Suunto’s latest offering in the GPS/Smart Watch category is so jam-packed full of features it’s hard to cover them all in a single review (but we sure tried). Impressive battery life and an easy to use interface and app make the Suunto 9 Baro GPS Watch a must for any serious adventurer. Congrats Suunto!
The Backcountry Skiing Canada Team.
The Suunto 9 has replaced the Spartan line from Suunto and offers some cool new features that give it a step up over the previous Spartan line. The most notable improvements are with the addition of the wrist-based heart rate sensor, and the intelligent battery modes which we will get into in further detail below.
The Suunto 9 Baro features a stainless steel bezel which has been styled a little differently than the Spartan predecessor. The glass is a sapphire crystal and the case is made from a glass fibre reinforced polyamide.
The Suunto 9 Baro's silicone watch strap is easily removable and can be replaced by a number of 3rd party alternatives, not to mention a selection offered by Suunto.
The watch face itself measures 50 x 50 mm, is 16.8 mm thick, and weighs in at 81 grams.
The Suunto 9 is available both with and without a barometer. Both styles use GPS data for elevation but the Suunto 9 with barometer uses FusedAlti to combine the GPS data with barometric altitude information in order to improve accuracy. The addition of the barometer also provides the user with sea-level air pressure and offers a storm alarm.
One of the upgrades from the Spartan series the Suunto 9 is the wrist-based heart rate sensor. This sensor is used to create a host of different metrics so that your watch can give you even more insight into your workouts and sleep.
There are a number of different watch faces to choose from, and each allows you to pick your preferred display colour.
Navigating the watch is simple and can be done with either the touch screen or by using the three buttons on the side. Scrolling up from the main watch face accesses exercise, navigation, logbook, timer, and settings.
Scrolling down from the main watch face accesses heart rate, stress level, steps and calories, training history and goals, altitude and temperature, sleep, and fitness level. Each metric can be viewed in varying detail on the watch, for example just the day or a weekly summary. To dive into further details, see recommendations, and data overlays, use of the SuuntoLink App is required.
Scrolling to the right accesses the date, battery life, and notifications from your phone. To see all these features explored in more detail, be sure to check out the video review at the start of this review.
The Suunto 9 offers over 80 different predefined activities which are preloaded onto the watch, the ones that you have used most recently are at the top of the list for quicker access. Custom sport profiles are available if you have preferences not covered in the predefined sport modes.
When beginning an activity recording, scroll through the sport profiles and select the activity of your choosing. Once the activity has been selected, you can customize the settings before the recording begins. These customizations include SuuntoPlus, Intensity Zones, Target, Navigation, Intervals, Backlight, Sensors, Theme, Autolap, Autopause, Feeling, and Battery mode. I’ll leave out some of the more obvious settings but dive into a couple of these features below.
SuuntoPlus augments your recording with tools and insights of your choosing. For example, by selecting Strava or TrainingPeaks, you can add extra metrics to view during and after your workout. Strava offers Relative Effort, while TrainingPeaks provides a few more options including Training Stress Score, Intensity Factor, Normalized Power for cycling, and Normalized Graded Pace for running.
Intensity Zones gives you the option to select heart rate zones or pace zones. If you choose to, you can go further and select a target zone. If you are above or below the target zone during your activity, a notification will pop up reminding you to adjust your activity level in order to match your target
Target allows you to set either a duration or distance target. A progress bar will appear on the watch face to keep you up to date on how far along you are, and a pop-up notification lets you know when you have reached your target. If you proceed beyond your set target, it will be displayed as a percentage over.
Navigation offers three settings: breadcrumb, POIs, and routes. This allows you to preload a route to follow before you start an activity. If you want to switch routes, create a new POI, or return to basic breadcrumb, you can make adjustments mid-activity by scrolling up on the navigation screen. If you are using a route for navigation, pop-up notifications let you know when you have left your route, and when you are back on it. You can create new POI’s at any time using the Position function and save them as a generic POI, or any number of more specific things like camp, car, wildlife, building, hostel, etc. Autopause is a feature that pauses the workout at speeds less than 2km/hr and resumes at speeds greater than 3km/hr.
Perhaps the most impressive things about the Suunto 9 are battery life and intelligent battery modes. Three predefined battery modes offer between 25 to 120 hours of activity recording time with GPS tracking. A fourth custom battery mode allows you to pick and choose what you want to activate/deactivate for your own preferences.
The custom battery mode allows you to manually go through settings and choose exactly what you want. The following are available customizations: GPS accuracy (best, good, ok, and off), low colour mode (on and off), display time out (always on, timeout after 10sec), and enable or disable the touch screen.
Before a recording begins, an estimate of how many hours of recording is possible is shown. Once the recording begins, a notification will pop up when battery life is low (20% and again at 10%). At this point, you can choose to continue on with the current battery settings, or switch to a different battery mode in order to prolong your recording. When switching battery modes is offered, the estimated recording time in the suggested battery mode is also displayed. At 2% battery life, all tracking is automatically stopped with the exception of duration in an attempt to complete your activity without loss of data.
In order to avoid reducing functionality during your activity, the Suunto 9 offers proactive battery recharge notifications. Based on your previously recorded activity, the watch will learn what days of the week you typically track an activity. If your battery life is on the low end, the watch will give you a reminder the evening before so you have time to charge up before the coming day’s activity.
GPS tracking is notoriously tough on battery life. FusedTrack is a feature that uses an algorithm to combine GPS and motion sensor data in order to improve track and distance accuracy while using fewer GPS points. To expand on that, the watch will only take GPS points every 60 or 120 seconds (endurance or ultra battery modes) and fill in the gaps by incorporating data from the compass, gyro, and accelerometer.
