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Hands-on: Suunto’s Spartan Sport Wrist HR watch


This week at CES, Suunto has officially unveiled their first optical heart rate capable watch – the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR.  You may remember back this past summer, when news first came out about Suunto’s plans for an optical HR variant of the Suunto Spartan series.  What was most notable about that announcement at the time was Suunto’s decision to go with an optical HR sensor from Valencell.

Valencell is well known as one of the best optical HR sensors on the market, thus raising hopes one might get one of the most accurate multisport GPS watches out there, by way of a combined Suunto/Valencell project.  That project has now arrived here at CES in Las Vegas, and I got a chance for some brief hands-on time to dig into it a bit.

What’s inside and different:


First up is understanding that Suunto has two major lines of the Suunto Spartan series: The Sport and the Ultra.  The main difference is simply that the Ultra has a barometric altimeter and a bit more battery, while the Sport uses a GPS based altimeter.  As you might expect, Sport is cheaper than Ultra.  This level difference has long been the pattern for Suunto GPS watches – all the way back to the Ambit1 series.  In fact, we often then find a third edition (usually branded as ‘Run’), which takes the ‘Sport’ edition and reduces the features to just running.  But that hasn’t happened here yet.

In any case, the ‘Wrist HR’ that we’re talking about here, is only for the Sport series (sans-barometric altimeter).  Suunto says that they’re certainly watching for whether there is demand for the unit in the Ultra series, but there aren’t any plans for it on the table today.  One concern that both Suunto and Valencell noted with a potential Ultra series is ensuring the optical HR sensor accuracy remains high, despite the higher weight of the Ultra.  Specifically because the increased weight can cause increased bouncing on the wrist, reducing accuracy of the optical HR sensor.

Within the ‘Wrist HR’ series, there are three different colors – blue, black, and pink.


But what matters here isn’t the color of the case, but what’s on the inside.  It’s here you’ll find the Valencell optical HR sensor, using two green LED’s and one yellow LED.  That helps it get better accuracy across a broader range of skin tones.


This sensor is part of Valencell’s ‘Benchmark’ lineup (seen below), which means that they essentially take the entire reference design as-is from Valencell.  That’s good, as it generally increases accuracy when companies leave it as-is.  Whereas when companies only take portions, or try and do their own thing, it may not lead to the best results.


As a bit of backstory, when Valencell licenses their technology, there are differing levels of involvement that the company may assist with. Some companies may just want some of the hardware pieces, while other companies want hardware plus integration assistance, and others yet want all that plus testing/validating assistance.  In the case of Suunto – they’re working very closely with Valencell, more so than most brands.  So hopefully this ends up with a more accurate end-state product.  Yesterday Valencell published some initial data on the Spartan Sport Wrist HR.  But of course any time a company is publishing their own data – you should take it with a grain or box of salt.  That said, I’m largely good with the specific testing protocol they laid out (for running anyway, it omits the more difficult outdoor cycling).

Now it’s important to point out that while the Sport HR measures your heart rate optically, that optical effort is largely focused on workouts.  For example, running, cycling, skiing, etc… It enables the sensor once you enter the workout mode, and disables it afterwards.


Upon completing a workout (above/below), you’ll get many of the same stats as before, including a HR graph as well.


Suunto hasn’t implemented a 24×7 HR mode within the unit, meaning that it’s not recording your HR 24×7 like many other wearables do.  Instead, you’ll be able to enter a temporary heart rate screen, that shows your HR and the last 5-minute trend:


As of present this transient data isn’t saved to Movescount, though coming later this spring they plan to start looking at turning on that optical sensor occasionally throughout the day to look at your HR and then use that data to increase daily calorie burn accuracy.  Meaning, rather than just focusing on displaying your HR graph 24×7, they’re going to leverage the data for better calorie accuracy outside of workouts.  Still, lacking 24×7 HR recording (and thus the value of resting HR), is a fairly big gap compared to virtually every other unit on the market.  Hopefully, they can find some middle-ground by the time they come to market this spring.

Beyond this functionality, the Spartan Sport Wrist HR software is virtually identical to that of the Sport edition.  On the hardware front, you’ll find about a millimeter thicker body, plus another millimeter thicker for the optical HR sensor bump.  Also, the easy way to tell them apart from a distance is the bezel on the regular Sport edition is silver, versus Black on the Wrist HR version.  Of course, that could change down the road with new models.


Last but not least, the watch will set you back $649USD when it starts shipping later this spring (no exact date specified).

A quick video overview:

Want to see the optical HR sensor actually working live? No problem, here’s a quick video I put together talking about the unit and showing a bit of how the HR sensor works:

Don’t forget to subscribe to the channel, as there’s plenty more coming here from CES!

One other Suunto tidbit:


Finally, eagle-eyed spotters probably noticed the daily steps page shown in the video, right after showing the current HR.  That isn’t new.  But what is new is that starting this spring, that data along with daily calorie data will actually be saved to Movescount online.

See up until this point Suunto hasn’t saved any daily step/calorie data.  It sits on your watch, and then eventually disappears.  This put them at a pretty big disadvantage to competitors who are not only saving that data daily, but also then offering software based recommendations on training, recovery, or life.  In Suunto’s case, they had to do those directly through the device, rather than via the app or websites.  That limited the guidance they could give.

But this spring they’ll roll out an update for both the Suunto Spartan Ultra and Sport series that’ll change that.  It sounds like that’ll be the start of using the Movescount platform for a bit more user guidance and recommendations beyond just scheduling and reviewing workouts.  And that would definitely be good news indeed.

With that – thanks for reading!

Don’t forget to check out all the CES 2017 coverage, as well as continual updates throughout the day on Twitter.  It’s gonna be a crazy busy week.

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  1. Ryan M.

    I’d like to think it was my tweet to you 1:45 ago about the Valencell report that got it’s inclusion in this post, but I know that is just malarkey.

    Will be interesting to the the HR comparisons between the new Valencell reference data and the Polar H10 when it is released.

  2. Pat

    The price seems a bit high compared to the Fenix. Is the Valencell sensor that much better during workouts to justify the higher price without 24-7 recording?

  3. acousticbiker

    Great to see this! Did you hear anything about the Suunto Spartan Trainer? That was also to have wrist HR, was briefly available for pre-order at $269 and may be the ‘Run’ version you allude to in the intro.

    • No, nothing about said product here at CES.

    • Steve stevenson

      You are correct it’s not at CES, we did gather those facts from all the releases.

      Since you felt like you had to mention CES it seems like you already have more information, possibly a demo model already.

      I’d assume those January updates to the Spartan review, might include a new review on the trainer.

      Speculating Steve

  4. Josh

    Ray, would you still stay away from this watch based on the state of the spartan series?

    • Not necessarily. Suunto has made some good progress on the Spartan series (I’ll be doing some updates to that existing review over the course of January). I think I’d reserve some judgement to see where the Spartan platform sits by time we get to release of this – i.e. April or whenever.

      From my frank discussions with them yesterday, they definitely and readily admit the Spartan was released too early and wasn’t ready for prime time. So their complete focus is largely on getting that Spartan platform up to speed.

    • Josh

      Interesting. Let us know when its good enough to replace an ambit 3 peak

    • Josh

      Also, there are some really interesting things going on with pricing on amazon on the spartan series. Im seeing the ultra for right around $544 with HR, and the sport for roughly $465. If they have made progress, would you feel confident enough giving a reader the go ahead to buy and if so, sport or ultra?

    • Pierre

      Hi Ray,
      THanks for the update on Suunto.
      Should I return back my Garmin Fenix 3 HR and wait tfor the new Suunto in Spring 2017?

    • You’d have to decide what’s most valuable to you feature-wise.

      I struggle (offhand in a taxi) to think of any specific feature that a Suunto Wrist HR unit would have that the Fenix3 HR doesn’t already have.

    • Moe

      Hi Ray, any news on the mentioned updates to the Spartan Ultra review? Or are you delaying it a bit to have sufficient time to implement the newest firmware update as well?

    • The latest firmware (focused on GPS accuracy) just came out last week, so I’ve been using it on all my workouts since. My guess is I’ll continue to do so through next week, and then publish an update after that.

      I’ll be amending the existing post, and focused purely on the changed area (basically: GPS accuracy, sport and data field modification).

    • Moe

      Great, thanks for the info! Just wanted to check, of course it doesn’t come as a big surprise, considering your meticulous reviewing :)

    • alex

      Hello Ray, I found that the Fenix 3 HR was hurting my wrist because of the sensor in the back of the watch, did you feel this as well and if yes do you feel the same for the Suunto one.

    • It’s a pretty similar stack height on the Suunto as the F3.

      For me though, I’ve honestly never had problems with it feeling odd on really any optical HR sensor watch. So I may not be the best one to ask. It seems to vary from person to person (and position to position).

    • Eric McLean

      I replaced mine yesterday with the ultra all black. Now this morning I find this out…..

    • Casper

      Hey, Josh. I just read your comment and I’m thinking about purchasing the Sport. I was just wondering if you made a Sport/Ultra purchase, and if so, what’s your experience?

  5. Peter Wood

    Interesting the HR graph is available in the Sport but not yet available in the Ultra. The Ultra buyers having to wait yet again. Disappointingly slow to get the Ultra up to speed.

    Suunto could sell so many more units if they got their software dev fixed and speeded up. I think they are missing the optimum point of dev heads/numbers vs functionality vs sales of the watch vs BAD PRESS.

    • Eric McLean

      I agree, for a premium price there should be flawless software. I know updates are coming down the pipe because I talk to Suunto support before I bought my Ultra black, but come on focus on software dev first before releasing products, and THEN working on functionalities.

  6. Steve J

    Enjoying the updates Ray!

    Will be interesting to see which of these high end watches survive when cheaper ones today have the same (or more) of the “key” features…
    The Garmin Vivoactive HR, which I got from Clever Training on the Black Friday sale, has the optical HRM AND the barometric altimeter (it’s a $200 or less product – I paid $170). So, you spend $650 for the Suunto and you don’t get the barometric altimeter…ouch.

  7. CMV

    It seems that Garmin and Suunto are in a race to increase the price of their high-end sports wearables… after the 599$ fenix 5, we get the 649$ Spartan-with-HR.
    My personal feeling is they’re aiming a bit too high, but time will tell.
    In the meantime, on amazon (at least here in Europe) it’s already possible to find the Spartan Ultra at less than 450€, and the Spartan Sport at less than 350€, well below their MSRP.
    Same for the fenix 3 (less than 350€).
    These “older” watches are probably the toughest competitors for the newer models (much more than an Apple Watch 2 or a Samsung Gear S3, which according to me target a completely different audience).

  8. giorgitd

    Yup, from my own POV, I’m now thinking ‘trickle-down’ in terms of next HRM GPS watches – I’ll buy the previous gen, maybe as a refurb,to get the price reasonable. I’m not sure how to do a comprehensive comparison of devices/capabilities and prices over time, but the latest gen GPS HRM watches seem – to me – to be WAY overpriced relative to their improved capabilities. Sure F5X mapping is pretty unique and, for those who need/want it – it will cost. But the more ‘mainstream devices’? C’mon. the F3 and 920xt deliver 90% of the functionality for less than 50% of the price.

    There’s always room for those seeking a Ferrari. But maybe this approach enables a new class of devices/companies that offer solid, but not cutting edge, devices for 60% ‘discount ‘underneath’ Garmin’. A parallel with lots of ‘mainstream’ car companies. It’s funny, I think of Garmin as a GM/Honda product, not an Aston Martin… Maybe I’m wrong…

    • JR

      I wonder how much of this drive towards more expensive watches is driven by the success of the Fenix 3 and, in turn, how much of the success of the Fenix 3 comes down to the fact that it’s almost the only GPS watch on the market that’s reasonably attractive.

  9. Eli W Allen

    Anything on the more advanced functionality that valencell can do now? Is this watch recording any of that? link to youtu.be

    • No, not really. Looking at the past demos, we talked a bit about that, and the more they learned in testing, the more they determined there’s more to learn. Said differently, things like legit optical HRV are going to be some ways away still. That’s something that was backed up by some meetings I had today with Firstbeat as well.

    • Ze

      Legit HRV? That’s odd as there’s a ppg-based app (HRV4Training) that has had very good results (w/ validation), and my own personal experience (testing on others) shows PPG devices can already do HRV (at least time-domain RMSSD) up to par with ECG.

      Maybe frequency domain metrics less so, but for athletes RMSSD is what is currently used. I wonder what issues they are having.

    • Are you talking at rest or workout?

      Workout is a mess, though at rest tends to guess fairly close.

    • Ze

      Ah that makes more sense. I was talking about rest. During exercise is indeed not practical with PPG.

    • Mike Richie

      Hmm, I thought HRV at rest is what is most important anyways. Isn’t that what is used for stress levels and recovery and training effect? What is exercise based HRV used for that is actually well understood or studied?

  10. Hi Dc,

    I tested out a couple Valencell OHRM fuelled devices in the past on my own wrist, my wife’s’ and couple of colleague’s and never found it to be as accurate, stable and usable as other devices like the Ex-Basis or the MIO Alpha. Same with the Garmin Elevate or FitBit.
    I don’t talk about high intensity, more likely MAF training so dialling in the 140 – 145bpm range.

    Is this going to have a new chipset or algorithm that we’ve seen in past devices ?



    • It’s the same as previous devices. That’s odd though – as in general I hear very good things on Valencell products. Or at least, implemented in the Scosche.

  11. Joe

    Thanks Ray! Any comment on the usability and accuracy of OHR for swimming? As pairing up an Ambit3 with the Scosche Rhythm+ seems to show some good results?

  12. gk

    Any further details about battery?
    What material is the black bezel or and the whole case, titanium as in Spartan Ultra; if not won’t that add weight together with oHR?
    The best with oHR would be to offer various choices to select, 24/7 hr with recording or as you pre-mentioned occasionally for a few minutes and of course under training modes.

  13. Trent

    Does the watch feel solid? Looking at the pictures of the blue unit it just looks like a hunk of plastic. I expected it to look as sleek and refined as the other Spartan models.

  14. Tim Grose

    I recall with GPS accuracy is it not so much the name of the company that makes the chipset but more the antennae design. I say this because OHR at the wrist has never been done great by anybody has it? The Scosche with the Valencell “works” partly because you don’t wear it on your wrist and is more optimally positioned for OHR although never liked the idea of wearing something high up on my arm. Still will be interesting to see if how this one does.

