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Suunto Ambit 2S – S For Spectacular

Over the past few years, feature rich sport watches have become just as commonplace on the modern day athlete as the specifically designed, aerodynamic clothing worn by cyclists, runners and swimmers alike.

Some smart watches cater to individual sports while others are intended for use in multiple events. Others, like the Suunto Ambit 2S are in the market to stay constantly on your wrist; recording, guiding and timing whatever you’re doing.

You could be a swimmer, a runner or a cyclist. You could be all three of those. Or you could be a mountaineer. Whatever your discipline, Suunto have aimed this watch at you because it’s as feature rich as you can possibly imagine. Let’s review the features.

GPS – check. Altimeter – check. Compass – check. Heart-rate monitor – check. Timers, stopwatches, multiple time zones – check. Pace, speed, calorie counter – check. All of these features are also more in depth than they first appear.

Using the compass. The Ambit 2S is feature packed.

Using the compass. The Ambit 2S is feature packed.

GPS breaks down into support for waypoints, track back, track logging, POI creation, route planning and of course all the speed and pace things you’d expect. Altimeter shows not just your altitude, but total ascent/descent, vertical speed and various graphs highlighting your progress – it’ll also record high enough to take you to the summit of Mount Everest. Heart rate support shares the ability to provide you with live-updating graphs, HR zones and limits. Swimmers will be happy that the Ambit 2S also has the ability to accept pool length and record laps, pace, distance, stroke rate, count and type. The ability to record data and present it to you afterwards is downright astonishing.

Suunto then provide an app store they call ‘App Zone’ with a selection of over 1000 ‘apps’ created by other users. You have access to storm alarms, sunrise and sunset times and even a ‘Gel Alert’ app that tells you when you should take your next isotonic gel.

Movescount App Zone - 1000+ options

Movescount App Zone – 1000+ options

It doesn’t have everything though. It’s missing a depth metre for the times when you’re mucking about in the sea and there’s no barometric pressure or temperature sensor either.

The watch itself is quite big – it has to fit in a GPS chip after all – though it doesn’t feel all that heavy at 72 grams, which is only eight more than the Suunto Core. The Ambit 2S is of course rechargeable via a brilliantly thought out USB lead that clips over the silver rim and touches four metal contacts. There is no user replaceable battery with the watch being a completely sealed unit but you’ll no longer need to switch it out after a year like you would with the Core. Instead, you’ll get around two to three weeks of battery life if you’re using it solely as a timepiece. Utilising the GPS brings the battery life down much more quickly but leaving it set at a one minute interval for each communication with the GPS satellites will still give you 60 hours (2.5 days) before needing to recharge. Unfortunately, it only ships with the USB lead, so you’ll need a computer or a USB plug to charge it. A dedicated charger can be purchased for a further £20.

The USB clamps on - allowing for data transfer and charging.

The USB clamps on – allowing for data transfer and charging.

A solid construction results in a 72 gram weight.

A solid construction results in a 72 gram weight.

At 50mm wide, it’s certainly a device you’re going to notice on your wrist and accompanied with a depth of just under 16mm, your ability to put any long sleeved item of clothing on will be impaired too. I kid, but it’s true to a degree. It’s also something you get used to. I initially found it quite uncomfortable, with the hard bottom portion rubbing on my wrist but wearing it slightly lower down eased that problem. The overall build quality is very good, though I’d have preferred the buttons to be more positive than the tacky squishy feeling they have when pressed.

The front is surrounded by a solid metal ring that screws directly into the soft-touch plastic case with four torx screws. The strap is a heavy duty rubber with nearly full width slots for the buckle to clip in. I’d have preferred narrower slots here, which would’ve provided even more strength. The buckle is wide, smooth and silver which contrasts nicely with the black strap. Suunto have a couple of versions of the strap and it’s user replaceable too, though there’s not the same number of options here as with other models – only black or white.

The mineral crystal glass fronts an easily viewable dot-matrix display that’s clear even in the brightest sunlight or at an overly acute angle. The powerful backlight does a brilliant job of illuminating the display so it’s perfectly viewable in the dark. Unlike with the Suunto Core – the Ambit 2S display gave us no problems in any conditions.

Even in direct sunlight, at an acute angle, the display was easily readable.

