Suunto Spartan Ultra GPS Multi-Sport review – Failure or Fabulous?

I’ll be honest, the Suunto Spartan has been a watch I have been aching to get my hands on. My own regular watch is the Garmin Fenix3, but I always keep an open mind to potentially purchasing a replacement device. The Suunto Spartan is a device which visually, and on paper at least, looked like it might find a permanent place on my wrist – which is why this review has been so hard to write…

Suunto Spartan Ultra GPS Multi-Sport, Multi-FAIL, watch review

In my opinion, the release of the Spartan has been long over due from Suunto. The presence of the GPS antenna “hump” on a lot of their watches called out regarding the dated components contained within. The Suunto Spartan has been totally redesigned for the current multisport market, where being technically proficient is no longer enough. A function over form approach no longer cuts things in the market as the boundary between sports watches and smart watches has been steadily blurring, look no further than the ludicrously priced Garmin Chronos.

It is no understatement to say that the designers of the Suunto Spartan have absolutely nailed the casing of the Spartan. Yes, it is *slightly* on the bulky side, but it looks absolutely gorgeous.

Suunto Spartan

The watch I’m reviewing today is the Suunto Spartan Ultra Steel. As appropriate as it might seem for TitaniumGeek to review the Titanium edition of the watch, I personally think that the price difference of £50 for the titanium over the steel version is actually worth it. But I stress that again, that very much a personal decision based on my perception of value.

http://www.suunto.com/en-GB/Sports-Watch-Collections/Suunto-Spartan-Collection/

I also think that the black and bright silver of the steel version just looks better! Plus looks good for the work environment.

Disclaimer

This has been a difficult review to write, I think the title says it all. So a little clarification before we continue. In terms of devices I purchased the Spartan myself, similarly, my Fenix 3 is purchased from my own wallet, from Amazon, no Garmin discount applied. When I mention the Polar V800, that review was a loan from Polar, and was subsequently returned.

Device Design

The Suunto Spartan Ultra box, looks very… well spartan, but in a good way. It has all the look of an expensive product – essentially dark and brooding.

Suunto Spartan

Sliding off the outer cardboard, and opening up the black box inside, you are greeting by your first view of the Spartan. Powered off, and with no flashy sticker on the screen, sitting… plotting

Suunto Spartan

Inside the box, we have a couple of manuals, the actual Suunto Spartan, charge cable and little Suunto sticker. I DO like the inclusion of little stickers like this…but I have NO IDEA what I’m supposed to do with it!!

Suunto Spartan

As soon as you get the Suunto Spartan Ultra in your hands, it is instantly recognisable as a Suunto. The size, the curve of the back, and the way the strap connects to the watch close to the top of the bezel contain strong Suunto DNA traits, but with many design touches that mark the Suunto Spartan as it’s own device

Suunto Spartan

For me, the steel bezel around the outside exudes pure class. I’ve been a fan of the Fenix3 since it debuted, you got all of the sports features of the Garmin 920XT, with looks which could still just about cut it at work. By comparison, the Suunto Spartan has a style which the Fenix3 can only dream of!

Suunto Spartan

Suunto Spartan

As mentioned, the underside of the Suunto Spartan is slightly curved and feels very comfortable sitting on the wrist

Suunto Spartan

On the back, we’ve also got four charging dots, along with two lines for the magnets of the charger to fix onto.

Suunto Spartan

The magnets on the back are really quite strong, and snap to the back of the Suunto Spartan with a pleasing *click*

Suunto Spartan

I’m really quite a fan of this almost flush approach to charging, by comparison, the slightly deeper charge slot on the Fenix 3 has a tendency, just to hold a bit of muck, as do the screws on the front of the Fenix3

Suunto Spartan

The Fenix3 ability to hold muck is only exacerbated if you do something like ToughMudder

Suunto Spartan

I highlight this, as the Suunto Spartan has the option for obstacle racing baked in from the get-go

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 17.15.54

Plus the exterior design, I think should withstand picking up too much muck, simply due to how shallow all the indents in the device are

Suunto Spartan

Thinking about obstacle races etc, and my experience with the Fenix3 paint chipping is another reason why I opted for the steel Suunto Spartan, rather than either of the titanium options, as I just didn’t want to have to deal with possible paint chips on the Suunto either.

On the LEFT of the Suunto Spartan we’ve three buttons

Suunto Spartan

The middle button working as a “select” option, and the two outside buttons mainly working as menus selects. Due to the software, all buttons can be contextual, with the function being indicated on the screen at the time if different from normal

Suunto Spartan

On the LEFT side of the Suunto Spartan is the speaker grill

The strap is covered in a soft-touch rubber, which I’ve never really been a fan of.