    • tfk

      re: GPS accuracy: TomTom once said to me that one of their main concerns was the electrical interference between the chips/components within the watch.

  15. Victor Hooi

    Will optical heart-rate work during swimming? (This was one of the things holding me back from the Garmin 735XT – the Mio Link works underwater).

    And will there be a quick-release kit? (Not sure how it’d work with optical heart-rate).

  16. Tanel

    Hi Ray,

    any news on when are you going to have the watch for testing and reviewing ?
    Really looking for your opinion and results on how accurate the Valencell sensor is.

  17. Larry

    I returned my Spartan Ultra after your candid review…I seriously wanted to like it. With all the recent updates do u feel things have improved enough to repurchase! Also, if things have improved will it be worth waiting for this new wrist heart sensor? I currently have no watch to train with…I’m addicted to these watches I guess. I don’t care for the looks of a Fenix….

  18. Is there an option to display in black/white instead of colors ?
    I’m not sure to like the current trends of watches with all those fancy colors. As I’m all about the battery life, I’d rather have everything in black/white like my Ambit2.
    Unless Suunto tells us that colors doesn’t significantly increase the battery usage ?

  19. I forgot to ask, does the optical HR allow to measure R-R ? or is that measured only with a HR belt ?

  20. Mirko Surf&Run

    Hallo Ray,
    I would like to know in with position the garmin fenix 3 and the garmin forerunner 235 are in the Valencell test result link to valencell.com.
    I hope that they are in 7 and 8 position (device *4 and device *5 with 87% and 82% of data within +-5% of chest strap), otherwise I would say that they are inaccurate (device *6 have a test result of only 79%, device *9 only 65%).

    • Valencell isn’t releasing that information unfortunately.

    • Zoltan

      I guess their numbers should be very close to each other like no 8 and 9.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      I think that the accuracy of device 9, device 10 and device 11 (under 70% accuracy) is embarassing and that this optical heart rate monitor shouldn’t arrive in the market. I really hope that they are not Garmin devices because I just bought a garmin forerunner 35 with the garmin elevate optical heart rate sensor.

    • rickNP

      One thing’s for certain, if it’s wrist-based, don’t expect anything better than 89% accuracy per their testing methods.

      Given DC’s Apple Watch review I’m going to guess that Device #11 is likely an Apple Watch (unless Series 2 is vastly improved). So for most readers in this thread our wrist-based devices are somewhere between 64-87% accurate to their reference chest strap; a huge variance.

      Sadly, I’m guessing my Fenix3 HR is probably closer to 64 than 87.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      89% accuracy would be good enough for running, I don’t need medical precision because I just use the heart rate monitor to evaluate my effort. I read other DCRainmaker reviews of the other watches in the Valencell test, and I think that there are other wathces with the Apple worse than the Garmin 235 and Fenix3HR, so I would say that device 9 and 10 shouldn’t be Garmin devices. I think that Garmin devices should be between the 6 and 8 position, so accuracy of Garmin 235 and Fenix3HR should be between 77% and 79%. I think this is acceptable for the running purpose. I have a Garmin Forerunner 35 and I’m using it two weeks: I find it quite accurate, the only problem is the consistency: some run are good , in other runs it loses my heart rate and gives for long period of times totally wrong values. But in these occasion I understand it is wrong, because if I’m in the cool down it’s impossibile that heart rate continues to be 170 beats/minutes like in the tempo run.

    • tfk

      I sort of agree.
      1. During running: If you are using HR as a guide to effort/pacing then that might be accurate enough most of the time
      2. Post Running: If you use HR as a measure for TRAINING LOAD then I would guestimate that you need something like 95% accuracy. But ther eis also the worry of ‘losing’ HR for 5 minutes of your run, for example, that would make a big difference to TL figures (I use TRIMP for TL, FWIW)

      Although I’m not quite sure what ‘accuracy’ actually means in this context. Maybe I should read the original test report. eg being exactly 1bpm out is 100% inaccurate but that would be perfect for me.

      Even one *chest strap* compared to another of the same make/model wold likely show differences (Source Valencell ;-) )

    • MirkoSurf&Run

      Hi TFK,
      I don’t know TRIMP, I will try to learn how it works and if it fits my needs.
      Even if they are very accurate, optical heart rate producer till now say that optical heart rate monitor can’t be used to calculate training effect because they can’t read heart rate variability (Valencell is trying to do it).
      Yes, I just use heart rate as a guide to effort/pacing. Today I run 11 miles, 6 miles easy run and 5 miles tempo run. I had forerunner 35 with optical heart rate and forerunner 610 with chest strap for comparison.
      The chest strap was always right. The optical heart rate showed the same values of the chest strap most of the time. But in some occasions it lost the correct heart rate and for two or three minutes showed wrong values (for example if the correct heart rate was 150, for three minutes showed 170). Then it found the correct heart rate of 150 again and all was good for another 10 minutes, then again it showed wrong values for 1-2 minutes (for example 120). Then again good for other 10 minutes and so on.
      At the end of the run I was quite happy, because for the most of the run the optical heart rate showed correct values, and you can really use it as a guide for effort/pace.
      With the optical heart rate garmin connect shows wrong values of training effect. But I don’t take care of training effect of garmin any more. Firstable because it depends on the activity class of a runner and garminconnect asks you to decide in which group you are. So if you choose the wrong activity class, you get a wrong training effect that is not useful to organize your training. Secondly, I found that the training effect values that my forerunner610 showed me wasn’t always the same level of fatigue that I perceived after a run. I find that it is correct for interval training, but with long slow run often it showed low values, but at the end of the run I was really tired. Thirdly, there is very little literature about training effect and the way you can use it for your training. Garmin just say 1 minor, 2 mantaining, 3 improving, 4 highly improving, 5 overreaching. But it is too little to plan a training plan with this number. So I decided to not rely on the training effect of garmin, and after a run I write a number of the perceveid effort that I had of that run. I don’t try to plan a training plan with training effect any more, because I found that often it gave me wrong information. Now when I plan my training, I try to feel how I feel after the run and how I feel the day after the run. If the day after I’m still tired, I know I have to be cautious. If the day after I feel good, I know I can push a bit harder.
      What do you think? Do you fink Training Effect is useful? Do you use the Training Effect of Garmin or of Trimp? Or are they the same value?

    • See my comment bellow.

  21. As a developer, I am really disappointed that they wont have apps in the Spartan watches. The apps were one of the best things about Suunto watches! I guess I should stock up on Ambit3’s while they are still for sale!

    • Brad

      Not sure this is true. It was heavily requested and Suunto is looking into this the last I knew. That may have changed though. As of now apps are not available.

    • Suunto or any other watch maker should look into developning open plaform OS to develop fitness apps. That is next big thing in fitness trackers and GPS watches. Garmin to s ahead, but too far ahead.

    • I believe that’s called Android Wear. ;)

      Of course, it’s not really, because Android Wear sucks from a battery perspective. So for endurance devices, it’s less ideal.

      Unfortunately, you won’t see some sort of platform like that come about. Garmin has too much market-share to want to do anything there. And the others don’t have enough market share to matter in adoption terms.

  22. Ray, I suspect in general all the optical sensor has a sampling frequency, as you can see the light flashing. If the frequency is too low, it is possible for sampling errors to occur, which might explain why the errors seem to occur at the start of the run, as the heart rate is rising rapidly. Sampling error has to do with Nyquist frequency. I think all the optical HR sensors shouldn’t be used for interval training no matter if Suunto Spartan uses HR sensor from Vancell technology or not.

    • Lock errors at the start of a run have to do with separating running cadence from HR. It’s a core reason why it’s super critical to get a HR lock before you start running, since if it doesn’t lock before you start – it’s nearly impossible to find that lock.

      That said, sometimes (rarely) it’ll still trip-up then, until it can see enough separation between run cadence and HR. However, on the whole, I’d say that optical sensors almost always beat chest straps in this area (first 5 minutes of a run), as folks so often forget how problematic chest straps really are in the first few minutes of a run, especially dry ones.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      Can you explain why running cadence can influence or disturb optical heart rate reading?
      Is it possibile that hr reading are calculated by the firmware of the watch as function of optical sensor values and cadence values? Another question: how you can get a HR lock before you start running? Do you mean to wait start running until hr values are stabilized?

    • Gijom

      Optical HR sensors are basically cameras looking at patterns in the change of images. Goal is to identify changes due to blood flow. Unfortunately while running the device moves periodically at each step and what Ray is saying is that it can be seen with the optical sensor and can confuse the algorithm. That makes sense and I will now wait for a look before running too.

    • MirkoSurf&Run

      I have now two optical heart rate monitor.
      The first is a garmin 35 and it is always correct at the beginning of the run (in the warm up my cadence is usually 160 and my heart rate under 130, and there is enough separation between cadence and heart rate). In my case it confuses the heart rate wih the cadence when I’m doing quick runs. In quick runs my cadence is 170-175 and my heart rate is between 165 and 180). I noticed that in quick runs heart rate values in the garmin 35 are exactly the same that cadence.
      The second optical heart rate reader is a scosche rhythm+ (I put it on the upper arm) and it is always correct. The Suunto sport has the same sensor of the scosche, and if it behaves like the scosche rhythm+ it would be a great watch. I hope that in the future other brands will make watches with valencell sensor. I don’t understand why the other big brands (Tom Tom, Garmin, Polar) don’t use the valencell sensor.

    • There are two challenges with the Valencell sensors:

      A) 24×7 HR mode from a battery burn standpoint. As noted, Suunto isn’t leveraging that upfront. It’s just not designed for that.

      B) Price. With the Valencell offering, companies pay more than they would either in-house or through other companies.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      Activity tracking with 24 x7 HR is now the big deal because it brings sport watches to the masses and now I understand why company like garmin decided to produce their own optical heart rate chipset (elevate). First, they offer activity tracking on all watches. Secondly, if they can keep the price of the watches low, producing their own chipset, they can reach a bigger volume of users and they can sell more units.
      I think that it was better for users like me if Garmin put the Garmin elevate chipset only for some series of watches with activity tracking, for example the vivoactive and the fenix. In other watches it was better if garmin had thinked only for athletes that don’t care so much about activity tracking. For example in the forerunner series they could have install the valencell sensor. So it would have been two big categories of garmin watches, all around watches with activity tracking and the garmin elevate sensor (for example vivoactive, fenix, triathlon watches,watches for ultras) and watches thinked just for normal runners with the valencell sensor (the forerunner series). The normal runner puts his sportwatch on when he runs and then switches it with a normal watch at the end of the run. But you are right, with the Valencell sensor the watch would have cost more and probably it was not a good idea commercially. If the price of the forerunner series was higher they had sell fewer watches, and on the other side the number of athletes that are not interested in activity tracking is much smaller than people interested in both things (sport and activity tracking).
      If Garmin produce their chipset in-house, maybe with time they can reach the accuracy of the Valencell sensor.
      Thank you for your great job, I’m waiting your in depth review about HR accuracy of the Suunto Spartan Sport Watch and the New Balance watch, that I think are currently the only watches with Valencell sensor.
      In the meantime, I’m happy with the Scosche Rhythm+!

    • Raul

      I’m curious: if you’re using your device for sport only why do you want wrist measurement?

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      It’s six years that I’m using the chest strap and I had a lot of problems. The garmin soft strap must be changed every year, because after one year it begins to give incorrect data, even if I washed it with cold water after every run. I tried also a polar soft strap with a garmin sensor. The polar soft strap is better than garmin soft strap, is always correct. I’m using it two year and it is still good, but this winter I had big problem of chafing of the chest strap in the position where is the sensor, maybe because the soft strap is a bit old. In a long run that I made last month I was fast bleeding at the end, because the skin day after day becomes weaker. So I thought there were these options:
      1- to buy a new soft strap
      2- to buy a Wahoo strap, I read that it hasn’t problem of chafing because the strap attaches directly to the sensor
      3- to buy a watch with optical heart rate monitor
      4- to buy an arm optical heart rate monitor to use with a watch like the Scosche Rhythm+.

      After six year I wanted to get rid of chest strap so I decided for the third option. I bought a Garmin Forerunner 35. In slow easy runs and in steady run it is good, but in intervals and in quick runs sometimes is good, sometimes not. So I bought also the 4 option and with the Scosce Rhythm+ I’m very happy also for intervals. I’m not using the chest strap since january and I think that maybe I will use it just for intervals. For the rest of the runs I will use optical heart rate and I’m happy with it, it is not so accurate and reliable but it is much more confortable. The garmin optical heart rate is not good as a chest strap, but the Scosche Rhythm+ behaves like a chest strap. The scosche Rhythm+ has a Valencell sensor like the Suunto spartan sport hr watch, if this behaves like the rhythm+ it will be a good watch, but it’s quite expensive. I just hope that some brands will do less expensive watches also with the Valencell sensor.

    • Raul

      Clear! I’ve used chest straps since they were invented (I guess…. 1985 Polar) Sometimes wear them all day. Only 1 (Garmin) ever went into the garbage can, after likely 1000’s of hours. Now use a straightahead Polar & Garmin HRM. Almost never wash them. :-) It seems wear also depends on the composition of the sweat. Which I don’t have much to begin with. Alas, too many variables……

    • Webvan

      Interesting feedback, thanks. I was pretty much in the same boat, bar the chaffing/bleeding. I really got annoyed with the FR235’s oHR this winter (a difficult time for oHRs due to degraded blood circulation) and I couldn’t get good readings from my old Garmin/Polar straps + the “simple” black HRM (no runner on it). I got a brand new Garmin Premium HR Strap (fabric+black HRM) and I was still having consistency problems. So before trying the Scosche I dug out my old Viiiiva and put it on a 4$ eBay strap and…bingo. Might still try the Scoshe though ;-)

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      When I bought the Garmin Forerunner 35 with optical heart rate monitor was winter (january) with temperature circa 5°C/40F. Now temperature are above 15°C/60°F and the optical heart rate of the Garmin Forerunner 35 seems to be better, two or three times in a run it confuses with the cadence just for two or three minutes but then it locks again with the correct heart rate.
      The scosche rhythm+ is always coherent and never locks with the cadence. Even in the winter I hadn’t any problem with cold weather because I put the scosche in the upper arm under the clothes and the arm is always warm even in cold weather.
      In january with cold weather sometimes the garmin 35 was a disaster, but I found that if I put it under the clothes and under the glove using the broadcast function it was good.

