First Look: The Suunto 3 Fitness: Lightweight Non-GPS Sports Watch


Today, on the eve of CES opening its doors, Suunto cracked the lid on their latest watch, the Suunto 3 Fitness.  These small and incredibly lightweight watches are somewhat aimed to compete with the likes of Polar’s M430 watches, as well as Garmin’s Vivomove HR series, and Fitbit’s Blaze.

The main difference though to past Suunto watches? The Suunto 3 Fitness doesn’t have GPS, but does have a very competitive price tag ,given it’s more fancy looks. The watches will retail for $199, with some color variants costing $229 (USD or EUR).

Now, while they had them on hand at a media event, the units are still fairly beta, so some features couldn’t fully be shown. And, since it was indoors sitting atop a glorified card table – it’s hard to really run through anything in any meaningful detail.  Still, I’ll quickly whip through what’s new here.

Keep in mind that this is probably one of the least detailed product announcements we’ll see this week.  Many questions ended with answers that roughly translated to “To be announced”.  Thus, you might not get all the answers you want on the product quite yet.

The Details:


Before I dive into everything, if you want this whole post delivered in just under four minutes, complete with a walk-through of the user interface, then this video’s for you!  It’s my one-shot wonder, as efficient as a DCR Video Production™ gets!

Next, let’s talk about what we do know about the Suunto 3 Fitness (or more accurately: What they’re willing to tell us).  Here’s the highlights of new things:

Price: $199-$229
Release Date: Spring 2018
Weight: Really damn light
New Feature: Sleep Quality metrics
New Feature: Intensity-based guided workouts (automated)
New Feature: HR zone focus for workouts
New Feature: VO2Max Estimator
Battery: Suunto isn’t ready to disclose this yet

I realize this is a bit thin, but hey, it’s all I’ve got to work with (all they’re willing to say).  For the weight, they aren’t ready to give a precise final weight yet, and I didn’t bring a scale with me this evening.  However, I did have a FR645 with me, and it’s without question lighter than that (which is 42g).  Easily the lightest watch Suunto has ever made.  My guess would be about 30g, give or take.  But again, it’s just a sleep-deprived guess.

The price range is dependent on which color models you pick.  Some of them are more pricey at $229 (like the copper/gold bezel one), whereas the base is at $199.  All in there’s a few variants: Aqua with silver bezel, White with gold bezel, pink with silver bezel, black with silver bezel, and black with black bezel.

The key focus of this watch as told by Suunto folks is on intensity based workouts, which are guided workouts aimed at increasing your fitness level (which is judged in this case based on your VO2Max).  That explains why the new VO2Max estimator plays such as prominent role here.


You’ll see the planned workouts show up in a calendar-like view on the watch, allowing you to see what pain is coming in the days ahead.  If a workout is scheduled for today, then it shows up within the given sport profile.


Speaking of which, the unit is clearly aimed at runners and not so much multisport athletes.  It has an optical HR sensor in it (from Valencell), and it can connect to external HR straps.  But Suunto isn’t ready to specify if it’ll connect to cycling sensors (like a speed/cadence sensor).  It’s a safe bet it won’t connect to power meters though.  From a sport perspective it seemed to have numerous sports listed, including swimming.  But it wasn’t clear if that swimming profile will also track distance/pace/laps, or just a time placeholder.

Note that of course without the GPS piece, if the watch didn’t support sensors during cycling, it probably wouldn’t be terribly useful except for tracking time.


Ultimately though, it’s still a Suunto Spartan series watch from a feature standpoint (sans-GPS).  So all the common features you’d expect like activity tracking (steps/sleep), as well as interaction with mobile phones, and of course historical sport stats are all there.  And Suunto says there’s quite a bit more phone-based integration coming down the pipe that they’ll detail in the future.

The real question is whether the exclusion of GPS is the right choice here.  I think had there been GPS, this would have been a killer unit, meant to easily compete with the Polar M430, Garmin Vivoactive HR (and Vivoactive 3), and easily Fitbit Ionic. But without it, it ends up in kinda a weird competitive landscape competing against mostly non-fitness variants (since most fitness variants have GPS these days).  It might work, but not as well as if it had GPS in it.



