After a start certainly unsettling With many doubts about what Suunto had launched on the market, the Finnish brand has been improving its Spartan range to offer the minimum level of performance that should be required when putting it on the market - a watch that, as they themselves admit, was launched too early.
But from the time I wrote this article until the publication of this test, many things have changed, following a schedule of updates not always precise in dates, but constant in new features. Suunto has added many of the features present in the Ambit3 range and that were absent in the Spartans, also improving the accuracy of the clock and adding some new features in the process.
Along with the updates, Finland also confirmed the arrival of the model with an optical pulse sensor, the Spartan Sport Wrist HR; thus becoming the first model of the firm to have this technology. The sum of the new model along with the incorporation of all these new features marks the point to be able to carry out the complete analysis that the whole range, pending for several months.
In this test I will analyze the three models present in the range so far, which include the first two presented in mid-2016 (Suunto Spartan Sport and Suunto Spartan Ultra), along with the new model that came to market in the first weeks of April this year, accompanied by last update for the entire range.
It's been many months now that I've been testing the Spartan Ultra, going through each of the new features that Suunto has been presenting in the form of updates, and a few weeks with the Spartan Sport WHR on my wrist.
Remember that the way this website is maintained is thanks to your support, so if you like the work I do you can show your gratitude by buying the Suunto Spartan of your choice (or any other product) via Amazon.
So without further ado, I will show you what has changed the Spartan range in all these months and what are the new features in the range. Get to the point!
- Impressive, high-resolution screen
- Quality product feeling, like no other brand is able to offer
- The Movescount platform is one of the best options when preparing navigation routes
- Fully compatible with Stryd as standard
- All software upgrades have offered a very current, yet practical look and feel
- Rather imprecise open water swimming
- It's a heavy watch
- Not suitable for all wrists, if you're quite thin it may not be the best choice
Suunto has not changed much in the design of the box of their watches. In fact, except for the outer band where it is detailed which model you will find inside, the box is exactly the same as in previous versions. Considering that the Spartan Ultra is a watch that exceeds 600 ?, it is surprising that no more care has been taken in the design of the packaging. First impressions are always important.
When you open the box you will find the watch well exposed, waiting for you to place it on your wrist, and underneath, everything that is included in the sales package you have purchased.
This Spartan Ultra is the Stealth Titanium finish, with a titanium bezel that slightly reduces its weight. The first impression is the most important one, but the second one also makes a mark. And when you take the Spartan out of its box you will be impressed by its manufacturing quality and its solidity.
The content is very classic. In addition to the clock, in this case we find the Suunto Smart Sensor (because it is the HR version that includes it, it is also possible to buy it without the sensor), a quick start guide that after this article you can use to turn on the barbecue and the new transmission and charging cable, which you will see a little later.
And what about the Sport or Sport Wrist HR versions? Well, everything is very similar. Just change the band, but the box is identical.
In the case of the Sport with optical pulse sensor, logically a pulse sensor is not included when integrated in the wrist itself, but you can always buy one (or reuse any that use Bluetooth technology) for the most demanding days.
Aesthetically they are quite similar and except for the shape of the bezel, it is from behind where we will find more differences, at least in the Sport Wrist HR model, of course.
The thickness is also different. The Spartan Ultra is slightly wider to accommodate a larger capacity battery. The Sport is a thinner model, and in the case of the WHR it has a small bulge where the optical sensor is housed.
The other difference you can see is the port for the Spartan Ultra's barometric altimeter (on the right), which is not available on the Sport.
The timing and charging cable is new for the Spartan. With an improved design, the clamp used in the Ambit is abandoned to make way for an easier to attach magnetic connector.
In addition, this design allows you to charge the watch while wearing it, for example, in long-distance races. You can connect the cable to a portable battery and place the connector between the watch and your wrist.
Before we go into the test, let's clarify what the differences are between all the models in the Spartan range so that we all start from the same point.
Suunto Spartan range, which is which
With the arrival of the new Spartan Sport Wrist HR (the one with the optical pulse sensor), the Spartan collection is configured, for the time being, as follows:
- Suunto Spartan Sport - The entry model to the Spartan range. At the moment it is the most economical option, which does not mean that it belongs to the low range. In software functions it offers the same as the rest of the range, but lacks a barometric altimeter. With 13.8mm it is the thinnest of all, at the cost of reducing its autonomy with respect to the Ultra. With a polished steel bezel and mineral glass.
- Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR - The new model in the collection. Identical to the Sport, but incorporates an optical pulse sensor for the first time in the Suunto range. Its overall thickness increases to 16.8mm, making room for the optical sensor. It differs from the Sport "a secas" in that the bezel is black steel, being the crystal also mineral.
- Suunto Spartan Ultra - The top of the range, Suunto Spartan Sport offers a barometric altimeter and a longer range, increasing its thickness to 17mm. The glass is made of sapphire in all available models, and some have a titanium bezel.
In short, the Ultra is the only one with a barometric altimeter and sapphire crystal. The software is the same in all three cases and the only difference lies in the options based on what is included in each of them (altimeter and optical sensor, mainly).
The two that you can see in the images of the article are the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR in blue (with black bezel, for being the model with pulse sensor) and the Suunto Spartan Ultra Stealth with altimeter, sapphire glass and titanium bezel.
Now that you've cleared up your doubts about the differences between the models offered, let's take a quick look at everything in the Spartans.
A quick look at the Spartans
If you have had a Spartan from the beginning, you will agree with me that the watch is quite different from what came on the market almost a year ago (fortunately). Suunto was wrong to launch so soon the one that is destined to be the star product of their range during the next years, damaging their image quite a lot. I will not argue much about this, because I did at the time.
After numerous updates, the Spartan range is where it would have liked to be in the first place. That doesn't mean it's a finished product at all, but at least it's in a more stable situation. In short, the software is about a year late to the party.
Before I go into all the sports functions of the watch, I want to dwell a bit on the interface and basic use of the watch. As you know, the touch screen is part of the basic features in the entire Spartan Sport and Ultra range. Luckily Suunto has decided to keep control buttons (personally I'm not very fond of touch screens, I've never found an advantage that justifies their use), but reduced to three instead of the five we were used to.
These three buttons will be more than enough in most cases, because depending on whether the press is short or long you will perform one action or the other. For example, in the main screen of the watch if you press and hold the central button you will access the general settings of the watch or the customization of the dial.
There are 6 different screens to choose from, combining them with 9 colors to highlight certain aspects. At the moment it is not possible to customize the screen beyond these options and Suunto has not said if it is an option that is in the future forecast.
On this same main screen, briefly pressing the central button podrás access certain "complications" (which is how it is now called in Android Wear), being able to display step data, dual time of another country, altitude (only in the Ultra) or the current date.
Another thing that has improved with the clock updates is the speed of access to the different menus. Of course it hasn't become a scroll as if you were using your mobile phone, but you can see that it has increased the speed of jumping between options, which in the first versions was unusually slow. It hasn't become a shot either, but it's not so unbearable anymore.
You can access the different options either by pressing the side scroll buttons or by sliding your finger on the screen (for which you must first press a button, to unlock the use of the screen, which is automatically locked). You can enter each of the menus by pressing the screen or the central button, and you can return to the previous menu by sliding from left to right or by holding down the central button.
If we move up from the main screen we find the following menus:
- Exercise - Where you can choose between the different sport modes you have previously activated in Movescount, or any of the 80 pre-configured ones. By the way, this menu will always show first the last used sport profile, having always at hand the ones you use most frequently.
- Navigation - Routes or POIs that you have created from Movescount and that you can find here for your use.
