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Suunto Spartan Ultra In-Depth Review


It’s been a bit over four months since Suunto started to announce the Spartan series, which contains two watches at present: the Ultra and the Sport.  These two watches are set to be the successor models to the rather successful Ambit series, which was a combined multisport and hiking watch.  Down the road, Suunto has planned an optical HR version of the Sport edition as well.

While the unit was announced four months ago, it’s been almost exactly three months that I’ve been using and testing the Spartan Ultra.  A bit of an unusually long review cycle for me, but sometimes that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.  Suunto sent over a production unit for me to try out, after which I’ll send it back like normal (and go out and procure my own through regular retail channels).  If you find the post useful, whack the support links at the bottom.

Without further ado, let’s dive into things.  The good, the bad, and the ugly…


What’s that? Word and pictures aren’t your thing?  No worries, we can start off with an unboxing video instead:

I normally have unboxing photos, but I’m having a minor issue trying to figure out where on earth they went to.  I’ve got them somewhere, and once I do figure out which hard drive (my categorization system is occasionally awesome, today, not so much), I’ll stick them up here.  Sorry!

Fear not, the video covers more than my text section normally would.  Probably the most notable takeaway is that the charging cable is different from past Suunto products.  But that’s not a bad thing.  In fact, the cable is much better and as seen in the video around the 3:20 marker, you can even swing it around in circles and it won’t fall off.  The old one was fairly finicky.

Size & Weight Comparisons:

So how does it compare to other GPS watches in the same field (hiking/multisport units)?  It’s actually pretty similar in a lot of ways.

You can see for example that in terms of width, it’s about the same.  For that we’d need to break out the rolling pin, which has been on the DL lately, after sustaining two shattered legs in a fall:


Don’t worry, legs weren’t important for today’s work efforts:


(Left to right: Suunto Ambit3 Peak, Garmin Fenix3 HR, Suunto Spartan Ultra, Suunto Traverse, Polar V800)

And if you compare depth, it’s also in the same ballpark.  However keep in mind that in this case, the Fenix3 HR does have that optical HR sensor within it (or rather, extending out of it).


Next if we look at the weights of the units, you’ll see we’re not terribly far off either:

Suunto Spartan Ultra: 77g
Fenix3 HR: 88g
Suunto Traverse: 77g
Polar V800: 81g
Suunto Ambit3 Peak: 86g

Here’s the Spartan Ultra on the scale:


Here’s a gallery of all those, just for fun:

I’d say in many ways it’s pretty similar to the Fenix3 in terms of size, though due to the styling, it looks slightly more ‘plump’, like it’s eaten too many croissants.  This isn’t a complaint per se, just an observation.

The Basics:


First up, let’s talk about some of the user interface basics on the watch, before getting into sports modes.  As you know, the watch includes a touch screen, which can be used to navigate through the menus.  But it also has three buttons on the right side to iterate through menus too.

These three buttons actually act as more than just three buttons though, because in certain scenarios there are long and short presses.  For example, long-pressing the middle button is the equivalent of having a back button.  Meanwhile, you can also change the default watch face to a few preselected options.  At this time you cannot upload and/or create your own watch faces.


The Spartan works by you swiping (or pressing buttons) up/down through the core menu options: Watch Face, Exercise, Navigation, Logbook, Stopwatch, Settings, Training, Recovery, Activity.  Here’s a quick shot of all of these core menu areas:

Each of these sections has to varying degrees further menus within them.  They are:

Watch Face: You can tap to display different time zones, altitude, or steps
Exercise: This is where you’ll start a workout and choose a sport mode
Navigation: You can load pre-configured routes
Logbook: This is your history, your training log
Settings: For tweaking on-device settings
Training: This shows you recent training volume, by sport activity type
Recovery: This shows you current recovery type for HR-based activities
Activity: This shows you steps & calories taken against your goal for the day

As I mentioned, you can either swipe with your finger, or just press buttons to move through the menu system.  No matter which method you use though, it tends to be very slow and laggy.  It’s clearly underpowered for the job.  Additionally, in the case of touches, it will occasionally miss swipes/touches.  I’d say more recently I’m at around 10-15% missed rate.  Thus why I tend to mostly just use the buttons.

Here’s a video I shot this summer with the touch screen menu.  Nothing has changed since then in terms of speed and/or usability:

Now you may be wondering, what about apps?  Unfortunately with the Suunto Spartan series, Suunto did away with apps.  There are neither Suunto nor custom apps, as was previously found on the Ambit series.  So older apps won’t work with the Spartan series, and there’s no method to create new apps or watch faces.  Suunto doesn’t have any published timeframe or plans for when there might be, so it’s a pretty safe bet that’s probably never coming to these editions of Spartan watches.

I’ll cover both the ‘Exercise’, ‘Logbook’, ‘Training’, and ‘Recovery’ options in the next section, so for now let’s skip to the ‘Activity’ section.  It’s within here that you’ll see your current steps for the day, as well as your current calories burned for the day.

DSC_3460 DSC_3459

Note that above both is a halo which indicates your progress towards the goal steps/calories for the day.

What’s odd here though is that unlike every other wearable device on earth, Suunto actually doesn’t display this step data anywhere on their app or Movescount web platform.  So you can’t trend this information, or otherwise go back and see what you did yesterday or two months ago.  After today, it’s but a fart in the wind – gone.

Next, we’ve got settings.  This is where you adjust device specific things on the unit.  This includes:

General: Time/Date, Language, Backlight, Tones, Profile information, and Alarm
Connectivity: Pairing Bluetooth Smart sensors & mobile phone app
Outdoor: Barometric altimeter calibration
Navigation: Compass calibration and declination
Notifications (Smartphone): On/Off
Watch Face: Select from 6 watch faces, 9 colors
Airplane mode: On/off

A couple of things to note, for Bluetooth Smart sensors, there is no pairing pool concept.  For example, it can only remember one heart rate strap at a time, and while some have said it remembers multiple bike sensors, it doesn’t display that.  And in my case, it doesn’t seem to remember them behind the scenes either.  There are no visible bike profiles.  It can pair to Bluetooth Smart Speed sensors, Cadence sensors, Power Meters, and Heart Rate sensors.  Note that it does not support ANT+ sensors of any type.


While I’ve generally had good luck in terms of pairing, I’ve often seen cases where it’ll forget to log data during an activity.  Especially in power meters.  Or, it’ll log only half the activities data before randomly start/stopping logging halfway through (even when it shows data live on the screen during the activity), such as this:


(The above graph is actually even more interesting because it shows a bug where the unit was apparently only successfully connecting to a single sensor at a time.  You’ll see the HR recording died at exactly the same moment the power recording started.)

I’d like to say the above is a rarity, but in reality, it’s actually quite common on the Spartan Ultra.  So is cases where things won’t pair despite pairing the day before (and then again the day after).  And just looking through my data in the GPS comparison section you’ll see plenty of cases of BLE sensor data that randomly stops or starts midway through an activity.

Within the general tab, you can configure a single alarm, which can be set for one-time use, weekdays, or daily use:


You can also configure ‘dual time’, to display a secondary time zone:

DSC_3465 DSC_3469

This secondary time zone is then displayed back on the watch face (“11:00 – US”):


On the mobile phone front, the unit currently supports iOS only.  However, Android is set to be rolled out any day now.  The Movescount app is how you can sync your workouts back to the Movescount web platform (their training log).  It also allows you to setup the phone to relay smartphone notifications to the watch:


Upon syncing activities, you can view basic information from them in the mobile app (the website has more detail):

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In general the Movescount app is pretty basic.  You can tweak some minor settings (like body information), and you can configure which sport profiles sync to the watch.  But you can’t change sport mode data field settings, nor can you view things like daily step totals or recovery time.

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You can however display your ‘Feeling’ (seen above), which the watch asks of you following each workout you complete (below):


Last but not least on the basics front, is battery life.  This is a bit harder to quantify, since it’s based on how often you use it and how you use it.  For myself, I always set GPS recording to ‘Best’ (so it burns more battery).  And in my case, with using it 3-5 times a week for 1-2 hours each session (plus daily wear), it’s lasting a few weeks, which seems on par with expectations.

That said, folks are seeing battery issues, and Suunto has acknowledged them but doesn’t have a fix yet.  In my case, I’m tending to use my unit mostly for sport, and less for daily activity tracking (since the metrics aren’t shown anywhere after that day anyway), and thus my usage pattern may be different.  It’s still paired for smartphone notifications though, so I am seeing slight (but normal) battery drain there.

Officially, the unit has the following specs on battery:

GPS-on mode: 26 hours
Standby mode: 15 days

In addition in order to save battery, the Suunto Spartan Ultra will automatically place its screen to sleep if you happen to place it on a table/etc for a period of time.  It uses the accelerometers to do this, and will instantly turn back on (under a second) if you pick it up/tap it.  Suunto has done this for a while, and it’s a great way to save battery life in cases where you may not be wearing it 24×7.

Sport Use:


Ok, so we’ve covered all the basics in terms of how the unit works, now lets dive into how the sport modes work and actually using it during a workout.  First up is that all of your sport mode configuration will happen on Movescount (the website).  You can start by picking out your watch from the list of watches that you’ve associated with your account.

In my case, that’s quite a list:


From there you’ll be brought to this page below that allows you to add and then configure sport modes.  I’m going to paste the entire massive page, fully expanded out below, so you can see how it looks with every single option.  But don’t get too distracted, and be sure to read my explainer text afterwards, as there’s some super important pieces.


Ok, so you saw lots of sport modes, right? And that’s great!

Except one tiny mother-@#$@# detail: You can’t edit/customize your data fields.

No, for real.  I’m actually being serious.

Let me make this crystal clear: At this time you cannot customize or edit any of the data fields on a given sport mode.  Nor can you create your own sport modes.  The data fields are what they are, as Suunto has specified.

Somehow, a functionality that Suunto themselves, Garmin, Polar, and others have had for the better part of a decade was left out of the Spartan Ultra.  Here’s what happens when you choose a given sport field:


See those data fields above?  That’s it.  You can’t change them.  What you see above for running is what you get, and what I get.  Regardless of whether or not we want those fields or other fields.

As a reminder, this is what it looks like for every other Suunto GPS watch (except the Spartan).  It’s the ability to change those fields:


In reality, I should just stop the review at this point and call it done.  This one item is single-handily enough reason to not buy this $700 watch.

So what’s Suunto’s plan?  Well, the plan was a software update to allow you to customize data fields.  That was initially due in September, then October.  And then as of last week, that changed:

“We also need to delay the scheduled October 26th update (Sport mode customization, training plans to your watch and more) to later this year. Our team is reviewing the development obstacles related to this and we’ll share more details as soon as we can.”

I don’t know what other people are doing work-wise at Suunto.  But I hope that every employee including the lunch staff are working to make data field customization happen…like yesterday.

Now Suunto has made one interesting tweak here to their existing sport modes, which is the ability to have per-sport variants.  This is somewhat akin to Garmin’s activity profiles concept on the cycling devices, where you take one umbrella sport (i.e. cycling) and allow data field variants for cycling variations (i.e. mountain biking, road biking, etc…).  The idea being that they largely share the same settings, but might have minor differences.

Here’s how that manifests with running for example:


So with all that in mind, let’s head outside and go for run.  First thing is navigating to the Exercise menu, then selecting our desired sport.  In this case, running:


You’ll notice up top it’ll show whether or not the HR strap is paired (or other sensors), as well as the GPS status.


You can press the down buttons to check options like adding a route to the activity, as well as double-checking the GPS accuracy settings (which in turn impacts battery life).  Also, you can specify a duration target (i.e. 40 minutes).


DSC_3495 DSC_3492

Once ready you’ll press up to get back to that start button, and then either tap the start circle on the screen or the middle button to start the activity.  At this point, it’s recording your data:


To iterate through the pre-configured data screens, you can swipe with your finger (or tap the screen) or press the middle button on the right side.


Here’s a look at a few screens during an activity:

Probably the coolest thing on the watch is actually the lap summary page.  This allows you to easily and at a glance see your lap information throughout the workout.  This is great for interval workouts, or even long distance running to quickly see trends.


It’s funny, Garmin introduced this on their cycling devices years ago, but never on their wearables.  It’s nice to see Suunto stick it on the wearables front, as it’s really a great way to glance at lap trends.

Once you’re done with your workout, you’ll press the upper right button to pause the workout.  You’ll then press that same button again to end the workout.  The unit *requires* you press the button to end the workout for good, which is done to prevent touch screen issues from accidentally ending a workout.  Having had such touch screen issues occasionally zap/discard a Garmin touch screen device workout, I’m happy to see this requirement.

Upon completion you’ll be asked for a ‘feeling’, which is later shown on Movescount (the website).


Following that you’ll get a fairly detailed summary of your workout:

DSC_3481 DSC_3482

And yup, that awesome lap summary screen is here too:


Upon completing all this your workouts will sync to Movescount if your phone is paired via Bluetooth Smart.  And if you have 3rd party sites like Strava or Training Peaks configured, it’ll sync to those as well.  It usually only takes less than 30 seconds for this to occur for an hour workout.


Next we’ve got navigation with the Spartan Ultra.  Now at this time, navigation is pretty basic in terms of functionality. There’s basically only the ability to follow a breadcrumb style trail, as well as to utilize a compass.  That’s about it.

I should clarify that by ‘navigation’, I mean routing in some way.  By default, every workout with GPS includes the ability to checkout the map, which shows you where you are, and where you’ve been.


Whereas navigation is typically the ability to use some sort of additional logic (usually pre-defined) to go somewhere.  Be it somewhere new, or somewhere you previously were.  To take advantage of this, you’ll want to start by creating a route on Movescount.  You can import a route from a GPS file, a past activity, or you can just create one by connecting dots.  Further, you can display heat maps and other people’s saved routes on the same map, to guide you in finding the best route (which is pretty cool):


You can add waypoint markers along the way using the map, along with different symbols:


However, while these waypoint icons/symbols will be shown, the text you created alongside of them will not be shown on the watch at this time.  So do keep that in mind.

Once you’ve created a route, you’ll need to activate it in the watch.  You can do that from either the route page or the watch settings page.  I’ve shown both below with little circle on them:

image image

Next, we’ll head to the watch.  Now you’ve got two options here.  One is to just navigate without recording anything.  To do that we’d open up the general ‘Navigate’ menu area, and then select our route.  It’ll show us the route and then our current position on it:



However, most of us want to record where we’ve been. So for that it’s better to go through the Exercise menu, which then allows us to pick a sport.  Once that’s done, we can select the down button (or swipe down) to choose our route:


At this point the route is loaded into the unit and we can start our activity as normal.  However, you’ll notice on the map page that you’ve now got your route overlaid atop your track:


In terms of where we stand on October 25th, 2016 – this is the full extent of navigation of a route.  It doesn’t tell you when you’re off-track, nor does it tell you when you’ve reached your waypoint.  It is but a silent breadcrumb trail.  That’s it.  So you can’t navigate to a waypoint, nor can you create/save waypoints.  This whole waypoint concept doesn’t exist here.  Nor does track-back, back to start, or anything else.

You can however change which route you’re using, by holding the middle button down for a few seconds, which opens the options menu:


From there you can select a different route to overlay:


As a side note, you can lock the screen by holding the lower right button down for a few seconds (it acts as lap otherwise).  Alternatively, you can change to a different sport using multisport mode by holding the upper right button down for a few seconds (it acts as start/stop otherwise).

DSC_3558 DSC_3554

Finally, as noted earlier, there is the compass.  This compass can be accessed through the main menu.  Further, there is where you can set the compass calibration.


By using a magnetic compass, you’ll get directional information based on the direction the watch is tilted.  Note how below I’ve rotated the unit three different orientations, and received (correctly) three different compass readings:

DSC_3527 DSC_3525 DSC_3526

Suunto says that in November you’ll get “POI Navigation”, which (likely) means you’ll be able to choose a specific waypoint to navigate to.  Until then, things are pretty basic.

GPS Accuracy:


Before we get too far into the weeds on GPS accuracy, I want to note a few things that are often misunderstood.  First and foremost is GPS chipsets.  Many people try and categorize GPS accuracy based on chipset vendors, but that’s rarely correct.  The reason is that a host of other things have much bigger GPS accuracy impacts than chipsets these days.  Antenna design being one of the biggest.  Virtually all ‘poor GPS accuracy’ units on the market in the recent past few years have had issues with antenna design, which specifically talks to the GPS antenna that’s ultimately connected to the GPS chipset to provide it with connectivity to GPS satellites.

Selection of GPS chipsets these days is largely done based on battery demands and components combinations.  So if companies can get more features on a single chipset while having minimal battery and/or accuracy impacts, they’ll likely do that.  Consumers have demanded GPS watches get smaller and smaller, so companies must get better at managing power (since battery space is minimal).  We see companies doing interesting and creative things on battery life, most of which are never seen by consumers.  For example, some units will utilize the accelerometer such that if a GPS isn’t moving, it’ll lessen the GPS polling rate (or turn it off entirely).  Accelerometer data is virtually ‘free’ in terms of battery requirements, so that’s an easy way to increase battery life in certain situations.

Others will reduce GPS polling rates.  Polling rates are impactful, whereas recording rates are rarely impactful for battery life (they save space, but that doesn’t much matter these days).  Finally, in order to increase accuracy, companies may implement technologies like GLONASS.  Neither directly increases accuracy though (many misunderstand this), but rather indirectly increases accuracy by increasing the number of satellites available, so that if you have a situation where the number of satellites is reduced – you still may have decent GPS accuracy.  Said differently (with imaginary numbers), if before you had 10 satellites available to you, and then went into a canyon and only had 2 left, you’d have poor accuracy.  Whereas now if you had 20 satellites with GLONASS, and you went into that same canyon you might have 6 left, leaving enough for OK accuracy.

In any case, none of that fancy talk matters though if the end resultant is suckville in terms of distance or tracks.

Which, brings us to the Suunto Spartan Ultra’s GPS accuracy levels.

To say that the SSU has variable accuracy, would be an understatement.  Over the past 3 months I’ve used it in a wide variety of conditions.  Mountains, forests, islands, deserts, cities, oceans, you name it.  Been there, done that.  Sometimes, it’s good, and other times it’s downright horrendous.  Let’s start with the good though.

This was a mixed run: Part path through the forest, part dense trail run, and part roadway run.  It’s what happens when I get bored half-way through a run and decide to wander.  As you can see, at a high level, everything looks good.


This section here for example is dense forest with a tiny little path that’s not well maintained (or at all).  More moose use it than humans.  Yet all three watches matched perfectly here.


Same goes for the roadway sections – again, no issues:


Now here’s a bit of a different trail run I did.  In this case, all three watches actually tracked the track fairly well during the trees and were pretty darn close to where I was.


But it’s this turnaround point that confuses me.  This was actually on a fairly open road with short trees on both sides.  It was climbing upwards slightly before I came right back down it.  It’s here that the Spartan separated the up/down tracks, and then went offset on both of them.  It’s odd because this was arguably the easiest part of the entire run from a tracking standpoint.


This happened again the next day, on a section where I left the trees to run on a dirt road.  Here too it diverted without reason, despite nailing the tree portion:


And again, later on in another section of the same run – another easy section:


What’s so weird about it is that in cases where I’d think it’d struggle, it doesn’t.  This city run in Bruges being a perfect example where it was just fine for the majority:


All the units seemed to struggle briefly in one block, though each to varying degrees.  The Spartan fumbled one turn while nailing another, and each other watch took their own turns screwing up.  Albeit all to minor degrees.


But, it’s really the ‘decoupling’ that I see most common, primarily towards the end of the run.  Like this simple run here where the Spartan decouples from the roadway and the rest of the units upon return:


Whereas otherwise it was spot-on during this trail run:


Then we’ve got this openwater swim I did.  It’s the only openwater swim I did with the unit, and so things may have changed since then.  But in short, it was dismal.  What’s funny though is that while I was swimming it was actually tracking correctly the entire time until the midpoint.  It  was nailing it.  Yet the map shows something completely different.  Let’s start there.  Despite having a starting point in the lower right corner for all units (and being above water for said starting point), the Spartan thought I started mid-way through the swim:


Note only that, it somehow only drew/recorded three data points.  Again, while I was swimming it was showing me live data just fine though (that matched the other units).  And just for backstop, here’s the original Movescount map:


But what was most interesting was what happened at that upper mid-point there.  It’s there that I discovered that anytime the unit went underwater for more than just a stroke or two, it’d add about 100-200m to the swim.  It was nuts.  Note again I haven’t done any openwater swims since, so perhaps something has been fixed there in a firmware update.  Nothing specifically for this scenario has been noted in firmware updates though to address this.

As a detour, let’s briefly talk elevation data (via barometric altimeter).  I’m only going to briefly talk about it because I really haven’t seen any issues with it.  It tracks right alongside other units with barometric altimeters without problem.  Here’s a couple of samples.  Note that in all these cases I let all three units automatically determine their starting elevations.  So in some cases one unit may be offset, though the ups/downs are at least correspondingly correct.


Note below is actually a case where the GPS altimeter of the FR735XT wasn’t horrible for once:


Though there is a minor blip at the start of this activity, where the Spartan requires some 0m values for 13 seconds.  I believe this is the only time I saw this.


