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Suunto 9 review: huge battery life and accuracy even without GPS !

by Philippe Baudoin © (26/07/2018)
Suunto GPS Watch 9

Accuracy, reliability and high autonomy for this multisport outdoor watch

This new Suunto 9 watch, replacing the Suunto Spartan Ultra, will seduce demanding sportsmen or fans of long outings (ultra-trail, ultramarathon races) who are looking for a watch with great autonomy but also, and this is all the interest of this new model, which remains accurate even in energy saving mode ! Suunto 9 offers up to 120 hours of battery life, intelligent battery management, high accuracy, compatibility with a new application and some interesting new features. Explanations.

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Suunto 9 : the multi-sport GPS watch that replaces the Spartan Ultra

A watch with a record range that remains accurate even without a GPS signal !

Suunto comes again to surprise us with its innovations, in particular how to offer an exceptional autonomy (up to 120 h !) without too much altering the precision of the measurements. The feat is achieved by exploiting and interpolating the data from the watch's sensors.

watch profile view

Indeed, after FusedAlti™ and FusedSpeed™, algorithms combining GPS, barometric altimeter and accelerometer data to refine altitude and instantaneous speed measurements, the manufacturer now offers FusedTrack™, a function that combines GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope and compass to refine GPS track when the signal is weak or when power saving mode is activated. Result: course recording and distance measurement remain as accurate as possible even in extreme situations (loss of GPS signal, long workouts using energy saving modes), provided you practice a sport such as running, trail or walking (accuracy is lost for too fast sports such as cycling, motorcycle, etc.).

An intelligent warning system allows the battery status to be monitored and the management mode to be changed to keep the watch on the entire course while ensuring the best possible accuracy. We detail this below.

Optical cardio at the wrist and other novelties

But that's not all: Suunto 9 brings other evolutions and improvements, including a heart rate meter on the wrist, a revised display, a new GPS chip, activity tracking and more. You will find a detailed review of these changes later in this article.

120 hours of autonomy, precision and advanced tests: quality and reliability first and foremost

The Sunnto 9 is designed for long workouts. It is aimed at all athletes but especially at adventurers, hikers, cross-country runners (especially ultra trail, ultrafond) or triathletes. Its autonomy can reach 120 hours with astonishing precision, a quality that demanding or high-level athletes are looking for.

Unlike Garmin and its Fenix 5 Plus which offers a plethora of functions (coloured maps, mp3 music player, NFC chip for payment, advanced functions for training and monitoring, physiological tests and measurements, statistics, etc.) in a case offered in 3 sizes to suit all wrists, Suunto, for its part, targets a demanding public and offers a watch that holds the road over very long distances while remaining accurate and of course robust and reliable. Between the 2 brands, everyone can therefore find what their are looking for according to their objectives.

Suunto also reports that its watches have been tested for thousands of hours under extreme conditions (humidity, immersion, drops, shocks, freezing, etc.) by in-house test teams and by Suunto athletes around the world.

Suunto 9 shows record battery life (up to 120 hours) while remaining accurate thanks to a new FusedTrack™ algorithm combining GPS and the watch's other sensors.

Suunto 9 features

Weight
81 g
Dimensions
50 x 17 mm, bracelet 24 mm, Screen 320 x 300 px
Battery life
14 j(1), 7 j(2), 25/40/120 h (3)
GPS
Yes, GPS
Multisports
Yes (usable for triathlon)
Recommended activities
Trail, ultra-trail, trek, hiking, running, cycling, swimming, triathlon
Connectivity
iPhone, Android, PC. Bluetooth wireless data transfer Smart
Cardio-frequency meter
Yes, wrist optics and/or belt
Topographic maps
No
Music player / bluetooth
No
Payment system
No
Telephony / 4G
No
Barometric altimeter
Yes
Barometer
Yes
Compass
Yes, numerical
Thermometer
Yes
Weather
Weather trend, storm alerts, barometer, sunrise and sunset times
Waterproof
10 ATM (100 m)
Other
Activity monitoring, thumb track, color touch screen

(1) Watch mode  (2)With 24/7 tracking   (3) With GPS 1s/60s/120s

Detailed overview of Suunto 9 new features

Suunto 9 can be said to be the version that replaces Suunto Spartan Ultra. It is an outdoor-oriented multi-sport watch (mountain, trail, trekking, etc.). It incorporates the same technical features, software and widgets of the Spartan Ultra that we summarize below.