- Newspaper - Summary of past activities.
- Stopwatch - Yes, a stopwatch that is totally unrelated to the sport profile, something that many of you ask about frequently and that is available in the Spartans.
- Adjustments - The various options for setting the clock, although many of these settings will be made directly from Movescount.
Those are the ones "at the top" (i.e., from the clock screen scrolling up). While the "bottom" options are not menus as such, but are similar to the "widgets" that Garmin offers in its latest models.
- Activity - Steps or calories of the day. If you slide to the right you can see the activity of the last 7 days.
- Training - Volume summary of all activities performed in the last 30 days, in distance or time, offering comparison between the volume of each of them. If you slide to the right you will have more data of your four main sports and, by sliding to the left, you will access your training plans if you have created them or your coach enters them through Movescount (since this possibility is offered).
- Recovery - The estimated time to recover from your training.
- Outdoor - It will show an altitude graph for the last 2 hours, or the atmospheric pressure for the last 12h. Logically, it is only present on the Spartan Ultra as it is the only one with a barometric altimeter.
These last screens are the ones that have been growing in functionality with the passing of the different software versions. As for what each one shows and the information it offers, I will go into it later in its corresponding section.
As it is already general practice, the clock is synchronized with the mobile phone via Bluetooth Smart. With applications available for iOS and Android, the clock is now fully compatible with phones with the green android operating system. This includes wireless synchronization of options and activities as well as displaying notifications.
It can still be improved. When you receive a notification, it will be displayed briefly on the screen and then disappear. If you have missed it, there is no way to access it again and it forces you to use your mobile phone to view your messages.
Of course you can't interact with them under any operating system, this is something reserved for more complex watches equipped with Watch OS or Android Wear.
Undoubtedly those kinds of watches are better as smart watches, but if you are looking for a watch for intensive sport there is no doubt that they have nothing to do compared to any of the Spartans, even in the case of the Polar M600At least, for the time being...
Sports profile configuration
The configuration of the sports profiles is what has raised more blisters in the Spartan range. And is that, for reasons that no one could understand, both the Spartan Ultra and Spartan Sport came to market without the possibility of customizing the modes of sport.
Yes, we had over 80 sport profiles, but either we liked the way they chose the display settings or... we liked the way they chose the display settings. There was no way to modify it to your liking; something that is totally unthinkable for any GPS watch, especially one from this range.
But that's all in the past. This was one of the most eagerly awaited updates and we can now configure our screens with the data we are interested in. There are still things that need to be incorporated to match the edited profiles with the possibilities of the predefined modes, but I'm sure it will come in future updates.
This configuration is not done in the clock, but we must access the website of MovescountYou can configure not only the sports profiles but also the rest of the options related to the watch.
To access this option you must go to the "EQUIPMENT" menu, where poder find a list of all your Suunto clocks for poder configure each of them individually.
At the moment Movescount allows us to configure three different data screens, while the navigation screen is a screen that will always be fixed.
Of course, in other sports (such as swimming in a pool), this navigation screen is not present, and is replaced by an editable screen. If you do not want to have four screens, you can delete the ones you do not use without any problem.
As for the location of the data, there are several ways to distribute it: from 3 to 7 fields, by columns and specific screen for intervals.
There are several things to highlight here. Firstly, the seven fields, which allows us to have a multitude of data to consult on a single screen. It is the only watch capable of showing so much information on a single screen, and this is because of the magnificent quality of the screen, both in terms of colour representation and resolution. This is one of the aspects that stands out most in the data sheet, and Suunto is able to take advantage of its graphic quality.
The 2 and 3 column option is the first time you see it on a clock, and I think it's a fantastic implementation. Originally this screen (which couldn't be customized), was the one that appeared as a return summary. On it you could see at a glance the return information with rhythm and average pulses data. But it was only present at that time.
Now that screen has disappeared (a screen is simply displayed with the data of the lap you have just completed), in exchange for being available at all times during the exercise. And moreover, it is possible to customize it with the data fields you want. As for lines, there is room for a total of 4 laps.
If the screen was already good when it couldn't be configured and only appeared after completing a lap, now that we can choose any data and it's present it's always even better! For things like this it's been worth waiting for all the new features that have come to the Spartan range.
You can use these screens with columns, for example, for interval training (where you don't use the built-in interval function). You can control how you evolve as you go through stages of training or see trends in longer distance races. For these interval training screens we also have two other specific screens which we will see later.
Want to see what those screens look like in "the real world"? I guessed as much, so here are a few images.
This is how the data screens look with a white background. It is possible to reverse it and show the black background and the white text, to the consumer's liking.
These are the possibilities that there are at the present date in terms of configuration of sports profiles, additionally the watch has more than 80 previously configured sports profiles. If you are going to practice any sport and have not prepared any profile you do not have to worry about, surely there is one you can use.
In addition to these sports, there are several options depending on the type of training or exercise you are going to do. For example, if you choose one of the predefined running modes, you can choose interval, power, running or course. In cycling cadence, group start, interval or intervals with power. And so on for all the different sports, from rowing to climbing. All this is within the option of Others.
Although it is always possible to activate it from Movescount and have it available in the sports list, but remember, these predefined modes cannot be edited, the screens are what they are.
These modes have another very interesting thing, the on-screen graphics. Depending on the mode you choose, you can have a screen with a complete graphic available. For example, if you choose to run with power, you will have a graphic where you will see the evolution of the power during the training.
Or heart rate, cadence, etc.
Unfortunately it is not possible to add these screens to the modes we set up, although I hope it will be possible in some future update.
All this in terms of data screens, but there are many other things you can customize, all from within the Movescount itself.
Therefore, in addition to being able to configure the appearance of each sports profile, you can select which sensors to use in each profile, the accuracy of the GPS (on which the battery life depends) or other settings.
Besides having available the navigation routes or the POI, if you have several devices you can select if you want it in all or only in some of them.
In short, after several months on the market, Suunto now offers some interesting features in terms of customization possibilities, not only matching what previous models (or other competitors' models) already had, but also incorporating more possibilities thanks to its impressive screen. Today, no one can overshadow this screen in this market segment in terms of resolution and quality (smart watches aside).
Suunto Spartan in use
It should not be forgotten that in the end the most important thing is the behaviour of the watch during use - not only what it can do for us, but also how it displays it. I think this second point is where Suunto has decided to focus all their efforts from the time the watch was on the design table to the present moment, when through a lot of hard work they have managed to get it where it should have been at the time of its launch.
To start a sport, first select one from the list and then click on the scroll up button to find the exercise menu, where you will find your profiles.
Here are all the sports you have personally configured (with the name you have set for them) or marked as visible in Movescount.
Activating this option makes the sport appear in the general list. If you do not activate it (because it is not a sport mode that you use frequently), it will still be available on the watch, but it will be included in the "Others" option. If you enter this menu you must first select the sport you are going to do, and then choose one of the proposals it makes.
I remind you that these are the predefined modes I talked about before, the ones you can't customize the screens, but some of them offer full screen graphics.
When you have selected the sport, the screen before starting the activity will be displayed. At the top you can see the status of the different sensors, as well as whether a GPS signal has already been found. If they are blinking, it means that they are looking for a signal (from a sensor or satellite). If they are fixed in green, it means that they are already connected and, in the case of the pulse, the instantaneous heart rate will be displayed (both in the Spartan Sport and Ultra and in the Wrist HR)
Before starting the activity we can enter the advanced options. To do this simply press the button down (or slide with your finger). These are the options you will find:
- Calibrate Power PODIf you have a paired power meter, you can perform the initial calibration from here.
