Last updated: 24-Oct-18
By Steve Diederich
Here is the admission / disclaimer … I am a Suunto fan. I love the way they have distilled the functionality I need for multi-sports, and allow me to change a whole range of settings to suit me. They have aligned that to a fantastic web application with Movescount and a useful fully functional mobile app. I must also confess that I have had my trusty Suunto Ambit 2 for the last 12 months and have been really happy with it. So, when the lovely people at Suunto asked me to have a look at the Ambit 3, I wasn’t sure what to expect as I thought they couldn’t improve on perfection… Was Suunto trying to use the standard marketing trick of dressing up the Emperor in a new Onesie, or was this a proper technical step forward?
Photo credit: Steve Diederich.
Out of the box, the Ambit 3 is immediately recognisable as the relative of the Ambit 2. The screen layout, the button position, button functions and the user interface are all but identical to its predecessor. This is where the similarity stops. The weight of the new upstart tells you something else is going on inside as it is notably heavier than its older sibling. Without having a pair of scales to hand, I would think that this is towards the top end of its class in weight and dimension. The second thing that you notice about the “3” is that the strap has been re-designed to be more comfortable with a softer feel, which over a 24 hour period makes a difference. I used the new heart rate monitor that is a slimmer version of the older HRM.
For the purpose of this test, I took the brace of watches over to South Africa on the Richtersveld Wildrun. This is the ideal race, as the event is all self navigated by GPS. All runners get sent the route in advance and, using Movescount, it is a two minute job to load up the 4 x day routes.
Setting up the Ambit
The Suunto Ambit (both V.2 and V.3) have an almost identical setup convention. You set the time, the date, your personal details (weight, height, age) and any preferences. This can be done either on the watch, or online on Movescount. You then pair any devices you may want to use alongside, such as HRM (Optional at £48). Movescount has a huge range of apps that you can add in, that will do everything from estimate your marathon finish time to give you tide information. On the Ambit 3, you can also update your “moves” on Strava and a range of other apps, while auto-updating your latest achievement on social media… if that’s your thing.
On the Trail
First off – the weight and size of the Ambit 3 disappears as soon as it is strapped to the wrist. The strap is significantly softer than its former self. It hugs the contours of your wrist and is stable without constriction. The buttons are easy to operate. You don’t need too firm a push on them to actuate the different functions. The only criticism I have here, is that occasionally, when flexing the wrist to right angles, I would inadvertently change the screen display settings. Not a big deal in the overall scheme of things. The buttons are easy to locate and I found their functionality unambiguous.
The differences between the Ambit 2 and Ambit 3 are few, but notable. The big difference is that the “3” has its own dedicated mobile app. This means that linking in to your social media or fitness app becomes really simple. In pretty much real time, you can have your running / cycling activity in the public domain.
You are probably reading this to find out what the watch does. Well, pretty much anything required by any sport. The beauty of the Ambit (Both V.2 and V.3) is that you can configure any activity on it. Suunto will offer you a selection of add-on peripherals from cadence sensors for your bicycle through to chest heart monitor. In the standard menu setup you can select from “Running” and “Trail Running”, although I haven’t worked out what the difference is in terms of the watch’s functionality. The standard menu also offers you: Cycling, Mountain Biking, Swimming, Trekking, Indoor Training, Alpine Skiing and Triathlon. Fancy adding Basketball or Paddle Boarding? Easy, just go to your Movescount account and select these from the 74 pre-configured activities that you can track.
On the wrist – living with the watch
According to Suunto, as a watch only, the “2” will last for 14 days between charges, against the “3” that will deliver 30 days of runtime. I achieved 12 days on the “2” and 24 days on the “3”, although this could be down to my use of the backlight. When you run the GPS, this eats into the battery life between charges. The good news is that you can vary the frequency of the GPS polling. Both models allow changing the frequency of GPS polling intervals to either 1,5 or 60secs. This will deliver a best battery life on the 60 sec setting on the “2” of a claimed 25 hrs (I achieved 18) and 200 hrs on the “3” (I achieved 144 hrs). The equivalent times on the five second setting were 12 and 30 hrs respectively. I should also say that using the heart rate monitor further depletes battery life.
Once you have got used to the button layout and functionality, it is a piece of cake. You can shape the display to read what is important to you. Time run, distance, heart rate and all manner of other bits of info are configurable.
The “3” is 22g heavier than its predecessor, which is initially noticeable, while the increase in bulk by 1.5mm is practically undetectable. This is a small price to pay for the increase in battery life.
Battery charging: There is a dedicated USB cable that has a set of jaws that clamp nicely on to the watch, giving a full charge in a matter of hours. I ran this off a power monkey solar charger with no problem.
Display: Using it on the course was simplicity itself. The screen is large enough to follow and the ability to zoom in/out on the fly was really good, even in bright sunlight.
PROS: What’s good about the Suunto Ambit Peak 3
- Functionality: apps for every exercise
- Battery life: covers day and even multi-day events
- Interface: it links in with Suunto’s Movescount and Strava / Facebook etc
- Clear display: lots of information easily accessible
- Solid construction: it’s a quality build
- Great value: the entry level models provide good bang for your buck
CONS: What’s not so good about the Suunto Ambit Peak 3
- Bulk: not sure how this would work on a small wrist
- Weight: it is heavy – the price you pay for a well-built, waterproof unit
- Button: only one button to be precise, the one that activates every time you flex your wrist. A small change of button shape would do the job
- Heart rate monitor: It would be nice if this was built into the watch rather than having it on a power hungry bluetooth belt. Let’s hope the Ambit 4 will have this feature
The Suunto Ambit 3 picks up where the Ambit 2 left off, with improved functionality, improved battery life in an indestructible shell. There is little not to like about this watch. The only thing that would get this off my wrist is another Ambit – this time with a built in heart rate monitor and some judicious use of a piggy bank. RRP starts form £365.
Other products you may want to consider:
Garmin Fenix – £349
Polar flow – From £95
Garmin Fenix 3 – £340
About the writer: Steve Diederich is an experienced runner. He attends a wide variety of races, whilst he is based in the UK he also travels and runs all over the world. He needs a varied bag of kit to cover all his different requirements.
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