  23. gk

    Any further details about battery?
    What material is the black bezel or and the whole case, titanium as in Spartan Ultra; if not won’t that add weight together with oHR?
    Any latest news on market release?

  24. Matthew B.

    Any updates on a release date?

  25. Just as a heads up – I’ve dropped an unboxing video of the Wrist HR model here onto YouTube: link to youtu.be

    Stay tuned for a the first run and a look at HR accuracy piece shortly!

    • Mike

      Have you tested HR accuracy between the Fenix 5 and the Spartan Wrist HR yet? How do they compare as of right now?

      For the price, do you think the better buy is the Spartan Wrist HR?

      I see that they are doing sampling during the day for calorie adjustment, now, as well. That was supposed to come later, but it looks like Suunto is trying to gain back some market share from Garmin.

      To be honest, I welcome this. My Garmin’s over the past few iterations have become less and less usable. Forerunner 235 had GPS accuracy issues and interfered with my BLE headphones; Fenix made my skin break out, so they gave me a Fenix 3 HR. Heart rate accuracy was abysmal.

      Hopefully the Spartan Wrist HR is a step in the right direction, at the right price!

    • John

      Understand about it not having 24×7 HR and using HR for workouts. But is there an on-demand HR without having to start a workout? In other words, even in non-workout mode, can a button press show an HR at a point in time?

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      I heard today a review in youtube of the spartan sport hr from Rizknows. If I understood well, he says that in the future with a firmware upgrade 24×7 HR will be introduced even in the spartan sport hr. I’m wondering if it’s true, because Ray Maker said that the Valencell sensor uses more power (and it is true because the sensor of the Scosche Rhythm+ with the Valencell sensor has a battery life of only circa 7 hours), so it’s unlikely that the Suunto Spartan will have 24×7 HR.
      I believe to remember that I read in the DCRainmaker review that if you press a button it will show HR at a point in time, but it will not register it in the memory.

    • It has the little insta-HR feature, but it’s just a far in the wind. It shows you it, and it’s not recorded anywhere. Sorta like the older Garmin FR225 had for a while (with the Mio sensor).

      There is talk about potentially turning it on occasionally to grab a HR reading, but nothing has been finalized there. Be it frequency of that grab, or even how to store it. I’ve heard no talk of any planned firmware updates with any level of concrete detail. I’d say any talk I’ve heard as more been along the lines of “it’d be great if we could”.

      Still, I’m headed up there next week to meet with them – and such clarification is certainly high on my list.

      Regarding accuracy – hang tight on that! I like to get a least a few activities worth of data in different environments before publishing some stuff (even when I publish my ‘First run’ type videos, they’re often published after I’ve got a few activities in place to ensure things are trending in the same direction – good or bad – as my first activity).

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      If I buy a new watch, I like the new Fenix5 so much but I think it’s not worth it because the elevate sensor hasn’t improve in workout mode and I want to wait till Garmin releases a better sensor. I think that it’s difficult that Garmin will improve optical hr accuracy only with firmware update, I think they should also improve the sensor. This means that they need time, so I think I must wait the Fenix6. The Suunto Spartan HR is now on the top of my list of “to buy”, but only if HR accuracy is in the same category of the Scosche Rhythm+. They both have the same Valencell sensor, but the Rhythm+ is worn in a better position for optical heart rate measuring (upper arm versus wrist). So the only thing now is to wait the in depth review of DCRainmaker about HR accuracy. The only thing I would miss would be the barometric altimeter, that Fenix5 has it and the Suunto Spartan Sport HR doesn’t have it. Ray, why in your opinion suunto removed barometric altimeter in the Suunto spartan sport wrist hr, while is present in the Suunto spartan ultra? Problem of battery life? If you meet Suunto, can you ask if they will release in the future a suunto spartan wrist hr with barometric altimeter? If I buy a big sport watch, I would like to have barometric altimeter also.

    • Webvan

      All good points, as you say the location measurement is going to be the “problem”, Valencell’s testing link to valencell.com shows that the Spartan does pretty well at 89%…but not a lot better than other wrist based devices, Garmin could well be at 87% or 82%. My own testing shows that 85% can look pretty bad and they didn’t do the testing in the cold where wrist based devices can struggle very badly…where you (and others) have found the Scosche to keep a good level of performance.

    • Mike

      According to their firmware update page they have already enabled capturing heart rate to adjust calorie intake. It would also seem that they are actively working on utilizing throughout the day pictures of your heart rate and recording it on Movescount.

      Of course, this is all based on what I’m reading from their website and PR material.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      In Valencell test Scosche Rhythm+ positioned in upper arm has 92%, Suunto sport 89% , so they should be very similar. Let’s wait if Ray Maker has the same result (I hope so!!).

      I find my garmin 35 so accurate in steady slow run (it shows always the same of the scosche), but in quick runs and when the pace varies quickly it often locks with the cadence, usually just for one minute every kilometer, but it is really annoying. The scosche never locks with the cadence. By the way, Valencell calls this “crossover problem” and they are proud that they could solve this problem.

    • Raul

      Think I missed something. The cadence is the stride value I assume? (cadence was originally used for pedal rotations) I’ve used foot pod and HR for years……
      When did this phenomenon come into existence? How can 2 different signals become mixed up?

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      I had the same question. The best anwer I found is in the article in the Valencell website

      link to valencell.com

      In this page they describe the problems with optical heart rate monitor.
      Yes, the cadence is the number of steps in a minute. Optical heart rate have an easy job when you are still, but when you run the movement creates a disturb that make them fail. Valencell says:
      “Crossover problem – One of the most challenging aspects of optical noise for OHRMs that is created by motion and activity happens during what is known as periodic activity, which is activity that involves continuous repetition of similar motion. This is most often seen in the step rates measured during jogging and running, because step rates typically fall into the same general range as that of heartbeats (140-180 beats/steps per minute). The problem that many OHRMs face is that it becomes easy for the algorithms interpreting incoming optical sensor data to mistake step rate (“cadence”) for heart rate. This is known as the “crossover problem”, because if you look at the measurements on a graph, when the heart rate and step rate crossover each other, many OHRMs tend to lock on to step rate and present that number as the heart rate, even though the heart rate may be changing drastically after the crossover.”
      I think that the problem is not that two signals mix up, the problem is that the algorithm of the optical heart rate sensor gives wrong results. Valencell has patents for their algorithms to avoid this problem.
      In the same page Valencell describe in which way the accelomerometer can enter in the algorithm to calculate the heart rate (probably for active noise cancellation):
      “3. Accelerometer – the accelerometer measures motion and is used in combination with the
      DSP signal as inputs into motion-tolerant PPG algorithms.
      4. Algorithms – the algorithms process the signals from the DSP and the accelerometer into
      motion-tolerant heart rate data, but can also calculate additional biometrics such as VO 2 ,
      calories burned, R-R interval, heart rate variability, blood metabolite concentrations, blood oxygen
      levels, and even blood pressure.”

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      If you can’t fine the page of Valencell, just search in google: “Valencell:optical heart rate monitor: what you need to know”

    • Michael Coyne

      The problem isn’t that the 2 signals get mixed up – the heart rate sensor doesn’t accidentally pick up electrical signal noise from the acceleratorometer like long, unshielded speaker wires picking up radio signals or something.

      So crosstalk really isn’t the right word at all. It has to do with how optical heart rate sensors work – by measuring the difference in reflected/absorbed light in oxygenated blood vs non-oxygenated blood. When your heart beats, there is a surge in oxygenated blood in the capilaries of your skin everywhere (though some places are easier to measure than others). However the differences in light are very subtle and can be affected by many things. Any gap that forms between your skin and the sensor and allows even a little outside light through could be mistaken for the led light being bounced back, and thus as a proper reading if it’s at an acceptable light level/rate. Furthermore, since it’s measuring the light levels in your skin, even a gap NEAR the optical sensor between your skin and the rest of your watch could potentially cause this problem if the light bleeds through your skin the same as if you shine a flashlight through your hand.

      Lastly, it bouncing around (or even just getting pressed a tiny bit more or less into your skin with each bounce, without ever losing contact) may make it’s OWN light absorption/reflection change in intensity as it gets pressed more or less into your skin – even if it doesn’t lose contact it this would have an effect.

      What makes it very hard for the sensor is that unlike normally where it can reject those readings because they may be at rates that make no sense for a heart rate (5 “beats” per minute or 500 or whatever), the motion of running may introduce these false readings at a rate that totally makes sense for heart rate, and therefore is MUCH harder to separate from the real deal.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      Good post. Another beautiful article of valencell about optical heart rate monitor is “active signal characterization”, similar to active noise cancellation in headphones.
      link to valencell.com

      Extract from article:
      “Active signal characterization is a term to describe the process of actively identifying and characterizing different types of raw signal data from the biometric sensors found on many wearable devices today. Think of active signal characterization as similar to Active Noise Cancellation in headphones, but for biometric signals being generated by the sensors in wearables of all kinds, including smartwatches, wristbands, earbuds, or others.”
      “The detectors in these devices capture ALL the light hitting the sensor – blood flow, sunlight, other ambient light, motion noise, and much more. At rest, this isn’t such a problem, as the blood flow signal may be the dominate time-varying signal for someone who isn’t moving their body. But during motion, this presents a huge challenge because the blood flow signal can be as little as 1/1000th of the total light collected by the sensor. This is very much like finding a needle in a haystack.”
      “Engineers having expertise in digital signal processing (DSP) may be tempted to measure the motion with an accelerometer, using this information as a noise reference to subtract motion information from the optical sensor information. This approach can certainly help alleviate motion artifacts, but a key problem with this approach is that not all motion/environmental noise is created equal, and subtraction alone may result in erroneous heart rate results during various physical activities.
      This is where active signal characterization comes in. This process proactively identifies the biological, motion, and environmental signals as they come in from both the optical detector and accelerometer and categorizes the data sets in the context of physiological models. The active characterization of the signal data is important, because (as mentioned above) different types of motion noise must be processed differently in order to properly filter the optical (PPG) blood flow signal.”

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      Reading the valencell articles I think that the algorithms of optical heart rate monitor use also the data of accelerometer to calculate the heart rate. But I don’t know if Garmin with the elevate sensor uses also the data of the accelerometer as input of the algorithm (when I asked garmin support, they told me “no, heart rate data comes just from optical heart rate sensor and cadence data just from accelerometer”). And I don’t know if the scosche rhythm+ sensor has also an accelerometer inside in order to filter motion artefacts. Optical heart rate producer write very little about the technology that it’s inside.

    • tfk

      for other ohr companies they use the accelerometer, I believe, to determine if some form of activity is happening and then apply the algorithm. eg to determine how to smooth sport-specific motion artefacts.

      so it’s used to TRIGGER an algorithm rather than IN the algorithm

    • Raul

      Tks guys, just back from some tiring days full of crosscountry skiing and cycling I overlooked this aspect (this kind of HR measurement being optical instead of electrical)
      No urge for me to go for optical. Wrist type is even impossible due to aforementioned sports.
      Coincidentally this week my chest strap measured HR disappeared for a while in the middle of a bike reg. I only noticed after uploading. I can only guess what happened. It started when I was having a short break. Cold? Came back spontaneously.
      Maybe (also) the battery?

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      Cold is a problem with wrist optical heart rate monitor because with cold weather the body tends to give less blood to hands. But it could be also a problem with chest strap because if you don’t sweat any more, the sensor can’t record because electrical impulse needs humidity. It’s the same thing that happens when you start a run and the chest strap gives problems because you’re not sweating, then when you begin to sweat is all ok. Polar for examples reccomends to humidify the sensor with water before an activity. Chest strap function with electrical signal, and this is why with my chest strap I always have problem with technical shirt: for chest strap to function correctly I must use cotton (algodon)shirt that doesn’t give electrostatic interference (by the way, i found that shirt from brand xbionic have the same effect of cotton shirt and doesn’t have the disadvantage of cotton, chafing). An advantage of optical heart rate is that they don’t have problem when you are not sweating and they don’t suffer of electrostatic interference, so you can wear every type of shirt even in wind and in dry weather. But in the DCrainmaker reviews I read that optical heart rate are not so good in other sport else of running (if you read some reviews of optical heart rate monitor of DCrainmaker, you notice that with bike they function always worse than running).
      That said, it could also be the battery or it could be that the strap is old and you need to replace it (but you don’t need to change the sensor). If you use garmin or polar sensors, in amazon you find the polar soft strap for 20€ (20$)

    • MirkoSurf&Run

      Thank for the explanation. I just found an interesting comment, the number 275, of the DCRainmaker Scosche Rhythm+ review. Joshua Duffy writes: “Hi Ted, there is an accelerometer in RHYTHM+ as a critical component of the blood flow measurement and heart rate algorithms.” I think that Joshua Duffy works with Schosche, so it’s sure that the Scosche Rhythm+ has also an accelerometer inside.

    • Raul

      I think most people use saliva to humidify the sensor :-). I haven’t experienced problems with shirts but maybe I was lucky. I use polypropyleen, polyester, cotton.
      What makes optical not suitable for cycling? (transmitter type off course)
      My Polar strap is pretty new, the sensor is Garmin. Today I used it during indoor training, no drop outs at all.
      By the way: how do you judge accuracy of heartbeat measurements?

