Reviews

Suunto Spartan Sport GPS Multi-Sport Watch – User Review | GadFit

March 26, 2017

So I decided to revisit the Suunto Spartan Sport again, exactly six months after I returned it last year. Back then, I loved the look of the device but the functions were lacking and one can only wonder how such a feature-poor device could command the premium price of $549 USD. Not to mention you got to throw in another $50 if you’re looking to utilise the chest strap HR monitor from Suunto.

Over the last few months, Suunto has been diligently updating their Suunto Spartan line with software improvements and the watch did get better over time. The current Suunto Spartan Sport I used for this review has already received 2 major over-the-air (OTA) updates with more feature planned in the pipeline. After 2 weeks of usage, this is what I have to say.

You have to bear in mind that the Suunto Spartan Sport with wrist HR edition ($449) is officially available as of publication.
suunto spartan sport unboxed

SUUNTO SPARTAN SPORT IN SHORT

Pros

  • Activity tracker. Records steps and calories
  • GPS and GLONASS with FusedSpeed
  • Estimates indoor run distances with accelerometer
  • Multi Sport mode
  • 30-day training summary on the watch
  • Long term analysis with training load trends, PTEs and HR zones in Suunto Movescount
  • More than 80 pre-installed sports modes on watch
  • Customisable display fields on watch during workouts
  • Access real time HR graph trends, lap tables with heart rate, power and speed
  • Swimming stroke rate, count and type
  • Running power with Stryd sensor
  • Heart rate with memory during swimming with Suunto Smart Sensor
  • 100m water resistant
  • Hand made in Finland
  • Review training summary in Movescount platform
  • Rich navigation features with digital tilt compensated compass
  • Compatible with Suunto Bike Sensor and BLE power meters, including 3rd party BLE devices
  • Up to 16 hrs in training mode and about a week in watch mode
  • Estimated Peak Training Effect (PTE), Recovery period, Excess Post Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) readings when used with HR monitors
  • Dual-time display
  • Stop Watch function
  • Create Interval workouts right on watch

Cons

  • Laggy
  • Touch display lack responsiveness, doesn’t always work
  • Bluetooth connection unstable. Erratic connection with compatible mobile device
  • High price for limited features
  • All day activity tracking features lacking
  • Limited smart notification customisation.
  • Single alarm setting and audio only
  • Limited changeable watch face options

LOOK AND FEEL

On the whole, the Suunto Spartan Sport is a well crafted handsome looking device. The stainless steel bezel gives the watch that extra polish and accentuates the appearance.

The colour display performs decently under bright sunlight and a LED back light enables the user to see the watch under low light conditions.Suunto Spartan Sport featureUsers can also tweak the brightness levels of the display. Even though I have mine set at 100%, I didn’t find it exceedingly bright. The watch face is changeable but choices are limited at present and restricted to Suunto’s pre-loaded repertoire.

Despite the touch screen display which I’m not a fan of, Suunto had the foresight to include 3 physical buttons which pretty much controlled all the workings of the watch with short and long presses. These are the functions of the 3 buttons:

Top right: Multi-Sport mode (Long press)/ Up (Short press)/ Stop or pause tracking during workout (Short press)

Middle: Enter (Short press)/ Back (Long press)

Bottom right: Lap (Short press)/ Lock Screen (Long press)

The touch display on the other hand is lags and is irksome to use at best. Plus all the swiping will not doubt mar the gorgeous display.

Despite a stainless steel bezel with mineral glass, the polyamide case with silicon straps capped the weight of the Suunto Spartan Sport at a mere 70 g. I had smart notifications turned on with 3 hours worth of training and could comfortable go a week before charging is required. The screen goes to sleep when the in-watch accelerometer senses its not being worn. Definitely a battery saving feature.

Also, with 100 m water resistant rating, this watch can pretty much accompany you on all your sporting pursuits.The words “Suunto Spartan Sport” is prominently emblazoned on the back of the watch. The 4 dots are actually the connectors for the charging cable which is both magnetic and proprietary.

The watch strap is changeable but the watch case isn’t.

FUNCTIONS AND DATA PRESENTATION

User Interface

Suunto Spartan Sport widgetsThe user interface emphasises clean design and the essentials. The 3 physical buttons allow the users to control all the features of the watch. The touch display on the other hand is forgettable, lags and irksome to use at best.There are some neat features such as the training summary display which I found really useful for getting a sensing of the training load for the month. Users can quickly see the duration and distance clocked for the month and provides a quick overview of the top 4 workouts and training load.Logbook is also another nice widget that allows the user to access completed training details of previous workouts. The workout summary screens are honestly splendid to look at and unless you’re into the finer details, it should suffice.

Another well intended display is the recovery counter where it fills up after every training and slowly counts down to full recovery. The accuracy is really dependent on each company’s algorithm; I’d take it with a pinch of salt. As always, your body is the best judge whether you’re ready to go hard or take things easy.