Suunto Spartan

Both the Garmin Fenix3 HR and the Garmin Vivosmart HR have similar coatings. Initially the coating feels very nice and soft, but within a week of wearing the Suunto Spartan, as with the other watches, the strap has become shiny in a few places, and is my main reason for disliking this strap material. I’m sure many of you will put that down to OCD, but the Suunto Spartan, as with the other two, are not cheap devices. Thus I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect them to withstand general usage – I’m not even saying wear and tear!

Suunto Spartan

Suunto Spartan

In terms of overall size, the Suunto Spartan is quite comparable to the Fenix3, which I think is reasonably it’s main competitor. The Suunto Spartan ha a 50mm bezel, whilst the Fenix3 is 51mm. The dimensions between the two watches are interesting. The Fenix3 IS larger, whilst the Suunto Spartan uses it’s case more efficiently, with a larger 300×320 vs 218 x 218 pixel screen.

IMG_2449

In terms of size, there are very few differenced between the Suunto Spartan Ultra reviewed here, and the sport. Essentially the same device, but in the sport, they nixed the pressure ssor and some battery capacity to shrink things down to 13.8mm thick. By comparison the Suunto Spartan is 17mm, whilst the Fenix3 is 16mm deep. Frankly, given the very pleasant curve on the back of the Suunto Spartan Ultra, I actually thought it was thinner than the Fenix 3 initially

Suunto Spartan

Using the Suunto Spartan

Setting up the Suunto Spartan

When you switch on the Suunto Spartan for the first time, you go through all the usual set up procedures, language, body stats etc.

Suunto Spartan

It is as soon as you start using the Suunto Spartan you realise how superfluous the touch screen is. EVERYTHING in the setup can be done as well, if not more effectively using the buttons on the side of the Suunto Spartan. About the only thing I found where the touch screen gave any advantage was providing a univerasal “swipe backwards” feature, for the multiple times I over shot menus

Once you’ve put yourself into the watch, it’s time to setup on Movescount.com

Movescount

With the launch of the Suunto Spartan, Suunto have given Movescount a lick of paint. Which is kind of how it feels. They have moved a few bits around.

Suunto Spartan

Added a new heat map function, which is useful for indicating there are a few people in the area who run with a Suunto device

Suunto Spartan

and apparently, no one who cycles round here

Suunto Spartan

The heat maps are nice, but I don’t really understand why they put the effort in here. People in cities, or with greater concentration of Suunto users may find it a more useful feature

There has also been an update to Suunto Link to help you update your firmware

Suunto Spartan

Sports Modes

The Suunto Movescount website is where you have to go to make changes to the app/sports profiles loaded on the Suunto Spartan.

Suunto Spartan

Many sports watches come with 5-10 sports built-in, newer smart watches allow you to download extra sports, and the Suunto Spartan is no different. Suunto have really pushed the boat out here with are a wealth of sports modes available from day one, allowing you to have up to 20 different sport profiles loaded on the Suunto Spartan at the same time

Suunto gives you access to 78 different activities, making the Suunto Spartan, and any Spartan series of watches multisport watches in the truest sense of the term

Suunto Spartan

A lot of those 78 icons are relatives odd/random. Thankfully Suunto also gives you the option to search for activities,

Suunto Spartan

I was a little disappointed when I finally saw the search menu, showing me that the second from bottom activity was actually windsurfing and not “Jaws Shark Simulation Swimming”!

There is however a negative reason for why you need so many different sport modes with the Suunto Spartan though. Each sport profile is used to determine which information you can display and also which sensors the Suunto Spartan will receive data from – so as a user you are relatively locked out from your own device in terms of display, and data field customization

Indoor cycling is a good example – which has two separate profiles, one with and one without power meter usage. Neither of sports profile however will allow you to show cadence during the workout!!
Suunto Spartan

However this is not TOTALLY the end of the world, as the absent cadence data is still recorded if you have the appropriate sensor paired, and is shown at the end of ride summary. But personally I do find knowing my cadence during a ride to be very useful – although at least in Zwift, it’s visible in the up LEFT of the screen anyway

Suunto Spartan

For both indoor and outdoor cycling, I am however quite a fan of when the post ride data you get when the activity is uploaded to MovesCount, as you automatically get power graphs produced (Yes I wasn’t really looking to push myself on this ride!)