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      If you had just one only drop in just one activity, I wouldn’t worry so much and if in the next activities all is ok, I wouldn’t change anything.
      I have now a polar strap (now two years old) and a garmin sensor (5 years old) and the only problem that I have with this combination are tech shirt. I tried mizuno, adidas and salomon shirts and always problems of spikes, especially at the beginning of a run when I don’t sweat. But with xbionic shirt (they use a special Hydrophile polyester) the chest strap monitor is very very accurate in every condition, because they keep a small amount of humidy in the shirt like the cotton shirt. With the old garmin soft strap the results were not so good.
      Unfortunately this year I began having problem of chafing (I don’t know why last years I didn’t have any big problem of chafing) and I passed optical. I’m new with optical heart rate monitor, so at the beginning I always had both chest heart rate monitor with my old garmin fr610 and the optical heart rate monitor (the new garmin 35, used with his optical heart rate monitor or synced with the scosche optical heart rate monitor). When I run, I see the two watches circa once in a minute: if they give similar result, for example 155 and 157, all is ok. If the chest strap gives 155 and the optical heart rate monitor gives 145, something is wrong. At the end of the run I use the website http://www.mygpsfiles.com and I can see the graphs of the chest monitor and of the optical monitor in the same page, one over the other, and I can evaluate the difference. It’s quite easy to see when the optical heart rate monitor fails, because in general they are quite the same with the chest strap. But when they fail, they fail of 20 beats and more. So if you are in an easy run where you usually have 140 beats per minutes, it’s easy to understand that 160 beats per minutes is wrong. When I use mygpsfiles, the graphs of the scosche and of the chest strap are impressive similar. With optical heart rate monitor of garmin 35, they are usually very similar for the big part of the run, just in three or four parts of 3-4 minutes each the garmin 35 has spikes.
      I use heart rate monitor just for running, because this is now my principal activity. Cycling for me is a secondary activity and just for recovering, so I can’t tell you much about cycling and optical heart rate monitor.
      In DCrainmaker I read that the Scosche Rhythm+ is good also in cycling (you can see the graphs). But reviews of other brands (Garmin and Polar) show that in cycling optical heart rate monitor struggle a little bit more than in running. I don’t know why, because one could think that when cycling you don’t have the periodic motion of the arm so it should be easier for the optical heart rate monitor. But the reviews show the opposite. Maybe because the vibration of the road comes to your hand and give a motion disturb to the optical heart rate monitor. By the way, I tried cycling with both the scosche with the garmin 610 and with the optical heart rate monitor of the garmin 35 and in slow steady cycling on asphalt they showed always similar values. So I think that also in cycling the problem is with interval training or with hills, when there are quick changes in heart rate, and when the road is not plain (like cobblestones or trails).

    • Raul

      Is not the fact that there’s not much oxygen use in the upper body playing a role in cycling? Though on the other hand the blood still has to go round and cannot take shortcuts as far as I remember from biology lessons :-) Can there be a difference in speed? Maybe less ‘amplitude’?

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      Let’s wait DCRainMaker review of the Suunto Spartan Sport HR, maybe it’s good also for bike!
      I think that the big problem of optical heart rate monitor is that they are being used for sport just recently, so the producer need time to find hardware and algorithms finalyzed to fitness. But I have great hope for the Suunto Sport HR, because the optical sensor producer (Valencell) has enough experience even in product finalyzed just for short sport activities. The other big brands are more interested in activity tracking than in sport activities, for example Garmin still reccomends to use the chest heart monitor for hard workouts. I think that Garmin intends to use optical heart rate monitor inside the watch especially for 24×7 activity tracking, but it’s not interested so much for optical heart rate monitor for workouts. Valencell has the right knowledge and also the will to produce optical sensor thinked just for workouts.

    • Raul

      on Garmin and GPS: would be ridiculous if they wouldn’t even manage to have that work OK!!!

      @Mirko on SSS and cycling: cyclists don’t use a wristworn device…. (except for dua/triathlons but then there will be a bar mounted device too)

      @Ray on GPS accuracy: wasn’t the SS (by far?) winner of the tunnel test? Or older model?

      @Ray on SS update (incl. upgrades): that didn’t appear yet did it?

    • @ Raul re accuracy

      Actually, that’s a valid point, it did do well in that single tunnel test. I’ll give it credit there. The Fenix5 did less well on that test, but that was now a month ago during beta, and they’ve since made some changes as a result of that test. I haven’t had a chance in the last few weeks to repeat it, but it’s on my radar.

      Re – update:

      No, not yet, sadly. Trying to get there.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      I agree, and by the way in cycling there is no problem of chafing so it’s better to use a simple chest strap monitor and to avoid the complication of optical devices. I’m not a serious cyclist, so I don’t have bike computer like Garmin Edge or Element Bolt. Just for testing, now I’m mounting my garmin610 on the bar of the bycicle and I’m using the broadcast funtion of my garmin 35 to transmit wrist optical heart rate to the garmin610. But just for fun, for cyclist I can’t see any reason to go to optical. Maybe could be an interesting feature just for recreational rider.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      Today 6 intervals of 1km with circa 3 minutes rest between each.
      I had the Scosche Rhythm+ positioned in the left upper arm connected with a garmin fr610 and a chest strap (garmin sensor+polar soft strap) connected with a garmin fr35. Temperature was 15°C/60°F.
      The graphs of heart rate are fast perfectly overlapping, even in the recovery period.
      I’m sorry, dear chest strap, you wear a great friend, but it’s time to say goodbye…
      @ X-Bionic: I don’t need your expensive shirt to avoid electrostatic interference anymore
      @ Scosche: keep leave the Rhythm+ as is and don’t change anything
      @ Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR: if you are as good as the Scosche in monitoring heart rate , you’ll be always on my mind (I don’t need, the more battery of the Ultra, but why they don’t give you the barometric altimeter?)
      @ Garmin: why don’t you produce just one model of the Forerunner series with the Valencell heart rate optical sensor (and with a barometric altimeter included?). I don’t need all the extra staff you are offering (virtual pacer, virtual partner, virtual racer etc. etc., Training Effect, Vo2max, vertical oscillation, resting heart rate etc. etc.)

    • Raul

      Haha Mirko, you’re an idealist! (perfectionist etc.) I know that! The brands will will keep on putting as much in the devices as they can because they:
      * think we want that (while the by far largest part of the buyers never use 90% of it)
      * have shareholders that want the most yield (is that the word?) profit is what I mean
      * (also for that) want to legitimate the price of $ 600, 700, 800.
      * are in a competition battle with each other?
      We can only hope someday someone will stand up that understands. But then…… it’s hard to start from scratch…… the Chinese? They don’t understand nothing (logically), the spin doctor should be some western bright guy. Or TomTom……….

      What about a phone that has the altimeter & can receive Valancell arm band?

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      Hi Raul, you asked me about “heart rate monitor accuracy” and how to evaluate it. In the Valencell test (see the link above link to valencell.com) the Scosche Rhythm+ positioned upper arm has 92%, the Scosche Rhythm+ positioned forearm has 90%, Suunto Spartan Wrist HR has 89%. They test in this way:
      1-All data was compared to the Polar H7 BLE chest strap heart rate monitor as a benchmark
      2-All subjects performed the same test with all devices: an 8-minute indoor dynamic treadmill test, commonly known as the “Valencell Test” done in this way:
      30 seconds stand, 45 seconds walk, 3minutes 15seconds self-selected run speed between 5 and 9 mph, 1 minute walk, 1 minute run between 6 and 9 mph, 30 seconds walk, 1 minute stand.
      3-The accuracy is the percentage of data +-5% of chest strap
      I think that it’s better to wait DCRainmaker review because Valencell test is done on a treadmill, while Ray tests it on the road with real runs of circa 1 hour and not just walking or slow runs for just eight minutes.
      About the question of phone with altimeter -> unfortunately I don’t have a smartphone, I still have an old Nokia 3720 with buttons :) … and when I run I never have the phone with me, I try to bring with me as little as possible. I think that to carry a phone is unconfortable. This is also why I want to get read of the chest strap, one thing less to carry with me. I think that barometric altimeter is useful because if you run in trail, you have an accurate value of the elevation gain and this is an important thing for evaluating your effort. I live near mountain and, I think you can’t trust GPS altimeter in trail running in mountains. So if I buy a new watch, is one thing I would be interested. For my other needs, I think my old garmin 610 and my garmin 35 are enough. I tried to train myself with the training effect of my garmin610, but then I gave up because I’m not sure it was really giving me the right indication about how tired I was and about how I was improving. Garmin gives not enough indication how to use training effect, so I think it’s better to evaluate myself how hard was a run and how long I need to recover.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      My previous post was not polemic against Garmin, I would just be happy if they add to their lines of products with the garmin “elevate” sensor one product with the things I want (valencell heart rate optical sensor and barometric altimeter): maybe the new forerunner 930?

    • Raul

      Interesting! And disappointing. I read here link to heartmonitorhq.com that H7 was within 1 beat of reference device which means 99.something% accurate. So no change in my gear here.
      Regarding the ‘mothership’: I’m sure that will be my phone soon. Just pretty stupid it takes so long for the ideal 2nd screens (wristworn/barmounted) to come on the market. Also because the average user is terribly slow adopting new ‘inventions’ I guess.
      I’m taking my phone already with me most of the time. Wanna be able to call for help if I break a leg.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      @ Raul
      If the chest strap is confortable for you, this is the best choice. Also a good optical heart rate monitor like the Scosche Rhythm+ has his disadvantages and you must accept compromises for the added confort:
      1- short battery life, circa 7 hours, because the Valencell sensor needs more energy of other optical sensor (probably because his sampling frequency is higher, or because the light it emits is stronger, because it was made for calculating heart rate beats not for “activity tracking” where heart rate is under 100 beats/minutes but in hard work-outs where heart rate grows over 150 beats/minutes. )
      2- with optical heart rate monitor you can’t have Training Effect. The algorithm of Firstbeat (that Garmin uses) calculates the Training Effect based on R-R data variability of heart rate, and optical heart rate monitor at the moment can’t calculate R-R data during workout, just during rest. If I sync my Garmin Forerunner 610 with the Scosche Rhythm+, at the end of the run it gives me a training effect but it’s wrong, for example in the workout I did two days ago it gave 2,7 (mantaining), while using the chest strap I usually get for this type of workout 4,2 (highly improving).
      3- Most optical heart rate monitor fail when the cadence is similar to the heart rate. The Scosche is better, but if you see the graph, not perfect. In the recovery period it is identical to the chest strap. During the workout, my heart rate rises after circa 2 minutes to the frequency between 170 and 180. My cadence when I run an interval is circa the same, between 170 and 180. You can see in the graph that the line of the chest strap sweetly increases from 170 to 180 from the middle of the interval till the end of the interval, and when I looked at the watch I could see 172, 174, 176 ecc. The graph of the Scosche is very irregular, and when I watched it was kind of a mess : 176,172,178,171. Probably the disturb of the cadence was too much for the Scosche in order to give a good result. It was always near the exact value, but it hadn’t the smoothness of the chest strap. The good thing of the Scosche is that when I ended the interval, it could immediately follow the heart decreasing rapidly. The Garmin elevate sensor usually can’t understand that the heart rate is decreasing, and it gives wrong results, it usually can’t understand that the heart rate is decreasing after I stop and it continues to show 160-170. In my experiences, the Garmin elevate sensor just can’t handle a workout of that type (intervals after wich you stop completely). Probably the algorithm of Garmin was simply NOT thinked for this type of workout.
      Maybe Garmin is doing the right choice. Garmin reccomends the chest strap for serious athletes, so they have accurate heart rate-data during the workout and after for analyzing training effect and stress score. They put their elevate optical heart rate sensor in the watch with algorithms thinked for activity tracking and for calculating resting heart rate, and maybe for recreation athlete that don’t care so much about accuracy of heart rate during a workout. Probably they think that optical heart rate monitor are still not accurate enough for workouts and quick runs.

      At the end of the whole story, I accept the compromises of optical heart rate monitor for the added confort and in the future I will use the Scosche for intervals and the Garmin optical elevate heart rate sensor in the slow runs (where it is usually enough accurate). But you are doing the right choice to continue using the chest strap monitor. In this way, you are sure you have always accurate data, and I admit I hate when my watches give me inaccurate data. And yes, the Valencell test is really disappointing about heart rate monitor accuracy of optical sensors.

    • Webvan

      All good points, as for Garmin doing the right thing, well…on the F5 you can use the oHR for all the advanced metrics (VO2Max, Training Effect 2, Training Load, Performance Condition) apart from LTHR and Stress Score (the one that always gives 1 !) and in theory they’re HRV based so I’m not sure what value they really have…variations around the Pace/HR ratio ?

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      in your experience, in the fenix5 the advanced metrics (VO2max, Training Effect2, Training Load, Performance Condition) that you have when you use the garmin “elevate” optical heart rate are similar to the results that you have when you use the chest strap? Or it’s hard to make a comparison?

    • Webvan

      Yes the only way to compare would be to have a second F5 connected to a chest strap, do a hard reset on both of them and then do the same runs for a week.

    • I agree. Though, I would argue that realistically you’d need more than a week. You might see some initial comparisons in a week, but you’d really need closer to a month of side by side exact usage to really form a clear trend on the impact of optical vs HR strap on the metrics. The way the FirstBeat analytics work they start to gain steam after a few weeks.

      And honestly, that’s mostly going to be based on the accuracy of the base BPM data.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      Today I run a 40 minutes slow run with the Scosche Rhythm+ armband in the left upper arm synced with a Garmin Forerunner 610 watch, and a Garmin Forerruner 35 in the right wrist with his “Elevate” optical heart rate sensor.
      Temperature was 15°C/60°F.
      The graphs are very similar, so I can say that the Garmin Elevate sensor is good for me for slow runs. I read that slow runs shoud be 80% of the totale mileage of the week, so I can say I can use the Garmin Elevate sensor for 80% of the time. For the other 20% of the run (intervals or quick runs) I will use the Scosche or the chest strap. In slow runs I have a cadence of circa 160 and a heart rate between 140 and 150 beats per minute, and for the “Elevate” sensor is easy to filter the disturb of the motion from the signal of blood flow. I have to do this before the start of a run:
      1- clean the sensor with cotton, as showed in the manual
      2- I put on the right wrist, a bit far of the wrist bone, at the 8 hole (not one more or the watch becomes uncomfortable because it becomes too tight, not one less or the watch moves and I have inaccurate data)
      3- before starting to run, when the icon of the heart rate blinks anymore and becomes solid, I wait another two minutes, to be sure that the watch takes the signal correctly.
      The Garmin Elevate sensor was accurate during the entire run and it gave circa the same values of the scosche.
      The Garmin Elevate sensor is like a girl, if you treat it well, it behaves well. If you makes something wrong, it behaves bad.
      For intervals and for quick runs it’s not for me, but it could be that it’s just me. At race pace I have a cadence between 170 and 180, and the heart rate is between 170 and 180. Usually when I have 175 of cadence, I have also 175 of heart rate. In this case, I think that it’s very difficult for heart rate monitor to filter the disturb of motion from the signal of blood flow.
      It could be that with other people the garmin elevate sensor function correctly even at race pace, for example if they usually have a heart beat of 160 and a cadence of 175, or they have a heart rate of 190 and a cadence of 175.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      I read the DCRainmaker in depth review of the Garmin Fenix 5. There are some recent heart rate graphs of runs that Ray did with the Suunto Spartan Sport HR (20,21,22 march):
      1- Very bad news, the Suunto Spartan HR optical heart rate monitor is very bad
      2-there is a graph where Ray is doing intervals with the Fenix5. In these intervals, Ray has a cadence of circa 180 and a heart rate of 180. The Garmin Elevate Optical Heart Rate Sensor of the Fenix 5 has no problem of crossover and it is accurate also in this difficult workout
      3- So it could be that the problem that I have in intervals and hard workouts is not a problem in general of the Garmin Elevate Optical Heart Rate Sensor, but just of the watch Garmin Forerunner 35 (perhaps the firmware of the Fenix 5 is better of the firmware of the Forerunner 35, or perhaps Garmin changed the hardware of the sensor in the Fenix 5 and the new hardware is better).
      4- It could also be that the Garmin Forerunner 35 is just fine, and I must find a better position or a better way to use the watch
      5- By the way, the graphs of heart rate monitor of the optical heart rate sensor of the Garmin Fenix 5 are quite impressive, maybe no need to wait the Fenix 6 (for sure no need to wait the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR).
      6- Unfortunately Valencell must have done a wrong test of the Suunto Spartan Sport HR.
      7-It’s possible that Suunto changes something in the firmware before they begin to sell the units, but till now it’s a big disappointment

    • Webvan

      Yes the Spartan’s oHR is disappointing but don’t think the F5 will always behave like that, I’ve seen it lose the plot exactly like the oHR of the FR235. Same hardware and there’s so much you can do in software…

  26. mathias

    is it posible to use the watch with a chest belt, e.g. in the winter when wearing the watch over a jacket?

