Reviews

Suunto 7 Smart Watch Review – GadFit Singapore

April 5, 2020

Suunto 7 ($499) was the missing piece in Suunto’s product line up since the 3,5,9 debuted 1-2 years ago. There was always that nagging thought on what 7 would be. So, lo and behold, Suunto finally announced the Suunto 7 a few months back. My initial thoughts? Gorgeous looking watch, immense potential, high priced.

Suunto 7 vs 5 and 9

By adopting Google’s WearOS, Suunto essentially leapfrogged their competitors; some of whom spent years developing proprietary contactless payment, on-device maps, and music playback features.

After a full month of using the Suunto 7, here’s what I have to say.

This wearable is intended for people who appreciate a gorgeous looking piece of wearable on their wrist that double up as a smart watch and training companion – busy individuals who need to carve out time in a day to work out. Depending on the configuration, the Suunto 7’s battery easily lasts more than a day of use, with smart watch functions and perhaps an hour of workout thrown in. This smart watch marries Suunto’s extensive list of sports training profiles and the smarts of the Wear OS. And like all marriages, it takes effort to work, pun intended.

Suunto 7 in box

Read on for the detailed review. The Suunto 7 smart watch was paired with an iOS device for this review. From what I have read, Android users have vastly different experiences; usually more positive. The Suunto 7 used for this review was purchased through regular retail channels.

SUUNTO 7 LOOK AND FEEL

There is something about the Finnish philosophy of design that makes Suunto’s recent wearables pleasing to the eye, both on and off the wrist. And the Suunto 7 is no exception.

Suunto 7 front view

The smart watch is lightweight at just 70 grams. For comparison sake, the Suunto 9 Baro is 72 grams but felt heavier. The Fenix 6 weighs in at 83 grams. These are all relatively big display watches on the market now.

The high resolution touch display is magnificent and easily captures attention when coupled with some of Suunto’s iconic watch faces. You can choose between always-on or normal display. Watch faces and wrist straps are customisable.

  • suunto 7 watch faces

In normal display mode, the display turns off after a short while. In always-on mode, the display is on but dimmed, and illuminates fully when activated by wrist flick, display tap, or press of the button. Display brightness levels can be adjusted under settings.

display on and off

Four buttons orchestrate the workings of the watch. You can further customise the centre right and bottom right buttons to quickly access regularly used apps or features. I set mine as timer and stopwatch since I use those features on a daily basis in my line of work.

Suunto 7 multiple views

The stainless steel bezel, similar in appearance to that on the Suunto Spartan Sports HR albeit with minute differences, adds that touch of sophistication to an otherwise plasticky-feeling watch.

The aesthetic portion of the Suunto 7 has been executed perfectly. This watch will turn heads and that alone has garnered quite a bit of attention based on the online sites I visit.

The back of the watch houses the charging port and optical heart rate (HR) sensors which are not from Valencell. And the smartwatch is water resistant to 50m and has a barometric altimeter.

BATTERY LIFE

Battery life should last longer than 24 hours when used normally. Suunto claims the watch can provide up to 2 days of use in smartwatch mode and up to 12 hours in GPS tracking mode.*

Based on my personal experience, the battery usually lasts slightly longer than 24 hours but wouldn’t make it past 2 days unless battery saver mode is activated when watch is not in use.

battery life suunto 7

Here is a breakdown of my usage pattern for the Suunto 7 with brightness set to maximum.

  • 10pm – Wears fully charged Suunto 7 to sleep with display turned off.
  • 6am- Wears the same watch to work. Google Wear OS, Google Fit, Suunto app, Google Assistant app all ran in the background. Display is in always-on mode.
  • 6-7 pm- Return from work (battery remaining range between 20-30%)
  • Goes for a ~30 minutes jog (battery at 10-20%)
  • 9pm – Charge watch, repeat.

Daily charge is definitely needed. Furthermore, I’m not a heavy user of music from the watch or smart watch features.

When it came to workout recording, this was the battery usage I observed based on display brightness set to maximum.

  • 1 hour outdoors run with wrist HR, GPS, no music, normal display: 21%
  • ~30 mins outdoor run with wrist HR, GPS, no music, normal display: 10%
  • ~30 mins outdoor run with wrist HR, GPS, no music, always-on display: 19%
  • ~30 mins indoor treadmill workout with wrist HR only, normal display: 2%

I’m unsure if the Suunto 7 smartwatch can last for 12 hours for GPS recording with wrist HR like what Suunto claimed. I’m guessing the lowest display brightness, or not activating the display at all may help with extended usage.

The watch also has an impressive battery saver mode which puts the watch in time mode only.

battery saver watch face suunto 7

In this mode, all functions are turned off and the watch shows a special watch face which you can see above. All I could remember about this mode was that it really stretched the battery out out the watch. Suunto claims 40 days of use in this mode.

WORKOUT EXPERIENCE

The Suunto 7 smart watch is practically-designed for training use. It is lighter than both the Suunto 9 and Suunto 5, yet has a display large enough to view stats comfortably.

