The Suunto 9 Peak Pro is both a modest update and a major update, depending on how you look at it. Internally, the Suunto 9 Peak Pro is substantially different – with almost everything revamped: Processor, GPS chipset, heart rate sensor, and memory. Even the user interface and software. In other words, all the things that matter. However externally, it basically looks the same as the previous Suunto 9 Peak. Tied with this internal revamp are further extended 3rd party integration options, and expanded ‘app store’ capabilities.
However, while the above is a good list to start from, it’s tricky in that it still falls short of the multiband GNSS chipsets that many (if not most) watch models above $400 are putting in these days, especially for companies’ flagship units (this one priced at $549). Same goes for mapping. Additionally, Suunto skipped on significantly revamping the often hard-to-read display, something that many had identified as probably the most critical element needing a refresh.
Yet then, out of left field comes the Suunto 9 Peak Pro’s ability to track shallow-water snorkeling and diving – down to a depth of 10 meters. Not enough for scuba purposes, or even most free diving – but enough for tracking most snorkeling dives, and just those wanting to have a bit of fun. It’s something unseen in endurance sports watches, short of the high-end Apple Watch Ultra’s dive capabilities they announced a month earlier.
And thus arrives probably one of the more intriguing reviews I’ll have written in a while. Can Suunto find a way to thread the needle enough to have their new features, combined with existing platform power, make up for the lack of other features normally seen at this price point? Well, let’s dig in.
As usual, this watch is a media loaner, and it’ll go back to Suunto. This review is not sponsored (nor does any company get to preview anything I review), and I don’t take any advertiser money from any companies I review. And as regular readers know, if something is crap, I’m gonna tell it brutally like it is – no matter the brand. Once this unit goes back, I’ll go out and get my own for any future testing needs. If you found this review useful, you can use the links at the bottom, or consider becoming a DCR Supporter which makes the site ad-free, while also getting access to a mostly weekly video series behind the scenes of the DCR Cave. And of course, it makes you awesome.
So what exactly is new in the Suunto 9 Peak Pro? Let’s dive into all the differences. First, as noted, it looks nearly identical to the previous Suunto 9 Peak, though it’s actually a mere 0.2mm thicker, which of course you wouldn’t notice in real life. Instead, it’s all about the internal hardware revamps, and software features updates. Here’s a quick hit list of what’s changed:
– New more powerful processor, but also with new power-efficient MCU
– New LifeQ Optical HR sensor module, slightly decreased battery consumption
– New All-Systems GNSS Chipset (not multiband, but GPS/QZSS/Galileo/Beidou/GLONASS via Sony)
– Claimed increased GPS accuracy by allowing up to 4 concurrent systems and 32 satellites at once
– Revamped user interface, with faster responsiveness
– Added new “Mermaid Dive” mode, for tracking shallow free-diving to 10 meters
– Added watch widget customization
– Added wrist-based running power
– Added normalized graded pace (NGP) in activity logs
– Adding Strava Live Segments in Oct/Nov timeframe
– Added more SuuntoPlus guides (mini-apps)
– Increased durability to MIL-STD-810 standard
– Increased battery life by 50% to 40 hours of GPS time in high fidelity mode, 70 hours in endurance mode
– Maintained existing fast-charging (10 mins charging = 10 hours training)
– Price is 499EUR/$549USD for the stainless steel, and 629EUR for the titanium
Got all that? Good, let’s get it unboxed!
For this section of the review, I’m going to focus on the non-sports portions of the watch. Things like activity tracking (e.g. steps & sleep), smartphone integration, music control, etc… As well as some tidbits on the hardware itself.
To begin, the watch has three buttons, as well as a touchscreen. In general, the upper button goes up, and the lower button down, and the middle button selects. However, the middle button can be long-held to go back. Somewhat notably, on the Suunto 5 Peak (similar body), that unit doesn’t have a touchscreen, but rather five buttons. I’d actually kinda prefer that Suunto kept the added buttons. I know they’ve long had this pattern, but I think the trend in sports tech over the last 12-18 months has been towards more buttons, and simply the ability to choose whether you want a button-led experience, or a touch-led experience. Either way, this isn’t a big deal – just a minor request/preference.
All the buttons here on the Suunto 9 Peak Pro feel crispy, and have a nice click to them, while being metal as well. I haven’t had any issues with the buttons – either above water or below water. I don’t tend to use the touchscreen much, as I don’t find a lot of value in it with the Suunto 3/5/9 watches (whereas on the Suunto 7, since it has maps and Wear OS, it’s more useful).