Even in direct sunlight, at an acute angle, the display was easily readable.

With all the functions and features present in the Ambit 2S, you’d expect to be overwhelmed and confused when trying to operate it but Suunto have kept the menus and displays very simple. There are five buttons – four of which you’ll use regularly. Select, up, down and back. They’re labelled differently to that, but in the menu systems at least that’s how you’ll use them.

There are hints telling you how to access hidden menus such as settings. Pressing it for anything other than a split second throws up a “hold to enter options” message before the menu appears.

On the standard screen, you’re presented with the time and date alone but pressing the view button changes the bottom portion of the display to show seconds, battery percentage or day of the week. The ability to change the view here is the same throughout each activity screen and they’re also customisable through Movescount.com. You can choose what activities the watch shows – running, walking, cycling, swimming or indoor training and then change each view inside those activities to suit you. If you want to see pace and average speed on the first screen and altitude and time of day on the second, you can. The options are unlimited and this truly makes the watch yours, rather than one that’s completely generic. I set up a hiking activity to show time, distance, average speed, pace and altitude over three different views.

The battery is rechargeable, but sealed.

The battery is rechargeable, but sealed.

Being big is probably a positive in the outdoor community.

Being big is probably a positive in the outdoor community.

I was impressed at how easily I was able to achieve this – the website is kept incredibly straight forward, allowing even the most technophobic person a chance at personalising their experience. It took me about 15 minutes to enter my body metrics and customise all the activities and views I wanted on the watch.

The Ambit 2S also allows you to access the compass when an activity is already recording which means you can keep logging your hike information, while checking you’re walking in the right direction. This was something I wasn’t initially aware of, because it’s inside one of the hold to access menu systems.

GPS was incredibly slow to activate – taking well over a minute – until I performed a software update, at which point it connected every time in more like two to five seconds. Compared to any other GPS device I’ve used before, besides my phone, I found the quick connection time a saviour when I was ready to begin an activity.

Once an activity is recorded, it’s saved to the memory forever. Unfortunately, there is no way to delete entries in the logbook, other than performing a full software update. The Ambit 2S has a circular memory, meaning the oldest entry is deleted in order to save the current entry. This isn’t a bad thing because your entire profile is stored on your Movescount profile anyway.

Create a pre-defined route and the Ambit 2S will navigate it.

Create a pre-defined route and the Ambit 2S will navigate it.

The ability to customise makes it feel much more personal.

The ability to customise makes it feel much more personal.

Movescount also allows you to create pre-defined routes that can be downloaded to the watch and then navigated. Waypoints on the route allow the Ambit 2S to tell you where to turn and how far away each one is and I found this fairly accurate, apart from the one time a trail split into two and it wasn’t clear which way to go. Fortunately, it was immediately obvious I had to turn around – an arrow at the top of the display shows you the direction you should be heading in so even though it’s not pin-point accurate 100% of the time, you should always get to your destination without too many problems.

Like finding a GPS signal, the heart-rate monitor was quickly picked up and accurate from the off, regardless of moistening the patches on the band. I found the band easier to clip together than the Garmin one I’m used to because it fastens right in the middle of your chest, rather than at the side, underneath my arm. A quick press and pull releases the band from either side of the monitor, which means it can be washed every now and again.

The heart-rate monitor was comfortable and easy to put on.

The heart-rate monitor was comfortable and easy to put on.

What I liked most of all was the ability to record every one of my activities, however big or small it was. Running home from a friends or hiking 10 miles were all recorded and that’s because of how easily available it is – your watch is always right there with you. Even if my phone, equipped with an activity recording app is in my pocket, I found myself far more likely to activate the watch than the other way around – It prolonged the battery life of my phone too.

The only thing that may potentially put buyers off is the price. Without the heart-rate monitor, which I loved, the watch is £275 direct from Suunto. Along with the heart-rate monitor, you’ll need to drop £325, though it can be picked up a little cheaper than that if you shop around – Amazon have it for roughly £50 less.

If you’re after a watch that supports every activity you do, along with hugely flexible, software based customisation options then you certainly won’t be disappointed. If you need the missing three sensors, then you’ll need to look at the previously released and more highly spec’d Ambit 2 which will set you back an additional £85-£175 depending on whether you choose the sapphire or black model.


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