White baro with autonomy gauge and weekly training
Suunto 9 is a watch with a pretty and robust look with its steel crown, an ultra-resistant sapphire crystal and a light silicone strap

It has a 320 x 300 pixel colour touch screen, a 50 mm housing slightly thinner than that of the Spartan Ultra (16.8 mm against 17 mm). It is just a little heavier (81 g versus 73 g). We find a sapphire crystal crystal, a reinforced polyamide case, a 24 mm silicone strap that remains interchangeable but now without tools. It is designed for wrist sizes from 13 to 23 cm.

The Spartan's GPS navigation functions (planning, recording, viewing and sharing routes, GPS track, elevation profile, climb speed, altitude difference, navigation, POI recording and navigation to POIs, etc.), more than 80 sports, the possibility of programming interval workouts. It is compatible with Strava, TrainingPeaks, apMyFitness and many other applications (see site movescount.com).

It should be noted that it is a true multi-sport watch with transition from one activity to another without stopping the watch. It is therefore suitable for the practice of triathlon. Suunto 9 also displays a summary of the activities performed to get an overview of the entire event during the race.

It also has many useful sensors, especially for adventurers: GPS, ABC sensors (barometric altimeter, barometer, digital compass), thermometer, gyroscope, accelerometer. It offers weather functions (weather trend, storm alerts, barometric profile) and displays sunrise and sunset times.

There are not many new features. The main focus is on long autonomy and measurement accuracy, which is improved in energy saving modes.

Design, height and weight: small changes

The Suunto 9 remains just as voluminous as the Spartan Ultra with a diameter of 50 mm and a thickness of 17 mm, about the size of the Fenix 5X or Fenix 5X Plus (51 mm). It is even a little heavier than the Spartan Ultra (81 g versus 73 g). Its design has been slightly revised: the buttons are a little bigger and the steel bezel has slightly changed its look.

Suunto adopts a new display: gauges in the form of luminous rings encircling the screen that indicate the remaining battery life and the weekly training volume reached. Depending on the widgets used, these gauges can display the number of hours of sleep, the number of steps taken, the percentage of target achieved, the recovery time, etc.

Battery life: 120 h and precision even without GPS thanks to FusedTrack !

This is the main novelty of this model. The Suunto 9 offers a record autonomy (up to 120 hours) but above all, and this is the strong argument of this watch, it does so with good GPS accuracy and tests confirm this ability. This is not the case with the Spartan Ultra (140 h announced but with a GPS recording much less accurate).

To achieve this, Suunto developed an algorithm that combines GPS data with other sensors (accelerometer, gyroscope, compass) to extrapolate the GPS track and actual distance travelled. This is the FusedTrack™ function, here is the principle in a few words :

Battery life is closely related to GPS usage. Each GPS reading consumes a lot of energy. However, for accurate measurements, GPS watches record the position every second. At Suunto, the "Best" or "Performance" mode offers 25 hours of autonomy on the Suunto 9.

To save battery power, simply take fewer readings. On Suunto 9, the "Good/Endurance" and "OK/Ultra" modes perform only one measurement every 1 and 2 minutes respectively. We then reach 40 hours or 120 hours of autonomy.

GPS trace versus actual trace
Illustation : the inaccurate trace (yellow) is corrected (pink) by FusedTrack by combining GPS data with other sensors on the watch.

But the accuracy is obviously much lower. In the case of a runner who is zigzagging, the watch will only show straight lines on each 1 or 2 minute portion of the journey and the measured distance will be smaller than what the athlete has actually run (see photo).

To compensate for this lack of measurements, Suunto "guesses" the missing points from the other sensors on the watch: accelerometer (runner acceleration measurements), compass (runner direction) and gyroscope (direction change detection). This data makes it possible to know in which direction and at which speed the rider is moving. This gives a much more accurate track, even in the absence of a GPS signal! It's the GPS watch that works without GPS, or almost! This function is only activated in energy saving mode for running and trail sports.

Suunto already uses this principle for other measurements: the FusedAlti™ function makes it possible to obtain a better accuracy on the altitude thanks to the combination of the GPS signal and the altimeter. FusedSpeed™ provides a more accurate race speed through the use of GPS signal and accelerometer. These functions also compensate for data loss due to the absence of the GPS signal, for example in forests or valleys.

A smart battery management to last as long as possible with the best possible accuracy

Suunto has done everything for a watch that will last as long as possible with the best possible accuracy!

