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Have Suunto Peaked With The Ambit 3?

Suunto continue to be at the forefront of the adventure watch industry with Garmin always following close behind if not alongside. Which brand you choose is usually down to personal preference or which is cheapest at the time. This keeps the competition hot, in a way that wasn’t so much the case a few years ago.

Every 12 months, the previous model has to be improved and the competition must be beaten What have Suunto done with the Ambit 3 Peaktest that makes it a more attractive option than the older and cheaper Ambit 2? Is it an upgrade worthy of the higher price tag? Read the review below to find out.

The box is open and the Ambit 3 Peak Sapphire is visible for the first time. It is clear from the outset that it’s an improved version of the Ambit 2 rather than a new watch entirely. Aesthetically, it is incredibly similar to the model it has replaced – silver bezel with four chunky screws, five silver buttons, black rubber strap and a large but low resolution display. It also still has a substantial growth on one side that houses the GPS sensor and a few other things – one that remains a minor design flaw, in my opinion. How they can resolve this without putting the watch through an undesirable growth spurt, I’m unsure.

This plastic section adds considerable bulk on the six o’clock edge which can make it occasionally uncomfortable to wear  for long periods and it also prevents the watch from lying nicely on a desk. Fortunately, it will spend little time off your wrist and for those less obsessive-compulsive than myself, it may be a non-issue altogether.

Ambit 3 Peak has an always-accurate compass

Ambit 3 Peak has an always-accurate compass

The model we were sent is fronted by a Sapphire crystal which is vastly more scratch resistant and will help to protect the significant investment you’re wearing on your wrist. It is also slightly more expensive at £450 than the ‘basic’ model at £360. The option of a heart-rate monitor is an additional £50 (the HRM is £70 separately) bringing the grand total to £500. There are a few small differences on the face but aside from the flatter design, nothing obvious unless a red dash instead of a white one is important to you. The Ambit 3 Peak exudes quality all the way from the metal bezel to the rugged strap, sizeable clasp and sealed case; the unit is weighty at 93 grams and very well polished.

Attaching the watch to your belt loops offers some occasional respite from days of wrist-wearing.

Attaching the watch to your belt loops offers some occasional respite from days of wrist-wearing.

Accompanying the Ambit is a tremendously improved Heart-Rate Monitor (Suunto Smart Sensor) which is considerably smaller and even more comfortable than the old Ant+ belt – it’s also the smallest on the market. Its size doesn’t measure much more than a £2 coin, though it is of course thicker. This appreciable weight loss makes it a marked upgrade that genuinely allows you to forget its presence. On the strap itself there are two female sockets where the monitor pushes tightly into place – that’s right, it’s even easier to remove so you have no excuses for a sweat soaked strap anymore! The band is thin, flexible and ultimately pleasant to wear, in comparison with the thick material present on the oversized and inflexible Garmin strap I am used to wearing. Something to remember when choosing which model to buy is the lack of support for old Ant+ straps due to the Bluetooth upgrade – your old strap will no work with the Ambit 3 range.

The tiny and comfortable Suunto Smart Sensor (HRM)

The tiny and comfortable Suunto Smart Sensor (HRM)

The Ambit 3 Peak tracks your fitness in its most basic form.

The Ambit 3 Peak tracks your fitness in its most basic form.

There remain no customisation options so your dilemma is a brief choice between black and black. This is a huge contrast to the Suunto Core which has a plethora of straps in colours varying from white to bright orange, suiting all but the fussiest of people. Also available is a black variant which is far more pleasing to the eye than the almost bling-worthy silver. Sapphire crystal is only present on the bling edition, which is a shame.

