# Hands-on: The New Suunto 9 Multisport GPS Watch

Today Suunto announced their next generation series of high-end multisport watches, the Suunto 9.  This line is designed to be the successor to the Suunto Spartan Ultra range of GPS watches, which is the most expensive offering Suunto has in their stable.  While the Suunto 9 is the replacement for the Spartan Ultra, look at these changes more akin to evolutionary than revolutionary.  Still, there’s some pretty cool stuff in there – none of which is being done by their competitors, and all of which are laser-specific in them understanding their core target audience of hardcore endurance athletes.

I’ve been using the Suunto 9 for almost a month now, across running, cycling, and hiking within the Alps.  This post isn’t an in-depth review, as that’ll come sometime in July, after the company starts shipping the final software/hardware versions of the Suunto 9 on June 26th.  Until then, this is just an early first look at the new features and what’s unique to this watch series.

With that – let’s dive into it!

### What’s new:

It’s likely obvious that Suunto is in a tough pickle when it comes to finding a way to match the features of their competitors, either from a hardware (such as music or contactless payments) or software standpoint.  So in the case of the Suunto 9 – they don’t try.  Instead, they’ve focused on areas their competitors aren’t.  Some of these areas may not be seen as super sexy compared to streaming music, or box-splashing graphic worthy.  But I suspect for Suunto’s core audience, they’ll greatly appreciate and find value in these features – perhaps more so than some of the more common features being added to smartwatches today.

I’ve put together a fairly complete video diving into all the new features:

Let’s dive right into it with a bulleted list as well, and then I’ll circle back throughout the post with more detail on each of these.

– Added FusedTrack: Ability to get GPS tracks without GPS data (seriously, and seriously cool)
– Switched GPS chipset providers from SIRF to Sony
– Addition of new battery performance options
– Ability to dynamically change battery options mid-workout to get to finish
– Ability to go into super-low power chrono mode to finish workout
– Swappable bands using industry standard 24mm straps
– Slightly bigger buttons (depth), different bezel styling too
– Added optical heart rate sensor from Valencell (latest generation 1.2 sensor set)
– Added 24×7 continuous HR tracking
– Now compatible with new ‘Suunto’ mobile app, and Sports Tracker based web platform
– Price is 599EUR/$649USD, and for$50/50EUR you can add chest HR strap

Do note that interestingly, the new ‘Adaptive Training’ schedules/load bit from the Suunto 3 Fitness is not on the Suunto 9 series.  I suspect the main reason there is that adaptive training bit is a bit…well…basic, and Suunto doesn’t really see it aligning as well to this higher end unit.  Unfortunately that misses a key tidbit that Garmin has noted with the Fenix 3/Fenix 5: A crapton of people are buying these watches that aren’t ultra-endurance athletes. Instead, they’re buying them because they like the rugged look and want something for less crazy athletic endeavors.  That adaptive training piece would still be very much applicable to them.

In addition, note that the Suunto 9 also gained all of the features from the Spartan series, including most notably the new feature updates that were just rolled out over the past two weeks.  These included:

– Addition of extended workout targets (i.e., duration/intensity/etc…)
– Addition of temperature data to barometric altimeter units

What’s nice about these new features is that while they are core to what’s going on within the Suunto 9 series, it’s not something they withold from existing Suunto Spartan users.  You’ll notice that the vast majority of the non-firmware changes seen above are really driven by new hardware in the Suunto 9.  So aspects like the battery switching and FusedTrack are primarily from the new GPS chipset capabilities.  While the new custom battery modes could technically likely be done on other watch firmware, Suunto at least gives you the complete list of settings so that you can replicate it within a given sport mode pretty easily.

Finally, it’s worth noting (and something I’ll dive into more in my in-depth review), that the Suunto 9 pairs to both of Suunto’s platforms. Yes, they have two platforms.  The first is the tried and trusted Movescount platform that’s been around for a while and is what most Suunto watches use.  The second though is the rebranded Sports Tracker platform, which is what the new ‘Suunto’ mobile app connects to. This is the platform that the Suunto 3 Fitness uses (exclusively).  However, that platform is a bit limited (for example, you can’t sync to any 3rd party apps like Strava or TrainingPeaks).  Nor can you do much in the way of analysis.

Thus, I’d recommend using Movescount and not the new Suunto app.  That does mean you won’t get some of the additional activity tracking and sleep data as cleanly presented in the mobile app, but it does mean you get a halfway decent backend platform.  Suunto says they’ve largely stopped investing in Movescount, and all future investments will go towards the Sports Tracker platform.  Personally, I think they’re heavily underestimating how much work it’s going to take to get that platform up and running to be acceptable to this specific crowd (endurance sports folks).  But, maybe I’ll be proven wrong.

Finally, if you want a complete walk-through of the entire user interface, look no further than the following video:

Ok, with that, let’s dive into the specifics of the new features.

### The New Battery Features:

Suunto says one of the biggest challenges they’ve had from a support standpoint is how to give guidance to ultra-distance athletes on how to get the best battery life from their devices.  The product team would come up with all these recommendations, which were essentially just a series of settings to enable/disable.

But that meant the settings were tied to a specific sport profile, rather than a more general concept.  Meaning that you specifically had to pre-configure these all into a specific sport mode, and couldn’t easily just use a different sport mode with your special battery setups.  So Suunto aimed to separate battery modes from sport modes via what they dubbed their ‘Intelligent Battery Modes’.  These are three and a half battery modes which simplify how battery drain occurs, regardless of sport mode selected.

The way it works is that when you go to start a workout/exercise, you’ll see a battery mode option prominently displayed in the upper edge.  Pressing the upper right button toggles through the different battery modes:

This battery mode then corresponds with a slew of settings attached to it, but it also corresponds to the hours remaining.  Even more importantly, it does real-time math on how much battery juice you have left to let you figure out if your planned activity will go over the duration required.  For example, you can see below how many hours are left for the different modes on my watch when I took this photo:

The three modes are ‘Performance’, ‘Endurance’, and ‘Ultra’.  There’s also a ‘Custom’ mode that allows you to find some middle-ground between these modes if you need it.  The different GPS accuracy modes roughly correspond to the number of seconds between refresh rates.  ‘Best’ accuracy is every second, while ‘Good’ accuracy is every 60 seconds on the Spartan.  And ‘OK’ accuracy is every 120 seconds.  Also note that in both Endurance and Ultra modes, they use FusedTrack for Running and Trail Running modes (more on that in the next section).

The claimed battery life for a totally full charge on the watch is the same as the top of the screenshots below – 25 hours for Performance, 50 hours for Endurance, and 120 hours for Ultra.

Here’s the full chart of what each mode does:

As you can see, there’s actually a fair bit of tweaking going on here to get to these battery levels, especially in the case of the Ultra one.  It’s turning off the touchscreen and Bluetooth communications. It’s reducing the brightness down to 10%, and killing off optical HR (wrist HR), as well as reducing the number of colors the display uses.  All of these tweaks add up.

But, things actually get even more interesting than this. Suunto has added two layers of mid-activity battery switching. The first layer triggers when you reach 10% battery remaining, and will ask you if you want to switch to a lower battery mode – for example, setting down to ‘Endurance’ from ‘Performance’.  It’ll also give you how much battery life you’d get out of that.  So you can make the call as to whether that battery life switch is overkill, or not enough.

But it even goes a step further than that.  Rather than the watch dying entirely, when the battery gets to an even lower level the unit will toggle into a ‘Chrono mode’, which shuts off everything except a simple timer.  It turns off the accelerometer and all other functions to simply give you the total finish time for your activity.  This means that if all else fails, the total time that’s shown on Movescount and in the logbook of your watch will be correct, no matter what.  Obviously you hope to never get to that point, but at least it’s there.

This concept is roughly akin to what Garmin does on some of their Edge cycling units in going into a low-battery profile mode turning lots of things off, but, a wee bit more drastic.

Now Suunto says they ideally don’t want people to get into that pickle to begin with, so they’ve added one last battery related feature: Proactive battery recharge notifications. The Suunto 9 watch will actually learn which days of the week you tend to do your long runs/rides/hikes and proactively remind you the day prior if it doesn’t think you’d have enough battery to complete that.  So if you tend to do an 8-hour workout each Sunday, and you only have 35% battery life on Saturday afternoon, it’ll remind you to give your watch a charge.

I’ve been charging my watch a bit too frequently to have this trigger yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing it happen in real-life.

### FusedTrack (GPS without GPS):

Probably the most technologically innovative thing to come to the Suunto 9 is FusedTrack.  Suunto has long since used the ‘Fused’ branding for other areas, such as FusedSpeed and FusedAlti.  The concept behind both of these was simple: Start with a baseline of GPS data, and then fuse it together with other sensor data, such as wrist-based accelerometer data to get the best possible real-time pacing data – thus FusedSpeed.

FusedTrack though takes that to entirely different level.  The primary purpose here isn’t technically to give more accurate GPS data.  No, it’s to give GPS data where no GPS data exists.  See, when you need the Spartan to go upwards of 120 hours of ‘GPS-on’ time, that means it reduces the GPS update frequency.  In this case, down to once every 60 or 120 seconds (Endurance or Ultra modes).  That means if you were to plot GPS points, you’d get a less than awesome track in the woods while running.  Sure, it’s mostly fine for hiking since you’re moving slow enough – but not great for switchbacks and such while running.

So what FusedTrack does is take those GPS points every 60/120 seconds and uses the compass, gyro, and accelerometer to fill in the data.  All of which makes an astounding amount of logical sense.  If you think about it, if they have the GPS starting location, then they can roughly figure out everything else from that point forward.

Thus, to illustrate this I give you the following track I just created this morning (for realz).  It’s got the Suunto Spartan Ultra in 60-second GPS mode, then the Suunto 9 in 60-second GPS mode (aka Endurance mode), and then a Garmin FR935 in regular 1-second GPS mode as a reference.

What you’re looking at above is mind-boggling.  At first glance it may look like a bit of a messy thing, but in reality it’s almost a thing of beauty.  Here’s what each track is doing:

Purple – Garmin FR935: This is recording at 1-second intervals with GPS+GLONASS
Red – Suunto 9: This is within ‘Endurance’ mode sampling GPS once every 60 seconds, and using gyro/accelerometer/compass data in between
Teal – Suunto Spartan Ultra: This is set to 60-second GPS sampling mode, with nothing in between.

To set the baseline, the FR935 at 1-second intervals is without question exactly where I ran. That’s fine.  But what’s incredible is that Suunto 9 track. That’s astoundingly close. Sure, it meanders a few times on the north side of the park, undershooting a bit in one section, but then clearly corrects itself again.  It undershoots slightly again elsewhere, but otherwise is amazing.

The older Spartan (teal) doing its fix every 60-seconds is, of course, cutting across vast swaths of swamp and trees (and ends prematurely in the water since it doesn’t get its next 60-second fix).

I have no doubt Suunto will continue to refine this further (mostly because they’ve said so), but frankly: This is effin’ incredible.  GPS…without GPS.

Note that it’s limited specifically to running and trail running, since they need higher quality (read: consistent) pacing data than a normal walk or hike would give.  And cycling, of course, doesn’t give you enough accelerometer data to figure out the speed portion (and thus, distance).

Also, Suunto warned that it’s incredibly important you calibrate your compass with almost nothing nearby.  Like, go to a field and calibrate it.  If you calibrate it next to a building or under power lines or what-not, you’ll get crap for results.

Now, Suunto says their visions are actually more grand here.  They’re hoping to have this implemented in the openwater swim mode as well by the time they start shipping the Suunto 9.  In doing so they hope to have the most ‘hyper-accurate’ GPS swim tracks out there.  No problem, I head tomorrow to beachy locations for the next few weeks…so I’m all geared up to test that!

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

### Testing the Watch:

I’ve been putting the watch through its paces since mid-May, though at present while the hardware is indeed production level, it’s still on variants of beta software.  Like any beta product, you occasionally see oddities that hopefully aren’t there by the time it releases/ships, in this case later this month on June 26th.

Still, I figured I’d go through some of the testing I’ve been doing.  First up in that lineup has been some hiking in the Alps last week.  There’s no better place to put watches to the test than the mountains around Chamonix.  Even on nice warm Spring days this region still has the ability to wreak havoc on almost any product, production or beta.

In my case, I focused my efforts on two different hikes, each between 3-5 hours. Both of which were all-climbing, all the time.  The average gradient on the climb the first day was 16%, climbing a total of ~3,000ft/1,000m in less than 2 hours.  But how well did the Suunto 9 do in terms of tracking that climb (Day 1)?  Let’s start with the elevation gain.

Below I took on this hike a number of units, including the Suunto Spartan Ultra and the Garmin FR935 – both of which are also plotted below against the Suunto 9.  As you can see from an elevation standpoint, things were very close in terms of tracking.  For all the units I made them figure out their own altimeter data.  Sure, there were altimeter markers readily available, but I like to force GPS watches to figure out the right starting elevations. Most people aren’t lucky enough to have boatloads of elevation markers at every trail they stumble across.

You can see above that the two Suunto units are clustered closest together, and then the FR935 a bit offset.  They track similarly, but just offset.  In order to figure out which is correct, here’s the chairlift I walked right up to (I walked right next to it after taking the pic).  In this case it said 2075m, and the highest point on the Suunto 9 appears to be 2009m (so about 66m short if that’s to be believed).  The Garmin unit tops out at 2067m (or about 8m short).  Again, hard to say for absolute certain if that altitude is truly correct, but that gives you something to ponder.

Next, let’s take a look at the GPS track.  In this case, the Suunto Spartan Ultra bowed out early from a battery life standpoint.  I apparently didn’t charge it enough.  But, this would have been the perfect scenario for the new Suunto 9 battery recommendations, as it could have wound-down the battery refresh rates during the hike to make sure it got to the end, instead of ending slightly early.

Now, as you can see above, there’s one GPS track that crapped itself – and that’d be the Suunto 9 (in purple).  Despite saying it had GPS lock in the village, it actually didn’t.  Or, at least if it did it wasn’t right.  The Suunto 9 GPS track started half-way up the side of the mountain, and then was essentially wrong for almost the entire hike to the top.  A hike that lasted a few hours, more than enough time for even the worst initial acquisition to sort itself out.  It’s not clear why this happened, but it did manage to somewhat fix itself on the way back down.

Whereas the red track and green track of the Ultra and FR935 are nearly perfect compared to each other going up.  Correct, I don’t precisely follow the trail on the way up (or way down), due to avalanches that had taken out a portion of the trail and hadn’t been fixed yet this year.

