SUP Review: Suunto Ambit 3 Peak & Sport

Ambit 3 Sport (left) and Peak (right)

Ambit 3 Sport (left) and Peak (right)

Intro

As I pointed out in the review of the Polar V800, Polar M400 and Garmin Forerunner 620 which you can read here, here and here,  I am always looking for something that will improve my paddling experience. I was lucky enough to receive not only a Suunto Ambit3 Sport but also the premium Ambit3 Peak from Amer Sports Australia to have a play around with. Once I finished with both of the watches I sent them back, so don’t think I am getting around like some sort of watch peddler just for doing a review, enjoy.

In the box

Unboxed Ambit 3 Sport. The contents of Peak is the same

Unboxed Ambit 3 Sport. The contents of Peak is the same

As shown in the photo you get the unit itself, Suunto Smart HRM sensor strap, USB Sync/Charger cable and the obligatory instruction manuals. As mentioned there are two options on offer here being the Sport and the Peak. The Peak is the more expensive version and if you look at the breakdown below you can see that it adds a few extra. The Sapphire versions of each watch are more expensive again. Here is the RRP for each including the Suunto Bluetooth Smart HRM strap Peak: $ 649.99             Peak Sapphire: $749.99

Sport: $499.99             Sport Sapphire: $599.99

What does it do?

As per Suunto here is a small section of the functionality list for the watch:

  • Record your heart rate while swimming with Suunto Smart HRM Sensor (included)
  • Compatible with new Movescount App for iPhone and iPad (Android coming soon)
  • Upload workouts/activities ("Moves") directly to Movescount App
  • Receive call and text notifications on the watch
  • Daily activity monitoring
  • Up to 25 h battery life with GPS
  • Activity based recovery time
  • Multiple sports in one log
  • Growing feature set through Suunto Apps
  • Upload and share your moves instantly
  • Take photos during your Move showing your current speed, distance, and more
  • Create a Suunto Movie of your Move with 3D map, key metrics and images
  • Share your experience instantly to your social media networks

The Ambit3 Peak adds a few extra to the Sport, specifically:

  • Sapphire Glass face
  • Barometric altimeter
  • Up to 50 h battery life with GPS
  • Compass
  • Altitude (FusedAlti)
  • Sunrise/sunset
  • Temperature

To see more of the features http://www.suunto.com/en-US/Sports-Watch-Collections/Suunto-Ambit3/

Comfort & everyday wearability

As I have covered previously in the 3 previous reviews,  I have got pretty normal/average sized wrists, 185mm or 7.25', and I really prefer my watch to sit further down on the wrist bone a little loose. The fit of the Suunto Ambit3’s is phenomenal. It just sits perfectly on my wrist whether I have it low or even a little higher than normal. This is the first watch that I have been able to wear a little further up my arm without it feeling like I have handcuffs on. The band is very comfortable and has plenty of room for adjustment or for those with large wrists.  

The Ambit3 is just a down right sexy watch. There I said it. It looks awesome in either the Sport Blue or the Peak Sapphire versions that I had for review. I actually preferred the Blue which is weird because I don’t normally like things that scream “look at me” however the Peak Sapphire was a bit more reserved and looks the part in jeans. 

The Sapphire versions differ only in the fact that the face of the watch, the glass, is made out of Sapphire which is stronger that the normal glass of the non-sapphire glassed watches. By all accounts there are very few that get trashed that badly that you really need to fork out the extra dollars for the sapphire glass. Again I wasn’t about to start wielding the sledgehammer to test out the theory.

The watch is very easy to read and you have the option of either the black on white or white on black config for the screen.

Ease of use – Watch

The Ambit3 is pretty easy to use and having come from the Garmin and then the Polar ecosystems, it wasn’t too different although the start/stop button also saves your activity by holding the button down until the screen indicates that it has saved. It takes around 3-4 seconds and if you release prior to this happening you have to start again.

The buttons are laid out in a sensible format and respond well when pressed. No need to mash them to get them to respond. The bane of my existence, the touch screen, does not make an appearance here. Hooray.

I did find the menu structure to be a little bit harder to navigate than both the Polar and Garmin offerings. Some buttons have secondary functions, the Next, Light/Lock and View buttons, that allows access when depressed for 2 seconds. Just an annoyance for me but probably no biggie for other users.

The Suunto also updates their watches with firmware updates that are downloaded via the Movescount desktop app and are then uploaded to the watch when you plug it in to charge or sync with your computer. For those that have an iPhone there is also watch based notifications from your compatible phone. Up to 10 notifications can be listed.

What I really like –

How it looks. I could not help but look at this watch and want to use it and even just touch it. The blue is a bit “look at me” but that generally causes remarks like “that is a sweet looking watch” as opposed to “look at that wanker with the blue watch.”

Battery life. Very, very good battery life. I had this watch for a bit longer than a month and it hardly spent any time off my wrist. Even during the 24 hour race that I did at the start of December it lasted those multiple efforts on the water without worrying that I was not going to be able to track any laps.

Heart rate under water. This is a swimming option but if you find yourself in a race or session (surfing for example) that involves you being in the water a bit, it is great to know that you are not going to receive some low volt zapping to the chests once you land in the water. Good to know.

Things I would like changed/fixed –

No vibrate function. This is a deal breaker for me. Given the price of either unit I would of thought that having a vibrate function would be a no brainer considering that Garmin have this functionality on their entry level multisport watches like the Forerunner 620 ($499) and the recently released Vivoactive ($379). Why is it a deal breaker? While I am out training on the water paddling and in the middle of a workout or sprint effort I don’t want to have to look at my watch to see if the time has run out. Yes I could listen out for the alert tone but if the wind is in my face the chances of me hearing anything are limited. This is where the vibrate function is gold. Having played around with the new Fitbits that vibrate for alerts and don’t use any tones, the vibrate function alone is very effective. As I said, deal breaker.