Suunto Spartan

As another example, there are five running profiles to choose from of which one has run with power baked right in for use with Stryd – nice one Suunto!

Suunto Spartan

However NONE will allow you to view your cadence during the run!!! Come on Suunto! Cadence isnt just for cyclists Suunto! You lead the way with power for running by building the metric straight into the device, and drop with ball by failing to include the practically ubiquitous metric of cadence! Now here is my first caveat – there may be a way to show cadence whilst running, there may be a way to edit what is shown on each profile, if there is, it’s certainly easier to perform this task on Garmin or Polar devices for example

Connectivity

Now this may be more of an issue for some more than others, but sensor setup for Suunto Spartan seems relatively limited when it comes to pairing sensors. You can pair the following over bluetooth:

Suunto Spartan

But you are only going to be able to pair one of each. You can go into a paired devices menu, which will tell you that each slot has been filled, but without giving you any idea as to by which device.

Suunto Spartan

This isn’t even just an issue for people with multiple bikes with different sensors attached. If I want to use the Stryd HR when running, it uses the heart rate, power pod, and foot pod slots. Which means every time I swap back to the bike I have to repair the power meter, for the bike, or repair for the turbo trainer.

There are many people who have multiple sensors. This watch doesn’t seem to deal with that well.

Smart watch features

One of the most useful features I have found using smart watches is getting smart notifications, be it texts, calls, or app notifications

Suunto Spartan

When a notification comes through the Suunto Spartan gives a slight buzz (A little too faint actually for my liking) and up pops the relevant message. This message then disappears after a 10-15 sec time out, and that is it. There no notification screen to look back onto, in case you missed a notification. This is particularly irritating when you get several notifications which come through at once. If you look at the picture above, you can see two little lines at the top of the screen. These look like they should pull a drop down notification screen using the touch screen. Nope.

I wonder if this is something that is a firmware issue, rather than an accidental omission?

Watch Faces

The Suunto Spartan has user choice of six watch face options, however, the movements on the different watches are fixed

Suunto Spartan

I ended up using the above face, simply for the extra data, it could display. After being used to Garmin IQ watch screens, it felt strange to have options, but fixed options.

Long pressing the central button on the main watch face brings up a short cut to allow you to get to the settings, or change the watch face, in one of the only sections of the watch where the touch screen has a clear use

Suunto Spartan

One thing I have been VERY surprised at with the Suunto Spartan, is the alarm function. Or lack of it. It’s possible that there is a function hidden in the app in order to allow me to set a wake up call (i cant find it if so), similarly I’m nearly 100% there is no way to set an alarm from the Suunto Spartan itself, which is…odd. In addition to waking me up, I cant find any evidence of sleep tracking. These are not vital features, but are quite surprising in a £550 watch, when you consider both are available on the FitBit Charge for under £90!

Widgets

By pressing the down button from the watch face, the Suunto Spartan displays an activity tracker widget for steps

Suunto Spartan

An additional down press brings you to a review of the week, ordered in time

Suunto Spartan

A final press will bring you to a recovery adviser, which sometimes is a little surprising, being advised not to exercise for 32hrs after a 6km run

Suunto Spartan

By comparison, Garmin was happy for me to strap on my running shoes in a quicker 23 hoursSuunto Spartan

However, I really have no idea which watch is giving the best physiological advice!

Accuracy

I’ve usually got a few watches knocking around on the bench for reviews but tend only to wear one at a time for work. But I was a bit surprised to see the 12,894 step count recorded when at work, simply as it didn’t seem to be a particularly active day in the practice.

Over the weekend, I strapped on a FitBit Blaze (review pending) and my Fenix3 to see what they gave in terms of step counts.Now each company will have it’s own particular algorithms for monitoring steps, but it’s not unreasonable to expect most devices to get a similar ball park, without about 1000 steps I personally think is reasonable.

So wearing the Suunto Spartan and the FitBit Blaze on my RIGHT arm, and the Fenix3 on the LEFT, I was quite surprised at how large the difference between the devices was

Suunto Spartan

I don’t know if this is something which can be addressed through a firmware update – most likely so, as “increase to step counter accuracy” is a common comment many devices firmware updates, but currently, I would label the Suunto Spartan as inaccurate

Running

Suunto Spartan

The inability to customise the display comes up quite clearly when running. Caveat – the Polar V800 and M400 watches have minimal customisation in what is displayed during an activity, however, these devices debuted in 2014.

