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Polar and Suunto comparison after last update

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Both Suunto like Polar In the case of Polar the update was important because it received the new rest control functions and other training functions such as zone lock, but also added support for Galileo (and QZSS) and improvements in GPS reception.

Suunto was not far behind, especially Suunto 9 which included the new features of Suunto 5.

Given the coincidence of both updates and being all aware that both Suunto and Polar still had some work to do in this regard, I thought it was appropriate to review and make a comparison to see how they both perform after these updates.

In addition, the day I took the test I was comparing the two versions of StrydThe one that was available until now and the new one that includes compensation algorithms for the wind.

To be able to do the tests in conditions I need two watches with native support for power and Bluetooth connection to sensors to make sure which is which when comparing data, because while in ANT+ we would simply receive the signal without knowing where it comes from, in Bluetooth I can block a particular signal. But that will be a topic for another day...

As a reminder of the situation they were in before, in the case of the Polar it was almost always the same problem. There were no major faults in the position, but it was common for it to be distracted at one point and, instead of returning to the correct route, it remained in the error for a while.

For example, in this case with the Vantage you can see what I'm talking about.

Polar Vantage - GPS Comparison

The watch has been misplaced at the location, but has remained in error for many, many meters. It is normal for the location to fail slightly in a single point, but you should quickly return to the correct location instead of marking a line parallel to the rest of the watches.

The Suunto did encounter occasional errors, but they quickly returned to the right path, although they did repeat that error quite a few times.

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Suunto 9 - GPS comparison

But let's stop talking about the past and get back to the present. I did the test in my usual training area, trying to mix a little bit of everything (although there was no lush forest area). I didn't do the comparison directly after the update, but I had previously used both during a one and a half hour bike training, to make sure that in both cases they arrived at the test in the right conditions.

In addition to wearing the Polar Vantage M and the Suunto 9I was accompanied by the Garmin Forerunner 945 and the Forerunner 935The FR945 uses the same GNSS chipset as Polar and Suunto so it's very interesting to see the performance it is able to give, while the FR935 uses the old Mediatek with more battery consumption, but much more work behind its back. So the test promises.

As usual in the distant view, there is usually no problem, which is a good sign. Only one green line can be seen above the others, which in this case corresponds to FR945.

Polar Vantage M comparison - Suunto 9

But let's start zooming in. This is the beginning of the training. There's a first zone I've pointed out, with the graph corresponding to FR945, where it's the only one that's off course. The other three go to the millimetre.

Polar Vantage M comparison - Suunto 9

Later on I have pointed out another area where there are two other tracks marked that correspond to the two Garmin. The two that mark the correct route? The Polar and the Suunto.

In this area both clocks behave very well given the circumstances, as I'm running between buildings of average height (about 6 floors), which makes it difficult to receive the signal.

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Later on, the FR945 continues to make mistakes, constantly deviating from the real route while the other three clocks remain practically impassable. This section should be very simple as it is done next to the motorway, in an area of gardens and with nothing to make signal reception difficult. And yet the FR945 encounters problems...

Polar Vantage M comparison - Suunto 9

But the hard part comes when you enter Puerto Banus. Narrower streets running alongside buildings and quicker turns in difficult reception areas.

In this case I have tried to draw approximately the path I followed to reach the square, cross it and the entrance to the port area.

Polar Vantage M comparison - Suunto 9

You can see how the FR945 follows completely at its own pace during this whole section. In the street that ends in the square the Suunto 9 and the FR935 also suffer, although before reaching the most open area they are already in tune with the Polar which, in this section, has an almost perfect behaviour.

When it is time to cross the street again, it is both the Polar and the Suunto that best represent the route. FR935 climbs a little above the buildings while FR945, which is still lost, takes the wrong sidewalk.

The entrance to the harbour jetty is a good opportunity to see the performance in a totally open area. None of the four watches disappoint.

Polar Vantage M comparison - Suunto 9

There are 4 charts per direction, 8 in total (round trip) and there is none that stands out above the other.

The way back is through the promenade, which is still a fairly easy area with good satellite reception. There is not much to highlight in that area, at least until you get to this point.

Polar Vantage M comparison - Suunto 9

This is the first point where both Polar and Suunto are slightly lost. By the way, it is worth noting that both Garmin wore them on their wrist and left hand, while Polar and Suunto were on the right, so it is normal that you almost always see a slight shift between these graphs. However, in this case the separation from the real route is somewhat greater, around a couple of meters. I do not think it is important, but I like to highlight it.

