The TomTom Multisports Cardio is TomTom’s range topping GPS device now featuring an in-built optical heart rate sensor. The addition of the word ‘Cardio’ to the previously released device means that the watch now incorporates the very clever Mio sensor, giving the ability to detect heart rate direct from the wrist.
Being a multisport device, the TomTom Multisports Cardio (I think I’m gonna shorten it to the “Cardio” for this review) can track all of your running, cycling & swimming activities. It even has a mode to track indoor running on a treadmill without the need for a footpod. All very handy when all you need is the device and no separate heart rate strap to start your training.
TomTom also has a its own smartphone app to make use of the wireless capabilities via Bluetooth. Data transfer can be utilised straight to your phone or via USB direct to your PC. There’s also ability to integrate with third-party applications (such as Strava) at the point of upload.
TomTom Multisport Cardio Review – Opening the Box
The box arrived showing the watch in all its glory through the clear plastic front. The striking red and white of the strap sets the device off perfectly. An even better view of the watch is obtained by lifting the plastic to reveal the device and components underneath. Very nicely packaged.
When you open the box fully, the most noticeable difference to other similar devices is the lack of a heart rate strap. Check out the brief YouTube clip for the full unboxing experience.
Once opened up fully, the contents of the box look a little like this. On the left is a separate adapter to mount the pod to the handlebars of your bike.
The pod detaches from the strap relatively easily. Here it is siting in the desktop charging cradle.
It is also possible to charge with the pod complete in the strap.
Taking a look at the rear of the pod, you’ll find the Mio optical sensor. It’s this clever bit of technology that enables the Cardio to detect heart rate direct from your wrist. I was quite excited yo give it a go.
Size & Comfort
The strap comes as a single rubberised unit. With that as the case, it does provide a very secure fit leaving the risk of losing the device very slim. The strap also provides 3 plastic prongs to ensure the far end is secured neatly against your wrist. Looking at the picture below, you can just see one of the prongs filling a hole on the top left-hand side of the strap. With such a large number of holes, there is a good level of adjustment available. The profile is also pretty narrow for such a feature packed watch.
With the Mio sensor integration it’s important that the watch is worn relatively tight to ensure accurate heart rate detection. That said, I have not found it to be at all uncomfortable either during an activity or when worn as a watch. The Cardio does perform as a convenient everyday watch (although not as inconspicuous as some other devices). I’ve recently worn it throughout an entire holiday when it became a very useful training partner. It also holds a charge for over a week in normal standby mode and will last that long with a good 3 to 4 activities thrown in.
Looking again at the picture above, you’ll notice the button directly below the watch face. This is the four-way button that will control each and every feature. You simply press it up, down, left or right (a bit like a cursor).
This was my first TomTom device so it was necessary for me work through the full set up of both ‘MySports’ and the ‘MySports Connect” software. The latter is the application used on your PC to upload (and download) using the USB cable. To get started you need to head over to the download page on TomTom’s website (found here) .
You will see the handy button directing you to download for either your Windows PC or a Mac. In my case it was a Mac, leading me through the installation starting and finishing with the following screenshots.
After you have completed the installation the software will open and you’ll be prompted to connect the watch via the USB. You will then be walked through a few more screens where you’ll name your new purchase and also enter a few personal details (i.e. date of birth etc.). This process will also help register your device.
To finalise the setup you will be prompted to link MySports Connect with the web-based MySports platform. To platform is actually powered by MapMyFitness. As you can see from the second screenshot (below) it detected that I already had a MapMyFitness account.
Once it’s all set up you’ll see your profile (albeit empty) and you’re ready to get out there and train.
I’ll come back to the data transfer below after we’ve looked at how it performs on the wrist.
The ‘Multisport Cardio’ is the sister watch to the ‘TomTom Runner Cardio’, which essentially utilises the same technology and housing, minus the cycling and swim capabilities. I mention that here as I consider that the Cardio’s best accomplishment is in its running functionality which is really rather impressive. I’ve not tested the ‘Runner’ but looking at the specifications on the TomTom website it shares the same running capabilities.