Suunto Spartan

But leaving limitations aside for a moment, let’s look at what you do get when out for a run

To revert to a previous point – having running with power built in from the get-go is VERY cool

Suunto Spartan

On a powered run, you have power in the top LEFT, HR in the top RIGHT, pace in middle LEFT, distance middle RIGHT and total time underneath

Using the middle button during and activity changes the screen, through average data

Suunto Spartan

Lap averages, if you have set up auto lap

Suunto Spartan

Finally display map of run, which you can zoom in/out on using the touch screen, or more effectively use the buttons

Suunto Spartan

At the end of the run, you get the break down displayed on the device

Suunto Spartan

It could be reasonably argued that the route I took over the Chevin in Belper was more of a trail run than a general run…

Suunto Spartan

However the trail run profiles which Suunto have kindly created for us, don’t allow power when running, so I opted not to use them, losing information on the ascent. This may seem trivial to people who don’t use Stryd, but lets also highlight the fact I cant display cadence during the run, on a £550 multi-sport smart watch

Suunto Spartan

As an aside, I don’t know if there is a firmware issue with the Suunto Spartan, but if you stop to take a lot of pictures, say for a review run, I have seen it throw the GPS quite out of whack – I’m fast, but not this fast!
Suunto Spartan

In relation to running and general activities aspect of the Movescount App which was quite interesting is the Suunto Movie. After your run, if you manage to sync with the Movescount app on your phone, you can select your run

Suunto Spartan

Suunto Movie was launched in 2014, and probably explains why it is buried at the very bottom of each activitySuunto SpartanHit the movie button and you get a little film produced showing your activity as a heat speed map, with relevant stats displayed over the video. This might not be something for you Monday morning jog, but I imagine could be very cool for something like the RideLondon

There are some impressive examples on Suunto Movies Youtube page

Suunto Spartan

Swimming

Suunto Spartan

Splish, Splash. Swimming isn’t by best sport. Since fracturing my elbow my speed did recover, however, because of the pressure I ended up putting through my unbroken arm and shoulder, I’ve ended up with a supraspinatus tendinosis (I’ll be doing some rehab posts later in the month I think). I probably state this, as an excuse for my slow times over my 800m swim tests with the Suunto Spartan

For the swimming, as with the running, I also wore my Fenix3, and it was as I was setting up the Fenix3 to start with, I noticed an issue.

Stratford Upon Avon pool is 33m in length. So on the Fenix as usual, I selected that length of poolSuunto Spartan

The Suunto however only has 25m, 50m, and 25 yard and 50-yard pools. Which I was a little surprised at, although to be fair, a 33m pool is mainly used for water polo, which isn’t one of the Suunto Spartan activities

Suunto Spartan

A 33m meter pool is not that unusual, especially in Europe, as it allows 3 lengths to be 100m. Easily something which could be addressed via firmware, but a little surprising that the 33m pool was omitted on this multi-sport watch.

Initially, this might not seem a big deal, but if your pool is a 33m pool, it somewhat reduces the usefulness of the Suunto Spartan as a training tool in that pool.

If you have a Suunto Spartan with the HR bundle – then you have the ability to record HR on Bluetooth whilst in the water. For this reason, the Suunto Spartan is able to display your average heart rate for the swim

Suunto Spartan

The swimming application, in either open water where the GPS is enabled, or pool swimming covers the standard metrics. But it remains a shame about the lack of the 33m pool, or perhaps a custom pool length, as is seen on some other devices

Suunto Spartan

Cycling

Suunto Spartan

Now previous points about not being able to customise the displayed data are, in my opinion, less important when it comes to cycling. If I’m doing a triathlon, I’ll be monitoring my ride power output on a cycling head unit, not my watch, however, I’ll certainly be using a multi-sport watch during the event, though.

From a cycling perspective, a lot of my issues are going to be repeated. I’d like to be able to select which data is displayed on the watch. I’d certainly like to be able to show a single data field, such as power. I regularly have a lot of data fields displayed when using cycling GPS units, so the small text doesn’t bother me too much

Suunto Spartan

But in both cases, I have the GPS units set to be able to change a screen, to get a single large data field to concentrate on power output. Again this is not possible with the Suunto Spartan.

Ironically actually get the largest text display at the end of a ride!

