The latest, and arguably – the flagship, release from the Suunto stables in terms of multisport GPS watches is the Suunto Spartan Ultra. We managed to get our hands on one of these devices to put it through its paces and test what it can offer the trailrunning community.
Starting with the appearance of the watch, the main device which we used for testing was the All Black Titanium HR variant. This particular model had a personalised canvas type of strap that fitted comfortable and securely. The watch itself has a round face giving it a more classic look and perhaps lending itself more towards being used as an everyday wearable. The clock display is customisable, providing a range of options across the spectrum from some basic or elaborate analogue clock faces through to the more digital styles, all in numerous colour options, and certain displays also accommodate a second field in the display to show either another time zone or one of a number of other statistics that your watch keeps track of. Size-wise, its reasonably compact and slim, considering all the features that are packed into it.
Operating the watch is also very straightforward, with only 3 buttons on the right hand side providing all the functionality you need, but the watch is also a touch screen, meaning you actually don’t even need those buttons, however they do become handy in certain wet conditions.
The device connects to Suunto’s online platform, Movescount, through a really nifty little USB cable with a magnetised clip that slots very easily and securely into the port on the watch. Another option is to sync the device through its bluetooth sensor to a smartphone with the Movescount app. On the Movescount online platform, there are a number of options for further customisation of the watch and any changes made here are then synced back to the watch. This is also where any routes and waypoints can be added for navigational purposes. Heat maps can assist you in finding new routes and training plans can also be created and configured on this platform. You can even customise workouts to include specific intervals. Pairing the device with a smartphone also allows phone notifications to be displayed on the watch.
From the main watch display or home screen, you can scroll through the various menus, which include the “Exercise” page where you get an activity started, “Navigation” for pre-loaded routes or waypoints, a “Log Book” to show your history of activities, and a “Settings” where certain functions can be toggled and tweaked. There are also other pages which show your daily steps, your training summary per sport, recovery time, and your recent heart rate data if you have the daily heart rate tracking enabled. To get running, simply go to the “Exercise” menu, select the type of exercise, and get going.
Something we were particularly excited about with this release was the navigational capabilities of the device, so we uploaded a local route from a GPX file onto the Movescount platform and synced it with the watch and set out to put it to the test. Once you select trail running as your exercise, a submenu then allows you to specify whether to enable navigation of a specific route.
During the run, a lot of information is available to keep you mentally stimulated. This is where the customisability of the watch comes into play. On the Movescount platform, you can create different subcategories of the respective exercise types. The way you set these up then determine what data fields (speed/distance/time/heart rate etc) are displayed on which pages during the activity, and the options are pretty much endless in terms of different combinations. On the watch itself, you can also select between a light background with dark text or a dark background with light text.
The navigation screen displays the pre-loaded route and any waypoints you have marked and superimposes a breadcrumb trail of your tracks over it, all in a fairly high resolution, showing which direction you are heading and making it easy to stay on course. You can also just select to navigate to certain waypoints or points of interest and a compass is at hand within the watch to guide you on your way.
The altitude display is also a very cool feature, showing not only your current altitude, but displaying a graph of the elevation profile that you have traversed up to that point, and, if you are following a pre-loaded route, it also shows what’s to come.
The watch also has an autolap function where after pre-defined intervals (or you can manually trigger a new lap), it will summarise certain statistics of that interval. On another page there is also a tabular summary of the laps up to that point.
Once you’re done with your workout, stop the activity, and sync it with your Movescount app and it gets stored for all your “fans” to see. This works really well and I found the experience far more seamless than I have with some of the other manufacturers and their respective mobile syncing platforms. You can also then sync your Movescount account with Strava and the workout then gets automatically shared to Strava to let the kudos stream in. Movescount
The majority of the above metrics are also available on the app immediately after you’ve synced the watch.