Next, let’s look at Day 2 of Alps testing.  In this case, it was another big climb, complete with the course plotted ahead of time into the unit.  First, here’s the elevation graphs from Day 2, comparing the units:

Again, not too shabby here, all’s good insofar as tracking at the same offsets. There is an offset of about 90m between the two of them in terms of initial lock.  The two Suunto’s say the same thing (logical, since most brands will mimic each other), compared to the Garmin.  Since I started within a few meters of the lift, it was actually easy enough to look-up this starting elevation value – which was 1,220m.  The Suunto 9 specifies the starting value as 1,225m (so 5m off).  Not too shabby!

(In case you’re wondering why there’s a gigantic flat-line atop, that’s where I shot videos and photos for a slew of products for a long-ass time.)

And then the GPS graphs? Ahh, much better this time!

We can zoom in on some of the more complex trail parts in the densest of forests to see how it handled:

And…well…they’re all roughly the same. None of them are straight as an arrow perfect, but neither was the trail. They’re all in sub-standard GPS conditions against rock cliffs and tall/dense trees.

But what’s most important is that none of them are hundreds of meters off the trail.  Each is generally within a few meters of the trail.  Note in the case of placement the Suunto 9 was on my right wrist, and the Suunto Spartan Ultra and Garmin FR935 were tied atop my backpack facing upwards/outwards.

So what might have changed between these two?  I’ve got no idea.  Sometimes units need to GPS ‘soak’ after being reset (as was the Suunto 9 shortly before the Day 1 hike), though, it’s unclear if that was it.  Usually, even in doing a GPS soak (which is a fancy way of saying let a watch see/track GPS for a while outdoors), it would resolve itself in tens of minutes, not hours.  It’s something I hadn’t seen an issue with elsewhere though.

I’ve done runs and rides in Paris, Helsinki, Italy, and Amsterdam, and only this once in the Alps did the GPS stumble (and that was within an hour of totally resetting the watch for a firmware update). It’s something I’ll be watching for – and tracking closely to see how well it handles over the next month or so.

Speaking of tracking, what about optical HR?  I don’t have quite as much comparative data there yet.  For my hikes, I wasn’t really focused on HR tracking too much, and some of my runs have been more about GPS than HR.  Coming off the Suunto 3 Fitness, where the optical HR sensor wasn’t quite as good as I’ve seen in the past, it’s something I’ll be diving into more closely between now and the full in-depth review.

### Product Comparison Photos:

Here’s a look at how things size up compared to the existing Suunto Spartan Ultra.  Suunto 9 is on the left on all photos.

And from a weight standpoint, I’ve got that too:

So as you can see, it’s just a tiny bit heavier than before, but not too much.

### Wrap-up:

Suunto sees the Suunto 9 as the top layer of their watch series sandwich, with the bottom layer being the recent Suunto 3 Fitness watch.  It probably won’t take a marketing genius to figure out how they might name a different series of watches to slot into the middle of this.  After all, the Suunto 9 is designed to be the successor to their top-end Suunto Spartan Ultra models, while the Suunto 3 Fitness is designed to be their least expensive models.  Missing in the gooey middle are successors to units like the Suunto Spartan Trainer and Suunto Spartan Sport lineups, which today are distinct units.  it remains to be seen if those merge into something else, or still somehow remain separate.

Suunto’s biggest marketing challenge going forward though will be the naming itself.  Suunto envisions the Series 9 watches to ultimately get generational appendages. In fact, the technical name given to retailers for the Series 9 watch is actually listed as ‘Generation 1’.  In my conversations with Suunto, they are aiming to move to an Apple-like model of iPads (or Wahoo with KICKR’s) whereby all models have a year or generational suffix on them.  Personally, I’m not really sure that works – Apple or otherwise (especially otherwise).

Nonetheless, marketing aside, I can say that while the Suunto 9 isn’t a revolutionary change, its modest updates will be appreciated by many, especially those in the longer-range endurance crowd that really do need significant battery life to make it to the end of their races.  Between the battery plans and the FusedTrack, those folks should get what they’re looking for.  Additionally, those that have long-wanted the optical HR added to the Suunto Spartan Ultra, now you have your wish too.

I think if nothing else here, the message from Suunto is more simplistic: We’re going to beat to our own drum.  And by that I mean they clearly aren’t going the direction of others by adding in music, contactless payments, apps, and a slew of other features that are quickly becoming standard issue in watches.  Instead, they’re trying to cater very specifically to a segment of the endurance population that’s out there for more hours than it takes to watch an entire TV season.  Whether or not there’s a big enough market there remains to be seen.

Still, I like the innovation that Suunto is injecting in this area, and I’m looking forward to my continued testing of it over the next month or so, ramping up to a full review sometime in July.  By then I’ll be able to dig more deeply into the new modes and the new GPS chipset to see how they stand the test of more workouts (including more time back in the Alps).

With that – thanks for reading!

Update: You can now pre-order the Suunto 9 watch via Clever Training (either as a standalone unit or with the HR strap bundle). Using DCR Coupon Code DCR10BTF saves you 10%, plus, you’ll get free US shipping.  All of which helps support the site here!

1. Steve

I wonder if it would be possible to get the FusedTrack stuff working for cycling when you have a speed sensor? In fact, it should be easier as you’ve presumably got much less movement of the wrist.

• likepend1

speed data is not the same as acceleration data (3D). I gess the higher the acceleration (running) the better the results.
They probably use a 6 axis sensor (3 for acceleration, 3 for the gyro), so movement is pretty important.

• BartW

A 60 sec location fix combined with Speed and direction are enough for FusedTrack on a bike. However i don’t know if there are any 24hour + races/events which need this. However relative easy to build into the watch when riding though tunnels.

• link to aukweb.net there are plenty here

• Jaka

I think some folks need to understand how acceleration data works around here.
If you start accelerating and get to a certain constant speed and heading, the sensor will show zero acceleration, meaning the speed is constant in the direction you’re heading. If any of the variables for acceleration in any direction changes, that means you’re changing heading and/or speed.
It’s actually really simple, just a lot of data to work with every second – I’m sure the chips in watches these days can handle that much.
You just need – forward-back, up-down and left-right. The heading and speed comes from the combination of all six parameters. The sensor probably just outputs three values negative through zero to positive X, negative through zero to positive Y and negative through zero to positive Z. From there on it’s just simple vector calculations.
So it should not work worse for slow paced activities or cycling, it should work the same for running, walking, skiing, cycling, etc.

• Steve

Well, I was referring to a bike speed sensor (i.e. fits on the rear wheel and counts revolutions, multiplied by the circumference gives the distance travelled per revolution and the time taken), not an accelerometer.

Combined with an accurately-calibrated compass, it should be pretty trivial to work out the track in theory.

• For cycling you would need the speed sensor as Steve noted in order to get speed and thereby distance, and thus the track. Without distance, you have no track.

An accelerometer alone can’t tell you distance while cycling because once you’ve accelerated it has no context of the end-state speed. Whereas when running, it’s actually doing the same math that watches have been doing for year using WDR for pace/distance.

• Paul S.

Depends on how good the accelerometer is. If it were perfect and the algorithms using the acceleration data were perfect, you wouldn’t need GPS at all. The equations are simple (excuse the TeX notation, and assume v, x, and a are vectors), v = v_0 + \int a dt, x = x_0 + \int v dt. So you assume that you start from rest (as we all do) so v_0 = x_0 = 0, and integrate away. The problem is that there’s error in a and error in using difference equations for the integrals (as, of course, you need to), so that will propagate, and if you don’t take a fix at all error will eventually swamp the solution. So you use these equations between GPS fixes. The GPS fix gives you the new x_0 easily enough, but as you say, a good v_0 is impossible to get without a speed sensor from GPS points taken every 60 s. I assume they just guess that runners maintain a constant pace, while that’s less likely for a cyclist given terrain and winds.

If you want to try to break FusedTrack, you should run on hills, or somewhere else you’ll have trouble maintaining a constant pace (or simply vary your pace on the flats). Figure out what assumptions they’re making and break them.

• TimK

“An accelerometer alone can’t tell you distance while cycling because once you’ve accelerated it has no context of the end-state speed.”
Technically, a 3-axis accelerometer is all you need since speed is integral of acceleration, and distance is integral of speed.
Once you’ve accelerated, if you maintain zero acceleration you maintain constant speed and stay on the same direction. To change the speed and/or direction, you need to accelerate, and presumably your accelerometer can detect that and your software can integrate it in order to calculate new speed and direction.

• Mark

There’s vibrations when riding a bike that will show up as acceleration, and those sensors sample every now and then. Plus, you move your arms and change orientation of the wrist. And then on a bike, within 60 seconds you could be 500m from the last point, and have changed direction.

• JohnnyMoves

Running up hills or anywhere else you wouldn’t normally be able to maintain a steady pace won’t “break” FusedTrack. It works perfectly in those conditions.

• Andrew

Hi Jaka.
I think my (second) maths/physics degree at least gives me an in on to how acceleration (data) works. If you start accelerating you have a non-zero third derivative of a position vector known as jerk. link to en.m.wikipedia.org
All the best
Drew

• Ryan MacDougall

@dc Rainmaker. Found this very interesting statement from Amer Sports. Basically it onboarding a whole bunch of execs from ANTA sports. looks like Suunto(Amer Sports) is being sold to the Chinese.

• Correct, Amer sports was purchased back a number of months ago. Not sure if it closed entirely or not yet.

2. Robin

That fused track “gps” track is incredible!

3. Eddie

Are those “bars” on the sides of the screen/bezel extra buttons? or purely aesthetics?

• Paul D

Purely aesthetics

4. andrejsg

Thank goodness they avoided going the music route.. Phew. Suunto knows it’s market and that’s a good thing. My only wish would have been a thinner and lighter version, but this will do.

• Donnie Lawson

Why are you glad they avoided that? Ultra endurance athletes certainly listen to music while training and racing in the mountains. To me it seems silly to ignore that.

• Phil

Because I think if they added that too, the watch will get even more crowded than it already is and at some point annoying to use..

• Kyle

Whats the problem with adding the OPTION….. If you dont want to use it dont….if a person wants to use it they can. I dont see what the problem is with having an option.

• Tom

Do that only if:
– Good implementation. Support for offline Spotify and such.
– Does not interfere with making watch in general unstable.
– Does not require additional software resources to fix music bugs which would have been better used to make core functionality of the watch better.

Every additional feature added comes with a price. Music, Payments, control your GoPro etc will require a huge maintenence. It’s gonna be more important to add an additional music service or supoort for a new gopro camera instead of improving the core training stuff. I don’t want a watch where issues like instability isn’t prioritized.
So it’s not as simple as providing an option. Just saying.

• Andrew

I think music would reduce battery life through normal energy BT transmission which would be contrary to the philosopy of the device. Music is great in the gym or on a boring safe run. I would want to be aware of my surroundings where my safety was concerned such as cycling or hill running.

• Spun

That’s true!
I got warned by a buzzard’s screaming but could dodge, when being attacked on my way back.
If I had listened to music, I would have been scratched by his claws and wondered what it was.

5. Dan G

I never know why some people say they don’t like products including the year or generation in their names. Makes perfect sense to me.

6. Bobbi

Mh, I think a lot of Spartan users will unlike Suunto for that move (me included).

They still have so many gaps to close in the current software compared to Suunto Ambit series and competitor watches. I am still not happy compared to my Ambit3. Easy things which makes the usage in some points very frustrating.

Are there any changes on the display itself, e.g. increased contrast in a darker environment?

What I miss as well is a clear roadmap from Suunto (products and also software wise). What will happen with Movescount in future for exmaple?

• TIll

I don’t dislike this at all. As far as I can see, product innovation is necessary to keep Suunto competitive, and that also ensures that my Spartan watch will continue to receive updates (and the new software features in this article are a case in point).

If given the choice between the feeling that the watch I have remains at the “top of the range” but stagnant, or improving, I choose the latter.

7. Stan

Still no app support? 🙁

• Paul D

Out of interest, what sort of apps do you want to run? I’ve found with the large number of additional metrics the Spartan line now supports that I don’t have anything left requiring apps. ie, all I used to use it for was derivative metrics that the Ambit didn’t natively support rather than complex apps.

• Stan

Moved to Fenix5. You have Strava app for downloading routes (created from workouts – yours or others), training peaks app, strava live segments, custom watch faces, custom data fields and so on.

It is more interesting that they had this functionality in past models (peak 3) and don’t have it now, as all other watches are moving in this direction.

• AW

You can import a route from Strava in about 30-40 seconds. Not a big deal there.

The custom watch faces on the Fenix are all junk, to be honest, and none of them hold a candle to the outdoors watch face on the spartan lineup.

Just one man’s opinion.

• Tarkki

Race time estimation as an example. I’done many off those for different lenghts of the races.
As well as orthostatic hearth test, walk-run app and many others which are possible with suuntoapps and Ambit series

• James

I like the surfing app

8. Dave

Yeah…still feeling a little like a duped beta-tester over here with my Spartan Ultra. Yes, it’s improved a bit over time…but it never should have had to. I’d potentially look at this if there was a discount on offer for SSU owners…but that seems highly unlikely.

9. Matthew B.

So, if I’m reading your “custom mode” correctly, you can get 42 hours of battery life in a similar mode to what the SSU or Ambit3 Peak provided (best accuracy, no HR)?

Related question: can you customize all aspects of battery life for custom mode or just the few things in that last mode screen?

• I can’t see where the custom battery mode can be amended – I shall have to look closer.
It CAN be selected as a mode for a sport you are about to start or switched to during that sport

there is currently no option on movescount to change battery modes

ie it looks like what you see in the image in the article is what you get (for now)

• Jimmy Kane

You have 3 modes: predifined and customizable up to a point:

– Performance
– Endurance
– Ultra

You also tho have custom mode as well that can be 100% customized even to do the same like the above mentioned

10. Rob Montgomery

$599,$649 with belt

11. Steve Aitken

Typo in Wrap Up paragraph “Suunto 9 as the top later of a their watch series sandwich, with the bottom layer…” Don’t stress though,-if I was putting out this many words a week, there’d be red pen all over the place. Keep up the great work!

12. FJ

Hi Ray

This doesn’t look like one of your super in depth reviews. Not sure if more is in the pipeline? In any case, things I’d love to know:

* Photos comparing the Suunto 9 with their competition, specifically with the Garmin Fenix 5 line (all three sizes if possible)
* Does it come in any other colours? because, white… no thanks. Black could look smart enough to wear as a daily watch
* Does it measure HR while swimming? that’s one major thing I think is missing from the Fenix that I currently have
* Does it also work as a “fitness tracker”? I particularly like how my Fenix tracks sleep and resting HR

I get the impression this watch is 100% focused on the athletic side of things. But Suunto may be forgetting the vast majority of athletes are in the “amateur” category, with jobs, families, limited training time, lives… Bottom line is, if I cannot wear it 24×7 for everything, I’m not interested. Fenix 5 comes very close, but still room for improvement.

