Hands on: TomTom Spark 3 review

A running watch to take you home, or anywhere else for that matter

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

TomTom has updated its Spark running watch line with new mapping tech that will help you run home - and it may be a big new reason to update your wristwear.

For

  • New route mapping tech
  • Affordable running watch

Against

  • No design changes
  • No phone notifications

TomTom wants to be the device on your wrist, as well as the voice inside your car, with its latest line of smartwatches.

If you've used a TomTom Spark device before you'll more or less know the situation here.

These are efficient and powerful running watches that are designed for the enthusiast, rather than those who want a standard fitness tracker. If you find yourself in the latter category we'd suggest taking a look at the TomTom Touch.

TomTom Spark 3 versions, release date and price

Detailed in this hands-on review is the TomTom Spark 3 Cardio, which costs £169 ($179, about AU$238), but there are other versions of this device, including the standard Spark 3, which costs £119 ($129, about AU$171).

If you'd like the capability to listen to music via Bluetooth, you'll be interested in the Spark 3 Music version, which comes with its own set of wireless earbuds and 3GB of onboard storage, all for £149 ($149, about AU$198.)

Looking for the Spark 3 Cardio, but with the music playing ability and headphones included? That will cost you £249 ($249, about AU$331.) Not a bad deal, even though it's over $100 than the most basic variation. It's all a little more confusing than it should be, to be honest.

All the versions will be available on TomTom's website and on store shelves in September.

Design and features

Each of the TomTom Spark 3 versions come with a new tool to make sure you won't have to run the same route twice. Route Exploration is the major upgrade here, which is a software addition that allows you to set up routes that will take you a different way home to the way you first went. We all want to take the scenic route from time to time, right?

TomTom Spark 3

The aim is to get you out and exploring just from your watch so you don't have to get your phone out and disturb your run, just to get home. This especially makes sense to allow TomTom, masters of mapping, to do it.

We haven't had the chance to try out the new route mapping feature but according to TomTom it will also allow you to run your own route and by tracking where you are at the start.

There's GPS and compass technology in the Spark 3 to allow this to happen – that's a big difference when compared to some other smartwatches out on the market. This truly is a device you can take out without needing a phone at your side.

TomTom Spark 3

If you'd like to listen to music on the go, you can do so via Bluetooth with the built-in music player – that is, so long as you spend the extra bit of cash for the feature upgrades.

When it comes to design, the Spark 3 isn't the most attractive device on the market. This is purely for those who want the functionality to run with. If you're looking for a better looking activity tracking, there are much better looking options out there.

There's a thick bulge at the bottom of the device to house the GPS sensor and internals that we'd like the Spark series to lose in future iterations.

TomTom Spark 3

The clasp on the strap for the Spark 3 feels secure and comfortable on the wrist. The aim of this device is to sit on your wrist for the whole day without any discomfort and it would be simple to keep it there for that long.

The screen is big, yet a little dull on the Spark 3. There's not many ways to customize this and what you can do from the display is limited apart from setting up tracking. You won't get any phone notifications through to your watch for example.

According to TomTom, the Spark 3 will last you up to 10 hours of consistent GPS tracking but if you're just using it as an activity tracker it'll go for three weeks. We'll be sure to put it through its paces in our full review.

TomTom Spark 3

The watch is also water resistant up to 40 meters, meaning you'll be able to take this swimming or go for a long cycle in the rain and not worry about it getting damaged.

And as this is the Spark 3 Cardio we tested out, we'd be remiss to leave out the heart rate sensor. It offers continuous tracking during the day and resting heart rate monitoring during the night. We look forward to digging into this feature more for the full review.

Early verdict

If you're looking for your first-ever running watch, the TomTom Spark 3 looks to be one of the best choices out there. With tough competition from the likes of Garmin, the Spark 3 seems to be a good alternative for those on a lower budget.

TomTom Spark 3

The design isn't anything to get excited about, but the new Route Exploration feature is a great idea that takes hold of TomTom's speciality in mapping out areas.

If you've already got a running watch, there's probably not enough here to entice you back to spend more money, but as a first option or an upgrade this is as good a choice as any running watch.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.

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