Next, let’s look at a run from this weekend.  It’s a fairly straight-forward affair around the city here.  What’s interesting to me though is where it did well, where other units struggled.  For example, as I cut through the buildings of the Louvre (three times in fact), it actually nailed it spot-on (better than any other unit):


Those are massive buildings, and in one case I did a u-turn under the building, and it actually got that right.  So it can on occasion nail things.

Next, a ride out of the city.  In this case, the unit did perfectly for fine for 29K of the ride, except below where out of the middle of nowhere it just shot off to the side.


And that’s really the challenge I’ve found with the Suunto Spartan Ultra – there just isn’t a pattern to where good GPS spots and bad GPS spots are.  In cases where I’d think it might struggle, it actually does OK.  And yet it perfectly ‘easy’ wide-open spots it just misses the boat entirely.

Some might try and draw parallels to other watches, but I’m not sure that’s valid.  For one, it’s actually really hard to find someone that has great/good SSU GPS accuracy across all their activities.  I find a lot of people in forums that have either mixed, or bad, GPS accuracy.  Whereas with other watches you generally see a ‘healthy’ blend of good/mixed/bad cases.  In other words, it’s really hard to find someone with good results across the board.

Suunto themselves do seem to admit this is a problem, noting on this page:

“We have received feedback from some of our users on inconsistent GPS performance of Spartan watches, and have put significant effort into investigating this. Some users have seen highly accurate tracking in whole range of sports, while others have seen problems during even basic activities. This inconsistency had not manifested in our pre-launch testing, and it’s not how the GPS of Spartan should behave. Together with our GPS chip provider, we have now found a bug that is affecting the chip’s performance. We expect to release an update improving the GPS performance and accuracy of the Spartan in November.”

The hard question is knowing whether or not a software fix can address it.  Sometimes they can, sometimes they can’t (because the real issues is underlying hardware design).  The above note seems to throw blame at the chipset provider, which may very well be the case.  Or, it might not be.  I truly don’t know, and historically looking at other companies in the space is not a useful indicator.  Sometimes companies have been able to address issues, and sometimes not.

For those that wish to dig further though my historical data with the unit, here’s all activities where I had two or more units on me recording at the same time.  There were additional activities where only one device was being used, or, as was the case hiking in the Alps, when other devices ran out of @#$#@ battery mid-way through the long day. Grr…

Suunto Spartan Ultra Data

DateWorkout TypeData TypeComparison Link

(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy sections were created using the DCR Analyzer tool.  It allows you to compare power meters/trainers, heart rate, cadence, speed/pace, GPS tracks and plenty more. You can use it as well, more details here.)

Movescount Site:

Once you’ve completed all of your workout goodness, it ends up on Suunto’s Movescount website. This site is their training log platform, where you can analyze workouts in detail, as well as configure additional settings on your Spartan (which I covered up above in the Sport Settings section).

To begin, you’ll be sitting at your dashboard, which shows your past workouts in one handy little page:


Down below that you’ll see a list of individual activities, as well as your last workout.  You can see in this case I used the Suunto Movescount app to upload a photo from that workout, somewhat like Strava.  I like this, and it’s something that neither Garmin nor Polar have.


I can then select a given workout to get more information on that specific workout.  In this case, a bit of a hike in the Alps.  Here’s the full/expanded view of that activity:


As you can see, you can overlay different metrics within the chart, and select which metrics to show and/or not show:


These data metrics will vary depending on what was recorded.  In the above, I had a heart rate strap paired, whereas if I had a power meter attached, it’d also display that data as well.

Meanwhile, up top you can export data to files, should you want to share it on other platforms.


Though, Suunto does support sync to Strava and TrainingPeaks natively:


Without question though, my favorite new feature of Movescount is the heatmap.  This shows up anywhere you darn well want it to, and allows you to overlay which routes other users are using most commonly onto a map, filtered by the sport activity of your choice.  For example, below you can see my route cycling, and then I enabled the heatmap for cycling for this specific area.  The darker the red lines, the more popular:


Here’s another example in Paris, this time for running:


What I like about this over what other platforms do, is that I can show this anywhere in the world, versus just a few pre-selected cities.  There’s no limitations here, and the fact that I can filter based on sport/activity type is super-useful for finding relevant routes.  You can easily get to these and other heatmaps up top from the menu:


Now as much as I like Movescount for some of the analysis pieces, I do find it lacking when it comes to things like creating structured workouts.  Though, keep in mind that the Spartan series doesn’t yet support structured workouts or training plans.

Also while Suunto lacks the ability to plot daily activity stats (steps) and sleep tracking, it sounds like there’s more coming down the road later in the year on plotting some of these basics (noted as ‘Rest and Recovery’ on the upcoming plans page).  Hopefully even though Suunto isn’t displaying steps after the current day, they’re at least recording them behind the scenes so that data will show up eventually.

Feature Comparison:


So who is the Suunto Spartan Ultra competing against?  Honestly, I’m not sure.  Yes, in theory they’re competing against the Garmin Fenix3 and Polar V800, but in reality, that’s not much of a competition.  As it stands today, the Suunto Spartan Ultra can’t even compete against Suunto’s own two year old Ambit 3 Peak.  To illustrate that, I place all four units below in my product comparison tool:

Function/FeatureGarmin Fenix3 HRPolar V800Suunto Ambit3 PeakSuunto Spartan Ultra
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated April 29th, 2021 @ 4:56 am New Window
Product Announcement DateJan 5th, 2016Jan 6th, 2014July 10th, 2014June 7th, 2016
Actual Availability/Shipping DateFebruary 2016May 2014Sept 2014August 2016
GPS Recording FunctionalityYesYesYesYes
Data TransferUSB/Bluetooth Smart/WiFiUSB, BLUETOOTH SMARTUSB & Bluetooth SmartUSB & Bluetooth Smart
WaterproofingYes - 100mYes - 30mYes - 100mYes - 100m
Battery Life (GPS)Up to 50hrs in GPS with optical off, about 20-25% less with optical HR onUp to 50 hoursUp to 200 HoursUp to 65 hours
Recording Interval1S OR SMART1sVariableVariable
Backlight GreatnessGreatGreatGreatGreat
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceYesNoYesNo
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)YesYesMinimalSteps only (not distance/sleep)
MusicGarmin Fenix3 HRPolar V800Suunto Ambit3 PeakSuunto Spartan Ultra
Can control phone musicYEsNoNoNo
Has music storage and playbackNoNoNoNo
Streaming ServicesNoNo
PaymentsGarmin Fenix3 HRPolar V800Suunto Ambit3 PeakSuunto Spartan Ultra
Contactless-NFC PaymentsNoNo
ConnectivityGarmin Fenix3 HRPolar V800Suunto Ambit3 PeakSuunto Spartan Ultra
Bluetooth Smart to Phone UploadingYesYesYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)YesYesYesYes
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)YesNoNoNo
Group trackingNoNoNoNo
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)NoNoNoNo
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoNoNoNo
CyclingGarmin Fenix3 HRPolar V800Suunto Ambit3 PeakSuunto Spartan Ultra
Designed for cyclingYesYesYesYes
Power Meter CapableYesYesYesYes
Power Meter Configuration/Calibration OptionsYesYesYesYes
Power Meter TSS/NP/IFYesNPNoNo
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableYesYesYesYes
Strava segments live on deviceNoYesNoNo
Crash detectionNoNoNoNo
RunningGarmin Fenix3 HRPolar V800Suunto Ambit3 PeakSuunto Spartan Ultra
Designed for runningYesYesYesYes
Footpod Capable (For treadmills)YEsYesYesYes
Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc...)With HRM-TRI or HRM-RUN (Not via Optical HR)NoNoNo
Running PowerWith extra sensor
VO2Max EstimationYEsYesYesYes
Race PredictorYesYes, via Race PaceNoNo
Recovery AdvisorYesYesYesYes
Run/Walk ModeYEsYes, via timersNoNo
SwimmingGarmin Fenix3 HRPolar V800Suunto Ambit3 PeakSuunto Spartan Ultra
Designed for swimmingYesYesYesYes
Openwater swimming modeYesYesYesYes
Lap/Indoor Distance TrackingYesYesYesYes
Record HR underwaterWITH HRM-TRI/HRM-SWIM (Not with optical HR)With Certain Polar StrapsYesYes
Openwater Metrics (Stroke/etc.)YesYesYesYes
Indoor Metrics (Stroke/etc.)YEsYesYesYes
Indoor Drill ModeYEsNoYesNo
Indoor auto-pause featureYEsYesNoNo
Change pool sizeYesYesYesYes
Indoor Min/Max Pool Lengths17M/18Y TO 150Y/M20M/Y to 250 m/y15m/y to 1,200m/y15m/y to 1,200m/y
Ability to customize data fieldsYEsYesYesyes
Captures per length data - indoorsYEsYesYesYes
Indoor AlertsYesN/ANoNo
TriathlonGarmin Fenix3 HRPolar V800Suunto Ambit3 PeakSuunto Spartan Ultra
Designed for triathlonYesYesYesYes
Multisport modeYesYesYesYes
WorkoutsGarmin Fenix3 HRPolar V800Suunto Ambit3 PeakSuunto Spartan Ultra
Create/Follow custom workoutsYesYesNoNo
On-unit interval FeatureYesYesBarelyYes (added Mar 31st, 2017)
Training Calendar FunctionalityYesYesNoYes
FunctionsGarmin Fenix3 HRPolar V800Suunto Ambit3 PeakSuunto Spartan Ultra
Auto Start/StopYesYesYesNo
Virtual Partner FeatureYesYesNoNo
Virtual Racer FeatureYEsNoNoNo
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)YesNoNoNo
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNoNo
Weather Display (live data)yESNoNoNo
NavigateGarmin Fenix3 HRPolar V800Suunto Ambit3 PeakSuunto Spartan Ultra
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)YesYesYesYes
Markers/Waypoint DirectionYesYesYesYes
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)NoNoNoNo
Back to startYesYesYesYes
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationNoNoNoNo
Download courses/routes from phone to unitYesYesYesYes
SensorsGarmin Fenix3 HRPolar V800Suunto Ambit3 PeakSuunto Spartan Ultra
Altimeter TypeBarometricBarometricBarometricBarometric
Compass TypeMagneticMagneticMagneticMagnetic
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyYesNoNoNo
SpO2 (aka Pulse Oximetry)No
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleYesYesYesYes
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableYesNoNoNo
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableYEsNoNoNo
ANT+ Footpod CapableYEsNoNoNo
ANT+ Power Meter CapableYesNoNoNo
ANT+ Lighting ControlNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)NoNoNoNo
ANT+ Remote ControlNo (can control VIRB though)no (but can control GoPro)NoNo
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Gear Shifting (i.e. SRAM ETAP)NoNoNoNo
Shimano Di2 ShiftingNoNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableNoYesYesYes
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableNoYesYesYEs
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapablenOYesYesYes
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableNoYesYesYes
Temp Recording (internal sensor)YesYesYesYes
Temp Recording (external sensor)YesNoNoNo
SoftwareGarmin Fenix3 HRPolar V800Suunto Ambit3 PeakSuunto Spartan Ultra
PC ApplicationGarmin ExpressPolar Flowsync - Windows/MacMoveslink AgentPC/Mac
Web ApplicationGarmin ConnectPolar FlowSuunto MovescountSuunto Movescount
Phone AppiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS/AndroidiOS/AndroidiOS /Android
Ability to Export SettingsNoNoNoNo
PurchaseGarmin Fenix3 HRPolar V800Suunto Ambit3 PeakSuunto Spartan Ultra
DCRainmakerGarmin Fenix3 HRPolar V800Suunto Ambit3 PeakSuunto Spartan Ultra
Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLink

Note, you can create your own comparison charts here within the product comparison tool.  This allows you to mix and match any watches I’ve reviewed in one massive chart.

All My Suunto Spartan Videos:

Over the last few months I’ve put together a small flotilla of videos on the Suunto Spartan series.  I’ve organized them into a single playlist, which will iterate through each video of awesomeness below.  One after another.  Simply sit back, grab an oversized chocolate bar, and enjoy:

If and when I create more videos, they’ll automatically show up in the above list.  Also, you can simply subscribe to my YouTube channel here, which means you’ll get notified of new goodness instantly.



I’ll be honest, I don’t get it.

Not so much the watch actually, but rather, how Suunto got themselves into this pickle.  Someone at the company must have pushed for this watch to ship by a given timetable, hell or high water.  And unfortunately, it ended up being hellish high water.

Simply put: The watch should have never shipped in this state.  Not back in August, not now, and probably not even in January or March 2017.

I had hoped that by late September, which was Suunto’s first major software update for the Spartan Ultra, that they’d have ‘caught up’.  But now we sit here in late October, and the update content has dwindled, and key updates pushed further.  If we look at their published schedule, it’s all about catch-up.  Virtually every single feature listed is about ‘catching up’ to their own watch from two plus years ago.  Heck, their own watch from 4 years ago with the original Ambit.

By every objective measure, this watch has less features than every watch Suunto has ever made in the segment, yet costs more.  It also works more poorly than every multisport watch they’ve ever made.

As I said, I don’t get it.

Suunto has always prided itself on delivering stable and reliable releases for years.  Even when they were behind the curve on features, you could at least count on it being a solid and reliable device.  Accurate, versatile, and customizable.  But it’s no longer possible to say that.  Undoubtedly by the time Suunto releases all the planned updates, competitors will be not one, but two or three steps ahead.

Hopefully, with their announcement of using Valencell for the upcoming Suunto Spartan Sport edition with optical heart rate, they’ll find their way again.  That would legitimately give Suunto an edge on accuracy in the optical HR realm.  Until then, it’s going to be a hard push forward.

Found this review useful? Or just wanna save a bundle of cash? Here’s how:

Hopefully you found this review useful. At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device. The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love). As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.

I’ve partnered with Clever Training to offer all DC Rainmaker readers an exclusive 10% discount across the board on all products (except clearance items). You can pickup the Suunto Spartan Ultra  variants below. Then receive 10% off of everything in your cart by adding code DCR10BTF at checkout. By doing so, you not only support the site (and all the work I do here) – but you also get a sweet discount. And, since this item is more than $75, you get free US shipping as well.

Suunto Spartan Ultra (click drop-down for all variants)

Additionally, you can also use Amazon to purchase the Suunto Spartan and accessories (though, no discount). Or, anything else you pickup on Amazon helps support the site as well (socks, laundry detergent, cowbells). If you’re outside the US, I’ve got links to all of the major individual country Amazon stores on the sidebar towards the top.

Thanks for reading! And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them!

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  1. Michael


  2. Henrik

    It looks very stylish! I would wear a black or metal Spartan as a everyday clock.

    • It’s funny, this is one of the few white units I received as a review unit (over time). At first I thought it was kinda so-so, but the white actually grew on me. Maybe I’m just bored of wearing the same color watches all the time.

      Though, oddly, the Suunto Spartan Sport just arrived today by UPS. It’s black with silver trim, and the unit does look pretty sleek.

    • Sal

      I wonder If Suunto will ever send you other watches after this destroying review 🙂

    • I’m optimistic they’ll find their way. They just need to re-focus and hire more people for software development. More and more it’s about features.

      If they can get their optical version on-par with an Ambit3 but with the Valencell sensor, that could be incredibly compelling. It might not be as competitive as a Fenix3 HR, but it could be compelling to those who don’t want Garmin but still want reliable optical HR.

    • MikeA

      I think it’s a really nice looking watch but do you not think the fairly low-res watch faces really let the styling down?

  3. jj2005

    I wanted to like this watch so much, almost bought one to take over from my trusty V800 but reading on the interwebs made me reconsider to wait until your review, I sincerly hope they fix it for all the people who already purchased…

  4. Johan Lundberg

    Thanks for the review Ray.
    It is really tough reading though, and I must say that I really feel cheated by Suunto. This is a real disaster, not sure what to do now…

    • Yeah, I’m not sure there’s a good solution here. And folks are welcome to disagree on my opinions of course above, but I think I went beyond the extra mile to try and give the benefit of the doubt in my opinions while still laying out the facts of any/the situation.

      The reality is that had Garmin released a watch in this state (that you can’t change data fields for example, or that sensors don’t really work), people would have rioted. Olathe (home of Garmin) would be in flames.

      I’m sure Suunto is feeling pressure (lots of it), but I don’t know if they realize how much worse it’d be if the tables were turned.

    • rabbit

      “The reality is that had Garmin released a watch in this state”…

      Do you remember the buggy garmin epix, which is still sold by garmin? The never said officially, that there will be no more (bug fix ) updates and there are tons of bugs…

      But this is another sad story…

    • If one were to create a table, it’d have the following rows:

      Spartan Epix
      Competitive: No Yes
      Full featured: No Yes
      Basic features: No Yes
      Bugs: Lots Some

      You can see how these are different.

    • Patrick Myers

      Rabbit, How about the Fenix 2? Mine doesn’t even turn on anymore and I had to stop using it because it kept crashing during races. I won’t even consider the Fenix 3 because the 2 left such a bad taste in my mouth.

      Now the 920xt… that’s a rock solid watch.

    • Michael Peterson

      “The reality is that had Garmin released a watch in this state..”

      What, like the Fenix2?

    • Nah, the Fenix2 was great compared to the Fenix1.

      For those that want to see what happens when Garmin releases something like this – go back into the archives and read my Fenix1 review. Specifically the ‘running’ section: link to dcrainmaker.com

    • Michael Peterson

      No, The Fenix2 was still a terrible watch that was incredibly unstable and full of bugs. It took Garmin three _hardware releases_ to get the Fenix to an acceptable level. And even with the Fenix3 it still took numerous post-release firmware updates for GPS accuracy to become reasonable.

      Sorry Ray, but if you’re going to hand out the bad news to one vendor, you really need to stop glossing over Garmin’s short-comings.

    • Andrew Crose

      I bought the Fenix2 when it came out. Still use it. With the current firmware, is a good watch that nearly matches every other watch on the market except the Fenix3HR. The Fenix3 HR is a step change with optical HR, all-day movement monitoring, Wifi, and Glonass support, but I’m still holding back waiting for a few mm to be shaved off hopefully in the Fenix4. Music would be nice too. That aside, reading this review, there is no reason to change to this Suunto watch over Fenix2.

    • And yet most people seem happy with it. Prior to the Fenix3, it was one of their best sellers. Just like most people didn’t have accuracy issues either.

      I get people have different experiences, but if all one reads is the Garmin forums (where people only go to get support on issues), then that’s all one sees.

      As for Garmin’s short-comings, I’ve long since realized that when people say that, they rarely actually read the text my reviews. As I’m generally far more critical of Garmin issues/bugs than all other companies. Garmin simply releases more products, so that’s spread out over more products. 21 Fitness related products in 2015. Suunto released, what, 2 (if that)?

    • okrunner

      Yep. The Fenix 1 was sh**. Gotta rank up there as one of their worst devices and maybe one of the worst gps watches ever. I had two and neither worked right. Put notifications on a watch that will bring battery life down to less than a day, what the he** were they thinking. I had practically given up on Garmin save my trustee 305 after two Fenix 1’s until my wife, unknown to me, bought me a F3HR. But for the F3HR, I mighta done something stupid like buy the Spartan Ultra. I was pissed at Garmin for the Fenix 1.

    • Paul S.

      I thought the Fenix 1 was great. It was the first Garmin watch to allow actual maps, and did everything I wanted it to do. I had very little trouble with it when I wasn’t using the betas, and not much more when I was. Sure, it wasn’t a smart watch, but it wasn’t meant to be. Still have mine, but it’s retired and replaced by an Epix.

    • Kevin Doyle

      I’ve had a fenix 1 for nearly 3 years and apart from user error, not had a problem, whether that be running, hiking or cycling. It’s rock solid, which is unfortunate as I do like to get new gadgets! Unfortunately I can’t justify the price tag of a Fenix 3 whilst my current Fenix just works……kiss of death i know but there you go!

    • Edgar

      I had a Fenix 2, it was the worst nightmare I had with sport watches. Full of bugs and mediocre hardware (specially the battery). It restart and drop my workout log when it matters most. I hate it. I hated it too much that promised never buy a Garmin watch again. Fenix 3… hmmm too expensive for “just to try”. Then I bought an Ambit 3. Totally different product. Its rock-solid, never disappointed me. Sorry to hear about the mediocre Spartan debut. Really sorry about that. I really love suunto, their watches used to be flawless, until now.
      It’s incredible the pressure Suunto developers are feeling. I’m afraid they are loosing tons of loyal customers. When Spartan was released, they modified Movescount app to add Spartan support, but in the process they make a lot of NEW bugs in the app for the old Ambit. Now, every time I sync swimming data with my iPhone, I loose important data like pace or it’s so corrupted that it’s useless. Two months ago after reporting the problem to Suunto, I’m waiting for engineers to fix this bug, but I’m afraid that with the pressure for Spartan to be their flagship of watches, I think sadly that my Ambit was leaved in the last priority.

    • Raul

      I agree! Fenix 2 a lot better than 1? That’s a relative thing. Judging is done on absolute aspects off course. This just means 1 was an even greater disaster!
      It looks like all brands aren’t capable to design something good anymore. Wearables especially but also the bigger ones, like Edge 1000.
      Guess the shareholders are to blame……

  5. Kristian

    As a Suunto fan I saw this coming based on user feedback on different forums, but I have hoped for Suuntos sake it was not this bad.

