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Long-term review: Suunto Ambit3 Peak || Unmatched performance for the price

For ultras and backpacking, the Suunto Ambit3 offers unmatched performance at its price point.

Last August I upgraded to the Suunto Ambit3 Peak, after using for four years the previous iteration, the Suunto Ambit2 (read my long-term review). Since I train regularly based on heart rate, I bought the HR package, which includes the Smart Sensor Belt.

To date I have worn the Suunto Ambit3 Peak for more than 150 runs or hikes, totaling over 1,500 miles and 300 hours. Most significantly, I used it for racing Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB), guiding backpacking trips in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, hunting big game in Colorado, and training for the Houston Marathon.

How I use the Ambit3 Peak

To put this review in context, I’ll explain how I use a GPS sport watch. I’m a two-sport athlete, and use the Ambit3 Peak exclusively for both:

Running (roads, trails, ultras)

The Ambit3 Peak records my current and average pace, lap and cumulative times, lap and cumulative distance, current and average heart rate, and net vertical ascent and descent, plus some other data.

Its screens can be customized, to display the data of greatest interest to me. For example, during an ultra marathon I rotate between four screens, each dedicated to a specific data group: pace, heart rate, vertical, and cumulative.

The information available may sound overwhelming, but I think it’s allowed me to train and race smarter. For example, I was able to accurately compare my Houston Marathon training against my Boston Marathon training (from 9-12 months earlier), despite my workouts not being on the track or on standardized routes. And at UTMB, my watch provided accurate pace and heart rate data, which helped me to run evenly from start to finish.

Worse for wear, at the UTMB finish line in 24:44. My Ambit3 had less than a 10 percent charge. I had the HRM and Bluetooth turned on the entire time.

Backpacking

The Ambit3 Peak makes mostly obsolete the traditional outdoor ABC watch, like the Suunto Core, which has only an altimeter, barometer, and compass. The Ambit3 Peak matches this functionality, and is capable of much more. For example, it can:

  • Calculate the distance I’ve hiked from a trailhead or camp, or some intermediary point like a trail junction;
  • Measure cumulative vertical gain and loss, which in extremely mountainous environments is more limiting than horizontal distance traveled;
  • Perform basic GPS functions, like showing its coordinates, storing waypoints, and navigating to a pre-programmed landmark; and,
  • Create a GPX track of a route that can be shared or published later.

Among other things, the Ambit will display my altitude, net vertical gain, and net vertical loss. In extremely mountainous terrain, vertical change is a better indication of my effort (and limits) than horizontal distance.

Long-term review: Suunto Ambit3 Peak

For ultra runners and backpackers, the Ambit3 Peak bests the competition in three ways:

1. Long-lasting battery

The Ambit3 Peak will run for 20, 30, or 200 hours when the GPS ping interval is set to 1, 5, or 60 seconds, respectively. It will remain operable (and reliably accurate) throughout most ultras (including 100-milers like Western States and Leadville, even for cutoff-chasers) and for backpacking trips up to about 20 days long (10 hours of run time per day * 20 = 200 hours). On longer trips, it can be quickly recharged in town or with a portable battery like the Anker Powercore 5000.

2. Barometer

This instrument accurately measures altitude, vertical gain, and vertical loss, regardless of the GPS ping interval setting. It also forecasts potential weather changes, which normally coincide with changes in barometer pressure. During long intervals between GPS pings, watches without altimeters can miss out on vertical movement, like in rolling terrain. And barometer-less Suunto devices won’t even display cumulative vertical change, due to accuracy concerns.

3. Price

When the Ambit3 Peak was released in mid-2014, it retailed for $500. Now, it’s available from authorized dealers in the low-$300’s, with an up-charge of about $30 for the HR belt.

Ambit3 Peak vs other GPS sport watches

Most other GPS sport watches — even newer, glossier, and more expensive models — fail to match the functionality of the Ambit3 Peak for ultra running and backpacking. The Suunto Ambit3 Vertical has half the battery life. The Ambit3 Sport and Ambit3 Run have less battery life, and no barometer. Ditto for the Suunto Spartan Sport and Spartan Sport Wrist HR.

The Garmin Fenix 5 and Garmin Forerunner 935 have barometers but short-lived batteries, from 24 hours to 60 hours (when using the fickle UltraTrac mode). Plus, they retail for $500 and up, and Garmin is very good at enforcing MAP (minimum advertised price).

For my purposes, the only watch that rivals the Ambit3 Peak is the Suunto Spartan Ultra HR. Its battery life is estimated at 18, 35, and 140 hours depending on the GPS ping interval. And it has the same outdoor functionality as the Ambit3 Peak. However, at the time I wasn’t willing to pay $600-ish for it, or about 75 percent more, just for a sleek color touchscreen, vibration alerts, and some activity tracking. The price difference is less now — about $110 on Amazon.


