time spent in predefined intensity zones.

It’s a shame that despite the MutliSport gathering a whole host of useful data, you can’t really get to grips with any of it until you’ve uploaded that data to your portal of choice.

Online analysis

When I reviewed the TomTom Runner, the TomTom MySports portal was in beta phase, and it still is. The upshot is that MySports is pretty basic when compared to something like Polar Personal Trainer, or Garmin Connect.

TomTom MySports Cycling

TomTom MySports will log all the data from the Multi-Sport, and separate it into activity types, but it’s far from comprehensive, and it’s also quite difficult to navigate. I’m looking forward to when TomTom finishes the MySports portal though, because the presentation, layout and design work well.

If you need more data insight than TomTom MySports has to offer, you can sync your data to the MapMyFitness portal instead. It’s free to create an account, but if you want full functionality you’ll need to pay for the full MVP subscription at $29.99 per year.

MapMyFitness Cycle

Once you’ve upgraded to MVP on MapMyFitness you can really start to explore all the data that the Multi-Sport captures. You can view your workouts on a calendar, drill down into specific stats and compare your results to your friends. You can also create courses and see how other users perform when they encounter them – I found myself King of the Mountain on a particular climb in Egham, which was a nice surprise after I finished my ride.

It makes sense that TomTom has partnered with MapMyFitness and even based TomTom MySports on the platform. It’s a good service with a great feature set, but if you’re already invested in a different platform that’s not a problem either.

MapMyFitness Run

As well as synchronising directly with MapMyFitness and TomTom MySports, you can also configure the Multi-Sport to output its data to a variety of file formats, essentially allowing you to import the data into a whole host of platforms and apps.

It’s great that TomTom is looking to create such an open platform for its devices, and it would be nice if a few other manufacturers adopted a similar policy.

Conclusion

There’s no denying that the TomTom Multi-Sport provides a lot of functionality for your money, especially if you buy the £279.99 full bundle. If you’re thinking about doing your first triathlon and want something that can help you train and track your progress, the Multi-Sport looks like an attractive option.

And that’s really where I see the attraction for the Multi-Sport – it’s for people who are ready to get serious with their training, but haven’t used other fitness tech, and certainly haven’t invested in any other kit.

You see the decision to go with Bluetooth Smart connectivity made perfect sense with the TomTom Runner. Given its basic nature, the Runner is likely to appeal to first time fitness tech buyers, or those who are upgrading from a smartphone app, which could well have used a Bluetooth heart rate sensor itself.

TomTom MultiSport

The more serious athlete, however, who should be the target market for the Multi-Sport, probably has an array of ANT+ sensors already, both for heart rate and cycling duties. So that means ditching existing sensors, and buying new ones, which can get expensive if you have multiple bikes.

The other issue I have with the integration of Bluetooth Smart technology is that there’s no way to connect the Multi-Sport to your phone, despite it being equipped with the necessary wireless standard.

It would have been great if TomTom had produced a smartphone app for its sports-watches, whereby all your data would sync automatically. In fact, the low power nature of Bluetooth Smart would make the Multi-Sport ideal for live tracking of your training, as seen in the Garmin Edge 810 cycle computer.

Knowing TomTom as well as I do, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are engineers beavering away on feature updates for the Multi-Sport as I type. In fact I was told recently that there’s an imminent firmware update that will add interval training to the Multi-Sport’s repertoire. That’s definitely something that serious fitness enthusiasts will welcome, especially since the Multi-Sport’s vibrating alerts mean that you’ll know when to switch up a gear without having to look at the watch.

TomTom MultiSport

Another feature that I’d like to see thrown in is a walking mode. Considering that the slim and unobtrusive design of the Multi-Sport makes it an ideal daily watch, it would be great if you could use it to measure walks as well as runs. I walk two miles from the station to the office in the morning, and then back again in the evening, but I can’t track that with the Multi-Sport without seriously affecting my running stats.

As things stand though, there’s a lot to like about the Multi-Sport. I can’t stress enough how quickly it locks onto satellites, or how tenaciously it holds onto them, even when running through very dense woods where other GPS devices can struggle.

Though more experienced users may find it limiting, the simple operation will be welcomed by fitness tech newbies – the Multi-Sport is extremely easy to get to grips with, despite its generous feature set. Many tech products find themselves thrown into a draw and ignored because users find them difficult to operate from the outset.

TomTom MultiSport

When it comes down to it, though, the TomTom Multi-Sport feels like a work in progress. And while I was willing to forgive the TomTom Runner for its unfinished online portal and generally basic operation, it’s harder to do so with the Multi-Sport.

I can’t help thinking that the kind of user who’d be attracted to the Multi-Sport would expect a bit more – more on-device data, a better online portal, more data fields on screen when training etc.

With TomTom already adding compelling new features to the Multi-Sport via firmware updates, and refining the MySports portal, there’s every chance that it could develop into the serious training tool it promises to be. Right now though, it’s more appealing to someone taking the first step down the fitness tech path, rather than an experienced user.

Score: 7/10

Pros:

  • Slim & unobtrusive design
  • Incredibly fast GPS fix
  • Vibrating alerts
  • Tracks indoor & outdoor running
  • Data can be exported to various platforms
  • Cycling tracking with cadence option
  • Waterproof
  • Tracks swimming
  • Interchangeable straps
  • Well designed handlebar mount
  • Easy to read the main display at a glance
  • Night mode is handy
  • The top bundle represents good value

Cons:

  • Proprietary cable for syncing
  • TomTom MySports is still a work in progress
  • You need to pay for full functionality with MapMyFitness
  • Target market might expect ANT+ sensor support
  • Very limited data on the device
  • Limited display fields while training
  • Only the top bundle gets altimeter built in
  • Speed / cadence sensor can be tricky to set up

Manufacturer: TomTom

Price: £179.99 – £279.99