One fundamental addition to the Ambit 3 Peak is Bluetooth LE connectivity rather than Ant+. This gives what was once considered a watch solely for the active person a whole new sense of being. 2014 was a year in which we saw a number of different smartwatches and this is technically among them too. Suunto have given you the option of connecting your phone (currently only iOS with Android coming in early 2014) and receiving notifications direct to your wrist. There is no ability to delete, reply or anything else for that matter – the watch acts merely as a portal to read whatever you have received. It’s limited in functionality but a nice step – I’d rather have the option to use it than it not be there at all and I think some wearers will be surprised how useful it is to be able to lift your wrist and decide immediately whether it’s worth removing your phone from your pocket to deal with something.

Notification inbound, backlit at night.

Notification inbound, backlit at night.

Using the phone connectivity can show your current position.

Using the phone connectivity can show your current position.

For me at least, taking off a glove in extremely cold weather to respond to the notification on my phone, only to find it was an email about purchasing a totally-legitimate but hugely reduced pack of blue pills, is far more of an annoyance than checking my watch to reveal the same exciting offer.

The only issue is when your cuffs are too tight or your sleeves too long that the notifications simply cannot be viewed without a brief tug of war trying to extricate the king-sized watch from your clothing. Speaking of cold weather, the Ambit 3 Peak now has a thermometer onboard so you’ll be able to see just how cold it is before you bare your hands at all. There is still no barometer.

The heart-rate-monitor feels exquisite coming from a chunky Garmin unit.

The heart-rate-monitor feels exquisite coming from a chunky Garmin unit.

Battery life remains in line with the previous generation Ambit with it lasting solely as a time-piece for weeks’ at a time. In full swing, using the GPS (Global Positioning System,) HRM (Heart-Rate Monitor) and smartwatch the battery life is greatly reduced but not as much as you’d expect. I went three days without a single charge, using the notification system intermittently and GPS on most days with varying activity durations.

In the last ten months, Movescount – the online system Suunto use to sync, edit and store your activities profile (their version of Garmin Connect) – has come on leaps and bounds. It’s easier to use, more feature rich and is even more appealing to look at. The first time I opened it after a six month hiatus I was immediately pleased by the updated design – I wish other services looked and worked in a similar way.

Syncing and updating the watch via the computer is quick and easy – connect the intuitive crocodile-clip-computer-connection-cable (that’s some serious alliteration!) to the watch and, presuming the Moveslink app is already installed on your system, Movescount will be updated with your latest ‘moves’ in a matter of seconds. Settings such as units used, displays and information shown on a per sport basis are just as easily modified here. For a first time user, the number of options available may appear vast but a few minutes of easy glances and prompt changes will set the Ambit up forever – unless you change your mind about preferring Metric or Imperial.

Crocodile-clip Wire

Crocodile-clip Wire

There are a few things you are forced to do through Movescount or Moveslink, such as adding a different sport type to the exercises menu. If, for example, you do a lot of walking (rather than hiking) you will be unable to add this via the watch itself. If you’re away for a weekend in the Lakes and you’ve forgotten to add a Hiking exercise type then you’re out of luck unless you have an iPhone with you. In truth, this doesn’t matter too much because these profiles just select what data to show on each custom display you have set up. As an example, you may want to display Elevation and a Compass on a hike and Average Speed on a run. Once you sync the data to Movescount, change the exercise type and it’ll display just as it would have under a different setting.

There's one strap per model to choose from so literally zero choice.

There’s one strap per model to choose from so literally zero choice.

So what should you choose? Should you go for the cheaper Ambit 2 or splash out on the latest and greatest Ambit 3 Peak? Should you upgrade from the old model to its replacement?

A lot of these decisions rest on what price you can pick each model up for. Is anyone offering a discount, for example. Aesthetics are unlikely to play a factor due to the small differences but Bluetooth LE support, a tidier and more compact Heart-Rate Monitor plus an increase in internal storage just might. If you wear your watch casually as well as during exercise then the newer model will float your boat much more due to the notification system.

When you’re spending over £400, on whatever it may be, a few pounds here or there probably don’t matter too much and if you’re going to drop your hard earned money on an expensive bit of kit, get the best you can.


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