The watch is intended for no-frills users though a bit of customisation would have been helpful instead of the de facto workout displays on the watch. You can see the default workout display below for running profile.

suunto 7 workout display

During workout recording, the wrist-flick to illuminate watch display was a tad slow for my liking. Comparatively, the wrist flick to illuminate display when using Google Fit app for workout recording was faster!

Like most runners, I like that quick flick-and-peek routine and have little patience to flick and wait, even if marginally. So, some work for Suunto to do here.

Manual laps can be recorded with a press of the bottom right button. Auto laps will also be captured by the mile or km depending on configuration.

SUUNTO 7 LAP

The watch has a nice strong vibration together with loud audio beeps which are more prominent than the other Suunto watches I have used.

One of the key selling point of the Suunto 7 watch is the 70 pre-loaded sports profiles. This would include single sport profiles such as running, cycling, swimming, to niche sports such as windsurfing, cross country skiing, softball and so on.

sports profiles

Absolutely no complains when recording workouts with the Suunto 7. So much so I wished Suunto made a version of the 7 without the Wear OS.

GPS ACCURACY

To provide a benchmark for the GPS performance, the Suunto 7 was used alongside the Suunto 5. The Suunto 7 would be worn on the left wrist while the Suunto 5 was carried in the hand.

suunto 7 and 5 testing

To assess the GPS recording performance, I used the Suunto 7 on routes that I have usually train on. In Singapore, it is common to run on roads flanked by tall buildings on the side. The picture below should give you a good idea of the concrete jungle I call home.

tall buildings in Singapore

The first location is ten loops around a measured route of roughly 650m where I do my hills intervals. Suunto 7’s measured distance was consistent even when the same run was repeated the next day. On this test day, Suunto 5 recorded a more accurate track but Suunto 7 did not fare too badly.

suunto 5 vs 7 GPS

This is 12km on a standard 400 m track. I think the Suunto 7 was on fire that day as both distance and recorded track was accurate.

suunto 7 around track

In both run locations, the Suunto 7 put up a decent and consistent GPS recording performance based on my personal experience.

I’d urge you to visit other reviewer’s sites to get a few opinions since I use the wearables in Singapore, and in a particular way.

WRIST HR

For wrist heart rate assessment, the Suunto 7 was pit against a Polar H10 chest strap HR monitor for a two activities which most runners will do – outdoors run, hills intervals.

I have always been a good candidate for wrist HR wearables but I wanted to stress that your mileage may vary. Singapore is warm, sunny, and humid. The humidity is perpetually high at about 80-90%. Temperature is usually around 31 degrees Celsius. Unlike colder countries where warm up is needed, it’s constantly warm here so, most wearables can pick up a HR reading from the get-go.

The outdoors run involved start/stop at traffic junctions, running in the open and under tree foliage, and includes a bit of upslope and some downslope. Basically, more variance compared to a regular paced treadmill run. The Suunto 7 had no difficulties recording the HR during this run.

SUUNTO 7 HR ACCURACY 1

The uphill intervals should pose more of a challenge to most wrist HR sensors. And it’s safe to say the Suunto 7’s optical HR sensors performed remarkably.

SUUNTO 7 HR ACCURACY 2

OFFLINE MAPS

Even though the Suunto 7 is a no-frills training watch, you should be glad to know that 1-sec recording is the default recording mode. The available global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) are GPS, GLONASS, QZSS, BEIDOU. As to which is activated and when, I had no way of knowing.

The map is a nice touch and kick starts when workout recording is initiated. The top right and bottom right buttons on the watch serves to zoom in or out of the map display.

In map screen, you can’t lap nor stop the workout. You have to move to another screen in order to do that. The map came up where ever I ran in Singapore, without the need for connection to a mobile device, as it was downloaded beforehand.

suunto 7 maps

The downloading of maps allows the user to use the watch without requiring an active connection to connected mobile device. To access this function, you have scroll to whichever part of the world you would like the map of, the types of maps you want, then download it. 

For downloading to proceed automatically, the watch must be connected to Wifi and charging.

  • downloading maps

Is it possible to use the watch for navigation?

Not entirely but possible if you really need to.

The downloaded offline maps does not provide details like Google maps does. Furthermore you can only access maps in workout mode. A real pity in my opinion. Navigation features with offline maps should be seriously considered. After all, why let that gorgeous map display go to waste?

TRAINING ACCESSORIES

The native Suunto app on the watch does not allow connection to external training accessories. I get the feeling that Suunto feels the target audience for the Suunto 7 is one that isn’t going to bother with connecting external training accessories. Well, they might be right, or wrong.

Look at how Garmin has enabled virtual run for users to tap on Zwift run. Suunto’s desired group of consumers definitely does exist. But, whichever group of consumers it is, everybody wants more value for their product.

Ironically, the Google Fit app on the same watch allows connection to BLE training accessories for workout use. If you look at the picture above, I was able to pair Polar H10 chest strap HR monitor.

