The clock at Suunto strikes 9! The Finnish manufacturer of GPS watches rings the bell for the next generation of multisport watches with the Suunto 9. Functionally strong smart watches are everywhere these days. So what does this one have that others don’t? Our electronics specialist Guido took a close look at the new features.
Guido‘s endurance test — with watch
“As expected from Suunto, we’re dealing with a lovingly packaged sports watch that has a high-quality look and feel. The Suunto 9 is available in black, white and lime. Its design is simple, which makes it timeless. But its appearance is a matter of taste, naturally.
Anyone looking for additional functions such as music or contactless payment will be disappointed. The Suunto 9 is not a hip smart watch for everyday use – it‘s smart when it comes to functionality and connectivity for athletes.
Suunto 9: features at a glance
Suunto changed this watches name in order to separate it from the somewhat tarnished image of the Spartan series. After some initial software problems, which were gradually eliminated, the Spartan series never quite lost its bad reputation.
With the Suunto 9, the Finns made some improvements in terms of hardware, but most was changed for the better in terms of software. The most important functions and decisive innovations of the watch are the following:
- GPS tracking
- Waterproofness up to 100 meters
- Optical heart rate measurement
- Touch screen with LED illumination
- Battery management(!)
The Suunto 9 weighs approx. 81 g — making it heavier than the Spartan. Nevertheless, it doesn’t feel clunky on the wrist. The slight weight difference is noticeable, but the weight isn’t annoying. This also applies to the size of the watch: for a wristwatch, it is quite large, but as a sports watch, it is just right. You shouldn’t have a wrist that is too narrow, though.
The bracelet has a standard width of 24mm and can be replaced. Suunto offers a wide range of interchangeable wristbands. They can be changed incredibly quickly, allowing you to change the look of the watch at will — and without great effort.
The touch screen works perfectly well and is really fun, to use but this was already the case with the former series. The resolution of the display is at 320 × 300 pixels and is razor sharp at its size! The LED backlight makes reading in the dark very pleasant, too. As far as operation and menu navigation are concerned, not much has changed. If you want to know more about this, you can read all about it in the Spartan review. The Suunto 9 is essentially based on the previous top model, the Spartan Ultra, but offers some promising new features.
In focus: the battery life
My attention was mainly focused on the new battery management. According to Suunto, this allows the watch to achieve a battery life of up to 120 hours thanks to functions that can be switched on and off, combined with profile changes — and all that with the GPS switched on. Suunto 9 offers three different operating modes for the battery:
In addition to these standard settings, you can even set your own mode: The custom mode makes it possible to make a new combination from the preset modes. This means that you can now adjust the battery behavior of this watch exactly to your own preferences. I didn’t do that for this test, as I wanted to review the Suunto in its entirety first.
The energy management controls the GPS positions sampling rates, display brightness, color intensity, touch screen, vibration, optical heart rate monitor, and Bluetooth connectivity. By displaying the battery life, I can check right before the start of a training session whether the battery will last until the end. If the training should take even longer, the energy profile can also be changed in the middle of the activity. This switches off some functions or reduces the recording rate, but still ensures that the most important data is recorded until the destination is reached.
If this is still not enough, there‘s also a ‘time mode’. In this mode, the watch switches everything off once the final battery capacity is reached — everything except for the timekeeping function. This way, the time of the corresponding training session is saved.
But Suunto pushes this even further: The watch learns from past training sessions and reminds you to charge it in time should the desired timespan no longer be possible with the available battery capacity. The power management is made for long distance athletes, but can ultimately help every athlete to charge the watch in such a way that it is always usable — which is the ultimate goal.
FusedTrack: more accuracy, less energy consumption
There is a second major innovation that Suunto 9 brings with it. The function called FusedTrack calculates more exact values for route and distance from the combination of the GPS and motion sensor data. This algorithm, specially developed by Suunto, reduces the necessary GPS performance and thus increases battery life. A useful function, especially for long training sessions. FusedTrack supports the power management. It virtually relieves the GPS measurement, since the sampling rate can be lowered. According to Suunto, this technology currently delivers plausible values for running only. But there is certainly more to come, since future development simply need more data.
Suunto in conclusion: price & performance
The battery management works well — whether you’re using FusedTrack or not. The watch will tell you when it is best to charge, so that the next unit will certainly be tracked. The Suunto 9 is a multisport watch with a lot of endurance in the truest sense of the word. It takes a big step forward regarding the problem with battery life, which everybody has to face. The modes offer a clever solution to always having battery capacity. Before you even start your training, the watch knows what it is capable of. With the increasing support of FusedTrack, things will get even better in the future.
The battery life in time mode is over 14 days. For recordings and mobile notifications, the battery lasts at least 7 days around the clock. In GPS training mode, 25 to 120 hours can be acheived, depending on the sport and energy profile. Measured by the performance of comparable competitors in its price category, the Suunto 9 makes a clear difference here. And as far as I know, it currently offers the longest running time of a sports watch of its size!
But don’t forget: The UVP of the Suunto 9 sits at 499 Euro. This is definitely much, although some versions of Garmin’s top watch are even more expensive. The Suunto 9 therefore plays in the upper segment when it comes to functions. It is a good choice for endurance athletes who travel long distances and therefore have long training sessions. I think the innovations will give this group in particular a lot of pleasure. But everyone else can also benefit from the long battery life”.