- ObjectivesDuration goals: These are still goals, in the plural, but for now you can only choose a duration goal. Hopefully in the future there will be more possibilities for goals such as distance, calories, etc. By selecting a duration goal, an external ring will be created on the data screens that will be completed as time goes by
- Route navigationYou can choose to navigate a downloaded route or go to a POI.
- Automatic PausePause the exercise when you stop.
- GPS accuracyBattery life: You can modify the values to increase the battery life. It allows to choose between maximum, good and OK; recording data every second at full power, every second at low power or every 60 seconds.
- GLONASSYou can choose whether or not to activate it to improve positioning, but by having it active you will reduce the total range by 15-20%.
- TopicWallpaper: Simply the wallpaper. Black or white.
- IntervalsExercise interval configuration, which we will see later on.
- Power save modeNew in the latest version of the firmware, allowing the display to be turned off after 10 seconds (and turned on by pressing any button), or the number of colours to be displayed on the screen to be reduced, both of which will increase the total autonomy.
When you're in sport mode, you can control the clock and screens with both buttons and the touch screen. Slide your finger left or right to switch between the different data screens, and double-tap the screen to see the time and battery status.
Also, if you want to turn on the screen illumination you must press it with two fingers at the same time if you have configured the illumination as a switch (remaining on until you press again with two fingers), or pressing the screen or any button if it is as automatic (turning off again after a few seconds).
As for the buttons, they have two ways of working: One touch or hold. In its simplest use, pressing the upper button you can pause the activity, pressing the central one you can change the data screen and with the lower one you can mark a manual lap (which are independent from the automatic laps).
But if you hold down the upper button you can switch to another sport (thus making it a multi-sport activity), the middle one allows you to access the same configuration menu as we have seen before (for example, to select a navigation route or activate intervals) and the lower one locks the screen.
When you have completed the workout you will press the pause button. Before you finish you have the pause menu, from which you can end and save the workout or continue when you decide. It is mandatory that you press a button, not being able to confirm with the touch screen, to prevent an accidental press that ruins the workout data.
Immediately afterwards, and provided you have selected the option in Movescount, you will be asked your feelings after the training. You can follow the constant progress of your feelings and see if it is usual that you find it difficult to perform the training or on the contrary if every day you end up like a rose, in which case you should still give yourself a little more cane.
This summary of sensations will be synchronized with Movescount, being able to see the trend in the general panel.
Below you will have a fairly detailed summary of the activity, including different graphs such as heart rate, rhythm, power, altitude, etc.
It is, without a doubt, the best activity summary screen ever seen. No question.
Finally, if you press the center button or slide with your finger, you will see first the list of automatic laps and in case you have marked them, the manual laps.
Although I miss that when doing interval training (the mode I explain below) laps are marked separately from automatic distance training laps, it is possible to mark manual laps and have them appear separately, as you see below.
When reviewing the activity in Movescount, each part of the interval training will also be differentiated, but I would like them to appear in the training summary as well. By this I mean when you do the training guided by the watch, if you do it on your own you will see on the screen both autolaps (first screen) and manual laps (second screen).
All this is common to all Spartans, but Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR excels at using the optical pulse sensor during swimming, and among the leading sports watch manufacturers, the Finns have been the first to dare to do so.
But I will talk about this later in the corresponding section. With regard to swimming, Suunto's proposal is somewhat simpler than, for example, Garmin's. But it is also effective in its own way.
As you know, the pace and distance in the pool is given by the internal accelerometer of the clock, here there is no use of GPS regardless of whether the pool is indoor or outdoor. If you select swimming in the pool, the clock detects strokes and changes in direction so that it can determine when you have reached the end of the street and made the turn.
You can choose the length of the pool both from the usual ones and at different distances (e.g. 28 meters). In swimming mode the display is off, as it does not work properly in contact with the water.
The watch not only automatically detects the swimming style, but also identifies the sets. For example, if you swim 400 meters and stop for 10 seconds, starting to swim immediately after, it will separate it into two different blocks. Even if the pause is slower, 2 or 3 seconds, it will also separate it.
For my taste I should leave a little more room, because if you swim with an open turn many times it will be interpreted as a pause. It also does not have an exercise mode that we can activate to perform technique and add the distance to the total of the activity as Garmin does. So if you do 200 meters of feet holding a board, there is no wrist movement and that distance will not appear in the total of the activity.
Open water swimming is also available, as you would expect from a watch in which triathlon is also an important part of its features.
When you complete any workout you can sync either via cable through your computer or via your phone, via Bluetooth, if you have paired your smartphone with your watch (iOS and Android only). Although wireless sync has improved significantly, there are still things I'd like to see, such as faster transmission speed or automatic syncing, since right now you need to open the application to sync all the data (both up and down).
Movescount and its news with the Spartans
All data is synchronized with Movescount, Suunto's online platform. It's not only the place where you can view navigation routes or set your watch, it also contains all your training history. And let me tell you, it has changed substantially over the last few months, greatly improving both its usability and the information it provides.
This is the main screen that you will see when you enter the website, with a summary of your training activity and the steps taken.
The daily activity does not provide more information than you can see there, but the data is there, so Suunto can always extend the functionality in the future and take advantage of everything that is already synchronized and stored.
It is possible to alter the activity view with the post-workout sensations, those you select after finishing each activity.
The activity summary is very complete. Here you can see a capture of everything you can review about an activity, including the possibility of uploading images, which will be marked within the route if they contain location data.
The graph allows you to choose a multitude of parameters, so you can analyze an activity by alternating between different metrics.
What do you prefer to use other platforms? No problem, you can activate automatic synchronization with Strava and Training Peaks, as well as export the activity file in various standards that you can import into any external application.
But what Suunto has put more emphasis on in its latest updates is the use of "Big Data". By taking advantage of all the data synchronized on the platform by all its users (anonymously of course), it is possible to compare your performance with the average of your age group.
So the personal records are not just records, but are compared with the whole database so you can check how you stand against other athletes your age, because in the end we all like to compete, and this is another way to do it...
It also provides data on what other athletes do to achieve goals, how they train and for how long per week.
But undoubtedly, where Suunto has got it right is in the route creation functionality. Not only because the web utility is good and easy to use (including the possibility of uploading external routes, something that for example is not possible on the Garmin platform), but because again they take advantage of the "Big Data" showing routes of other users and, above all, heat maps to know where people practice a particular sport.
For example, here you have a possibility of cycling route, along with many other routes.
The blue line is the route in question, from which we also have the altitude profile, and in red the heat map, which is what represents where the rest of the users usually cycle. The more intense the colour, the more frequent the cyclists.
On my last trip to Vienna, for example, I was interested in knowing where people were running, so I knew that I could go there and that there would be no problem of unsuitable running areas, or even safety.
The choice was clear. Area of the ring, by the river, and that long straight line that's lit up in fluorescent yellow. Well, I ran in those areas, and I can confirm that I came across a lot of runners.
And wherever you go in the world, you'll find these kinds of maps. Best of all, anyone can benefit from this - you don't need to own a Suunto device to access heatmaps and route generation.
Suunto Spartan interval training
In the time frame in which I wrote about Suunto Spartan for the first time and this test, the Finnish brand has launched many updates, among them we can find the interval training mode.
These intervals are created directly on the clock, it is not possible to create them externally in Movescount or in the mobile application.
Suunto has never offered many facilities when it comes to creating such trainings. In the Ambit3, at first, it was necessary to create them through quite complex code applications, although later on the possibility of creating them more easily in the mobile app was added.