GPS inclusion aside, I think the Suunto 3 Fitness shows Suunto is really getting a good grasp on what product areas might best play to their strengths, in much the same way that they nailed the Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR product last summer.  And which strengths would those be precisely? Making lower material cost devices that pack higher software value into them.

With it becoming harder and harder to compete with Garmin on features at the higher end (I.e. Fenix 5/FR935), Suunto appears to be turning to delivering less expensive options from a hardware standpoint at the mid-range, but that still pack in almost all the software features of their higher end watches.  The previously released Spartan Trainer has plainly shown that.  And more importantly than getting ‘just customers’ with these new models, is getting ‘happy customers’. People who believe (correctly) that they’re getting incredible value for their money.  The question becomes will the Suunto 3 Fitness be able to achieve that without GPS.

I’d wager the more stylish design and super lightweight design will definitely appeal to people who want a smartwatch, but don’t necessarily care about GPS (similar to Garmin’s Vivomove HR series, but with far more features).

Next though, as with any product on a multi-month release plan, the hard part now is delivering on that.  Though, given much of the base for the product already exists, I don’t see this being too outlandish.  It’s just a matter of cleaning up some of the new features, and then pushing it out the door.  Easy, right?

With that – thanks for reading!

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  1. A

    I think this is a good looking watch but I think it is a big mistake to eliminate GPS. At that price point , Garmin has many watches with GPS and HR.

    • @A. Yes I would agree with you. I would be surprised to find more than a handful of people who would disagree in the comments below.

      Probably, though, the intended purchasers might not read this kind of blog? Maybe that’s true? Although I doubt it.

      @Ray I thought the thrust was that everything incresaingly had to have everything? Even my new television has got an optical HRM on it and my car’s gear stick has GPS.

      Like @A I just can’t see this EVER working at a $200 price point. Sub $100 entry level or a tad more maybe. Just maybe those extra software bits justify a premium over $100.

    • Yeah, I agree, I in general think it’s a mistake to skip on GPS. But at the same time, I’ve also been surprised by the number of buyers for the Vivomove/HR (not huge, but enough), as well as the Fitbit Blaze (albeit, that’s an older unit these days).

      I do wonder if the super low-key announcement here is to test some of this out, and perhaps change direction. We’ll see, I’m meeting with Suunto execs later this afternoon. Curious to see there take.

      I don’t think $100 is plausible, but I see something like $139 as very viable. It does look pretty nice.

    • Mike Richie

      I wonder if the final watch won’t have GPS. Just not built into the watch, but using your phone. Maybe they are not saying anything about that since it is not done yet. If they do not even have that and no sensor support, then the price is definitely off.

    • Patrik

      Might be.
      “And Suunto says there’s quite a bit more phone based integration coming down the pipe that they’ll detail in the future.”

      Really wondering whether this is just another spartan but you need a phone to get GPS.

    • the5krunner

      $139 at a push

      If you are going for low margin business then the only longterm business model that works requires high volume. Are Suunto a high volume producer? Can they market to the higher volume market?…even that requires different marketing and distribution channels to a degree

      right i’m going to read your Scosche thing. I’ve been waiting for a year for that. it had better be good ;-) (the device not your write up)

    • JR

      My initial reaction was “no way,” but then I keep remembering: (1) how every mainstream review of a smartwatch with GPS typically says “it has onboard GPS (so you can track distance without a phone),” which suggests that the usefulness of GPS isn’t obvious to the average consumer, and (2) how whenever discussions start about Garmin and music, there are lots of Fenix/935 owners who say they don’t care about music because they always run with a phone. If people up at that end of the market are running with a phone, then it’s probably even more universal down at the bottom. And if people really are going to take their phone with them no matter what, then GPS is totally superfluous.

      Also, it seems like it isn’t that hard for Suunto to churn out these variants. Hopefully, the fact that it has a watch that’s going to be so dependent on the phone will spur them to really step up their smartphone integration on the Spartan platform.