    Will probably wait for Fenix 4 to replace my Ambit 3 Peak now. Just to addicted to the accurate GPS and elevation data to go for Fenix 3:)

    • ori

      Addicted to the accurate elevation data? in ambit 3 peak? really?
      do you know that in “running climbing” challenges in strava you can identify very easily the ambit 3 peak users due to “larger than life” accumulate climb…the worst barometer ever!!
      In Israel we used to flag users with this watch because it so full with errors.

  6. Andrew

    Any chance we see a price drop on the old Ambit3 anytime soon?

  7. Too bad for the ultra I thought in short the same about this whatch. What is Suunto doing?

    But what do you think about the Ambit vertical isn’t that also a one to compare with in your table? It is also a multisport watch look with a more (in mine opinion) slicker everyday look as the peak and much newer device but still not the same as the peak of course.

  8. mucher

    Aw crap. So the Ambit Vertical was not a single accident (I know a guy that went back to 3 Peak due to poor GPS). That antenna bump must have been full of pixie dust, shame it’s gone.

  9. fraser

    Hi Ray!

    What happend to your RSS-feed? It shows me only links to “mycakeschool.com”. The “Chocolate gold drip on Buttercreame” sounds great, but its not exactly what I expect to read on your site. Maybe on The Girls site. 😀

    • Odd, I don’t see anything weird on my side. What does the feed look like when you click on it: link to dcrainmaker.com

      In looking at my Feedly link, the same – all good. Any chance your interwebs has issues?

    • fraser

      The feed in your link looks fine. Just added it and deletet the old one. Really dont know what happend there. Hmm.


    • Petr

      I was redirected to mycakeschool.com when I clicked on my dcrainmaker.com bookmark this afternoon (guess around 5 pm CET). Tried like 3 times from firefox and chrome, the same result… Checked your Twitter feed, saw Spartan review link and got to the site by clicking it.

    • loshko

      by the way I also saw this yesterday – when opening dcrainmaker.com I got to this same cake site. I thought someone hacked you or sth. The twitter link to the Spartan review worked just fine & same for navigation via the site menu.

    • Thanks all, appreciate it.

      I checked with the hosting company, and there was a period for four minutes yesterday where it redirected. This was after a human made an error updating the SSL certs on the site, resulting in the mistaken redirect during a copy/paste operation. Despite having two people following the operating, the mistake wasn’t caught instantly (though was caught four minutes later).

      There does seem to be some outstanding issue now with older Blackberry users accessing the site via HTTPS, due to not accepting this certificate type. The company is looking at what options are available (with an e-mail thread playing ping-pong as we speak this morning)>

      Sorry for that!

    • Those older BB users will have to add the Let’s Encrypt intermediate certificate to their Phones.

      Go To: https://www.identrust.com…tid/root-download-x3.html

      Copy and paste that DST Root certificate into a text file and save it on your old Blackberry
      use .pem as the extension.

      On your old Blackberry go to:

      Settings > Security and Privacy> Certificates- and click “+ Import”

      Navigate to the Certificate and import it.

      Worked for me. If not, download the Letsencrypt Authority X3 intermediate certificate here:
      link to letsencrypt.org

    • “Those older BB users will have to add the Let’s Encrypt intermediate certificate to their Phones.”

      I meant the *root* certificate..

    • for those of the Blackberry users who find this a bit difficult (the older folks), you can do it almost automaticaly by downloading the MultiCERT app from the Blackberry app store:

      link to appworld.blackberry.com

  10. Michael

    Ray, you state that Suunto devices and Movescount “do not supports training plans or structured workouts”.
    Though, they have training plans in the platform, that could be dowloaded to your watches, as well you can create these plans by yourself.

  11. Darren Spicknell

    The lack of apps make this a basic wearable according to the IDC report from yesterday not even a smart watch. Lol.

  12. S-Go

    Loved Suunto coz even though didnt have the whiz bang features of Garmin, what they did, they did well and were rock solid. My Ambit 2S never ever lost any workout data over more than a 1000 workouts.

    Looks like Suunto totally shat the bed on this one. Sensor dropouts and non customisable screens. Shame coz its such a nice looking device.

    BTW the DC Rainmaker discount isnt valid on the Garmin Fenix 3 HR. Why???

    I’ve also been waiting on the Lezyne Micro C GOS watch and it looks delayed. Still says later October at Clever Training. Thoughts? Will we ever see a review of it here?

    • For Garmin stuff, you have to use the VIP program (it’s a Garmin restriction): link to dcrainmaker.com

      For Lezyne, I’ll be review some of the cycling units, though probably not the watch unless I see more demand for it.

    • S-Go

      No way I’ll buy the Lezyne unless you review it. Had my heart set on the Suunto actually but Suunto lost at least one sale since you have reported such middling results earlier and completely panned it here.

      Do you have any insights at to why they flubbed it so badly? GPS lock was one of the Ambit series’ strengths.

  13. Hugo Paredes

    So, bottom line, don’t buy this watch!
    I also find it very expensive, even if it would have full features.

  14. Haitz

    I bought a month ago a spartan sport…actually is into its box ?.

    I have to say that I agree with your review completelly, and I say more.

    I had constant lack of heart rate running!
    I have a 4iiii precision power metter, that never could be calibrated with the spartan. There isn’t any calibration option for bike power metter. So the power values shown are incorrect!
    I also have a stryd witch if I pair to the spartan, works showing the running power but unpairs the bike powermetter.

    It’s crazy to think that suunto sells a very expensive watch unfinalized. I mean a beta product! But that’s the reality…

  15. Too bad it doesn’t have optical HR yet, I will wait for it. Also, I don’t really care for nice colors, I prefer a longer lasting battery.
    I’ll keep my Ambit 2, if it ain’t broken don’t fix it !

  16. Alex Masidlover

    I have an Ambit 3 Sport which I’ve been getting on with very well;its fair to say I’ve been mildly jealous of the Garmin hardware on the Fenix 3, but there’s no way I’d want to go back to having to edit data fields on the watch, not being able to ‘just’ create a route and send it to the watch (without using MCBADGER’s tool…) and having data from my Mio Link discarded when pool swimming.

    So when the images of the Spartan came out I was quite optimistic. Sadly its looking more and more like Suunto have repeated what they did with the Movescount Android App and released (in my opinion) an ‘alpha’ product to customers (to me beta is largely feature complete and mostly reliable; you should just be expecting your beta testers to find ‘edge’ cases and report on reliability).

    Its taken over a year for the Movescount Android App to get to something which, for me, is now pretty reliable and feature complete, my guess is the Spartan will take a similar length of time. My biggest worry is with the GPS accuracy; if that’s hardware then it may never be fixed.

    The big question is whether Ray will be willing to re-review it in 12 months (or more) time when its close to ‘finished’; since I use Ray’s reviews as the go-to guide for features and instructions on sports tech (thanks Ray!)

  17. Tommies

    Ask your baby for your unboxing photos !
    I dont know how ….but when i’m looking for something i ALMAYS find it in a stranger place.
    I think it’s a baby superpower….i repeat ! ask your baby. Or second Idea….ask her partner in crime…. THE DOG.
    Because babies and dogs dominate the world.
    Last chance search zone 51.

  18. Kyle

    Ray, I think you have given this watch more than enough time to atleast have basic features the Ambit series had. Its sad they are still missing. I haven a couple questions though.
    In regard to the Ambit series or 3 Peak to be specific, why does Suunto use LOS to give distance to the next waypoint? Especially when you have a route in there to go by? Is this going to be the same on the Spartan series or will it follow the route distance?(when they ever get to implementing it)
    Thank for the review, I’m still using my Ambit 3 Peak and had high hopes for this but it looks like I’ll just wait for the Fenix 4 hopefully announced at CES

  19. Flo

    This is the same conclusion that you see on other sites… Bad move from Suunto! Going to stay with my Garmin F3!

  20. Any

    I’ll go out on a limb here, but I think it was a genius move by Suunto. After the release of Spartan, their sales of Ambit3 Peak must’ve skyrocketed. They must’ve sold tons of Peaks. And they got a few early adopters to buy Spartan as well – at a ridiculously high price!

    Of course, I’m joking here… 🙂

  21. Niko

    A día de hoy el Spartan para la hora y poco más. Una gran decepción.

  22. rpjwhite

    Great Review ray as usual.

    I don’t understand, Suunto make diving watches where they are (were certainly) the class of the field for sports divers and those watches are used for life and death decisions (when to do safety stops). How can a company that has that level of reputation get it so wrong?


    • Jaka

      They probably put a team of junior developers to the task of creating the software. 🙂

      But on a serious note, the platform is totally new and so is the hardware – a recipe for disaster or belated launch or in this case a disastrous early launch.

      Let’s hope for the best and give them “a bit” of time to fix this mess.

  23. Aaron

    Holy skeumorphic watchfaces Batman!

  24. Mark

    (Slightly off topic, but …) The statement that WAAS doesn’t increase accuracy isn’t entirely correct. In fact, the whole point of WAAS (and other SBAS – satellite based augmentation systems) is to increase GPS accuracy. Whether WAAS does this directly or indirectly may be a matter of splitting hairs, but WAAS does not do this by increasing the number of satellites available. Rather WAAS adds a known error correction factor to the GPS-determined location, thereby increasing the accuracy of the position. GLONASS is a different matter – additional satellites.

  25. Chris

    Although you haven’t added a full review of it yet, from first glance it seems like the TomTom Adventurer, for a lot less money, actually works better as a hiking/multi-sport watch than the Suunto Spartan. Is that fair?

    • Oddly enough, at this point, that’s a fair statement for hiking.

      Though for multisport, none of the TomTom units have a multisport mode. Rather, you can do all the sports, just individually.

    • Chris

      Thanks Ray,

      But for someone who does activities like cycling, hiking & running individually, as well as other sports like skiing in winter, it’s interesting to see Suunto falling behind.

      I work in the NGO space so money is a big factor – from what I’ve read, I feel like the Fenix 3 is still the best out there but it’s above my pay grade if I want to actually spend money on doing the activities. I’d be keen to see a full review of that TomTom watch if you ever have a chance!

      Thanks so much. 🙂

  26. P

    When you run a 5k race and the watch reports 4.2k that’s not a blip it’s a serious problem. Inconsistency is definitely the politest way to describe the way the watch works at times and Suunto really need to fix the GPS issues.
    Fair review, could have been a lot harsher

  27. Charlie Anderson

    Not sure why I kept reading after the sensor section. Constantly dropping or repairing sensor connections would drive me nuts!

  28. tfk

    I really thought you’d bottled it for a month or so 🙂 Well done.

    The longterm defence for the Spartan might be that it turns out to be a good hardware platform for them to build on and it IS very pretty. I suspect we all wanted an AMBIT3 in the Spartan’s clothing.

    • User666

      Actually your defence in “the five k runner blog” was the “razor sharp GPS” so now you aren’t happy at all, are you?

  29. Jordi

    I own a Spartan and I totally agree with the criticism of the review. I thought you’d be even tougher, to be honest. Fair review. I can’t understand how Suunto could expect this to be a successful launch either.

    Regarding GPS though, I don’t neglect the issues that some people are having nor the ones you experienced yourself in the review, but I haven’t stumbled upon those myself. I had to get one unit replaced because it bricked during a software update, which sucked, but other than that, no problems with anything nor with the GPS.

    I’ve been running quite a bit with an Ambit3 and the Spartan, and I’ve had good GPS accuracy. I haven’t seen experienced the inconsistency you mention. The Ambit is still better, with better ‘repeatability’, while the Spartan looks slightly more scattered when overlaying different runs on the same path. See the spartan: link to bit.ly , the ambit: link to bit.ly and all together: link to bit.ly

    If the Ambit GPS was ‘great’, I’d say the the spartan is ‘good’. Now that they’ve found this bug, hopefully it can get even better and to work as it should for those who’ve had issues. Also, the fact that in challenging situations it can outperform other devices while in other situations that seem ‘easier’ it struggles makes me think it might be just fine tuning the way they massage the GPS data or how sensitive it is to the GPS signal. Time will tell…

    The reason why I’m giving it a chance even though the list of missing features is big compared to the Ambit is disappointing, to say the least, is the possibility to display more data fields at once. I pretty much bought this watch because of the way it looked like sport modes would be able to be customized. If Suunto can deliver on that and gps accuracy, it’ll have been worth it.

    My biggest worry though is that they’ve got to turn around this situation quickly and have the watch be consistent for all users. After such a terrible launch, I want a flagship watch that sells well and gets the development time it deserves. If this watch flops, I’m not sure I want to stick to it even if I got a ‘good’ one.

  30. The GPS inconsistency if you look closer it’s just offseted. This is very funny. It’s always like the GPS chipset is reading ok data but the save offsets them. Strange.

  31. Great review Ray!

    I was wondering about one thing. Imagine that you got that watch with all the features working. From fixed gps issues, baro-alti profiles, charts and all the promised ones, then in that case would your review be more positive and if yes in what way.

    I am asking this because a lot of users, like me, have bought the product recently, thus we also wait on updates. In an attempt to stop our puzzling minds. this might contribute on decisions on wether to return it or not, because indeed hardware wise is an excellent piece of equipment imho. Thank you again!

    • I don’t know. It’s hard to say.

      Here’s the thing though. Let’s say you take the entire list of planned features up on their site today, and then let’s say that everything works and that none of it is underlying hardware related. Let’s say that resolve the GPS issues, and then somehow resolve the performance/screen issues.

      Once all that’s done, you’re basically just left with a Suunto Ambit3 Peak in a different coat. True, you’ve have vibration alerts and a color touchscreen, but beyond that…?

      And that’s really what I even somewhat gloss over in this review – is that even if you assume everything is fixed tomorrow, how is that really competitive in today’s marketplace? There’s just so many opportunities for Suunto to add new features, that they aren’t doing. After all – they were the first to market with an app ecosystem for their watch – in late 2012. They were actually the first mainstream company to do so. Before Pebble, before Garmin, before Apple and before Android and relatives.

      Yet they cut that going forward. At a time when everyone else is expanding that concept, they cut it with no further announced plans there.

    • Dimitrios Kanellopoulos

      Thanks again. Roger that Sir. I will wait to see where this gets and if not within some months since dont get brighter I will ask for a refund as not working as advertised that we are eligible in EU as far as I know. I say this in case other consumers are in the same position as me and wonder what I ll do.

      Keep it up Ray!

  32. Dat

    Suunto Spartan – disappointment of the year! Another such “revolutionary” product and I will have to move to Garmin.

  33. I was complaining about the GPS inaccuracy on the Fenix 3 HR – and was eyeing Suunto watches.

    Looks like staying with Garmin is the way to go! Fix the software Suunto !

    • okrunner

      Yep. F3HR has its gps accuracy issues. But, it does everything else so damn well and the battery life is awesome. Also, I find that looking at maps of tracks for the F3HR drives you crazy but in reality the data, i.e. the distance, time, etc. is spot on.

  34. Theo

    Hi Ray,

    Your review realy highlights the weaknesses of the Spartan. Though, being a naive, blue-eyed, positive guy, I think that you should not forget the good sides of the Spartan.

    I’ve been using it since the middle of august. I agree that they’ve released a Beta version of the firmware. Something they never should have done.

    My experience with the GPS is actually not at all that bad. Especially during outdoor swimming. I’ve done approximately 10 outdoor swim workouts with the Spartan and it is considerably more accurate compared with the Ambit 2S. Have a look at 2 example workouts:
    2S: link to movescount.com
    Spartan: link to movescount.com
    In the South-West part of this bay, there are 2 buoys that we swim around. The spartan nails this every time, while the 2S usually doesn’t.
    Also pool swimming is more accurate compared with the 2S. The Spartan is quite spot on during my pool swimming sessions.
    I’ve neither had issues with multiple sensors. During road cycling I use the smart HR sensor and P1’s without any issues.

    I keep believing that the Suunto people will get this watch competative. The mercandising promisses and product launch is rather disastrous. But I realy love the looks of the watch and can’t wait until the android compatibility gets activated. Maybe I’m fooling myself, but I don’t think the watch is performing that bad compared with the 2S and 3S (which I both own).

    • Benoit

      I must say I share the same hope… but maybe it’s just a way to convince ourselves that we just did not throw 800€ out of the window.

  35. MikeA

    I’ve been an Ambit user for a number of years – I like their products and they’ve been a good fit for the sort of running I do, particularly with their battery life, nav features, ease of use and reliability, not to mention the apps. I recently sold my Ambit3 Peak in expectation of the Ultra coming along.

    I’ve had a Spartan Ultra for a couple of weeks now and it’s been a painful experience.

    Build quality is nice it’s a really nice looking watch no matter which colour you go for. The titanium one is nice and light and the strap is really soft, so good first impressions then I turned it on & actually tried to use it.

    I connected it to get the firmware update but it got stuck in a loop when trying to call and I needed to call their support. Once it was up and running, I was baffled by the low-res screen – certainly doesn’t look like the promo pics. Whack brightness up to 100 and you start to get close.

    First impression of the touchscreen is that it’s not great – I’ve been spoiled by Apple screens and am dubious about their appliance to watches like this given how they’ll be used. But you can use buttons… except there’s only three of them and their use varies depending where you are in the UI meaning it’s not as foolproof as previous Ambits.

    When I start to scroll through activities, the screen re-draw/refresh is really glitchy and slow. Underspecced hardware or poor software? So now in actual use…

    I gave up trying to get it to pair to the Movescount app until it started randomly working last night but stopped again today. Suunto don’t know why it wouldn’t pair and kept asking me to turn things off and on. “Are you sure you’ve set pairing to be on?” Etc. This process also showed up the half-baked UI – on the dim screen I started to double guess myself about whether or not some of the slider switch toggles were actually on or off.

    Having used it for some run activities, I’ve had drops from the heart rate sensor and inconsistent gps tracking which you’ve gone in to detail about. The information screens work well on the move – they’re a really clear source of info, very easy to read in all weathers. One thing that struck me is that when you pause an activity, it’s a really simple and clear screen with colour coding – there’s no doubt what scree you’re on or what buttons do what. So why is much of the rest of the UI such a mess?

    The move to three buttons will take some getting used to, but just needs practice. The old five button interface was so intuitive that I picked it up quickly, but I’ve found myself puzzling over how to do things on the new watch mid-run.

    The watch arrived about 15 minutes before I left on business so i used it “out the box” for a few days and then arrived back and thought I’d persist and try configuring the sports screens as I like them. A simple example is a screen showing ascent, descent etc for hill runs. Ummmm, how do I do that? I spent ages going through Movescount to try and find the settings and then gave up and googled it, only to find I couldn’t.

    That was the final straw for me, so the watch is being returned and exchanged for an Ambit3 Peak.

    Before the Spartan I’d been using an Apple Watch for a while to track shorter activities and I think using that has coloured some of my expectations of the Spartan. Say what you will abuit the Apple Watch but it’s got a very clear, high res and responsive touchscreen and the software is now very intuitive and responsive too. I’d expected the Spartan to emulate some of the things devices like the Apple Watch has done well, but it’s as if they’ve been locked in their labs ignoring what’s been going on in the market over the last 12 months or so.

    I genuinely don’t know who the target market for this watch is or what their design brief was. As for releasing it right now when it’s so unfinished and possibly even underpowered (which you ain’t going to fix), it’s a baffling decision.

    Ultimately it’s just really disappointing to see how far they’ve messed this launch up and I wonder where they’re going to go next with it.

  36. Anton

    I really hope that we are not seeing another Nokia here. A well respected company that completely lost the plot with some bad strategic decisions. This whole launch is making me sad. I hope Suunto will pull it together in the end.

  37. Fripp

    “Someone at the company must have pushed for this watch to ship by a given timetable, hell or high water. And unfortunately, it ended up being hellish high water.”

    I think they have (had?) some major management problems at Suunto. We saw the same (a couple of times) when the Movescount Android App was pushed forward just a couple of days prior to the release date. And then, suddenly, the promised release turned into a 1/2 year public beta. The dev. team must have known way earlier that they woudn’t be able to make it but weren’t able to convince the organisation.

    Looks as they got the same problems with the spartan release.

  38. tinu80

    I have bought the watch mid-august and used it quite extensively. I think it is a nice piece of hardware (we will see for gps though), but what I really do not get is the poor firmware. It is really lacking so many basic features. And, as time goes by, I am loosing confidence in Suunto to get significant improvements. I simply can’t believe that it’s the same guys coding the firmware for ambit 3 and spartan. I also miss attention to small details, what I would expect from such an expensive watch. Let me give you an example: If language is set to german, some words just dont fit the screen (yeah they like long words but why is Suunto not checking this before release?). Or, example number 2: If you start a trail run (mountain/hill mode), the lap summary screen is incomplete and shows some weird signs in the header. Though I submitted this to Suunto over a month ago, they still didn’t manage to fix this small bug. Seeing this i just ask myself: how the hell will they manage to fix the real bugs and significantly improve functionalities?

  39. Bob

    How big is Suunto now? Can they survive this product flopping? Soon we will have the Fenix 4 and Suunto will have nothing to show for it as it cost $200+ more than the Fenix 3 at moment for way less features.

    • I’m not sure what the right move is for them at this stage to be honest. There’s no good option. Return rates are unreal on the Spartan at this point (from the data I can see on the site), which will continue to scare away retailers in even offering it.