Super awesome new FusedTrack feature, hopefully they can make it work with cycling. This would solve one of the problems with the Fenix: battery life. As a 24×7 watch, when I start throwing cycling in the mix, I have to start thinking about making sure it’s fully charged before a ride, and always use Ultratrac mode 🙁

• Matthew B.

Only the two colors (for now). No HR while swimming. Does function as fitness tracker (steps, resting HR, sleep — not sure about flights of stairs). Also don’t know where that fitness data syncs to (MFP?).

• Hi FJ-

Correct, this isn’t a review (as noted in the first and last sections), it’s just an early hands-on preview of sorts until a review on final software, likely in July.

This does steps and sleep, but you can’t record 24×7 HR to any sites/platform. I do agree with you in that I think Suunto is largely thinking that people don’t care about that kinda stuff. Garmin’s Fenix 5 (and previous) series have proved that fairly wrong.

I think the new Suunto 9 features are super cool, but I think Suunto’s going to be in for a challenge for the bulk of the market if it’s not meeting the bulk of the consumers with the features they expect as being part of a $600 watch these days (or even a$150 watch for that matter).

• AW

Don’t sleep on the white. I wore a white SSU for a week and loved how different it was. The white is great.

• Laird M.

Thanks for the early look at this, and like others have posted, the FusedTrack is very cool. I agree with you on the market – I have a Fenix 5 for travel. (I was wearing it in Vondelpark this very morning during a walk with my wife before heading to the airport; funny to think you were running there too as I thought you lived a bit outside the city.) I use the Fenix as my travel watch and for walks and hikes. When I travel, I want the notifications, the heart rate etc – basically an all in one – and something that looks good in meetings and at dinners. I use a yellow 935 for my running – the Fenix feels too heavy for 4 hours of marathoning but my yellow 935 looks a bit too casual at times. I wonder if the white/silver choice by Suunto in that regard will be an issue even with switchable bands. Maybe they will ship in a variety of colors.

• Luís Pinto

S9 is a great machine. I think the major faults of S9 and other Spartans is not have Structured workouts and support for Galileo.
Music in watches? Nice. But without stream? We now have subscriptions in Spotify, Apple Music, Dezeer and so on. In these watches we have to put albuns and music for a memory. it belongs to past.
Then another problem. Official app for S9 will be Suunto App. But there many things to correct. And people need to have a app like GC complete for the launch.

13. Cristian Ungureanu

Is the watch face glass (sapphire) or plastic?

• It’s sapphire glass

14. Matthew

Looks great. How is the screen compared to the Spartans? It looks brighter in the comparison photo. I found that the spartan screens are quite dull unless in very bright light.

• Paul D

Same screen but sapphire glass over it.

15. Phil

Suunto isn’t investing in Movescount? It’s one of the reasons I returned to Suunto from Garmin. What’s their plan with it? Will our watches (Suunto Spartan Series) eventually connect to something new?

Any insight?

16. Tyler

Will this finally have the ability to do custom workouts that the ambit series had but the spartan series lacked? Seems like a glaring missing softwares option that every other brand has either with their app or website

• Phil

speaking of which, why can’t I use the graphs when I do my own screens on the Spartan?

• Luís Pinto

Indeed! That i can’t understand. It’s the most needed feature. I can’t understand one ancient watch have it and Spartan and S9 no.

17. Markus G

Thanks for the hands-on. I’m really looking forward for your review in regards of the OHR.
I returned a Suunto Sport after a few runs because the OHR did not work for me.
It works pretty good with my Garmin 935 and my Polar OH1. So I really wonder why this (highly praised) Valencell-sensor is failing so hard for me.

18. Carl F

Probably a dumb question because I’ve only had lower end Garmins most of my life but for anyone who has the 9, does it offer real time vertical ascent, current gradient, and offer customizable data fields?

• AW

Yes to total ascent, real-time ascent rate. No to real-time gradient. No to customized data fields.

• andrejsg

You can customise all data fields in Movescount.

19. Thomas

The question… Garmin 935 or Suunto 9

Look and feel + battery = sunnto

Software and features still seems to be Garmin

• Hopjesvla

I have the same.. But then with Suunto 9 and Fenix 5x(or future Fenix 6)..

• AW

Last fall I tried a bunch of variants of Fenix/935/Spartans, etch for a week.

Garmin makes a nice watch, but Suunto’s hardware is just so much nicer. The Spartan/9 platform has come a long way, and movescount (for desktop) is so far ahead of garmin connect or strava… I think it’s a no-brainer.

The only real disadvantage is the physical size of the watch. The Spartans/9s are big, but you get used to it.

Suunto, for sure.

• Thomas

How about the recovery features offered by Garmin that learns your body over time – when it’s time to exercise again. Is that just a gimmic or something worth while?

I am never really doing much on my desktop – but then again I am not a hardcore runner. I want all the features to improve, some analysis and battery battery battery. Have a ambit 3 and was happy – then I upgraded to Apple watches for day to day and now I am somewhat stuck in the middle of wearable and ultimate training watch. I don’t want both – I want something to wear 24/7 and be happy enough and don’t feel I am losing out.

• Mr T

AW- you seem to have a lot to say/promote about Suunto. Do you have a connection to them? Or are you just an avg user?

• Thomas

If asking me, I am just a an average fatty trying to get fit, but I got enough  to spend on the best if it’s worth it. I love the look of Suunto’s but I fear I am going to hate the apps/software – it’s like getting a good rate on a bank/credit card to realize you have to go to the bank every time you have to do anything.

• Scott

I was thinking the same thing…

• AW

Mr T,

just an average user. But last fall I actually bought Spartan Ultra, FR935, and Fenix 5s, Tested them all thoroughly. I actually returned all three because I wanted wrist heart rate, so ended up getting Spartan Sport Wrist Heart Rate Baro (such a bad name). So I feel I can comment on this stuff with some degree of accuracy.

• Maciek

Maybe vivoactive 3?

• Martin

I first got the Spartan Sport WHR Baro, then the FR935 after a month of effin’ frustration with the Suunto.

To put it short: The Suunto looks great, but WHR and altitude measurements are unusuable. Whenever running or hiking downhill, HR is measured to 160-170 when real HR is 110. Happens 25 of 25 times. Tight around the wrist etc. Many reports on this. Altitude drifts of no matter FusedAlti or any other marketing crap. It’s never consistent, it’s always wrong, sometimes alt freezes during a hike and never recovers.

In sum, I caved and got the FR935. The latter looks boring and dull BUT it measures WHR, altitude and GPS perfectly and consistent. It just works great.

• Andrew

Unfortunately – I’m seeing similar results. I’m surprised by the review above as I’ve had a horrible time with altitude data. Absolutely horrendous. I didn’t have super high expectations with regards to the WHR, but I do see weird peaks. Some of the altitude errors are summarized in this reddit thread.

20. Patrick

I literally picked up a Fenix 5 yesterday after hearing the wahoo watch is delayed. Not too upset though as all my bike sensors and 3 power meters are ant+ only. If Suunto hadn’t dumped ant+, I would have certainly dumped Garmin. Looks like a good step in the right direction for many people though.

21. Hopjesvla

So what about Strava. Does it or doesn’t it have connectivity? De preview says not, though the Suunto specs say it has.. Or is this limited to Movescount, and isn’t it available on the new app?

• Only when paired to Movescount will it sync your workout to Strava. It won’t work with the new app/Sports Tracker.

Also, there is no Strava Live Segments on the device itself (like past Suunto devices).

• Thomas

Ray, considering this is still beta and that most bugs will be fixed before release ( there will be others I am sure), will you swap your Garmin 935 out with Sunnto’s 9? If you had to make a call between the two today with that in mind.

• No, unlikely for me.

Lack of dual ANT+/BLE is an issue, as is the inability for the unit to properly attach to and enumerate/record dual-sided power meters.

• Scott

I agree. The lack of ANT+ is a huge deal breaker for me.

• Jon

Agreed, for me it is the lack of dual-sided power.

22. Nathan

Wasn’t the whole point of Garmin including the gyroscope in the Fenix 5 series to enable ultratrack to be similar to fusetrack? Have you heard from Garmin about any effort to improve ultratrack as it currently is really poor.

• Crispin E.

I was about to ask the same thing. I understood that the main purpose of the gyroscope added to the Fenix 5 (not present in the Fenix 3) was to assist in adding estimated points to the UltraTrac plots (in between the GPS points). From my limited testing of UltraTrac for running on my Fenix 5, it seems to use accelerometer derived speed and distace (couldn’t possibly be from GPS points). The plotted track was sometimes a good shape (clearly augmented) but at other times it would cut straight lines to points. It would be interesting to see a comparison of Fenix 5/FR 935 UltraTrac against Suunto 9 FusedTrack in due course.

• Nathan

I’m wondering if there is some oddness in the Fenix 5’s use of the gyroscope when cadence data is goofy. I’d really like some additional info on this. I’m doing a backpacking trip this summer and ultratrack would be useful, but I’d rather charge the watch than have horrible tracks.

23. Dale Seiler

How many bike pods/sensors does the Series 9 support? My only beef with the Spartan Sport Ultra WHR I have now is its limitation to a single sensor at a time.

24. Todd

Is there a possibility of eventually using a FusedGPS-like feature in “regular” recording modes, to do things like smooth out erratic tracks in cities caused by tall buildings? I’ve often thought, “surely one of the other sensors on my Peak could figure out that I’m not dashing back and forth across the street.”

I think this looks super promising. Excited for the full review.

25. Can it be charged on the go like the Ambit3?

26. Great hands-on write-up Ray! The 9-axis sensor coupled with a good algorithm can produce stunningly accurate results. Even when I tried to trick Stryd by running all sorts of paces/terrain, the variance between trials was still twice as small as that of GPS. Theoretically, if you can initiate an accurate lat/long and heading, you should be able to draw the ensuing path run. Finally, if the trail/road on which you’re running is mapped by Google, you can snap to road to correct for deviations. It will be interesting to follow Suunto as it continually tweak its algorithms…

27. Carl

If you want to sync data from the Suunto App to any other app you can. However the process is a bit convoluted to setup, but once working is easy.

You need to use an app called RunGap on iOS (may be available on Android too, I’ve not looked).

Once you set up RunGap and add your Sports-Tracker account (exact same details as your Suunto App login) then you can transfer data to or from Sports-Tracker to most fitness apps like Strava, MapMyRun, RunKeeper, Garmin Connect etc.

As an example I switched from Movescount to the Suunto App today. When I paired my Spartan Sport WHR it only sync’d the 10 runs on the watch. So I added the Sports-Tracker account to RunGap.

This allowed me to sync all 388 workouts I have between Sports-Tracker/Suunto, RunKeeper, Garmin Connect and Apple Health. They now all show the same data.

Now, on completion of a run/workout, I sync my SSWHR with the Suunto app. Once that is done I then open up RunGap, pull down to sync on the activity screen and the run is then imported into it. I then select that activity and in the top right click the three dots and select share. It then lets you choose what to sync to, in my case Garmin, RunKeeper and Apple Health. And voila. Sounds long winded but in practice it takes about 10 secs to have the data synchronised.

28. Craig

Hi Ray,

The product page says Suunto 9 includes “Outdoor maps by satellite, terrain and topography in web by Mapbox, Google Maps & Android”

Does this mean it will display a map on the watchface similar to the fenix 5x? Or just that oyu cna download the data and overlay it to those maps.

• No, those are the maps available in Movescount to make your routes, but not on the watch

• Craig

Thanks Eduardo! That is what i was wondering.

29. Geoffrey

I think I will continue to wait for the Wahoo watch…..will pass on this one too….

30. Mike Barton

What I like about my Spartan Ultra is that Suunto is keeping it simple. There are too many things going on in Garmins and what I see frequently on the Strava folks I follow is: Garmin fail. If you want a gadget and app watch, get an Apple Watch? For running and mountain biking, I’ll stick with my Spartan Ultra. It’s not just ultra athletes they are targeting — they are targeting people who want it to do a few key things well and not throw in the kitchen sink, IMO.

31. Stephen

I remember the Garmin fenix 5/FR935 did a certain level of ‘fusing’ data when in Ultra track. It would be interesting to see how both of these compared to each other….or do a post on how all the ‘go long’ GPS tracking modes compare. Just an idea for a future post.

32. Janot

Funny, you were at my favorite winter place : Vallorcine, Le Buet.
Great place for testing !

• Yup, an awesome spot.

Out of all the ski areas at Chamonix, Le Tour is my fav. It’s just more ‘local’ than the others. Tourists rarely venture there, and you can really just enjoy it without the lines or crowds.

And in the summer the same is true, I’ve done a lot of product testing on that mountain over the years, from drones to watches to bike stuff. Great spot away from the crowds.

33. Drew

Hi Ray.

Thanks for the article. Just saw this and I am excited. I still have my Ambit 3 with blemishes from years of training (rather like me). I would only give it away to family, and then probably on my death bed. The idea of GPS interpolation using accelerometers, gyros and magnetometers is really good (though in hindsight obvious. I remember working on a robotics project back in 2002 and these ideas were prevalent even back then).

The early Spartan series had some serious issues but has improved greatly over time. I have used a Trainer and Sport WHR and found the optical HR rather poor. Funny as I have a Scosche Rhythm+ and it is pretty good. I suspect the weight of the watch is an issue here and probably makes disambiguation from cadence artefact harder. The only watch with WHR that I have found acceptable is the Polar M430 which I think compares well with the Scosche. I will look with interest at your in-depth review HR stats, particularly during intervals.

The biggest drawback with the Suunto ecosystem is its lack of support for phased (c.f. a continual zone) constrained training (by HR, power, pace etc…). The Ambit 3 did in a clunky way using the mobile app, not the website. Unfortunately you can only set power zones to the nearest 100 W! It was not possible to schedule phased constrained training on a training calendar and sync to the watch. Polar is still the leader here (sure you can sort of do it on Connect but I don’t think it is as slick and straightforward for the user). I hope this is something Suunto will implement on their new site. I also hope the heat maps and route creation capabilities transfer across.

The power management features seems a logical step and inline with those on Android and IOS.

My brief is simple really. I want a watch that supports programs (on a calendar) of phased constrained training by HR, power, pace or cadence. It needs an accurate optical HR option, accurate pace and power (Stryd support natively on the device), and clear indication of zone and position within zone on the display with audible alarm and vibration. It also needs clear and accurate navigation with a functioning auto-zoom (c.f. Garmin’s still broken effort) and awesome route creation using heat maps both on the website and via the mobile app. Also great battery life.