    • Kannan Kanagaraj

      I think you are right, most runners carry their phone so why bother having GPS on a watch. Unless you are exploring new trail routes and you want a navigation on your watch, I don’t see why you would need it. The VO2Max calculation engine was implemented for Firstbeat, who are into HR performance measurement, so this watch will definitely be useful for long endurance runners and for swimmers.
      For this price tag and nice looks, I am sure it will attract more athletes towards Suunto fitness 3.

  2. Mr. T

    Footpod support? Or accelerometer only

  3. Susan

    I wish it had GPS. If it did it would be a serious contender for my new watch I’ll be buying soon.

  4. How about size? It looks to be an Spartan Trainer sibling, is that accurate?

    Reading the press release it seems that the $229 versions have stainless steel bezel AND buttons, while the cheaper ones will have stainless steel bezel but plastic buttons. Is that it, because is not stated in any way.

  5. Janne

    Hi Ray, do you think we see these new features in existing Spartan devices?

  6. Jordi

    It’d be interesting if it came, or could be paired, to a Cheap and accurate footpod like the Milestone pod.

    You’d get Spartan software, valencell HR and super accurate instant pace and distance for a really good price and a super light package.

    The downside, no run track on Strava. I wonder if it’ll show ascent/descent at least or if a poof could provide that.

  7. Freek

    If it had stryd support – with the accurate pace, power zones (maybe deriving VO2Max from power rather than from heartrate) then this could be really good! In fact, one could argue Suunto could make a watch without GPS and without OHR and for the user with a running power meter the experience might be terrific. Unfortunately the experience for Suunto would not be quite as terrific, but it could be a real threat to Garmins high end models. Interesting development! Freek

  8. Jordi

    Or connect to the new Movescount app that is in beta to get the gps track. After all, most of us take our phones anyways to listen to music or in case something happens.

  9. tom

    I wouldn’t call it a competitor to Polar M430 which is an excellent watch for running WITH GPS. No GPS would be more a contender to Polar A370. Yes, the Suunto does look better.

  10. Compete with the M430 or the Fitbit Ionic? For that the optical heart rate sensor should be working ! I tried and tested out all suunto, garmin and tom tom watches and other different Valencell powered devices like the tigra sport and non of them are useful.
    I talk about distance running and cycling. Well over 5 hours ! Also mountain use, like hill walking with poles or skiing.
    M430 or the M600, the Fitbits, the Mio or the old Basis Peak are all quiet reliable. However Suunto, Garmin, TomTom, Epson, they all just give false data at least once every 10 minutes ! This is the case in case of years of customer returns too, not only personal anecdotes !
    Sleep analytics and daily lifestress tracking ? Great ! Exercise ? Not so great !

  11. Cody L Custis

    “The Suunto 3 Fitness doesn’t have GPS, but does have a very competitive price tag given it’s more fancy looks.”

    Is there any justification not to include GPS, from a cost perspective?

  12. Gizgaz

    Could be a pretty smart device if it uses your mobiles GPS. Other than a race or open water swimming, I always carry a phone with me. Wonder if current speed displayed on the watch would be possible like this.
    Also, Has anyone used the new beta Suunto app that’s in beta. I really wanna see some screen shots.

  13. Paul

    The only target audience I can think of with this odd one is people who only workout in the gym. Gym only watch for your cross-fit, spinning, treadmill running etc…

  14. Markus

    It reminds me at the Suunto t3c/d models made a few years ago by Suunto.
    Small watches with training plans etc…

  15. Sparts

    Tay, an news on what they are doing with Movescount? It looks as though they are trying to push users towards this new Sportstracker App and website. I’m impressed with neither.
    It’ll be a real shame if Movescount is shut down.

  16. Clint

    I’m wondering if this is to bridge the gap Suunto has with the GPS watches, and their lack of either battery life or OHR, into the everyday fitness tracking segment.

    I really like my Ultra, but it has no OHR, and it’s too big for an everyday watch.

    I like the Baro, but I won’t buy it to supplant the Ultra because the Baro doesn’t have the battery life. Besides, I don’t use OHR for running; I have a Polar OH1 for that.

    I want to track everyday steps, HR, sleep, etc…and for that I don’t need GPS. The vast majority of time I don’t need GPS AND need something that’s not always snagging shirt cuffs or jacket cuffs. The Suunto 3 Fitness seems to fit that bill pretty well.