      But the bigger issues is whatever competitive offering Garmin/Polar/whomever comes up with down the road.

      I think there could be light on the Sparta Sport with optical, but they *really* need to have key features available on the web platform as well as the watch. Things like tracking steps, sleep, and 24/7 HR will be required to be competitive. None of which they do today.

      Putting on my (old) software development company hat, even if they hired 20 people tomorrow as devs, they’d still be looking at min 30-60 days until they were truly productive in terms of moving features forward. I almost thing the right approach is actually to open up a dev center somewhere in the US. If getting talent to Finland is the issue, then going elsewhere where work rules might be easier. Operate it as a satellite office to run software dev ops from.

      Again, not really sure what the answer is.

    • Aaron

      Suunto is owned by a parent company that also owns Salomon, Wilson, Precor, Atomic, and others; 2015 sales = $2.75 billion USD. They’re not going away soon.

      Suunto numbers are hard to come by, but it seems to be around $70-100M. So ballpark 3-5% of the total company sales. A bit small. It wouldn’t be crazy to imagine a sale of this division, but it still has crazy brand recognition.

      The Nokia comment earlier is interesting, as nearly 18 months ago Suunto purchased the Sports Tracker app, formerly spun off from Nokia, with promises of integration, and glowing about bringing new talent on board with experience in mobile dev. and platform integration.

      It seems there is a strategy or execution problem.

    • JohnnyW

      Except it was the parent company, Amer Sports, which bought Sports Tracker, not Suunto. And as Sports Tracker remains as an independent app, and is continuously developed, we cannot assume people from their teams have been working (solely/much/at all) with Suunto.

    • Aaron

      True. An important distinction.

      I based some of my expectation on the early quotes from interviews in 2015 by the Amer Sports digital business unit director talking about “synergies” and working “together as a unified team” with Suunto, yadda yadda. In retrospect, it may have been PR spin.

      In large companies like this with many subsidiaries sometimes the left hand doesn’t even know what the right hand is doing. Or worse.

    • oli

      You nailed it. Massive management problems there.
      In short, hiring more devs might not be the answer. Hiring a new CEO might.

  40. Dave

    I’m really glad this was published before I considered dropping a hefty wad on the Spartan. I’m moving away from ironman towards ultra running and would, in time, like to get a watch that suits the sport a little better than I feel my 920XT does. I sincerely hope that Suunto get the integrated HR version right first time…otherwise this is looking a lot like their Note 7 moment (without the fireworks).

  41. Dave Wright

    Critical features missing. Essential to be able to customize screens. At first I had two or three for each activity type. Over time cut it down to just what I really need on a single screen (7 data points). That way can toggle between that screen and the navigation screen. Markers/Waypoint Direction is also essential. I use that feature to help navigation by making each turn a waypoint, whose name is the turn (example: R Main = “Right on Main Street”). For now am happily staying with my Ambit 2.

  42. Stephan Joos

    Hi Ray,

    i really was anxious awaiting your review, cause i wanted to know if you would go d’accord with my feelings the watch left me in.
    This watch (and it’s no more than a watch) is a complete disaster and what i don’t understand is the fact, that how on earth Suunto could have released such a piece of junk. They must have known that they will be eaten alive once this “thing” hit the market – and they did it anyway…..i really don’t get it

    • Johan Lundberg

      I am also in software development business and I think that what we are witnessing is a classic case of miscommunication between development and marketing. I have seen it many times before but never in this proportions. I am with Ray, this will take time to repair and increasing development capacity takes time. To get a new developer up to speed usually takes time, for us 3-6 months. Outsourcing is probably not an option this late in the project, maybe for later initiatives, but setting up remote teams is not something you do under these circumstances.

      My hope is that the GPS issues is not hardware related and that the basics will fall in place. I really dont need all the features planned and since I am primarily a runner so if GPS, tailoring the screens, HR and basic navigation works I will be fine.

    • Stephan Joos

      Hi Johan,
      i’m also part of a software development team and i think you’re partly wrong. In my opinion this has nothing to do with miscommunication – it’s simply a very bad example what happens when time-to-market considerations rule. I’m pretty sure that everyone knew exactly about the scope of functionality which was expected and when it was expected.
      As a matter of fact, software projects almost never run like expected and it’s the job of the guys in the sales department to communicate delays. Being in a tough competition with the other brands all common sense was cancelled and they released anyway – and i’m pretty sure – knowing what piece of junk is hitting the market.

  43. Pieter

    With 3 Suunto’s in the household this is really disappointing 🙁

    So glad I didn’t commit to the Spartan, and now also very glad Suunto didn’t taint the Ambit line by calling it the Ambit 4 😉 I just hope now Suunto will keep the A3R & A3S ‘in maint’ for a while still, as it is a great platform.

    For personal reasons I will NOT go Garmin, so Polar better come up with a worthy successor of the M400. (As there is now a gap developing between e.g. the A3 series and the Spartan (and M400 market layer)- which say Suunto / Polar is a person going to buy now if he isn’t interested in the Spartan ‘features’ or price? (Or Garmin / TomTom for that matter)

  44. JT

    I’m just really glad I kept from buying the Ultra (was too expensive for me anyway).

    Hopefully they get their act together with the Valencell-version release, that’s if they’re still in business when that finally happens. Not sure if they can afford another major disaster like this.

    On paper this seemed like the perfect sport watch, too bad they couldn’t live up to the hype. In fact, it’s such a major flop it’s not even funny.

  45. Benoit

    Hi Ray,

    I must say I was waiting for your review for weeks. I’m one of the poor and desperate early buyers of the Spartan Suunto Watch… I even bought the Ultra :-/

    Since I’ve got the watch in my hand, I think I’ve sent an email or a tweet to Suunto at least once a week either because their updates were getting the watch nowhere close what they sold us initially or because the watch was just buggy.

    In the end, my conclusion is 100% the same as yours: I. DO. NOT. GET. IT. :-/

    The watch itself is really promising: great form factor, great finish (I’ve been using it for 2,5 months now including 55K trail in Chamonix) and the hardware was really reliable…

    But the software, my god… that’s a just insane. The bluetooth driver is super buggy (I’ve tried 3 different HR straps and all of them had connectivity issues with this watch specifically), and the software is so far behind what they advertise on their website that someone should do a class action as it’d be so easy to argue they mislead all the buyers with fake promises.

    But what’s even more unbelievable is that they did not focus on the right features… If you look at what the watch can do now and what the watch is supposed to be capable of doing… I don’t get it (bis)… No sport mode edition (the actual state of sport mode edition is just a joke), no custom mode, very very basic navigation features…. and the list is way longer than that.

    I was a true fan of Suunto: their watch always have a great form factor, solid hardware AND movescount.com is far ahead of Garmin connect (especially the interactive charts that allows to highlight segments, select a portion and have updated stats for that portion in Movescount that are unavailable within Garmin Connect).

    But at this stage, I’m really considering to either sell back the Spartan on eBay or keep it as a “casual watch” (but come on, 800€ casual watch… :-/) and buy an Ambit 3 Ascent. The Fenix 3 is really good but I’m not sure about the release plan of the next version…

    I don’t know what’s your personal opinion about that.

    Thanks a lot for this review in any case. I’m really happy to see that you share my beliefs about this watch.

  46. dalibor

    I think its fair to say that Suunto have come up with some interesting features on Spartan. The bigest would be way of screens set up during activity. First think is ability to show 5 or even 7 (size of text for 7?) data fields on the screen – that is quite unique and very handy…..wasn´t mentioned in the review I think. One of the screens display lap stats…also new and nice feature and the last screen displaying route of actual excercise comes very handy as well…..you can easily make some unplaned “detours” and still roughly know, were you are…..and it can also work as track back. For some Suunto users is important that one can create gpx. file in 3rd party app, like topografic maps app, and import that to movescount…one can do this with polarflow, but not garmin connect – i think. So on paper for trail running/hiking crowd it might be obvious choice for “upgrade” from Ambit watches……but at this state of things many will wait to see what fenix 4 will look like.

  47. I have seen that a lot of people complain about the “Bluetooth driver” and so on.

    I need to mention that this is not my case with this watch (yes I have other issues though).

    Using the Suunto HR belt on swimming from more than 2 hours I had no issue.

    Also I do not use the Suunto belt but the polar H7 HRM belt.

    From marathons to 8+hours of hikking I had never an issue or a dropped value.

    That said I do not think it’s only the watch but maybe the watch in combination with the Suunto belt.

  48. Bostjan

    Hi Ray

    Do you think we will be seeing a new version of the Fenix aka Fenix 4 in CES 2017?

  49. Marcel

    Interesting review, I’d stay away from this watch if I was looking for one.

    As for the GPS – the thought I got when reading about the issues you have, was indeed ‘software error’. It feels like during the swimming, it goes into some kind of ‘tunnel mode’: getting no signal so plotting a straight line forward until it does.
    And maybe, beside the tunnel mode, they also reduce the polling rate when reception is bad, so you would still get a straight line if you weren’t following irregular paths. That would explain the entire swim-fiasco. It might also explain the bad track *after* a difficult GPS section: it still nails the trees-section because polling is high, but the reduced accuracy/certainty triggers reduced GPS polling and/or tunnel mode, and hey presto: you get a bad track right after a difficult section.
    Or, one last idea: the unit has problems when switching sattelites. That might explain the veering off course on a straight path.

    All of these would be possible to solve with software fixes, I think. The main problem, as you point out, is that even with everything fixed, this watch isn’t competitive.

  50. Thanks for the review. What a piece of garbage, I think we all knew that. I will continue to save my pennies for the almighty Fenix 3.

  51. Kaenoui

    “I’ll be honest, I don’t get it.

    As I said, I don’t get it.”

    Of course you don’t, it’s “Beyond logic”.

    Btw, thanks for the review!

  52. Dane

    I got the watch for my birthday so it has an emotional worth for me, but further it is a iPhone 7 looking shell with a Nokia first mobile phone pack of options, so in these days worthless watch. Even for daily us it is a disaster to dark, poor choice of watch faces and even poorer colors. After a ambit 2 and 3 the marketing promised the best suunto sport watch ever. Well it has the quality of a watch launched in 1999. The the color screen would have given all of us a whow reaction Bach than. Much cheaper watches provide better brighter colors.
    In a time where every device can be changed to your own preferences it is strange to send a watch into the market where none of this is possiblities.
    Every time i use it i get dissepointed by this watch and the bad service of suunto.
    Updates that maybe never come after a delay and it is so far behind of the ambit series.
    They shoult have put the note 7 battery in this watch, so we have to send it back and get our money back.
    Because that is the one and only solution for this watch and suunto.
    Otherwise they will become the next Nokia, and run out of business.
    Save a lot of money and buy a ambit 3 or a watch from a nother brand.

  53. Grzeg1

    Polar have done it with V800 and it worked. There were still plenty of people (myself included 🙁 ) to buy feature-incomplete device because it looked cool and missing features were promised. It’s been 2 years now and not everything is done yet. So I guess until we (users=payers) learn that we should get what we paid for, the story will continue….

  54. David

    I agree that some features are really “beyond logic”. As Ray mentions, the inability to customize the screens is the most enraging. But perhaps even more enraging is that the default screens are so dumb. Like running — I run the same trail several times a week. I know the distances by heart. Why does distance get the largest digits then? Why not tempo? Same with cycling, with the speed indicator lurking in the corner. I’m zooming 70 km/h down the hill ffs.

    On the other hand, I bought it right after it came out just because how it looks. I have the titanium version and I absolutely love it! It looks great even with a suit, when one travels for business and goes running on ocassion.

    I do scratch my head a lot about the stupidity of the devs, but altogether I’d prefer it to a Garmin purchase again.

    • Benoit

      David, I fully agree with that… the choice they made for the “default” running screens looks like they were design for people who run casually once or twice a week… and even for them, it still does not make much sense to display those…

      In the end, I’m 99% sure it’s not a “dev” issue but more a “managing” issue… as Ray wrote, someone, somewhere inside the company (or more likely inside the holding that owns the company) has pushed the project in that very stupid direction.

  55. TrailzRock

    I’ve tried several times leaving Garmin for other watches, but keep coming back for their ease of use and lots of functionality. Of all the multisport watches, the fenix 3 has been my favorite watch by far. I currently own a 735XT, but miss the still miss the fenix 3 features. That said, I hated the size of it. I was always aware it was on my hand. Thus the reason for switching to the 735xt. Not as feature packed or as good looking, but love the size and weight. I would have tried the Suunto, but I need to be able to adjust my data fields without the need of a phone or computer. I skipped on previous Suunto watches because of that and also no vibration mode which really works well when swimming to alert if you’re ahead or behind pace in the pool.

  56. Arlene

    Good review – Thanks! I have a Spartan Sport version (Sakura color) and I do do like it as a basic running watch (although not worth the $600). I found the touchscreen is a bit annoying at times. I think I’ve started it at the beginning of a run and look down and it hasn’t started. The treadmill accuracy is horrible – it definitely needs a foot pod or something. It is a nice looking watch so I’ll probably use is mostly for daily wear and step counts. My Ambit 3 Peak is still my go-to watch for trail runs and races.

  57. Peter

    The shocking state of the watch described accurately in the review is commented world wide. Just thinking about Suunto strategy they are probably thinking – “we have the best gps multi sports watch on our books, what have we to loose releasing SSU early, get out loyal long term customer bought in, if the reviews are shocking serious athletes go back to the Ambit Peak 3. Suunto might have to refund some or play hardball Andy not do any refunding or compensation – tough we still lead. Those needing accuracy and stability buy A3, some will switch but not many, others wait for a year.

    Suunto said this themselves about a month ago – “what features do you want” that’s agile development, tell us features and we’ll develop and you get bits when it’s ready. But the problem with doing it that way is the end is never in sight. Teams over commit and under deliver, testing for the real world takes longer as a realisation dawns that the promised rapid delivery falters or maybe even gets cancelled. This is one of those situations.

    My biggest worry is the hardware stability and accuracy. If that not fit for purpose what will Suunto do about those early adopters. Will they replace, refund, keep happy? I have asked their support particularly now they have admitted that they know about a hardware defect in the gps chipset. There is a facebook site that commented on an inside source saying there was a hardware error known about internally a month ago.

    The watch is modern and I love its form but it is so lacking in features and accuracy that’s it’s little better than a way to do crude HR and location tracking.

    I bought an Apple Watch 2 for comparison and it’s good but not better. But they will support apps and all it takes is one company to build a brilliant app for Apple and they have my money. Nothing I have found do a that yet. A few come close.

    I love the robust nature of Suunto but this watch is way way short of what was advertised as for sale in Jul at launch. I cannot see it coming close to being decent before next summer.

    Why put emotions on a $800 watch? That’s the last thing I need. I think the Spartan with WHR will be another disaster – why would it be different unless all the dev team are working on that. No one will buy that until Ray writes a decent review.

    Btw sold my ambit 3 – mistake. Put my good watch in a drawer though and wear Suunto as every day with suit. This is a toy.

    Every week I find a new bug. Annoyed, disappointed, let down, conned, dishonest, unsupported, angry

  58. Jordi

    The release fiasco is becoming the only thing being talked about. Yes, launching in the current state and without display customisation was stupid. But there’s some features are executed very well. I mostly care about what the watch does while I’m running, and in this particular topic, if Suunto delivers on what they’ve shown in their product page and the deck that Ray shared here, it’ll be a much better running experience than with any other watch.

    They fucked up big time, but there’s really good features too: the autolap summary view, the table showing avg split times/cadenge/hr (which updates in realtime so you can use as an overview of your splits during a race since it’ll also show current lap averages updated in real time), the outer ring dial that shows time/distance progress and eventually I imagine it’ll show hr zones from screenshots on their site (I suppose they’ll use this or interval targets and more)… these alone are steps in the right direction. Better than what Garmin has done so far IMO.

    Garmin is putting a lot of effort in the extras: sleep tracking, 24/7 hr, LT calculations, strava segments, suffer score… But while running, Garmins haven’t evolved that much. I personally don’t need these extras. I get it that a lot of people do. I just want the best experience while running. Here is where I think the Spartan looks promising.

    For those that really want all these extras, no Suunto will make you happy. I don’t even think Suunto aims at having all these features.

  59. Dror Silberstein

    Excellent review.
    Quite sad for SUUNTO, however I still believe in them, hope they’ll debrief and catch up with their next product. I think it’s a (bad) example of the pressures of modern maeketing… You can loose glory in a day.

  60. Sarah Smith

    I think Suunto have been really honest and upfront about what is happening. Garmin launch a product with problems, dont admit anything and just flood the market with more products and obviously as a bigger brand they have more power. The comparison chart misses features Suunto does have like a coaching app for example. Suunto is still my brand of choice and I know they will deliver on their promises. Like others have mentioned I think you do need to focus on the positives as no tech product launched today is free from faults.

    • There are no doubt features that the comparison chart misses, though, it’s *heavily* in favor of Suunto. Like, 50:1 in favor of Suunto. If I were to track every nuance that the Fenix3 has that the Spartan doesn’t, it’d be dozens of features long. Roughly off the top of my head, the less nuanced features:

      For fun, here’s a quick off the top of my head list of things the Fenix3 has the Spartan doesn’t (many of which aren’t covered in the comparison tables):

      WiFi connectivity
      ANT+ Connectivity
      3rd Party App Support
      Sleep Tracking
      Daily Step Tracking History
      Virtual Racer (past performances/downloaded performances)
      Personal Records
      Cycling Dynamics
      Running Dynamics
      Multiple bike profile support
      Creation of your own activity profiles
      Ski/Snowboard mode
      Auto climb mode
      Live Tracking
      Action cam control
      Swimming drill mode
      Swimming interval timer
      24×7 HR (F3HR)
      Golfing sport mode
      SUP Sport Mode
      Lactate Threshold Testing
      Stress Scores
      Performance Condition
      Music Control
      Navigation of waypoints
      Saving waypoints

      All of this ignores the many more nuanced features/etc that are missing, even compared to the Ambit series.

      As for focusing on the positives, I did that in the post: Specifically around the lap summary function and some of the Movescount heatmap features. Beyond that, there’s very few positives in the Spartan Ultra. Even potential positives (like 7 data fields), are merely potential at this point. Useless until they are actually implemented in a customizable mode.

      I think the vast majority of folks in the comments that actually have the watch have pointed out that I could have been (and maybe should have been) harsher.

    • Benoit

      “I think the vast majority of folks in the comments that actually have the watch have pointed out that I could have been (and maybe should have been) harsher.”

      That’s the least I would say… you could have been WAYYYY harsher :-/

    • Jules Benoit

      The Spartan is no more complete than how the extremely useless buggy Garmin 235 was released were the treadmill and HR didn’t work and that got good reviews!

      Just upgraded from Fenix3 HR to Spartan Ultra Ti and for trail running without any straps or pods I think this watch is a super upgrade in all ways, lighter, better screen, easier menus.

      This review smell Garmin money/support all over

    • Stan

      “lighter, better screen, easier menus” – and I guess that is all. It has less features, costs more and has battery/gps issues. I was really hoping to upgrade and get the ultra, however as they are delaying the software updates, I don’t believe I will soon have as many features as the fenix3 or even the ambit3….

    • Jules – I can see you didn’t read my FR235 review, since I discuss HR accuracy quite a bit in it.

  61. Ben

    Seems that they released the Android app today. Quote from Suunto website:

    “27th October – We’re excited to announce the Suunto Movescount App for Android now supports the Suunto Spartan Ultra & Suunto Spartan Sport watches. This update also features improvements to Bluetooth functionality, in-app navigation and notifications reliability.”

    Any feedbacks ?

    • Myriam

      I finally was able to pair the SSU on Android. It seems to work, I could upload some moves. But notifications don’t work (no notifications at all). The most frustrating part is that I don’t know where to search for help. Maybe notifications are not supposed to work in this version. Who knows..

    • Paul D

      Working fine for me.

  62. panos

    …suunto is…..the new garmin….

  63. Dalibor

    I find battery life in comparison table misleading. Garmin fenix up to 50 hour – according to manual for 2 minute polling ultra track mode…its o.k. than, polar V800 – 50 hours it is o.k. , suunto ambit peak should be 200 hours in 1 minute interval, suunto spartan ultra should be 65 hours in 1 minute interval……..these are all offical figures. Battery life would be one of the stronger Spartan points: Fenix would have 20 hours in 1 s or smart recording (more likely) ? interval , Spartan have 18 hours 1 s and 26 hours in 1s power save, Polar V800 – 13 hours with heartrate sensor, so at least 15 hours I suppose.

    • Good catch, I had grabbed official listing number on Suunto’s page there, but that specific page may not have had the 65hr listing. As for the older ones, it’s mostly because ones like the V800 didn’t have such a number initially, and may have come in a later firmware update (sometimes I catch those updates, sometimes not).

  64. Dalibor

    And one more think in the comparisson table. Geocaching for Fenix is ….available VIA GPS COORDINATES. If I understand it right you can do same with suuntos: In movescount you can add POI in settings – watches – navigation – POI …you can even select type like geocache. than you synchronize POI to your watch and in whatever sport mode you can iniciate navigation to POI. If you forget to add POI in advance you can put it into watch during activity – pressing navigation – location – define….input coordinates…save them and them navigate…Of coarse you have to log found cache on geocaching site manualy.Using phone geocaching app might be easier, but I use watch just for fun.
    Sorry on comenting on comparison table….migh be usefull for some people.
    And Thank you Ray for all the reviews…looking forward to Forerunner 35 review

    • Not yet. POI isn’t supported on Spartan at this time. Otherwise, what you said would be correct (and is correct on other Suunto devices).