  27. Thomas

    Hi Ray! Do you know when the HR-accuracy review will be out? I would really like to pre-order it, but it kinda depends on your word about it. Best regards

    • kg

      Same here! I would count very much on your review since I am looking forward in buying it. When are you planning to post it?

    • Likely first week of April. Working to get in as much activity as possible with it, across as many sports and conditions as possible.

      If my brain cooperates on the flight this evening, I’ll likely publish a test run video I’ve gotta edit, tonight. Again, dependent on my brain cooperating. And my Mac….

    • Thomas

      Ok, thank you so much! Eager reader of your page, love the work you do!

  28. Rascha

    Hi Ray,
    I love your reviews, and like some other said, they are my guideline for next purchase. In this moment i am without a sportwatch. I have sold my Fenix 3, because i break my leg, and will not train from now 2 months more. I am thinking about buying Fenix 5 or 5x, or Sport HR. I like how 5x looks (similar to 3), but i dont need maps, and i think that OHR will be less precise then on 5 (because of extra weight). The question is will be ordinary fenix 5 slower then 5x because of less memory, or maybe slower chip???
    The most important thing to me is OHR on this watches, because i have WPW syndrome, and have to watch my pulse during exscercising, and find chest strap kind annoing. I had scootche rhytm, but i lost it in water, strap was a 6 months old. SO i want watch with built in OHR.
    The main difference to me between Garmin and Suunto is that according to official specs, sport will be able to measure heart rate from wrist during swimming, and i think that Sport will be (with updates) more precise in GPS and HR then fenix 5, about which owners on their forum already report strange GPS behaviour.

    What do you think about these things? What should i choose?

    • I haven’t seen any tangible differences in speed between the 5 and 5X in regular use. I primarily use the 5, and it’s quite quick to respond (certainly faster than the Spartan series).

      As for optical HR on the Spartan Wrist HR, I’m still gathering data across multiple sports (cycling, running, even skiing – and soon swimming).

      When it comes to GPS accuracy, I haven’t seen any evidence the Spartan series will be better than the Fenix 5 series. The majority of my recent testing evidence shows the opposite, I can’t think of any workout in the last two 2.5 months where the Spartan (of any variant) has given me a better track than the Fenix 5. I’ve used them together on the vast majority of workouts.

      As for reports on the forums, I’ve been watching rather carefully, and while there is a large GPS accuracy thread already for the Fenix 5, overwhelmingly it’s actually people reporting good results. I think I saw one or two people report a brief disparity in a section of a track and that’s it (+ then piles of discussion about those singular tracks).

      Just my two cents…

    • Rascha

      Thanks Ray for very quick reply.
      One more thing, as i am old man (47), and i need glasses for closer things, i am also considering buying Suunto, if it is more readable then Fenix. As i had no opportunity to look on those watches closer, and compare them in hand one next to another – can you tell me which watch has bigger numbers, and which is more readable. I ask that, because there is a difference in resolution on them. Does that difference makes Suunto more user friendly.
      And you haven’t told me what do you think about that ability to read HR during swimming. Is that the typing error on Suunto site, or they just got it already, and Fenix will have it probably in the future.

    • Ridhwaan

      Suunto just sent me the RRP: USD 540. Release date 30th March 2017.

      Update from Suunto, it will feature 24/7 HR tracking.

      So for an average joe like me that just likes toys, is there anything separating the Fenix 5/5s from The Sartan HR besides USD60. The decimal points of accuracy in HR and GPS don’t bother me.

  29. Mirko Surf&Run

    Tweet of @dcrainmakerblog one hour ago:
    “The Spartan Wrist HR will soon track last 12hrs of HR, incl min. Samples every 10mins for one minute. Doesn’t however save data to app/site.”

  30. Mirko Surf&Run

    Interesting webinar of Valencell, the producer of the optical heart rate sensor of the “Suunto Spartan Wrist Watch HR”
    in youtube. They talk about optical heart rate monitoring accuracy and about the infamous “crossover problem”
    Webinar: Building A Wearable With Heart Rate Monitoring
    “h ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bstv6B3-6cs”
    link to youtube.com

  31. kg

    Any news Ray? Will you post the video of your testing?

    • Trying to get it done, just got backed up getting the Fenix 5 review out this morning.

      That said, if you look at the data section of that review in the tables, you’ll see some initial data to dive into (just look at the last few days).

  32. John M

    Hi Ray,

    BTW, I got the CT membership through your link. I had a couple of points/questions: I noticed on Suunto’s website they are listing this at $499. Did they have a price drop even before coming to market? Also, this is a touch screen right? How is that experience? Can you swipe through notifications android style?

    • Yeah, they dropped the price at their release-date announcement back on March 16th.

      It is indeed touch screen. I find the screen a bit laggy for touch, and I think most people don’t use the touch screen portion on it, but just the buttons instead.

    • John

      Interesting. Thanks for the feedback

    • John

      It’s thicker than the Fenix 5, but is 10 some odd grams lighter. How comfortable did you find it to wear? The bands look kind of stiff. A can you change the bands? Thanks.

  33. Devin

    I just opened my Fenix 3HR and finding the screen very difficult to see in low light. I’m regretting my purchase thinking that the Spartan HR may have a better contrast. I used a Microsoft Band2 and although it wasn’t a hardcore device- it was amazing to see. I know Garmin has App support and years of experience, but if you were to compare screen to screen and readability…who wins?

  34. Jeff

    My results with Spartan Wrist HR have been awful so far. Wildly variant HR readings from actual, even when filllowing recommendations, across several different workout types. The Valencell technology is at best a random number generator. The clincher for me was watching my HR drop to 45 on a standing hill climb today. This thing is complete garbage.

    • Larry

      Thanks for the information. I went with the Fenix 5 and it has been very accurate. I love Suunto’s and walked because of the ongoing issues. I was just thinking today I might order that watch and give them another try…not now! Thanks

    • mbo

      Interesting, for me it is just the opposite.

      I have been running with the Fenix3 HR for the last 11 months and the OHR showed plenty of artifacts and inaccuracies. Almost every morning when I start running, there is an overshoot in HR of 20 to 50bpm that settles on a reasonable level after about 2 minutes. Sometimes I see cadence lock and the watch is even reading a HR, when I take it off. It showed RHR for a couple of days without wearing it. Weird, I don’t trust it.

      After 3 runs with the Spartan Sport I had none of these problems. Fast lock, very plausible HR so far, also for the 24/7 monitoring. I am super happy with it.

      Waiting for Ray’s systematic comparison with a strap …

    • Jeff

      Following up on my original post with results of a run-walk from this morning. I used a Suunto HR belt with the Movescount app and my Spartan Wrist HR together on the same run-walk workout this AM. Both were uploaded to Movescount then aligned to each other. Note how high the optical HR is and how it didn’t seem to respond to changing HR at all, and if it did, it sometimes trended in the opposite direction.

  35. Larry

    Thank u for posting this. I left Suunto for the Fenix 5 and desperately want to go back. Do u have any idea why it’s performing so poorly? Are u at all satisfied with the Suunto sport whr?

  36. MirkoSurf&Run

    Tweet of Valencell‏ 6 hours ago:
    “This Is The Best Running Watch Ever Made link to gearpatrol.com … The most accurate HR reading you’ve ever seen from a running watch”.

    I can’t understand why Valencell is so happy about the Suunto Sport wrist HR:
    After analyzing the runs of Ray in the fenix 5 and garmin fr935 reviews (the hr graphs of the suunto sport are terrible) I believed that Valencell would be very worried. How can they say that it is the most accurate HR reading you’ve seen from a running watch? They have released a much better firmware? Or they just deny the evidence that this watch has big problems?

    • I’m just one person. Plus they (well, Suunto, but I’m sure they’re sharing my data with Valencell) are looking into my stuff. I told them I was giving them an extra week to figure things out. I had planned my in-depth review this week, based largely on what is technically ‘beta’ firmware, though, I haven’t seen any meaningful change to date on final firmware.

      I figured I’d give them a few extra days to hopefully come back with an ah-ha moment/answer. But I don’t plan to wait weeks and week and week and forever, like I did with the Spartan. I’m working to turn around reviews quicker once I’ve established what I believe is a fair period of time on a final product.

    • Jeff

      I did one more run-walk this morning, with the Wrist HR higher up on my wrist and tightened one more notch on the strap. I don’t have much time to play with downloading and aligning the data, but I did drop it into a graphics program to align belt vs optical together.

      At this point, I’ve asked for a refund and am deciding whether to stay on my Ambit 3 + belt or make the switch to fenix Chronos or 5X when those come out.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      :( sad….
      It was good for the final user if the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR was accurate with optical heart rate monitoring.
      Even for people that prefer for example Garmin or Polar, this would have put pressure on the other brands to further improve their optical sensor accuracy.
      In this way, for example Garmin has no reason to be in a hurry in order to further improve their “Elevate” optical heart rate sensor and the grade of accuracy they achieved with the Fenix5 and the Forerunner935, and they can rest on one’s laurels.
      The problem of watches with optical sensor inside ( from the user perspective) is that if with time the sensor improves, and you desire the new sensor, you have to change the entire watch because it’s not possible to change just the sensor. With heart rate straps is different, if one heart rate strap is not so good, you can change just the heart rate strap. This is why it’s important that the brands put good optical heart rate sensor in their watches.

    • Raul

      I know you’re having a problems with chest straps Mirko but I’d say ‘serious’ sporters will stick to that method anyway. Brands have to come up with new things in order to make consumers dump what they have and buy the latest. That’s capitalism. You get answers to questions no one asked. Something the average Joe (by far the largest group of buyers, yes… one wouldn’t say….) doesn’t distinguish I’m afraid.
      Very irritating is the fact that at the same time brands leave previous ‘inventions’ for what they are. Some of those never became perfect. Others that were are becoming worse as manufacturers are using cheaper parts or whatever, as the focus is totally on the new function. And profit has to be maximised.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      I agree. For manufacturers the new trend for optical heart rate monitor is a big opportunity to sell new watches and to convince users to change their old units. A lot of brands should have wait more time to sell units that have very low heart rate accuracy.
      Nevertheless, also for final users optical heart rate monitoring is now a good opportunity. Personally, I wouldn’t trust alone my Garmin FR35, because it’s not enough quick to follow changes in heart rate and often loses the correct heart rate confusing with cadence. But the armband of the Scosche Rhythm+ functions quite as well as a chest strap. I tried it also in the lower arm, and it’s good also there. OK, it’s always a strap that you have to put on and wash after use, but it’s so much more comfortable than the chest strap. From January, I used the chest strap just once, to evaluate how good was the Scosche Rhythm+ in an interval session. So I think positive and I am very happy about the new optical heart rate monitoring technology . In the future maybe I will buy the Garmin Forerunner 935, hoping that it’s better than the Garmin Forerunner 35 for heart rate monitoring (it has a new optical sensor). It looks a very solid watch, the problem with optical heart rate technology is that results can vary from person to person, so I’m a bit hesitant to spend so much money. Maybe in the future if I begin to do more trail running that can justify the need of the barometric altimeter. For now, I’ll stick with the Forerunner 35 synced with the Scosche :)

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      This is why optical heart rate monitoring is a good thing for runners: look in the pic as Steve Way during “Wings for Life World Run” in 2016 pulls of his heart rate monitor chest strap because he got stitch (from his web site race report). Even professional athlete have problem with chest straps, and Steve Way is sponsored by Garmin UK!
      Chest straps are no problem for short run, but for long run they can become a problem. An optical heart rate monitor will never let you down!

    • Raul

      I don’t know……. an incident doesn’t mean there is a mass problem. I haven’t seen much (any?) complaint before I read your post. Though I know long distance runners are taking measures, nipple plasters, vaseline. Don’t know how much is copycatting.
      I think a lot of them are Suunto fans. I understood they will have to keep wearing the strap? :-)
      My longest run was 3 hrs, bike ride 9 hrs, no problems. And I go fast! Since back in the 80’s, first Polar. Advantage: I have a wide choice of devices I can use….. can even buy 2nd hand. Spend the savings on other gear. Phew….

    • MirkoSurf&Run

      You are lucky! I have problems with chest strap when I run longer than 1 hour and half. I think that the problem is that I sweat a lot. Probably chafing is a problem caused by sweat.