    As seen from the T6 days, there could be a GPS pod. Small form factor with the advancements in tech and battery chemistry? Hmm…

  17. Ze

    Did anyone notice it’s a decidedly Ambit-like case, with five buttons, not the Spartan (ha) three? There’s also the curve of the case back, whereas the Spartan’s is flat. Very much like someone took an Ambit, and removed the antenna module, which might explain the lack of GPS.

  18. Tim Grose

    So are they declaring GPS is dead or did they “forget” to include it?

    If pace is coming from WDR then it will be “approximate” being polite and “terrible” being not.

    • They’re declaring it not critical to success of this model.

      I disagree a bit given the specific price point it’s at. If it was lower, I’d agree with them. I discussed it at length with them at CES this week.

  19. Ben

    Hey Ray,

    Will those new screen and software updates also be available to the higher end spartan series ?


    • It hasn’t entirely been decided, or at least, a decision on announcement anyway. They seemed wishy-washy on it.

      That said, I’d be surprised if it doesn’t end up there.

      One tricky piece is most of the ‘new’ features discussed here are actually FirstBeat features they’re licensing from them (sleep quality, adaptive training plans, etc…). As such, money has to change hands on a per-unit basis for new units added.

    • indeed so

      simple maths:

      not many spartan3 x licencing cost = not much $ …*IF* there is no mimimum licence cost
      all spartans so far x licencing cost = quite a lot of $

      a friend of a friend of a friend (ie not suunto or FB) told me that the licencing cost for the adaptive training was a few tens of thousands of $. suunto prob have a better negotiating position.

      otherwise: too many unanswered questions

    • Yeah, I had a meeting with FirstBeat at CES (one of my last meetings before heading out). It was interesting learning a bit more about their general business model, plus the tech pieces too of course.

  20. Zsolt

    Based on the design and name of it I think they targeted those who spend more time in gym than in outside.
    For them the GPS is not necessary.

    However they would reach more consumers (generating more revenue) if the they provided GPS module as an option (e.g. for +50$).
    Like Garmin FR645 will be available also without music.

    Moreover sometimes GPS modules in phones work better than in smartwatches.

    And I would welcome if the Firstbeat and Suunto agreed in a special subscription fee for users who need the HRV-based features. Then they could buy any of them as an In-App purchase.

    will Suunto 3 Fitness have gyrosensor too ?

  21. John

    Hi Ray. Do we know if you can use all 70-80 some odd sports profiles, or is it a much smaller number of profiles? Not having GPS, I would imagine, would make the battery last a lot longer than something like the Garmin VA3

  22. Thomas


    I think this is a very interesting watch. I currently own the Garmin VA 3. Overall I’m very happy with it. I purchased it recently after selling my Fenix3HR. I know that many argue that the lack of GPS is a killer. My first thought was the same. But I’m really not sure after thinking about it more. As others have mentioned many bring their phones along for the run – so GPS should be possible if you want it.
    The thing I like the most are the Firstbeat gizmos. The adaptive training plan, sleep, recovery – very nice.
    I constantly worry about training to much or to little. This would sort of put a personal coach on my wrist….
    I’m really not that knowledgeable about the difference in accuracy between GPS and accelerometer based distance tracking, although I would assume GPS beeing more accurate. But it’s not like I spend hours looking at my GPS track when I get home…..
    I think for many the distance is not that big of a deal…..
    So if they decide to add GPS through a phone that would be more than enough for me.
    Just my personal opinion of cause.

  23. Cristian

    Polar F11 deja-vu :).

    1. Take Polar’s VERY old watch. Get inspiration from the “Keeps you fit” program with daily training sessions.
    2. Dress it up with sleep metrics, Bluetooth, steps, misc bits and pieces
    3. Fire up the sales guys
    4. Profit

    I wish Polar will wake up and revive their very appreciated fitness class of HRMs (F11, F55, FT80). If not, at least have Suunto copy the advanced version of the training program (FT80) not the ancient F11 one.

  24. Cristian

    How is the build quality?

    It the bezel steel? Most importantly, is the watch face glass or plastic?


  25. GM

    Hi, any update? is there an estimated launch date?