      FR35 review is the next watch review up!

  65. Dalibor

    Is it possible to charge Spartan ultra and sport while running? Has anybody tried? Thank you. Dalibor

  66. okrunner

    Garmin has had their problems with the Fenix 1 and less so the Epix, probably. However, it seems interesting that some big names have committed suicide in the gps watch business in the last couple years. Do you see any correlation between the Adidas Smart Run, Timex GPS One, and the Suunto Spartan? It would seem Adidas and Timex took themselves completely out of the gps watch market because of there last failed releases. Those two also had shiny color screens as features, which was to be one of the big new features of the Spartan. Is the pressure of Garmin, Apple, and the rest of the market just too much for these companies to avoid releasing crappy devices? Tom Tom, also, is certainly over-promising and under-delivering. I’ve now exchanged my Tom Tom Spark twice in the last year. I should receive it back in the mail in the next couple days but not overjoyed at having major problems with their product twice in just a year. It almost seems like this segment of the electronics market is showered with bad products. What are your thoughts for the average consumer as these things get pricier and pricier but many are junk?

    • I think each one found different roadblocks.

      Timex: Simply no resources. Literally the entire team for the connected watch division is like 3-5 people. With the One+ GPS, it was mostly an off the shelf unit pitched to them by an OEM, and partnered with AT&T. When AT&T presumably saw low upstick, they dropped their resources.

      Adidas: They just misjudged the market entirely with their secondary lineup of wearables. And on the first (Smart Run GPS), they simply released too early, so all the reviews out there talk about how unfit for purpose it was. Had they waited a few months, it might have turned out differently.

      TomTom: Yeah, they’re releasing not-bad little units, at a very specific target market. But like (and I) have noted: If a bug isn’t fixed, then don’t count on it being fixed. They’re also focusing too much on the European market, when in reality all of the mainstream tech coverage comes out of the US. Once a US outlet picks it up (i.e. Verge, Engadget, etc…), then everyone else in Europe follows. It may sound US-centric, but it is simply the reality of the game today. And companies that don’t understand it, have and will fail.

  67. P

    While the outer dial is nice it only allows time as a target not duration, and for time it is only 10 minute increments. Like a lot of things with Spartan it has promise, and the advertising material does show it being used for more than just time, just not implemented yet.
    There is no way set intervals for running (not sure what interval mode does other than have different screen layout) so if you want to run intervals need to monitor it manually, with the latest update you can define your own settings for autolap which could be used as a trigger for set intervals (but that’s a work around). Once the dial fills up it just stops so can’t use that for timed intervals either. On the other hand the way it handles automatic intervals for pool swimming is excellent.
    Until the last update it didn’t even display cadence in the running fields and now it’s only on certain modes.

  68. Cosmo

    With the Spartan, Suunto has completely missed the mark in leveraging its strength. The Ambit Series developed a loyal following because you could literally beat the shit out of it and it would continue to look like new while giving you accurate GPS data, year-after-year. Instead of following the rest of the pack with gimmicky functionality, Suunto would be better served with a focus on the serious athlete and their needs for real-time performance feedback. Class-leading GPS accuracy and battery life should have been at the top of the list in differentiating the Spartan from the rest of the pack. With this GPS device, it’s unfortunate that Suunto appear to be lost.

    • Dalibor

      I agree with you. Nice look of Spartan with Ambit software and couple of new features would be success. No need for touchscreen I suppose….

  69. anne

    when you used the watches during the run and the suunto spartan ultra goes off-track compared to the other watches, did you still have the same result, or even close? like the pace, distance, etc? thanks!

  70. Joshua Xu

    Great review, Ray!

    Suunto was kinda crashed by the pressure from competitors.

    And have you tried the apple watch series 2? Is it any good?

  71. Adam

    Great source of comprehensive information! Ray, are you planning to update the information about the features in the future? It would be great to check out on your comparison tables, say in March 2017 ( when they claim a lot of issues will be fixed) how did they catch up to the competition in terms of the features.

  72. ultrarunner

    Thanks for the review, Ray. I’ve been using a Fenix 3 HR since it came out and have had serious blistering problems due to the HR bump. I tried everything … and finally the only way I could manage it was to wear it on my right wrist, which after 30 years of wearing watches on my left hand just didn’t feel right. I bought the new Apple watch (Series 2) with the more flush HR bump, which was better on my wrist but just not ready for any sort of real runner to use it for that purpose IMO. I’ve had a few Ambits and thought I’d give the SSU a try … so I bought the Titanium Stealth variant. Best looking sports watch I’ve ever owned … but holy crap is it devoid of functionality!! I suppose I’ll have to return it and was just waiting for your review to tell me how I’m misinterpreting some things–but clearly I’m not!

    One question just for grins–the marketing materials showing one of the data screens (for running I think) with different colors being used for the data fields–specifically one big number in yellow surrounded by a bunch of white smaller numbers–my screens don’t look like that–do yours?


    • Benoit


      If I may, I had the same feeling about screenshot of the watch screens available on the website. They’re clearly not accurate compare the actuel design we can see on the watch.

      Like the tiny triangle within the colored circle around the screen to show the duration of the activity is not available on the watch… Same for a lot of screenshots.

      That’s really borderline in terms of “advertising” practices I think.

    • I assume in the last paragraph you’re talking about the Spartan data fields?

      Nope, mine don’t look like that. That’s all theoretical functionality.

    • ultrarunner

      Yes, I was referring to the advertising/instructional shots of the Spartan.

    • Jordi

      That screenshot implies you can set a distance goal, but in reality the watch only lets you set a duration goal and it doesn’t have the tiny triangle nor it does highlight the numeric value in yellow as in the screen.

      Another shot on their site also hints that the ring will be used for HR zones, but that’s not live either. Then you’ve got a training load screenshot showing these pagination dots at the bottom, but in reality there’s no pagination on the watch either. I guess these are planned down the line, but nothing on the site says these aren’t released yet.

      I imagine they’ll be added at some point, but right now it is definitely misleading.

  73. Niklas

    Well, according to this rewiev, the watch software does ideed live up its name, Spartan! :lol.

  74. Ginsling

    Thanks for the in-depth review. I was disappointed to read it, but better now than later – I’m in the market for a new watch and your site popped up as one of the first search results.

    I have had a Garmin 15 for almost a year (first running watch) and for whatever reason, the GPS is going flakey and elevation stats are terrible. Accuracy and elevation are key for me – I run hills and mountains, trails, roads, and track – and the 15 is messing up on all of these, especially for the last 3 months (it may have been a software update) as well as sometimes taking up to 10 minutes to locate. A friend recommended looking at multisport watches, and that lead me to the Suunto Spartan, and your review has lead me away from it, back to looking for the best thing for me.

    I really just want an accurate running watch that will function on these terrains with Bluetooth / ANT+ connectivity (I use an earpiece HRM and a footpod) and ideally would have an SOS function (to save having to carry a phone on ultras). Music, etc, bells and whistles, activity tracking are not necessary (or even nice to have) – just the running data.

    Do you have a couple of reviews on a watch like that please?


  75. Miroslav Dobsicek

    Well, now we know what Suunto Spartan refers to with the slogan “Beyond the Logic”. No wonder nobody gets it 🙂

  76. Marcel

    Thanks for the review, how much I do regret the outcome.
    Own an Ambit and an Ambit3Peak, and from the looks alone, I was sure gonna buy a Spartan. Glad I didn’t, and sure am not going to buy now.
    Hope we get to know the full story as to what went wrong with the launch of this watch. Was it marketing pushing for time-to-market, or the software-engineers that couldn’t live up to expectations ? Interesting !
    I’ll keep using my Ambit3 for the time being, and see where it goes. Maybe time to start looking at other vendors.

    Thanks again Ray for the honest reviews.

  77. Richard

    I hate the Fenix 3 for it’s poor contrast display. Obviously not many others share that critic so I barely find indormation about that online, so could you pls tell me if the Spartan is any better in this particular discipline? Thx!

  78. DocUnseelie

    So if I understand this right, the last good Suunto watch for mountaineers was the Ambit 3 Peak with the bump? After that the Ambit 3 Vertical removed the bump and thus lost the fabled preciseness of its GPS, and the Spartan is a complete fumble…

    • Marios

      I have an A3P (Nepal Edition) and bought an A3V but I sent it back as the GPS accuracy was pretty bad. I am not even going to try the Spartan. It’s so sad as Suunto was one of my favorite companies but they really don’t realize one simple truth:

      Software is hard!

  79. John Williams

    First of all I believe your review of the Spartan was accurate. The watch is still in a beta stage and the new updates will markably improve it over the coming months.
    What I object to is having an advertisement for Garmin on a page with a review of a Suunto. Make me think there is some profit motives at play here.

    • Umm, it’s not an advertisement. It’s a notice of sales on related products. I put them across the top of relevant reviews, and have done so for years. I show notices for sales for Suunto products, just as for Polar and Garmin products. Those links go to Amazon & Clever Training, which help support the site.

      I find readers find them incredibly helpful when they see a short term sale like this, and may not have otherwise even considered that product.

  80. James Wilkins

    Bag out Suunto (while continuing to gloss over Garmin’s similar faults/mistakes over the years) and then make money by advertising your much-preferred Garmins at the top of the page? That’s pretty poor form Ray.

  81. Dave

    You “object”? To what, exactly? To a free-at-point of use, world renowned, brand agnostic product review portal that exists to help you make better choices? Come on, man.

  82. ScottW

    I may have missed it in a previous comment, but how common are the Bluetooth Smart sensors vs the ANT+? Both of my bikes have ANT+ (including the Power meter) so I’m concerned about getting the Spartan and changing over to Bluetooth Smart. I’m wondering if I should just wait for Suunto to get through all their updates on the Spartan and see what comes of their fixes. I currently have the Ambit 2 which works fine as is with ANT+. I love the looks of the Spartan but everything else I’ve read says – Go ride more and wait for the next iteration of what Suunto comes out with…maybe it will be more friendly!

    • In general, Bluetooth Smart HR/Speed/Cadence sensors work great, across the board. No issues there.

      Whereas in general, Bluetooth Smart power meters and compatibility with watches is pretty much a nightmare. Suunto is among the best in terms of ‘just making it work’, even when companies don’t respect the spec (whereas Polar is the least ‘friendly’).

      However, folks in this post alone noted various BT power meter issues.

    • Dat

      Yep, but…

      When you have multiple sensors at the same time, working with Suunto turns into a nightmare. My setup is Tacx Neo (BT speed/cadence/pwr), PowerTap P1 and Wahoo BT speed/cadence on the bike. Suunto (Ambit & Spartan too) does not allow convenient control over multiple sensors with showing they names, types & IDs (like Garmin do). When I pairing it with “Bike POD” or “Power POD” I don’t know exactly which sensor is connected and can’t manage this process. It is very unconvenient and very annoying. It seems that everything that is intended for Suunto is running or swimming with HR-sensor. No more…

      Three years of using Suunto never been able to using power meter with it. Either directly or through Viiiiva. Pairing with a Power POD performed, but after the start of training it hangs on getting data from a Power POD, or simply can’t find just connected Power POD.

      Sad… Suunto… Sad…

  83. steve

    I purchased my SSU mid-october, just before they started blowing-past promised software release dates. I wanted to hav some time with a new watch before some larger late fall events. Yeah, I do feel a bit burned but hav an ‘it can only get better, right’ approach to the watch. Some things that irk me about the Suunto (I won’t mention the well covered issues above, but boy would I like to do my speed work with my brand-new expensive watch):

    – Screen wake-ups don’t happen unless you press the button. Apple watch launched a year and a half ago and uses the accelerometer (and a light sensor) to guess if you’ve turned your wrist to look at your watch. This watch should be doing that by now.
    – Difficulty syncing moves with phone. If I try and sync my move right after I run I often hav to restart the app on my phone a couple of time to get it going. Seems like another instance of the problem of the watch talking to multiple bluetooth devices. Maybe the watch is still talking to the heart rate monitor and can’t talk to the phone? lame.
    – Screen. More brightness and contrast please. Again, I’m spoiled by the apple watch and I hear the Apple watch 2 is even brighter.

    Seems like the first two are software issues and the screen is just what it is. So I’m generally hopeful that Suunto will get their butts in gear and start cranking-out some updates!

    • Nicholas

      Screen wake-ups. No problem for me. Move or shake the wrist, screen wakes up.

      Syncing moves works ok with Android I find … though haven’t tried it with HRM still active.

      I find the screen quite good – better contrast than anything I’ve used before. I have brightness on 50% which is more than enough. Must be an individual thing …

    • steve

      There seem to be two levels of ‘sleep’. I’ll say ‘napping’ and ‘sleeping’.

      With no recent interaction with the watch it goes into ‘sleeping’ mode where it takes a button press to light up the backlight and if in clock mode make the second hand display. When in this ‘sleeping’ mode there are still updates to the time and exercise information (time, distance, etc.) displayed.

      If there has been recent interaction the backlight will go into ‘napping’ mode where it simply takes a screen tap to light up.

      None of this is a big deal but the two levels of sleep aren’t covered in the recently updated online manual. When you’ve been running for hours you’d like your brain to be in battery saver mode too and not hav to think about being able to read your watch.

  84. jimthriathlo

    Does the SSU entirely switch off or there is only a save battery mode when the clock is steady ???And can the battery be replaced after many charge cycles ??we must send the clock in suunto service ???is it easy ??Sorry for the too many questions it ‘s my first gps watch ….

    • steve

      In the deeper sleep mode the watch face still updates. Battery level needs to get down below 10% before it goes into a more serious battery saver mode.

      The rechargeable lithium-ion battery is permanent and not field serviceable. I don’t think they’ve made any claims about how many recharge cycles it will last. I’d assume a handful of years.

      But there is a warranty stipulation that if the battery life is significantly reduced in the first year (or 300 recharge cycles, which ever comes first) they’ll replace it.

  85. Steven Diependaele

    I am a happy Ambit2 user for more then 3years now. I was planning to buy the optical version as soon as it is released in Belgium, because the heartrate belt of my Ambit3 is almost totally ruined(not abnormal, since i used it on a almost daily basis). This review gave me, of course, second thoughts. Wat would you advice? Just wait a while and see if things get better with the optical Spartan, or should i choose a garmin or other brand? and if so which garmin model should a choose?
    Grtz Steven

  86. Rob B

    What’s interesting if the pictures are real is that the spartan trainer with optical heart rate, has 5 buttons and the satellite bump of the ambit 3, oh and its made in China

  87. Craig

    Given the state of the software implementation: I was wondering what Ray and others might say about investing in the ‘Vertical’ as a non-Garmin (I have my reasons)

    The products seem to fork, but the Ambit line seems, stable, reliable… and actually not lack many features the Spartan currently has…

    I’m struggling, as I find it difficult not to buy current.latest but I’ve been waiting for so long for something that probably is many months away!!!

    Help and comment appreciated…

    • I do agree, from a software standpoint – the Vertical is very solid. Plus you get vibration alerts.

      The downside though is that it has lesser GPS accuracy than the rest of the Ambit lineup.

    • Craig

      I recall that from your first article, however your comment prompted further digging on my part.

      Seems the Suunto support forum has plenty of additional stories of poor accuracy, as well as software issues keeping the GLONASS data file up to date.

      I wish their development and bug resolution was more transparent, it would certainly help me with my decision making…

      Thanks again…

    • Gunnar

      I’m a long time Garmin user. I also had the Suunto Ambit 3 Peak which worked great for me, but ultimately was too big for my wrist and the lack of vibration was the final deal killer.

      I just splurged on the Suunto Vertical as it’s £219 w/HR bundle here in the UK (Wiggle). So far so good. Only bummer is that I’m unable to get my Vector Power meter to bridge to the watch using my Viiiiva HRM. But not really the end of the world since I also use a Garmin 1000 for cycling.

      The Vertical is a much better fit size wise and so far bluetooth connections and uploading work just fine. I have the watch paired with a Scosche Optical HRM and a Wahoo cadence sensor and all works AOK.

    • Craig


      Thank you for the post. Coincidentally I also prefer the size, vibration is a must, was intending to use with existing Scosche, and am in the UK… Why the Garmin switch, or do you just use both?

      I’ve been concerned by the accuracy reports, how has this been for you so far?

      How are you syncing, phone or desktop?

      Thank you…

    • Gunnar

      Most of my Moves have been cycling and not much tree cover, so the tracks look good with the Vertical.

      As far as Garmin goes for me, the Fenix is too big and the 735xt doesn’t have barometric altitude.

      And, everyone seems to have Garmin.

  88. Michal maliarik


    did you notice PACE discrepancies while running? I was running with two friends. One fenix2 other Ambit3 Peak. Their paces about the same. My SSU 20 seconds off. We ran steady pace and SSU pace was jumping high and low…
    Did you have similar experience?
    Do you think this can be solved via SW update? If not, than the watch becomes very expensive stop watch.

    • Benoit

      I did notice the same issue too with my ssu. I was running at a steady pace on a flat and uncover terrain and the pace was going up and down randomly… Still when the run is finished and on Movescount.com, the pace seems to be the right one.

      Did you compare your overall pace at the end of the move?

  89. Bernd

    What am I doing wrong? Spartan Ultra & Spartan Sport watch firmware release 1.4.6 was released on the 10th, when I connect to Suuntolink it tells me my watch is UTD at release 1.2.4?
    Anybody else have this problem

    Thanks kindly

  90. Martin

    Hi, will you update this SSU review how new firmwares are being released (couple days ago new was released and suunto claims that GPS, heart rate, pace, etc. issues had been resolved).


    • I’ll check in occasionally, but I don’t re-check every feature after every firmware update (since that’d be impossible on 100+ watches).

      In Suunto’s case, just about every SSU firmware update has said that it resolves GPS issues. So, I’ll believe that when I see broader consensus of it.

      In my case, I’ve got 4-5 other GPS watches that are ahead of it in line right now for reviews, so it’s more likely that I’ll just bring along the SSU on some of those runs and see if things have changed, as I generally don’t re-do reviews en mass.

  91. Inadees


    Do you have Spartan still? I hope. Could you test it in the rain? I’m curiuos how this touch screen works, when it’s wet. And one more thing – could you test screen in gloves too?


  92. Andy

    At current stage of Spartan Ultra would you recommend to upgrade from Traverse Alpha?

    • morey

      I’ll answer that for Ray. NO. Perhaps in a few months or years, if Suunto gets the firmware stable and adds the features they promised to bring it up to par. But for now, it’s a nice looking piece of hardware with limited capability and significant issues. Keep your Traverse. The Spartan Ultra would be a downgrade and a series of frustrations. Granted, my opinion doesn’t have the gravitas of Ray’s but I’d bet a Fenix 5 that he’d agree.

    • Andy

      Thanks for confirming my thoughts.

      I will enjoy my Traverse Alpha for hiking until better Spartan or something better comes out in near feature.

      Anyone knows something about Nixon watches? Their new smart watch looks good.

    • Benoit

      Hi Andy,

      I own a Spartan Ultra and I can confirm what Morey said… don’t buy that watch now… it’s not worth it considering the features of the firmware.

      It’ll get better, hopefully… but in the mean time, other Suunto watches are more reliable.

    • I’d agree with Andy and Morey.

    • Andy

      Thank you all for feedback.

  93. Pierre Lesperance

    Hi Ray,
    Thanks for all your products reviews.
    Presently I have a Suunto Ambit 2S and want a watch that have the optical heart option.
    I am satisfied with The Movescount web site
    After reading your review on Suunto Spartan, it will take a while before Suunto have that option on their device.
    Should I switch to Garmin Fenix 3 HR and Garmin platform or wait for Suunto?
    I am plannig to have also a basic Garmin edge to be fixed permently on my bike and paired to the Fenix HR.
    Please advise. Thanks

    • Pierre L.

      Hi Ray,
      Any update on my request.

    • It’s hard to say. Suunto has stated that the optical variant isn’t out till next year sometime.

      It’s clear from the review (and even since then) that movement on the Spartan line is slow going. So I wouldn’t expect a massive jump in features anytime soon, that takes development resources and time.

      If you’re looking to buy an Edge unit though and pair it to your wrist optical, I think it’s save to say the Spartan won’t work (unless Suunto adds ANT+ to the optical variant, but I doubt they will). The Edge only picks up ANT+ HR, and not BLE HR.

    • HP

      The size of the disaster make me think Suunto might go for Spartan2 all together. I don’t see them coming with a new body and hardware and maintain the Spartan (ZERO) name.

    • Lespérance Pierre

      Thanks Ray,
      Which Edge should I take to pair with Fenix 3 HR, the Garmin 520?

    • The Edge 520 is my favorite all around bike computer. Of course, there are also great options from Wahoo as well in the Wahoo ELEMNT.

    • Pierre L.

      Hi Ray,
      Garmin connect vs suunto movescount. Which one offer the best solution to manage your activities with lot of parameters

    • Folks tend to argue back and forth on that one. I find that most people that dislike Garmin Connect haven’t actually used it in years. It’s a lot better than it used to be. And if you went feature by feature, it’s generally more capable that Suunto Movescount.

