Rewind the clocks to 10:30PM Friday night, which is the time at which I finally managed to secure the not-yet-available Suunto Ambit box from DHL. Due to a strange series of errors, DHL had decided not to deliver the unit to me Friday, instead opting to retry on Monday. But, since the kind folks from Finland sprung to overnight it 4,316 miles to me (plus extra for a side trip to Cincinnati), I was determined to get it. After a bunch of calling (all of which to really surprisingly friendly DHL employees), one of the drivers dropped it by the house on his way home from work. Well played DHL, props to you!
So the next morning prior to my run I got it all unboxed and ready to roll. After some initial software updates to get it current, I was all set and ready for my first run.
In addition, I also added to my arsenal the new Soleus 2.0 GPS watch, which is the next unit in the series for the bargain priced Soleus GPS watches. This unit cost me the same price ($95) via a GroupOn deal a few weeks back, but normally it’s about $30-$50 more. The key difference between the 2.0 and the 1.0 is that the 2.0 has downloadable capability (and intervals), whereas the 1.0 keeps everything in the watch.
With both watches on (and also a FR910XT, simply in case both crapped out), I headed on out for a 10-mile run. This weekend is a bit of an easy weekend ahead of a taper week. Though, I made a small error in underestimating how hard I had run the night prior during a 90+ minute spin-bike/treadmill brick. It was originally scheduled for Thursday, but 13hrs of work shifted that a bit. At any rate…onto the road!
I was very impressed with how spot-on both the Ambit and the FR910XT are with respect to distance. Throughout the run the furthest they were ever apart was .02 miles – in other words, when one read 9.81 miles, the other would be usually 9.82 or 9.83. Good stuff!
The Soleus was tracking pretty closely during the run too – though, I had neglected to remember to swap it to miles (instead of kilometers), so I was having to do math in my head. Post-run evaluation of the data put it at 10.08m. Nicely done.
Post run I went to upload it to the Movescount site (their online training log site), but ran into a small snag where I can’t get my first run (10-miles) to upload. All subsequent activities are going up fine though.
I must say, I’m really impressed though with how integrated the Suunto Movescount site is with the watch. I LOVE that I can change all of the data fields on the site, and have them download to the watch. It’s sorta like what you can do with the Timex Global Trainer and Timex Run Trainer – except far cleaner than both of those implementations.
After a weekend’s worth of runs and bikes, here’s a quick bullet-point summary of my thoughts on the Ambit. A full review will be next week (likely Tuesday or Wednesday), after I’ve had a chance to get a complete week’s worth of running/cycling/swimming in.
- Who this watch is for: Primarily ultra runners and hikers/mountaineering folks. The 50-hour GPS-enabled battery life is what you want (though, at reduced recording rates), and the high level of attention to the barometric altimeter and 3D compass is sweet for mountainous terrain. If you’re a triathlete though, it’s simply not the watch for you. Lack of ANT+ support (only proprietary usage of ANT, not ANT+), means it’s not compatible with any ANT+ accessories like power meters or other existing ANT+ accessories you may already have.
- Things I love: It’s feels durable. It feels metallic, and it feels like I’m not going to break it. The 3D compass is sweet, I’ve got a little video to show you what it looks like, below. Additionally, I love the integrated temperature sensor (ideal for telling my why I’m running so slow in the heat) – though, I’m not entirely convinced the value is correct. I also love the configuration options of the Movescount site – it’s clean, relatively easy to use, and I can then save all my options for each device I have right on their site. From there, the desktop agent (Moveslink) updates my watch. It is over PC instead of the little wireless Suunto ANT stick, but, I can deal with that.
Suunto Ambit 3D Compass Demo
- Things I loath: Easily its the lack of ANT+ support. Tonight via Amazon I ordered $210US worth of standard accessories – a $89 footpod for indoor running (which I just learned its not compatible with…yet), a $59 bike speed sensor, and a $62 bike cadence sensor. Seriously (and yes, all to review). Yet, the same stuff via ANT+ would be less than half that much. The kicker is the watch’s ANT chip can easily do ANT+, but Suunto likely believes it’ll make more money on accessories this way (via their own proprietary ANT option and accessories). I’d disagree, I think they lose far more sales for folks that don’t want to re-purchase $200 worth of accessories (i.e. anyone who already has a Garmin, Timex, Cycles, Wahoo, etc… unit). Heck, even Polar’s stuff isn’t this expensive. Additionally, they instantly kill sales for really anyone with a power meter.