To start a workout you need simply to press right on the main button to obtain a list of the available activities. Running is at the top of the list which you will select by pressing right again. On that selection the watch will go into run mode and begin searching for both your heart rate and a satellite fix.
Acquiring the satellite is very quick, typically taking less than 30 seconds. This can be aided even further if you make use of the ‘QuickGPSfix’ software (basically by connecting regularly by Bluetooth or USB) which will communicate with the Cardio for up-to-date satellite location information.
The detection of heart rate is similarly quick. You will know that heart rate is being detected (before you press start) when you see a heart symbol and the beats per minute (BPM) displayed at the top of the watch. You may be prompted to warm up to allow the Cardio to get the feel for your particular heart rate data before commencing the run. When the watch is absolutely ready an arrow with a ‘Go’ sign will prompt you to press right on the button one last time to start the activity. All-in-all this process should take less than 60 seconds.
Once started, the display will show three metrics at any one time. In the picture above you can see the largest part of the display showing heart rate with two further (smaller) metrics at the top, on the left and right of the screen. The large part of the display can be toggled using the up and down key to show real-time metrics in pace, distance, duration, average pace, calories, clock-time and heart rate zone. These selections are not customisable, however you do have the option customise the top displays to your own preference. This is done from the watch itself by entering the options mode (press down before starting a run) and choosing which metrics you want to set as ‘left’ or ‘right’. The image below shows how this is achieved.
Once you have set your chosen ‘left’ and ‘right’ metrics these will stay constant at the top of the screen. It’s, therefore, a good idea to choose the metrics you wish to focus on throughout the run leaving any others as secondary to toggle as you wish. I quite like to run with average pace showing on the left and total distance on the right leaving my real-time pace on the main display.
Here’s short YouTube clip of the start of a run activity.
Some more in-depth heart rate analysis can be obtained by pressing right during an activity. This information can display in graph format on the watch face or you can use it to discover how long you have been spending in each heart rate zone.
Overall, I have found the display and the data extremely clear and consistent during a run. The watch (by the GPS) detects and displays the increase and decrease in pace very smoothly to allow you to fine tune your running at any given time. When I have compared the unit with either the Garmin FR620 or the Polar V800 the GPS data has always been consistent both on the watch and when uploaded to MySports.
To pause an activity you will need to press and hold the left button for 3 seconds. The press and hold function eliminates the risk of an accidental pause or losing precious data. Once paused you can repeat the 3 second hold if you want to complete and save the run. After saving an activity you can obtain a summary (see below). It’s relatively basic but the full data will be available as soon as you get time to upload after the workout.
Training and Race Functions
If you want to track more than just a basic run you have the ability to select different options for goals, intervals, laps and zones. There is also a separate race function.
Depending on your training regime or personal goals, these additional functions can be extremely useful.
The basic lap function (which is my usual training method) will allow you to track both lap time and lap distance in real-time. The information can be displayed on the watch face and you have the option of setting either automatic laps (based on lap distance or lap time) or allowing manual laps, which can be triggered by tapping the screen. When a lap is created (either automatically or manually) you will receive an alert showing the lap count and an average pace for that segment.
Goals works by allowing you to set a target you wish to achieve based on either time, distance or calories. For instance, if you set a 10km goal the Cardio will display a graph (more like a pie chart) of your progress in percentage terms towards the end target.
Training by zone allows you to predetermine a set pace or heart rate you wish to maintain throughout your entire workout. When you select pace you can determine the zone by selecting the upper and lower ranges you wish to maintain. For instance, you may opt to maintain a pace between 05:00 mins per/km to 05:20 mins per/km. You’ll receive and alert if you then stray outside of those parameters.
I’ve been really impressed with the interval function. In short, it allows you to enter the time or distance you wish to spend on each of the following elements of your workout:
- warm up
- work period
- cool down
All you have to do is define your own sets and repetitions and the watch will guide you through each step. A bit like a workout reminder but without the need to go out training with a piece of paper!