But when the Spartan arrived on the market, it was not possible to dispose of them one way or the other. Fortunately, this has now been resolved.
You can access the intervals menu in the settings of each sport profile, immediately before starting the activity, but please note that if you use a profile you have created, you must have included an intervals screen for the option to be displayed.
Setting up these intervals is really quick and easy, you just have to enter the number of repetitions you are going to do, what the working interval is and the duration of the rest. Both intervals can be set in time or distance.
After completing the interval settings, you will return to the main activity screen. You should start the activity exactly as with any other training, and the default data screen will be shown.
If you've noticed, I haven't selected a warm-up or cool-down time, you'll just run until you feel like it, and when you think it's time to start the series, you'll have to scroll down to the interval screen.
When you're ready, simply press the button and start the first interval. The screen will now show the information you previously set up in Movescount, or whatever is set by default in the mode you're using.
When the interval ends, the watch will alert you with a tone or vibration (depending on what you have set), moving on to the rest screen, where you will be able to see details of interest, such as the duration of the interval (because in this case it was set for 500 metres) or the average pace and heart rate for the interval. Along with this, details of interest from the rest of the workout, such as how long we have been training, current heart rate or the duration of the rest period.
This will repeat the number of times you have set the intervals until you reach the last interval, at which point you will have completed the session. At this point you can continue running, cool down or repeat the series of intervals (for example, by making two separate blocks of intervals).
Once the training is finished, in Movescount you can check the laps separately. In the image you can see how they are clearly marked in the graph, as well as the intervals within the lap section (which is specific when recording such a workout).
In this other workout you can see the warm up (15 minutes), showing then the intervals. First 200m of sprint, followed by 50m soft. And so on until the end of the whole workout (by default only 10 laps are shown, but you can change the view at the bottom right. Or go to the next page).
Without a doubt, another important feature for the Spartans must be navigation. Suunto has always maintained a very close relationship with the world of mountains and adventure, so it is to be expected that the brand will make a significant effort in this area. But here there are lights and shadows.
And within the lights, the one that shines the most is Movescount on the web, as I explained a little further back. I don't want to stop much further, but maybe I'll take the opportunity to tell you something else that I haven't told you in enough detail.
It is possible to import external routes, created on other platforms, registered with other devices or, above all, those provided by the race organisers so that you can have the track and avoid getting lost.
But the most interesting function is the possibility to follow routes created by other users or to check the heat map, which is nothing else than identifying which routes have been used by other sportsmen to practice some specific sport. Don't worry about your privacy, if you create a route you can always mark it so that it is private and nobody else can see it (although it is not identified with your user anyway).
For example, imagine I wake up one day wanting to run in the mountains, but I don't know where to go. I want to explore a new route but I'm not sure which one to follow (or I'm travelling and looking for a training area). I open Movescount and I can see both the heat map, checking which are the most common areas to practice the selected sport (in this case mountain running), or routes already created by users for that sport. The heat map is the yellow lines and varies the intensity depending on the importance of that route for the sport, while the route I have selected is the one marked in deep blue.
On the left side of the screen you will see the route description with distance and meters of ascent and descent. You would simply have to select the model to synchronize the route on the next connection (or export it if you are not a Suunto user...). Movescount is of course a great tool to get and perform navigation routes - Kudos to Suunto!
When navigating a route with the Spartan we have two options, from a sport profile by selecting the route in the options (so it would add the navigation screens to those you have configured in the selected sport profile), or simply as route navigation but without saving the activity, from the navigation menu of the watch itself.
The form, menus and navigation options are identical in both cases; the only difference is whether you are part of an activity or not, although you should note that it is not possible to combine interval training with route navigation.
Not only is it possible to navigate a route selected or created in Movescount, you can also navigate to a POI (Point of Interest), which you can create in Movescount within the clock settings or mark the position directly with the clock to return later (for example, marking a bridge, a water collection point, the camping site or whatever you can think of. The list of options given by the clock is very extensive).
In the navigation menu, all the available options are presented to select the one you want to do at any time.
You can always return to this menu without completing an activity. For example, while you are navigating a route you can save a location, switch to navigating to a POI with the compass, and then load the same or a new route.
Before starting a route you can always see what the track is like.
When you are navigating and the route 1TP10 is displayed on the screen we can see on the screen the location of the POIs saved or marked. For example here you can see the point previously marked as "bird". Although only the icon appears, not the descriptive name to know what it is. You will also see a flag with a B, it is the end of the route.
It allows us to modify the zoom if we keep the central button pressed.
You can also check that the blue colour of the route varies so that, if there are crossroads halfway through, you can identify which is the correct way to go next. In lighter blue is the part of the route we have to continue, while the darkest blue is the most advanced part of the route.
This route always remains unchanged, but our real path is represented by a dotted line, so you can always take reference to where you are with respect to the path to follow.
The watch has a magnetic compass, so the black arrow representing our location will always indicate where we are looking to identify the right path to follow, and the small red arrow will always mark north.
As you can see the route navigation is through a "breadcrumb" path. There is no mapping or turn warnings, so you have to keep an eye on the screen if you don't want to get lost. On a clearly marked path you don't have much of a problem, but if you are moving cross-country you will have to be more attentive to the watch.
Navigating to a POI is different, as there is no pre-drawn route. We will have an arrow indicating where we should go along with the remaining distance in a straight line.
Finally, we would like to highlight the height profile screen. Ambit3 Vertical and that we all loved it. In fact, Garmin copied it for Phoenix 3 (and now for the Phoenix 5 and company) and Suunto also took her to the Ambit3 Peak.
In the Spartan, it makes its presence felt again, but improved thanks to a screen that is vastly superior to the one offered in the Ambit3. Now the altitude profile is full screen (instead of occupying only the central part) and the data is located within the graph.
The screen is simple but very descriptive. In the upper part you can see the current altitude (also in the Sport despite not having a barometric altimeter) and in the lower part the amount of positive meters ahead. In the graph you can see perfectly where I am, what part of the route I have already done and what is ahead.
Personally, in mountain races, it's the only screen I like to check. Here I see what's ahead of me, how many meters are left to climb and how many climbs I'll do. I don't need anything else.
Although it would be nice to have the possibility to zoom in somewhere, or highlight the segment in which we are (for example the 5 kilometers that we have below), especially on longer routes.
As for the return to start, it is not yet available. It is possible to show the navigation screen (even if you have not followed a route) and retrace the same path. But only if the profile you have used has that screen active. But what if you don't have it and you get lost? You will have to "ask a guard"... Although it is expected to be available in the next software release that Suunto has prepared for this June.
GPS reception on Suunto Spartan
Yes, GPS has also been a source of criticism among early Spartan users. In fact, Suunto has launched several updates covering improvements in signal filtering and fixing positioning errors. Also, in the January 25th update, the possibility of using GLONASS in all your activities.
The Spartan Ultra and Sport do away with the characteristic antenna underneath the bezel, and are now integrated into the bezel, which is a new problem for Suunto that they didn't have before. These are not the first models with an integrated antenna, as the Traverse and Ambit3 Vertical did not have an external antenna, but Suunto has always stood out for its GPS logging quality that is enviable by other manufacturers.
This is an important detail, especially because of the location of the antenna when running. In previous models the natural position of the antenna was directly facing the sky, when the arm was slightly turned. But Suunto has also, like most manufacturers, given up on a more integrated design and possibly more comfort when using more normal straps.
Back to the clock and its options, the Spartan allows you to vary the accuracy settings of the GPS to help increase battery life, depending on the type of activity you're doing and the needs you have.