Next, we’ve got the screen itself:
Suunto has made steps in the Suunto 9 Peak Pro with its revamped user interface to try and improve the readability of the text on the screen. This is less about some great new screen and more about changing their fonts and styling to make it more visible. And yes, it’s definitely more visible than in the past. But it still doesn’t seem as clear or easily visible as compared to most other companies out there. I don’t know the exact reason, but I’d say that the Suunto 9 Peak Pro screen, both in terms of quality and size, is unquestionably its biggest downside. And I’m not even going to get into the whole bezel size debacle.
Flipping it over, you’ll find the unit uses the newer Suunto 9 Peak magnetic charging dock. This works well, and generally aligns itself to the right spot to charge. I’m happy with this:
Also on the back you’ll find the Suunto 9 Peak Pro’s optical HR sensor, which is a new sensor from LifeQ. I’ll dive into the accuracy of this later on, but for the most part, Suunto is really only using this sensor for heart rate readings and SpO2 readings. Meaning, unlike other companies, they aren’t using it for things like respiration rate or a myriad of other metrics. Some of those metrics are useful, some less so. Depends on the use case.
Next, you’ve got the removable bands/straps. They simply pop-out when you use the little pins on the inside of the watch band itself. These are pretty standard straps, and are 22mm strap sizes, so you can use other 3rd party straps if you want.
Now looking back at the front of the watch, you’ve got the watch face. You can tap on it, to change the bottom metrics, iterating through battery, training time, steps, and altitude:
Suunto doesn’t have a watch face store, but does have a handful of watch faces you can select from within the settings on the watch itself.
Next, looking at some of the metrics this will track, it’ll do your standard steps/activity, as well as sleep, and 24×7 heart rate. It’s still only polling heart rate at 10-minute intervals unfortunately, a long-standing Suunto practice. I can also manually take a blood oxygen reading:
It seems to take forever (30-60 seconds), compared to most watches taking only 5-15 seconds. Of course, that’s assuming you can even get it to take a measurement. Most times I can’t, it just circles forever.
Next, there’s the steps and calories overview page:
You can also see this data by the week too, looking at steps and calories for the past 7 days:
The same goes for sleep data. You can view it by the week, or, just last night as well:
It’ll also show you a brief ‘Good Morning’ report when you wake up. But I find that disappears super quickly, like a fart in the wind. If you don’t catch it the very first time you stand up, it’ll instantly be gone. I really wish it stuck around like other companies do, giving me time to actually see it, until I dismiss it.
As far as sleep accuracy goes, it’s generally been pretty good about getting the time I fell asleep/woke up at. I don’t typically evaluate the sleep phases side of things, since for the most part even the pro consumer tools used to evaluate that are only 80% accurate (in a best case), thus, trying to compare to something that’s not all that accurate to begin with, seems kinda silly to me.
In any case, all of this data is of course accessible on the Suunto App, and can be plotted in a variety of ways as well:
Next, you’ve got your training time this week. In my case, my week ‘started’ on Sunday, and today is Monday, so it only shows today and yesterday’s workouts:
After that, you’ve got your stress levels, followed by your Fitness Level and Fitness Age:
Followed by that are the barometric altimeter widget, barometric pressure, and sunset/sunrise widgets:
Following bits like the timer/stopwatch, and compass (with compass settings):
And finally, music controls:
These music controls will control music on your phone. The Suunto 9 series doesn’t have any onboard music storage (only the Suunto 7 does).
Oh – and last but not least, we’ve got the text message notifications. These will show texts on your watch from your phone, per the app settings on your phone. Sadly, neither Des’s eggplant or berries emoji came through.
You can’t reply to these messages from your watch, but you can dismiss them, which will concurrently dismiss them on the phone. This is similar to most watches that aren’t either the Apple Watch, or a Wear OS watch. In the case of iOS, for example, Apple restricts the native text reply function to only the Apple Watch.
Finally, for lack of anywhere else to mention it, the new user interface is definitely snappier – that’s for sure. The previous Suunto watches had become slower and slower, and this largely resolves that.
It’s pretty darn likely that if you’re looking at buying a Suunto watch, it’s likely for the sports features. Unless you’re a mermaid, in which case, you’re looking for the next section. To each their own.
