Back in August, Suunto approached me to see if I would be interested in testing their new Spartan Ultra watch which was being launched imminently. This happened to be quite timely as my last GPS watch was at the bottom of the ocean after a bit too much fun. When Suunto got in touch I was already considering buying their Ambit 3 as I had heard great things about the brand and more and more friends were switching to Suunto. And so the love affair begins…
On first impression when opening the box, I was immediately struck by how large the watch was and worried that it would grow dirty quite quickly as I had been sent the white version. I needn’t have worried though as the watch strap still looks pristine even after testing it for a full month. The screen is prone to fingermarks but these wipe off easily and I guess is to be expected from a device which has the functionality of touch screen. I actually really love the fact that the Spartan Ultra has incorporated touch screen into the device as it feels quite intuitive when scrolling back from the main menus. As someone with relatively small wrists I thought the size of the watch would irritate me but actually I have grown to love the size and large round face…it feels much lighter than my previous GPS too. Whilst I have grown to love the large size of the watch in training, I know that it will cause me a few issues when racing in a triathlon as I will need to take it off my wrist and put it back on again in transition 1 in order to get my wetsuit off. That’s just an incentive to be speedier on the bike though.
If there is one thing this watch can do, it’s track every sport imaginable. For me, this is probably the best technical feature of the watch. So far I have used it for running, cycling, kayaking, sailing, pool swimming and open water swimming. There is also the functionality to track a triathlon race which I will be doing at Hever Castle Triathlon. In addition to the sports I have already used it for, a few other examples of activities you can track include circuit training, skiing (cross country or alpine), rowing, hiking, and can even differentiate between trail, road and track running, in addition to many more. As someone who epitomises the phrase ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ this watch really is fabulous…I just love being able to track every single sport I have an interest in.
This is a very mundane feature to mention but one I really do feel is worth a dedicated section to. You know how annoying it is when you’re waiting for your watch to pick up a signal? This isn’t a problem with the Suunto Spartan Ultra. With previous watches there have been times where I could have run my first mile in the time I had to wait for satellites to be located (I’m really not joking), and so it is incredibly refreshing to hit start and have things ready to go in a matter of seconds.
Another slightly dull technical feature to mention as something I love however anyone who takes part in endurance sports will understand the struggle of your watch dying at a critical moment. I tend to train 6 days a week at about 1-2 hours duration on each day and I have only had to recharge my watch once per week, and even then it still had a decent percentage of battery life left in it. Although I’m not a marathon or ultra runner, I suspect this watch would be a dream for you (in fact, my ultra-running uncle uses a different model in the Suunto range and he thinks his watch is brilliant too).
The display on the watch is also pretty impressive, it has a sapphire glass colour display which feels really durable. The screen is incredibly easy to read, even in bright light which was something I struggled with when trying to read my previous GPS. Another benefit of the large screen is that the information displayed when tracking a sport is big and bold so you don’t need to spend ages looking at your wrist to get a general idea of where you’re at. It also feels like a bit of a treat having a colour display – I don’t know why this should make a difference, but it just feels that little bit more sophisticated and like it’s ahead of its competitors in this respect. Whilst the default screen is a clock (very handy!) it is really easy to navigate up and down to get to where you want to be within the menu, it also has a rather aesthetically pleased tally and colour-coded breakdown of all the activity you have done in that particular week.
Suunto uses a platform called Movescount to keep track of your activity, and as well as the web platform there is also an app which is really easy to download and use. At first I was a little apprehensive – I’ve always been a Strava lover and moving to Movescount would mean I would lose my followers and wouldn’t be earning any Queen of the Mountains (fellow Strava-lovers will appreciate the importance of this…). Well, it turns out I love Movescount. I could of course export my files and reupload them to Strava to get 100% stat-tracking satisfaction, but actually I am perfectly happy with what Movescount provides.Within the app I can create videos of my routes (which you will have seen if you follow me on Twitter)…I personally love this feature and wish I was an ultra runner so my videos could be that much cooler. But still, I created a video from running in Paris and from sailing out to the Maunsell Forts so have had my fair share of fun. I’m planning to create a video of my triathlon too and am really keen to see how that turns out. I also love the heat maps within the web platform and how stylish and clean the site is.
General Fitness Tracker
I have never really been into the whole ‘wear a fitness tracker in daily life’ trend and subsequently have not bought one of these, however I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Suunto Spartan Ultra could also double up as a fitness tracker and could tell me how many steps a day I was taking. I only tried this for one day, because, if I’m honest I really don’t feel the need to track my steps because I know that I am far more physically active than most people and also because a sports watch doesn’t really fit in with the clothes I would wear to work. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see just how many steps I took on an average day in a sedentary office based job and take comfort in the fact that if for some reason I had to stop exercising, I would still be a relatively healthy and active human being.
I would really like the Suunto Spartan Ultra to autopause when I stop during a workout. As a blogger (and I am sure many of you can relate to this) I occasionally stop to take a photo whilst out and about, and whilst it isn’t a huge issue having to stop the watch each time it would be helpful if the watch could pause itself when no movement is detected. I am yet to find a device that does this but it really would be something that would convince me to invest in a product…the same issue also applies to waiting at traffic lights too. And don’t even get me started on the distress of forgetting to restart your watch. The other slight issue I had was just before heading out sailing; I had lined the watch up ready to start tracking that particular activity but didn’t want to press start as I was still rigging my boat. But low and behold, it started automatically after a minute or so of waiting for me to get moving which meant I then had to restart the watch when I realised upon launching and had a workout that I needed to delete once home and uploaded onto Movescount. Again, this isn’t a huge issue but was a slight inconvenience at the time as I hadn’t deleted a workout at that point and was worried it would mess up my stats. I am also an Android user so haven’t been able to pair my phone directly with my device, although apparently a software update is being released at the end of this month which will fix this issue.
Would I recommend?
Oh, wholeheartedly YES! I absolutely adore this watch and feel like it has become quite a trusted friend throughout this month of training. At the moment the positives of the watch far outweigh the very few negatives and I feel like it would be a great watch for someone who enjoys taking part in multiple sports.
The watch I have retails at £519 which I feel would be prohibitive for people who just like to go for an occasional run and would not recommend it as an entry-level device, but if you are a serious endurance athlete then this is certainly a model you should consider.