Later on I do another test: walking to see the performance at very low speeds.

Polar Vantage M comparison - Suunto 9

It is usually a problem to find problems with very low speeds, but in this case there has been no incidence from any of the testers.

Similarly in this other area where I was doing specific tests with the Stryd, I don't see anything important to report either.

Polar Vantage M comparison - Suunto 9

Of course it is not perfect, as I say it will never be because it is not a precision instrument, but you can see improvements in the graphics of both the Suunto and especially the Polar.

In fact, the worst performer in this comparison was the Garmin Forerunner 945. For much of the training it was quite lost, at least until the middle of the session, but both Suunto 9 and Polar Vantage M performed almost flawlessly, as did the FR935.

This is saying a lot because the 935, being already a veteran model with the old (and more worked) chipset, we already knew it had a very good performance. Putting both Suunto and Polar at the same level is very positive for both of them and, without any doubt, a sign that the work they have done at Polar and Suunto (and of course at Sony) has been very positive.

Those of you who have updated your watches will be able to count the improvements you have seen, and if in your cases the tracks have been as positive as in mine. And thanks for reading!

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34 Comments

  1. What an interesting and great article! I personally love those tests and analyses. Many times the initial analysis that is done is different after a year due to the updates and improvements that they incorporate. Thank you for always keeping us informed of how the watches evolve and how they improve! Congratulations

  2. Congratulations Eduardo! As always a very interesting analysis and with a lot of detail, as we are used to.
    One question: will the behavior of the Fenix 6 be similar to that of its "little brother" the 945?

    1. Thank you, Juan.

      The first version of the firmware was somewhat more erratic (you can see it on your testHowever, updates have been coming in.

      In this particular case the performance of FR945 seemed to me to be worse than what I usually see.

  3. It helps me a lot when deciding between the Vantage V and the 945. Regarding Suunto, the upgrade has been only for the SX line (S9, S5 and S3), they have improved everything related to the Sony chip and have included in the S9 all the features of Firstbeat (except the adaptive training, which they have not included). The SuuntoApp platform still has many shortcomings and Suunto is based on third party applications such as Strava, Runalyze...

    Thank you very much.

  4. Good morning. First of all, I would like to congratulate you for the great information you provide with the articles on the website, which are much better, more complete and useful than those provided by the brands themselves. With regard to the article, and with the improvements made to the Vantage V, the route-tracking system can be considered reliable or on a par with other brands? I am considering the purchase of the Vantage V because of the power functions it has so that I do not have to buy another one and the stryd on the side, but I also attach a lot of importance to the route-tracking system, since I basically use it in the mountains and often with new route-tracking systems (I have been using the ambit 3 run for 4 years and it is perfect in this respect). It seems that the maps have not yet been incorporated, but if at least the routes can be followed, I think that could be enough. That said, thanks for everything. Best regards

  5. I have the Stryd and the truth is that I'm very happy with it, not only because of the estimated power, but also because of the instantaneous rhythm (besides other metrics that I don't pay much attention to, like the vertical oscillation...). Besides, with the Stryd, you'll always be able to have power regardless of the clock you choose (and you count times when you change it).
    Regarding the routes, I come from a Spartan and I haven't seen anything better than the SuuntoApp (mobile). The one from Garmin is not bad, not in the mobile not in the web. The Polar you have to design the route with any other application, export the gpx, import it in Flow and download it to the mobile... (Or at least I haven't found a way).

    I'm between the Vantage V and the 945. If the accuracy of the Garmin was like the VV, I would buy the Garmin, but as far as this article goes, it's still a long way off.

    Greetings

  6. Great analysis...one question, the strap of the Polar that appears in the header image, where can you get it? I had never seen it before, it looks between blue and white, doesn't it?

    1. Thank you, Ignacio.

      It's a compatible strap from Fitbit Versa, it's not from Polar and it didn't come with the watch. I bought the Vantage M without a strap from Amazon reconditioners and I got my hands on that one.

  7. Hi, Eduardo, great analysis. I just discovered your page.
    I have a Suunto 9 Baro and am tempted to switch to the Fenix 6X Pro, because of the theme of structured training and map navigation, but I don't know if it's really worth it, what do you think? On the other hand, after this update it seems that the navigation accuracy of the Suunto 9 Baro is better than the Fenix 6X PRO.
    Greetings.

