Suunto Ambit GPS Watch Review

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Scott Warr

Could this be the answer – 50 hour battery life?

The Suunto Ambit Silver HR ($550) combines a GPS navigation system, altimeter, 3D compass with advanced heart rate monitoring into a well-designed wrist unit for outdoor pursuits and everyday use.

The Suunto Ambit Silver (HR) package includes Suunto Ambit Silver, Suunto ANT Comfort Belt, USB power cable, and Quick Guide.

 

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

I didn’t have much time to review the Ambit before sending it back to Suunto. Some highlighted features are:

SPECIALIZED OUTDOOR FUNCTIONS 

  • Full-featured GPS with Waypoint navigation
  • Unique 3D compass
  • Accurate barometric altitude
  • Barometer
  • Temperature

ADVANCED TRAINING FUNCTIONS

  • Highly responsive pace and speed (FusedSpeed™) with accelerometer integrated GPS
  • Accurate vertical speed with barometric altimeter
  • Advanced heart rate monitoring with Peak Training Effect and Recovery Time
  • Online sports diary with planning & analysis tools in Movescount.com
  • Compatible with Suunto Bike and Cadence PODs

MOUNTAIN & EVERYDAY EXPLORATION

  • Robust BuiltToLast – casing (very nicely constructed)
  • Enhanced battery lifetime; approximate operating time in:
    • Outdoor mode 50h – with longer GPS tracking interval, suitable for hiking
    • Training mode 15h – with shorter GPS tracking interval, suitable for running
    • Watch mode 30 days – watch mode including ABC functions
  • 100 m / 328 ft water resistant (ISO 2281)
  • Upgradeable with new functionalities through Movescount.com

 

 

TRAIL TESTING

The Ambit has a very large watch face so you can read the data/numbers very easily.  After the initial satellite acquisition, the Ambit took less than 5 seconds to acquire a GPS signal (very fast). The longest satellite acquisition was around 15 seconds.  Scrolling through the data/function is intuitive and easy. You cannot update training features on the watch unless connected to the software. I loved the heart rate strap, because it did not have any external tags and seams that would ruin your nice tech top.

Several features I want to highlight are (1) the FusedSpeed function and (2) battery life.

First, what is the FusedSpeed function? FusedSpeed is a unique combination of GPS and wrist acceleration sensor readings for measuring your running speed more accurately. This is beneficial when needing highly reactive speed readings, that is, when running on uneven terrain or during interval training. Additionally, if you lose the GPS signal, the Ambit is able to continue showing accurate speed readings with the FusedSpeed.

Second, how does the 50 hour battery life work? This was one of the features I wanted to test. To obtain the 50 hour battery life, you will need to change the training function using the software to set a GPS fix every 60 seconds. However, when I tested the setting with “Brand X” (using 1 second GPS fix), it was less accurate as expected. There was a 0.1 mile (0.16km) difference per every mile. Thus, in a 100 mile (161km) race, you will be off by approximately 10 miles (16km). I can see this function would be more useful in a “hiking” endeavor.  To obtain the 15 hour battery life, you will need to set the GPF fix every 1 second. When compared to “Brand X”, the accuracy was within 1%.  This is within the GPS accuracy range. I was not able to fully deplete the battery to test the 15 hour claim, because the watch would charge every time you sync with the software via USB cable to the computer.

Overall, a very well-constructed GPS watch. The Ambit is very durable and (if you are into looks) it is a very attractive timepiece that can be used as an everyday watch with TONS of other features.

 

TECH SPECS

 Product Features

Weight Breakdown

 

SOFTWARE REVIEW

First, you will need to install Movelink2. Movelink2 is the connection software for the computer and watch. This will be used to transfer data from and to the watch.

Movelink Display

Second, you will need to establish an account on Movecounts. This is the online software for you to transfer any settings to the watch and to review your workout.

Movescount Login/Registration Page

 

Movescount Activity Page

In the “My Moves” section, you can review your training data (e.g., heart rate and zone analysis, speed & distance (Google Earth View), etc.)