To get started on a workout or activity, you’ll tap the up button, which brings up a list of sports, ordered by the most recent sport profile you’ve used. For those familiar with Suunto watches, you’ll see this has changed a fair bit from yesteryear. Rather than one sport per page, you get a quickly scrollable list). This makes it easier to find the sport you want.
Note that while these are sport names generically, you can also create your own sport profile. Take for example the ‘Run with Power’ profile you see there. That’s actually not a standard named profile, but one I created, which, as you might expect, has some running power pages with it. You can customize these profiles via the Suunto App on your phone, though there are a few quirks/limitations with that I’ll talk about in a second.
Once you’ve found said sport to suffer, you’ll tap to enter it, which gets you to the ‘lobby’ of that sport (above). This is where it goes off and starts searching for sensors (including GPS and HR), as well as shows you a host of things you can customize. You can tweak battery profile settings, add a route to navigate, change heart rate zones, add a specific workout target, auto lap, autopause, and plenty more – all without meandering somewhere else in the settings.
Notably, you’ll see in the list here the SuuntoPlus options, including both SuuntoPlus Sport Apps and SuuntoPlus Guides. These are essentially apps that companies can write, or structured workouts that you can create, and have in the watch profile. I’ve talked a fair bit about this in the past, and Suunto builds this out. From a theoretical standpoint, this is designed to counter Garmin’s Connect IQ development platform, but obviously CIQ has about a decade of existence already. Suunto has roughly a year or so, plus some scattered historical stuff a decade prior. Still, at the launch of the Suunto 9 Peak Pro, they talked about new sensor connectivity and already have some meaningful connections out:
And that’s in addition to the few dozen different Suunto-built apps they’ve previously created. In fact, the challenge at this juncture isn’t so much the lack of apps, but rather, the lack of ability to select more than one. You see, many of these Suunto Plus apps are really pieces of functionality that should be natively built in.
You want to do a structured workout? That’s a SuuntoPlus Guide (app).
And the problem is, you can only choose one app per workout. So, if you wanted to do that structured workout, you couldn’t use any of the 3rd party apps. Previously, Suunto said this was a hardware limitation with limited processor capacity. Hopefully, with the faster processor on the Suunto 9 Peak Pro, they can address this – as it’s really a pretty substantial issue for the platform (in terms of scale as a development platform).
While Garmin has a 2 concurrent CIQ app limit on their watches (more on their bike computers), that’s less restrictive because so many of the other features are already baked in. Still, even their limit is silly in 2022.
Anyways, once you’ve selected whatever it is that you want to select, you can start your workout and begin doing the pain/suffering part. In fact, here’s what it looks like for running power. That’s because running power is now built-in, requiring no additional sensors.
Suunto is now joining the fray, which includes Garmin recently as well. With previous entrants Apple, COROS, and Polar, pretty much rounding out the most common GPS sports watches (save Wahoo, which does support the accessory power). As with most wrist-based running power options, you simply need to run to see your running power. Suunto continues to support the Stryd running power pod, and if you pair a Stryd pod, that data will override the Suunto wrist-based data. All other power-driven functions remain the same as before, it’s simply now that you don’t need a Stryd pod.
Now for the usual preface, there is no standard (or scientific agreement) for running power, and each company more or less aligns to a few different algorithms. Some companies simply choose to align to what Stryd has done (COROS/Apple), while others select different algorithms (Polar/Garmin). Suunto aimed for the Stryd camp, and thus says their data should align there.
My wrists have been a wee bit packed with many new watches the last few days, but I did a short test run to see how things handled. This run had the Suunto on one wrist, Garmin on the other, and then a COROS up on the hand (so, it’s not perfect, but I find it’s usually pretty close to ballpark).
As you can see, it’s pretty much where we’d expect, closer to COROS (since COROS generally matches Stryd). The Garmin is higher up, as is usually the case based on the algorithm choices they’ve made.
Now, as mentioned earlier on, you can add a course here to navigate. Suunto has been chipping away at their navigation features for many years, but more notably within the Suunto App in the last few years. A year or so ago they added Komoot turn-by-turn navigation support, and then this past summer they added Strava Routes support. Plus their own turn-by-turn routing support using their heat maps.
About the only annoying thing here is that when I create a new route on Strava/Komoot, it doesn’t just automatically show up on the watch. Instead, I have to manually toggle it. I don’t know why Suunto (and COROS) think anyone wants to do this manually. Clearly the point of creating a route is to have it available to navigate, no? It’s what Garmin/Wahoo/Stages, and others do – and it means everything is just ready and waiting for you.
