The Suunto 9 is a colourful wearable GPS tracker and fitness tracker, looking to catch a runner’s eye and provide them with all the data and information they could ever need.
But what is it about runners and analytics anyway?
Runners seem to be constantly looking for the next piece of data; the next way to track race pace, heart rate and even temperature. I’ve been at many a race start where, when the RD shouts ‘Go!’ the simultaneous beeping of watches is so strong you can almost detect a communal beep in the air. I’ve also been at many a race finish where a runner has crossed the line jubilantly, their face filled with joyous emotion, only to suddenly break in to a tirade of profanities when they realise they hadn’t stopped their running watch.
But, really, it’s understandable.
For the average individual there is mounting evidence that fitness trackers do not produce tangible long-term results. However, for a dedicated runner (with a strong motivational system in place), they can be a valuable way of keeping track of key analytics, such as mileage per week, minute per mile pace, heart rate, and other splits. Additional features such as GPS tracking (and guidance), app-based social media and cross-app integration (hello Strava!) also offers valuable ways for runners to connect and to navigate both the digital and physical landscape of their running career.
Given all of this you’d be a rare runner not to have a fitness tracking watch, but the crucial question is always where to throw your hard-earned money on what is (let’s face it) some pretty pricey tech. The Suunto 9 is one option well worth considering.
Introducing the Suunto 9
The Suunto 9 is an attractive piece of running tech for anyone looking to invest in a new multisports GPS watch, especially if distance and data are your thing.
Coming in a variety of colours (including a custom option), this watch has a non-porous, hypoallergenic silicone strap and a stainless steel bezel, which stylishly protects its mineral glass watch face.
The watch faces can be customised via the app or via the PC/Mac application available via the Suunto site. The watch weighs about 72g and feels substantial on the wrist, meaning you’ll either get along with its chunky exterior or you’ll end up with some gripes about it. I personally found myself in the gripe camp, as my teeny tiny wrist felt weighed down during running by the bulk of this watch, but the it’s the type of watch where you can adjust to its shape and weight through wearing it for a time.
All about the tech
More important than appearance, however, is the performance of this bad boy.
The Suunto 9 has a lot of different features which will be of immense value to both new runners and seasoned performers.
This wearable fitness tracker has an estimated wrist HR monitor, over 80 sports modes, fully built in GPS navigation, is water resistant up to 100m (great for OCRs or rainy races), and can deliver from 25 hours to 120 hours of recording time, which is pretty much going to cover most ultra events.
The Suunto 9 is also fully aware that crazy ultra runners exist and it is practically designed to cater to our needs. Using its specially designed FusedTrack algorithm, the Suunto 9 can optimise battery life while using its GPS and motion tracking to keep the battery going while its user covers the miles. It also has a low battery reminder, which makes sure that you’ll never get caught out before a big race (or during if you somehow need to charge on the go).
When it comes to the GPS and course data I tested it on at the Crafty Fox Half Marathon in September and found that it seemed pretty well tuned with tracking the distance and all other data that I needed. The Suunto app that links with the watch gave an extensive amount of data. This includes duration, distance, pace, heart rate, calories, recovery time (ha!), ascent, steps, cadence, descent, the highest point, how long I had spent descending and ascending (now that’s a new one), EPOC and even a pre-generated video of my run on a map. Colour me impressed with the amount of data that I gained from a single run, and that I could make accessible to my friends through the Suunto app should I choose to.
Navigating the Suunto 9 was probably my biggest fear when I first used it. I’m a Garmin user by standard and the Suunto 9 buttons are distinct to the brand (as is to be expected). It didn’t help that, at first, my Suunto wouldn’t connect to my phone but, in this area, the customer service team were swift and very helpful, advising a soft reboot and I was good to go.
As it happened, my fears over navigating the Suunto 9 were completely unfounded. This watch has a touchscreen as standard, which handily locks during exercise so that you don’t accidentally press it. Once I put running as my default exercise, all I needed to do before a run was a few simple swipes, a button press and I was good to go.
The Suunto 9 will helpfully buzz (or beep) away the km/miles as you go, which I always find helps my frame of mind during a run, but this feature can also be disabled.
Beyond watch navigation, the watch also has a built-in digital compass, an altimeter and GPS waypoint and visual route navigation. These all worked with extreme accuracy and acted as a reassuring safety net during unknown runs or self-navigating events.
If you’re worried that you’ve lost your way when it comes to your running, the Suunto will guide you, in more ways than one.
The Suunto 9 offers so many features that it’s hard not to be in awe of its performance or, to be more precise, in yours. If you want to know more about yourself as a runner and are looking for the right tech to guide you, then you’d be making a wise choice considering the Suunto. It’s a chunky addition to the wrist, but big plans sometimes require mighty tech.
We were provided with a watch for the purpose of this review, but all opinions are the writer’s honest and personal own.