      At the same time, there are functions I really like on Suunto’s site, for example, the sport-by-sport heat maps are awesome. And the ability to import a GPX file as a course is also great – and frustratingly something that Garmin Connect doesn’t have (though, in fairness, you can just drag it onto a device, but still, sometimes I want that route saved in Garmin Connect).

  94. Roy Bringsli

    I really hope that i would have read this article before using a large amount of money on the Spartan Sport watch. My experience is that this product is shipped long before it was finished. My old Ambit2 R has more functionality at the moment. When i see the pictures of the Spartan in the brochures it looks really sharp and crispy but i cant say the same about the actual product. The pedometer is default set to 10k goal per day. that is not even configurable at the moment. that really sucks. Every people have their own goal. notifications from phone is really unstable also.

    The clock looks really good but that is all there is to it atm.

    Sorry.. i am returning my clock to the retailer. just crap.

  95. hp

    We should all calm down and wait for Spartan2.
    Spartan2 will feature:
    OpticalHR , No touch screen, 6 button body, Ant+/BLE support.

    Suunto repeats again Ambit vs Ambit2 story. I remember the wave of “feel cheated” customers when Suunto released vastly superior Ambit2 soon after Ambit.

    I also remember how Sonny took themselves out of the portable audio business (after owning it for many years) by stubbornly refusing to support mp3 format.

    History might repeat if Suunto believes they are bigger than the business.

  96. ugo francica nava

    … You made me addicted to your reviews… I actually read your every single line before buying my Fenix 3 hr, and if I’m so absolutely happy with it , it’s because I knew exactly what to expect from this product thanks to your in- depth review! Thank you!!!!

    • Joe Blow

      Not so quick on Garmin…i ski mountaineer and run ultras…2 watches locked up on me with one being in the field…altimeter out by 4k vertical feet on one of them…totally unacceptable for true backcountry use…maybe fine for running around in the City or little jaunts in the bush…looking for a reliable gps watch without a million bells and whistles that never get used but for some reason they keep adding them…really, are most people going to analyze every step to death…if you life or job depend on it maybe…otherwise its mostly ego and nothing better to do with your time…sorry but what happened to the KISS principle (keep it simple stupid) and just make it reliable?

    • Joe Blow

      Sorry forgot to mention both watches were the Garmin Fenix 3

    • Mark

      I second that. The Fenix might be nice and flashy for cityboys or flatlanders.
      But for hard mountaineering and climbing in the Alps, Suunto Ambits are the no-nonsense way to go.
      After my A2P, I owned a Fenix3, which was an awful smartwatch-like, gimmicky toy. Went back to A2P and then A3P and couldn’t be happier.

  97. dror

    I wonder when will SUUNTO wake up.
    Was among the first ones to get the SPARTAN in August and returned it to the shop a week later. Didn’t want refund, said I believe in SUUNTO and wait a while for a mature product (see comment # 107). Always had SUUNTO sportwatches from the first t6 to my present A3P, which has far more features than the current SPARTAN (battery life, display black over white, contrast, custom displays, no ridiculous touchscreen)…
    Well, 5 month and few updates later… it is still a non mature product at the price of an IPHONE 7. Despite feedback (and I totally agree with Morey & Benoit #177 &#179), SUUNTO think they know better than their community and keep trying to pump up the SPARTAN. In every software update there is apologizing that some other feature update has been postponed again… Pity because it diverts SUUNTO’s energy from developing their next (better) product (my opinion: keep the design, get rid of the touchscreen, have at least all current A3P features, HR wrist monitor). Although I still cling to my belief in SUUNTO (with their attitude it’s getting harder), I’m afraid the SPARTAN will be a big blow for them.
    And Ray, tx for your excellent site.

  98. Nimrod

    After upgrade the firmware to 1.16.10, I could not import route into unit any longer…cry…
    Had tried reinstall SuuntoLink, Movescount App, change account, everything, just wasting time…

  99. Jochen M.

    Has anybody tried to connect an ANT+-only-powermeter like the Favero bePros to the Spartan via the 4iiii V100 or another solution? I’d be very interested in the information – thank you!

    • hp

      In Canada Fenix 3 HR Sapphire is on sale with 550 CAD at Best Buy. I have crossed on the dark side.

    • Pierre L

      Should I cross also or wait for Suunto?

    • hp

      My opinion is that Suunto will not go back to Ant+ technology and if you invested already in a Ant+ only power meter you need an extra bridge to use it with newer Suunto products or to replace it with a BLE compatible power meter which is a costly option.

      Then Spartan is Suunto’s effort to compete with iWatch and the other smart watches on the market and this is why they chose to have touch screen and fewer buttons. The watch was not intended to be efficient but rather cool for the larger segment of consumers who is only interested how good it looks. All I hope is Suunto continues to develop Ambit family for more serious athletes.

      Fenix 3 watches are discounted big all over Canada and if you want to cross now is a good time to do it.

    • Dave Cochrane

      I don’t think that’s true at all. Apple Watch Series 2 isn’t intended to be anything like the Spartan, or vice versa. Spartan should have been Ambit 4, but they have rushed the release and utterly screwed up what should have been (and has the potential to be) a superb product, and absolutely not something intended for non-serious athletes. I am confident that they will sort it out, but probably not for a while yet.

    • Pierre L

      Thanks HP.
      I crossed the river. Day 2 with my Fenix3HR. So far I am very satisfied!
      Only issue is with Garmin connect. My account was locked and waiting email with info to reset password.. Not a good timing during the Holidays. Garmin support is closed
      Happy New Year

    • Double-check your Span/Junk/Clutter folders, it often ends up there.

    • Pierre L

      Hi Ray,
      I am using Firefox on MacOS. I don’t know where to find it.
      Thanks for your help
      Pierre L

    • Pierre L

      Hi Ray,
      Are you talking about mail trash or spam folders in Mail?
      Nothing is there,
      Pierre L

    • Yup, those folders in mail. That’s odd – it should/usually be instant. Any chance you registered under a different e-mail address?

  100. Pierre L

    Hi Ray,
    I had the account for several years when I stopped using me Edge 605 in 2013.
    Yesterday I created a new user with the same email. My F3 Work with Garmin Connect on IOS but not on Garmin Connect Website.

    • HP

      Hi Pierre,
      If you had the account you only needed to add the device to the old account and not create a new user. I am not even sure if Garmin would allow to create a second user with the same email address. If the Garmin account accepted to add the device on your computed then this should be automatically updated on Garmin website. Personally in the same account I had a Edge 500 which I added and then years later removed. Edge 520 which I added while I still had the Edge 500 on the same account and not the Fenix3 added last week without actually creating a new user. Currently the Edge 520 and F3 are part of the same account.


    • Pierre

      Thanks HP for the advise.
      It’s working !
      Need to get used to Garnin Connect now compare to i Movesvount
      So far F3 HR is great From an Ambit 2S user
      Need to find a way to import from Movescount!

    • hp

      Personally I fond Movescount more straight forward, more logical. Garmin connect is very complex and I am not sure if all the details work correctly.

      Also the F3 has a hybrid way of settings some thorough Garmin connect app or watch (the order of your activities ) some only in the Garmin connect (the removal of Golf activity) and the rest are watch based.

      The sleep hours don’t make any sense. I have setup the sleep hours in Garmin connect website but you can do it only while the watch is connected to computer (another strange way of setting up stuff) but when uploading the sleep tracking the hours were totally random and not linked in anyway with the time zone on the website or the time of the watch (which is the same time zone).

      This bug seem to be affecting other Garmin watches which have activity tracking feature.

    • Pierre Lespérance

      Day 3 with Fenix HR. So far I am very pleased with it.

      Have try to sync the previous ANT cadence pod (Suunto) it is not working with F3
      Maybe the cadence pod is a old version ( Previously with my Suunto T6C)

      Please advise. Thanks

    • HP

      That is because the Suunto sensors only speak ANT and not ANT+ which Garmin watches understand.

      In my case while using Ambit2 and Garmin Edge500 I had to switch from Suunto HRM sensor to Garmin HRM sensor because Suunto HRM sensor only transmits ANT which Ambit2 understands but Edge500 doesn’t. Garmin HRM sensor transmits ANT+ which is understood by both Edge500 and Ambit2. Suunto sensors are useless with Garmin watches but to be fair these days Garmin sensors are also useless with Suunto watches.

  101. Arnis

    Succesfull new year!
    What is changed now after all updates?

  102. Lance

    Wow great review. Looking at the firmware release notes a lot has changed this review. Any chance you’ll do an update ? Specifically curious if the accuracy has improved at all.

    • Yup, I’ve been looking at doing an update over the next month or so.

      I actually use a unit from time to time for different stuff – so am relatively up to speed on the changes.

    • Definitely looking forward to the update – some legacy loyalty to Suunto means I’ve been holding off on purchasing a Fenix 3.
      Great site also, congrats on getting it to this point – really impressed every time I’m here.

    • Blake

      Has the GPS accuracy improved with the updates. I saw Jere they added GLONASS today. Would be very interested in your thoughts after several software updates.

    • Sean

      Any update on this potential update? Wondering if the Spartan Ultra can be considered a reasonable alternative to a Garmin in terms of GPS accuracy.

    • It’s been mixed. I’ve got some good and bad. For example, swimming (GPS) is still pretty much the worst I’ve seen (unusable).

      And running is mixed. Mostly OK, and even some great. For example doing some tunnel testing a few nights ago (going back and forth through a 200-300m long tunnel to see what happens to GPS reception at either end), the Spartan was flawless in this test. Like, beautiful flawless – far better than anyone else.

      Still, that’s the rarity.

  103. Pierre Lespérance

    I just received an email from Suunto annoncing new wrist HR for spring 2017. I just bought a Fenix 3HR. I have until the end of January to return it. I like the F3. I paid 550$ CDN. Please advise. Thanks

  104. Ewert Kleynhans

    This is the worst watch I have ever used. I have a Samsung phone and it sometimes takes days, I promise you I tried for 3 days to connect the phone and watch via Bluetooth to download files. You already touched on the customization issue!!!!!! Then try the swim feature, it is a joke at best! You cannot change pool lengths to say 20m and it is useless in terms of laps and distance. You cannot swim say 500m and then pause the watch and look at the data to see the avg swim pace per 100m, once you pause the watch you only see the current activity time and you have to resume the watch to see the stats which starts the clock which skews the data! Then while swimming it will show for example you swam 500m and then you will stop the session and end it. The summary will then show you that you swam way shorter than what it just actually showed you. I did 1900m yesterday and when I stopped it then showed I actually only did 1650m! It is a joke. Try running laps and see distance for that lap as well as avg pace! If you find it let me know. I had Suuntos for years but I agree with you here, they should have never put this watch in the market 50% done, the reputational damage done with a watch branded as their flagship is scary! Someone at Suunto needs to give their Christmas bonus back for making the wrong business decision! This watch will always be the star high school athlete who had so much promise and then got injured when they just got their pro licence and just never recovered and reached their much anticipated star status.

  105. patrick

    Hi there,

    I am using the SSU Titanium since November 2016 mainly for mountaineering and trail running.
    For me altimeter during sport and results for ascent and descent are crucial.
    In your briefly carried out tests for altitude comparison it seems to look good.
    Something I can’t say for the watch I have.
    Software is the latest (1.6.10).
    Attached you see the result for altitude from a run uphill of about 800 m ascent total. Altitude starts approx 6 min (this delay I’ve seen several times) after start and then goes mad up to 8k and down to -1000m during running uphill.
    From all sessions I did with the Spartan (approx. 20 until now) only a few were almost right in terms of the measured altitude. Tested installed sport modes and also customized modes.
    In general I think there is a problem with altitude, because auto adjustment seems not to work in clock mode and alti goes also mad in this mode.

    It would be good to discuss with someone facing similar issues, to get an understanding if it is software based or my watch is simply scrap?!

    • Benoit

      Hi Patrick,

      I had a similar issue recently and after some trials, I’ve realized that in the sport settings, some mode have “barometer” as default value… which result to the same kind of values.

      Switching it back to “Altimeter” solved the issue.

      That’s all I can say to help.

    • patrick

      Unfortunately this is not the solution in my case.
      Carried out the following procedure: Synchronization and check if altimeter is set in ski touring mode. Did a short uphill hike with snowshoes and a fast run down the same route. Same settings for both actions and there is the result. Up completely wrong again and with negative altitude also.
      Down seems to be right. Couldn’t validate the data but a comparison with geodata looks not that bad.

      Now I am completely confused!

  106. Dat

    Movescount app for IOS was updated at 10 jan 2017 crushes every time started under IOS 10.2. Too bad!

  107. Josh

    Ray, is there discussion on the ability to increase the duration and strength of the vibrating notifications? It seems much weaker than any garmin vibrating alert.

    • Josh

      A follow up to my own comment. I just got off of a 30 minute phone call with customer support. In my experience with Suunto customer support, they are phenomenal. Any time I’ve had a question about my Ambit they have been there with a quick and correct response. 24/7.
      The young lady I spoke with said that I am not alone with the feedback about vibration alerts and that this is also going to be improved via software updates. But most excitedly she said was the vast improvements in everything since the watch was released and especially the updates to come with GPS, mapping, etc. The question I always ask a customer service rep in any company I reach out to is whether or not they use the product in question, and in this case the answer was yes, that she too is a runner. Based on the fact the vibration alert can be improved, I am very excited about the prospect of the watch since I find it to be incredibly comfortable and designed beautifully. I will most likely keep an Ambit 3 sport in my collection for a fail safe device, but the above news and the help in walking thru how to customize my running sport mode pages was fantastic this morning.

  108. Aljosa

    Hi, i can’t find this info anywhere. Does SSU have temperature, let’s say, gadget? I saw in movescount that this info is availible in statistics, but can i see real time temperature like on Suunto Core for example

    • kiwiant

      On the 18th Apr 17 I had this response from Suunto support to my pre-purchase questions:
      “At this moment,  tides, sunrise, sunset, multiple bike pods support, temperature are not yet available on the Suunto Spartan watch though.”

    • Mike

      Yep, temperature is absolutely available. Set up a custom sports mode – I use 5 measures on screen 1, and 7 measures on screen 2. There’s maybe 20-30 items in the list to choose from, e.g. current/max temp, speed, vertical measures, heart rate stuff, current lap/current activity. My favourite is tracking PTE in realtime – so I know when I’ve pushed “hard enough” on a hard ride, and when I need to relax more on a recovery one.
      In general, there have been massive improvements. For the last couple of months, firmware has been rock solid, GPS locks in in a matter of seconds (used to sometimes take minutes), and I get an auto-lap beep at almost exactly the same 14km spot on my commute every day (within maybe 10-20m), which is pretty good. Hardware is obviously amazing. It may not (yet) have all the features you want, but at least it’s now at the level where you can rely on the features that are advertised actually working properly (not the case when I got it in December!).

  109. Philippe

    No doubt about it Suunto ambit and spartan are one of the better gos watches for ultra trail.

    What most fail to mention thought is that Suunto straps are #1 lasts only a year on average, #2 are hard to find and #3 are $50 for a piece of plastic that will break down again in a year.

    Please take into consideratio when purchasing. (I have 2 ambits and a spartan, but moving on to fenix – better distribution and adter sales service)

  110. Alexander

    Hi DC Rain,

    you are damn right… i pre-ordered the Spartan from the Official shop last Year 06.2016.

    Today i am wondering why i made this mistake buying this watch and why some (Athletic Heroes…) swear that this Watch is the State of The Art.

    I spend 799,- € and Got a Watch worse than the Suunto Ambit Peak 3 (costs 399,-€) ???

    The Watch is in Price/Performance comparison to the other Models like the Ambit Peak the weakest watch. Even the Traverse is better.

    And after 4 updates the Watch its not better…

    To all of the, non Tech-Try and Fault, have to much money to burn Athletes out there, buy the Suunto ambit 3 Peak.

    I am going to say goodbye to Suunto…

    Greetings from Germany


  111. pellegrini gregory

    Hello! I see on google a lot of screenshot of the spartan that I did not on my watch like a heart monitor or a color chronometer for swimming …
    i dont find this on my Watch or on movescount…is it normal?
    thank a lot!
    and sorry for my English, i come from belgium.

  112. J. Gramm

    Oh man, I can’t wait for the update of this review. I might have an opportunity to purchase this watch with -40% discount (new) and I still can’t see how it could be worth it. I mean – even if they fix everything wrong with it that still would make it a pricier Fenix 3 with no visible benefits.

    The internet is biting it’s nails in anticipation, the word of Ray must come quick…

    • Dave

      If you let me know where you’re able to get that 40% off, I’d be in to buy one too (assuming it’s sorted out) !.

    • J. Gramm

      Sorry mate, one time deal only, gentleman’s agreement, I might be able to pick up a one single Suunto watch with a big discount, so I investigated the Spartan Ultra and I still have no idea why it is priced the way it is.

    • Daniel

      Buy the watch – I owned Garmin Fenix3 & Fenix3HR and I am in love with my Spartan Ultra

    • Michal

      Can you elaborate why you recommend Spartan over Fenix?

  113. Aljosa

    I have this watch for about 15 days now. I didn’t use garmin, but this watch does everything i need. My only remark is about termometar and step counter. Termometar doesn’t exist as individual guage, and step counter works on hand shake, and it is not accurate at all.

  114. Andy

    I am reading on other suunto forums about G1.. or G2… which should identify hardware used?

    Just asking if suunto did somekind of hw improvements already?

    Maybe i am wrong .. just checking since i can get watch for good price. So do not want to be disappinted in suunto is also selling watch with improved or changed hw.

  115. Andy

    Can anyone give me better user experience about battery life when navigation with 1sek or 5sek gps interval is set?
    Just want to compare it with Traverse Alpha.

    I am tempted by new fenix 5 only because better battery life – we still have to wait and verify what Garmin is saying for battery life but anyway… 🙂

  116. David Renstead

    I’m currently looking at buying a GPS watch and after having spent a lot of time reading various reviews, Basically I’m looking at an all-round watch I can use for trail running as well….up to 10-15 hours along with being able to programs workouts on it.

    At the moment it’s down to the Ambit 3 peak and Fenix 3 as most people seem to end up and just coming down to personal preference?

    Should I be looking at the Spartan at all given the recent updates as well as the upcoming Fenix 5 ? I don’t really want anything too chunky!

  117. Brad Wingler

    How is the new GPS update fix working for you all?

  118. Jody

    Question about battery life in various GPS intervals. I sold my Peak in anticipation of getting the Spartan Ultra. I was quick on the trigger and I regret it. I’m reading the differences between the Spartan Sport and Ultra. For me it comes down to battery life. I’m running a 100 mile race but I need more than 26 hours. So, I figure that I can save $$ by getting the Sport as either way, I’ll be setting it to the 60 sec interval reading. How “off” do you think the GPS accuracy would be in the 60 sec readings on either of the models? A couple of kilometers over the 100 miles? 20km’s? I understand that it will read short as I run through switchbacks it will ping in a straight line (so to speak) but if it’s only going to be off by a few km’s I’m ok and I’ll move on. I like to know where I am at what point in the race km/time, hence my need for a watch that can GPS for over 26 hours with fairly accurate data. No one seems to know the answer. P.S. I’m Canadian hence the KM 🙂

    • Michal

      Hi Jody,

      I believe you can charge Ambit3 peak while running. You could have set it to 1sec accuracy and have small external battery pack and charge it while running. I don’t know, if Spartan is able to be in active sport mode and record information while being charged…. If you run 100mile, you will be wearing some kind of hydration system anyway, so a battery pack is not that big added weight… And you can have fairly accurate pace… etc. If nobody knows the answer with the charging while running I can test it on my Spartan Ultra if you wish…

    • tfk

      you can charge while a session is active (just tried it)
      I’ve never tried the lowest level of accuracy. as a guess I reckon 3-5% error. under/over counting could cancel out to a degree.

    • Dalibor

      Once I tried 2 or 3 km loop with 1 s, 5 s and 60 s recording intervals on suunto ambit run. 1s an 5 s results were quite close. 60 s was off by a lot. 60 s is quite a long time when gps doesnt know whats going on. On top of that navigation on ambits is avilable only in 1s mode …i think. And altitude without baromether (spartan sport, ambit sport) would be unreliable with 60 s interval as well. Charging while running is way to go i would say.

  119. Andy

    Which of the Spartan bezels should be most prone to scratches?
    I am thinking to go Black version, also because of the price.

  120. I see Suunto pushed a big update this week (25th Jan 2017) to improve GPS accuracy. Has anyone any comments yet? Still holding off on purchase….

  121. Nigel

    So pleased I read this review. Thank you for the effort you put into such a comprehensive article. I have been very happily using an Ambit 2 HR for the last 3 years but sadly I assume the strap must have broke (for about the 5th time) last week and it fell off my wrist and I lost it.
    Having been delighted with the watch I wanted to replace with Suunto again so I looked at the latest model, the Spartan Ultra, but was disappointed by the feature list and was concerned I was missing something. (NO one brings out a new model with less features than the previous model) I then used the Suunto site to compare it directly with an Ambit 3 Ultra HR and confused myself even more as it appeared to confirm the Ambit 3 was by far the better watch. Being a bit of a techy too, I do like gadgets and latest tech, so my heart has been saying Spartan Spartan Spartan but it didn’t make sense.
    But having now read your review it is so clear which way to go, I have placed m order and my shining new AMBIT 3 Ultra HR will be here tomorrow for less than half the price!