In any event, once you toggle it on, it’ll sync to the watch, and you can see details about the route:
From there you can navigate it. At this point, you see a fundamental difference between three products at basically the same ~$500 price point:
COROS APEX 2 Pro: Full-color non-routable maps without turn-by-turn navigation
Garmin Forerunner 955: Full-color routable maps with turn-by-turn navigation
Suunto 9 Peak Pro: No maps with turn-by-turn navigation.
And if we were to add Polar, they’d fall into roughly the same camp as Suunto here. Now this is where the nuance of actually using these devices for navigation becomes important. While COROS has maps, and they have a breadcrumb trail atop those maps, none of their watches will tell you when or where to turn. They’ll simply get upset when you go off-course. Still, at least once you’re off course you can see that the lake is on one side of you, and get context about it, to hopefully figure it out yourself.
Suunto meanwhile, will tell you about the turn as you approach it, then chirp to remind you to actually make the turn – complete with exact trail/street names if applicable, and then finally, it’ll yell at you if you miss it. The only (mildly big) problem is that the 9 Peak Pro doesn’t have any maps. So it’s just a breadcrumb trail.
And certainly, I’ve successfully navigated with all three types over the years. And unquestionably having full routable maps + TBT is best. That said, failing that, I’ll take a breadcrumb trail with TBT (the reminder to actually turn), rather than maps. It’s just more useful.
I point this out, because I think a lot of people will be looking at those two watches side by side from an outdoor standpoint, and trying to figure out how they differ – and this is a substantial piece to keep in mind. Of course, COROS says they’re working on improving their map and routing pieces, starting as soon as later this year, but practically, we don’t know what that means (at all). It’s likely it’ll get better, and COROS has more headroom to get better here because Suunto simply can’t add maps to the Suunto 9 Peak Pro hardware. That’s not in the cards. Whereas COROS adding routing is something totally viable with the hardware they have.
In any case, back to our run workout – once we’re done with it, we’ll get summary information on the watch:
And then all of this information is also available in the Suunto App too:
Plus, if you’ve got 3rd party platforms (like Strava or TrainingPeaks), it’ll sync to that. And even more so, with Suunto’s APIs, their some 200 partners can also get far more detailed data directly as well. Again, another area that’s hard to quantify on a box or glossy comparison sheet. For some, that won’t matter as long as it’s on Strava, yet for others, the exact partner app they want is just as important.
Fun With Aquatic Depth:
Next is a bit of a fun section, which is the Suunto 9 Peak Pro’s ability to act as a depth gauge underwater. Now, it won’t go that deep – just 10m worth. Suunto says this is trying to balance the hardware part needs of an above-water altimeter, with that of an underwater one. They say that combo sensors generally favor doing one or the other well, not both. So in this case, they’ve got a sensor that does well to 10m in depth, while still maintaining accuracy above water. Their goal was to still provide strong above-water accuracy, since that’s where the majority of the watch focus is.
In any case, there are two sport profiles here:
– Snorkeling Mode
– Mermaid Mode
The simple difference is snorkeling mode also has GPS enabled, though, I’ll spoil that part right now and note that unless I stuck my hand above the water for a while, it never would find GPS while snorkeling (as expected, since GPS doesn’t work well underwater). Still, at least you had a point or two somewhere during your snorkel of the bay you were in. Here you can see I raised my hand above the water a few times to create a triangle of sorts.
Once you’ve got the mode activated, you’ll go about your business snorkeling and mermaiding. In my case, I was in a shallow bay that had some coral and stuff to check out. So, down I went. I did this on a few different days, one with fins, and one without. In both cases I was actually limited not by my depth, but simply by the seafloor in that area, which bottomed out at 7.4 meters (24ft).
Each time you dove, it’d show in real-time the depth you were at on a dedicated depth page. It seemed to be pretty close to instantly responsive. Maybe a second or two behind at worst. It’s also concurrently tracking the dive time for each one.
But the cool part is then as you go along and continue being the inner-mermaid you are, you’ll get a running summary of all your dives, including both max depth and dive length. And it’ll show your rest time between each dive as well:
Once you’ve scuttled out of there, you’ll see all this same data on the Suunto App, showing the dive/depth profile for the entire activity, along with summary data:
This is cool, and I found it enjoyable. While my wife was lounging around on the beach, I was going up and down and up and down and up and down, out in the water. All of which was essentially a workout unto itself. I do wish it tracked deeper, as then it’d be more appealing to more casual free divers, most of which don’t need crazy depths – but do need more than 10 meters. Still, I think it’s a creative feature that nobody else has at this price point, and comes from a place that Suunto actually has tons of experience in (their well-regarded dive computers). I’m hoping we’ll see this expand more in the future on other watches, both Suunto’s and others.