The watch offers 3 operating modes:

  • Performance mode (formerly Best) 1 reading per second, 25 h autonomy (18 h on Spartan Ultra)
  • The Endurance mode (formerly Good) 1 reading every minute, 40 h autonomy (35 h on the Spartan Ultra with recording every second but with reduced accuracy)
  • The Ultra mode (formerly OK) 1 reading every 2 minutes, 120 h autonomy (140 h on the Spartan but with one measurement every 60 seconds)

Custom modes can also be defined.

Intelligent battery management display
The athlete is alerted of the remaining time and can change mode at any time.

Suunto 9 offers intelligent battery management with reminders based on activity history. Alerts warn the rider in case of low battery or if the battery capacity is insufficient for the distance remaining to run. The watch indicates an estimate of the remaining battery. It also offers the possibility to switch from one mode to another at any time. Thus, you can start in Performance mode and switch to Endurance mode if the range measured along the way does not seem sufficient. The precision will be a little less good and the runner will be able to finish the race without problem.

Imagine, for example, that you were going on a hike. The watch has an initial autonomy of 5 hours and this seems sufficient. However, the consumption is a little higher than expected or something unexpected makes you make a detour of 3 hours. The watch then indicates a low battery level, for example 10% or 2 hours of autonomy when you need 3 hours more. No problem, you switch to another mode that offers you at least 3 hours of autonomy! And if, in the end, you still need more autonomy, you switch to Ultra mode which adds a little more time. This will affect the accuracy a bit but not too much thanks to FusedTrack™!

Heart rate on the wrist

cardio optic wrist
New on Suunto 9 : an optical cardio on the wrist for 24/7 activity monitoring and greater comfort if you prefer not to wear a chest belt.

This new model is also equipped with an optical heart rate monitor on the wrist that allows pulse measurement without having to wear a chest belt. The interest of this sensor is also to be able to complete the new functions for monitoring watch activity (caloric expenditure during the day for example). This sensor is less accurate than a chest belt. However, you can always wear a belt if you wish. Suunto also offers its watch in 2 versions: with or without belt.

The 24/7 activity follow-up

Also new, Suunto 9 offers an activity tracking function (activity tracker) that counts the number of steps taken during the day, the distance covered, the number of calories burnt (estimated from the heart rate measured on the wrist), the number of hours of sleep (including deep sleep determined by the motion sensor).

GPS without GLONASS

Unlike the Spartan Ultra, which is compatible with American (GPS) and Russian (GLONASS) satellite systems, this Suunto watch only detects GPS. This seems a step backwards for a watch that is supposed to evolve. In reality, this is not the case. To detect GLONASS, the watch must consume more energy so this reduces its autonomy. It's a wise compromise.

Certainly, having more satellites seems a good idea to speed up the search for the signal (at least 4 satellites are needed for a position measurement) and improve measurements, especially in cities where signals are stopped by buildings. But in reality, accuracy is not necessarily better or may be worse. Indeed, GPS chips, despite their compatibility with several satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS or Galileo, the European system, and QZSS, the Japanese satellites), do not necessarily mix the systems: the watch can indeed use one system or the other but not a mix of the two. So you can end up with GLONASS where it would make more sense to use GPS. On the other hand, for an outdoor activity, GPS is sufficient in most cases. GLONASS is interesting in urban areas.

Suunto has therefore made a wise choice that not only extends battery life but also makes accuracy more consistent or even better.

Suunto is also using a new GPS chip supplier: Sony replaces SiRF.

Wristbands interchangeable without tools

The Suunto bracelet is interchangeable, as on the Spartan Ultra, but without tools (as on the Spartan Sport Wrist HR and Spartan Sport).

Compatible with the new Suunto application

Suunto 9 is compatible with the new Suunto app that allows you to keep a log (history) of training performed, daily activity, hours of sleep. It also allows you to share your data and performance with other community members. The new app is available in the Apple Store and Google Play.

A software update

Suunto 9 comes with the latest software update offering new training tools, heart rate zone alerts, distance targets with notifications when 50 and 100% of the target has been reached, Smartphone notifications, the ability to share performance over the Internet and more.

Spartan Ultra or Suunto 9 : the differences, which one to choose?

The Spartan Ultra has seen its price fall since the release of the Suunto 9. Do I have to pay more for the new model? Is Suunto 9 better? It all depends on how you want to use this watch:

Spartan Ultra versus Suunto 9
For workouts longer than 18 h, Suunto 9 offers better accuracy than Spartan Ultra. It is ideal for long races (ultratrail) where precision is required.

