October 23, 2017

Review : TomTom Spark 3

  • Type : GPS / HRM
  • Use : Running, cycling, hiking
  • Price : $200


I’m of the “Run Free” style and usually don’t use a GPS watch, but some of my activities (like a cycling class that required heart rate monitoring) required that I got one. So I went to the Internet and started looking up Garmin models, and rapidly gasped at the high prices these little devices fetch nowadays. I didn’t want to spend so much on a running GPS, so I started looking for alternatives.

I knew TomTom because it’s the brand of my truck’s GPS and, although it had its pros and cons, it was an inexpensive device that worked fairly well. I figured their watches must be more or less on par with that performance. I read reviews, most of which sounded enthusiastic, and I got convinced that at $200, I probably wouldn’t find anything better. So I bought one.

Real-life test
I received my watch in April. It set me back almost $250 with the purchase of the HRM strap. My first use for it was my spinning class and the HRM performed as expected. I liked that I could wear the Spark 3 as a daily watch too, and needed only to recharge it every 5 or 6 days.

When I started wearing it for running and used the GPS function, I compared the results I was getting with The Dragonfly, who has 2 or 3 different Garmin brand watches. We noticed significant discrepancies and it seemed that the speed accuracy of my Spark 3 was off the mark more often than not.

I’m not a numbers guy, so I honestly didn’t care so much, although I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t trust my watch for speed training, among other things. At least it seemed to get the overall distance right, so it was somewhat good enough for me.

The snap-in, snap-out system where you separate the bezel from the watch to recharge it seemed a little gimmicky, but as long as it worked, I was fine with it.

The first tear, right under the spot where the bezel
snaps in and out
Purchasing a GPS watch means you want to get reliable information about your trainings, no matter what level you are or what your goals may be. You expect being able to snatch a GPS satellite signal quickly when coming out the door and gathering relevant information while you run.

Personally, I also expected some degree of ruggedness, considering the Spark 3 is also built with hiking and trekking features, and I never thought there would be an issue wearing it as a standard everyday watch.

The second one, which added insult to injury. This watch
is a little over 6 months old.
After only a couple months of very standard wear, my watch looks terrible. The bracelet is the worst, being torn in two different spots and about to break off completely. I also updated the firmware to try fixing the accuracy issues, to no avail. At this point, I don’t consider the data I’m getting to be relevant and I expect the band to break any day now. I’m not convinced purchasing another bracelet will be any relief, since I don’t see why it wouldn’t wear out as quickly as the original. It’s also expensive to replace and there’s no generic or third-party options, because of the snap-in system for the bezel.

I’m disappointed with my purchase and regret it. I’m also puzzled as to why the Spark 3 has received so many positive reviews, since I’m pretty easy to please with a GPS; it simply needs to grab the signal quickly and to tell me the speed and distance I’m going. I don’t think it’s asking too much.

High points
  • Looks good for everyday wear
  • Significantly cheaper than Garmin equivalent

Low points
  • Unreliable
  • Very poor bracelet quality
  • Disappointing overall product

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