The race function allows you to race against either a set distance (pre-programmed and chosen from the watch options) or against one of your previous workouts uploaded to MySports. It’s bit like Garmin’s ‘Virtual Racer’.
The pre-programmed race settings are shown in the picture below.
You will know that you are in correct mode by seeing the word ‘Race’ appear at the bottom of the screen before you hit go. The same applies for any of the functions above.
I decided to give the race function a try by racing against a short 4.1 km run I did as one of my first tests of the watch. Here’s how it went:
On starting the activity the Cardio presents a graphic showing the distance remaining and two chevrons. A solid chevron depicts the current session with a further (hatched) chevron showing the pace of the racer you are up against. In the image below you’ll notice that as I set off, I was immediately behind my previous pace. This was mainly because the slow start required to take this picture!
In addition to the chevrons, progress is defied by the distance (in metres or yards) you are travelling compared with the racer. You’ll see it displayed at the bottom of the screen as either the distance ahead or behind with either a ‘+’ or ‘-” sign in front of the number of metres. As you can see from the image below, I was able to catch up and move ahead by 13 metres at approximately 1km into the run.
Shortly after slowing down to take that photograph, however, I was soon overtaken and back in second place. The image below shows the graphic that greeted me as I was overtaken. Number 2!
As the graphic displays you’ll receive a tone alert as well as a short vibration. After putting the camera away I sped up and was able to pull in front until the end of the run by 22 metres allowing me to be confident that I would be finishing ahead of my previous time and achieve my race goal.
By displaying a chequered flag the Cardio informed me when I had completed the race and told me my position. Unfortunately, by the time I slowed to reach for the camera I had dropped a vital 8 seconds. Not bad all considered.
The running functionality in this TomTom device has been very well thought out and is very easy to use. The simplicity of the pre-workout settings is matched during the workout by the easy to use cursor button making it both simple and error-free to locate the real-time data you require. This is an important attribute for any running watch as (particularly when heart rate is high) you will not be wanting to be putting huge thought into navigating endless menus and buttons. The cardio really does excel in the easy access department.
As part of the package, the Cardio comes with a separate mount to attach to your handlebars. The two stage system provides two separate pieces; one in hard plastic to protect the pod and a further strap that wraps around to secure the bars. In my case I secured it to an additional mount between my tri-bars.
You will obviously note that with pod attached to the handlebars, the Mio sensor will lose the ability to detect heart rate from the wrist. TomTom has addressed this issue by also enabling the pairing of a Bluetooth heart strap within cycling mode. I tested the cycling mode both on and off the wrist.
Much of the functionality described above in run mode will also apply to cycling. The main difference is that pace is substituted for speed (in either MPH or KPH) as the default setting. You can still customise the ‘left’ & ‘right’ displays and also connect to a Bluetooth enabled speed/cadence sensor.
When the speed/cadence sensor is connected all of the speed and distance data will be gathered from the wheel rather than GPS (which the sensor will override). This scenario will allow for both indoor and outdoor riding and also assist in areas where satellite reception is patchy. It is crucial, however, that the correct wheel size is programmed to the watch otherwise all of your data will be inaccurate.
I paired the ‘Wahoo Blue SC’ speed & cadence combo sensor.
When I tested the Cardio using my TT bike, I opted to mount the unit on the bike itself. This is mainly on the basis that when using tri-bars it’s difficult to look at your wrist whilst riding. I found the display very clear and, as I like to monitor my cadence, I found it very useful to have cadence as a permanent metric on the top left of the display. As with running, the increases in speed were smooth and the data gathered was always reliable compared against other GPS devices.
When using my normal drop handlebar road bike, I kept a watch on my wrist and used it without a paired sensor. This allowed me to test the GPS whilst cycling and also assess how well the optical heart rate sensor would perform whilst being shaken about out on the road.
Here are the results in MySports for a 20 mile ride using only the Cardio itself. As you can see, there are no drops or spikes in the heart rate data and the GPS is constant picking up the elevations accurately.
