Runner 3 Restores Faith in TomTom

by On Sep 6, 2017

HRM and GPS performances on par with more expensive rivals.

Runner 3 Restores Faith in TomTom

With today’s frantic lifestyle - especially for fast moving consumer goods - of wanting to have the latest and the greatest, consumers are unconsciously sucked into paying for something more, for features that they do not need.

For sure, an iPhone 7 has more features and is technologically more advanced than an iPhone 6, but will you need and use all those additional functions at this very moment? More often than not, you’d probably use a fraction of the functions in that new gadget, and by the time you learn half the functions, a newer model would be launched, sending your current gadget’s value nosediving immediately.

So, it is the case with Runner 3, and TomTom in general as a brand. Go to Android’s Google Play Store, and the 100,000 downloads speak volumes – or the lack of – against the brand’s competitor’s 5 million downloads. These download numbers don’t lie; they imply the scarce number of TomTom sets out there in the market. Also, quick observations at running events also show that TomTom wearers are getting rarer these days.

Will Runner 3 change TomTom’s fortune, or continue to be a drop in the ocean?

Runner 3 Restores Faith in TomTom

What's in the box?

First Impression

Aesthetically, this watch looks like it’s designed purely for its sports purpose. Square case, with GPS sensor at the side, and proprietary designed straps make it almost impossible to customise, unlike its competitors. So, I’ll wear it only when I’m in my sports gear sweating it out, not when I’m out in my casual wear.

The Runner 3 strap comes in two sizes: large and small. My wrist at slightly longer than 6 inches leans on the smaller side, but I do wear this watch comfortably using the large strap, which leads to me thinking that a person with a bigger wrist may want to try putting on this watch for comfort feel prior to purchasing.

The strap locks and latches are also unique. It is great for running and is very comfortable, but the owner’s manual shows that this watch is also capable for swimming and multi sports. And this is something I would not vouch for. Compared to a watch with traditional tang buckle, this strap may possibly come off if you’re into racing triathlon events where kicking and shoving are unavoidable under water.

Downloading the TomTom Sports app was a non-drama, and pairing it with my Android phone was also straightforward. There was not much of “how to” information on printed materials in the box though, and you would be better off searching for information on the internet.

The app itself cannot be customised, meaning you would need to be contented with the pre-set displays formulated by TomTom. Personally, I’d like to see distance, time, pace, time of day and heart rate bpm all captured on the same screen, instead of having to scroll through the menu.

TomTom Runner 3 comes with the watch head, strap and charging cable, but without a charging adapter. It does not come with a light button; instead you would need to toggle between standard and night modes to get the desired lighting. Also, charging the watch requires you to remove the watch head from the strap every time.

My final niggle with the Runner 3 is that it cannot be switched off. It may not be a big deal for most people, but my OCD kicks in each time knowing that I may not start my running activity with the watch being fully charged at the start.

Runner 3 Restores Faith in TomTom

Watch head needs to be removed from the strap at every charge.

Performance On-The-Go

I set two key criteria as my litmus test for this Runner 3: its Global Positioning System (GPS) and Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) performances. Fancy apps and other frills commensurate with the price of a sports watch, but will render useless if the GPS and HRM outputs are below par.

To add some science to my testing, I set out clocking both short and long distance mileages, in an open setting as well as urban setting where concrete buildings could interfere with the performances of a GPS unit. And while I had the Runner 3 on my left wrist, I wore a flagship model of another industry leading smartwatch on my right wrist, with its HRM strapped to my chest.

First up was a short run around the Kallang River area, starting from Sports Hub to Marina Barrage, Marina Bay Sands and back through Merdeka Bridge. Runner 3’s GPS and HRM was 0.7% lower and 2% higher respectively relative to the comparison watch.

I then did a few more test runs in the parks and neighbourhood, mainly to test the GPS detection timings when I was about to start my activities. Quick and fuss free, indeed.

The final test was on my favourite long distance run course from Pasir Ris to Kembangan MRT stations, soaking in the newly rerouted, mentally challenging Coastal Park Connector along the way. The Runner 3 clocked 33.44km with my average heart rate at 144 bpm, while my comparison watch 33.68km and 139 bpm respectively. This accuracy variance is commendable; ceteris paribus, I would choose the Runner 3 for my next run as it is lighter and does not require the HRM chest strap.

Runner 3 Restores Faith in TomTom

Sufferfest along rerouted Coastal Park Connector

Runner’s Boon

  • Accurate GPS and HRM measurements, and thus is good value for money
  • Light and compact, without requiring a HRM chest strap

Runner’s Bane

  • App and watch interface still lag behind its competitors in terms of user friendliness
  • Watch cannot be switched off, so there is anxiety if battery can last during a relatively long activity


Admittedly, I had issues with the TomTom Runner 3 at the onset. The lack of a charging adapter gives the impression that this is not a standalone device. Also, having to push the watch case out from the strap for each charge is not my cup of tea as I think some parts will eventually become loose or break apart.

However, let us revisit the fundamentals of buying a watch such as Runner 3, and that is to measure and track our distance, pace and heart rate monitoring performances. In these aspects, Runner 3 shines as well as the comparison watch that costs three times more, and is a proper measuring tool upgrade from your mobile phone. If you’re still early in your healthy lifestyle journey, then the Runner 3 makes a good starter kit for you.

The TomTom Runner 3 Cardio retails at S$249 and the TomTom Runner 3 Cardio+Music retails at S$299. The TomTom Runner 3 Cardio+Music comes with a 3GB music storage, which holds up to 500 songs.

Iskandar has a soft spot to run overseas and in ultra distance events. He is currently smitten by the trail running bug and foresees multi stage racing to be his next poison. If he’s not competing on foot, you’ll likely to bump into him racing on four wheels.

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