GPS & Heart Rate Accuracy:
In this section I’ll take a look at the GPS & heart rate accuracy of the Suunto 9 Peak Pro series. In these tests, I’m comparing them against a ‘known good’ chest strap (the Polar H10 or the Garmin HRM-PRO Plus), as well as one or more other watches or optical heart rate sensors. In these tests, only one watch is worn per wrist to ensure optical HR accuracy is still valid. Additional sensors may be worn on the upper arm (Whoop or Polar Verity Sense), the finger (Oura), or the chest (various chest straps).
For all these tests, the Suunto 9 Peak Pro was set in the highest accuracy mode possible. All other watches were set in their highest respective modes (multiband/dual-frequency for Garmin watches, multiband for COROS APEX 2 Pro & Vertix 2, All Systems for COROS Apex 2 base, and the Fitbit Sense 2 doesn’t have any options).
First up we’ve got a run that starts in a city, and then climbs up relatively easy along what should be a pretty straightforward road.
As you can see, it locks nicely for GPS on the first part in front of the tall buildings. Something that can’t be said for the Fitbit Sense 2, which first struggled significantly to even find GPS, and then once it found it, has me on the wrong side of the 4-5 lane road.
At one of the turns, the Epix and Suunto are very close together for the most part, closer than the Fitbit Sense 2:
And then the rest of the way up, the two endurance-sports-focused units are pretty much side by side, even though there’s a giant crater next to it. Good stuff.
Heartrate-wise on this run, the Suunto was spot on, including the sprints I did, as well as going uphill and most notably downhill (where HR cadence lock is often an issue on optical HR watches). Not so much for the Fitbit Sense 2:
Next, we’ve got a bit of a forest/tree run. I had originally used this run to show how the Apple Watch Ultra secondary low-power GPS tracking mode worked (you can read about that here). But since that’ll just make this graph unnecessarily messy (as it skips chunks of time), I’ve removed it from here to just show the COROS Vertix 2 and Garmin MARQ 2 Athlete, plus the Suunto 9 Peak Pro:
As we get going, the Suunto 9 Peak Pro is basically spot-on with the Garmin MARQ 2, which is in turn basically spot-on the trail. It does just barely cut one corner to the left, but considering the COROS Vertix 2 (in multiband) is offset most of the time, it’s not doing too badly.
As we get into the taller/deeper treed sections (still with leaves here), you can see the Suunto 9 Peak Pro gets a bit wobbly compared to the MARQ 2 Athlete, which you can clearly see is on the path. In trades places in different spots with the Vertix 2 for who is least on the path.
Later in the run, within more trees, you can see the Suunto 9 Peak Pro is back with the MARQ 2 Athlete, whereas the Vertix 2 is offset again.
And the same for the rest of the run in the woods, Suunto 9 Peak Pro correctly matches the path, and Vertix 2 in multiband is offset:
Meanwhile, the heart rate on this run wasn’t super awesome. It really struggled quite a bit, especially in the second half, which is honestly a bit odd given it was relatively steady-state. Whatever happened after that sprint, it had a really tough time keeping it together:
Next, we’ve got a mixed difficulty test, this one starting off kinda easy, but then getting more and more complex as I dive into the buildings of the city. As we see here going under this small underpass, the Suunto 9 doesn’t quite track the path correctly, cutting the corner. However, it doesn’t cut the corners as badly as either the COROS APEX 2 Pro or APEX 2, which put me in the canal on both sides. The Suunto 9 Peak Pro keeps me on dry land, even if in the bushes.
For the next little while, the Suunto 9 Peak Pro remains relatively close to the path, roughly in line with the COROS APEX 2. Sometimes on the path, sometimes a bit wetter. Both units cut the corner a bit. We can see examples of this throughout, though the Suunto 9 Peak Pro does handle this section well, easily beating the COROS APEX 2 Pro (which has multiband), as well as beating the APEX 2 base.