Whilst the cardio does not have all of the functions of a dedicated cycling device it does perform very well as a cycle computer. The GPS gathering and heart rate analysis is very impressive for a wrist worn device.
The TomTom Cardio Multisport has a built-in swim mode for the capture of indoor swim metrics. I say indoor, but, of course it can work in outdoor pools also, it’s just that it will not capture GPS data for swimming (therefore is not an open-water at swimming device).
Starting an activity remains the same as running as does the customisation of the ‘left’ & ‘right’ displays. The available fields are different in swim mode where you have the ability to monitor distance, strokes, time and SWOLF. The Cardio is not set up to detect heart rate whilst in the pool.
Before getting started you will want to tell the watch the length of the pool you are swimming in. This can be determined in either metres or yards in any size up to 50 metres/yards.
The up/down button can be used during an activity to toggle between data fields. I usually swim with the number of lengths (i.e. distance) as the primary display. In this setting the watch has been clear enough for me to see the number ticking over underwear as I pushed off from the wall. It’s important to note that swimming is entirely based on the internal accelerometer, meaning that a decent and clear push-off the wall is required.
Below is a screenshot of the data you will receive after uploading your swim to MySports. It’s relatively basic giving the overall distance, speed and efficiency. Unlike some others swim watches, it does not detect your particular stoke type or analyse each length and/or set. You can, however, (as described in running mode) set the watch to goals, intervals or laps before commencing a workout.
The Cardio’s swim function is on par with many others in terms of accuracy and I have not noticed any lost lengths or missing data. On that basis it is a good swimming partner albeit not as comprehensive as some other dedicated swimming devices.
The cardio is a multisport device and on the basis that it will capture running, cycling and swimming. That said, it doesn’t have a specific multisport mode but ending an activity and starting another in succession will allow it to be used through either a multisport training session or even a triathlon. It could certainly track all of your sessions through a pool-based triathlon.
Having said the above about multisport, TomTom have recently released a firmware update to enable the cardio to be used in a ‘Freestyle’ mode. This now enables the generic heart rate and GPS capabilities to remain on whilst performing an activity. With this now as the case, it would certainly be possible to do a run straight into a cycle without needing to change the activity type. This would give the ability for the whole training session to be displayed as one continuous activity in MySports. Certainly a useful feature for a brick session or even a duathlon.
If you wanted, the freestyle mode would probably allow you to try out whether the optical heart rate sensor works in the water. I am yet to try this out but may update this section later!
The testing for the TomTom Multisport Cardio review signified my first ever use of an optical heart rate sensor. Looking at the back of the watch you’ll see that light is emitted from the sensor. It is these optical sensors that point downwards (from the back of the watch) into the small blood vessels below your skin. Obviously, this is a very different method to the traditional heart rate strap.
The technology is becoming more wide-spread with Mio now also supplying companies other than TomTom as well as producing their own devices in the form of the Mio Alpha Running Watch and the Mio Link.
Sample Run Activities
Here are a couple of my run workouts where I have worn both the TomTom Multisport Cardio and the Polar V800. As you can see, the data is near spot-on in both cases. Having already heard good things about the Mio unit in running mode, I was confident that the data would be accurate.
This was a relatively fast 4km. The first screen shot (shaded pink) is the optical sensor with the second graph sowing the data captured via a chest strap during the same workout.
This second workout was a far steadier 7km run with a few stops and starts. Again the optical data is shown in the first of the two images.
Sample Cycling Activities
I have to admit I was slightly less optimistic when it came to cycling. As you can see, I was in fact proved wrong over an hour-long cycle ride taking in some pretty bumpy roads around rural Oxfordshire.
In short, I discovered that the optical heart rate sensor is definitely a match for the traditional heart rate strap for both running and cycling conditions.
TomTom have made excellent use of the Mio sensor to create (at the time of writing) the only multisport device that does not require a chest strap.
The first thing you’ll want a pair is probably your smartphone. This is possible provided that you have a phone compatible with Bluetooth Smart. In the case of the iPhone you will need to download and then open the TomTom MySports App.