Suunto Spartan

I have mentioned that you cant see cadence displayed on the Suunto Spartan when cycling, this because you need to use a separate cycling (cadence) activity to be able to see this rare and very unusual data, and you certainly wouldn’t want to be able to view cadence and power together

Suunto Spartan

There may very well be ways to create your own activity profiles, with the displays as you want them, but the bottom line for me is that other devices do it more effectively, more user friendly and at a lower price point

Niggles

Over the review I found there were a series of things I didn’t like about the Suunto Spartan. That is not unusual with any product, as none is perfect, but the niggles with the Suunto Spartan seemed to be to do with common features other companies have nailed, so I thought it worth while airing those irritations here. Now some could easily be addressed through firmware, whereas some are a little more difficult to address, but at this price point, I’m not sure that they should be

Now some could easily be addressed through firmware, whereas some are a little more difficult to address, but at this price point, I’m not sure that these niggles should be in the watch in the first place (I highlight the lack of alarm function!!). Again these are personal irritations, so to some people they may not matter, and some people may actually disagree. I’ll be very interested to see other peoples opinions in the comments below

  • THERE IS NO ALARM FUNCTION – It’s a watch, a smartwatch for pities sake! How this was overlooked I don’t know
  • The touch screen adds NOTHING to the experience of using the watch other than a back swipe – EVERYTHING else can be achieved more easily and faster using the buttons. The presence of the touch screen currently feels like a “me too” functionality which was including for sake of the spec sheet, rather than the user.
  • The system is laggy – I have found myself pressing a button more than once after waiting a few seconds after not getting a response. Yes I’m being impatient, but Suunto has priced in such a way t
  • Lack of customisable displays during activities – such as being able to see cadence in any of the bike modes
  • The smart phone app really is merely a method of syncing, if you want to change anything on Suunto Spartan, you have to plug into the computer.
  • Syncing is unreliable
  • The vibration is too weak (this may be a highly personal point)
  • There is no notification screen/menu in order to check missed notifications
  • Inability to connect to multiple versions of the same sensors type – essentially allowing for multiple bike use.
  • Pedometer is rather out of whack.
  • Some of the activities don’t even allow access to the expected sensors – e.g. indoor cycling
  • There is no gesture activation of the back light

Conclusion

The Suunto Spartan Ultra, in my eyes, is one of the most effective visual designs for a sports watch I have seen. In fact I think it looks much nicer than many regular watches

I really hate to sound hypercritical of the Spartan, but it feels a little bit like a lick of new paint on old operating system. If you are already a Suunto user, and like their watches, you’ll love the Spartan. For me, I’d put it below both the Polar V800 and my own Garmin Fenix3.

There are so many points where it just felt that something had been left out of the Spartan, I actually became almost annoyed using it. Quite possibly this is the first device I have ever reviewed on TitaniumGeek that I’m inclined to state – DONT BUY. My don’t buy recommendation is made largely on price, for £300, this would be a watch with limitations, but at £500,the Suunto Spartan is just a bad way to spend money currently

Compared to the other devices out on the markets, there are better performing devices, more user configurable devices, and many which are better value for money devices. The only thing I can confidently say that the Suunto Spartan has over many of the other devices out there is looks. Basically this is the most beautiful device in the multisports watch world, but it’s a terrible shame that is is currently all beauty and no brains.

So I’ll have to see whether the forthcoming Polar M600 is able to knock the Fenix 3 from my wrist?

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  • Ville Kemppinen

    Hello!

    Thank you for your review!

    I took a look at Suunto’s web page and noticed that they have released several firmware updates since the review was published. Have you had time (or desire) to try those out and have they addressed your problems?

    Regards,
    Ville

  • Fred Benkimoun

    That’s one way of doing it but you will lose the data history stored on the watch.

  • Tom

    To resolve the issue of the screen getting caught in a loop, you can hold the upper right button in for ~15 seconds to do a hard reset on the watch. It’ll boot back up automatically afterwards. Definitely beats waiting for the battery to die.

  • Fred Benkimoun

    You better wait unless you are prepared to pay a lot for something unreliable.
    I have been using it for one month and I keep having issues with this watch.
    Sometimes the operating system is irresponsive during an exercise. You try to stop and save your exercise but the only option is to pause and re-start it again. You are left in a loop and can not switch screens. The only option is to let the watch battery empty itself. Even connecting the watch with a cable does not help.
    The GPS is not so accurate compared to the Ambit, I’m sometimes 500 M off.

    Synching data through Bluetooth is just a question of luck and actually most of time bad luck.

    the worse guys is calling the SUUNTO helpdesk you get to hear that they know the watch is buggy but we have to wait for the defects to get fixed. And obviously they don’t tell for how long.

    As I said, stay away. I’m personally using my Ambit again.

  • sally

    I emailed Sunnto a few days ago about the HR inclusion and they say until they have improved the spartan as far as they can basically, they won’t be releasing it! Not happy, as I heard they were releasing it for Christmas 2016. They’re not. I have waited since July 2016 as it was going to be a birthday present. !