I want a Poluunto (I hope that is not rude in Finnish). I wish they would both separate their software ecosystems from hardware production then fuse them together as a separate software business supporting both devices. They would save on software production for their respective ecosystems (economies of scale) and could combine the strengths of both. They could apply their own branding over the shared backend. If they did this they would really kick ass.

In the meantime, and rather surprisingly, my old V800 and strap is the best option for me. It gives me HR, current HR zone, power natively (Stryd support), current power zone on a single screen. It supports phased training (though not phased power yet).

34. Tomasz Jargieło

there is no craze in drawing the route 🙂

movescount.com/pl/moves/move221484374
movescount.com/pl/moves/move221484479

35. Erick Meier

hi , this something i did not expect, as a Spartan Ultra user since de very begining, resisting all the firmware updates, this kind of a message to me that our SUltra is now out of date.
as both are multisport, and so far it looks like a jump from ambit 3 to Suunto 9

• Well, it’s already two years old so it goes in line with other manufacturers product refreshments…

• Dave

True, but it only became the product it should have been 2 years ago in January/February (and some would argue even more recently than that).

36. Continiven

Hi Ray,

Thanks for a review! Can you figure out why Suunto does not incorporate Strava Live Segments? Can you encourage them to do so 😉

One more point – I do not know other company, which releases some many variants – it is becoming insane!
Personally I have Spartan Sport Baro and it is great and genius watch, but I am starting to be dizzy with new variants. It seems Suunto marketing guys are a bit lost – maybe it is a reason why they were looking for a Head of Marketing last month … 😉
Cheers

• It’s just keeping the model alive. The versions are practically the same watch with some minor tweaks.

Compared to Garmin… They release a crapton of watches. Way more than Suunto do

• tom

One of the things that keeps me staying with Polar. I hate it when manufacturers just release new devices, abandoning old ones they never got really sorted from a software point of view. I’ve had Polar’s top model now for 4 years. Still gets updated and probably the most stable and reliable watch on the market. But really, now I’m itching for a new watch from Polar!

• Andrew

I agree. I have an old v800. The hardware is 4 yrs old but still gets firmware updates. It now supports running power, power zones with native Stryd. My main display shows these plus hr and hr zones. I think thats cool. I can control my gopro. It gives accurate real time hr in the pool on 5khz. It just looks rather 70s! I have become disheartened by the wait for a successor though I can understand why. I think there is a polarisation in the market. The fx5plus has a huge array of features (and a huge price tag). Although not quite there yet the amazfit stratos is feature rich and less than a quarter the price. Garmin must feel nervous about future developments from Xiaomi and others. Competing on features alone is high risk as this is relatively easily matched at a much lower price point by companies in China. Western companies will have to compete with innovation, quality, durability and a committment to firmware updates. Great care will need to be taken with new product releases to ensure they progress along unique, innovative and attractive pathways. Competition can’t be purely on price. I suspect this underlies the delay with the v800 successor. The Suunto 9 is innovative but seems to have teething issues. If this isnt sorted at release it will be damaging for them. I would have hoped they had learned this lesson after getting their fingers burned on the prematurely released Spartans.

37. Mike

A long time ago i have read about GPS without GPS (gyros) that was under development for us military. Cool it is going to civ gear 🙂 I hope garmin will go there too.

38. Frank

Hi Ray,

Thanks so much for your insightful articles, which I always enjoyed reading!

You mentioned that “Suunto says they’ve largely stopped investing in Movescount, and all future investments will go towards the Sports Tracker platform.” It would be great that you can share more details and your thoughts about it: I recently brought a Spartan Trainer and already found the Movescount android app functions poorly (It has a 2.3/5.0 rating and countless complaints on Google Play). The website version is good to use but seemingly not fully up-to-date for the functions included in the 2.0 firmware. I also downloaded “Suunto app” which has MUCH less functions compared to Movescount website.

I felt quite confused about why they have decided stopping the seemingly more mature platform and started focusing on another, and why the compatibility in-between is so poor. From an industry guru perspective, do you know their logic behind it?

Also, I personally believe that at this new stage of smart wearable, the software experience, social interactive functions and cross-device connectivity/compatibility play more and more important roles for user experience. So I would be thrilled to read more of your reviews and opinions on that topic (such as cross-platform comparisons). It would be definitely insightful!

Thanks again for your informative blogging!

Best regards,
Frank

• Thomas

As to your and another point – their software is the main issue for me too. I love the look and feel of the watch compared to Garmin. The software and possible lack of firstbeat features ( tbd as no one is reporting it yet) is the issues for me.

• I wish I had more details to give, but it’s unfortunately a bit of ‘it is what it is’. Save some minor maintenance items (like ensuring the right name shows up when you plug in the Suunto 9), there’s no further development planned for Movescount.

All software development is now focused on Sports Tracker. That’s the backend behind the ‘Suunto’ app, which is the new app that supports the Suunto 3 Fitness, and ultimately all new Suunto devices.

I suspect the logic is painfully simple from a corporate standpoint: They spent a lot of money acquiring Sports Tracker, and want to put that code to good use. And that might have seemed logical when they first acquired them. But they haven’t invested enough resources for that to matter (resources = hiring developers). They’re up against companies like Garmin, with over 100 employees working on Garmin Connect and related web services. They’re up against Fitbit who also has a flotilla of developers.

So by entirely shifting directions, they’ve basically doing a reset. In my mind, i see this as the exact same ship that was the Spartan when it came out after Ambit. They had a good ship, the HMS Ambit 3, but they decided to re-invent the wheel with the Spartan series. I’m not convinced, even years later, that was the right move. I look at this move and to me it’s just repeating history.

Of course, like any corporate decision, I have no doubts that there were endless internal politics and arguments over it. But also like any corporate decision, as an outsider I can very easily look at it and say it’s illogical. 🙂

• Frank

Let’s now hope “Suunto app” will absorb all the good features in Movescount and the migration process will be little as painful for the users.

• I have no doubt in time it will. My guess is we’re talking 12-18 months before we see feature parity, possibly still 24 months.

Just based on more than a decade working for a large software company, coupled with knowing the amount of dev resources Suunto has (limited).

• I’m confused by the existence of the “Suunto app” if they’re trying to maximize their investment in “Sports Tracker.” Do you think there is a plan to one day meld the two together, and perhaps ditch the Sports Tracker name so that everything happens on the Suunto app?

• Andrew

Hi Sam
I would have thought the movescount functionality would port over pretty quickly – why would it need a complete rewrite? I have suggested to Polar and Suunto that they have a third party site (separate company) that supports both platforms. Suunto route creation and Polar phased training but with support for power. It would save a lot of development costs and create a great ecosystem with the strengths of both.
I guess we will have to wait out to see if this happens.

I assume that for the ‘Spartan Ultra’ there will also be no further Movescount development at all!?

So there is only a minor chance to get things like customized data views combined with graphical views, as often demanded by users…

Hope that eventually the older Spartan devices will also be moved to the new platform in order to get fresh things.

I think most (disappointed) users of the old Spartans could be really pissed off about the Suunto 9 and the fact, that ‘old’ hardware is usually being forgotten very soon (of course with limited development resources).

A new device, with new GPS chipset and weeks before release not the best accuracy – I am very curious if they can handle another shitstorm.

• Giles E

It seems to me the problems here come from the mentality of “we are a watch company and we also make an app to support it” rather than how I see the required thinking in 2018, “the watch and app are a platform together as one, and that experience is what we sell”

39. Bil Danielson

Does the 9 broadcast any data, is it only capable of receiving sensor data?

40. JTH

Regarding FusedTrack I think Garmin has done this behind the scenes for some time now. Merging accelerometer, Gyro and GPS data, even for basic GPS modes (start without GPS lock, running in tunnels etc). And even further with UltraTrac.

Regarding basic GPS use for example on one run my GPS went haywire and raw GPS distance was 4% off (loaded the file to SportTracks), yet the watch managed to somehow narrow this error down to 1% in reported distance so I think some comparing/correcting is done for the data all the time. Probably based on GPS signal quality.

Would also be interesting to see comparison of distance between Garmin UltraTrac and Suunto FusedTrack for the Final review.

• JTH

The deciding difference though is, that Garmin doesn’t draw the corrected GPS track like Suunto does here, so it only mirrors to accumulated distance which makes it harder to see in practice unless you keep a log of your distances. In a way this is good as original raw GPS data is still stored. But of course also makes a lot of user reports about bad GPS tracks while in reality the distance is still mostly fine and perfectly usable for training…

• Correct, Garmin is focusing on ultimate distance, whereas Suunto is focusing on distance AND the track.

In this case, Suunto’s approach is seemingly better, as long as the track isn’t too wonky. I’m going to do some more trail running and see if there’s any meaningful difference between the 60s and 120s update rates. Obviously, with a 60s rate it’s going to ‘correct’ it’s at worst every 60s, whereas with 120s it could be off for up to 2 minutes. But in my park run, only one 60-second section had obvious major drift, and one section had minor drift. Whether or not this was more than say, 50 meters of difference I’m too lazy to dig up on the flight right now.

• Andrew

Hi Ray. Distance has to be measured from a best estimate of track. Are you saying Garmin does this but doesn’t reveal the track? Are you also saying Garmin reveals its Ultratrac (which clearly sucks) but calculates distance from some hidden but better track? With respect, I am struggling to understand what you mean.

• Correct.

It’s not so much that they don’t ‘reveal’ the track, but rather are only focusing on the distance via wristbased distance detection (just like indoors).

Whereas Suunto is doing nifty stuff to ‘recreate’ the track using sensors.

41. Russell

Thanks for the review!

Do you know if it is possible to customize the data fields on the watch from Movescount like I can with my Ambit 2?

• AW

If you mean, “can I write my own customized data fields, or use someone else’s custom data fields?” then no.

If you mean, “can I customize the watch face during an activity so my screen can show me, for example, pace / avg pace / power / distance / elevation gain?” Then the answer is yes.

42. Renton

Does it support drill in pool swim like ambit? Can i add custom data field or custom graph to custom sport profile?

43. Leo

Is Polar still in the high end – end consumer market? Retired my V800 2 years ago and still no successor in sight. Considering the Suunto9 as a replacement for the Fenix. But I would love to see a new polar watch.

• wolFIT

Yes, a V800 successor is planned for this Fall.

44. Aleksander H

Do you know if connecting a footpod such as Stryd or Stryd Live does anything to improve the fusedtracking further? I would think a footpod was able to gather more accurate data than something on the wrist.

• Markus G

I doubt that this will work. For FusedTracking they probably need to have real-time access of the 9-axis gyro data.

While the Stryd does have that sensor it does not provide it’s internal sensor data to the outside. It’s sending calculated data (pace, power etc.) via ANT+/BT. FusedTracking will most likely need the info about current acceleration of the 9 directions with a higher sampling-rate.

But just guessing being a software developer myself.

• likepend1

9 axis is a marketing term!
means: 3 for acceleration, 3 for gyro, 3 for magnetometer

• Aleksander H

Ah, yes, good point. I didn’t think of that.

Regardless, this is really cool technology. I’m honestly more impressed by this kind of thing than I am by music or apps on a watch.

• Andrew

Thats an interesting point. It could share its view of the route rather than 9 axes data. We know the length is good but it will be distorted in shape (e.g. could bend slowly round in a big circle). It should be possible to apply a transform along its length to best fit known gps points. If the watch didnt have to do the math to cal the path it would save power too. The pod has the luxury of being pretty much stationary rel the ground during contact which is a nice reference point.

Hi Ray,

I am a avide reader of your reviews and thanks for this preview of the Suunto 9.

I am quite astonished by this new fused track feature.
For the moment, as far as I understand, Suunto is presenting it during a descent in an open area in the mountains, and you did a quick test while running around a park.

I would love to see how this feature behaves when you climb as a fast hiker during ascents and run during descents in the mountains? Does it behave similarly during ascent and descent? Indeed, this fused track feature is dedicated to ultra trail running, where you spend most of your time walking in the ascents and running in the descents. So I am waiting for your review to see how this fused tracked works during long session and if the reduction of GPS precision especially during ascents it is acceptable.

Looking forward to seeing your review!

• They actually didn’t highlight ascending versus descending in any of the presentations I got. It was just trails in general.

That said, while I certainly can’t test ascending/descending in Amsterdam (nor Florida where I’m flying to at the moment), I’ll be back in the Alps later this month – so will be looking forward to testing it then as part of my final round-up of testing on the watch.

46. MirkoSurf&Run

Can you comment about the reason to change GPS chip brand from SIRF to Sony?
More accuracy? Less expensive? Internal politic?
Till now I think that all Suunto watches had Sirf chipset. By the way, Sirf was acquired by Qualcomm in 2015.
Do you think that for all the future watches Suunto will use Sony chipset? If so, it seems to me a big change for Suunto.
Garmin in the past made the same step and moved away from Sirf to Mediatek, I think that the Garmin FR610 was the last Garmin watch with a Sirf chip inside.
Or do you think that brands will begin to use different brand of chipset for different models?

• hansi

Suunto used a MediaTek chipset for the Spartan Trainer as far as i can remember.

When will they change to dual-frequency chipsets? Or is extending battery life more important than accuracy? i know, different strokes for different folks … i’m just curious

• (Moved to the right thread portion)

I didn’t ask exactly why, but I’m pretty sure the reason is probably battery drain related.

It’s why most other manufs have moved away from SIRF. Their battery drain profile simply isn’t as good as the competitors. And that’s a bigger and bigger issue as watches aim to add in optical HR and get days worth of GPS-on battery life.

I suspect you’ll rarely see SIRF being used in many watches going forward. I’d also note, since it’s common, that in most cases poor accuracy with non-SIRF units isn’t usually related to the chipset itself, but the antenna design. After all, well before MediaTek and Sony came along there were plenty of craptastic GPS watches using SIRF chipsets…but with bad antenna designs. More than likely when you have a GPS watch with crappy GPS, it’s due to antenna design, or power management to the GPS chipset.

• tom

Antenna design has always been Garmin’s excuse. It must be very easy to test so I don’t really believe it to be the reason.
GPS accuracy isn’t very good an reliable even at its best so there’s a he’ll of a lot of software for smoothing, estimating and compensating for poor signals and errors in data. Displaying raw data from GPS satellites would mean awful tracks.

Garmin has simply failed with their software.

Hopefully Galileo and such will make software compensation less needed.

