A Reliable and Feature Packed GPS Watch: Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro
Before getting stuck into talking about the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro, I’d like to take you back to the beginning. I’ve been wearing Suunto GPS watches since 2012 when I bought the original Suunto Ambit. I decided on the Ambit for its superior battery life and hardiness, two qualities I believed to be most important for ultra running. At the time it was also the best GPS watch on the market for outdoor adventures and ultra running. What a fantastic bulletproof watch it turned out to be. I took it with me on many running adventures and even 2x Tough Mudder’s, including Electroshock Therapy and Arctic Enema. Haha, those are times that will NOT be forgotten.
I eventually sold the Ambit and bought myself an Ambit 3 Sport. This is the watch I own today. So when Suunto offered to send me one of their new Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro watches to try out, I was excited to see how it performed.
I’m not going to get too nerdy in this review, instead, I’ll share some key features of the watch that I love. I’ll also talk about some background fundamentals surrounding the device, including Movescount for storing activities, and some in-watch settings that I like to use while out running.
Features that I love
Fit and Form
The Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro is very comfortable when worn because the rubber strap is very flexible and soft to the touch. Comfort is important if you plan to be wearing a watch for endurance events!
The watch itself is about the same size as the Ambit 3 Sport but it also has a lot more tech inside, including on wrist HR and a barometric Altimeter! Suunto has done well here, although I’m sure there are a lot of people waiting for the day when Outdoor GPS watches like this are much smaller.
Wrist HR Monitor
Finally, an accurate heart rate monitor… on the wrist! I was so happy to see this because I love training to my heart rate. It’s the most effective way to build up and maintain fitness levels. Nobody knows your current fitness levels like your heart, which is why you need to listen to it. In the past, it was all about using a chest strap, which was very uncomfortable and would constrict my breathing, especially the further I got into a run. Another issue I ran into with chest straps was when nearing the end of an ultra, I tend to have lost some body mass and so the chest strap gets loose, requiring me to stop and tighten it. A surprisingly tough task with some of the straps I have used, and when you’re depleted of all energy.
The HR monitor is much more accurate than my Apple Watch Series 3 too, bonus. You can see the accuracy by checking out my Movescount activity a few pictures down.
Having this sensor in the watch is invaluable for any outdoor adventurer. For one, you can use the altimeter to pick up on changes in pressure systems rolling in, and consequently receive alerts when a storm is on its way! That feature alone could be a lifesaver! It’s also a more accurate way to record and display your current elevation, gain and loss. If I’m running a long mountain race with lots of vertical gain, then I find it really useful knowing how much ascent I have done at any point in time, as I can then work out how much climbing I have left to complete. Sometimes its easier to manage effort levels based on elevation rather than distance, especially in the mountains.
Touch screen with colours!
My previous Suunto didn’t have either of these functions, so I was pleased to see such a big improvement with the display technology from Suunto. The touchscreen is very responsive and intuitive to use.
It’s so great to see colour on screen with a variety of watch faces to choose from for every situation you may find yourself in. The screen itself could be a little more vibrant, or of a higher contrast when the backlight is off. This would make viewing the watch in daylight easier while running. There is an option to have the light on permanently during a move but that won’t do your battery life any favours.
Better Charging Cable attachment system
The charging cable now connects with a magnetic mechanism rather than a clamp. This is so much better because the two snap together without any small manual adjustments needed. Sometimes with the old clamp system, you would think the two were connected, only to find they weren’t when you wondered why the watch hadn’t charged up. The cable can also be used for fast activity syncing, but syncing can also be done wirelessly to your mobile device.
This feature has been there a long time but it deserves a mention because it’s so useful! If you want to run a new route but don’t want to get lost then you can upload a pre-planned route to the watch and let it guide you all the way, combined with the built-in compass. Navigation has some really clever features that adventure runners are going to love exploring.
Other great features
- 100m waterproof – Important if you’re a swimmer, triathlete or any other kind of water sports adventurer.
- It’s a multi-sport watch – so again, great for triathletes. It also has clever functions to allow you to switch between sports modes so you don’t waste precious seconds during those transitions. It comes with 80 preset sports modes.
- 10hr battery life with a 1 second GPS fix (most accurate setting) – That’s pretty damn good. You can reduce the GPS fix time to increase battery life, which is something you will need to do for those running 24hr ultras!
There are too many functions to list in this article, and I promised to keep it simple so I’ll stop there and let you discover the rest for yourself. I’m still finding new functions everyday that amaze me!
Movescount for storing and analyzing all your activities or moves as Suunto calls them.
Suunto has done a good job with Movescount.com, although it hasn’t seen much development over the years. It has many options for analyzing your run data, especially if you tag each activity with relevant tags. So if you love digging deep into your run data, then you will love playing around with Movescount.
There is one downside to Movescount.com, it seems to have been designed to only work in an online environment. So if the Suunto system were to go offline (and it has been known to do so), then you won’t be able to synchronise and view your activity. This can be a real pain when it happens, especially after an intense work out where you want to analyse your efforts. But every system has it’s problems and Suunto always do a good job of quickly bringing things back online.
With all that said, I tend to only use Movescount to pass data through to my Strava account. I prefer Strava due to it’s much larger community and all the motivational aspects of it including ‘Segments’ and ‘Challenges’. Another reason that the community is so large is that Strava isn’t device dependent, meaning you can use it with any GPS device, much better!
Strava also has groups where you can interact with like-minded athletes and help motivate each other to get fitter, faster and stronger. Of course, the only group you will ever really need is the Trail & Kale Strava Club.
I like to keep things simple while running, with the watch only giving me information that I feel I can act upon. That’s not to say you can’t customise the real-time data you see on this watch to the Nth degree, you can!
So my basic trail running watch settings are:
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The Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro is an excellent GPS watch for trail running without being limited to just running. People who love to cross train will enjoy all the multi-sport features and the ease in which to record all the different types of activities. But the thing that sells this watch for me the most, is that I feel I can truly rely on it delivering accurate GPS data combined with all the other workout information from its high-quality sensors.
Trusting in a GPS sports tracking device to do its job day-in-day-out is a very valuable asset to have on your side.
Great review Alastair and all is true. My wife bought me the same watch a couple of weeks ago and it’s amazing. I used in my freeriding snowboard activities for a week and it didn’t miss a single slope.
One thing of the watch that unfortunately bothers me is not being precise with the steps counter. I in fact noticed that it counts steps even if I’m standing still and even when I sleep. I returned the watch for a new one and the bug is still there….
I tried contacting Suunto without success…. maybe you can do on my behalf.
Hey @alessio_rossini:disqus ,
Thank you for letting us know you enjoyed our thoughts on the watch! 🙂
I haven’t looked too closely at the step counter as I only wear the watch for running but now I’m curious! Have you tried contacting Suunto through twitter? They seem to be more responsive on there as all eyes are on the tweets you send. Try reaching out to @suunto and @movescount
Thanks! I used an Ambit 3 for a long while, and have been using an Apple Watch 2 for 2 years. I think you’ve convinced me to go back to a Suunto – I miss the detail and control that I had with the Ambit 3.
Glad we could help Bill! The Suunto’s are definitely more reliable and rugged too 🙂
Ordered my first Suunto watch today the Spartan sport baro after reading your review! I Have the garman 910 and Have used it for years. Hoping to use this as a daily wear watch. Have wanted to try Suunto for years
That’s great David! Do let us know how you get on with it!
@David – what is your review of your Suunto Spartan sport baro. Does it count the steps alright or counts even if you are stationary/not moving? Any other cons?