    1. If you do a lot of navigation with the watch, it's worth it. Having the maps makes it a lot easier. The theme of training has something basic in Suunto, depending on how you train the series and whether you do interval variation or not.

      As far as GPS accuracy is concerned it is not something that is written in stone, today it is one result, tomorrow it could be another. It is true that right now and as far as I am used to seeing both the Polar and the Suunto are a little bit above the Garmin, but I don't think the difference is a decisive buying factor.

  8. Hi Eduardo, congratulations for your work and thanks for helping us to remove the doubts we have in my case, mainly about these devices. I wonder if you could give me a practical hand MTB and running I have acquired a Suunto 9 but I think it is too big and does not have a barometer, and now I am thinking coldly to change it for a polar vantage v if you would be so kind to help me and tell me what you would choose you would appreciate it.

    1. Thank you Jose

      If navigation is not a determining factor because you are not going to use it very often then I do see the change as interesting (are now at a very similar price) if size is a limiting factor. Certainly the Suunto is a BIG watch, not suitable for all wrists.

  9. Hello Eduardo, very good comparison and conclusion.
    I wanted to tell you about a doubt, I've been using a Tomtom runner 3 for more than 2 years now, I don't see it as a bad watch, but its app platform doesn't provide much information, it's not motivating and I see it as incomplete.
    I've been following both suunto 9 without Baró and Polar Vantage M for several months now, of both models I like the superior ones better but the economy prevents me from doing so, and I would like you to advise me which of the two poder to buy.
    The Polar Vantage M throws me a bit more, because I think it's a good watch and its polar flow platform is very good, but I think in terms of display it's barely visible and the watch itself is less resistant than the Suunto 9, although I've been told that the latter doesn't offer the same feedback as the polar platform.
    I don't do trail running or just any other sport but running on asphalt and flat roads.
    I know that both watches are good but I don't want to make a mistake, I would appreciate your advice because once the payment is made I would keep the chosen one.
    Greetings and thanks for your work.

  10. Hi Eduardo, I have finally decided to change my watch (I currently have the POLAR M400) and I am hesitating between the POLAR VANTAGE M or the SUUNTO 9, I have been reading reviews of both for a couple of weeks and the truth is that I can't make up my mind. I know that one is mid-range and the SUUNTO high-end. The possibility of not having to wear a band is one of the main reasons to change watch and at the same time is something that worries me, I know that no watch today is 100% reliable and I have a pretty thin wrist so I'm not sure if the SUUNTO can generate a problem when it comes to read my heart rate.
    The truth is that I use the watch mainly for training on asphalt races (half and marathons) and some trail, as well as for crossfit training. Thank you!

    1. If you have a thin wrist, discard the Suunto 9... it's going to look like a monster. It's WAY too big, and aside from aesthetics you probably won't find it comfortable.

  11. Hello
    First of all congratulations for the articles and tests and thank you very much.
    I run (asphalt and mostly trail) and bike (asphalt and MTB), and I'm using Spartan Ultra on one side and a Polar M460 on the other. I'm considering the possibility of switching to a "full-Polar", with a Vantage and the M460, or use Vantage for everything and thus have everything integrated into Polar Flow to review workouts (Suunto App is still very green for analysis, I come from Movescount ... and Polar Flow is cool but I can not import workouts from Suunto), how do you see the change from Spartan Ultra to Polar Vantage? Good? Bad? I do not gain anything? I understand that it would be option V for the barometer issue... With the Ultra in the mountains if I use the track tracking, and occasionally planned workouts, but you know, interval repeats, nothing advanced by limitation of Suunto.
    Thank you
    Greetings

    1. Hello,

      First, upgrade from a Polar Grit X to a Vantage V.
      Secondly, I've been using a Suunto Spartan Sport + Stryd and a Vantage V and to be honest... I'm thinking of selling the VV and buying a Garmin (and keeping the Suunto).

      Navigation
      - Suunto navigation is way over the top. On outbound and return routes on the same road, I'm sick of it telling me "Wrong direction".
      - In the VV, once you select the route you can no longer select Race Pace (for example).
      - In VV, you have to select the route before starting, once you start you cannot change it (or select it if you have not done so at the beginning).

      Strava segments
      - This is not available in Suunto (I don't know if it is in Grit X either).
      Training Planning
      - In Polar it can be done and in Movescount it can be done (until summer?). In Suunto App it is not available, and it doesn't look like it will be available soon.