While setting up preferences and before beginning the activity, the watch will lock in the GPS location and heart rate. Two icons will flash grey until these are acquired, and in the event that the activity is started before they are locked in, the watch will give you a reminder a few seconds into the activity.
During the activity, there are multiple screens to scroll through, each showing different metrics depending on the sport mode in use.
The Suunto 9 can be used on its own but pairing it with the SuuntoLink App allows for increased functionality and increased ease of use when looking at recorded metrics. This app replaces the older Moves Count app and is available for free in the App Store and Google Play.
The watch will sync to the app automatically which then connects to other apps you use, updating them all without the need for manual sync. Compatible apps include Strava, Training Peaks, Endomondo, Relive, and more.
After an activity has been uploaded to the watch, it shows up on the home screen of the app with a base overview of the activity atop the overviews of previously recorded activities below.
By selecting the activity, more in-depth analysis is shown and metrics are displayed on graphs against time.
This track can be saved and uploaded to the watch to be used for navigation in the future. All saved routes and downloaded GPX files can be viewed with the option of having them uploaded to the watch.
Different options for routing and map styles are available to meet your preference
Beyond your own routes, you're able to see other people's activity by using the explore function. Each dot in the above photo represents an individual activity colour coded by type. When you click on the activity, the user and the details of their activity pop, including their track if they used GPS.
You’re also able to add friends and follow other athletes so you can keep up to date on what people are up to, not to mention share your own activities with the rest of the Suunto community.
Last but not least in the Explore section is the heat maps. This goes beyond seeing just the individual recorded track and gives you access to a layer that shows where people have been going and how heavily trafficked those areas are. You won't see the individuals information or stats on their activity, but that’s not what this feature is all about. In the picture below, the brighter (or warmer) shades of green denote more traffic, the darker (or cooler) shades show lower traffic, and the fainter green tracks are the paths less travelled.
The Diary portion of the Suunto mobile app is designed to track activities and metrics over the long term and provide an easy way to monitor and compare day by day, week to week, or months at a time. The Diary stores information from activities, step count, calorie-burning, sleep, and fitness level.
The creation of custom sport modes also happens in the app by starting with one of Suunto's predefined sport modes as a template, you are able to tweak exactly which metrics you see on the watch face during an activity.
All this goodness comes in a nice little box. Included in the box is the watch, charging cable, a multi-language manual, warranty booklet, product safety and regulatory information booklet, and a small Suunto sticker
Bezel - Stainless steel
Glass - Sapphire crystal
Case - Glass fibre reinforced polyamide
Strap - Silicone
Battery - Rechargeable lithium-ion
The Suunto 9 is a pretty cool watch with some pretty cool features.
Its design is rugged, giving me confidence that it will stand up to whatever you can throw at it. For example, I forgot to take it off when I was doing some yard work and I accidentally smacked the glass and bezel with a crowbar; not even a scratch.
Apart from being rugged, it’s actually quite a good looking watch as well. It very much has a quality feel to it, something I was not quite as prepared to say for the Polar Ignite GPS Watch for example.
The watch is a little bit big, and it’s quite tall as well. I don’t mind the look or feel, but this top-heavy design means it does have more potential to move around on your wrist, potentially affecting heart rate readings. Most sports watches with wrist-based HR are designed with a low profile to reduce this effect.
A really simple feature that goes a long way for me is the ability to put the watch in airplane mode. I spend a lot of time in the backcountry in the winter and I’ve used watches that actively and obviously interfere with transceivers, so being able to reduce this interference is great.
I really enjoyed using the Suunto app. I found the layout of the app fairly intuitive and easy to navigate. There are a couple of little glitches here and there but I like the way they display metrics.
The mapping/explore features were particularly fun to use. Being able to see where other people have been and what they were up to is pretty great. The heat map is particularly cool, giving you the option to see where to go (or not go as the case may be) if you want to skip the crowds. I could see these explore features being especially useful when travelling to a new spot; being able to see where the go-to trails are, as well as to find some less frequented local gems.
While it is cool, I did initially have trouble using the heat map feature. At first, it wouldn’t show up at all, and then one day out of the blue it just started working. I’m not sure what happened there, but it’s certainly not confidence-inspiring.
A win for the app was how it auto-updated with activities recorded on the watch, as well as automatically passing that info on to other sport tracking apps. Less button pressing is always appreciated.
At first, I was a little disappointed that the predefined trail running mode didn’t have altitude displayed, but then disappointment turned to excitement when I figured out how to create my own custom trail running mode. The ability to pick and choose exactly which metrics appear in which order is a real treat. For example, if you were working on your cadence while running, you could pile all the relevant metrics on one screen, then have other, less relevant but still important-to-you metrics on other screens.
It seems odd to me, but you cannot create custom sport modes without access to the internet. I’m not sure why this is the case, especially since the watch and phone connect over Bluetooth. It’s not the end of the world, but it is kind of weird.
The navigation feature on the watch is quite simple to use, but I wish there was an option to overlay the routes, POI’s, and breadcrumbs over a topo. Once the activity is uploaded to the mobile app this happens automatically, but having it on the watch in real-time would be pretty great. This is a pretty big hit considering how many other watches have this ability, not to mention this is Suunto’s top sports watch.
Price: $769.97CAN /
Dimensions: 50 x 50 x 16.8mm / 1.97 x 1.97 x 0.66in
Weight: 81g / 2.86oz
Strap width: 24mm
Wrist sizes: 130-230mm
Satellite Systems: GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, QZSS, BEIDOU
Altimeter: Resolution 1m, Recording Rate 1s
Battery life: 14 days in time mode, 7 days with tracking and mobile notifications, up to 120 hours in training mode with GPS
Compass: Accuracy 5°, Resolution 1°
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