• Antenna design is the reality of everyone. Like or it not (or believe it or not), that’s the reason. It’s very rarely underlying chipset, because quite frankly everyone is using the same chipsets (well, till now with Suunto 9 and Sony).

Crap in, means dealing with crap in smoothing later (as you noted).

Again, I’m looking forward to seeing where Suunto’s firmware updates take us, but everything I’ve seen firmware-wise from multiple peopl eup till last weekend shows there’s lots of work to do. The tracks laying down people would have fried Garmin for, but seem to keep giving Suunto a pass on. Same thing with everyone giving Apple a pass on GPS tracks that are generally non-awesome.

I haven’t analyzed tracks since last weekend on the latest firmware, though have an openwater swim planned tomorrow morning – which Suunto says they believe they have the best tracks in the biz. Looking forward to testing it out!

• Robin

• I’d be interested in your openwater swim too. Have a Spartan wrist HR that doesn’t work well in openwater swim and I am hoping that the fused track function could improve the OW GPS accuracy, if rolled out for this watch too.

Many thanks

• I attempted to swim…but, the Suunto 9 had other plans for me. Namely, not allowing me to swim. Some sorta of beta bug where pressing the ‘Start’ button on the activity would reset me back to the main dashboard. No amount of trying this over and over would fix it.

I ran into this once before about a month ago, and had to fully reset the watch with a computer. But standing on a beach that wasn’t viable. I’m circling back with Suunto to sort things out. Appears to be related to the most recent firmware update, and again, I suspect just a beta quirk.

(For the record, I was on the beach getting satellites with all my devices when this occurred…I swam anyways, just without any Suunto 9 data)

47. Iris

Is it possible to customize the data screen like Spartan do?
It seems doesn’t cover in the review

• Same customization as Spartan, however, only if you use the Movescount site. No customization of anything via the Sports Tracker site.

48. Christian

Do you know if Suunto is planning to implement Firstbeat features “All-day Stress & Recovery”, “Sleep Quality Assessment”, “Body Resources” & “Training Load”? Then it would be the perfect watch for me.

• Stefan

Agree, this would be very interesting indeed. I would like to add VO2 Max as well from each training session.

• yannis

VO2max is already present in movescount for spartan watches. Suunto has recovery hours as a proxy for training load (I would guess the same metric different name)

• stefan

I don’t think they have any estimate of your current VO2Max. Max in the VO2 chart is not the same thing as far as I have understood

• Christian

Recovery hours only tells you when you are fully recovered. Training Load delivers the Insight if you are training in the optimal range or more/less than normal.

49. MartinR

FusedTrack=almost like the inertial reference system in an aircraft 😉

50. Thomas

Firstbeat is the big question for me too – 935 has 12… if the same/more I am pulling the trigger. This is the only thing holding me back as I can get 935 tri bundle on eBay today for 500

51. Thomas

Unless features are coming ( as in movescount + new app migration) comparing Suuto 9 using their comparison tool leaves out a lot of features when compared to e.g, Ultra. I am perplexed to say the least.

52. rpjwhite

FusedTrack is inertial navigation which is really interesting the question is will they use it to enhance GNSS (GPS+GLONASS+GALILEO) to improve positioning/ tracking whilst in town? I.e. if you get a spiked position from GNSS source and the Inertial track positioning doesn’t show a jump does it smooth that position also? Same for going through woods etc.

53. diego

complimenti per la recensione
ciao

54. Gordon Judd

Hi Ray
good review. How is performance of the wrist OHR monitor? I am a Suunto fan but was incredibly disappointed with the Sparten WHR Baro OHR performance and ultimately moved to Garmin 935. Have things improved with the Suunto 9?

• Drew

Me too. I found the HR data from a Spartan Sport WHR terrible and sent the thing back to Amazon. Funny as the Scosche is pretty good. I thought it a duff unit but I am interested to hear you experience wasn’t good either.

55. Laramie

I have the Spartan Ultra and I’ve been frustrated that there are no custom workouts. If that’s still the case, I’m unimpressed. So does anyone know if they’ll be adding custom workouts to the Ultra or to this watch?

• yannis

@Laramie.

It has been heavily hinted at that the 2.0 firmware was a necessary step in order to provide support for more complex intervals (I assume this is what you mean by custom workouts).

• Drew

Hi Yannis

Do you have any references for an intent to support complex intervals (phased constrained workouts). At the moment this is the deal breaker for me as Polar does this so well. If Suunto were to support this I would pre-order a 9 immediately.

Cheers

56. wu qingwei

Hi, I am a reader from China, I like your blog very much, I want to reproduced this blog to my “Wechat public account”， I ask your permission here，and I will declare the source， Thanks.

• Sorry, no, I don’t grant permission for reproduction.

• Drew

I think it will happen anyway! (-;

• wu qingwei
• Thomas

Lol is all I can say

57. Matthew B.

Ray: Did they give you an approximate timeline for Strava integration on Sports Tracker? (I feel like you said as much somewhere, but I can’t find it at the moment)

• Fall 2018.

• Matthew B.

Thanks. Any idea why so long? They must know that is a “critical” for the target market they’re purporting to be going after.

• Not sure on the reason for the length there. :-/

58. Nemo

Great review as usual, and I particularly liked seeing Chamonix in the background to bring back memories of some great hiking there. The new battery saving features are really cool and far more useful to me than a lot of other features. I have a question about the optical HR sensor working at altitude (seems appropriate here given the training venue). I found the optical sensor on my Garmin Fenix 5S shows oddly low heart rate values when I’m hiking at altitude. Like, this is a resting HR value, not a climbing up the side of Half Dome HR value. At first I thought perhaps it was because swelling in my hands/wrists from a long day of hiking were causing trouble, but I noticed this same phenomena when beginning hikes that were a higher elevation. Have you noticed anything similar in your testing?

• I haven’t seen elevation make a difference in terms of optical HR for me. But if there’s anything I’ve learned with optical HR, is that everyone is different.

59. Terho Pekkarinen
60. Marcos

Hi,

Does it allow background (topo, cycling, etc) and/or custom maps?

Thank you,

61. Sam

Does it let you export all day heart rate data? Garmin Connect shows you lots of pretty graphs but only lets you export daily averages.

• No, it doesn’t save it beyond the watch (meaning, doesn’t even show on website/app).

• Sam

Thanks! Maybe Garmin or Suunto will add this someday. It seems a difficult thing to find without a specific device such as the Firstbeat Bodyguard. I guess companies don’t have a lot of motivation for people to get data out of or put some other company data into their platform though. Keep up the good work!

• Chris Barber

You can request a copy of the data garmin hold via link to garmin.com (not sure what you’ll get back as I’m waiting for my data)

62. Steve Gratton
63. M

Hi-thanks for the mini-review.

I travel a LOT, and every time I fly somewhere new, the atmospheric pressure is different from where I last ran. The Ambit 3 Peak has the ability to enter the local atmospheric pressure and thereby get a reasonable elevation to start the next run at. Without this calibration, FusedAlti eventually gets things in the ballpark, but sometimes with 1,000’ of elevation gain or loss that I didn’t actually do.

My question for you is whether the S9 has a way of calibrating the elevation with reference to pressure? Not everywhere I run has a sign with the local elevation posted!

I realize that it’s slightly odd question, but it has a pretty big impact on my data.

Thanks!!

64. Ann

I have the Spartan Sport HR and will most possibly update to the 9 as I want the new long battery features for long endurance running events. One thing I haven’t figured out yet is how to check the time of day while tracking in “trail running” or “hiking” mode. Because I’m out for long hours I sometimes just like to check the time instead of having to do the math. I looked on the computer in Movescount and can’t find it. Hope the option is there and someone can explain me how to find it. Thank you.

• Dale Seiler

Tap the lower portion of the screen while in sports mode to display time of day and battery life.

65. TIll

Interesting. I really like the Fused Track concept, it’s intuitive, but it wasn’t at all obvious to me that it would work this well.

In the future, it would be great to enable it in combination with higher GPS frequencies, too. On any GPS track, you will sometimes get implausible excursions – with GPS accuracy of a few meters, and the occasional outliers that are a few standard deviations off, it’s almost inevitable and for velocity, it’s even worse. These errors can already be reduced by interpolation from multiple data points, and plausibility checks against outliers, but that comes at the expense of resolution. If interpolation based on the accelerometers and compass is this good, surely it could be used to improve GPS tracking in all circumstances.

• Andrew

Interesting idea. At the moment the inertial system interpolates. The problem is these sensors respond to second derivatives of position or angle. To get position or angle requires a double integral and so any error grows increasingly quickly over time. It is necessary to morph the distorted track using known positions and heading data:
It might be possible to apply a uniform morph along the whole inertially derived track that minimises the RMS error between the inertial and GPS tracks.

66. Edyta

Maybe I will sound silly, but does Suunto 9 have smartphone connection (alerts about calls, massages, etc)? I love my Ambit 2s bought couple of years ago and wear it on a daily basis, but it would be nice to have alerts on the watch (and as far as I know Fenix has such an option).

• Yup, has all that.

• Edyta

Awesome! Thanks! Couldn’t find that info on the website.

67. rabbit

Hi Ray,

there are rumors about a new Fenix 5 plus series in the www. Any thoughts about that?

• Andrew

Weird. This is about the Suunto 9.

68. Marco 1

DC, Any thoughts on whether we will see a color screen, topo maps, mountain watch WITHOUT HR anytime soon? Many of us dont want the battery drain and extra thickness that HR versions add. Thoughts??

• Andrew

Switch off the optical HR.

• Marco 1

Agreed, can switch off HR which would further help with battery but HR still adds bulk. Really would like to know if color topo maps are in near future. Have to assume Garmin Fenix 6 will build on/improve their topos from 5x.

• Andrew

Why do you want a map? I plan a route using a map (Movescount, Google Earth) then follow the track. The overarching topo is in my memory. Good job as the screen would be too small for me to use the mapping. Seems like a huge waste to develop something of such marginal use. It would pander to folk who wish to brag they have maps on their watch. I would rather an accurate GPS and optical HRM, neither of which are provided by Garmin.

• Maps can be useful on trails where there are multiple options that are potentially close together, and without context you may not have a super clear idea without trying one and back tracking.

I had that two weeks ago in the Alps where it was super easy when using the 5X to figure out which was the right direction, versus not so easily without context and just a breadcrumb trail.

I don’t think it’s about bragging, but rather practicality. If you go on the same trails each time, cool, but many of us actually go to entirely new places each time with a slew of options.

Finally, as has been well proven, the Spartan Series was hardly the pinnacle of GPS accuracy (unlike the Ambit which was quite good). Most people would have said the Spartan Series was roughly the same as the Fenix 5 when it came to accuracy.

Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter, because that’s what the market wants. After all, what’s Garmin’s most popular selling unit of the Fenix series? The 5X.

• Nathan

Maps are also really useful in limited visibility settings above tree line. I used the 5x to help navigate through nasty clouds and rain that hit us during a peak bagging trip. Knowing where the trail was so we could sync back up to it was super useful and our original breadcrumb track wasn’t close to the trail we were aiming for to get out of the storm.

• Marco 1

Spot on Ray. That said should we be optimistic about seeing a topo version from Suunto anytime soon?

• I doubt it.

• I don’t expect to see any further smart sports-focused watches more than $200 (if not$150) that lack optical HR, from any company.

That ship has since sailed.

• _tido_

when i am trailing, i use
my edge 1030 in mountain bike mode for the map to be sure i take the good option at some crossroads,
and my F3 for the other data.

i would really enjoy maps on my wrist, and/or a native trail app for my edge, and a mount for my edge on my hand / wrist

• Andrew

New routes is exactly what I do, either trail running or hiking. I generally build on movescount using heat mapping. I am exploring Haute Languedoc right now. I seldom have issues with my ambit 3 and if I lose the track it guides me back on. I can mark waypoints too with text like “left fork”. If I go wrong with the Fenix I end up with a blank screen which is rather rude. I have of course switched off autozoom as it is broken. I have to use glonass and 1s recording on the fenix to get reasonable accuracy which has a huge impact on battery life too.

I agree with your last comment though. Garmin is good at giving a wide variety of users what they want. If you dont use the thing in anger it hardly matters. Some are more discerning.

• Andrew

The orientation of your map and the trail you created both depend on accurate location and heading. If your plotted route and route on map differ then you have entered the twilight zone(or more likely a bug)! This highlights the importance of carrying a paper map, magnetic compass, whistle and survival bag. Using a map requires you to identify features to confirm orientation but you say visibility was poor so I am puzzled as to what you mean?

69. Phil Howard

Could you confirm whether it has the ability to set / see pool distance in meters whilst having the rest of the watch in miles?

One of the (many) reasons I sent the Spartan Ultra back and reverted to my Ambit 2 was that I couldn’t (as far as I could see) have the watch set for running / cycling in miles but swimming in meters. The Ambit gives the choice when going into the swimming menu – custom pool > Meters/Yards > Pool Length.

If it does, this might finally be the watch to replace the Ambit, if it doesn’t and the whole set up has to be yards/miles or meters/kilometres then I think it’ll have to regrettably be bye bye Suunto

• Andrew

I can see that would be a deal breaker for you Phil.

70. JASON HALL

suunto really are a beautiful watch, i was thinking they are the “apple” of watches then i read your last bit saying they are trying to do exactly that.go figure.

i am looking at garmin 5x and suunto 9 and the suunto just does not seem able to map/navigate at all really well and it just lacks the ability to store and read all of the data neatly. so like my fr235 now i can easily go and see my resting HR, sleep etc etc etc to get a grasp of things when im not feeling great. suunto it appears i wouldn’t be able to nicely display all those metrics , is that correct??

for the endurance people they are targeting(like me) i look for battery life, long term 24/7 data metrics storage and display ,accurate wrist HR and navigation ability , no gps errors and suunto just doesnt quite seem to be there. its a real shame as its beautiful and i want to buy it 🙁

• Drew

It hasn’t been released yet! To say any Suunto from ambit onwards is unable to navigate is rediculous. I don’t believe you are real.

• Navigation wise it’s fine (as is the 5X). But, the rest of what is noted about lack of 24×7 HR metrics is valid.

• Andrew

Jason is implying there are issues with battery life, gps and optical HR in a device that has yet to be released. To support this undermines your credibility.

• There’s no evidence of battery life issues in either device.

There is examples of GPS issues however in the Suunto 9 – as I showed in this very post, as well as others with beta devices have shown in their posts (rather significant GPS issues). While all of us hope this will be addressed by time the device ships, as I often point out in my preview posts, sometimes that happens…and sometimes not (and even more sometimes it gets worse).

All too often tech blogs skim over that and say “Which will be solved by release”, when that’s very much not always the case.

