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Hands on: TomTom Spark Cardio + Music

Leave your phone at home: TomTom's Spark Cardio + Music has GPS and onboard music storage

Serious fitness fanatics will love TomTom’s Spark Cardio + Music, with its onboard music storage and GPS tracking.

The fitness watch market is seriously competitive, but TomTom believes it has an edge with the new, top of the line Spark Cardio + Music. This sporty wearable combines accurate activity and sleep tracking with the ability to listen to music on the go without a smartphone in your pocket.

Musical motivation

The Spark Cardio + Music attempts to soothe the pain points that fitness fanatics and sporty types tend to feel when it comes to fitness watches. The main addition here is the music function. Everyone loves a backing track for workouts, and music has actually been shown to enhance performance in some circumstances.

There’s 3GB of onboard storage here, which is enough for up to 500 songs, and you can plug into your computer or laptop via the USB cable to just drag and drop your music files. Through a partnership with Ministry of Sound, there’s actually a half hour mix of classic dance tunes to get your motor running.

You’ll need to pair the watch with a set of Bluetooth headphones to enjoy your tunes, though. You get a basic set of earbud headphones with the TomTom, which sport volume up and down controls that double as track skipping when held down, and function as a play/pause button. Of course, you can pair the Spark with any set of Bluetooth headphones, but it’s nice that TomTom included them in the package.

Related: Philips announces new personal health products at IFA 2015

Bluetooth headphones and onboard music storage is a smart idea, because, as any runner will tell you, it’s no fun jogging with a smartphone bouncing around in your pocket. The pairing is easy, you just press up on the four way controls, and it links up any Bluetooth device in the area. However, you can’t be hooked up to your smartphone and headphones at the same time.

Seriously sporty

Moving beyond the music feature, the TomTom Spark Cardio + Music is a solid fitness watch. It has GPS capability for plotting your runs or cycles on a map, and it accurately tracks your distance covered, steps taken, calories burned, minutes of activity, and sleep. The watch picks up the intensity of your sessions, too, thanks to the built-in heart rate sensor.

This is a serious device, not a casual fitness tracker.

TomTom has gone with an unapologetically sporty look here. The watch is chunky with a monochrome display, and there’s a fairly large square on the strap under the screen, which houses the GPS unit. It was deliberately placed there, as you tend to have that part of your wrist pointed skyward.

Around that square are the four way controls, which make for a pretty easy and quick navigation system, even with sweaty fingers. Scroll right to set your activity for a session, scroll left to see your daily progress, and left again to see the weekly readout. You get the numbers for steps, calories, and so on, with a circle around the outside that fills in as you meet your preset targets.

TomTom-Spark-Cardio-10
Simon Hill/Digital Trends

The main unit pops out of the strap, and you’ve got a double width manly option or a thinner strap that might suit women or the slender-wristed. The watch itself is going to be chunky regardless of the strap. It’s not an unobtrusive wearable, so it’s hard to imagine anyone other than sporty types or fitness fanatics wanting to wear it all the time. However, this is a serious device, not a casual fitness tracker.

You can use the TomTom MySports app on iOS or Android to sync your progress, and see it laid bare in a series of attractive maps, graphs, and pie charts. There’s support for other popular apps, such as Runkeeper, too. The syncing process is quick and easy, and the app appears to work pretty well. One obvious missing feature is smartphone notifications, but TomTom told me support for incoming calls and messages is in the works.

The TomTom Spark Cardio + Music was announced at IFA as the top of the range option. It comes in plain black, or you can get a bunch of two-tone strap variants. It is set for release in the UK and Europe this October at 190, and you’ll be able to pre-order it Stateside, also in October, for $250. It goes on sale via the TomTom website and other outlets on October 15. That’s an impressive price point for a fitness watch this feature-packed, and it really doesn’t have many competitors with this specific blend of features.

Highs

  • High-end fitness tracking features
  • Onboard music storage
  • Bluetooth headphones included
  • GPS tracking

Lows

  • Bulky design isn’t for everyone
  • No notification support — yet