  • gk

    I hope they do not return to the bumper antenna case design and remain on this new design and if they can make it thinner even better. Especially on the black titanium it is fabulous, still I do not like much the quality of material used.

  • There is a Spartan Hr in the pipeline. It is supposedly due Dec 2016, but I havnt actually seen anything to confirm that

    My *hope*, no evidence to back this up, is that they make greater hardware revisions, rather than just slapping an optical sensor on the back

  • gk

    Any improvements? GPS performance and accuracy? iOS notifications still remaining for about 10 secs and not been able to be viewed again? Still the vibration for notifications with a slight buzz? What about the
    I wonder if they have this model slowly abandoned this model and if they will release any newer Spartan (or whatever called) with an HR?

  • Wayne

    I bought the Spartan Ultra and sent it back within 24 hours. Maybe its me but the screen is so damn dull and no matter where I set the brightness and backlight I thought it was so dull that it just overall annoyed the hell out of me. Does anyone know if that can be fixed with a software update or only a hardware update?

  • Haman

    Very fair review of the Suunto Spartan Ultra, and I concur. I’ve used the watch for about two months. I do feel like a beta tester, using the watch. It lacks many features curently in the the Ambit 2 & 3. Wait until 2017 when all the updats are in place then purchase. If you are a Suunto fan purchasing now is not the worst thing you could do. It is a beautiful watch.

  • If you log into the Suunto MovesCount site, I think you can see them all there

  • Martin

    Can someone tell me list of sports in Suunto Spartan? I tried to find out all 80, but I did not find anything. Thanks

  • Tuomas Koponen

    Yannick In which sentence I did say it is ok to release beta products? All sports watch manufacturers seems to do the same mistake. I just think it is better to release less features that works and not “all features” and fix them within 9 months. If there is scheduled plan it makes purchase more viable option. If they can not keep up with the plans it is a different thing. Suunto was on schedule with spartan update, but missed android..

    Days has past when you bought a watch or pretty much any electronical product with all functions and that was it. Now even cars, Tesla, has changed so much after initial release. I don’t understand how this is bad thing? If somebody wants to buy watch they can buy it now or they can wait until they think it provides stuff they need.

    For my point of view Spartan Ultra seems to be viable option q1/2017. Now it seems to be missing too much for its price.

  • Yannick

    With all due respect, Tuomas, just because a competitor has “innovated” by releasing an unfinished product does not justify doing the same thing. It’s just bad business, and it tells me customers are considered as an exploitable resource. Don’t bother selling your product once it’s finished, put it on the market prematurely, sell it for a small fortune and make customers believe you give them something when you release firmware updates that should have been built-in from the start!

    Give points to Suunto for having a clear update schedule?? If it’s so easy to plan those updates ahead, why not plan them BEFORE releasing the product. You know, like things used to be done.

    You are entitled to your opinion, Tuomas, and I understand some people might be on the other end of the satisfaction scale. I so wanted to replace my 1st generation Ambit I was ready to accept some questionable decisions like the touch screen. Maybe I expected too much from Suunto, but they can only blame themselves: they used to make, in my opinion, the best sports watches out there. That era is over for now, in my opinion.

  • Tuomas Koponen

    Yannick, I think we all agree that none of the Sports watch makers does release products with not enough testing. This does make more harm that good.

    Like I did say earlier I did have Fenix 3 for more than 5 months and for whole time it’s core functions like GPS and elevation gain was wrong. They started work about 9 months from release. I do still prefer to limit functions and not release something that is clearly broken.

    Suunto has made some progress with development. Now plan and schedule is pretty clear and made public, http://www.suunto.com/en-us/worlds/training-world/software-updates/spartan-gets-stronger. This is good promise for customers and harder for Suunto to skip plans completely. Points for that.

    I think for all manufacturers worst competitor is Apple Watch, Samsung Gear, Pebble etc. For most they seems to have enough functions for sports, they do work well and are cheaper. They really would not like to miss that train completely. It is always harder to win customers when markets has been shared.

  • Yannick

    Great review James! I like that you had the courage to call it like you saw it. As for those defending Suunto for this failure, go ahead and spend your money foolishly if you want. The fact is, you would not dare release such a product if your reputation was on the line.