One of the other really fun features of the app is that you can create an animated movie of your activity within the app, where it will also add the photos you took during the activity, and then you can choose to share it either on the Movescount platform or else through a number of other channels. Your video will look something like the following, but probably just a little less epic:
Another aspect of this watch which we were very curious to try out was the optical heart rate sensor that is designed to eliminate the need for a chest heart rate strap as it reads your heart rate directly from your wrist. This is still fairly new technology and a lot has been written about this technology in all devices, and the jury is out on the accuracy of these sensors. In our experience this sensor did lack some accuracy when compared with chest strap heart rate readings being used simultaneously on other devices. I have read that there are a number of factors that could influence the accuracy of these sensors and so maybe I just got unlucky on this one and I did achieve very good accuracy when I turned the watch upside down with the sensor (beneath the watch face) pressed against the underside of my wrist, but then its not so easy to look at the watch display. So for me, I wont be getting rid of my chest strap any time soon. That said, the sensors that are used in the Suunto Spartans are made by Valencell, which are generally considered to be among the most accurate out there. The other benefit of having the optical sensor is that you can have 24 hour tracking of your heart rate. To this end, absolute accuracy is also probably less important if you are really only looking for trends in your heart rate data over periods of time. I couldn’t find anywhere that this data gets stored, even when syncing with Movescount. You can view your recent heart rate history on the watch itself but it doesn’t seem to store multiple days of data anywhere. Enabling this 24 hour heart rate tracking function also seemed to drastically reduce battery life.
The battery life on the whole was a little disappointing. With the 24 hour heart rate tracking enabled, I was able to use the watch for 3 days, which included two activities with a total duration of just over 5 hours, before I then had to charge it again for fear of it dying during my next workout. There are however a number of settings that can be altered to influence the battery life and the advertised battery life is up to 26 hours in training mode.
Aside from that, the GPS accuracy seemed very good, and on the whole the Suunto Spartan Ultra isn’t really lacking in anything trail running or hiking related which any of it’s competitors offer. On top of that, being a multisport watch it offers a lot more that we haven’t covered here. It’s a fantastic piece of technology that will certainly add value to your outdoor experiences.
SUUNTO SPARTAN ULTRA
The GPS watch for athletic and adventure multisport
- Battery life up to 26h in training mode
- Titanium 5 / steel bezel, sapphire glass
- Outdoor-grade color touch screen
- Barometric altitude, 100 m water resistance
- GPS/GLONASS route navigation with POIs and breadcrumb view
- Sport expertise and support for over 80 sports with racing and interval use
- Training insights and community powered progress tools in Suunto Movescount
- 100m / 300ft water resistant
- Battery life of 18h with Full Power 1sec GPS fix rate delivering best GPS accuracy
- Battery life of 26h with Power Save 1sec GPS fix rate delivering good GPS accuracy
- Outdoor-grade color touch screen with 3 action pushers
- GPS/GLONASS tracking and route navigation
- with real-time breadcrumb trail
- with route and Point of Interest navigation
- GPS altitude for measuring ascent and descent values during workout
- FusedAlti™ combining GPS and barometric altitude for accurate altitude information
- Digital tilt compensated compass
- Heart rate measurement with calories, Peak Training Effect and recovery time
- Support for over 80 sports with racing and interval modes
- Triathlon and multisport mode
- Interval training setup on watch
- real-time lap tables with pace and heart rate, FusedSpeed™ for accurate pace
- compatibility with Stryd running power
- real-time lap tables with heart rate, power and speed
- compatibility with Suunto Bike Sensor and BLE power meters
- automatic intervals in pool
- heart rate with memory (optional)
- Training load:
- 30-day training summary on the watch
- long term analysis with training load trends, PTEs and HR zones in Suunto Movescount
- Rest & recovery:
- save feeling after workout in the watch
- long-term feeling trend in Suunto Movescount
- Personal Best recognition and long term follow up in Suunto Movescount
- annual / all-time personal best comparison with own age group in Suunto Movescount
- personal best trend by sport and intensity in Suunto Movescount
- long-term progress analysis in Suunto Movescount
- Plan ahead:
- weekly planning tools for yourself and your coach in Suunto Movescount
- Community training insights from peer groups in Suunto Movescount
- Peer-to-peer coaching tools in Suunto Movescount
- Discover new routes with heatmaps and plan your own routes in Suunto Movescount, transfer to watch and navigate
DAILY USE AND CONNECTIVITY
- Customizable watch faces
- 24/7 activity monitoring with steps and calories
- View of steps and calories from last seven days / 30 days in Suunto Movescount
- Mobile sync with Suunto Movescount App for iOS and Android, push notifications to watch
- Languages: EN, CS, DA, DE, ES, FI, FR, IT, JA, KO, NL, NO, PL, PT, RU, SV, ZH
(Chinese language is only available in the China edition watches.)
- Suunto Spartan watches are Bluetooth Smart compatible, not compatible with ANT+™
ENRICH, RELIVE AND SHARE
- Use Suunto Movescount App to take photos or to create a Suunto Movie of your Move with 3D map, key metrics and images
- Share your experience instantly to your social media networks and follow your friends via Suunto Movescount activity feed