    • Henno

      Hey Nigel,

      just a quick message to see if your decision made sense to go with the Ambit? I’m in the same boat….Ambit 3 peak sounds better than the Spartan Ultra…..and at a big saving too. Grateful for your review after taking the plunge.

  122. Fred Benkimoun

    I 100% agree with this review. Their firmware updates are pathetic, they focus on bringing new layouts instead of making the watch more stable and fixing the known bugs.
    The GPS is useless, distance is not accurate and the watch keeps getting into a loop when used while swimming indoor. You end up losing the data and have to reset the watch get out of the loop.

    As I offered my old Ambit to a friend, I will end up buying a Garmin at some point. I don’t trust Suunto any longer.

  123. Vince

    Just bought SSS and noticed a couple of problems wonder if anyone has any insight.

    1. When I’m on crosstrainer in the gym the calorie readout stops for long periods then seems to catch up again randomly.

    2. When I export my indoor activities to Strava (using the auto export) I get almost no detail I get only time elapsed no calories reading and no HR graph just a max and average.

  124. Robin B

    What’s the state of the Suunto Spartan (Sport/Ultra) right now? Which would you recommend if I could get the Suunto Spartan Sport HR for $433 or the Suunto Ambit 3 Vertical HR for $332?

    BTW this has me a bit concerned about the future of the Spartan: “Suunto is committed to providing you the best possible solution. We have delivered updates in September, October, November, December and January. We will continue through the spring of 2017.” Found this information on Suunto’s website but I’m not allowed to link it in the comments.

    Spring 2017 is just another 3-4 months, what will happen next? Will the updates for the Spartan stop coming?

  125. erick meier

    just switch to spartan ultra and when i connect the watch to the computer the suunto link goes on, but it never launch the movescount , someone does know how to fix this?

  126. erick meier

    after doing a sport I try to sync the spartan with the movescount app, but it does not sync all the times, its kind of erratic sync process

  127. Carael

    Does the Spartan has the VO2max estimation? Or running performance like Ambit 3 Peak? Ifyes where can I find it since I dont see it anywhere in the menu.

    • رامي

      Did you find the answer? I see the comparison matrix above indicates that it does support it, but cannot see where in the watch or the Suunto app.

    • Drew

      Hi Rahmy
      It appears in the workout summary on the watch along with EPOC.
      I believe that to get a VO2 max you would need to have connected a heart rate monitor for the activity.

  128. Thomas

    I was wondering if there is a possibility for vibration alerts regarding pace/speed in the Spartan Ultra/Sport? If there is an option to customize an activity where you get an vibration alert if your pace is beneath say 4:00 min/km or 15:00 km/h? Have tried to google it, but have not found an answer.

  129. erick meier

    still having trouble with the SPARTAN ULTRA , today I swim 4,2k and at the end the watch shows 2.2km
    sync process is still a problem, it does not work or takes too much time, and on top of all, is that when you connect the watch to the computer, and the suuntolink pops up, you can wait for the app to open automatically the movescount and it does not happen.

    any clue, or help?

    • Jochen M.

      Hi Erik – indoor swimming or outdoor? If indoor – did you adjust the pool length correct? My SSU counts the swimming kilometers better than the Ambit 2did, todays 2,1 km were exactly on the watch.

      The suuntolink program is also adjustable, mine (on W10) opens movescount everytime, no complaints from me. I don’t start suuntolink automatically with windows. I start it by hand. When it’s open I connect the SSU – and the rest works everytime without any fault.

    • erick meier

      hi Jochen, still have the problem indoor swimming, i did adjust the pool length and still have the problem, today i swim 2,2km and at the end it says 1.1km but if check the laps in distance is ok.
      i dont have issues with open water swimming.
      the only issue is with the pool
      i will send back the watch to the local dealer for a check up.
      its very good to know that yours works well

    • Mike B

      I use sync on movescouny for android. I used to think it was broken, but found its actually very reliable if you leave the app open on “watch” (ok to let the screen go off). it just takes a long time to sync (e.g. half an hour for a few 1 hour rides with heart rate).
      I actually love the watch, but my requirements aren’t high. it’s my first gps watch, and I don’t race (just trying to use my 1 hour commute for proper training!). It’s fun seeing new features role out (basic functionality is reliable for me), and it’s a great bit of hardware. Maybe not ready for hard core athletes yet, but I don’t mind waiting for the nuanced features.

  130. erick meier

    FIELDS on the main screen:
    does anyone know if a specific update is comming in order to be able to have customizable data on the main screen? or does anyone know how to do it?

  131. Ben Dunning

    Anyone know what the GPS accuracy is like compared to a Garmin Fenix 2? I’m looking for an upgrade but not sure between the Spartan Ultra (prefer the look) or the Fenix 5 (seems more complete)

    Cheers Ben

  132. erick meier

    you are right, its a great GPS watch…. and the best is that having use Suunto for years I can assure the following:
    – they will work hard until every thing goes perfect and beyond
    – so, looking forward for new updates is the idea.

  133. Benyamin

    Finnaly, Suunto anounced Spartan Sport Writst HR. The RRP price of the Spartan Sport Wrist HR is 499€ and it will be available on 30th of March.

    Now I am in doubt to buy Spartan Ultra which is on sale right now or to wait Sport Wrist HR edition. The biggest concern to me is altimeter, how accurate is GPS based altimeter when compared to barometric or better question is how much is not accurate.

    @Ray I know it is too early but doesn’t cost nothing to ask when is expected time of review? Thank you.

    I am trail runner and this would be my first watch ever.

  134. Hello DC!

    I have been reading this very extensive review of yours, last night, regarding the all new Spartan Ultra and i was quite disappointed by your observations…

    So i need to ask you, are you aware if the new released update has solved all the problems ?

    I am currently a very satisfied user of an XT920 and the only reason for going towards the Suunto is the more accurate altimeter and the more watch looks… Do you think its finally a good idea, or i should stay on what i have once it works great for me at the moment?


    • Johan Lundberg

      I think it has come a long way after the latest releases and there are a lot of functionality being added every month now. To get a better understanding, take a look at the discussions at: link to facebook.com

    • It has come a long way, but there’s still quite some ways to go.

      At this point it’d still be extremely difficult to find circumstances where I’d recommend the Spartan series over the Fenix 5 series.

      For example, there are some improvements in GPS – but not all. Swimming is horrendous for example, while running and cycling are largely OK. Data field customization is better, but still not as good as it should be. Part of the challenge is that we’re at a point with the unit that it’s almost to the point of where the Ambit3 series was. We mustn’t forget that the point of new versions is to expand features, not equal previous versions.

      Just my two cents…

    • MWHL

      Thanks Ray for the detailed review. Do you plan to issue in the near future an update to this review?
      As for today, what will be your recommendation between the Spartan and the Ambit3R (leaving price issue aside)? My Ambit 1 has completed 4 years of faithful service. I can’t go Garmin (outcome of 7 years with Garmin products) and I stuck like zombie between these two options. HELP! ?

    • Hello DC again!

      So many thanks in advance for your immediate reply!

      Lets say it in another way, in order to help you give me a more accurate response ON this model.

      I need a watch which is:
      1. more of a watch (in the contrary with my existing XT920 which is more like a sport watch only)
      2. more durable (definitely anti-scratch glass)
      3. more accurate in altimeter and GPS because mainly i run trails

      Which one would you suggest?

      – Ambit 3?
      – Fenix 5?
      – Spartan Ultra?

      OOoooor… you have heard of something “GOOD” coming on . . . and therefore i should better wait for a few months and stick at the moment to my XT920 which doesn’t cause me any problem at all??

  135. hardcoreddds

    Great reviews as always. I had a question of the Spartan vs the Ambit3. I had the Ambit3 Vertical, and my old Garmin Forerunner 220 on the other arms, and I was really surprised with how hard to it was to see the Ambit….and I wasn’t even in direct sunlight. The 220 was much easier to see. So much so I sent the Vertical back. Did you ever find the Ambit3 screens harder to view, and do you find the Spartan screen better?

  136. erick meier

    WHY KEEP SUUNTO: recently i switch from Vertical to Spartan Ultra, at the begining I really wanted to go back to my vertical, but since all the whereabouts with my Spartan Ultra, the type and quality of Suunto Support System i decided to keep using my Spartan Ultra.

    here the story i want to share: while using the suunto for pool swimming all the readings where ok, but when saved they changed almost to have the distance, making the training log not useful for me and for my coach. After some questions and test in communication with the suunto support team the issue appears to be that a software update will come soon for the 50 meter pool measurement. But there is a solution while we wait for the update. When setting the distance , go to 50 meters but start a one by one meter setting until 50 meters and press enter, and it will work fine.
    in the meantime i can SAY the REASON to stay with SUUNTO over any other brand, is not only the quality of the product but more importan the one to one technical support you can get. I am sure SUUNTO will issue a bunch of updates, for all innovative ideas we might expect or dream about a watch like this can do. And MY suunto true is still MY true: I WILL ONLY CHANGE MY CURRENT SUUNTO WHEN A NEW VERSION / MODEL WILL BE IN THE MARKET.
    sure we expect more customable screens, or easy ways to work with the compass , or how to work simultaneosly with the stopwatch and a count down timer-repeat feature…. and many other…. but at the end, the watch is great.

    • hb

      I have an entirely different take on the Spartan vs Fenix conversation. I’ve had pretty much all of the higher end Garmins and Suuntos on the market over the last 10 or so years, and I was previously focused on ultradistance/trail running. However, now while I still do a fair amount of running, I’m more focused on road cycling. Because of this, my Garmin 820 is the heavy lifter there.

      However, for my running watch, I’ve most recently had the Suunto Spartan Titanium, Fenix 3HR and currently the Fenix Chronos. I got rid of the 3HR because it was creating a painful sore on the top side of my wrist for some reason. First I thought it was the hr bump, then assumed it was the sharp cylinder things around the buttons (or a combo of both). I bought the Spartan thinking maybe the wrist HR just wasn’t for me but was blown away by the lack of functionality at the price point, so I returned it and bought the Chronos, which had a smaller bump and didn’t have the sharp parts around the buttons. Note: The contour of the Suunto was really nice versus the sort of older school fit of the Garmin. But … now I’ve got the blisters once again with the Chronos (ugh!!!) and am thinking I’ll either do the Ultra again or the wrist hr Sport. In the end, I haven’t been that impressed with the way the wrist HR has functioned (also, I have really hairy wrists) and am thinking I’ll probably just settle on the non-wrist Spartan Ultra, which has enough functionality now, fits me like a glove, and IMO looks a lot nicer than the Garmin lot … although that’s obviously very subjective :).

      Long story, but I just wanted to share my experience with these watches based on a fair amount of trial and error and troubleshooting.

  137. Gareth Finlay

    can the spartan ultra be charged during an activity lile the ambit3

  138. Gareth Finlay

    cant the spartqn ultra be charged during an activity like the ambit3

  139. Deborah


    I’m hoping you can help me please. I’ve just been very generously donated a Sultan Spartan Sports watch for my English Channel swim prize draw which I’m running to raise money for the charities I’m swimming to France for. I thought I’d have a little peek at the watch and it seems to have come alive! And I can’t figure out how to just turn it off. I don’t want to preset any of the settings as that will be for the winner to do.

    I know there is probably a really simple solution to my very simple problem. I however, cannot figure it out. I have held in each of the buttons, left it for a few days hoping it may just turn off, to no avail. It has now gone to a clock face and I’m wondering if that’s how it’s supposed to be or can I get a blank screen?

    Thank you in anticipation.


    • Jason Hodgson

      you cannot physically tun it off, literally!. I contacted Suunto myself with the same question, I normally use Garmin devices all the time but decided to give Suunto a try the Suunto Spartan Sport with wrist HR to be exact.Extremely complicated to use compared with my Garmin Fenix 3 HR, so I am returning it this morning after only 12 hours of ownership

  140. Hawker

    Hi Ray

    Can you comment on the new Software 30.3 Is it syncing steps to movescount?

    “…30 days/7days insight elements on Suunto Movescount.com (daily steps and energy consumption)….”

  141. Irontarsh

    Hi DC

    Your review was back in October last year. The watch has now been released in the last couple of weeks. Do you have an updated version of your review?


    • Ethan

      I second this. Have the Fenix 3 and likely going to get the Fenix 5 but would love to see the update on the Spartan……..probably wishful thinking that anything dramatic will have changed but still curious.

  142. Jeff

    After multiple unsuccessful training sessions in which the Suunto Wrist HR gave seemingly random HR readings, I decided to do a controlled test this morning by comparing my Suunto Wrist HR to a Suunto HR Belt paired with Movescount. I can’t find out how to download the data from Movescount, but I was able to overlay the HR graphs with each other so you can see the how bad the optical heart rate reading was for the following workout:

    Walk 3 min
    Run 2 min
    Walk 3 min
    Run 2 min
    Walk 3 min
    Run 2 min
    Walk 3 min
    Run 2 min
    Walk 3 min
    Run 2 min
    Walk 3 min
    Run 2 min
    Walk 3 min
    Sit 2 min

    I’m hearing that others are claiming the Wrist HR is quite accurate, so I’m wondering if mine is defective. I’ve followed the guidance on the Suunto site and videos to wear it reasonably tight, higher up on the wrist, etc.

  143. Sam

    Ray, is the new HR model improved and better?

  144. Petr Havlik

    Thanks for the great review. Wish I read it before I bought the watch.
    I have to agree that the Suunto Spartan is a shockingly bad watch for it’s price and the competition it is supposed to compete with. I used to have a Garmin Fenix 3, which sadly got water in it, during normal use, and Garmin would not replace it, so I swore to never get Garmin. But aside from the bad Garmin service, the Fenix was a superb watch. After the experience with the Suunto Spartan there is no way I will ever get a Suunto again. So I guess it’s down to Polar :).

    • Patrik

      Just got a Spartan Sport, from Wiggle, for 300€. That price and the last few firmware updates makes this an ok watch, actually. Still a bunch of stuff that needs to be improved and they might need another 4-5 months for that, but in general, the first week of use has left me positively surprised, having read all that ‘released to early’ drama. Have a Polar V800 as backup still, did a couple of runs with both, but no GPS accuracy difference there, at least not so far.

      Nice hardware, sleek looking with a touch screen that I think works really well for scrolling menus, but that can be disabled in sport mode, which I prefer. Replaced the strap with a 24mm Nato, looks good and much more comfortable for everyday use than the silicone ones every vendor seems to use these days. Put a screen protector on the glass, had no impact on touch screen use, happy with that also. Cost was 5€ shipped.

      One thing that do annoy me though, is the ‘one of each sensor’ restriction, I really hope they improve that asap. Thriathlon mode screens still not customizable either, would surely want that too. Haven’t tested the swim modes yet, hope it is as good as the Ambit3 in the pool, used to nail the distance every time for me.

  145. Aydin Mert

    Hi Ray,

    Are you planning to update the review with the latest software updates that Suunto has been releasing? If so, when do you think it will be?


    • I’ll be backporting portions of the Spartan Wrist HR review into this review. Meaning things like data field configuration and stuff like that, which are less device-specific (meaning Sport WHR vs Ultra).

      As far as GPS accuracy goes, I’ll be pulling out all the Spartan Ultra tracks from the last few months (I actually use it on many workouts as a secondary/etc device) and plopping them into the accuracy table. I haven’t really seen any major shift from what I saw last summer.

      I’d been waiting the last 18 days for Suunto to get Valencell’s take on my optical HR issues, with each day being told it was coming later that day. Since that hasn’t happened, I’m just moving ahead with publishing next week. I’ve got more than enough data that it doesn’t much matter what they contribute, since I suspect the answer is they have no good answer for the variability that myself and others see with the optical HR on the unit.

    • Aydin Mert

      Thanks a lot! So, your overall conclusion won’t be dramatically different for Spartan?

    • Dramatically different? No.

      But certainly things have definitely improved.

      It’s still the same challenge that the competition has just done so much in the last 4 months, let alone the previous time period.

  146. erick meier

    Question, please someone has a guide to use the sparta triathlon mode ? for half ironman?

    • Patrik

      Not that I have tried it in a race yet, but just start a session in triathlon mode and long-press upper right button to change to/from different sports and transitions. It’s pre-programmed for ows/t1/bike/t2/run. Short press upper right pauses the session, middle button switch data screens and bottom right is a new lap, just like in other sport modes. Either a long-press or a short press seems to end the run (ie. the triathlon). Data fields are pre-programmed by Suunto, as stated above.

      You could use standard Multisport mode also, I suppose, but as it’s not pre-programmed you’d have to long-press and then choose the next sport yourself. Is it possible to setup a T1 and a T2 sport for that? Can’t test it now.

      Try it out before the race, in training, car or on the sofa. Delete the test on the watch directly or upload to see what it looks like in Movescount/Trainingpeaks.

    • erick meier

      thanks for your post on suunto tri mode, I found this video on YouTube

      link to youtube.com

      many thanks, this friday i will test the mode prior to the race and see how it goes, will come back with feedback

  147. erick meier


    after some issues with the distance and training records, i found kind of a solution for the measurement of the swimmed meters in a 50 meter pool.
    try this:

    select the sport : pool swimming
    select the length of the pool for 50 meters but dont press set, go as if you will set meter by meter until you reach 50 meters and press set
    go back to start the exercise and you will see that the only difference might be 50meters less

  148. Danny


    It is possible to set a distance in sport mode running race? I have tried but i have seen only set duration in the options.
    Many Thanks

  149. Michael

    One lesson i have learned the hard way from being a apple and suunto (ambit) user, is never to buy a first generation from either Company. Both make stellar quality products, but first generation from both companies is almost always a test-run product with underperforming soft- and hardware.

    Expected a Spartan gen 2 to come out within the next year, with stellar and innovative performence while sadly leaving first gen. owners behind.

  150. Daniel

    I would prefer to stay with Suunto (gone through the Quest, Ambit 2s) but seem to have hit a conundrum with the new Spartan series. Also I hate wearing a chest strap so I will be picking up a Scosche.
    When it comes to deciding between the Ambit3 Peak vs a Spartan Ultra or even Wrist HR, should I forge ahead in faith with the Spartan? Stick to the trusted Ambit, or do away with loyalty and look at the Fenix series?

    • Moe

      I have a Fenix 3HR. I purchased it after owning a Ambit 3. A few weeks ago I purchased a Spartan Sport ( I wish I had purchased a Wrist HR). Honestly Fenix 3 HR is way better in terms of capabilities, you have a lot more options and features at your disposal. But I just dont like Garmin. Thats why I chose to purchase a Sport. The reason I didnt purchase the Wrist HR was because my Garmin 3 HR was not accurate enough.

      I love my Suunto, and I always will. I guess its like choosing between Iphone and Samsung, Samsung gives way more options, but I still like Apple.

  151. Marcelo Vervloet

    Please, I’d like to use a Foot Pode with my SSU. I have a garmin foot pod, but is in ANT+, What’s bluetooth can i use with my SSU ?

    • erick meier

      Marcelo, I use since the Ambit 3 Vertical the Wahoo BLE sensor and works well
      this year a switched to Spartan Ultra and the Wahoo BLE sensor works well, and its very light and easy to attached to shoe.

    • Marcelo Vervloet

      I didn’t find Wahoo BLE sensor Foot Pod in the internet.

    • erick meier

      hi, I use this and gives me the data (speed and cadence sensor )
      and when on the bike i attached it to the shoe depending on the MTB shoe or ROad Shoe, so I work with one sensor for the two sports RUN / BIKE.

    • Marcelo Vervloet

      Ok but not Bike Pod, I’d like to running Foot Pod.

    • erick meier

      Just check on amazon and there are various stride pods most of them able to connnect with the iPhone or Android, review the specs but i think the wahoo stride, pod fits very well.

  152. erick meier

    QUESTION: someone can help with the accuracy of the swimming data in open water and pool.
    in the open water, the data shows more meters than the reality and in the pool the data has always some less meters then reality.
    also there is notorious differences between the sync data with strava and trainingpeaks
    this all with the SPARTAN ULTRA HR

  153. Henno

    Great review as always DC – in challenging times with all the software updates. Keeps you on your toes.

    After reading plenty (probably too many) reviews I still can’t see a reason to go for the Spartan Ultra (although I really wanted to find some happy Suunto customers) so I’m actually thinking of investing in the Ambit 3 peak for ultra-running and ironman distance events.

    I’m coming from the Polar M400 which is a SUPERB watch for the money, but just not enough battery life past 6 hours.

    So this is a final call for any happy (or even moderately happy) Spartan Ultra owners who can tell me the tech is great, updates have transformed it, and I should jump on board and invest.

    Any comments welcome, regarding Ultra, Fenix and V800 also.

  154. kiwiant

    My experience upgrading from the Ambit 3 Sport to the Spartan Ultra as a runner, mountain biker and tramper (hiker).

    After using the Spartan Ultra since May I’ve found zero bugs relating to the watch. Battery life is great although I haven’t tested it on a full day yet and GPS is accurate. I love the user interface (indoor and outdoor) and don’t have any issues with the touch although I still like to use the buttons.