    • MirkoSurf&Run

      Except chest strap, I don’t have other problems of chafing. I don’t use plaster or vaseline, but I have to wear some specific clothes. For example I can’t wear normal shorts (for runs longher than half an hours): my shorts must arrive till the upper of knee and must be tight (like scott tight shorts or xbionic shorts). And for shirt, it’s enough to wear xbionic shirts or odlo shirts and with that I don’t have problem of chafing. Even in summer and in long run with the right clothes chafing is not a problem, without other precautions. With chest strap I think producer shoud pay more attention on the materials they use and how they build it, because problem of chafing occur always under the sensor for people who sweat a lot. Some producer like Wahoo (with the Tickr) begin to realize that there is a problem, for example the strap of the Wahoo attaches directly to the sensor and I read that in this way they avoid problem of chafing. Why Garmin and Polar (the leader in fitness) didn’t till now something better? Strange.

    • Raul

      Though I think manufacturers know very little of the users experiences I guess you’re in a small group. About every time I read something negative about straps it was on a website of a OHM device. And then you know: this is marketing!!
      Moisture is the essential thing. Now sweating is the emergency system of the body, best is to avoid that that’s used. Ventilation is everything…… You run outside I think. In a warm part of the world? No wind? On warmer days I don’t wear a shirt, only the (pink!) chest strap. :-)

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      I read the solution of DCRainmaker about how to solve heart rate chafing issue:
      h ttps://www.dcrainmaker.com/2012/08/how-to-fix-heart-rate-strap-chaffing.html
      link to dcrainmaker.com

      I tried it and the solution works, but in my case after two runs I had to change plaster. And I don’t want to pay money for a chest strap and then have to continue to put plaster on it in order to make it function correctly. But if the solution is so simple, why the brands don’t put a bit of rubber or silicone to avoid the cutting edge of the strap near the sensor?
      Ray: if you go to Olathe next week can you ask if they can design a strap without cutting edge and a bit of round border near the sensor?

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      I live in Italy near Garda lake, and the weather here is good. It’s not particularly warm or humid. Sweating is normal in sport because in this way the body tries to maintain his optimal temperature of 36°. But I begin to sweat too much when I’m tired at the end of a long run or when I do a hard quick run (tempo run). When I do easy run, I don’t sweat very much and the chest strap is no problem. The problem is that if the skin irritates during the Sunday long run, then it takes two or three days to repair and I can’t wear it for some times. That said, probably I could have resolved with a new strap: my strap is old and became rigid. But I’m a curious person and I wanted to try with this new optical technology. I didn’t want to continue to change strap every two years.
      Now I’m good with the Scosche, and I don’t want to go back to chest straps. But for serious athlete I still recommend chest straps, particularly if they don’t have problem of chafing.

    • To be honest, that better strap design already exists: The newer HRM-RUN/TRI straps have a design that doesn’t cut in. Works pretty well.

    • It’s easy to brush aside strap things as being defective people – but the simple reality is that before optical HR sensors, *the most popular* searched posts on this site were people troubleshooting HR straps.

      In many ways, we’ve just replaced one technology that has it’s quirks for another. The total volume of complaints about people with HR reading issues hasn’t changed, rather, the medium has.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      Good to know, I have to try this new Garmin HRM-RUN/TRI.

    • Raul

      Aha! That’s what in Dutch is called ‘the monkey pops out of the sleeve’! Your experience is based on 1 strap!! That’s not the way to analyse buddy! Look at my strap: nothing sharp there. It’s a Polar but I have no problems with Garmin either.
      Ventilating is the ‘normal’ (and preferred) way the human body regulates its temperature. Sweatening will happen at a low level, esp. on parts of the body where there’s little or no air circulation. The back. And the head (which is ventilated well but ‘produces’ a lot of heat. Reason why not to wear caps. When sweat runs down your body there’s panic. The body is loosing fluids that’s needed in the cells!

    • Raul

      This new quirky stuff has a price! And the risk is that perfect functioning point will lie beyond that of hardware limitations. As seen with previous Fenix versions…..
      People struggling: 80% writes, 10% of people without do. You always tell us! The average human is ‘afraid’ for something outside the usual. Maybe find it ‘too professional’. With a negative attitude you’ll run into something easily.
      Changing a strap costs $ 20! Changing habits even nothing at all.

    • MirkoSurf&Run

      Yes, in all my running life I had just two straps in total, the first a Garmin soft strap and the second a Polar soft strap.
      Before buying a new Garmin HRM-RUN strap, I wait. The Scosche is always perfect. And today in a short session with 5 short intervals also the Garmin FR35 was perfect. Graphs fast perfectly overlapping.
      Now no need to return to chest straps. Maybe this winter with cold weather, when optical heart rate sensor have a bad time. Or maybe I will spare the money of the new strap and begin to pile up money for a garmin fr935 instead (Suunto…? it depends, let’s wait the review)!

    • Raul

      This reply was to Ray…..

  37. Alettou

    Hi. They have to get this right. Valencell can’t be putting their best technology into this, have tested it, make claims that it is the best and get it wrong. I have one ordered and really want this to be a great watch. These guys claim running looks the same as their interval test on a stationary bike. link to youtube.com . Though we don’t have the running video to go with it.

    • Mine looks fine too on an indoor trainer/bike. That’s trivially easy, there’s no movement/cadence/etc to bounce.

      In any event, Valencell/Suunto are hoping to get me some conclusions/next steps from my data by the end of today (not sure whether that’s Suunto or Valencell timezone, but either way…tomorrow morning).

    • Jeff

      I’m seeing the same thing as well. If I wear the watch really high and tight above my wrist (more into the forearm, really) and sit absolutely still on a spin bike (no standing climbs), I can get a very solid track to a chest strap.

      By the way, your analysis tool is great. Signed up this morning. Makes it really easy to compare these trials to each other! Happy to send you $$$ for it!

    • Jeff

      Here’s my first run-walk, when I was wearing the watch tight but over the wrist. This was before I had read any guidance from Suunto on where to place the watch.

      Note the only overlapping times were at the beginning and at the end when I was sitting still for two minutes before ending the measurements.

    • Yikes. Looks almost like some level of cadence lock. Would be interesting to see the public analyzer link to see how cadence compares (no worries if you don’t want to share the GPS data though, totally understand).

      Oh – and thanks for the support via the Analyzer! Glad folks are finding it useful!

    • Jeff

      This is the second run-walk, after reading guidance from Suunto. Wearing it a bit higher and tighter on the wrist, though not as forearm-ish as the very controlled spin posted above.

    • Jeff

      Give me a few minutes to get out of some meetings and I’ll re upload and make public links so you can have a look at the data. No shame in sharing my (slow, fat) data. :)

    • Alettou

      Hi Ray,

      Did Suunto/Valencell get back to you on the data?

    • Jeff

      So… After two trials with the watch really high on my forearm, I am able to get a good match with a chest strap. On a seated-only spin, this is OK, but it’s not practical for running or walking due to the shape of my wrist. Below is a link to my run-walk trial today, and I’ve attached a picture of where the watch had to be warn to achieve this accuracy. As you can see from the shape of my wrist/forearm, it’s hard to keep the watch in this position. I had to push it back up several times and couldn’t allow my arm to drop while walking, which was very unnatural for me.

      link to analyze.dcrainmaker.com

    • Alettou – No, they’re still digging. Though, I did manage to get one good run out of it finally (HR-wise), which can be seen within the Polar M430 post from yesterday.

    • MirkoSurf&Run

      @ Jeff
      I have a Garmin Forerunner 35 and if I try to wear in the position you wear your Suunto, it also continues to slide when I begin to sweat. With my arm, I found that I can wear it maximum two centimeter away from the wrist bone. So I think that it’s correct to test the accuracy of the watches in a normal position where the watch doesn’t slide. Can you test again the watch in a position that doesn’t slide? After all, if you wear the watch in the position you are wearing it , it’s no more a wrist wach, but a lower-arm-watch!

    • Jeff

      I can wear the watch just on the other side of the round bump at the end of the ulna. This is a bit past the wrist, but still in the flat part and it stays stable. In this position, however, I get wildly varying pulse readings that seem to trend high while running/walking and low while cycling. I noticed in looking at the designs of the Garmins that their emitters and detectors appear to be closer together, and the overall watch shape is flatter, so I may have better luck with them. I’m waiting for a return slip from Suunto for an exchange, and I may buy a Garmin in the meantime and give it a try to see if I have better luck.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      The form of the Suunto sensor is the same of the Valencell sensor that is installed in the Scosche Rhythm+ armband, the best optical heart rate sensor to date. In theory the distance between emitters and detectors should be an advantage, as Valencell explains in their videos. We all are asking why the sensor of the Suunto Spartan Sport gives so worse results compared with the Scosche, given the fact that the producer of the sensor is the same brand (Valencell). By the way, two days ago, in the review of the Polar M430, Ray had a good run with the Suunto. Why don’t you give the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR another last chance before returning it? Maybe you can look if there is a new firmware to install?
      If you buy Garmin, keep inform us if things get better. You could try with the new fr935 or the fenix5, that in the first comments that I see in this blog seem to behave well in running and activity tracking. I have the fast new Garmin fr35 and I wouldn’t recommend it about optical heart rate accuracy, so I think it’s better to go with the newest and premium watches of Garmin.

    • Rupert Nanni

      Have to agree with Jeff regarding the Suunto Wrist HR. My wife’s and mine both conically over read. Average HR on a run is usually 20bpm above what I expect for that level run. Also drops my HR even when I’m sitting down holding the watch firmly against my skin. Even tried shaving my wrist. I’ve got years of data on Movescount (from an awesome Ambit 2S) and really want to stay with Suunto, so I hope they can sort this out with a firmware upgrade.

  38. Stephen


    I’ve begun looking for a sports watch to replace my long-not-supported Motorola MotoACTV and it’s stand-in MapMyRun. I’m looking at the Forerunner 935 and the Spartan Sport HR and wondering if you would recommend one over the other.

    In short, after looking at the specs and reading your reviews it seems like either watch would be suitable so long as the Suunto works painlessly. Do you think that the Suunto watch, app, and web tools are actually/finally ready for prime time or are they still trying to dig themselves out of a hole? If it helps you answer the question, here’s what I’m looking for in either watch:

    My primary usage is running (intervals, distance runs under an hour), hiking (8-20 hours), and tracking heart rate during circuit training. I also have some other goals that I haven’t committed to yet, namely a sprint tri, marathon, and an ultra-trail, which I am taking into consideration for the watch.

    I don’t really plan to use it 24/7 as a life tracker, or as a smartwatch. The most important things are the basics: accurate gps, time, distance, pace, projected time, cadence, heart-rate, intervals, a painless workflow for syncing and sharing, integration with other platforms (like Strava), and a pretty solid guarantee of future support.

    Maps would be nice, but they aren’t a requirement. Ant+ support would also be nice since I have a HR strap and foot pod already. Also not absolutely required. It would be cool to be able to get advanced analytics to help me improve my technique, but I’m sure I’m ready to lay down the cash for that extra info just yet anyway. I’m thinking of RunScribe here.

    Thanks, I appreciate your thoughts.

    • Alex Masidlover

      I’d take a serious look at the Ambit3 given your use cases; based on my experience of Garmin devices (310XT, FR60 and Edge 520) and an Ambit3 I’d say the following:

      Suunto’s sync/connection is not as good as Garmin’s but neither are perfect and both are perfectly adequate.

      The Ambit3 can do navigation (follow a breadcrumb route between waypoints) both in ‘sport’ mode and in normal watch mode.

      Garmin _still_ have not got a route planner integrated into Garmin Connect that actually allows you to plot a course with way points and send it to their most modern devices!! There are 3rd party workarounds but I’ve not yet succeeded with any of them (although to be fair I’ve only had 3 or 4 attempts so far).

      Whilst I’ve been able to plot routes (with waypoints) on Suunto’s Movescount and send them to the Ambit 3 since I bought it almost 2 years ago.

    • Stephen

      Thanks, Alex. I’m glad to hear that you feel both sync platforms are adequate. That was the bane of existence with the MotoACTV. Waypoints aren’t a feature that I hadn’t put on my shortlist, but I could see that being handy.

      I’ll take a closer look at the Ambit3, especially for the battery life, though I think I’ll still opt for something with wrist based HR. I’d like to be able to have that metric available during team sports, at the gym, and while hiking–activities where I’m not training by HR, but would like to have them for curiosity sake without having to wear a separate sensor.

  39. mbo

    This is my 9th run with the Spartan Sport Wrist HR. In general more spiky than the strap connected to the F3 HR (to be expected). During the 3 intervals in the middle of the run there is pretty bad overshooting. Also I had cadence lock in 2 of the 9 runs.

    To me it seems that the performance is deteriorating over time, my first moves were the best. I wonder if Suunto is running some adaptions in the algorithm that go crazy over time …

    • MirkoSurf&Run

      I think that the graph is pretty good, the Suunto spikes just three times. Not too bad… and I would say acceptable.

  40. mbo

    My 10th run. Long and slow seems to work. Nice behavior around 10k, when I had to stop for traffic.

  41. Mathias


    I received my Spartan WRH last Wednesday. First try was last Thursday on the mountainbike. I compared HR with my Garmin Edge 520 with chest strap. Uphill I got quite accurate results. However the downhill completely screwed up the HR measurement on the Suunto. Even when already climbing again for minutes it displayeed heart rates around 49 bpm :-)
    Other than that HR on the mountainbike was acceptable.

    Last Friday I did my first run, more or less constant 5:30 min/km. The WHR showed inexplicable peaks up to 180 bpm, two within the first 2 km and one after a steep climb where my HR is usually around 170.

    Today my second run, rather slow (around 6:00 pace). I was wearing the watch a bit tighter, but it showed similar behaviour. Is there a way how to get more or less accurate HR from the beginning?

    Other question: On the Ambit 3 I appreciated the parameter “running performance”. Is there something similar on the Spartan WHR?


    • Mirko Surf&Run

      In the first comments in this blog it seems that it is still unclear what causes the spikes in the Suunto Spartan Sport: Ray Maker, Jeff and mbo did some very good runs, and other terrible. This behavior happened also in slow steady runs, where usually optical heart rate have an easy job. It would be very interesting to understand why sometimes the Spartan Sport is good and why in other runs not. Perhaps it is something that they can adjust with a firmware update. If they don’t resolve this issue, it’s no good because if you go out for a run, a watch that sometimes is very good and sometimes awful is useless.
      For example I know that my Garmin FR35 is always good for steady runs and always terrible for high intensity short intervals. For me it’s a good thing because I use it in my steady runs and I leave it at home when I do intervals. But if you don’t know when it’s good and when not, you can’t use it.
      Now I think it’s better to talk just about running. Bike is difficult for all wrist optical heart rate monitor.
      That said, I hope that also other Suunto Spartan Sport owner write about their experience, and maybe we can understand where is the problem with the spikes and how to get rid of this problem. In some runs the Suunto Spartan Sport is so good that it’s worth to investigate (or to wait the new firmware).