DATA REVIEW

The Suunto app stores the details for workouts recorded by the Suunto 7 with the on-watch Suunto app.

But, all-day-activity stats are kept within the Google Fit app. If you wish to see your calories burned, movement minutes, resting heart rate for the day, you have to refer to the Google Fit app. You will also seem a summary of the workout recorded with Suunto app but not the details.

This relationship appears to be one-way. Suunto ports data to Google Fit but Google Fit doesn’t port all day activity data to the Suunto app. It is strange, mildly inconvenient, and shouldn’t have been as such.

You may also access both all-day activity and detailed workout recording stats directly on the watch.

Also, Suunto app currently allows only one wearable connection per mobile device. So if you have two Suunto wearables, that’s just too bad. As of publication, Fitbit, Garmin, Polar, and even Apple all allow more than one wearable of the same brand to be connected to a compatible mobile device.

ALL DAY STATS

With the Suunto 7, you get steps, all day heart rate, calories, distance, and Google Fit’s unique Move and Heart points. The caveat is that all the stats are recorded within Google Fit.

At present, sleep quality tracking is not available on the Suunto 7 natively, neither are Firstbeat measurements. This is a stark contrast to the entry Suunto 3, the mid-tier Suunto 5, and the performance Suunto 9.

There is no reason why sleep tracking or body resources should not matter to the no-frills group of users. In fact, I’d be bold and state that it matters more for people who need to carve out time in a day to squeeze in a workout.

WEAR OS

Access to Google Play means the user can install and customise the Suunto 7 to a large extend. From using other apps for exercise recording to changing of watch faces.

suunto 7 apps

I installed a few workout apps such as Adidas Runtastic, Nike Running Club, Strava, to try and those worked albeit not spectacularly. The apps just did not have the aesthetic appeal that the Suunto app on the watch had.

I had a lot of concerns about Suunto 7’s smart watch features. Notably the trifecta of Google Assistant, Fit, and Pay. If all these features worked as intended, the Suunto 7 would have been a blast and I truly believed that.  Yet, in its current state it was anything but that.

Google Pay is not available on Wear OS in Singapore. So, while you can use Google Pay on a compatible mobile device, you can’t do so with the Suunto 7 due to Wear OS limitations.

Suunto 7’s Wifi auto connect/ disconnect needs urgent fixing in its current state. When it worked, both Google Assistant and Translate wowed and impressed. When it didn’t, and this was more than half the time, it was frustrating.

It seems the watch would disconnect Wifi automatically after a short period of use. And I’d be left hanging. But, how could it be? In fact, the watch was right next to my Wifi router. So, I brought up the settings, found that Wifi wasn’t connected. Then I’d wait a few seconds for it to connect in order to try the smart watch features again. Throughout it all, the Wear OS app ran in the background and showed “connected” via BLE.

This ineffectual implementation would be repeated numerous times. It is a lot of hoops to jump through to get one aspect of the watch working. And it got tiring after a while.

Specifically as an iOS users, I had to inconveniently refer to Google Fit for all day tracked stats, and then to Suunto app for my detail workouts stats. But why?

When it came to music, I was able to control music on the Apple Music app on my iPhone from the Suunto 7. That’s nice.

I was also able to install Spotify app on the watch and control my Spotify library from the Suunto 7. That’s nice too.

However, I wasn’t able to sync my music from my Spotify playlist on my iPhone to the Suunto 7 because this feature isn’t available. I may be wrong but it seems the only music portal which currently allows offline playback and sync is Google Play.

The single jewel in this whole Wear OS episode that had me impressed, for a while, was the Google Translate feature. And only in the short duration when it worked.

Throughout the exploration of the Wear OS aspect of the Suunto 7, I faced a lot of these tiny challenges that eventually made me defer to my mobile device instead as it was just…faster and easier.

My decision essentially neutered the “smarts” of the Suunto 7; and effectively halved the amount I was willing to pay for this smartwatch.

I like to believe Android device users have it better.

SUUNTO 7 IN A NUTSHELL

By sticking to their product differentiation strategy that this is a simple-to-use watch for the busy individual, Suunto might have missed the boat to make a larger impact on the wearables scene with the Suunto 7.

In all honesty, I appreciate a good watch and have no qualms paying for a smartwatch that works well. But I did encounter serious issues with the “smarts” aspects of the Suunto 7. Google Pay on Wear OS? Not available in Singapore. Google Assistant? Doesn’t work most of the time unless I work it. No native sleep tracking, no all day stats in Suunto app, no Firstbeat measurements, no workout display customisation, no multi-sport mode, no connection to external training accessories, no navigation features, can’t connect two wearables to a mobile device.

I noticed there are people out there who love this watch if the ratings on Amazon are anything to go by. I’m guessing the smartwatch features worked better for them than for me. The saving grace is that the workout recording experience, GPS accuracy, wrist HR, and high resolution display are all good. But, these features should not cost half a grand.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the review. You can purchase the Suunto 7 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. Take care and train hard!

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