With the app open (note – you do not need to go into the iPhone’s settings menu) you can then go into the ‘settings’ on the watch and then select ‘Phone’. The app and the watch will begin searching for each other where you will be prompted to enter a pin code as displayed from the watch. From there on the two devices are paired and can begin communicating with each other.
To pair other Bluetooth sensors you go back into the ‘settings’ menu and click on ‘sensors’.
All you need to do is ensure that either the heart rate strap or the cadence/speed sensor is functioning within range and the Cardio should detect it. You’ll see it displayed on-screen where you will simply confirm that it is the correct sensor. Easy!
Like most other producers of GPS sports devices, TomTom has a web-based platform for the upload of data and activities post workout. The main difference with TomTom, however, is that theirs is powered by the third-party software of MapMyFitness. You will, therefore, notice some similarities if you are already a MapMyFitness user.
We’ve already walked through the setup process (above). By connecting again via USB the MySports Connect software will automatically open and begin uploading your data. What I really like about the TomTom platform is that you have the option to automatically upload to other third-party applications at this point. The main one being Strava.
There is also a list of other applications to which you can upload.
I see this function as a massive benefit for the Multisport Cardio as (unlike some other devices) you are not restricted to the manufacturer’s platform and, in fact, TomTom makes it positively easy for you to export your data elsewhere.
Here are a few screenshots of how you can expect the data to be presented in MySports. The main dashboard displays a run down of your most recent activities and totals. Lifetime totals are shown on the right hand side.
When you drill down into an activity you will see further detail displayed numerically and also in various charts. The mapping data is also available.
Graphs are available for pace, elevation and heart rate for most activities.
Clicking your mouse or trackpad over the graph will give you the ability to see your data at a given point along the timeline.
Using MySports is a two-way process for upload and download. You can also make a few adjustments within the software which will be transferred to your device. This includes heart rate zones and selecting activities you may wish race against in the ‘Race’ function.
Much of the same data is also available in the mobile app (I’m using the iPhone 5s).
The detail isn’t quite as full as the desktop version but you wouldn’t expect to be in the condensed screen size. What you do get is a complete list of the activities in chronological order with the ability to drill down into each one.
When viewing the detail of the activity you will still see the GPS route and all of the charts (e.g. heart rate etc.).
The great thing about the app is that you can upload direct to your smart phone via Bluetooth. Once there it will also automatically update the main web-based MySports application. You can also select activities to race from within the list which can then be downloaded to the Cardio via Bluetooth. This is a great function if you want use the ‘Race’ mode whilst you are already out and about.
What I really like about the TomTom Multisports Cardio is the simplicity of the device and the ease of use. Once it’s on your wrist it really is up and ready to go within just a few touches of a button. The running mode is perhaps slightly more comprehensive than cycling and swimming but with that said it is a multisports device as all three sports are covered. On its own it would be a good device, but the inclusion of the optical heart rate sensor makes it a serious player, particularly at its price point. The ability to capture swim metrics and/or GPS in open water is not supported at this time.
- Accurate heart rate capture
- No chest strap
- Wireless transfer
- Race feature
- Ease of use
- Automatic upload of data to third-party sites
- Basic web application
- Lack of true multisports mode
- No swimming heart rate
Conclusion – TomTom Multisport Cardio Review
At £249.99 (in the UK) there is no denying that this is a lot of kit for your money, particularly when you consider that it is up to £150 cheaper than some other multisport devices. With that as the case and with accuracy being in no doubt, you have a seriously convenient GPS tracker for all of your activities. You will be very hard pushed to find a method of tracking all of your running, cycling and swimming (either with one or multiple devices) cheaper. There is a slight trade-off for the basic nature of MySports platform, however this is more than made up for by the ability to upload and export automatically to third-party sites such as Strava. With the Mio optical heart rate sensor built-in, you can do away with a chest strap without any compromise on accuracy. All in all, I’m very impressed with the TomTom as a one stop solution.
I want my reviews to be as independent as possible. On that basis, I thought a link to Amazon would provide the most impartial method of you looking at other user comments should you be considering a purchase.