There are four modes of use.
- Maximum accuracy: Every 1 second
- Good accuracy: Every 5 seconds
- Accuracy OK: Every 60 seconds
- GPS Disabled
The difference between them will be the recording rate of each of them. The lower the accuracy, the longer the time between each recorded point, but the longer the battery life. It all depends on the type of activity you are going to do and where you are going to do it. If you are going to run long straights at a not very high speed, the "good" setting will be more than enough. For running in the mountains with many turns, "maximum" is mandatory. Hiking for several days without a high speed? Clearly the "OK" setting is the one to choose.
These options can be set from the Movescount options in each of the sports you set up.
Or in the clock options before starting the activity.
It is also possible to activate or deactivate the GLONASS, this time only from the watch itself. When should you use it? Here I explain it to you.
All the GPS tests are done with the latest firmware version installed, which is 1.8.26 as of today's release. I have been going through all the versions in the Spartan Ultra, so I have been able to see the improvements it has been receiving.
You'll be anxious to see what the result is in real life compared to other models. Well, I'm not keeping you waiting any longer.
If you've already seen the Garmin Fenix 5 When I have to prepare more than one test at a time I logically try to take advantage of the work, so if I'm testing two models simultaneously it's great for me, because I don't have to duplicate work.
Let's start with a mountain training, and with many models to compare between them: Suunto Spartan Ultra, Suunto Ambit3 Vertical, Garmin Fenix 5, Garmin Fenix 3 and the classic Suunto Ambit3 Sport, with its external antenna under the bezel that, in theory, has an advantage especially in this kind of terrain.
From a distance everything seems perfectly aligned in all five models.
And so it is during most of the training, being able to see 10 lines aligned almost perfectly on the path taken (which would be 5 up and 5 down). You can click on the images to see them in a larger size, although later you can also make the analysis yourself.
When making turns is where there can be more problems, especially in the mountains when running in tree areas, which prevent more or less signal reception. Here the Spartan Ultra has a worse time than the rest of the models, deviating more than the other watches compared
In general, this is what I have been able to appreciate during most of the training, with the Spartan Ultra having the worst record compared to the other four watches.
As a simple curiosity, the final result of meters traveled.
- Garmin Fenix 5: 29.212m
- Suunto Spartan Ultra: 29,060m
- Garmin Fenix 3: 29,334m
- Suunto Ambit3 Vertical: 29,417m
- Suunto Ambit3 Sport: 29,150m
In cold numbers there is a little more than 1% difference between the clock that has measured the most distance (the Ambit3 Vertical) and the one that has measured the least (the Spartan Ultra). Therefore the 5 would be within the 1-2% of error accepted for asphalt, so in a mountain situation everyone passes with a good note. Although I insist that the graph of the Spartan Ultra could be memorable.
Let's see now on pure asphalt and on one of my usual routes, knowing exactly which points are the ones I have to check because they are more difficult for the signal reception.
In this first picture you will see that I am moving under a row of trees. The Spartan Ultra has a slight drift, but it behaves much better than the Garmin Forerunner 230 which marks the route over 2 meters farther from the real area.
This point is perfect for all my analysis. The turn is in a fairly lush area of trees and the curve is very sharp. If the signal reception is not good, the clock is going to tend to get lost. Which is precisely what happened to the Spartan Ultra, which here makes it worse than the Fenix 5.
But the Spartan is not always in a bad place, for example in the following section the new Suunto model is the one that shows the best record.
How about cycling?
In general it is an easy test for any device. In this route (quite long) at no time I could appreciate deviations from any of the models tested, beyond some point with small details of no importance. But outstanding for all three devices.
Although it has nothing to do with the quality of the Spartan's GPS signal, I take advantage of the fact that I put the barometric altimeter graph in, especially since I don't have any other section at hand to do it. I haven't done any initial calibration, so there is a slight variation between the altitude of each one, but you can see how all three keep exactly the same record during the whole training.
We're going to move on to more bikes, but this time we're going to do a progressive circuit. Making recurring turns on the same points allows me to compare the routes over and over again.
This time, the Edge 520 nails the same location over and over again, which is normal, because of the three, it is the best location to achieve good signal reception, as well as being larger and having a larger antenna.
The Fenix 5 is not bad at all. And for the Spartan... it must think that instead of going out for a series training with the goat I have decided to go for a motocross ride. It is not good to not be oriented with direct visibility to the sky.
It's not unique to that point. On the other turns of the circuit the situation repeats itself.
But let's go back to the race. Again intervals, which by repeating them on the same place allows to draw very good conclusions.
Wait, what broad...
Both Forerunner 230 and Spartan Ultra are very solid, repeating the same route over and over again, while the Fenix 5 appears slightly off, about two metres, but at least repeats the route constantly.
There are also examples of swimming in open water. This is another type of animal, since the complexity comes from how the clock software processes the positioning data it manages to obtain. Therefore it does not depend on the signal quality, but on the algorithm used.
Every time we put our wrist in the water we will lose the satellite signal, as the digital signal is not transmitted through the water, and it will be recovered when we take our hand out of the water, but for a very short time (as long as it takes to put it back in). This is the difficulty of this type of training.
For this training, in addition to the Spartan Ultra in my right hand, I wore a Fenix 5 in my left hand and an FR230 under my swim cap, which I use as a valid route, since by always staying above water I don't have to deal with the signal problems suffered by the other two.
This is the overview of the track.
If we get closer, you can see how while the Fenix 5 has a similar behaviour to FR230, the Spartan Ultra has many more yawns.
Both the beginning and the end of the record are similar, with the Garmin performing well but the Suunto performing poorly.
Obviously those continuous deviations can't lead to anything good. 400 meters too much compared to the Fenix 5 and the Forerunner 230.
Although I guess the upside is that no one is going to resist at a greater distance and faster pace in the face, right? You have to look at the upside.
The behavior I've seen in both Spartan Ultra and Spartan Sport Wrist HR (which has a much more advanced manufacturing date) is very similar. I don't appreciate differences that might make me think there are some kind of problems with early hardware units, as was initially speculated.
In short, I don't see perfect records, but I don't see any constant failures, at least not while we're doing normal activities. It's clear that open water swimming is not your strong suit, but it's up to you to give that detail more or less importance.
But by comparison, I don't see any noticeable differences from other current competition models. Maybe I've had a slightly better experience with the Fenix 5 (which you see mostly in the almost 30km per mountain training), but for example very similar to what I'm seeing these days with the Garmin Forerunner 935.
Anyway, later on I leave you a link to a lot of activities where you can make your own comparisons directly in the linked tool, or, if you prefer, you can download the files to touch them in your favorite analysis program.
Spartan Wrist HR optical pulse sensor
Suunto makes its debut in the field of optical pulse sensors with the Spartan Wrist HR. It is their first model with this technology and, just as Garmin did with their first model with this type of sensor, in Finland they have preferred to have an external design and more rolled rather than launching a completely new product of their own. And seeing how "busy" they have been lately with the Spartan series... it was undoubtedly the right decision.
Suunto has trusted Valencell to bring their Spartan Wrist HR to life. If you already have some experience in the world and you are a fan of the site you will surely remember it, and that is is the same sensor that Scosche mounts on its RHYTHM+.
A priori this is good news, because Valencell's is a well-contrasted sensor and probably the one that offers the best performance. But that is in the Scosche device, then it is the task of each manufacturer to integrate the technology into its product and the intrinsic characteristics of a watch must be taken into account. It is heavier, its position in the arm is in a more complicated place to obtain readings and above all it is located in a point with greater movement, etc.