    I’m more than puzzled by people that keep claiming the SSU is OK because it will be updated in the coming months… “Is” and “will be” are two different things. We’re not talking about adding bells and whistles here, but functions that were either advertized as built-in the SSU or ones that you can reasonably expect should be there given the price point. Keep in mind that Suunto has a habit of releasing new models in a given line every year or so, so releasing a watch in August 2016 only to have it fully functional by the first quarter of 2017 (that’s assuming the 2017 Q1 update will ne the last one, which I seriously doubt) means the watch will already be well on its way to being replaced by a model that would most likely learn from the 1st generation SSU. It feels like Suunto is doing some research & development on the general public rather than in-house.

    Like James said, for that kind of money, you better get it right.

  • The5kRunner makes a really good point. Fenix3, and many other watches which came to market are not what we expected with the first release.

    Heck the original batches of the TacX Neo felt like betas we paid to use. Now look at it though! It’s a great trainer.

    I just have a problem with companies releasing products which are not quite there yet.

    It’s not as if Suunto had any pressing competition in order to keep things in the oven a little longer. The Fenix3 had already been out ages, surely a few more months would have been better to release an amazing product first time around?

    Too many companies thinking “Day one patch” is acceptable.

  • Sparty McSpartFace

    James’ review is fair for where the watch is now. the5krunner’s comments are fair for where it will be. Compromise! I’ll lay off buying for a month or so until I can create a sport profile. then I buy for the future.

  • You have been busy James!

    What features are on mine work well enough in firmware v1.1.30
    We know what features are coming and roughly when they will come from Suunto’s relatively good comms.
    I have had other advanced watches from OTHER leading companies that simply don’t work and shutdown every 30 minutes when released which I contrast to TomTom with the Runner 3,which is RELATIVELY SIMPLE and a basic update on the v2, BUT it works really well. BUT the TomTom is a relatively simple product
    Suunto are trying to deliver a complex platform for at least 2 years of extension and development. IT WILL be a great watch…a great series of watches.
    I guess that doesn’t help anyone buying now when faced with a choice of a Fenix 3 that A. will be superseded SOON and B. a Fenix that is fairly common.
    If somebody was buying me a xmas present which I had to have NOW in dec2016 I would definately go for the Spartan because A. it WILL become GREAT b. it looks very good c. it has scarcity value d. I can actually wear it 247 ! e. by Christmas it will address MY PERSONAL most basic needs (and a few more besides).

  • My unit has gone back now Frank.

  • Frank Muré

    James, thanks for your review. It’s always helpful having the other’s point of view. Just one thing… I cannot find the clock alarm yet. Where is it supposed to be?
    Thanks!

  • There was a firmware update on Sept 9th, so I got my alarm finally, but still not happy with the overall product.

    I almost feel sorry for Suunto. Clearly a lot of effort when into this watch, but perhaps not well directed effort – the redundant touch screen for example

  • CwM

    This is an excellent review, and I would say somewhat generous. My Spartan Sport arrived a week ago and it is a terrible disappointment. All of the criticisms you list for the Ultra apply to it as well, with the exception of one. If you push and hold the bottom button, from the watch face setting, it will repeat your messages and alerts. However, it does it very quickly and with no ability to pause. I too am baffled by the two non functioning lines at the top of the notification screen. At least I paid less for my disappointment. It is simply not a product close to being ready (if it ever will be) for sale. This is my first Suunto product and it will be my last. I intend to take them up on their 100% satisfaction guarantee and return to them this failure. What I find most surprising is that the majority of purchasers of this type of watch will be enthusiasts. The very consumers to expect the most from devices of this nature and the quickest to realize a subpar performer, making this failure all the more surprising and troubling. I do not see how the Suunto brand will not be damaged by this. Finally, the app is a joke. It feels like an outdated app with some software lipstick added.

  • Tuomas Koponen

    Hi, thanks for review, but I must say some critics. Most of the problems seems to be fixable in future updates. I think it is not the worst thing if watch does not have alarm function. What I have understood real accuracy (GPS not steps..) is rather ok to start with and elevation data seems to be reasonable. At least for me it is important that core functions like battery, HR-measurement, distance, elevation and time are solid. I did own Fenix 3 all most for a 6 months after it was released. During that time GPS and elevation data was more or less inaccurate. Distance was about 5-10% short and my local uphill was about 88 meters up and 57meters down. It did receive about 4 updates to fix these issues with no real improvements. Now they seems to be mostly fixed.

    So multi-sport watch manufacturer has to push product too early I rather have problems with step-count and missing alarm than messed up measurement data. I have mostly lost my hope with bt-sync with my Ambit3 Peak , but I can live with that.

    For this I would say don’t buy it just yet, wait for few more updates..