• Andrew

This is the difference between a preview and a review. Forming an opinion based on third hand experience in beta seems fishy to me.

• Well, data doesn’t lie. That’s why I include it.

• Andrew

Data from a beta in preview. Good to include but should not inform a definitive opinion about a yet to be released production device. The bold categorical statement by Jason suggests a hidden agenda. Lies, damn lies and statistics?

• Scott

Andrew, I don’t believe your comments are welcome here. Why are you attacking Ray? It seems to me that you’re the one with the hidden agenda. Ray’s reviews are very helpful. It is obvious that the majority would agree considering the popularity of his web site and his reviews. It seems to me that his reviews are factual based on HIS findings and observations, mixed with some opinion. If you don’t like it, go somewhere else to read reviews and previews!

• Andrew

I enjoy Ray’s reviews. The comments are merely to challenge views that appear to me to be incorrect or misleading, largely by other contributors. This is debate and not a personal attack. If it is not possible to exchange opinions here then the site would be of limited interest to me. I am fascinated that you feel able to express a view for all site users. I will continue to post.

• I’m pretty sure Jason doesn’t have a hidden agenda, I think he’s just noting what he notes.

I haven’t actually seen much in the way of almost any sports tech watch companies trying to influence reviews with comments in either direction (it’s usually pretty easy to see through). This simply looks like someone that has assumptions, which I see 50 times a day here.

Specific categories that I do see ‘suspect’ comments include action cams, drones, and bike trainers.

• RE: Data in preview shouldn’t form an opinion

Sorta. If I was in a more brutal mode at the time, I’d have pointed out that historically speaking no GPS watch vendor has been able to fix major GPS accuracy issues within any meaningfully short period of time. Not Apple, not Garmin, not Suunto. All of their histories in this category, and in general, to address minor but frequently seen track issues you’re usually looking at 2-4 months.

And of course, if I was in such a brutal mode I’d point out that I’ve actually not (ever) seen a GPS track as bad as that first hike. In all the devices I’ve tested. Ever. Not because it was just off, but because it was so far off for so many hours. It wasn’t just a single errant point (far more common).

Next, as I hinted at in the article, Suunto know’s there’s GPS track issues – issues which they believe may persist for a bit. After all, they’ve been working on this watch and GPS chipset for quite a while now. It’s not like they got the chipsets last week.

So while I always caution heavily on using beta devices as an indicator (hence why I didn’t come down super-hard on them in this preview on it), I’d also caution that the specific GPS issues not only I, but other well trusted reviewers and testers have seen is concerning – more so than I usually see in early GPS accuracy testing.

• Scott

You don’t need to be so fascinated. I never claimed to “express a view for all site users”. In fact, I stated that I “believe”. I feel that way because most people don’t care for rudeness. And your comments have been rude, such as accusing people of lies.

• Andrew

Hardly rude Scott. It is perfectly reasonable to be challenging and indeed we all have a responsibility to challenge accepted viewpoints. Ray can not know the background of all the comments on this site and if they look particularly skewed to one company then they should be challenged. In my view this is necessary to ensure the integrity of the comments section of Ray’s site.

• Phil

Scott, you’re right you didn’t claim to speak for everyone. However you could have expressed my view.

I’ve been following Ray’s reviews for many years and always find them extremely useful and unbiased. As a big Suunto fan I’m hoping this will be the watch for me. However I want to form that opinion based on the facts. I don’t have a watch, all I can go on is Ray’s (and others) reviews. So far I think the review seems very fair.

To me, Andrew seems the one with a hidden agenda, throughout this thread jumping on anyone who questions the performance of the Suunto and suggesting they are Garmin plants and their comments are sponsored by Garmin! One could argue it the other way I only see one set of biased comments and they are coming from you!

All of your posts Andrew are very anti Garmin and very pro Suunto even though we’ve not really seen what this watch can do. For example the chain above was very aggressive “why would you want a map, its pointless, you can pot a route on movescount etc…” To some extent I agree, I’ve used the breadcrumb feature on my Ambit 2 for years, both to follow routes and to ‘track back’. However last week when away in unfamiliar surroundings I was trying to follow the breadcrumb trail, I went wrong a few times and had to track back, there were lots of very, very narrow paths, I only made minor deviations, but, if I’d a map rather than the breadcrumb it would have been much easier. So, you don’t speak for me when you say ‘who needs maps’ as given the choice of a Suunto 9 with maps or without I’d go for the maps no question.

Personally, until it starts shipping and the comments / experiences shared are from owners of the watch I’ll continue to listen to Ray’s impartial opinion. I’d love this watch to be great but I’m not going to be blinkered into believing it is if it isn’t!

Thanks Ray (and Scott!)

• Andrew

That’s a blow. I have recently pre-ordered one after seeing your preview video. Perhaps I can cancel. Got fed up waiting for a v800 successor.

• Andrew

I have suunto (ambit3), polar (m430, v800) and garmin (fr910,fr920, fenix3) devices. I pubish Connect IQ apps. All are good and bad in parts and none completely do what I would like. I would never assume to speak for others. If it is considered rude or aggressive (in the absence of rudeness or aggression) to provide an alternative viewpoint then so be it.

71. Jim Greene

Hi, Ray, Thank you for the great review. I understand your audience places primary emphasis on gps and sensor accuracy but I tend to focus on display quality. I would not mind if you wrote a bit more about that. I am one of those lazy non-athletes (+60 yr old senior) who struggles with hitting 5,000 steps and 2 miles per day but like durable always-on display watches that have smart functions. Bet there are a lot of us. I currently use a Fenix 5 as my primary day watch and smaller Vivoactive 3 as night watch to monitor sleep. Garmin connect is excellent in allowing pairing to multiple devices and combining data on my two watches (since I only wear one watch at a time). I am thinking about switching to Suunto 9 because of touch screen and higher resolution display (I know Vivoactive 3 has touch). I wrote to Suunto about new the new Suunto app and asked about the ability to pair to Suunto 9 as my primary watch and perhaps a smaller secondary Suunto watch at night for sleeping. Fast response from customer service but they are confused as to what I am asking. Do you know the answer to this question?

72. Simone

Is it native to Stryd?

• Andrew

Yes.

• Andrew

Sorry, that was a bit terse. I am getting a little tetchy as there are quite a few facile comments on here that I suspect are sponsored by Garmin. It natively supports power including power zones and combines a radial coloured zone display with pointer and numeric power fields. It works seamlessly. You dont have to use a clunky IQ app that sometimes stops updating and requires restarting during an activity. You can navigate and use power concurrently (you can with a stryd field without zones but not with the app on Garmin)

• Yup, in general Suunto does a better job of natively supporting Stryd.

• Andrew

You say in general. Does any garmin watch natively support stryd?

• Not natively, but that’s somewhat misleading. Sure, Garmin requires a Connect IQ app to access/see the data, but of course that’s trivial – a 2-second installation.

Each has their pros and cons. Where Suunto offers power zones, Garmin doesn’t. Inversely, Suunto doesn’t track the additional running metrics from Stryd that Garmin does (at all).

Native Movescount charting on Suunto isn’t any different than Garmin’s GC charting, and in Garmin’s case the data is written so that 3rd party apps can better parse it (because it has all the data channels).

Again, depends on what you want out of the connectivity with Stryd. But I wouldn’t say that the ‘requirement’ to add the Stryd CIQ data field to a Garmin device should be anything more than a footnote in comparisons. What’s more interesting is how to compare after that’s done.

• Andrew

I suspect there is no room in RAM to add in this feature without stealing from that allocated for apps. The Stryd app does not support phased training with power at present (I dont think anyone does yet?) Navigation only works with a handful of homespun activities, not IQ apps. Same for workouts. Its a bit messy and a arguably a little more than a footnote at present depending on the use case.

Route creation is way better on Movescount with a wider chice of maps and activity specific heatmaps. The management of routes is better as there is a proper sync of multiple selected routes rather than squirting them individualy to a connected device. Waypoint creation is less clunky.

I hope this all ports over to the new platform.

At the moment I use movescount to generate a new route, upload to a Fenix 3 with a Stryd app or field if navigating. My M430 is on my other wrist for phased HR (the HR zones based on lactThresh map well to power zones on threshPower at steady state).

So yes, I am officialy crazy, but the technology made me so (my excuse). I want one device to do it all, navigation concurrently with phased training both with power and accurate HR on the wrist. Not such a big ask?

73. Ingo

I passed up on the Spartan Ultra when it came out 2 years ago based on all the issues reported back then and went for a nicely discounted A3 Peak instead – and I haven’t looked back since. It has so far lasted for nearly 6,000 km and a total of 800h through mountain ultra running in the subtropics of Hong Kong, often times navigating and bushwhacking off-trail, and it has never failed me.

I even got my hands on one of the last brand new A3 Peaks out there which I have stored and hidden away just in case and from what I can tell about the Suunto 9 so far is that I will most likely pass \on that one as well. The A3 Peaks are still more reliable, accurate, tried and tested than whatever Sunnto (or even Garmin for that matter) have released in the last few years. And try to match the combined battery life and GPS accuracy of two A3 Peaks used back-to-back with any watch you can now find on the market. There is none as far as I am aware. Long live the Ambit 3 😉

• Andrew

Great device and my go to for long hikes for the same reasons. My only safety concern would be if you switched it off by accident so a spare or charger is a good idea in austere environments.

74. rabbit

Really some nice new features on the new 9er. Fusedtrack, new battery feature…I hope garmin is looking at that and will add something like that on upcoming devices in the feature…

If suunto will add (topo) maps in the future on a new model, they will get more from the cake…(the Garmin 5x is selling very well).

75. MirkoSurf&Run

I don’t understand Suunto.
With sell volume, they were always behind Garmin.
To beat Garmin, I would have put in the Suunto 9 the new Broadcom chipset BCM47755 with dual frequency GPS+Galileo. I think that it would be for Suunto a big step to go ahead of Garmin and to be the first to produce a sport watch with dual frequency GPS and Galileo.
Instead, they abandoned a chipset that in the past series behaved quite good (the Sirfstar of Qualcomm) and they put in the Suunto 9 a new GPS chipset that it seems that has some trouble, and without Galileo, even without single frequency Galileo.
Now Garmin is about to sell new watches with Galileo (probably only single frequency).
And Suunto is always behind Garmin: it has a watch without Galileo and it seems that it is losing the GPS accuracy, for which it was quite famous.
Suunto 🙁

• Andrew

The motivation for Galileo is European military resilience. I am not aware that the unpaid version offers greater accuracy and precision than other GPS. The GPS standard mandates a minimum level of precision (I think 10m) though typically implementations get under 4m if they dont shortcut antenna design as is the trend. That is good enough for navigation. Is dual frequency free? I suspect it is power hungry. The advantage would be instantaneous pace but that would require at least 1 s sampling and there are more battery efficient ways of getting that metric such as a footpod. Many things are possible but few things endure.

• MirkoSurf&Run

For Galileo single frequency and dual frequency accuracy I’m waiting DCRainmaker review :-), it’s hard to say how accuracy can improve in a sport watch because the most important thing is the design of the antenna.
I’m aware that adding Galileo single frequency or dual frequency brings a battery penalty.
But they can leave the user the choice to use Galileo or not, or to use single or dual frequency. They should implement this choice in the menu, for example they could give this setting: “high accuracy gnss” or “normal accuracy gnss”. Or they could put it in the battery settings: “performance mode” or “energy saving mode”

• MirkoSurf&Run

By the way, you are right in saying that brands and people are giving now in sport watches more importance in battery life than in performance in every sector (optical heart rate, gps and so on).
I just run half marathons and my usual training run is just about one hour, so I would prefer accuracy, because I always charge the watch at the end of my activity
But I see that most of the people prefer battery life, and so the brands.

• MirkoSurf&Run

Andrew, I think that the GPS accuracy you are talking about is true in open field, but not under trees, in urban environment and near mountains. There is a white paper of ublox about GPS accuracy while running with a sport watch. In their test they found that gps 2D-accuracy (95% confidence) in urban environment is 25 meter, in suburban environment 15 meter with a standard accuracy gps receiver while running.
The accuracy of 4 meter – 10 meter that you are talking about is true in open field, but under trees and in urban environment (urban canyons) there are multipath errors of GPS, and accuracy is a lot worse.
I’m happy about GPS accuracy in open field, unfortunately I live in a challenging environment for GPS (in a valley near mountain with a lot of tree). I know by heart all the points where GPS fails fast every time.

• Andrew

Reception conditions affect gps a&p for sure. Any em location system will not work in a Faraday cage whatever the underlying technology. I have not experieced terrible inaccuracies (save extended power modes) in devices even in moderately challenging conditions. Here is my Fenix 3 (not known for its gps a&p) in Haute Languedoc on a trail in a steep sided wooded trail. Its not bad (+glonass and 1s sampling and recording). I presume your conditions are more extreme. I dont know if dual frequency would help you. If it did then a lower sampling rate and interpolating inertial track might be a battery economic solution for Suunto.

76. RacingRhino

Hi Ray,

I am sorry for posting a half step off topic but budget doesn’t currently stretch to a new 9. The Spartan Trainer and the Spartan Sport (non wrist based HR) are available on the Suunto website for basically the same price (£230).

With the obvious difference in wrist/chest based HR is there a reason why you might choose one over the other?
Thanks
RR

• I personally prefer the Trainer, as I find it tends to give better GPS tracks.

77. Markus

Is there a known reason, why the Suunto 9 does not offer GLONASS support?

• Andrew

Perhaps it is because of the increased power use in a watch targetting the endurance community. Rather surprisingly I think it has a smaller battery than the Spartan.

• Andrew

PS
I dont know what relations are like between finland and russia at present?

78. Rob_NZ

Basically the FusedTrack is a miniaturised Inertial Navigation System, such as aeroplanes have been using for over 30 years. Back in the day they used mechanical accelerometers and spinning gyros and then ring laser gyros, but the principles are much the same.

It’s really just old school dead-reckoning navigation, starting from a known reference point and measuring direction and accelerations in 3 axes to calculate position. There’s no reason why it wouldn’t work on a bike if the accelerometers are sensitive enough. Speed is just acceleration multiplied by time, and changes in speed are changes in acceleration.

• Andrew

Hi Rob
You are right that it seems pretty obvious. I recall using solid state acc meters and gyros on a robot nearly 20 years ago. From my recollection the gyro responds to angular acceleration not angular velocity (c.f. mech gyro). The problem there is any small error builds and the gyro drifts over time (10s of seconds). You need to come up for air periodically to get an accurate location and heading. You also need to transform your distorted track to ensure it connects to your “known” locations. Dyson holds/held the patent for this. I developed the algorithm for him. The bottom line is although it seems straightforward the implementation is tricky and I guess thats why it hasnt been done previously. Whether fusedtrack infringes the patent is mute. Invention is often obvious in retrospect.