The position of the Scosche sensor on the forearm is ideal. It is a fleshier area, so it is easier to register the pulses. In addition, the movements are smaller and, of course, it is much lighter. In short, there are fewer parasitic movements that can hinder the pulse reading.
It is possible to activate a heart rate recording mode when you are at rest, but this is somewhat more limited than, for example, what Garmin offers on its watches. In this mode (which is activated in settings - activity), the sensor will be switched on every 10 minutes to record your heart rate.
In the activity widget there is an option to record the heart rate at a given time, so you can know at any time what your pulse is, and while you are on that screen it will continue to make that record, which will be displayed in a fairly detailed graph.
On this screen you can also see your calorie-burning average in the last 10 minutes with the movements you are making, useful for example if you are taking a walk but it is not an activity you want to record.
And in case you have activated the mode indicated above, if you click on the screen you can access the keystroke log of the last 12 hours.
In this case, the data shown is the average calorie burn per hour along with the minimum frequency achieved, useful for calculating your heart rate at rest.
The data shown in these charts is not recorded anywhere, nor will it be synchronized later with Movescount, so it is for your eyes only.
Suunto expects to be able to record this data for display in Movescount even though there is no confirmed date yet. After these 12 hours the data will disappear forever.
Well, once all the details about the sensor are clear, let's go to the nougat. The most important thing is to know how the optical sensor behaves in training or races. To warm up I will start with a simple training at a constant pace.
Except for the beginning, where it is always common to find some discrepancy between the different sensors until we are already "in running order", no objection to the sensors. Good touchstone, because if here the sensor fails... bad thing.
Next we will move on to series training, this time comparing the Suunto data to that obtained by the Scosche RHYTHM+ (with the same sensor as Valencell), as well as the Garmin HRM-Run sensor, placed on the chest.
What I like best about this training is that optical sensors are usually written off as bad in general, with a performance that is always worse than their chest counterparts. So here's a clear example of how two optical sensors have measured correctly while the chest sensor, due to the dryness of the environment, has a totally wrong record. Optical sensors 1 - chest sensors 0.
As you can see, in the sections before and after the sprints that are the object of the training, the record is perfect, in which except for the somewhat erratic start, the three sensors form a nice line.
So we're going to increase that interval section.
There are a total of 10 short, intense intervals, typically the most difficult test an optical sensor can face. The pulse variations are very fast (both up and down) and the variation in movement is important. A lot of information to process, and it is not always done correctly. For example, this is where Garmin sensors typically fail.
The Spartan Sport Wrist HR doesn't do all of them perfectly, failing especially in the first one. In the fourth and fifth one there are some discrepancies, and in the eighth and tenth one small differences. Still, a quite reasonable result given the circumstances, leaving the new Suunto model in a good place.
But let's go with another training. Again series, but also combined with burpees every 30 seconds. So in addition to the variation in intensity we must add the movement of the wrists. Even more difficult if possible.
Let's start with an overview of the training, in which I replaced the Scosche sensor with a Suunto sensor paired with the Spartan Ultra.
I won't dwell on the parts between intervals as there is nothing interesting to highlight. So let's extend the first interval.
There are some discrepancies. For example, at the highlighted point, which is where there is the greatest difference between the sensors, there are 11 heartbeats between the graphs. Both chest sensors register 160 heartbeats, for the 171 of the Spartan Wrist HR. Clearly at that point it has gone a bit long. There are more points where the registration is not correct, but it is less pronounced.
We will now extend the second interval. Again, you can see points where it has gone a little high. They can be caused by the increase in the running cadence, confusing the calculation algorithm. This is something I have seen before in the Scosche RHYTHM+.
The data thrown in series are not totally satisfactory, but they are not bad either. If I had to put a note on it I would give it a 7.5, a remarkable high. It is the usual tone of optical sensors, which you have already seen in products from other manufacturers. Perfect when there are no major changes in intensity, but if you play series day... it is better to opt for a sensor in the chest.
Cycling is the great Achilles' heel of any optical sensor. I have yet to see an optical sensor that gives a good pulse reading when cycling.
If it is an indoor activity it is not something that presents many problems. These come when we are training outdoors. Getting a satisfactory record is more complicated than in a race, first of all because of the position of the wrists. When we grab the handlebars we force the turn, and in the same way when we move our hands to stop, change, etc. we are also causing changes in the muscles. Tension, relaxation... things that do not happen when running.
These movements also make it easier for light to enter the sensor's reading area, which together with the increased ground vibrations make correct pulse reading very difficult.
So let's go with an example of series on the bike. I'm not going to bother enlarging the area, because it's not necessary.
Incorrect registration at all times, regardless of whether it is the working part or just the moving part. Bad, unreliable.
Could it have been caused by a single fault? Because it's always possible, you have to give the benefit of the doubt. Let's compare in another interval training, this time against the Garmin Forerunner 935 and an HRM-Tri pulse sensor. I didn't value the data from the 935, that day my brain skidded and I was using the watch with the external sensor instead of its optical sensor.
Just as bad. At some point it has recorded similar values, but it was probably more by coincidence than by a correct sensor recording.
But it's not a surprise, it's practically the same behaviour as other watches with an optical sensor. There are always days when they can be more in tune, but the general trend is that on the bike the optical sensor is still not up to scratch. Not only in the case of Garmin, but in general in any other manufacturer.
An important detail to note is that the Spartan Ultra Wrist HR activates the optical sensor during swimming, allowing not only the heart rate to be displayed on the screen, but also to be recorded. Please note, however, that Suunto does not encourage the use of this feature. Sometimes it works correctly, sometimes it doesn't.
In my tests there has been a bit of everything. Days that have been moderately good, and other times when there has been quite a difference.
In this graph you have a clear example, with the orange line being the one recorded by the Spartan WHR and the blue line of an Ambit3 Sport with a Suunto Smart Sensor.
The general trend at all times is more or less correct, and perhaps that's better than swimming. However, the watch is still compatible with the Smart sensor, which records heart rate data while swimming in the water and then synchronizes it to the watch to record it along with the activity (since there is no digital data transmission underwater).
Here is another example, with some intervals made in the pool. The optical sensor is not able to trace the intervals correctly, something that is perfectly reflected in the graph obtained with the Garmin 935 and the HRM-Swim sensor.
In short, I find that the sensor does its job quite well in racing activities. It is incident-free in activities with no change in intensity, perfect for both smooth training and races in the threshold zone and above. As for the series, it is somewhat above average for other optical sensors integrated into watches, offering a somewhat more satisfactory result than, for example, the Garmin ones that equip the Elevate sensor.
Where it shows up quite erratically is in cycling activities, but I'm not surprised. Traditionally optical sensors are not very thin when we're on two wheels, even the virtually foolproof ones Scosche RHYTHM+ and Mio Link (which have the advantage of being much lighter), which also have some instability in that type of activity.
And I certainly appreciate the possibility of using the optical sensor during swimming, knowing that far from believing in the records it gives, at least the trend can be useful when checking the training after synchronization.
In other words, if you want to keep a good record of your heart rate at all times, it's still early to completely abandon the sensor on your chest, although depending on what kind of activities you can depend totally on the optical sensor without any problems.
The above are just some of the examples I have extracted from the different activities, but if you want to take a look for yourself and analyze the data more thoroughly don't worry, I also allow you to do so. It's perfect for you to review pulse sensor and GPS data.
