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Suunto Ambit Review

This review is still in progress and I'm updating and adding new impressions regularly as I gain more experience with the Ambit and Movescount.

 

Overview Outdoor Functions Training Functions Movescount Conclusions

 

ďYou could call it a watch, but that hardly seems fair.Ē 

This is the first sentence of the Welcome section in the Ambit user manual. They also sometimes call it the ďGPS for explorers.Ē After putting the Suunto Ambit through the paces out in the real world myself, Iíd have a tough time disagreeing with this.

 

INTRODUCTION

This review is ongoing and what you read here is based on my impressions in only a short time with it. I will continue to update and add more information as time goes by and I gain more experience with the it.

Note that this review based upon a fully functional Ambit, not a pre-production release. But keep in mind an amazing reality - with the technology in Ambit, Suunto can continually and easily provide you upgrades to the instrument via the internet, so entirely new features may be added or existing ones tweaked from the when Iíve written this review. Now thatís impressive power!

Although the Suunto Ambit and supporting software have an impressive amount of depth, Iím going to try to keep this short and sweet to give you a feel for what it can do and, importantly, how it actually performs in the field. You can download the manual if you are curious to have more detail on the actual workings. There are also several other reviews with loads of great photos taken from every angle imaginable.

Iím going to split the contents of this review over several pages, with each page covering an aspect of the Ambit. Each page will have its own comments/discussion section at the bottom, so feel free to leave any comments on the page that most applies.

The pages are:

  • Introduction (this page)
  • Outdoor functions
  • Training Functions
  • Movescount
  • Conclusions†

Why am I doing the Suunto Ambit Review?

Iíll touch on most functions of the Ambit in my review, but one of the primary interests initially was wrapping a Suunto Ambit review into a project I'm currently doing that will help enable me to maximize my physical training efforts while helping me avoid overworking myself physically.

The first component, Restwise, is allowing me to get a feel for the state of recovery of my body day-to-day while the second component, Zeo, is monitoring the quality of my sleep. As a final component to this, the Suunto Ambit rounds things out by allowing me to get in-tune with the functioning of my body during- and post-workout.

Beyond this angle, Iím an avid backcountry skier and mountaineer, so other aspects of my review will primarily come out of testing in those environments plus gym-based training, but Suunto has designed this capable instrument to be used by a wide range of sporting enthusiasts. 

Physical Characteristics  

The Ambit is nice, light, and a surprisingly compact size for the capabilities it offers, weighing about the same as several other similarly classed instruments Iíve used that donít even have GPS functionality. Some are a bit lighter, but certainly not built of the same abuse-taking materials of the Ambit. If youíre a mountaineer, you will hardly think of the Ambit while youíre stewing about the weight of your gear ;-)

I have a the silver model, but it also comes in black.

The buttons are large and easy to operate. There is also a ďbutton lockĒ feature which I really appreciate since when Iím moving around in the mountains Iíve found that with other watches Iíve often had the buttons unintentionally get pressed, changing the display on me or even stopping logging altogether which can be super frustrating. No problemo with the Ambit!

The menu of the interface is simple, logical, and straightforward.  One of the really cool things about the Ambit is that the visuals of interface are very configurable, especially in Exercise mode. Read more about this on the Movescount page.

If you remove you Ambit and leave it stationary on a table, it will go into sleep mode after about thirty minutes to conserve battery life. When you pick it, it immediately comes back to life.

With regards to the heart rate belt, when I first looked at it, I thought it seemed a little fragile compared to others Iíve used. However, Iíve not encountered any issues with it yet and in fact have come to quite appreciate its comfort. Putting the sensors on fabric and reducing the plastic bulk down to a tiny disc also seems to help it stay in place on my chest, which has often been a hassle with other belts. It also seems to help maintain the heart rate reading as the sensors are more fully in contact with my skin and Iíve not yet lost the reading during exercise, which has been a common issue with other belts. Note that the belt does take its own battery, which is replaceable.

Battery

I was initially excited about the idea of the rechargeable battery in the Ambit, but unsure of its lasting power in the field. 

Suunto says that when youíre using it simply as a watch day-to-day, you can go for 30 days without needing to recharge it. If you're using the GPS in a logging mode, you can configure it to get a fix every 1 second or every 60 seconds. In 1-second mode they list the battery life at about 15 hours; in 60-second mode about 50 hours.

Although I haven't done a continuous test to see if I could reach the 50-hour mark, extrapolating my several ski touring tests that ran around 7-8 hours suggests that I'd be able to get the 50 hours, perhaps even around 60 hours, in the field with the heart rate monitor (10s recording rate) and GPS enabled (60s recording rate.) However, I'll update this once I get out for some longer multi-day trips which should provide better confirmation.

So, what this says to me is that the battery life for mountaineering type activities should be acceptable for even multi-day excursions. If you are on a longer trip and suspect that you'll hit the 50 hours without a USB power source to recharge, then you may indeed need to  think about conservation somewhat. I can't think back to a trip where I'd have been in that situation, but suspect that if it does ever happen I'll just be more selective about when I record full GPS tracks, which should extend battery life significantly.

When you do need to give it some juice, charging is via a USB port and usually takes less than a couple hours, depending upon how drained it is (mine took 2hrs45m for the first charge out of the box). Rather than plugging into a computer, Iíve used an inexpensive USB adaptor that I simply plug into a regular wall outlet.

 

 

Overview Outdoor Functions Training Functions Movescount Conclusions

 

 

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