My Moves Section - Export Data
My Moves Section - Exporting Google EarthGoolge Earth Exported from My Moves

There are plenty of other features I have not listed. The only issue I had (more personal than function) is that the software is only available online. I would like the option to have the software installed my on PC with the option to upload to the internet.

 

CONCLUSION

The Suunto Ambit is a definite contender in the GPS watch category. With the FusedSpeed, optional 50hr to 15 hr battery life settings, barometric altimeter, 3D compass and more, it truly is a “GPS for Explorers”.  Coming in at $550, if you are looking for a longer battery life with GPS accuracy with GPS fix at 1 second, there are other manufacturers priced $100 below the Ambit price tag.  I would like to see the following updates to the Ambit:

  • Wireless PC Connection
  • PC downloadable software
  • Update to multiple GPS fix setting – 15 sec and 30 sec (option to pick your endurance activity with the balance between accuracy and battery life)
  • Ability to change the training setting on the watch

Overall, the Suunto Ambit is loaded with features for the adventurer and trail runner looking for a GPS watch that also looks great in the office.

 

I’d love to hear your experience with the Ambit if you are using it.

 

 [UPDATE]

The review above was based on the software version 1.0. Suunto has released the 1.5 version for the Ambit.  I would respectfully disagree with the comment below that the review is “outdated”, since the improvements really are for waypoint/compass/navigation, except for GPS signal acquisition time improvement.

Join the discussion

10 comments
  • Well laid out review. However, in future you need to reference the firmware version. The Ambit now runs v 1.5.10 which has added additional features such as navigable routes, access to routes & compass when in exercise mode, improvements to the GPS chipset has seen signal acquisition times of 1 sec! Moveslink2 has also been update so that latest satellite info is now synced. Movescount now allows you to create routes & waypoints and upload them to the Ambit (limited to 100 waypoints across all routes within the Ambit), plus you can now import klm format routes & edit them.

    So, whilst its a good review, unfortunately, its out of date!! 🙂

    • Thanks Paul for sharing your knowledge. It sounds like you had longer than two and half weeks to review the Ambit. Thanks again for sharing.

  • Hi James, Your guess is correct, I got mine within a couple of days of launch, so had it a while now, plus its used 5 days a week.
    I think is was unfortunate timing that you released you review just after Suunto release v1.5 with its host of new features. Why not amend the original article to show that the review is based on v1.0.7. Then add an addendum for the v1.5 features? That way you get another 2 weeks playing with the “new & improved” Ambit 🙂 Or perhaps, you could get the use of one for a bit longer & write up another review from a usage perspective, with a bias on trail/ultra running. That would be very interesting.
    Keep up the good work, Im I’m enjoying the reviews & the podcasts immensely.

  • I’ve read that there is no foot pod support, but that may come in a later SW update.

    I don’t like integeated watch straps, and Suunto commits this ‘sin’ all the time (with the exception of the Elementum Terra).
    Integrated straps lock customers in to having to get the exact same type of replacement strap from Suunto.
    Whereas I’d like to customise my watch with e.g. a genuine rubber or leather strap – Suunto please take note of this.

    What is the case upper materal – resin, or aluminium?
    The silver looks like aluminium, but is it?

  • In fact, the HRM GPS watch I would desire does not exist on the market at all.
    It’s spectoid would be as follows:

    – Standard Round Titanium Case 200M WR with Screw-in Back
    – Solar Charging so no battery replacement
    – Standard 22mm lugs to fit any generic Rubber or Perforated Leather Band with Titanium Buckle
    – Anti-Reflective Sapphire Crystal
    – Positive Hi-Definition Display
    – All of the Suunto Ambit functions + Foot Pod support
    – Alarm with Ceramic Resonator for extra-loudness

  • Love the Ambit. Only thing I can’t figure out (I don’t think it’s possible) is how to navigate a route via waypoints, and still track all of my exercise data (pace/hr/time/distance etc), Overall I love it, and not being able to do both simultaneously is my only current issue.

    Great review. Good to see the program with your actual data in it!

    Cheers,

    BJ

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