• Rob-NZ

Hi Andrew, true enough, we used to get some drift on the INS on the Jumbos in the early 80’s.

It got better with the solid state ones later on but resetting with a GPS sample every 60 seconds should correct enough for smoothing out the calculated track reasonably well.

• Andrew

I love that old tech. Something spinning round in a gimble. Classical physics. I think silicone etched gyros merely vibrate and work rather like Focault’s pendulum so modern but with even older roots!

• Andrew

Correction. Foucault’s pedulum. My spelling sucks!

79. ...er...

Hey, but does it show a real-time heart rate while swimming like polar V800?

• wolFIT

No, only Polar does that because it uses 5 kHz transmission in water (and also when you activate GymLink).

• ...er...

Thanks, got it. Looks like lost opportunity on the whole market…

• Andrew

Does the 9 switch off the optical hr in pool mode like Garmin? My M600 keeps it on and I think does a reasonable job for me. I agree 5khz is better – not sure why it is no longer supported – maybe to do with controls on broadcast frequencies?

• wolFIT

5 kHz still works. But not with M600, it does not have HW support. But V800, M430 does (also H7, H10)…

80. Jude Bowerman

Thank you for this very insightful and comprehensive review. The point about Suunto’s 2 software platforms (Movescount and Sports Tracker) is the killer for me. Suunto has been my favorite watch for years. Movescount is great (a few bugs with connecting to Strava notwithstanding) but the fact that Suunto is moving 100% of their support to a different platform and the new platform doesn’t yet support 3rd party applications (if it doesn’t happen on Strava, it doesn’t happen) is more than concerning. The 9 is a beautiful watch, much more attractive than the Garmin Fenix for me, but the new features don’t outweigh the unknown of what data I can get and where. I don’t buy a new \$700 watch every year, I need them to last 3-5 years minimum, and that includes the software viability. It’s likely to be a Garmin Fenix 5 for me this go around.

• Gundrted

Careful on this one. The 5 Plus just dropped from Garmin today. That means the 5 will get less or no development time. The 5 Plus is nice, but super expensive. I’m thinking of returning my just purchased 5x and going with Suunto 9.

81. Gundrted

I was reading today that Garmin has dropped the Fenix 5x Plus. I know the 5x Plus and the Suunto 9 are in different camps. I just bought my 5x from REI during the last sale and can still return it for a full refund. I’m strongly thinking about dumping Garmin and pre-ordering the 9.

The only reason I got that over the Baro HR was the mapping and sapphire crystal. Over the month I’ve had the 5x I like it, but there are some bugs (like the current grade just stops working). I like the health/daily stat tracking, but I’m not married to it. I don’t use any IQ custom data fields because they kill the battery life. My main concern is now with the 5 Plus line the 5 line will get less development time and we’ve seen that in the past from Garmin. I’m worried my expensive 5x is what it is because Garmin just moved on.

The Suunto 9 seems to fix one major issue I had with the Baro HR. It has a sapphire crystal. Thats a huge thing for me. All my old Garmin running watches have scratched faces because they are basically plastic.

The other huge nice to have is mapping/nav. It doesn’t look like the 9 has routing/nav like that 5x does, but it does claim this on the comparison ‘Outdoor maps by satellite, terrain and topography in web by Mapbox, Google Maps & Android’ I have no clue what that really means. I assume its not like the topo map currently on my 5x. Can you give a quick explanation? Can the maps be loaded onto the watch?

When looking at the Baro HR vs 9 the comparison grids look almost identical. If I was looking at the Baro HR, is the 9 a similar watch with some updates?

I know the 9 will support all my running, mountain biking, hiking, trail running and ultras, but will it allow for HIIT work outs. The Baro HR vs 9 comparison grid is a little sparse on this one. Can I program in something like 50s – push ups, 10s – rest, 50s crunches, 10s – rest and so on … them repeat 4 times?

The Planning grid of the Baro HR vs 9 is blank. Do you think that is a web oversight?

Can the 9 support multiple activity timers in one activity ie … trail running – auto lap every mile, alert every 45 minutes and alert every 2.5 miles?

This may be a silly questions, but is there a support forum for the watch or Suunto in general? I did some google I couldn’t find one.

I haven’t googled this yet, but can data be migrated from Garmin Connect to Suunto Movements?

Thanks for taking the time to read all my long winded questions.

• Phil

Gundrted – Interesting reading that. I’m probably the opposite. I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting for Suunto to bring out something to replace the Ambit 2. The ‘9’ looked promising but, having just read the 5 plus review I think I’m going to have to reluctantly switch my next purchase to that rather than the ‘9’. I’m going to wait for the full review on this but the 5 plus just seems marginally better in a lot of areas which when combined means that its the better watch.

Unless I’m mistaken, I think you’ve misunderstood the maps on the ‘9’. I’m sure I read on here that the supported maps are those which are in Movescount i.e. you can use those to help you plan your route and you can then load the breadcrumb trail onto your watch for you to follow, but, there are no actual maps on the watch itself.

The 9 looks the nice watch but whilst I thought that it had perhaps just about caught up the 5 plus (annoyingly!!) just seems to have taken another few leaps forwards.

• Gundrted

Phil – Thanks for the insights on the mapping. That makes a lot of sense and what I was thinking. The 5 Plus really seems overkill to me and so is the price. Maybe I’m a simpleton, but even living in Colorado I don’t know what I would do with a blood O2 metric. Garmin has done a great job with their App UI (user interface). Both the web and phone are pretty and easy to use.

I have been having other issues with my F5x but Garmin is rolling out a new firmware. We’ll see how that goes and I still have about 2 months before I loose my return window. That should give me enough time to read lots of 9 reviews.

82. M

2 questions:

-Is it possible to calibrate the altimeter with reference to pressure or do you have to do it through known altitude?
-Can you choose distance in metric and elevation in imperial?

Both of these features exist on the Ambit3Peak, but seemed to have been dropped for the Spartan. I’m curious if they’ve been resurrected for the Suunto9.

Thanks

83. Ingo

I am somehow not as hyped about FusedTrack tbh. If I had the choice between a higher capacity battery with 1s GPS recording or a smaller battery in combination with FusedTrack I’d always opt for the 1s GPS intervals. Don’t fix what’s not broken!

I can easily imagine all sorts of weird things happening to this algo enhanced FusedTrack that may end up looking even wackier than a bad GPS.

Don’t get me wrong. FusedTrack is definitely an intriguing concept but as long as it’s not used to enrich a 1s GPS recorded track and filter out a bad GPS signal there I don’t see me using slower recording intervals with FusedTrack and hope it will come out as accurate as an equivalent 1s track. I am probably also not willing to become a beta tester and risk messing up some epic moves.

• Andrew

You dont have to make that choice as the 9 records 1s gps for 24 hrs. If your “epic moves” run to several days then the 9 or carrying a charger are your options. You can “easily imagine all sorts of weird things”. I guess we can all do that. I don’t believe in prophecy though so lets see how well it works after it is released. I have been running along the voie verte in Haut Languedoc. It has tunnels. I can imagine a 1s gps track going awry in the tunnel and fused track working well!

I’ve used an Ambit 3 Sport for the past 3 years and am looking to upgrade. My experience with the watch has been great. Its been tough, accurate, and reliable. I gave up on the chest HR strap after replacing it three times and use a Scosche Rhythm now. I also absolutely hate the Movescount app on my Android phone. Every time I turn it on to sync a workout I wonder if it will actually upload. Its also painfully slow, typically an hour long run takes 5-10 minutes to sync and show up on Strava where my friends with new Garmins pop up almost immediately. My Wahoo Element Bolt is near instantaneous which just makes me hate Movescount even more. And notifications never worked, I ended up turning that feature off to stop wasting battery.

So after that long winded intro my question is: are the new Suunto watches faster to upload through the Movescount Android app? If not I’m probably going to get a Garmin.

• tom

Looks like Suunto is rebuilding apps and website and in the long run will replace Movescount completely. That will probably be messy from a user perspective until they get all sorted.
Anyway, you say “My experience with the watch has been great. Its been tough, accurate, and reliable”. That’s what really counts in my view.

• Velibor

My experience going from A3P to SSU is excellent. If Ambit had big big problems syncing moves, especially longer ones, I had no issue whatsoever with syncing Spartan Ultra, even 15+ hours ones. Using Samsung Galaxy S8+ and MC app. So judging S9 is built on the same platform, I’d say it should behave similarly.

• Andrew Shardlow

I have just got a Suunto 9. Not used it in anger yet as I am having a couple of days off after the Swansea Half Marathon. I am pretty confused about the software environment for it. I have an Ambit 3 Peak and used Movescount. This is really good for route planning and synchronisation though it did not support structured phased training (compare this with Polar). It can also link with Sports Tracker but this seems almost like a third party site (a bit like Strava but much much worse). Movescount can link to Sports Tracker but this is unidirectional and there is not a synchronisation mechanism that I can see. This really is an issue as I thought Sports Tracker would be the route to the creation of structured workouts (phased with constraints such as power, pace or HR) to use on the device. I have also noted that the battery life in simple watch mode with continuous HR is pretty poor. Having a more efficient gps chipset is great and allows for a smaller battery but if this is at the cost of plain watch use duration between charges then this is pretty poor. Having just three buttons and no back button is not great. Although a long press on the middle button will go back this is not the case in the root menu. This is inconsistent with the back swipe metaphor which takes you right back to the watch face. So far, overall, I am not feeling the love.

I have given up waiting for the Polar V800 successor which keeps moving to the right and wonder if this is BS and in reality they are moving out of the premium market.

The Fenix 5 plus seems to be the device that Garmin should have released ages ago. They have a shrewd but rather cynical marketing strategy and I suspect they have had to respond to emerging competition from China to our benefit. They clearly wish to recover their software development costs pretty quickly as the device is really expensive. I am beginning to think the heyday of Finnish competition to Garmin has passed and suspect that we will see dramatic developments from China in the next two years. Long live the competition as this will drive down costs for consumers. Despite this I have ordered a Fenix 5 plus as there doesn’t seem to be a viable competitor to it at this time.

It is after all the “jack of all trades…”

• tom

I hear you. For me, going back to Garmin or hang on to the old V800 was an easy choice, though. Trust is earned, I have no choice but to wait for a new Polar.

• kk1n

i’ve been wanting to get Suunto 9. but reading all the reviews and comments, it seems, sadly, it’s like what you said. The heyday of Finnish competition has passed. Just as i was about to grab suunto 9, fenix 5 plus series drop, introducing features by leaps and bounds. I actually spent close to 3 weeks without watches (after selling my old spartan), comparing between suunto 9 and fenix 5 (and its plus series).

85. Andrew

I would wait if a successor was coming in the fall. There is little to no information about it and release dates just keep slipping to the right. As Marley said – I dont want to wait in vain…

• Thomas

Polar hinted to me on their fb page today—that they are as eager to share as I am to find out about their new products… oops did we say too much etc., it’s a make or break for them now. Garmin has caught up and is now way ahead on the software front. Suunto looks the better compared to Garmin, but software sucks. Polar could pull a rabbit out of the hat very soon. If they don’t it’s down the hole for them and layoffs will soon be a reality. 1200 people world wide and it’s taken this long for a v800 successor…? It better have solar power and everything I want in a real workout watch. Payments… I get music (I use that today), I get maps, but I’d rather have more training guidance and support for “underwater” heart rate, 3 weeks 24/7 tracking and 50/70 hours of hr/gps than maps/payments/that much music/map storage. It’s not like you wouldn’t download the maps you need before going to the Rockies or update your play list now and then vs having 300 songs on your watch….

• Whatever Polar does, if/whenever they do it, I think one should taper expectations. Not because Polar can’t do cool stuff, but just for the very simple reality that they’ve got far less resources for a product type that is heavily reliant on both software and hardware resources.

I have no inside information about whatever it is they may be working on, but I don’t really have to. I have a decade’s worth of historical information on how Polar acts, as well as I suppose knowing who they’ve hired. Nothing in their history says they’re going to come out with a breakout product with dramatically new features. Historically, especially in the last 3-5 years, Polar has aimed to undercut others on price with a solid feature-set, but never a ‘Holy crap’ feature set. Which is fine, they’ve got that routine nailed, and do well with it.

But if you’re looking for major hardware advanced, Polar isn’t physically positioned to edge out Garmin or Apple or even Suunto. They don’t have the right manufacturing facilities to do so, and far more importantly, not the volume. The whole battery vs size thing is very real.

Take Suunto 9 battery for example. Suunto 9 at 1s is 25hrs. Fenix5+ is 32hrs. Suunto’s device is marginally thicker, yet has less battery life, less storage, less components inside. Part of that is likely because Suunto has less volume than Garmin, so has to pay more for components and may not even have access to some components Garmin has. Just like Garmin doesn’t have access to some components Apple does, because Apple can afford to build those components in-house. The only choice Polar would have to get to something like 50/70hrs of HR training with 1s GPS would be to build a beast of a watch that’s all battery.

And this entire discussion totally ignores the software side, which we know Polar doesn’t have significant resources on. Meaning, one could typically argue that a company could ‘out-software’ their hardware competitors. We see Wahoo do that for example with Garmin and bike head units. Wahoo arguably has ‘lesser’ hardware, but people like the unit better in many cases because the software makes the overall experience better.

Point being – Polar can do cool stuff, but the longer they wait, the harder that really is, because their competitors are moving so much faster and have so much more experience due to having more products in the market.

Anyway…got products to unbox and things to do. Don’t get me wrong – I’m hoping Polar comes out with a killer product, but I think it’s going to be virtually impossible to come in with something ‘unreal’.

• tom

I agree. Polar have to be smart. Do less, do it good and go for a specific group of people who doesn’t care about payments and music in their device.

Being big as Garmin has a lot of disadvantages too. The fragmentation with so many devices to maintain, you will sacrifice stability. How much time can Garmin spend on fixing something in Fenix 3 and properly test it these days? I bet it’s more or less abandoned. Which is higher priority? Smoothing the GPS, support for Stryd or getting the payment to work or meybe add support for music playlists?

A killer from Polar in the sense that it does everything wouldn’t work. The consumers who wants all that, probably left Polar long time ago.