  • Mark

    A fascinating, and totally fair, review. In fact you are being most forgiving.

    I just took possession of my Spartan Ultra, and within a few hours was deeply disappointed, and genuinely stunned, at its failings. In fact, I would confidently suggest that the product I received was neither of merchantable quality, nor fit for purpose. What is certain is that the product does not do what it advertises it can do.

    So what are some additional areas needing immediate attention?

    1. Battery – Between 7:15am and 2:15pm (WITHOUT use of GPS) battery fell from 100% to 84%. This would mean that the watch will die within a day, without using GPS.

    2. Calibration – On “treadmill” run function, during which I actually ran 15km at 5km/min, the watch logged a 25.23km distance at 3.10/min (with a max of 2.38/km) and a calorie count of 176kcal. This is a significant algorithm failure of ALL components for the run, save for time. I am obviously ready for the 2020 Olympics.

    3. Steps – Regardless of whether I actually ran 15km, or virtually ran 25km, the watch suggested that I had only taken 13,000 steps after the completion of my run (which also included a number of walks to work, meetings and coffee). Amusingly, today, after sitting in the office most of the day, I managed to achieve 13,000 steps – seems that I was as effective at my desk as a 25km run!

    4. Altimeter – I sit at a desk on the 30th floor of a city tower. Within 24 hours of calibrating the altitude at sea level, the watch suggests that my desk ascended from 133m to 198m. I must inform building management of this anomaly.

    5. Android – Despite Android being the largest used global smartphone platform, the watch isn’t supported on my Samsung! I appreciate you raised this point – but I felt it needed repetition.

    6. Weather – Despite basic $50 watches possessing temperature and barometer functions, this watch possesses neither! Why would the Ambit3 have these, and yet this advanced model not?

    7. Recovery – Despite running circa 25km on the treadmill (no GPS), and recording a 10km cycle ride outdoors (using GPS) that same evening, the watch suggested that I did NOT require any recovery time!

    I appreciate that this is a first generation, but these are all totally unacceptable problems which clearly should have been fixed (as they seem to appear on everyone’s watch) before Suunto released the Spartan! I would expect this on a cheap activity watch, not one this expensive – and especially by a company with such a solid pedigree in this product line.

    To close, I must echo your exceptionally brilliant point, which I haven’t actually seen on the scores of reviews read thus far, that the touch screen is a totally obsolete option and frankly Suunto should have worried more about basics (even like alarm, temperature, etc) then a gimmick which I will likely never use!

    Thanks for reading!
    Mark

  • Thanks Marcus that looks great. I’ll do another review in a month or so then

  • Marcus Pain

    Also, if they deliver on half of the hints they make in the Make Spartan Stronger survey questions… it may just be that killer device
    http://suunto.fluidsurveys.com/surveys/suunto/spartan-survey/?_ga=1.84964634.2012694817.1465625655

  • Marcus Pain

    Here is the list of things coming in Sept- including Alarm Clock and customisation of sports modes
    Coming next

    Customization of sport modes
    Android compatibility
    Peer-to-Peer coaching in Suunto Movescount
    Annual / all-time personal best dashboard with age group comparison in Suunto Movescount 
    Long-term progress analysis in Suunto Movescount
    Community training insights from peer groups in Suunto Movescount
    Weekly planning tools for yourself and your coach in Suunto Movescount
    Alarm clock

    http://www.suunto.com/en-AU/Worlds/Training-World/Software-updates/Spartan-gets-stronger/?cmpid=EM_inside15082016&cmpid=EM_inside15082016&utm_source=EM&utm_source=EM&utm_medium=email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=15082016inside&utm_campaign=15082016inside&linkid=www.suunto.com/spartangetsstronger&et_cid=3358250&et_rid=38722601

  • Can’t stress enough I desperately wanted this watch to be a killer device, esp as it makes other companies innovate more

  • I think that’s very likely, but it does damage the brand. There are no *major* new devices planned shortly – unless Suunto are scared of the Polar M600.

    Lots of devices get additional features with firmware updates, but the Spartan is missing CORE features.

    The lack of alarm just bugged me

  • Marcus Pain

    Fairer enough review, however many of the issues you state are being addressed in updates, scheduled for this month. I have upgraded (? ) from Suunto Ambit S2 and feel it is only half done, but I have confidence that by the end of the year, many of these issues, and much more will be done… Although this does raise the question of why did they release it half done so they get reviews like this?

    My conclusion is… Don’t buy yet… Wait a few months and it will be great… Hopefully