After over 6 months use this is my long term review of the Suunto 9, which I upgraded from the Suunto Spartan Sport.
The main difference between the two is the Suunto 9 uses its GPS instead to measure your elevation during activities. Whereas the Suunto 9 Baro uses a barometric altimeter, to calculate elevation.
However I’m primarily a road runner so measuring altitude doesn’t have a significant impact on my training.
In the new Suunto app once the watch is synced, you can create and edit the sport custom modes, which means you can choose the data you see whilst training.
Previously you couldn’t do this with the Spartan Sport and had to modify the workout mode from a desktop computer connected via Movescount.
Whilst the app is a marked improvement to the previous model, it would be good to see future developments allow workout mode customisation direct from the watch.
Why upgrade from the Suunto Spartan Sport to the Suunto 9?
The main thing is the battery life and it’s battery management whilst training.
The Spartan Sport provides 10 hours of GPS in the performance mode, which could be extended to 80 hours in it’s ultra mode.
Whereas the Suunto 9 battery life has three predefined battery modes, performance, endurance and ultra. The watch gives 25 hours of GPS in the performance mode, but this can be extended to 120 hours in its ultra mode of recording time with GPS tracking on.
It also uses smart reminders based on your activity history to help ensure you are fully charged for your next outing. If the watch notices you are running low on battery during an exercise, it will automatically suggest changing to a different battery mode.
Additionally Suunto’s unique FusedTrack™ algorithm combines GPS and motion sensor data to improve track and distance accuracy. This allows you to extend battery life by lowering GPS power without significantly compromising accuracy even in the ultra mode of 120 hours.
What does this mean in the real world?
When I ran the half MDS Peru multi stage ultra race, I used one charge for over 4 days without any problems.
For my day to day marathon training I run 60+ miles a week on a single weekly charge.
Day to day use:
It’s easy to use, combining the three buttons and touch screen elements. It has the same architecture as the Spartan Sport, which made it familiar to use straight out of the box.
For my training, I’m primarily a road runner, so I don’t fully use all the watches capabilities and the 80 different workout modes, including triathlon, obstacle racing, swimming (pool/open water), skiing etc.
I tend to run either at a steady pace for my easy paced runs. I also will run intervals, plus I will run at varied paces for my long runs.
You can manually or automatically set the laps on your watch. Practically this helps in my long runs, when it’s split between the warm up, tempo miles, and the warm down miles.
The interval mode is easy to use. You set the amount of repetitions, and then the interval and recovery periods by either time duration or distance. The watch will vibrate to signify the start or finish of the interval. At the end of the workout it tells you the average speed of your intervals in miles per hour and the average minute per mile or kilometres.
The only issue to note as of time of review, is Suunto is currently transitioning between two software platforms, from the Movescount website and the new Suunto app. This basically means my workouts saved on Movescount aren’t yet transferred to the new app platform. However the technicians at Suunto are working on getting this sorted.
Heart rate monitoring:
In terms of heart monitoring it has an optical heart-rate monitor.
But I’d recommend using the chest strap for greater accuracy. In the workout mode you have a lot of options to monitor heart rate as shown below.
It’s easy to create routes using the app and upload them onto the watch, which you can follow using a simple breadcrumb trail.
GPS is a very contentious issue in running. Some will use the watch distance given as an absolute, however in my experience no GPS feature is perfect, due to signal strength, construction buildup etc. I just use my GPS as a guide.
However when syncing between the Suunto 9 and Strava I found that the GPS tracking was on par with each other for accuracy.
You can allow for notifications to your watch such as message alerts, but I find this a distraction whilst running so I turn it off.
However in terms of health monitoring you can monitor heart rate, sleep, steps taken, hours trained etc. And this can be synced to your iPhone health app.
Sports watches are moving towards more smart features, for example allowing you to store or stream music. For me personally this isn’t a problem because I just want my running watch to capture my running only, I find the extra bells and whistles a distraction.
If I want to listen to music or podcasts, I can use my iPhone and Powerbeats Beats headphones (The new Powerbeats Beats Pro will be released shortly, a review will follow).
Connection to secondary apps like Strava is easy. I use Strava so my coach can see my training remotely. Once I’ve finished my workout I’ll open the Suunto app which will load the workout via Bluetooth. This will then automatically upload to Strava.
Bar other external services like TrainingPeaks there is the Suunto platform where you can connect to a wider running community to share your achievements or support others.
To sum up…
The Suunto 9’s biggest rival comes from Garmin, I previously did a review of the Fenix 5s and Forerunner 935. Both brands have their strengths. Which one is better is like comparing Messi to Ronaldo in footballing terms. It’s not just about figures and data, it comes down to personal preference.
The Suunto 9 is perfect for long distance runners due to the outstanding battery life and great GPS tracking. Whereas it’s main competition the Fenix 5X plus would suit runners that want total control over their running data, but don’t mind spending the extra cash for the detailed analysis.
In my case the Suunto 9 is a great watch for what I need training wise, it does everything I need it to do in terms of recording the data during and post workout.
Furthermore the watch appearance is customisable in terms of case or watch band. I changed the band from the original black band.
Price from various retailers starts from approximately £350 and goes up.
To find out more click this link.