Workouts Creator/Interval timer. Yes there is an interval timer however apart from very basic capability you cannot program a group of intervals with varying times, distances or HR Zones. So much so that I was taking my Gymboss Timer (it has a vibrate function as well and costs $30) out with me for training. NOTE: This has been rectified in a recent update alongside the new AMBIT3 Run being released. I did not have a chance to check it out so this still lives in here till I can.

Activity monitor. Doesn’t really fulfil the job. No step count, no sleep monitoring just a graph that shows your cumulated activity. Maybe a couple of years ago this would have been great but now that you have full blown activity monitors like the Fitbit range, Misfit Shine, Polar M400 and V800 and the new Garmin offerings this just feels like a token effort. 

Ease of use - Software & Apps

I can only comment on the Movescount app on Mac OS X and iOS. As I mentioned previously, I now have an Android phone and as of right now there is no support for the app on Android (Now available in Beta from Google Play). I did download it onto my iPad and it worked quite well. The nice thing about the site/app is that it is not sport or activity specific. It does cover 61 sports, including SUP. The Movescount website is also easy to navigate and it has a heap of available information on it for you to interrogate post activity. You can also link your Strava account to Movescount so that when you have completed your activity, or Moves as Suunto call them, they are automatically uploaded to Strava so that you can wow your friends at your ability to inflict pain upon yourself. This all goes away once the kudos come in. (NOTE: now includes Training Peaks). Like the Polar Flow site you can drill into certain areas of your session to personalise the data which is great in my opinion. You also get a “heat map” overlay on your GPS track showing green, amber and red for speed/pace. This is a bit back to front in my opinion as Red is fastest, Yellow for medium and Green for slowest. By the way "heat map" is my terminology. 

Like with Polar Flow if you have no issues using Garmin Connect, Map My Run or the like then you are going to find Movescount very easy to use.

What I really like-

Sliders for post activity analysis. Options. Lots of options to interrogate your workouts Like with Polar Flow you are able to select a segment of a move and just see the stats of that segment. Really slick.

Things I would like changed/fixed –

Workouts Creator/Interval timer. Before someone jumps on here and says “But you can download a 3rd party app to create workouts/intervals,” yes you can but it is very clunky (sorry to the developer) and extremely basic and has no provision for setting HR Zone alerts or complex sessions. NOTE: again there is now a intervals workout planner/builder available but it was not available or in the works when I had the watch for review. If you have used it please let me know as I would love to get some feedback.

Conclusion

 I really love the look and idea of this watch. While writing this up I am looking at images on the net and keep hoping against hope that a vibrate functionality has somehow been added to the watch, snuck in by nanobots somehow. All to no avail though. Maybe the rumoured Ambit4 will get it. As mentioned the Suunto Ambit3 Peak and Sport I had for review lack the new interval workout creator which, along with the lack of vibrate alerts, severely impacted on the overall usefulness of the watch. Yes the Peak has sapphire glass, an altimeter, barometer, storm sensor and 50 hrs battery life (all lacking in the Sport version) but for me this is all fluff for my purposes. It is a real shame as this is by far the best looking, most comfortable GPS/HRM watch I have used thus far (wait for the Garmin 920XT, Fenix 3 and Vivoactive to come).

Suunto do pride themselves on being a multisport watch and for those that do cross country endurance running and stuff off the beaten track, so a watch for SUP is probably far from their minds. The watch does have the ability to be upgradable via firmware patches, which Suunto do keep on top of. They even outline upcoming releases on their support page here. 

It is disappointing that it has taken Suunto so long to release the Android version of the app and bear in mind that there might be some teething problems with it as it is still the "beta" version. I have had a quick look at it and it is very basic and a significant downgrade from the very good Garmin Connect and Strava. Couple that with the formerly missing, organic workout/interval creator and the lack of vibrate functionality and you get the score below. The score doesn't take into account the new functionality as I didn't get to experience and it would be a little irresponsible and unfair to past and future products to give a score on the potential of the additions. Unfortunately with all manufacturers seemingly releasing these products prior to being "complete" due to the relative ease with which you can upgrade the firmware and software, this is going to be a hurdle that will be crossed from time to time. 

I am reviewing this watch based on the units that arrived and not what has been released since that time. I also want to do specific things that enhance my ability to train for SUP and train others as easily as possible. Vibrate, be programmable for easy and complex intervals and not look like crap. Unfortunately the Ambit 3 only ticks the box on the latter point. If you can get away with the lack of the first two then there are plenty of options on the market for significantly less money like the Polar M400 that has a probably the best activity tracker, a super slick online user interface and a really good interval/workout creator. 

3 out of 5 Smiling Caveman Heads

Other Options and their Reviews (all prices RRP and include HRM Straps)

Garmin Forerunner 620 - $499 - 3.5 out of 5 Smiling Caveman Heads

Garmin Forerunner 920XT - $599 - Review Coming Next

Garmin Fenix 3 Grey/Silver - $729 & Sapphire $849 – Review Coming Soon

Garmin Vivoactive  - $379 – Review Coming Soon

Polar V800 - $629 - 4.5 out of 5 Smiling Caveman Heads

Polar M400 - $349 - 3.5 out of 5 Smiling Caveman Heads

Suunto Ambit 3 Sport - $499 & Peak - $649