However, just a few hundred meters later and the roles are reversed, with the Suunto out playing in traffic:
Next, we’ve got the tall city section. On the lower pass in the below image, the Suunto actually manages to hold it together in a relatively straight line, even quite close to the roadway (arguably a bit straighter than the FR955). However, at the turn (the left side), all the units cut the corners except the FR955. The upper section shown below is kinda messy for everyone, at varying offsets.
Then we get into the open a bit around the pond/lake you see there, before getting back down into the buildings. Unfortunately, the Suunto cut a corner pretty significantly here and had me swimming (as did the two COROS units, albeit swimming for much longer). After that, the COROS units got closer back to realty, while the Suunto made me go for another swim in the other canal. The FR955 was near-precisely on path here.
The rest of the run was mostly like the first portion, in terms of variations. But it’s a good example of the differences from like-priced units. While the FR955 wasn’t always perfect, it easily laid down the most perfect track for the non-city portions. And then in the city, on the whole, it had the best of the tracks. The Suunto generally did better than COROS in the more open areas (sometimes meaningfully), and then in the city, I’d say the COROS has a very slight edge.
Next, we’ve got a totally random hike-thing I did last month. I say ‘thing’, because basically it was just a very long and painful staircase that went precisely straight along an old rail/tram line, and straight up – to the top of a crater. But, it ended up being a fascinating look at GPS accuracy, as well as elevation accuracy. We won’t spend much time on it, but I thought it was kinda interesting. At a high level things look kinda close:
But as you zoom in you can see the variances. The Fitbit Sense 2 is all over creation, whereas the Garmin Epix is the straightest. I never left the middle of the rail tracks, so this should be precisely straight, within 1 meter. The Suunto 9 Peak Pro was sorta in the middle of those two watches.
If we look at the elevation here, we can see the Garmin Epix starts off at 36m, and ends at 37m (start/end points). Given I ended four parking spaces different from where I started, this is logical. Meanwhile, the Suunto 9 Peak Pro started at 55m, but ended at 65m – a 10-meter difference. The Fitbit Sense 2 started/ended at 61m. Said differently, the Suunto 9 Peak Pro drifted 10 meters throughout. Now, had this been a 2,000m climb, it’d be no big deal. But, on a smaller 320m ascent, it’s a bit more noticeable. You can decide whether or not it’s meaningful.
Finally, as for the heart rate, that first 30 minutes is the climb up, and you can see it struggles a bit here initially, whereas the Fitbit Sense 2 actually got it right. On the way down, it’s pretty low heart rate since it’s more technical not falling than anything, so not really worth comparing, since most of the units are within a few BPM for the most part, it just looks pretty messy.
Next, a couple of quick indoor workouts. First, a Zwift VO2Max interval workout:
As you can see it was reasonably close overall to the chest strap, but did have a couple of blips.
Then we’ve got this TrainerRoad interval workout. It did fairly well here also, a few blips in the beginning especially, and one or two intervals a few seconds behind, but not too big a deal. That wonky-flat-section towards the end there before the last interval where TrainerRoad randomly dropped connections to all my sensors, thus the flat-line.
So what about openwater swimming? Well…yeah. Suunto may dive like a fish, but the tracking of said openwater swim did not go well. It didn’t go well from shortly after the start, nor the middle, and certainly not the end. According to the Suunto 9 Peak Pro, I drowned out in the middle of the lake. Which to be fair, it was effin’ cold (13°C/55°F), and that was a viable possibility given my sans-wetsuit situation. Maybe the Suunto just wanted to put itself out of its misery. I don’t know.
And while I’d like to say this was an isolated incident, the reality is Suunto consistently ranks the lowest in my openwater swim testing – year after year, model after model. In this case, its failure was one of the treading water stops that I do, which is usually when Suunto fails. Treading water tests are when I stop for usually 10-15 seconds, which is very common swimming in groups, fixing fogged up/watered goggles, or such (or sometimes even crowded turn buoys in mass start races). A GPS should be able to recover from that, and most do. And ideally, recover gracefully without any weird track issues. In this case, the Suunto gave up entirely for the rest of the swim.
Of course, as you can see, it was already going off-track well before that, and then if you look closely at the first section, it wasn’t actually tracking continuously, but rather in big gaps. Even while seeing the numbers on the watch, it was increasing in jumps of 50-60 meters at a time, not the constant and slow increase of other watches. In talking with Suunto, they’ve seen this on previous firmware, but not this specific firmware (this was just a few hours ago earlier today). They’re digging into it.