    • Mathias

      Agree to focus on running. HR is not important to me anyway on the mountainbike. However I felt the behaviour is worth mentioning.

  42. Alettou

    Hi I got mine on Friday. They took a while to get to some of the online stores here in Prague. My first run was running hills and stairs with some flat parts in-between and it tracked incredibly well against my scosche, which was on the inside of my forearm. I was surprised by how good it was as i ran the same route last year using the fitbit surge and garmin vivoactive and they did not track well on this route at all. The next day I ran a fairly steady flat run and it did small spike during the first minute but then quickly settled down. I wear it up about one watch band width higher on my wrist and I shave the hair on my forearm where the sensor is – I did the same thing for the fitbit and garmin last year but this time it worked. I do think where you wear it is important as I wore it low on my bike ride to work this morning and it was completely off but on the way home I wore it high again and it was much more accurate. So far I am surprised by the how good the OHR accuracy is and how much I like the watch. Should anything change I’ll post it.

  43. mbo

    No 11, short run this morning. Pretty reasonable result, the strap even looks a bit shaky. The Fenix activated auto stop once (broken line).

    I am wearing the Spartan slightly above wrist, snug fit, nothing unusual. And today I warmed up for about 2 minutes before the run. My impression is that this helps to lock the heart rate safely.

    I would also love to see “running performance” on the Spartan.

    @Mirko Surf&Run
    I completely agree that the range is too wide, from excellent accuracy to serious deviations. Hopefully Suunto can add some robustness by firmware updates. Meanwhile I will try to improve my handling of the watch.

    I also like it a lot. For me it’s a keeper.

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      In the last runs very good reports from Ray, Alettou and Mbo. Very happy that the good trend continues.
      It seems to me that it is a “person to person” behaviour. Maybe something that con be corrected for people that still don’t have good result correcting the way you wear the watch and warming up a bit before starting the activity to get a good lock (like mbo explains). And maybe Suunto will release still a better firmware to avoid some strange spikes that some people have (Jeff and Mathias).
      Olè Valencell and Suunto, we are getting it right!

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      In the “in depth review” of the Vivosmart 3 of DCRainmaker we can see a run of Ray of 8 April 2007 (10 miles steady run). Good performance of the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR.

    • Mathias

      Good to see the Spartan Sport Wrist HR performing so well. That makes me confident the issues we are currently facing can be resolved.
      Curious to see the Spartan Sport WHR in depth review…

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      Very curious me too… but I think that DCRainmaker is waiting a more mature firmware before releasing a final review (in depth review are usually final review). So it’s worth waiting, the watch is very promising from a hardware standpoint and we don’t need to have a bad review just because the firmware is not solid enough.

    • Nah, not so much waiting for final firmware…was really just waiting for final details from Valencell on my testing. It keeps getting pushed back each day. :-/ Every day I’m told it’s the next day.

      Once I get that it’s a few days out, since I deferred working on writing the post to work on other releases (Polar M430, M460, Garmin Vivosmart 3, etc…).

      I would note that I’ve seen better running performance in the past week though that I saw previously. Absolutely no idea why.

  44. Tobi

    Did the Sport HR improve from a performance point of view? The other Spartans are very slow, laggy and from my point of view clearly underpowered.

  45. Robert

    Hello guys. I’ve purchased my Spartan Wrist HR like 3 days ago. I didn’t actually went through discharge-fullcharge cycle, but I’ve noticed something very odd (for me). I did 2-3 exercises, then I fully charged Suunto (100%) 15.04.2017 11:14.

    Since then, I only logged two sessions: 6 minutes and 10 minutes, with oHR sensor only (no GPS). No other exercises, screen backlit is OFF all the time, notifications from phone are ON, I didn’t use the watch.

    And now it’s 16.04.2017 10:11 and battery level is 87%. Which means, that (roughly) it takes sth. like 0,57% of battery per an hour *without* exercising! It will drain all battery in notification-only mode in ~175 hrs (7 days).

    Is it normal?

    • Robert

      PS. Also, after first run with Spartan Sport, I’m very dissapointed with accuracy.
      Here is my track comparision: Polar M400 with Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR. Orange: Polar, blue: Suunto. THIS is unacceptable: link to prntscr.com Speed: link to prntscr.com

      Do others owners have also such problems with GPS accuracy on Suunto? Will it eventually become better or not?

      I’m thinking now about selling both Polar & Suunto and buying Garmin Fenix 3 oHR. Would you recommend something about that? Will it be good move?

      If I recall correctly, Fenix should have better GPS accuracy, apps/customization, better sync and worse screen. Am I right?

    • I’d be surprised if you get anywhere near 7 days with OHR monitoring on. I can’t. I top out in 3-4 days usually.

    • Robert

      Hi Ray.
      Maybe I didn’t wrote it very clear. OHR was on only for these 2 exercises (16 minutes total). After that, there was NO HR MONITORING at all. OHR off, screen backlit off, only phone notification was on and i didn’t use the watch (it was on lock screen 99% of time). Still battery drain is very high in my opinion.

      And what do you think about my second post? Should i change Suunto for Fenix3?

    • mbo

      Hi Robert,

      I had been running and swimming with the F3HR for 11 months, 2 weeks ago I switched to the SSWHR.

      Currently I prefer the Suunto. Couldn’t make the oHRM work for me on the Fenix, too many systematic deviations.

      The oHRM on the Spartan is far from being flawless, but in my opinion it shows potential.

    • Ahh, I see Robert. Most of my testing has primarily been done with the 24×7 mode enabled. :-/

    • Robert

      Hello mbo.
      Are you having troubles in your Spartan with GPS accuracy?

    • Jussi

      Robert: Oddly, by default GLONASS is not enabled (configurable when starting an exercise by going down to options). I had the GPS-only mode go off track sometimes and today tested GPS+GLONASS and both my 40min commutes were plotted flawlessly.

      What goes to battery, I charged mine on Monday evening and it’s now Thursday evening at 32% after roughly 175mins of exercise with GPS+HR on. Overnight it dropped ~2% for me.

    • Robert

      Dear Jussi,
      I know that GLONASS is deactivated by default. I was trying with GLONASS on and off. Both modes were far below any acceptance. I will post my cases in few days (still gathering data). Enough to say, that for now, I’m VERY dissapointed. Previously I had Suunto Ambit 2S and that watch was precise like a razor.

  46. Jussi

    I got tired of reading online reviews and bought the blue Spartan WHR. A comparison against Fenix 3HR and Forerunner 235 made it clear that the Suunto had the best comfort and fit for my smallish 6.7″ wrists.

    Watch looks and feels great, the touch screen is really nice (even works with gloves on — only 6C here!). On videos here the Suunto looked a tad sluggish, but when actually using it it feels totally fine.

    On my first 7km run the GPS was accurate and I enjoyed the automatic interval vibration alerts on pace and average HR. Sync to movescount was slowish taking nearly 5 minutes. Movescount itself provides an amazing view into all the sensory data.

    Loving it so far!

  47. JCAguilar

    I just received mine from clever training. I really like the watch and the fit on my wrist.
    Now being an Ambit3 user, I was hoping I could plan my swim workouts just the same (including drill modes), but I just don’t see how. I don’t even see that option in the movescount App for the spartan (I still can see it if my Ambit3 is connected).

    Is there a new way to create your swim workouts in the spartan sport?

  48. Eyal Marcu

    I really enjoyed to read your reviews, I found them very professional.
    I need your advice please,
    I’m about to purchase my first workout watch and I’m very confused.
    I have doubts between the Spartan sport wrist HR and the Fenix 3 HR.
    I need it for indoor swim and for running. But I intend also to wear it daily, so I need also the connectivity with my android mobile to be useful (mails, sms, whatsapp …).
    Please advise which one is for me. The price is not an issue.

  49. Bob

    First thanks for all the great reviews.

    I am a little bit unhappy with the Sparten model portfolio and the differences between the watch models. I am an Ambit3 user and don’t see any advantages to change to the Spartan collection.

    Ultra = Saphire, long batery lifetime in sport mode, barometric altitude (everything what Ambit3 has), no optical HRM
    Sport = low battery lifetime in sport mode, no barometric altitude
    WRIST = same like Sport but with optical HRM with lack of 24/7 HRM data in Movescount

    The only model which could convince me would be the WRIST because of the 24/7 heart rate measurement for analyzing recovery time and daily energy consumption including the data availability in Movescount.
    In sport mode I would use the HR strap due to the better results (swimming, intervals, etc.).
    Unfortunately the battery lifetime during sport mode is in my option too short. For a triathlete who needs maybe >14 hours to complete the long distance it’s not enough. There are several ultra events
    where you need that time.

    Honestly with the release of the WRIST I don’t know why the Sport model still exists. Pack the optical HRM into the Ultra to have the ultimate model and keep the WRIST as a low budget option. Anyway you can use the HR strap as an alternativ.

    A metal watch wrist (like Garmin has) would be a nice feature for the Spartan collection.

    Question to the users which have the Titanium / All Black, mineral glas and optical HRM models.

    1. How does the coating on the bezel handles scratches. Does the “color” disappear with deep marks? My Ambit3 has some after 2 years of usage.
    2. Any experience with mineral glas? I hit my watch several times on objects. So far the glas on my Ambit3 looks like new. I am not sure if the mineral glas survives in the combination of beach / sand and using the touch menu.
    3. WRIST Model: Is the battery lifetime with a HR strap in sport mode the same like with the optical HRM?

    Maybe someone could share some experience.

    For Movescount itself it improved a lot but still I could list things which I would like to have integrated. The app for Android is still not usable. I just use the app to upload moves during holidays if the watch memory is full of moves.

    So in total still a lot of tasks for Suunto to complete in 2017.

  50. Robert

    Hello again. I’ve decided to describe all of my experience with my brand new Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR All Black, purchased 12/04/2017. I have opened a ticket on Suunto webpage and awaiting a reply and possibly I will be returning it.

    PS. contact page (link to amersportssurveys.force.com) still sucks: purchase date cannot be entered, I cannot attach a file. I have informed Suunto that they have errors on this website like 2 years ago (when I had Ambit 2S), still they didn’t improve it.

    Battery life:
    Battery was fully charged (for second time since I bought it) 2017-04-15 @11:14, and at 2017-04-19 @15:22 it’s 39%. It means 61% battery level loss, so circa 0,6% per hour. Which means it will be eventually fully depleted in 164 hrs (6 days 20 hrs).
    Conditions: phone notifications ON, screen backlit OFF (on demand only), HRM 24/7 OFF, exercises recorded with screen OFF (energy conservation).
    Sessions recorded: 52 minutes with HRM (no GPS); 10 minutes of walking (GPS, no HRM); and 15 minutes of hiking (GPS + HRM).

    GPS accuracy:
    Orange: Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR / Blue: Polar M400 / Purple: Xiaomi Mi5 + Runkeeper / Green: real/actual path
    Watch is updated to latest firmware as of 2017-04-19. GPS was always set on “best” reception.

    2017-04-13 walk
    [GPS, GLONASS] Suunto is “jumping” from one side of the street to another and recording track through the fences and buildings. It never happened to me previously, while I was using Suunto Ambit 2S.
    link to mygpsfiles.com

    2017-04-15 run
    [GPS, GLONASS] First run with Suunto and Polar M400 together. Quite big city, lots of buildings. Spartan tends to record very odd trail, like inside the building, wandering off the road, et cetera. Polar is not rock solid, still have few “quirks”, but comparing to Spartan it works like a charm.
    link to mygpsfiles.com
    Other run (the same route) only with Polar M400: link to mygpsfiles.com

    2017-04-17 walk:
    [GPS, GLONASS] Second test for Spartan GPS, this time in village area, 3 low houses (in the distance, I was walking in open space, no trees, basically only sky. Very slow walk. Spartan records „jumps” off the road/trail – I was walking precisely in the middle of the path and road (as marked in green) – both on my way from start and returning (same exact track!)
    link to mygpsfiles.com

    2017-04-19 two walks:
    [GPS only] Third GPS test, also walking. Big city again, through the buildings. Polar vs Suunto. Spartan tends to incorrectly record my track on the other side of the road; or on the road, instead of pavement. Polar is not ideal, but mostly it follows real track (green). Suunto has position errors circa 30 meters in some fragments.
    link to mygpsfiles.com
    link to mygpsfiles.com

    2017-04-20 walk:
    [GPS, GLONASS] I put Suunto, Polar, Xiaomi Mi5 and “real” path in one map. Suunto is still recording very different trace comparing to rest.
    link to mygpsfiles.com

    Other issues:
    1. Touch screen is very sluggish and often doesn’t work properly. I wouldn’t mind, but there are only 3 hardware buttons, so there is no physical button for “back”.
    2. Steps counting is not reliable (Suunto counts even waving hands with no movement); Xiaomi Mi Band 2 (costs ~$30) counts steps almost perfectly.
    3. Watch has problem re-connecting to phone, when it is away from phone for a period of time.
    4. Notifications disappear after short time, there is no “history” log for notifications.

    Polar M400 costs $148, while Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR $554. Personally, I find this completely inadeqate in terms of both GPS accuracy (awful!) and short battery life. I’m very, VERY dissapointed by Spartan. It’s not working properly, as a “sport” product. Spartan series is advertised as “ultimate GPS gear for proffesional athletes”… no comment.

  51. Rupert Nanni

    Anyone else have an issue with the unnecessarily tiny font they’ve used in the menu’s? I imagine there are a lot of people like myself in their late 40’s to 50’s who are still very active, but who are struggling to see small print in dim light.

  52. Eyal

    I dont get it,
    I’m standing in one place, moving only my left hand, and the step counter is moving forward, and counts steps like i’m moving.
    How it could be?

  53. Robert

    I really don’t know. For know, I’m just waiting what support will tell me in my case and if they say something like “we don’t know” or “that is normal” I am returning Spartan and buying Fenix 3 HR.

    • mbo

      Jonathan Savage does some really serious assessments of GPS performance:
      link to fellrnr.com

      Maybe your unit is faulty.

