*While I paid for this watch myself I did receive an industry discount on the regular RRP. I received no remuneration for this review.
This is my 3rd Suunto watch in the past 5 years but unlike the Ambit 3 Sport which I used for a couple of years for running, this is the first watch that's transitioned to everyday wear for me as well. A key part of that is size, which I don't care what you've been told, really does matter! While I was happy with the performance of the Ambit it just looked ridiculous on my girly wrist for work (also the bright blue was hard to match with my handbag). Not so with the spunky looking Suunto 9, it's got kick ass battery life, a smooth interface and works pretty well as an everyday smart watch.
Let's just reiterate that battery life point, as it's my favourite feature in a watch that I use mostly for tracking multi day walks in the mountains and long runs. It just doesn't die. Where previously I'd had to charge my watch the morning I wanted to use it for tracking, or take a power bank with me if we were out for several days, the Suunto 9 will keep tracking for up to 120hrs in ultra mode. This makes it a whole lot more user friendly as I only charge it once or twice a week with multiple runs and hikes logged along with the everyday fitness tracking. If I feel like heading for a run in my lunch break I'm never caught out with a low battery and the watch reminds me to charge it when it is getting low. This has been a game changer for me and I'm finally using the fitness tracking capabilities consistently and checking in with my weekly activity goals. Also my incredibly competitive personality took offense to the original "fitness age" the watch gave me triggering a month long exercise bender to prove it wrong. More on that later.
Hot Tip: To switch between Performance/Endurance/Ultra battery modes, select "exercise", "your chosen sport mode", then swipe up when showing the START button. This will take you to the Options menu which when you scroll through has a "Battery mode" option.
If all you're after is a good fitness watch then this is possibly a bit of overkill (unless of course money isn't an option then go for your life and get the Suunto 9 Baro because you're worth it or just like to show off) as the extra features really start coming into their own out on the trail. The GPS is not surprisingly the most accurate I've used so far and although I can't compare this to other brands it's near on perfect to other maps and published distances on the tracks I've used it on so far. Increasing the sensitivity of the GPS tracking will drain the battery faster, but given that will still be around the 25hr mark I've kept my settings on the most accurate tracking to help with route finding and tracking elevation when we're off trail.
The heart rate monitor is not going to be as accurate as wearing a strap around your chest but it does give me a good indication of the intensity zones I'm working in when I measure it against perceived exertion or perceived effort. This is the main way I track my running currently with most runs at 60% PE or the blue line on the intensity zones tracker. If you're training based on heart rate monitoring then you probably still want to pair the watch with an actual heart rate monitor rather than relying on the wrist strap.
I've also found the altimeter much more accurate than older Sunnto watches I've had. I don't need to stop and re-calibrate it all the time as long as it's regularly syncing to my phone. The breadcrumb function is a nice to have but I'm yet to test this out. I also found planning a route on the app to navigate to later a bit clunky and haven't tried it again. If I only had a map and my watch I'd happily navigate difficult terrain but the watch definitely isn't a replacement for a map or mapping app for me.
In terms of the lifestyle tracking aspects, I've actually used these a lot more than I initially anticipated. After setting step and calorie goals daily and weekly, the reminders and overall tracking have been surprisingly motivating for me. I work in an office Monday to Friday so getting out for some form of exercise at lunch time is pretty important and the watch has actually helped improve my habits around this due to it playing on my aforementioned overly competitive nature. If you just need a step counter then there are plenty of cheaper options out there but this was a little icing on the cake outside of the performance elements of the watch.
I'm going to be honest, I still don't have work email on my phone because I need some boundaries in my life and sometimes I just don't want to deal with people. I thought that having notifications coming through to my arm was a step in the wrong direction for my mental health but it's actually had the opposite affect. I'm not sure if it's just me or others have had a similar experience when getting a smart watch but I actually spend less time on my phone and here's my logic as to why. Previously my phone would sit on my desk so that in my open plan office I could see if a call or notification was coming in while still keeping it on silent. This meant mindlessly checking social media, Trade Me, Strava and all of the other super important apps every time I unlocked my phone to look at a message. Now though, I can keep my phone in my bag knowing I'm not going to miss a call (it'll come through to the watch) and I spend a lot less time doing the mindless app dance every half hour just because it's there. I'll let you mull over that brilliant piece of Millennial psychology and draw your own conclusions but back to the watch.
SUNRISE and SUNSET
So one of the "fun" things I like to do in meetings that are going for too long (usually Marketing related) is change up the display on the main watch face. It's like choosing a new skin for your Bebo page (for those of us that were born in the late 80s) without the agony of deciding who your top 10 friends were going to be that week. I digress. Again. In "Settings" under "Watch Face" scroll through until you find the version with a little sun above and below the digital time. This displays the sunrise and sunset times each day which is handy if you're 2 hours from the hut with only 1 hour of daylight left or you're wanting to know when it's safe to sneak your recycling into the neighbours bin.
SWIPE RIGHT.. OR LEFT
I was a little dubious about how easy it would be to use the touch screen on such a small display compared to the standard smart phone these days. With that said, I have small hands and this is still a bloody big watch so it really hasn't been an issue. I do find it challenging to use in the wet as despite being waterproof the screen is a lot less sensitive when it's pouring down and you're trying to do anything in more than two steps. The buttons can be used instead I just find it slower and harder to do while actually running.
Yeah it's still a rather large piece of technology to wear but I do wear it every day and no longer notice its presence even when typing. I think the soft strap has a lot to do with this as it molds quite comfortably around the narrowest part of my wrist. I did experience some chaffing when I first started running with it but that seems to have gone away now. It might have been that I was doing the strap up too tightly or not tightly enough I'm actually not sure on that one. I imagine if you have large manly wrists this will look somewhat more in proportion but I feel like this suits me better than a girly little fitbit, plus did I mention it goes with my handbag?
Ok so here's where the review is going to be slightly less glowing. I'm not a fan of the Suunto App. It took forever to download once I finally figured out which App they were supporting in the future. Then it was a pain in the arse to pair to Strava which only counts the parts of my run where the GPS signal was 100% dropping large sections off all too regularly. In saying that, now that Strava is insisting that you pay for just breathing in the general direction of their app, Suunto's features are looking a little more impressive. I really only utlise the app to sync the watch and to measure my stats from each run. I also change up the bespoke sport modes I have set up to change what I'm looking at on the main display for different trips. This is a standard but very useful feature as everyone has their own preferred way of viewing their trips and workouts depending on if your focus is time, distance, cadence etc.
Fit for purpose?
Definitely a good all rounder for someone who's spending plenty of long hours on the trails and wants the long battery life and accurate tracking. As someone who can be a little technically challenged I found it easy to use and learn the various features quickly. I wish the App was a little more user friendly for creating new routes but then I don't feel like I really needed that functionality in the end when I use Map Toaster so much already. Would recommend but very pricey so ask your Mum first.