• Andrew

Agreed. As an aside, I do wonder about the logic behind developing software for each company. The stuff is pretty generic and each software environment has its weak and strong points. Movescount is great for route creation and syncing. Polar flow is great for phased hr trg and syncing. Garmin Connect does it all but in a sketchy way and by squirting. This is why I use Movescount for route creation and export to Garmin Connect, Polar Flow for phased training and run with both my Polar M430 and Fenix 3 with the Stryd power app. Third party sites could do it all. All that is required is for each hardware manufacturer (instead of reinventing the wheel with their own curates egg of a website) provide a cloud based software abstraction layer presenting a standardised uniform interface (API) to each third party developer that supports bidirectional stuff (synchronisation of routes, workouts and activity data). As cloud software development must represent such a large proportion of the R&D budget this would dramatically reduce development costs for a device. I suppose we might then have to pay for third party sites but many do so already. Although all would benefit including dare I say it the consumer I suspect agreement would never be reached as it would level the playing field for smaller hardware providers. Software engineers love this sort of stuff but from my experience have their wings clipped by petty minded non tech savvy project managers. No offence meant to any petty minded non tech savvy project managers out there!

• Andrew

Hi Tom.

Agreed.

They need to do the basics well:

Device

A good GPS. Good optical wrist HR (Polar lead here). Big clear display filling the available real estate on the front of the device. Native power support. Humungous battery life without performance degradation. Wrist HR in the pool.

Software Ecosystem

There should be no difference between what is possible on the website, smart phone app and on the device. It should support mapping with many map sources, activity specific heat maps and various forms of route creation. It should support complex phased training using constraints of pace, power or HR. It should support the importing and exporting of routes and activities. It should support the automatic calculation of VO2 max, LT HR, rFTPw, HR and power zones and recovery status.

Low down (nice to haves) in Laslow’s hierarchy of needs are:
Contactless payments.
Music.
Social twoddle (bah humbug!)

(-;

• Tom

Hi Ray – just a question/observation. Isn’t it the Garmin Fenix 5x plus that has 32 hours of battery life in 1-second mode, the 5 plus having only 18 hours in 1-sec GPS mode?

Because the Fenix 5 plus is actually both larger (by 1 mm), heavier (by 15 grams) and thicker (by 0.7 mm) than the Suunto 9.

• Hi Tom-

Sorry, was mentally comparing 5X+ to S9, forgot the X in there. The base Fenix 5+ is definitely not heavier though than the S9, though the 5X is, at least for the Sapphire version I have here.

The thickness though appears identical to me when looking at them on a table. The buttons appear to stick out a tiny bit (maybe 1mm) larger on the S9 versus the 5X+, but not meaningfully so.

• Gundrted

I’ve been having some issues with Pace and wandering GPS tracks on my F5x. The wandering track isn’t to bad most of the time(just annoying), but the Pace can drop 2-5min/mi just running by some trees or its fine … wacky. I as hoping the S9 was going to an easy choice to replace the F5x. After reading this and other reviews, I’m not so sure.

If someone has the F5x today, it doesn’t sound like the S9 or F5x+ are really life changing.

Is that a fair statement???

86. Andrew

My Suunto 9 is going back to Finland.

It chomps through battery even with the 24/7 HR switched off – it loses around 10% in 24 hours. The new HR sensor is pretty much a random number generator for about half the time, irrespective of wrist band tightness (I am pretty fair skinned). It takes an age to locate the HR even when sitting (30s cf. 10s for my M430) and loses it periodically during an exercise. I got a resting wrist HR sitting at my desk of 120 this am on the Suunto and 58 on my Polar. These are exactly the same HR issues I had with a Spartan Sport which I returned to Amazon. I am amazed they have not sorted this out. GPS accuracy seems average. I can’t really get my head around this. My Ambit 3 Peak is a brilliant watch but now looking a bit dated. This device seems worse in most if not all respects.

I think Suunto have lost their way in the sports watch domain. I hope their dive computers fare better or there will be a profit warning!

• kk1n

Agree. if suunto is not careful, they could loose the dive market they now lead as well. Garmin has launched its first dive watch (though still full of bugs, but who knows what they can muster with their resources).

87. Alexander Will

Hey Ray! When is the full in-depth review for Suunto 9 going to be posted do you think? I’m between this and the fenix series!

• Sometime after Eurobike (so sometime after July 15th).

I did do a shootout openwater swim today though: Fenix 5+ vs Suunto 9.

They both sucked, each in their own unique way.

On the bright side, the FR935 on my swim buoy was perfect. I’ve got a video with details that I should have up in the next day.

• Andrew

Bouy o bouy. Makes you think there might be a market for an external GPS “sensor” that tucked into a nice little pouch on the upper back of your wetsuit? I suppose it would need to transmit at 5kHz though and at the moment only the Polar V800 would be able to support this (with firmware update) and then at the cost of real time HR. I guess you could have a chest strap with the GPS pod at the back worn under the suit and transmit both data sets via the one channel.

• Yeah, unfortunately I doubt the market is big enough.

Interestingly however, ANT+ technically supports a remote GPS pod. So in theory someone could do it, though Garmin for example doesn’t support said ANT+ device profile in their watches.

What’s odd to me is that while OW swimming GPS was never the most perfect thing on earth for any vendor, both Garmin and Suunto did well enough that I’d usually consider it a ‘roughly accurate’ representation of where I swam. Shruggable, but good enough for Strava (which is really all it’s useful for).

But with the Spartan series, Suunto lost the OW swim accuracy lead they’d had (I’d used to look at the Ambit tracks as the best OW swim tracks out there). Garmin was of course first to do OW swim tracks years ago, and had steadily improved over time, again, to the point where it was a ‘known OK’. Not spectacular, but usually OK with some basic tips (like starting with the watch above the water for a few seconds, and doing the same at the end).

But Friday’s swim was such a disaster in so many ways for both units. They failed to properly track where I was going on a map (both, horribly, F5+ worse), failed to track distance while I was actively swimming (F5+), failed to stop counting distance when I stopped (both), and failed to start/end in anymore remotely near the space spot (S9).

I know, still gotta edit the video…

• For those following along at home, finally got that video uploaded about the swim fiasco: link to youtu.be

Where are the “… thousands of hours testing in the toughest conditions”?

‘Heavily tested by users’ would be the right badge to put on. 😉

I own a A3P and after the price drop and the 2.x update a SSU also, which is performing slightly more inaccurate GPS-wise, but has a better overall user experience and a nicer interface. Heart-Rate zones as a goal are supercool!
GPS-Data while swimming with the SSU is not really usable.
With the Rhythm 24 it performs very good for me.

Of course I did not suffer from years of having a totally crappy, incomplete device.

I do really hope, that the 9er early adopters will get a great watch soon and I expect the SUU to be moved a bit more to a more ‘ideal state’ also.

I am just curious:
Why trying to sell another unit as a ‘flagship’ that is again buggy, the last ‘flagship’ SSU never did pick up real speed.

Why moving to another platform, where the old one needs to be efforts to put in (Customizable graphic data fields, …)?

Seems to be pure marketing/selling strategy presenting new products all over the time, functional or not. For me as a software developer, these guys are nuts.

• Robin

That is not good news… At all… My Suunto Ambit3Peak is far better than these two top of art products!
At the end of your video you mention you’ll receive a new Suunto 9 soon. Does it mean hardware has evolved between your current S9 (maybe protoype?) and the one currently sold (sorry if the answer is already somewhere in your preview…) ?

• At the end of the video I note that I’ll review the new Suunto 9 soon, as in, I’ll publish an in-depth review. Sometime in July after Eurobike. The unit I have is final hardware/software.

88. Andras Szucs

Thank you for the thorough review and efforts to clarify the new/differential features. It helps me a lot to decide for upgrading my old Ambit.
Keep on going and the community will be beholden – like me.
All the best,
Andras

89. Josh

As a trail runner mostly interested in battery life and GPS accuracy, I’d love thought of it I should go with a 935/Fenix or a Suunto 9?

I sync with Strava, but linking to movecount to do that isn’t a big deal. My Garmin Vivoactive HR links to Garmin Connect before sending to Strava.

Just this Vivoactive HR lately seems like it’s getting more and more inaccurate GPS distance wise on runs. Like Strava on the phone could say 13.2 on a run, but my Garmin will say 11.97. This is pretty common on my runs. So really I’d just like to get something accurate!

90. Andrew

I’ve had a horrible time with altitude data. Summary can be found here: link to reddit.com

91. Giles E Endicott

I’m getting some horrendous HR data stored. Supposedly the data is coming from a Scosche Rhythm+, but something strange is happening, it’s very very steppy and messy.

92. Tom

Hello, this is a bit of a simplistic question… Got my 9 the other day, it’s working a treat, however, I’m struggling to understand what the dials on the exclusive 9 watchface indicate. One is how far you are into your defined training goal for the week (dashed outer circumference). But I can’t work out what the solid inner circumference indicates, can anyone help?

• That’s the amount of battery left

• Eric M

Ah. battery. I thought it was steps completed and just wasn’t updating properly. Duh. Thanks for clarification.

93. Hi,
Great first impression. Especially the longelivety of the battery does appeal to me. Any idea when we can expect the in depth review?
Cheers, Kees van Malssen

• By the end of the month.

94. Mirek

Is it possible to view current time when recording an activity? I cannot get the watch to do it…

• Tap two times on the screen to show time, battery left and the option to lock screen

95. Aston Hooi

FusedTrack is pretty cool. It’s like a mini Inertial Reference System on your wrist. A page taken directly out of aviation. Pretty neat stuff.

96. Brian

Any issues with incorrect elevation gain data? I’ve gone on 7 runs with mine and 2 of the runs said I did around 1,700 ft. of elevation gain in my neighborhood. Which isn’t even close. Is there something I need to do? Calibration? Thanks.

97. Spencer Templeton

I purchased a 9 a couple weeks ago. I love it. The gps is at least as good as Fenix 5, and seems to be very close to Ambit3. I don’t know how accurate the HR data is, but it also seems better than the Fenix. My only complaint is the lack of a dedicated light button. I’m forced to do a lot of my runs at night, and this can be really frustrating.

• Andrew

It is an odd thing to leave out. No gestures either.

There is a “standby” mode for the display which keeps a low level of light on continuously (general settings / backlight). The other option is before starting the run scroll down to options and switch the backlight on – it then stays on throughout the activity.

I didn’t find the WHR to work while running – it just picked up my running cadence. My LTHR and cadence at LTHR are similar so I suppose it is a tough call for any optical device. The Fenix 3 HR did not work either.

I think Suunto / other mans. should bring in a “floating” optical hr sensor. If it were gently pressed down with a spring and able to float a few mm laterally it would prevent the bulk of the watch messing up the optically sensed readings.

• Giles E

The change needed here is easy I believe, maybe Suunto are reading. The first press of the middle button should just light up the screen, and then the second will start going through the screens. easy.

98. Matt

One thing I can’t seem to find anywhere in Suunto literature for Baro 9: How the hell do you power it off completely?

• There’s no power off on Suunto watches. If left unattended it will go into a low power mode turning the screen off until you pick it up again.

99. Hey folks, the full Suunto 9 review is up!

As promised, by the end of July…with 42 minutes to spare. 🙂

As usual, I’ll close the comments section here on the preview post in the next day or two when I remember. Of course, feel free to continue the chat over there, but this helps to separate beta from final product.

Cheers!

100. JASON LEDFORD

great article

101. Davis

I want to know if the suunto 9 works with garmin accessories like foot pod, vector 3, HR monitors?
Also I would like a compare of the garmin 5x plus vs the suunto 9.

• Only if said accessory supports Bluetooth Smart broadcasting.

In the case of Garmin accessories, that’s limited to purely Vector 3. None of Garmin’s HR monitors or footpods dual-broadcast. For that I’d look at Wahoo’s sensors.

Is the screen always on during training?

103. Kate Gazzard

Hi DC Rainmaker, firstly, many thanks for all your reviews. Your work is awesome. I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to ask but here goes – do you have any opinion on Suunto Baro 9 VS Garmin Fenix 5x plus for an ultra runner?
Many thanks,
Kate

104. Paul

hey guys,

is there anyway to create a workout for the suunto 9 like you could for a garmin or ambit 3. ie duration intensity etc. Currently it seems very basic

• Andrew

No. You can only set a single target that continues throughout your run, whether that be pace, power or HR based. The Ambit 3 did support this via the mobile app though it was buggy and power zones were to the nearest 100 W! You could also write your own app to do this. As far as I know only Garmin and Polar support multiphase workouts. Polar’s solution is the better of the two. I am presently writing a Connect IQ field that will support multiphase workouts. It will graphically show position with zone for phase and progress through the phase (why does Garmin not do this from the outset!) It will be configurable using a simple intervals programming language I have created.

[WarmUp, 10, 1] + 6 * ( [Work, 4, 4] + [Recover, 2, 2] ) + [CoolDown, 10, 1]

This is a simple example but you can nest intervals if you wish.

• Andrew

P.S. this will allow me to get multiphase intervals with power using my Stryd and old F3. Yay!

105. Eric M

Can a bluetooth footpad be used in the “treadmill” mode of Suunto 9 Baro? I see an option to pair with a Foot Pod in the Connection menu in Settings, but the manual does not talk about using a pod. The use of the watch’s accelerometer to estimate speed and distance on treadmill is substantially inaccurate.

I’m thinking I’ll just order Suunto Mini Foot Pod and see if it works.

Eric

106. Jos

Maybe I am looking in the wrong place. Does the Suunto 9 provide a gradient indication. Max gradient etc.

107. Marcel Balino

Hi Ray
It is possible to connect H10 to S9 to have HR measurements instead of oHR during the night?
I want to have 24×7 data to analyze HRV.

Thanks

• No, unfortunately not. None of the major watch makers support doing 24×7 HR via strap instead of optical HR. I’m not aware of any minor ones either for that matter.

You’d probably be best looking at something that goes under a mattress for more accurate night data.

• Luis

As a researcher, I’ve been questioning the major and also some of the minor brands as I’m interested in monitoring the HRV without the processing of the algorithms these brands use (I wanted the raw data).

The conclusion is, more or less, the only way to get what you want is to start a R-R activity with a Polar V800 and the H10-H7 band.

The harder option is to become an API and program an App, but still, most of the brands won’t allow you to access that kind of data or, simply, they don’t have that level of raw data and the watch is processing the HR data from its acquisition.

Sorry mate!

108. I calibrated fusedtrack inside my house and I didn’t really get the figure 8 movement down right. Is there a way to recalibrate it?

109. Ryan MacDougall

Suunto replaced my spartan trainer with a suunto 9 and i honestly thought because it was a top of the line watch it would have more features… but it doesn’t. I’ve got a compass and fuse tracking and that’s it.

the more i read about suunto the ore it looks like its going the way of Nokia and blackberry. Having a watch with not features gives it no future.