Lastly, if you’re into orienteering, the navigation widget should serve your needs well with the electronic compass, the creation of routes and POIs (Points of Interest) on the Movescount web platform.

GPS & GLONASS

Originally, the Suunto Spartan Sport only had GPS functionality with the GLONASS support enabled via a software update a couple of months later.

The Spartan Sport watch lasts up to 10 hours in best accuracy mode and 16 in good accuracy mode; both are with every second GPS fix rate. Users can choose between best, good and ok setting when it comes to GPS tracking.

GPS acquisition speed is fast. I can usually get a signal in less than a minute. I make it a point to stress that running in the garden city of Singapore, with the tall buildings and overhead foliage, makes GPS acquisition challenging.

The overall pace is accurate but less so for the pace-on-the-fly which I found to be jumpier than I’m used to.

Two outdoor 6km runs in the same location  had me clocking near similar distances in “Best” GPS accuracy mode with GLONASS enabled.

  • 12th March 2017: 5.80 km
  • 16th March 2017: 5.92 km
  • 28th March 2017 :5.62 km

If autolap feature is enabled, the Suunto Spartan Sport will buzz slightly accompanied by an audio beep. There’s also a real-time lap tables with pace and heart rate which I personally found useful during my runs.

Sports Profiles and display fields customisation

The user may elect to upload up to 20 profiles from a list of close to 80 ranging from horseback riding, circuit training to windsurfing and pilates. In a nutshell, it’s ridiculously extensive.This list of 20 profiles which Suunto calls the “Shortlist” will appear on the Suunto Spartan Sport watch. Users have some autonomy in tweaking the display fields. I say “some” because a few profiles are cast in stone while most allow the user to customise the display fields and appearance.For example, I could add a new running profile and tweak the display settings to my liking but I’m not able to do the same for triathlon. The maximum number of data fields you can choose is 7.

There’s an entire list of sport profiles so choose your most frequently used carefully. In my case, running is my main form of workout so I actually have 4 sport profiles on running alone. One for interval training, one for racing, one for long runs and the last a treadmill run for recovery workouts.

Suunto did leave an option for users to create their own unique profile. That option is called “Unspecified Sport.” I could flex my muscles and create any forms of display to my liking and then rename it.

If you just want to run with a GPS watch and keep things simple, then you won’t be tapping into the full potential of the Suunto Spartan Sport watch.

However if you’re willing to spend some time tweaking and delving into the Movescount ecosystem, you’ll probably emerge a better planned athlete wannabe; it takes getting used to but it’s worth it.

Multi-Sport Mode

By long pressing the bottom right button during a workout, the current workout will stop and the user may choose another to start from the 20 sports profiles. So for example, I may be pool swimming before activity Multi-Sport mode to proceed to running.

In this aspect, there’s no need to create other multi-sport workouts since users can easily jump from one to another provided the sports profile is in the short list.suunto spartan sport multi sport modeYou can see from the screen grab above that I’ve completed a multi-sport mode workout which is basically a 5 minutes warm up, a 30 minutes run, followed by a 10 minutes cool down.

Stats such as lap, HR, pace and so on are all lumped within single event. So unlike actual multi-sport events like duathlon or triathlon, you don’t get transition timings.

Compatible Bluetooth sensors

If swimming forms a staple of your workouts, you absolutely have to get this chest strap HR monitor. With the Suunto Smart Sensor, you’ll be able to track your HR during pool or open swims. This is somewhat similar Garmin’s HRM-Tri or Polar’s H10.

Suunto’s Smart Sensor is lightweight and merely the size of a coin. The HR sensor did get stuck in the HR strap and took a bit of elbow grease to remove, albeit carefully. I’ve read reviews online where users have damaged the belt after yanking the stuck sensor forcibly out of the belt. You’ll have to be careful here.
The Suunto Spartan Sport watch is able to able to pair with other Bluetooth enabled 3rd party chest strap HR monitors. I tried Polar H7, Polar H10 and even the Scosche Rhythm + and it all connected seamlessly. The only issue I have is that the BLE devices are not named. It’s merely shown as “HR monitor.

If you have the Stryd power sensor, you’d be delighted to know it shows up as a display field on the watch when connected. The compatibility extends to the Suunto Bike Sensor and BLE power meters.

All day activity tracking

While it tracks daily activities such as steps and calories, I found this aspect of Suunto’s Spartan Sport subdued. There’s  no sleep monitoring, distance estimation (except during workouts), nor reminders to move after extended periods of sitting. In all honesty, the step and calories count seem more cursory than necessary.

Intervals

Suunto spartan sport intervalsA firmware update added the intervals feature where users can create interval training right on the Suunto Spartan Sport watch without having to access the Suunto Movecounts app.