    • Robert

      I will wait what support will tell me.
      But anyway, did you followed links that I provided? Do you think it’s normal?

    • mbo

      I followed your links and the GPS accuracy of your unit doesn’t look like expected. For my last run the SSSWHR was on par with the F3HR in a rather open environment., may be slightly better. Unfortunately, I don’t have an M400 to compare with.

    • Eyal

      Please update if you get any answer for that.

    • Robert

      Yeah, OK, I will update this thread, if I get any answer from Suunto tech support. Cheers.

    • Robert

      Good Morning Robert, and please accept my apologies for the long delay in our reply.
      Your message was rich in details and information (for which I thank you as well, since it allows us to avoid a long back and forth with you), and it took me some times to analyse it and come up with a response – I should have communicated this to you first, and once again I apologize for it.

      Coming to the details of your message, I’ll try to tackle all your points:
      – Battery life: the battery consumption you experienced seems to be within specifications, especially taking into consideration that all Lithium batteries take some recharge cycle to get to their full capacity: compared with our previous line of watches, the Spartans have a colour touch screen that consumes more battery even when the GPS is not active. Bluetooth connection consumes some battery, and of course using the watch to record moves will use more battery than otherwise.
      – About GPS accuracy: one thing that we know at this point is that the firmware handling Glonass is not yet optimized, and often causes some off-set during recording. We do suggest, for the time being, not to use it until there is a firmware update allowing it to be working fully (which will also improve GPS accuracy in challenging areas).
      Another thing that is important to notice is that GPS orbital data needs to be updated often – more so than with an Ambit, because of the different structure of the GPS antenna. I would suggest synchronizing the watch to get those data at least once every couple of days. You can see the latest update of the orbital data in “settings => general => about => SGEE.

      All this said, it would be very helpful if our developers could check the raw data recorded on your watch, in order to see if there is something else going wrong (since I agree with you that your GPS track have something that’s not working properly). In order for us to be able to do so, we would need the “logs” of the watch, which can be send via both the Movescount mobile app and Suuntolink on your computer. In order to send the logs:
      – Mobile app:
      1) Connect the watch to the phone
      2) Open the profile page, and on the bottom of it click on “send logs”
      3) Confirm in the pop-up windows that opens
      4) wait for a pop-up confirming that the logs have been sent before closing the app
      – Suuntolink
      1) Connect the watch to the computer and wait for the synchronization to complete
      2) Click on the COG wheel on the top left
      3) Select “Diagnostic => Send logs to Suunto”

      In order to correctly link this to your account, we would also need to have the email address with which you created a Movescount account

      Coming to your last points:
      – You can use the physical buttons to go back – you need to hold the middle button for 2 seconds to do so. Thank you for the feedback about the touch function: can I ask you if you noticed any pattern in this (any difference related to temperature, moisture, etc.)?
      – Step counting: thanks for this feedback. We know that the sensitivity is too high, and are working to decrease it and make the step counter more accurate
      – Could you elaborate on this a bit more? “Watch has problem re-connecting to phone, when it is away from phone for a period of time”. Do you mean that if the watch is too far for Bluetooth connection for a time, when it is brought close again connection is lost? If so, what did you find you needed to do to re-establish connection – was it done automatically but with a delay, or did you need to unpair and pair again the watch?
      – Lastly: I can confirm you that notifications work as you noticed. Thank you for the feedback about including a history logs for notifications – it’s something that we have received as a feedback from some customers, and certainly I will forward it to the developers so that they know there is demand for it for future updates.

      Sorry again for the delay, and thank you for your patience. I sincerely hope that analysing your logs can help us shed some light on the issues you have been experiencing, and I will try my best to make this happen as quickly as possible

      About the GPS: currently, starting with firmware version 1.7.30, Gps tracks have proven to be very reliable in general. Except for the incompleteness of the Glonass implementation on which we are working, your tracks do look worse than we would expect – and this is one of the reasons why I would really like for our developers to be able to analyze the raw data.

      I will keep you case open, so that as soon as you are able to send those logs I will forward them.

      MY ANSWER:
      //About GPS accuracy: one thing that we know at this point is that the firmware handling Glonass is not yet optimized, and often causes some off-set during recording. We do suggest, for the time being, not to use it until there is a firmware update allowing it to be working fully (which will also improve GPS accuracy in challenging areas).
      So, basically, I will put it in this way: “We (Suunto) are selling defective product for a full price”…

      SGEE is 2017-04-24T16:05:01Z

      Logs are sent.

      //Thank you for the feedback about the touch function: can I ask you if you noticed any pattern in this (any difference related to temperature, moisture, etc.)?
      I know that touch is invalid when my fingers are sweaty or watch is wet, but often even when it’s dry and my fingers are “normal” touch is not working properly.
      For example, when I want to swipe “back” it behave like “go forward”.
      When I want to swipe down/up it sometimes behave like “back”.
      Tap-tap (double “click”) is not working in every watchface (eg. after training is saved, I don’t want often to read statistics and laps, I just want to go straight to “home”).

      //Could you elaborate on this a bit more? “Watch has problem re-connecting to phone, when it is away from phone for a period of time”. Do you mean that if the watch is too far for Bluetooth connection for a time, when it is brought close again connection is lost? If so, what did you find you needed to do to re-establish connection – was it done automatically but with a delay, or did you need to unpair and pair again the watch?
      Sometimes, when I’m away from my phone and then come back near phone, notifications are not showing. Then I check Movescount app, and it show grey or red watch. I need to select another tab from side menu, then select “WATCH” tab again and manually force the app to reconnect to watch.

    • Robert

      2017-05-01 RUN:

      I was running in very open space (village area, almost no trees, no tall building, no dense architecture), as one may see in satellite view.

      First “lap” I was running on the left side of the road – exactly on the white lane marking. This road is pretty straightforward, no sharp curves. Green: real path of “lap one”, from start to mid-point. Blue: real path of “lap two”, from mid-point to finish. I’ve put an overlay on Suunto GPS track only in parts, where there were differences. UP TO 35 METERS!!!

      link to mygpsfiles.com

  54. Geebee

    Ray how much more time are you going to give Suunto to get this right? If the SSWHR isn’t ready then that’s what the review needs to say, just like any other product you review. Or if it is then great, let’s see it. Time to make the donuts!

    • They’ve pretty much gone past the time for changes at this point, it is what it is. It’s not just a case of me getting it all written up. I generally work on a week by week basis where my posts are mostly locked in stone by the Monday of that week, so if things aren’t ‘sorted’ by a Monday, then it usually slides to the next month. Especially so if other product announcements are in the queue.

      That said, I did have a conference call with Suunto and Valencell on Friday, and a few quirks came out of it that they’re tracking down – though that’s not really impacting my review (until it does).

      At this point I’d say things in general are rather variable. Sometimes I get good results, and sometimes I get horrible results. In general things are trending better over time, but nobody can explain why since nothing has changed in how I wear it. 3 weeks ago I would have said it was the worst optical HR sensor watch I’ve seen in terms of accuracy, ever. But now, it’s more of a mixed bag as I have gotten some recently good activities on it. So it can no longer hold that title. I’m honestly not yet sure what title to give it, as I really wish I could figure out what the heck the pattern is to why one day it’s great and the next not-awesome. :-/

    • Rupert

      I really wanted to like this watch. I’ve got years of info on Movescount but I’m sending it back today after two weeks of trying …. Check these pics. The graph is a walk with the Wrist HR in red against what the actual reading was with a Garmin 735XT and a Wahoo TickrX belt. They couldn’t be more different and yes, I’ve tried shaving my wrist, wearing it tight, higher up the arm …. tried it for walking, running, cycling. HR results always terrible.
      Below the graph is my optical pulse read with a Galaxy S6 and the same watch connected to a HR belt. I’m sitting down and know that the Samsung is correct.

    • Robert

      Rupert, that’s cool ;)
      You’ve got HR terribly wrong and (probably) GPS fine?
      I’ve got HR rock solid (comapred to Polar H7) and GPS terribly wrong.

    • Rupert

      Robert you’re right. The GPS was very accurate compared to the 735XT (both with Glonass activated). The Suunto would show if I even walked round a tree or took a couple of steps backwards …..

    • Robert

      mine HR

  55. Alettou

    Hi I said If I had anything new that I would comment here. I actually wound-up with two of these as it took a while for them to get delivered to Prague. So I ran with one on my left hand and one on my right hand. For the most part the optical HR was very good but once on a long low grade run downhill they both spiked, roughly at the same time and I guess it had a cadence lock as it was too high and spiked quite high before settling down again. I’m keeping the watch as I do a lot of interval training on steep hills and so far the optical HR is the only one I’ve used that gives me accurate results relatively quickly apart form the scosche of course. I find the touch screen to be quick and responsive and I love the combination of the buttons and touch and the ability to lock the screen and being able to tap to get the current time. Many many things are very well thought out on this watch and its imho the best looking of sports watches. Some things i’d like to see: 1) I don’t quite see the point of having 24 hour hr if it doesn’t tell you anything in the movescount app like resting heart rate over time at least. (is this in their development plan?). I think I saw a video on dcrainmaker last year where Valencell was at an event showing off technology and they were talking about getting more data from their optical sensors, I think even HRV was mentioned. It may be too much to ask for but that would be great. 2) The vibration alerts while running seem stronger than for notifications, likely there is a battery reason for this but if that’s the case then the software is already written differently and it could be an option for them to be strong or “normal”. 3) The alarm beeps and vibrates. Can we just have a vibrate option? Problems or not I am looking forward to the review. I hope the call with Valencell and Suunto helps with a firmware upgrade. Your hard work is appreciated.

    • Samuel

      Here are my 2 cents worth – tried the Ambit 3 with a HR chest strap and the Suunto Spartan Wrist HR together on a run – 23K, rough trail, about 600m ascent and descent, hot and humid – sweated a lot. I couldn’t figure out how to combine the plots but side by side you can see they’re pretty similar – looks OK to me

    • Samuel

      Oh – I should add – wore the Sunnto Spartan Wrist HR where I would normally wear a watch on my wrist and tight – tight enough to have the strap leave an imprint but not so tight it was uncomfortable or noticed it

    • Mirko Surf&Run

      Can you overlap the graphs in one single image? You can use DCAnalyzer (in this site, it doesn’t cost much) or use the free web site http://www.mygpsfiles.com (you open the two tracks, and then select heart rate (arrow left) and duration (arrow right)

    • Samuel

      Thanks for the tip! Here it is. Spartan Wrist HR in orange

    • Samuel

      Resend in jpeg format

    • mbo

      A few spikes here and there, but overall a solid performance of the oHRM. Sometimes the SSWHR really works well …

  56. mbo

    After reading about software issues with GLONASS, I switched it off for today’s bike ride. And I think the accuracy is improved with GPS only. The attached map shows a detail of the ride, when I crossed a small river. Look at the accuracy of the sharp turns.

  57. Todd Elsberg

    What watch would you recommend between the SUUNTO SPARTAN SPORT WRIST HR or the Garmin Fenix 5 Sapphire (47mm)? What watch do you consider to the be the best on the market right now? Thanks.

    • Samuel

      One more – 10k, about 500m elevation/descent, rough trail and concrete paths, very hot and sweaty. One very noticeable divergence towards the end but still pretty good.

    • Samuel

      Orange is Spartan Wrist HR

    • Samuel

      One more – hot and sweaty again (HK weather) – about 16K, 1,600m total ascent. Had a bit of a blow out around 2:40 so had to sit down a few times which made for an interesting test and the drop at the 1:45 mark was me sitting down to fix my bag – that’s my excuse :). A couple of obvious deviations (purple is Wrist HR) but again pretty good match. I think the Suunto Spartan HR is great. The chest strap HR and wrist HR measure HR in different ways so there’s bound to be some deviation. Another thing I like about the Spartan Wrist HR is it’s much lighter and less bulky than the Ambit 3 – wearing the two at the same time it’s really noticeable how much heavier the Ambit 3 is

    • John

      I know this reply is kind of late. I’m a Sunnto fan to the max. I logged many years with the Ambit Series. If I’m not mistaken, Ray stated in his Fenix 5 review that it will likely be his “every day watch”.

      After reading numerous reviews and considering a purchase of the Sunnto Spartan Ultra, I decided that Ray’s review of the Fenix 5 was convincing enough for me. I am now the proud owner of the Fenix 5 and have been extremely happy with it!

  58. JW

    Thank you for reviews. But more searching the reviews, more difficult to choose one of them. I’m considering vivoactive hr, fenix3 hr, fenix 5 or spartan sport wrist hr. In Korea, I can buy vivo=250$, fenix3hr=480$, fenix5=750$, spartan wrist hr=500$. Which do you recommend? Use for running, swimming, crossfit, HIIT without extra heart rate monitor. I prefer watches having accurate wrist heart rate monitor. Is spartan heart rate monitor beat garmin Elevate??
    And spartan’s GPS is the best? But spartan has issues some sync problems. bad app…

  59. Akis Cleanthous

    does the spartan sport measure water temperature when swimming? thanks

  60. Tanya

    Thank you!
    I have a question will a strap from Sport model fit an Ultra one? Ar those straps identical?

  61. Jon L

    Great review as usual, Does the Suunto Spartan Ultra Titanium also have a wrist based HRM?
    Which would you recommend please the Spartan Ultra Titanium or the Garmin 935


    • Markus G

      Jon, currently I’m testing a Spartan Sport Wrist HR vs. my Garmin 935. So you might be interested:

      The Suunto OHR (Valencell) works very bad for me. While the Elevate sensor of the Garmin hits the nails for me, the Suunto is off by 20 beats. It seems that it can somewhat sync to the correct value at some point in the run but if it stays that way, this will be the single reason to return the watch for me.

      GPS: The reason why I consider the Suunto (it has far less functionality than the 935) is the fact that I’m not 100% satisfied with the 935s GPS. It’s constantly measures too short by roughly 3% on trails because it cuts too much out of 90° turns or curvy trails below tree coverage. My old Ambit2 or even Garmin 305 do much better there.

      So far the Suunto seems to measure the distance more correctly while I have to say that the tracks do not necessarily look any better than the 935. They both have the good and bad trackings.

    • Alettou

      My experience on the Spartan Wrist HR is that is better than Garmin, especially on interval training or hill running. One thing everyone seems to agree on is that Suunto has better GPS data.

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