You can find the links below, and I'll tell you what each of the activities is:
- 29km mountain race (Fenix 5, Fenix 3, Ambit3 Sport, Ambit3 Vertical, Spartan Ultra)
- Filming at a steady pace, March 29 (Garmin Fenix 5, Suunto Spartan Ultra, Garmin FR230)
- Bike 1, 2 April (Garmin Fenix 5, Suunto Spartan Ultra, Garmin Edge 520)
- Bike 2, April 2 (Garmin Fenix 5, Suunto Spartan Ultra, Garmin Edge 520)
- Intervals April 5 (Fenix 5, Spartan Ultra, FR230)
- Shooting, April 9 (Fenix 5, Spartan Ultra, FR230)
- Open water swimming, April 14 (Fenix 5, Spartan Ultra)
- Bike, April 14 (Fenix 5, Spartan Ultra, Edge 520)
- Intervals, April 19 (Fenix 5, Spartan Ultra, Ambit3 Sport)
- Intervals with running technique (Garmin 935, Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR, Garmin FR230)
- Swimming pool (Garmin FR935 HRM-Swim, Suunto Spartan Wrist HR)
- Swimming pool (Suunto Spartan Wrist HR, Suunto Ambit3 Sport)
- Bike Intervals (Suunto Spartan Wrist HR, Garmin FR935, Garmin Edge 520)
- Smooth recovery (Suunto Spartan Wrist HR, Garmin Fenix 3, Garmin FR230)
- Career Intervals (Suunto Spartan Wrist HR, Suunto Spartan Ultra, Garmin Fenix 3)
- Intervals in ascent, bike (Suunto Spartan Wrist HR, Garmin Fenix 3, Garmin Edge 520)
- Intervals, May 6 (Suunto Spartan Wrist HR, Garmin FR230, Garmin Fenix 3)
Compatibility with external sensors
This is the specific aspect of Spartan that I'm least convinced of, at least as a triathlete. Now I'll explain why.
The Spartan range, like the Ambit3, is exclusively compatible with Bluetooth Smart sensors, so Bluetooth and only Bluetooth. Specifically with sensors of this type:
- Heart rate sensor, and in the case of the Suunto Smart Sensor, storing HR data for swimming
- Cadence sensor, both for cycling and running
- Speed sensor.
- Cadence/speed sensor
- Power Meter
- Stryd (stroke power meter)
It is therefore capable of connecting to virtually all existing sensors, but only under Bluetooth, which for users of ANT+ power meters can mean automatically discarding the watch. Any other sensor is much cheaper and can be replaced without problem, but not a potentiometer.
But this is not what I find most annoying. In my opinion the worst aspect is that it only allows you to connect one sensor of each type. And every time you connect a new one, it will forget the previous one.
If you use your watch primarily for running and only have one pulse sensor, this will not be a problem for you, but if you go a little out of your way, that's when the problems will start. If you use more than one pulse sensor - for example, an optical one for running and the Suunto Smart Sensor for swimming - you will have to pair up again each time you want to switch from one to the other.
If you have more than one bike, every time you change from one to another you should look for all its sensors: cadence, speed, power... Or if you put the bike on the roller and want to get the data from it instead of the sensors placed on the bike.
In my case, for example, I couldn't use the Spartan in a triathlon with all my sensors. Suppose I do the swimming with the Suunto sensor (to get pulse data after synchronization), but then I want to wear an optical sensor for comfort. I couldn't do that because I would have to stop the activity to go to the menu and pair the new sensor. Okay, I would have to do the whole test with the Suunto sensor, there would be no major problem, for the time being.
I ride my bike and the clock connects to the cadence/speed sensors and power meter, which were previously synchronized. I finish the cycling segment and go for a run, but it turns out that I can't get any data from Stryd, because that sensor profile is occupied by the bike's power meter.
I know these are cases that will affect a minority, and I'm far from being the usual type of user. But they're there and they have to be taken into account. It's something Garmin solved a long time ago by implementing synchronization with a multitude of sensors. It simply stores them all and will connect to whichever one is in range. And if there are two, it asks which one should be connected. Something that would be necessary in other watches, especially if they are intended for multisport use or are range stops.
The activity monitor arrived at the Suunto models rather late, in fact it is still arriving, as the implementation that the Finns have done is still basic.
The watch records the daily steps, which can be checked on the watch display by pressing the button down.
We can see how many calories those steps have involved by pressing the central button, along with the total calories including basal consumption.
The semicircle surrounding the data is your current situation with respect to the daily activity target (which can be manually set if you hold down the central button).
If you slide your finger to the right you will have the summary of activity for the last seven days which, again, can be switched between steps or calories. Included with these graphs is the daily average for that period.
And... that's it. No distance, sleep tracking, or other functions. Just steps. The type of customer Suunto focuses on doesn't really make much use of this feature, but since it's present, what less than showing distance traveled?
What happens to that activity data? Well, in the past, nothing happened, because it wasn't synchronized or saved anywhere. However, like everything else in this clock, it has moved forward in time. Now the daily step data is synchronized with Movescount and can be displayed in the mobile application or on the web.
With the new Suunto Spartan Wrist HR, you can use the optical pulse sensor to obtain data on your resting heart rate, as specified above.
At the beginning we talked a little about battery life. If you remember, Suunto allows you to make different adaptations to the way it records an activity in order to increase the battery life.
Naturally, these modifications entail compromises that need to be made: Reduce the GPS logging interval, turn off the display, etc.
But, at least, the possibility is there, and although in most cases we won't need it (nobody trains for more than 8 hours continuously), it's thankful that in anticipation of certain types of events we can benefit from this feature.
We must not forget that Suunto has a very large community of users among ultra trail runners, hikers and, in short, users who spend many hours in the mountains, all of whom will take advantage of these possibilities to a greater or lesser extent.
There are three main settings with which we can extend the performance: GPS data every 1 second and high accuracy, GPS 1 second in saving mode and GPS 60 seconds and saving mode. Depending on the option chosen, this is the duration that your battery will offer:
- Suunto Spartan Sport - 10h / 16h / 40h
- Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR - 8h / 12h / 30h
- Suunto Spartan Ultra - 18h / 26h / 65h
All this is without making use of the GLONASS satellites, which can improve signal receptionbut it reduces the battery by about 15 or 20 percent.
In general we will always use the highest accuracy mode of GPS, so taking the Suunto data as good, they are the ones I intend to test in the tests I have done.
Remember that the autonomy is not an exact data. Each battery inside each watch can be slightly better or worse, and the ambient temperature also affects, as well as the fact of moving through areas with bad signal.
The conditions of the tests that I carry out are with the fixed clock without moving and with full reception of satellite signal. And the temperature... well, the one that there is, is not something that I can alter (as long as I don't arrive). I try to prepare everything to obtain the maximum possible performance, so logically I deactivate the use of GLONASS.
I'll start with the Spartan Sport Wrist HR, which Suunto indicates is capable of achieving up to 8 hours of battery life with maximum GPS quality and optical pulse sensor usage, so this is the result.
In this case the test is done with a fairly new clock, so I estimate that with a few more charges the battery will stabilize and you can get some additional minutes.
Now we go to the big brother, which among other things, is precisely in the autonomy where it stands out being able to reach 18 hours with the maximum precision adjustment of GPS.
Once again, it is close to the announced maximum. The Spartan test is after a year of using the watch. Not in a very continuous way, but definitely a year is a year, so it may have lost some minutes of autonomy. Even so, it is in line with the expectations set.
But there's another thing I want to try, and that's the impact of the options introduced in the latest firmware versions, which allow you to automatically turn off the screen after 10 seconds while performing an activity (pressing a button will turn it back on for 10 seconds), or activate a mode with a smaller color palette.