Overall, setting aside this openwater performance, the Suunto 9 Peak Pro actually handles surprisingly well for not being multiband GNSS. It’s using all five of those satellite systems (without the dual-frequency piece) to manage to put something together that generally performs in the same ballpark as COROS with multiband. In some cases, COROS does better, and in some cases, Suunto does better. In many (most?) conditions, Suunto seems to edge out COROS. Ultimately, you can simply decide for yourself based on the tracks above. However, what is clear is that it doesn’t out-perform the accuracy of the multiband from the Forerunner 955, which continues to be some of the best out there – and probably why you see the vast majority of sport tech reviewers include it in their GPS accuracy comparisons.
As I said at the beginning, Suunto is in a tricky spot with this watch. Not necessarily a bad spot, but just a challenging spot. I see this model as more of a ‘stop the bleeding’ watch, rather than a watch that will cause people to jump to Suunto. Meaning, for the previous few years, Suunto has struggled to put forth competitive models. Not just against the big companies, but even comparing to the small and upcoming companies – like COROS. And that ignores the messiness of the previous Movescount platform changes that lost a lot of people. However, in recent years they’ve invested heavily in the platform, and it shows. Both the Suunto App piece, but also the 3rd party integration side – now boasting some 200 partner companies. They’ve got a legit 3rd party app platform on their watch taking shape – something that their other endurance-focused competitors of Polar, COROS, and Wahoo – all lack.
Suunto’s online/app platform is deeper than COROS from a mapping/navigation/analysis standpoint. That competition isn’t even close. Inversely, the built-in training/physio features from Suunto fall short of what Polar has. In other areas, Suunto vs Polar is a mixed bag depending on the exact topic being discussed.
But when it comes to the watch hardware itself, COROS generally wins against Suunto. The display is larger and more readable, COROS has color maps, music support, multiband GNSS, and doesn’t require the bezel be half the watch. Of course, inversely, Suunto’s underlying navigation (turn-by-turn) and routing pieces are far superior (let alone the entire Suunto App mapping engine, leagues ahead). If we look at hardware components like the GPS, that’s where it’s messy. While COROS has multiband on the APEX 2 Pro and Vertix 2, but Suunto’s non-multiband is actually beating it in a number of cases. Not all the time, but enough that I’d probably consider it a wash for land-based activities.
And thus you see why this is tricky. Suunto’s finally at a point where the issue isn’t the platform anymore, it’s actually the watch that’s holding it behind. A watch display, and underpinnings that largely haven’t meaningfully changed in half a decade. Suunto is a company that exudes the adventures in the outdoors, yet lacks maps. And lacks a display that’s easily readable in all conditions, outdoors or indoors.
But it does have the little snorkel and mermaid feature, which I found endlessly fun to play with. I could have stayed out there diving down all day long just to see the depth change. And probably would have, had the seafloor in that area been deeper. Is it as useful as the dive watches I’d use for when I dive? Of course not. But it didn’t matter, it was legit fun to use. And I’m OK with that. Plus, Suunto is doing good work on sustainability initiatives in their factories, which I highlighted previously.
And thus, you can see why this review is tricky. From a pure watch hardware standpoint, the Suunto 9 Peak Pro simply isn’t competitive with the COROS APEX 2/2 Pro units launched last week, and certainly not remotely competitive with the Garmin Forerunner 955 from earlier this summer (all at the same price point). But what Suunto lacks in hardware against COROS, they make up for in platform – be it navigation, analytics, or app integrations. Of course, I don’t know how to solve for the Garmin side, which is why I think that ultimately, I see this watch as a stopgap to mostly keep Suunto people from leaving Suunto, rather than one that’s going to draw in users from other platforms.
I just keep hoping that we’ll see Suunto roll out some new larger-display-laden watch with mapping and multiband GPS, and multi-app support. If they changed nothing else beyond that, they’d have a strong leg up on most of their competitors.
With that, thanks for reading!
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Hopefully you found this review useful. At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device. The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love). As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.
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And finally, here’s a handy list of accessories that work well with the Suunto watches. Given the unit pairs with standard Bluetooth Smart sensors, you can use just about anything though. I'd recommend the Garmin bike sensors over the Wahoo ones, merely because the Garmin have two concurrent Bluetooth channels versus one for the Wahoo RPM/SPEED sensors.
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Thanks for reading! And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible. And lastly, if you felt this review was useful – I always appreciate feedback in the comments below. Thanks!