Navigation

There’s a widget tab that can quickly access navigation features of the Suunto Spartan Sport. The lack of an altimeter makes navigation a bitter sweet experience since the altitude provided during workouts and navigation is GPS map-based. Users can quickly find current location if GPS signal has been acquired and subsequently designate it as POIs, geocache points and so on.

During trail runs or hike activities, the breadcrumb trails will also be activated, allowing the user to have a quick view of the route covered.Some may find the navigation features of little use while for others, the navigation capability complements the training functions, ensuring the best bang for your buck.

Smart Notifications, audio and vibration alerts

Suunto has enabled smart notifications in the format of all or nothing at all. So you’ll receive all messages, app notifications and incoming calls, or nothing. I would have loved to see incoming calls but bar all app and text notifications. At present it is not possible to tweak this.

The notifications can be set to alert in the form of audio beeps, vibrations or both.

Users can also set one alarm which goes off like an old $20 Casio watch beeping. At $549, I’d at least thought I’d be able to choose between vibration or audio for setting an alarm to wake up to. Clearly Suunto disagrees.

Movescount mobile app and web platform

The entire Movescount platform is geared towards performance or training. So if you’re looking for something the likes of Fitbit whose focus is more all day activity tracking, then Suunto Sport Spartan might not be a suitable device for you.The key to reaping the full potential from the Movescount platform is regular usage. Like the other major industry players such as Garmin, Polar and Fitbit, Suunto’s Movescount allows the user to get an overview of the tracked workout sessions, create your own training program or choose multiple pre-set programmes and it’s up to the user to select and adjust.I personally found the way information is presented on the Movescount platform pleasing and navigation friendly. This is largely due to the fact that Suunto has designed the Movescount platform to appear clean and concise.

Movescount platform is also where the user can tweak the sports profiles and display field settings. As you can see from the screen grab above, training load, feeling and long term HR zones for all training is clearly displayed
The mobile app version of the Movescount platform pales in comparison to the web platform in terms of functionality and is, in my opinion, more for training summary review than training planning. The only single fun feature which is unique to the mobile app is the creation of a workout movie. Basically it shows the route covered in a cinematic way.

ANYTHING ELSE?

The Suunto Spartan Sport is water resistant to 100m so getting it wet and using it for all your water activities is more than welcomed.

The battery life is good. I was able to go a week easily without the device shutting off. I also clocked about 3 hours worth of workouts during a week.When in pool swim mode, the length of the pool can be customised. I was able to choose between 15-330 metre/yards though I frankly have no idea if there’s such a lengthy pool in the world. Oh well.

I’m not a fan of the Bluetooth connection and syncing process. The Bluetooth connection disconnects when out of range of the mobile device and does not automatically connect again. Furthermore, there are no options to manually sync the workouts.

The Suunto Spartan Sport offers more information than what I’ve seen on competition platforms. Again, it depends whether the user has use for information such as EPOC (Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption) or respiratory rate during a run.

SUUNTO SPARTAN SPORT IN A NUTSHELL

I like the display and the fonts. Yep, you heard me right. I like the fonts. Someone at Suunto paid a lot of attention to the display and it’s beautiful. The workout summary is beautifully sized with the fonts at the correct ratio. It makes for a very comfortable viewing experience. The user interface is novel but I’m presently neutral to it.
suunto spartan sport main featureDespite all focus on the aesthetics, the lack of attention to the finer details left me wanting. An example would be the alarm which only goes off with audio beeps despite the fact that the watch is vibration enabled. The Bluetooth connection is erratic. Once I’m out of range from my connected mobile device, the Suunto Spartan Sport doesn’t automatically connect again.

Also wrist flicks will not turn on the display back light, only pressing of buttons in automatic mode or tapping the display with two fingers in manual mode activates the back light. There’s also no sleep tracking nor move reminders. Perhaps Suunto have immense belief in their products to ignore features which any run of the mill fitness trackers would have. They seriously shouldn’t.

The new series of Android Wear 2.0 devices are pretty impressive if it wasn’t for the battery life. Not to mention Fitbit’s rumoured delivery of a smart watch device with its own app ecosystem. Plus Garmin’s Fenix 5 series is set to impress. Competition is rife and there’s no room for complacency. Even though the current Suunto Spartan Sport watch is a much better device compared to what it originally was 6 months ago, I would only recommend this watch if the price is right.

At $549, there are better options out there such as Garmin’s Fenix 5 series. But I’ve seen the Suunto Spartan Sport on Amazon going for a mere $300-$400 thereabouts for a brand new unit with Suunto Smart Sensor HR monitor thrown in. At that price, the features to price ratio is great and makes the Suunto Spartan Sport a worthy consideration.

You can purchase the Suunto Spartan Sport from Amazon where there’s usually a small discount, great return policy, and free delivery depending on where you reside. In return your purchase helps to offset the costs associated with the running of this site. Thanks for reading!

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