      Routes:
      - In Polar, you can not design routes, only import them through the website. In Movescount you can and in Suunto App you can do it very easily.

      Precision
      - In distance they nailed it yesterday 50mts of difference in 13k Suunto + Stryd v VV
      - In altimetry, the VV goes quite well, I have not had any problems. My Suunto doesn't have an altimeter, so it's better not to look at the Suunto.

      Power:
      - I see them very evenly matched (although there is a 70W difference).

      Training guide
      - The Polar has the FitSpark, this can be found in the Suunto 5 or Suunto 3, but of course, nothing in the Ultra.

      Dream
      - The polar review is very good compared to the Suunto. I think the ultra doesn't have it, since it doesn't have wrist HR, right?

      I don't know... there are more things... if you are curious about something in particular ask.

      Greetings

  12. Good afternoon.
    First of all, congratulations for the analysis,
    I am a mountain runner, I am an ultras runner, so far I have been using the suunto ambit 3 run, it is clear that for ultra races the battery does not last with reliable gps signal.
    what I really look for in a gps watch is autonomy (in races like the 100 miles of bandoleros or the Genal I go from 25 to 30 hours of running) and accuracy of the gps.
    in the background would be the pulse measurement and route tracking (as I usually do this with the ORUXMAP app with offline maps).
    with these data which watch would you recommend me, I am initially between the vantage m (for quality-price) or suunto 9, but I do not know, to see what you recommend me, thanks.

    1. Thank you, Javier.

      I would tell you that doing mainly mountain you would opt for a watch with barometric altimeter. But that assumes that in the case of the Suunto 9 you would have to go to the Baro (with a higher price).

      In any case, take a look at the Buying Guide which I just updated this week, where precisely this is covered.

  13. I am preparing to buy a running tool- watch, but I have no concept how to select one that to cater to my needs,
    - Suunto
    - Poloar vantage M or V
    - Garmin FR935 or FR 945

    The purpose to buy a running watch is becasue I will take part in a Gobi running challenge in Oct. 2020. Currently, I have one watch- Runtopia, but I have a very bad experience with it, e.g. can't track the correct path timely, the data is incorrect,
    I need to record my health index- like Heart Rate, Cadence, Intervals, VO2 maximum, Sleeping quality. Especially, the data MUST be quite accurate, I was fed up with Runtopia, every time, I have to calibrate to synchronize it with Runtopia APP., especially, I have to bring my mobile phone with me when wearing the Runtopia watch. Otherwise, bluetooth will not work, and the data can't be correctly record, finally, I can't get a complete data analysis table/digram.

    My target price USD286-429
    Can you please give me a bit suggestion? Thanks!

  14. Good evening, first of all congratulations for the article and for the blog in general, you make very good analysis.
    I bought a polar reading your articles, but I really like the gray strap that appears in the photos of the article, but I can't find it, would you know where to get it or if it is original or compatible?
    Best regards and congratulations for the blog.

  15. Hello, I am a girl who does sports sporadically, I usually go for a walk 1 hour a day and before I swam in pool, I also walk on treadmill a lot and try to start running on it, then I would like to see if you can recommend me some smartwatch, vantage M or Suunto 9, I have a small wrist, but I would like it to serve me for those sports, especially treadmill and free walking and swimming, when I have the opportunity I also swim in open water and also and very important I would like it to last at least 10 days the battery, I come from an Apple Watch 3 and it does not reach two days. Which one do you recommend as a daily watch and the sports that I indicate'.

    Thank you very much for the work you do.

    1. With a small wrist discard the Suunto 9, it will be huge.

      If you are going to do open water and with a not very high budget the Vantage M is a good option. Garmin you would have to go up a little more in price, although as a daily watch in the 5S Plus you can have a good candidate and will be one of the discounted on Black Friday.

  16. Hi, I wrote you before, I know I wrote you before, but I was also raising a polar M430, I know it is old, but it can be worth?

    Thank you very much.

  17. Hello very good, I'm thinking of upgrading and move to a watch with maps as I like to enjoy the mountain occasionally, my favorite sport and I practice mainly is running, I'm still in doubt whether to stay in Garmin or change and I'm evaluating Garmin Fenix, Polar (vantage and Grit) and Suunto any advice?

    1. If you want maps you only have two options: Garmin or Suunto 7. If the battery issue of the Suunto 7 is a limiting factor, then you have no choice but to opt for the Fenix 6 Pro or Forerunner 945.

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