GPS watches like the Suunto Ambit2 or Suunto Ambit3 are quite interesting gadgets if you want to track your route or if you want to plan your route ahead. In general, the only model I could think of which comes close to the Suunto Ambit3 is the Garmin Fenix 3 which has a color display.
Suunto recently released the Suunto Spartan - a GPS watch with color display and touch screen. Then there is also the new Apple Watch Series 2 which however does not have such a long battery life. I use my Suunto Ambit3 mainly for running, packrafting and hiking and upgraded from the Suunto Ambit2 to the Suunto Ambit3 Sport. (Update 26.01.2017: Garmin has released the Fenix 5X which I would currently buy as my favorite outdoor watch since it also offers the possibility to upload topo maps)
Update: I have upgraded my Suunto Ambit 3 to the Suunto Traverse. If you need a multisport watch then you should rather consider the Suunto Ambit3 Vertical or the Suunto Spartan rather than the Suunto Traverse.
On our packrafting trip in the Sarek National Park in Sweden we had also a Suunto with us. Subscribe to our YouTube channel.
The Suunto Ambit 3 allows you to connect the watch with a tablet or smartphone via Bluetooth. You can also synchronize pictures on your smartphone with data from the Suunto Ambit3. There is no USB cable needed anymore to transfer data from your watch to your computer. This should also have an impact on the lifespan of the battery of the watch.
You can get notifications of incoming calls, SMS or Facebook updates on your Suunto Ambit3. Personally, I don’t use this feature that much but it’s nice to have.
It’s possible to create videos with the Movescount App which uses your tracking data to display your route. You can also take pictures with your phone and integrate those into your videos. I think this is a quite nice feature which allows you to share your trips with your friends.
Heart Rate Monitor
The heart rate monitor of the Suunto Ambit3 is notably smaller than the one which came with the Suunto Ambit2. On my first run with the heart rate monitor I hardly noticed that I am wearing it compared to the old HR monitor. What’s more, you can also use the HR Monitor without the watch and synchronize your heart rate data later on.
The Suunto Ambit3 uses a SiRFstarV GPS chip (Ambit2 is using SiRFstarIV), but the accuracy remains the same. SiRFstarV chips are capable of tracking NAVSTAR, GLONASS, Galileo, Compass, SBAS, and future GNSS signals. When I tested the watch I had the impression that the watch got the GPS signal almost instantly. At least it felt significantly faster than on the Suunto Ambit2.
The Suunto Ambit3 Sport model is slimmer and lighter but it does not have a barometer. Do you need the barometer if you can get the altitude data via GPS anyway? Most likely the altitude differences will be shown more accurately as the watch combines data from the GPS and the barometer. However, you might need to adjust the barometer occasionally on your trip. If you have a mobile phone with you and there is internet reception then you can also get the weather forecast from the internet. So the barometer is not really necessary if you are interested in the weather trend. Also it is worth to check the weather trend before your trip. Consider to get the Suunto Traverse (no multisport features) or Suunto Ambit3 Vertical (multisport features) if you need a barometer.
Watertightness and Battery
You can dive 100m instead of 50m and the battery capacity is twice as big on the Suunto Ambit3 Peak than on the Suunto Ambit3 Sport model. I use Suunto Ambit3 also to track my route when I am adventuring with my packraft. I would not even consider to buy any sport watch which is not watertight.
The strap for the Suunto Ambit3 Sport is water repellent and made from a silicone compound which feels more lighter and softer on your skin.
The new movescount software is available to all Suunto watches.
My favorite Suunto watch
I use my Suunto Traverse (upgraded from the Suunto Ambit3 Sport) watch mainly for running (check my profile on Movescount) and hiking (e.g. in Finland or Sweden). When I had the Suunto Ambit3 Sport I realized that it does not feel that bulky as the Peak model. Moreover, pushing the buttons on the Suunto Ambit3 is much smoother than on the Ambit2. Also the backlight of the Ambit models look really cool and it really helps to read your data when jogging in the evening. There is also the Runner version which is called Ambit3 Run. It’s slightly lighter than the Ambit3 Sport, however you will miss features related to swimming, multisport or biking.
Worth to upgrade?
I was wearing the Suunto Ambit3 for a couple of months and I was happy with it before I upgraded to the Suunto Traverse which looks much nicer since the GPS module is now invisible. I liked the blue color, the slimmer design compared to the Suunto Ambit3 Sport, the accuracy of the GPS signal and the somewhat shorter time it take to locate satellites. For runners it’s already worth to upgrade just because of the smaller HR monitor which will give you a better running experience. I also like the Bluetooth feature so I can get my data also on the Movescount Server if I am not on a computer. If you are into Social Media then the Movescount app will also be a great tool to show-cast your activities in a video. If you want to have the latest technology then you should consider the Suunto Spartan or the Apple Watch Series 2. TheSuunto Spartan will be more suitable for those who need long battery life e.g. if you plan to go hiking or multisport activities.
Here are some accessories which you can buy for your Suunto Traverse:
If you want to protect your watch screen somewhat then you might consider getting a screen protector for your Suunto Traverse.
If you are into running or cycling then you might be interested in your hear rate. The Suunto Smart Belt sends the data to your Suunto Traverse.
If you go on a longer hiking trip then it’s good to have an external USB battery with you to charge your Suunto once it run out of battery.
The Suunto Wristop Computer Bike Adaptor might be a good choice if you want to have your Suunto watch screen always in front of you.
The Suunto watches also work great together with an e.g. iPhone which can be used as a second screen and can be mounted next to the Suunto Wristop Computer Bike Adaptor. On bicycle tours it’s great to have your iPhone in front of you to read the map or to listen to radio.
Update (29.03.2015): Suunto has released a firmware update which increased the battery time of the Ambit watches as you can read here: “With GPS accuracy set to Best/Good/Ok, the numbers are accordingly: Suunto Ambit3 Peak – 20h/30h/200h”
Update (20.10.2015): Suunto has released the Suunto Traverse GPS watch. Here you can read what’s different to the Ambit3.
Update (27.11.2015): After having used the Suunto Traverse for a while I would prefer it over the Suunto Ambit3 as long as you are not into multisport. The Suunto Traverse also supports GLONASS. More here about the Suunto Traverse.
Update (22.01.2016): Suunto has released the Suunto Ambit3 Vertical watch. It’s similar like the Traverse but with an additional graph which displays your ascent / descent.
Update (19.04.2016): Suunto has released the Traverse Alpha which adds features for hunting and fishing to the regular Traverse. It’s also a bit more expensive than the regular Traverse.
Update (7.6.2016): Suunto has released the Suunto Spartan Ultra - A premium multisport watch with color display.
Update (26.1.2016) Garmin has released the Fenix 5X which has the HR monitor on the wrist and is able to upload topo maps.
Update (4.4.2018) Suunto has released the Suunto 3 Fitness watch.And if you have some time ...
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