For fans of Ultramarathon or Ultra-trail, this new model is clearly more interesting not only for its exceptional range but also and especially for the accuracy of its measurements in energy saving modes. For races longer than 18 hours, the Suunto 9 will be more accurate than the Spartan Ultra in terms of track and distance. It also provides greater operating comfort: no more frustration when the battery is almost empty. It is enough to change mode to obtain a stay of several hours without losing too much in precision.

For other sportsmen who do not need such autonomy, this new model does not bring much interest compared to the previous model if it is not the optical cardio on the wrist, very practical if one does not like to wear a thoracic belt or if one wants to use the watch for the follow-up of activity.

For a more detailed comparison between the Suunto 9 and the Spartan Ultra, read our article Comparison Suunto 9 Baro vs Suunto Spartan: differences, which one to choose?

Our opinion

This new Suunto watch replaces the Suunto Spartan Ultra. It does not bring so many changes in terms of functionality. The main difference lies in the battery life (up to 120 hours) and the accuracy of the measurements, which remains optimal in energy-saving mode thanks to the new FusedTrack™ algorithm. This is really a good thing for long distance runners who are looking for a watch capable of lasting at least 40 hours and even several days while maintaining good measurement accuracy.

We also appreciate the comfort offered by the watch thanks to its intelligent battery management which allows you to switch from one mode to another at any time to extend your autonomy and finish your race serenely. No more frustration to see your watch stop because you have chosen the wrong mode or to record tracks and distances that are not very precise, especially in competition when every detail counts, especially precision, to manage your race as well as possible.

The wrist pulsation plug (optical reader) is an asset for people who are "allergic" to chest belts. The accuracy is not as good but you can still use a belt for races requiring more precision.

The addition of activity monitoring is also welcome. It is now present on most cardio watches and made possible on this model thanks to the optical heart rate monitor. It is still necessary to wear the watch permanently, at least during the day, which is not necessarily obvious with this type of voluminous watch. It is indeed more intended for a sporting use than for a daily use, especially if one has a fine wrist.

Unlike Garmin, which aligned with its competitors Tom Tom, Apple and Fitbit, the watch still does not offer an MP3 music player nor a contactless payment method (NFC chip). It must be said that these functions do not necessarily interest the users of a watch intended for extreme sports. Suunto certainly prefers to focus on what makes its strength for these adventurous models: robustness, reliability, quality and autonomy. There are also no advanced training, statistics and athlete monitoring functions like on the Fenix 5 or Fenix 5 Plus but, as we explained above, these tools do not necessarily interest the same public.

Suunto also does not offer a smaller size for its watch. The main objective with this new model is precisely to offer a watch with great autonomy and this is hardly compatible with a smaller case. That said, we can imagine a compromise with intermediate autonomy that could interest more athletes. In the meantime, people with thin wrists will have to put up with a relatively large watch that they only wear for sport. As one can see from the limited number of models and bracelets available (no leather version, titanium, etc.), Suunto clearly does not intend any other usage of its watch. Nevertheless, the interchangeability of the strap without tools and the monitoring of activity are perhaps a first step in preparing for a more versatile watch?

Overall, the new features on this sports watch should appeal to very long-distance runners. No watch to date offers such autonomy with the same precision. We recommend this model to demanding or demanding athletes who exceed 18 hours of non-stop use or who do not have the practical means to charge the watch during a race or hike organized over several days.

We liked
  • Huge battery life (up to 120 h) and accuracy even in power-saving mode
  • Possibility to switch from one battery management mode to another along the way
  • Quality, robustness and reliability
  • Practical gauges (illuminated crown)
  • Convenient wrist cardio player
We would have liked
  • A model more adapted to small wrists

Price and availability

Suunto 9 is available in stores and on the Internet in 2 colors: Suunto 9 Baro Black (black) and Suunto 9 Baro White (white) at the recommended price of 599 €. The watch is also available with or without a cardio belt. Count 50 € more for the model with belt.

Take advantage of our partners' offers, promotions and coupons de réduction.

Philippe Baudoin
Copyright © Sport Passion

Buy Suunto 9

Merchant
Price (from)
 
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599 € -5% (*1)
i-Run
599 € -5% (*2)
Amazon
616 €

(*1) Discount of -5% on the suunto9 with coupon code 5A15 !
(*2) Discount of -5% on the suunto9 with coupon code NOEL !

Commercial links. Prices are not contractual. Please visit the merchant site.

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Photo credit: suunto.com