    There is still some missing functionality I would like to see:
    1. Countdown timer (useful for every day use)
    2. More custom screens (currently very limited in MovesCount compared to the Ambit3)

    One issue I’ve had with the Ambit 3 Sport and continuing on to the Spartan Ultra is with a paired Wahoo Fitness Blue SC. Even with the tire measured and calibrated to 1mm I get crazy distances (46km for a 26km ride) which is verified with an old Cateye cycle computer.

    In summary I “prefer” the Spartan but there are some crazy cheap prices on the Ambit 3 Peak which are very hard to ignore especially if you’re not worried about a colour touch screen and more friendly UI. My Spartan was a gift otherwise I would still be using the Ambit 3.

    • Henno

      Thanks for the quick response KiwiAnt. Good to hear from someone who’s actually been using one.

      I’m still partially on the fence (I think we all like looking at tech a bit too much) – the Ambit 3 sounds like a cracker but I’m tempted by the navigation on the Ultra, bigger screen and extended battery.

      How does the navigation compare from model to model – is the Spartan screen a clear winner?

    • kiwiant

      For the most part navigation is identical between the Ambit 3 and Spartan. For those who aren’t aware there are no maps on the Ambit/Spartan just lines to follow.

      1. You plan a route on the MovesCount site and sync with the watch. This is where the heavy lifting is done creating the route and adding waypoints.

      2. Select the route when you want to navigate and this adds a bunch of screens (route line/breadcrumbs for actual and distance to next waypoint etc.

      3. If you get lost and haven’t created/synced a route you can use the compass, use line of sight navigation back to a saved point of interest (POI) or use the track back (if you are recording your route).

      On the Spartan the lines are different colours but otherwise same functionality. Be aware though that the direction indicator changes between when moving (along the route) and standing still (direct line of sight to next waypoint).

      Ambit 3 Sport only had 10-15hrs real use but the Ambit 3 Peak doubles that to 20-30hrs (you can be more GPS use but its only really useful for long straight hikes). Spartan Ultra is 18-26 so less than the Peak (larger colour screen?).

      Couple of other advantages of the Ambit 3 Peak over the current Spartan Ultra firmware:
      1. Peak shows current weather whereas Ultra only shows this after the fact when synced with MovesCount.
      2. Peak and Sport have Apps for things like tides, sunrise/sunset which can be useful.

    • Dave

      Hi Kiwiant, I’m in the Manawatu and also keen to know more about the SSU as, to me, it looks like there’s still room for fixes. I’d be moving over from a FR920XT which has done well through Ironman, Taupo Ultra etc. What I need now is something that’ll do SwimRun Bay of Islands with all the transitions that involves. Have you any idea how many times it’s possible to switch between sports in an activity? I’ve been tempted by the Sport with wrist HR but the battery life worries me slightly. Chur!

    • Henno

      Brilliant! That’s really useful stuff to know – I’m really ebbing towards the Peak now as I can get a great price on it.

      Thanks again for your detailed response – great to hear from actual users!

    • kiwiant

      @dave, I’m not familiar with the FR920XT but I do know the Triathalon seems to work well but I’m not sure about other events with custom activities/orders like adventure racing (if you know what you’ll be doing.

      From a new Triathlon activity press and hold a button to instantly switch to the transition then again to go from transition to the new activity etc. All the planning is done on the MovesCount site. I’ve had a quick look but can’t see how to do different activities in a different order.

      Give them a call as the support it pretty good. If they give you any stick let me know and I’ll ask them myself.

    • Dave

      Took the plunge on a white SSU from Amazon yesterday. $319 USD was too good a deal to pass up.

    • Marcelo Vervloet

      In SSU

      in “Do not distub mode” when I want to see the time, I press any button..

      I think better to see the time, press two times with my finger on the display.

    • Henno

      Good deal Dave. Hope it impresses you. I went the other way and opted for the Ambit 3 Peak in the end.
      Be great to hear your user experience on here in a few months though 🙂
      Happy Training!

  155. Andreas Gard

    Great review. Thanks. One open question: is it possible that the Spartan shoes HR in percentage of my max. HR during training?

  156. Jj

    I thanks the watch is great but unfortunatly it is not finished. I decided to send it back.
    Altitude, speed, swim mode etc are way wrong.

  157. erick meier

    someone is using powertap p1 pedals with the suunto spartan? if so can share the configuration?



  158. Mauri Galvez

    Appreciate your thorough review. However, with the latest updates, several issues have been either resolved or improved. Still looking forward to future updates and better / additional functionality. Still, after using an Ambit Peak 3 for a few years and trying the Garmin 935 (huge disappointment there) I’m reasonably happy with my Ultra. The display is absolutely tops in this category. Build quality is fantastic. Any watch GPS accuracy is average at best, so using Stryde is a no-brainer and is natively supported with Ultra and provides top-notch accuracy.

    Nice to see your review didn’t dock the rating for “lack of built-in HR”. TOTAL waste of money from any company. They are all terribly inaccurate as proven over and over, including my Garmin 935 usage and my since returned Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro. The Ultra is much preferred. And with Walmart selling the Ultra Titanium Sapphire HR for $511, hard to beat.

    Looking forward to what’s to come. Aloha.

  159. Goofy

    Is it chargeable in training mode?

  160. erick meier

    Hi, OPENWATER QUESTION: does anyone have weird results with openwater swimming? Like too fast or or distance measurements differences? If so please let me know if you have a way to improve the accuracy.

  161. Maja Howgate

    Thanks for this, I bought it with understanding that I can input my own planned workouts- their old watch can do it so surely you would think new one would to-but it turns out NO! To me that is most important thing about sport watch and now it seems that I have to go backwards and get old watch in order to go forward…But every time I ring them for help they are clueless and so slow to reply, never to confident in answers-as if they are selling £20 watches!

  162. Richard

    I am wonderint if suunto is going to make the apps un app zone available on ssu as well ? Also is sunset/suneise
    or last lap time available as data field on ssu ? I can add those two functions as an app on my old ambit 3

  163. Kristian

    Do you know if the internal hardware in the various Spartan models are the same, or if for instance the new Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro has more powerful CPU, more memory, or better touch screen than the older Ultra?

    If not taking the wrist HR, the saphire glass, the material in the casing, and the battery size into account, is there any reason to believe that the Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro will perform better than the Ultra just because it’s newer and possibly have faster and more efficient internal hardware parts?

  164. Scott Griffith

    Hi Ray. You may have heard that Suunto is offering 40% off all Spartans. Have there been any significant improvements that you know of since your review? Thanks!

    • Johan Lundberg

      Not much discussions here.
      Ask on FB instead. link to facebook.com
      There has been numerous improvements since release. Its is a stable watch today, good GPS and nice STRYD integration. I guess it all depends on what you are going to use it for…

    • There have certainly been improvements – I’ve highlighted many of those in other posts.

      Like Johan says, it all depends on what you use it for. I think some of the mid-range models are a great bargain under this deal. Whereas the higher-end ones are less of a good bargain because it basically puts you into the same price-range as a Fenix 3HR or Fenix 3, and honestly those are more full featured (still), and with accuracy in roughly the same ballpark.

      The increda-deal here is the Spartan Trainer Wrist HR, which is then like $169 or something, that’s nuts!

      Any idea when the deal ends? I didn’t seem to get the e-mail. 🙁

    • Scott Griffith

      Thanks for the reply Ray and Johan! I am still using my Ambit2 and Garmin 910XT which have been great. I have never upgraded because I don’t need Bluetooth (everything I use is ANT+). I have to have ANT+ (excludes Spatan Ultra apparantly). I like a barometer (excludes 735). And, I don’t like the problems many people have with optical HR. A chest strap doesn’t bother me.
      As for the Suunto deal, I guess I’m special because it’s “exclusive”. The sale goes until the end of this month. Use discount code: SPARTAN40.

    • Alex Masidlover

      Is this a US only sale? I’m an Ambit3 owner and didn’t get the email – when I try the code on the Suunto site (in en-GB mode) it doesn’t work – “The offer code “SPARTAN40″ is not valid.”

    • Scott Griffith

      Sorry, I don’t know the answer to that. It worked for me. Sorry!

    • Kango

      Must have been a one time use code. Tried on US store and doesnt work.

    • Scott Griffith

      There’s another email I just received today. Theclymb.com is offering several models for 40-50% off. It’s a members only website but membership is free. If you care to share your email, we will each get a $10 credit. If not, you can still sign up.

    • Kango

      Thanks, I’m already a Clymb member.

      40% off the Trainer would have been great.

  165. Kango

    Can we get a update on the performance of this watch?

    • While they’ve added numerous features (largely catch-up based), I haven’t really seen the GPS accuracy be all that great. Just sorta so-so the last time I used it a couple months back (there’s been nothing changed since then from a GPS accuracy standpoint).

      In general, I recommend folks look at Suunto’s Trainer series instead, which I think is a much more accurate watch for a fraction of the price. Albeit, not as pretty.

    • Kango

      Disregard, saw previous posts.

  166. Phil Howard

    I’ve gained so much from this site over the years I thought it only fair to share my experience of the SSU. It is fair to say I’m beyond disappointed.

    I have been an Ambit 2 user for 4 years. It has been great and has been used pretty much daily, often twice daily for swim/bike/run for training and races. The battery has been fab – still lasts for Iron distance triathlons on ‘best’ setting and I can’t think of a single occasion it has failed me, e.g. dropped gps or given dodgy data. I’ve always been able to get exactly the information I want, mainly due to the way the apps could be created and loaded.

    When the Spartan Ultra came out I was very excited, I loved Suunto and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one. That was until I read the reviews. I decided to hold off getting one to see if the initial problems were fixed. In the last 18 months I’ve checked this page numerous times to see what improvements, if any, have come along and whilst some have been noted it hadn’t been enough to get me to buy. That was until late Sunday night when I saw the watch on a ‘deal of the day’ on Amazon for £250. I figured that whilst the standard price has now dropped from the launch price of £600 to the current standard price of c£400 paying £250 should make it a bargain, even if it isn’t quite the finished article.

    Within 5 minutes of setup and looking through the limited menu options I knew I was going to be disappointed. And, within 24 hours use I knew it was going to have to be sent back.

    Here are my main reasons, some fundamental some cosmetic all important (to me!) happy to be corrected if I’ve got any of these wrong!

    GPS Accuracy – If this was my first or only watch I might think it ok. But, being used to very good tracks from the Ambit and having run with SSU on one wrist and the Ambit 2 on the other the Ambit was far more accurate. SSU cut a number of corners on some gentle bends on a fairly open trail.

    Swimming – (OK, so I know it is odd that some of us work in imperial and metric but…) I run and cycle in miles but when I set the watch to say I’m swimming in a 25m pool I don’t expect the distance to display in yards. On the Ambit I would get mile distance for running and 25,50,75 distance on swimming having set a 25m pool. I can’t do the maths to work out where I’m up to when it tells me I’ve done 476 yards in my 25m pool. Crazy!

    Pause – I can’t believe you can’t see data when you pause the watch! If you are doing intervals, or a warm up before a run or simply waiting for someone why on earth can’t you see the data whilst the watch is paused? I often run somewhere then pause the Ambit and whilst pause switch screens to prepare for the session I’m about to do. No ability to do this. (Similar to the start – I preferred seeing and being able to scroll through screens before I start particularly if doing a race, I’d want to get it on my screen of choice before hitting ‘go’ can’t do that now).

    Data Fields – Whilst there is now some ability to change these I miss the ‘Apps’. Whilst these might have been ground breaking for the Ambit 2 it is a step backwards not to have them. I frequently used a ‘race estimator’ to predict finish times. This was fairly complex and in a marathon for example for the first 10k it took average pace and multiplied it up, but then in the next 10k made its prediction based on 75% average pace, 25% current pace, then for the next 10k 50% average, 50% current etc. right down to the final k being 100% current pace. I used this a lot as it really enabled an accurate prediction based on current pace. I knew the apps were not available but to not even have anything as simple as a ‘virtual pacer’ were they not available on even the earliest watches?

    I also miss the ability to have several data fields in one place which could be rotated. It was useful to have one main screen with the key info on but then through pressing the bottom button just scrolling through some ‘less important’ data. Now to do the same you’d need several screens.

    Notifications – OK I’ll be honest, I didn’t get the watch for notifications, but really what a con that is. They appear and unless you look at that precise moment it is gone. If you have several notifications you are doomed, there is no way to go back and look at them a couple of seconds and they are gone. Pointless. I’m used to devices where you can actively look at the notification and read the whole message / email etc. This may as well not be there.

    Sounds – notifications triggered this. I’d like the watch to bleep on activities e.g. mile laps but given notifications are pointless I’d prefer it not to. Nope, you can’t do that.

    Display – I find the standby display too dark and it seems to change from that you choose until you wake it up. Maybe I’ve not set it right but I can’t see anything at all when swimming – the screen is on but just not bright enough unless the backlight is ‘always on’.

    I’ve not covered everything. I could go on far too long but as someone who is a bit of a Suunto ‘fan-boy’ I really can’t express my disappointment in the product. On the plus side, it looks nice and appears well made but as a functioning sports watch there are so many better and cheaper options out there. I thought getting the watch for practically half price I was getting a bargain. I knew it didn’t have apps, I knew (but didn’t understand why!) that there was no ANT connectivity but I wasn’t expecting to feel that even at £250 I was being robbed. At this price point this watch is quite simply not fit for purpose. Even for £150 I’m sure there are better options out there. For now, I’ll stick with my Ambit 2 and hope that the next Suunto big battery triathlon watch has a combination of the SSU body with the Ambit software otherwise it’ll be a permanent goodbye from me. For now, I’m off to get a refund.

    • Scott Griffith

      I think I’m in the same boat as you. I am still using and loving my Ambit2. I just can’t go without ANT+ compatibility. I can hardly believe that Suunto made such a high end watch without something so useful and in so much demand as ANT+.

    • the5krunner


      I just wanted to respond to one of your points. GPS accuracy.

      I’ve had 3 ULTRAs and I agree they are not so great on the GPS front.

      However I have found ALL the other SPARTAN models to have superior GPS.

      There is some firmware currently being rolled out that addresses some issues.

    • Jeremy

      Hey Phil,

      Just FYI, the Pause and Notification points have been addressed by the latest firmware update (v2.0). You can now scroll through time, distance, HR, and time/battery on the pause screen and there is a new notifications screen where you can see your notifications and open/view them.

      The other points still stand, perhaps GPS accuracy was increased a bit as well but I’m not sure. But overall the feel and functionality has been massively improved through updates.

    • Dave Cochrane

      Jeremy, I didn’t see how I could do this while rInning today…is this only possible during auto pause or when you actually stop recording (at some traffic lights for example)?

  167. erick meier

    hi DCRAINMAKER , recently i have been facing issues with my suunto spartan ultra, the information saved after excersise is very strange , this in open wáter swimming for instance (distance is not accurate) , measurement depending on wich arm do you use the watch is different.

    Also in pool swimming , it always cut meters , 25 meters every 500 on a 25meter pool, and 50 meter every 500 in a 50 meter pool ….

    if you train with an online coach, like me this is starting to be a problem , a continuous problem… someone does have the same issues, someone does have a solution or should i go back to garmin

  168. Bobbi

    New software version 2.0 for all Spartan models available

    In the web (Instagram, Pro-Athletes, etc.) are posting some pictures regarding a possible Spartan 2. Any news regarding this?

    Last but not least a question regarding Suunto Spartan Ultra compared to Suunto Fitness 3. I recognized that on Fitness 3 the background color “black” is more black compared to SSU which goes into more grey. I found the contrast on the Fitness 3 much better compared to the SSU.

  169. Now that the Spartan Ultra is in it’s 7th software update/bug fixes how does it compare the the Garmin 935, Fenix 5/5X or it’s stable mate the Ambit 3 Peak?

    My primary use is as an ABC watch for hiking, trail running, mtn. biking, XC and downhill skiing and some road running. Won’t be used as an every day fitness tracker but some of those features are nice to have while in use. I will mostly use a HR strap for reliability but again the OHR is nice to have vs the Ambit not at all. Not a deal breaker however.

    Ease of use and ease of vision to view the screen for 61YO eyes is very important. 1st true GPS watch for me.

    Jeff in MA

    • Jens

      Hi Jeffrey and everyone else,
      I’m glad this thread is still alive 🙂
      Similarly to Phil Howard I couldn’t resist Suunto’s own midsummer sale recently, so I got a customized SSU (minus HR since I already own Vertical HR and besides I don’t like wearing the strap!) for around €310. Lately I’ve been obsessed by testing various brands and types of sports watches in various senses so I have quite a few by now.
      I’ve now used my SSU for 3 weeks and here are some comments.
      The watch looks really good! The responsiveness is MUCH MUCH better than the “well praised” Spartan Trainer which I think is VERY laggy in pressing buttons. I’ve used the trainer since April and so far I like that. HOWEVER, when I upgraded it to the latest firmware 2.0.42, the lower right button made the Trainer TURN OFF!! And there is no way of turning it on again unless I connect it to my PC for charging!! I’ve called Suunto about this and they suggested I reset the watch and upgrade again, but that made no difference so they suggested I send it for repair. So I did. They said it would take two weeks, but now two weeks later, my support case is still “watch received” with no other info.
      Luckily I got the SSU the day after I sent the Trainer so I can still use a Spartan watch.
      So far I’ve been pool swimming (25m pool), running, cycling, walking, roller skiing with the SSU and for me it has been very good. I’ve usually also worn a second watch on the other wrist. Either Garmin 735 or Garmin Fenix 5S. GPS has been not identical, but usually fairly identical. Granted I have not done overlaying of graphs and so on, but just compared the auto lap beeps from the watches. Sometimes they’ve been on the exact same place. Sometimes it has differed several seconds. Not sure who has been correct through as Garmin might not be the best either.
      I’m very happily surprised of the fact that we can now customize sports and displays of the SSU and Suunto unlike Garmin has roller skiing as a sport. Bad Garmin! I haven’t yet tried using SSU with HR strap, but I just tried to connect my Polar H10 with it today and that worked well.
      Syncing to the Movescount app is better than with the Trainer I feel. I don’t need to open the app to sync (iPhone), but I do anyway to check status. Garmin syncs super fast however. Easily the best watch to sync, but Suunto is fine too.

      Battery wise I’m not impressed. If I run for like 1½ hours with GPS on BEST I go from 100% to 90 or even 85% when finished. Pretty much like my Garmin watches. I would have thought SSU is a more high end watch battery wise.
      In pool swimming, Suunto’s watches (I have swum with Vertical, Trainer and Ultra) have been the only ones always nailing my lengths strangely enough. Garmin’s have sometimes reported 1/3 (A THIRD) of the amount of lengths. Unbelievable. I really like the lap summary for Spartan watches so after the activity (any kind) I can scroll through the laps to see the stats. Wish Garmin had that.
      One strange thing, if I use barometer for altitude, often my runs start at 60m above sea level and end at 135m!! Yet I always come back to where I start! This might be some calibration error from my point but I just thought I’d mention it. Very strange.
      Ok so I’ll end my not so short comment now 🙂 Thanks for listening.
      I don’t regret buying this watch at all. I agree the display is too dark when not active, but I don’t wear it other than training actually so it’s not so big a deal.

  170. Andrew

    Hi Ray,

    What do you now think of the inclusion of the Valencell sensor on some models? I had a trainer sport and the 9 and sent them back because the Wrist OHR was so poor (locked onto my cadence). Funny as by and large my Scosche R+ has been pretty good (apart from drowning it in the first days of use). Is this because of the increased weight of the watch compared with the very light plastic sensor or is it because Suunto did not involve Valencell deeply enough in integration of the sensor?



  171. Luca Maurizi

    Hi Ray! Your comparison tool shows that the Spartan Ultra does not have any AUTO START/STOP. Is that really possible? Or was it in the Beta version you tested? Seems strange that a top watch is missing such a basic feature.

  172. Scott

    So, now that it is 45% off, is it worth it? Has it improved much since this review?

    • Jens

      Hi Scott,

      I’m not sure what function you are after but I would say a big YES to that. I got mine at like 45% off too ( during June) and I have no issues with it whatsoever. I use it for pool swim, outdoor swim (well very short swim that day), roller skiing, running, trail running, walking. Paired with Suunto smart sensor, without sensor, with Polar OH1 sensor and I think also with Polar H10 sensor. Never had any problems so far. I can’t think of anything bad with it, well one Suunto-specific thing is that starting and stopping activities has a short lag, not instant like Garmin or Polar, but the SSU is way faster than SST at least.
      I wish Ray would do a new review with the latest 2.x firmware 🙂

    • Scott

      Thanks Jens!

  173. Gene

    Hi DC and readers,

    Short of resetting the watch, does anyone know how to clear phone notifications on the SSU (I have the latest firmware 2.5X). I always have notifications that do not get cleared on the watch.

    Also, is there a way to get the data off the watch when I am traveling for long periods and have no internet connection by either phone or computer? On the Ambit series, Moveslink still copied the xml files from the watch to C:\Users\…\AppData\Roaming\Suunto\Moveslink2 regardless of whether I was online or not. With the SSU, neither Suuntolink on my PC nor the Movescount App on my phone will transfer data files from the watch when I am not connected. I am not sure what is the storage memory size on the SSU.

    Thanks! Gene

  174. Dimi


    Now that the price is lower, what is your opinion about it?

    link to suunto.com