For this test I took the Ultra, and activated the automatic screen shutdown mode. I certainly expected to be able to squeeze 2 or 3 more hours out of the battery, but...
Exactly the same result. There has been no benefit from activating such a mode, which has certainly surprised me. I suppose, deep down, carrying the active screen without using the lighting doesn't make as much demand on the battery either.
Looking to the future
In spite of all the updates that Suunto has been launching to update its new models, there are still things that have to arrive and that we are waiting for. And in anticipation of these new things that will arrive I keep this section, where I will be writing down the important news that will be arriving to the Spartans.
In the end it will be much easier for me than having to continually edit the different sections, and it will also be easier for you to keep track of what's new in the Spartan range.
What are those things that are yet to come, or that I would like to see in the new Suunto models? Well, I leave you a list below:
- Improvements in sport profilesMore possibilities to configure targets (right now it is only possible to do it by time, but not by distance, calories, etc.), to add the available graphics to the sport profiles we can configure (at the moment only available in the pre-configured modes), external circle marking the heart rate (something that has already been shown in rendered images), to be able to edit the configuration of the pre-configured modes...
- Improvements for sensors:
For example Stryd, as of today's date, can only be used as a power meter or as a pedometer, but not both profiles simultaneously(corrected version 1.11.56). 4iiiiva's Viiiiva sensor is also not supported in the power display function of an ANT+ meter. There is also no battery information, so we don't know when an external sensor's battery may be running out. And we can only have one sensor of each type, so if you use several sensors you will have to pair them up each time you use them. ANT+ support will not come in this generation, but I hope Suunto will in the future. At the moment Garmin has also adapted Bluetooth for the sensors they are practically forcing them to do so.
- Improvements in activity measurement:
Sleep monitoring(incorporated in version 1.11.56), synchronization of daily heart rate and resting heart rate to Movescount (in the Spartan Wrist HR) - all these things are present in the competition.
- Basic adventure functions:
Back to start function at any time(corrected in version 1.9.36), time of sunrise and sunset, storm warning (in the Ultra with barometric altimeter)(added in version 1.11.56), display thermometer data.
- Third-party applicationsOne of the most notable absences from the Ambit3, where we could extend the functionality of the clocks through applications. They were not easy to create, but at least the possibility was there and the community worked.
- Zoom for the altitude profile screenOr highlight, for example, the next 5 kilometers.
- Different watch faces
- Adding targets to intervalsThe ability to work in a range of rhythm, heart rate or power when we perform an interval and have the clock notify us if we are not in the indicated zone.
- Ability to review phone notifications at any timeIf you don't look at the clock when it arrives, it will disappear and you will have no choice but to go to your phone to check it. Not very smart for a clock that wants to be. You also have to improve the synchronization with your mobile, sometimes the application fails and you have to go by turning off and on the Bluetooth or force the closing of the application (improved in version 1.9.36).
- FIT file export from MovescountSuunto must adhere to the standard that everyone else uses, even though they already know the problem and are theoretically working on it.
This is all that comes to mind right now. Can you think of anything else? Well, plant it in the comments and I'll add it. Who knows if anyone from Suunto will read it and take it into account...
Update 1.9.36 15 June
- Support for planned Moves from Movescount
- Navigation to start of activity
- Notifications for daily calorie targets and steps
- Possibility to customize the predefined triathlon mode
- Inclusion of Do Not Disturb mode for notifications
- 30-day activity synchronization after update (to avoid losing training statistics)
- Improved synchronization with the mobile app
Update 1.11.56 17 October
- Improved navigation with ETA and remaining distance
- Notification of approach to point of interest during navigation, as well as route departure
- Estimated time to the next point of interest
- New outdoor dial, including moon phase and sunrise/sunset time. In addition to the time, there is an outer ring indicating the periods of sunlight and the duration of penumbras before sunrise and after sunset
- There are also alarms for sunset and sunrise
- In models with barometer, storm alarm
- Specific fields for ski and snowboard activities (downhill distance, slope, speed, downhill counter, maximum speed, etc.)
- Vertical laps, being able to compare in the activity each lap created automatically when making a descent (ski, MTB descent, etc.)
- Sleep monitoring with summary, history for 7 days and in the models with optical sensor possibility of having an average heart rate
- Timer with countdown
- Stryd can be used as a foot pod as well as a power meter, i.e. both combined
My opinion of the Suunto Spartans
There is no doubt that Suunto made a mistake when they launched the Spartan prematurely into the market, almost a year ago now. I know it, you know it, but above all they know it. They have recognized it and they have been working very hard to try and fix mistakes.
All the manufacturers have had similar failures. There's the Garmin Epix, which went from being the top model in the Garmin range to being a completely forgotten model that Garmin prefers not to talk about.
Or the Polar V800, which despite being a very competent watch today, dared to launch it on the market without an open-water swimming profile... in a triathlon-oriented watch!
But as I say, Suunto has spent a year trying to get the Spartan range where it deserves to be. I won't say that it has succeeded already, as there are still things to be done, but they are on the right track.
You have to know that the Suunto war is not about matching Garmin in the amount of things you can do with the watch. It never has been and now is not the time for it to start being.
All manufacturers know that you can't fight the Kansas City guys in close quarters. If they play the same game, they'll lose for sure. Suunto is finding its niche, with a watch of exquisite manufacturing quality, superior to the competition, and trying to make watches that are not complicated to use.
I like the final result. Maybe the GPS still needs more work or there are almost basic things that haven't reached the software yet. But the quality of its screen has won me over.
A screen with a much higher resolution than the competition that allows not only to show data pages with up to 7 metrics that are easy to read, or the column displays that are simply great; but all the graphics are very well cared for. The quality of the lighting is very good, and those of us who are used to running at night are only able to appreciate it when we lack it.
The Spartan Sport Wrist HR's optical sensor does not offer the measurement quality of the same Valencell sensor mounted on the Scosche, but it is still quite satisfactory in racing, slightly above the Garmin Elevate in terms of pure performance. Of course, it loses out with the latter if you look at the constant monitoring of the heart rate when you are not training.
It could very easily become my regular watch, except for one detail that is very important to me: the management it makes of the external sensors.
First of all for supporting only Bluetooth sensors. I don't understand what is the fear of manufacturers to side with ANT+. I understand that, being controlled by Garmin (Dynastream is a company that depends directly on Garmin), you have their reluctance, but for example Garmin has already opened up to using Bluetooth sensors.
But it's not just because I can't stand ANT+, it's the way I manage the sensors. In my particular case, I use several sensors, so it ends up being very boring having to constantly pair up the sensor I'm going to use at that moment.
Logically my case is special. The typical user is not me, my tests and my dozens of sensors. But you don't have to go very far either, it's enough to have two bikes with different sensors. Or, to use another example, you couldn't use Suunto in a triathlon together with a power meter on the bike and Stryd for the race. In both cases they use the same Bluetooth channel so in T2 you would have to search for the new sensor.
If I put myself in the shoes of someone who is mainly a road or mountain runner and perhaps the only thing he can use is a pulse sensor, any of the Spartans are up to the most demanding users.
As I say, it's not the best by specs, nor the best at recording tracks, but it's compensated by the FuseSpeed function to always show a fairly solid rhythm (although the satellite signal can be improved at times).
But there's no argument about it, it has the best screen, and in the end that's what we're going to see most of the clock.
The Spartans could be even better (I hope the updates continue to come), but what I am clear about is that they no longer have anything to do with that watch that disappointed many in the summer of 2016. The range is still very much alive and I am looking forward to seeing what Suunto brings us in this 2017.
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