- Things that are coming: There’s been a bunch of snippets released regarding what’s on the way via firmware updates, including route creation. It looks like there will be an update in May, as well as one in September. I’ll be working to get a full list of what’s planned. I think the cool thing is that with an internal accelerometer, they can do quite a bit in future updates. Similar to what Motorola has done with the Motoactv, they can add support for activity after activity – quickly gathering quite a bit of steam. And unlike the Motoactv’s limited waterproofing, the Ambit is fully waterproofed to 100 meters (300ft), and with that internal accelerometer could even do swim stroke recognition. And of course, the optimistic one in me hopes they’ll come around with support for ANT+ accessories…
Of course, as always, feel free to toss in thoughts/questions about the Ambit into the comments section below – I’m happy to try and answer them. Also, there’s a great thread with a ton of answers posted here.
Now, to move from the most expensive GPS watch ($500) to just about the cheapest ($95-$149)…
As I’ve noted in the past, I think the Soleus series of watches poses a significant challenge to companies like Garmin and Polar. They’re bringing simplified GPS watches that are accurate and easy to use to the sub-$100 market. You’re seeing Timex now enter this market with the Timex Marathon GPS, which is also $95. But with the Soleus 2.0 watch, the company has chosen to add data download capability via their USB charging cable. Now to clarify, the Soleus 2.0 watch normally costs $149, though, it seems to be on sale a fair bit, and the deal with GroupOn had it down to $95 (when I bought it).
After my 10-mile run I went about getting the software installed and my workout downloaded. This turned out to be a slightly more cumbersome process than I expected. And also one a fair bit less refined. Here’s the final software installed:
Now, the software is fairly bare bones, and really, not terribly well put together. I’ve been trying now for about an hour to get it to both download and open (since those are separate operations). Most of the time, it just does this:
Finally, I got it to show me my run:
Well, ok, sorta. It tried to show me my run. But it wouldn’t. It seemed to think my interwebs had bad signal. I assure you, the state of my interwebs is strong!
I then decided to click “MapMyRun”, assuming that would take me to…well…MapMyRun.com. But it doesn’t, it just exports out a .TCX file. Figuring the assumption was that I’d take it over to MapMyRun.com – I went over there, manually signed it, and then uploaded the run by uploading the file. Sure enough – it worked!
Figuring since it was a .TCX file, I could take it to Garmin Connect, Sport Tracks, Training Peaks…or really anything else. But, all of them failed as the .TCX is malformed according to them. Bummer.
Thought, interestingly, Golden Cheetah did work and imported it in fine:
Of course, Golden Cheetah believes it’s a bike ride…but hey, it’s progress.
I suppose in some way, you get what you pay for with the Soleus device. But, in my mind – at the normal retail price of $149 that’s almost the cost of the Timex Run Trainer, and about $25 more than the cost of the Timex Global Trainer these days, both of which have far better software support via Training Peaks. Honestly, if I was Soleus I’d throw overboard whichever 3rd party company they outsourced this software to and just partner with someone else that does this today and knows what they’re doing(Note: Depending on the error thrown in the software, you can see it was another company doing the development, not surprising per se).
It’s really too bad, I was really hoping this would be a solid contender in the budget GPS watch arena. I’ll give them a bit of time to perhaps
fix throw away the software some before doing a full review.
Moving onto more positive things – my Sunday bike ride.
I went out for a big old loop around the Mt. Vernon area. It wasn’t quite as nice as the 80*F Saturday weather, but it was still pretty warm. I had just passed Fort Hunt heading southbound on the Mt. Vernon Train when I stumbled through a whole slew of folks with signs and balloons. I was pretty excited that someone was throwing a surprise party for me!
But as I was going slowly cycling through them, someone noted that “she was just behind this guy here, the third cyclist in the group”.
I had just passed about half a mile back three girls leisurely making their down the path together. Then it clicked – the last of those three girls was about to be proposed to. Each of the signs with balloons had individual words on them “Will. You. Marry. Me. ?”. Her name was in there too, but I forgot it. About 90 seconds later, they strolled on by. Her approach and landing was a bit rocky due to her apparent excitement, but thankfully she made the flying dismount without hitting the tree (just barely).
Based on how excited she was, I’m going to assume that somewhere in her jumping around she said yes. The lucky groom to be is standing there in the blue shirt, with his bride-to-be.
With that, hope everyone has a great week ahead! And thanks for reading!