Other considerations

A long-lasting battery and a barometer may not be as crucial to other prospective buyers. Here are some other important observations about the Suunto Ambit3 Peak performance:

  • GPS accuracy is very good. Look at my runs on Strava using the satellite layer.
  • It quickly connects with GPS satellites and my HRM.
  • It’s comfortable to wear, thanks to a soft and pliable wrist strap, and rounded edges on its base.
  • The stock screen (non-Sapphire) is amply scratch-resistant. I abused my Ambit2 for four years, and it had very few scratches when I replaced it.
  • Recorded data is reliably and quickly transferred with the USB cable. It can be transferred via Bluetooth, too (using the Movescount app), but it’s slower and less reliable.
  • The Movescount website and app are functional and generally user-friendly.

I have found just one area for improvement: the buttons, which are a touch slow.

The track of a recent run (in red), recorded by the Ambit3 Peak, overlaid onto Landsat imagery. The accuracy is not commercial-grade, but it’s very good for a 2.5-oz watch.

Why not wait for the Ambit4 Peak?

The Ambit3 Peak was released in mid-2014, and I wondered last August when I purchased it if an Ambit4 Peak would soon replace it.

My concern was partly irrelevant, since I wanted a new watch in August, not sometime this year. My Ambit2 was suffering from a sticky Start/Stop button and, more importantly, I thought its battery might die before I crossed the finish line at UTMB.

But I also checked in with Suunto. In January 2017 at Outdoor Retailer, they told me development of the Ambit4 was uncertain. That seems to still be the case — in a November 2017 email, its PR firm told me that, “We will be keeping the Ambit3 Peak in the line for the foreseeable future.” And they also reported that, “There isn’t another watch in the pipeline that closely rivals the Ambit3 Peak in terms of battery life and price point.”

These comments leave open the possibility of an Ambit4 Peak. But it will almost certainly be more expensive and its battery life may decrease, perhaps due to a color screen, touch screen, or wrist-based optical heart rate monitor.

Ambit3 Peak vs. Ambit2

The Ambit3 Peak is an evolutionary improvement over its direct predecessor, the Ambit2. My long-term experience with the Ambit2 was excellent, so I was accepting of simple yet beneficial refinements.

The Ambit2 and Ambit3 Peak share nearly identical bodies. They’re about the same size, have the same buttons, and use the same GPS antenna.

The menu system is the same, but has a few new options related to new Ambit3 Peak features such as Bluetooth pairing. The font is slightly different.

Few physical changes were made between the Ambit2 (left) and Ambit3 Peak (right): same size, same buttons, same screen (but a different font).

The same USB charger is carried over. It works, but it’s a bit finicky compared to chargers for the Garmin Fenix 5 or the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro.

The most noticeable physical difference between the Ambit2 and Ambit3 Peak is the wrist strap. The Ambit3 Peak strap is softer and more pliable, which makes it more comfortable and more accommodating of various wrist sizes.

The wrist strap on the Ambit3 Peak is softer and more pliable. I did not mind the Ambit2 strap, but it was relatively rigid and plastic-y hard.

Under the hood, the Ambit3 Peak battery has been upgraded. The Ambit2 rates at 16, 24, and 100 hours at 1-, 5-, and 60-second GPS pings (described as “Best,” “Good”, and “Okay” in Movescount settings). During multiple ultra marathons up to 23 hours, I found these estimates to be accurate. Suunto estimates battery life for the Ambit3 Peak at 20, 30, and 200 hours.

Unlike the Ambit2, the Ambit3 Peak has a Bluetooth chip. By pairing it with my phone, I can now transfer activity data wirelessly (rather than needing to connect it with my computer using the USB cord), change sport mode settings using the Movescount app, and get notifications on my watch about incoming text messages, emails, and phone calls. I have found this latter functionality to be useful in deciding whether I need to reply/answer immediately or if it can wait.

Finally, when connected with the USB cord, data download speeds are noticeably faster on the Ambit3 Peak.

Smart Sensor Belt

The Ambit3 Peak cannot communicate with ANT accessories, including the Dual Comfort Belt (my long-term review). Instead, it communicates only with Bluetooth-enabled heart rate straps, power meters, and foot pods.

The Smart Sensor Belt can be packaged with the Ambit3 Peak or purchased as an accessory. I recommend the former, to save on long-term costs.

It shares the same black 30-mm wide elasticized belt with the Dual Comfort, but it has a different attachment mechanism and receiver. The two loose ends connect with a metal hook, rather clipping the ends into the receiver. The girth adjuster had been moved towards the side, rather than on the spine (as it was for me), so it can no longer be pressed into your back by a running pack or vest.

The receiver is smaller and not easily removed from the belt. Since it’s waterproof to 30m, I’m not concerned about hand-washing it daily during my post-run shower.

The Dual Comfort Belt (top) versus the new Smart Sensor Belt (bottom). Notice that the Smart Sensor has a smaller receiver, relocated girth adjuster (back right), and different closure system (front right).

Room for improvement

There is only one feature that I wish the Ambit3 Peak had: vibration alerts. When running in loud environments (imagine running down Broadway with CU buses pulling out of campus) or when wearing layers of clothing over the watch, it can be difficult to hear the beeps. A vibration alert would confirm operations, like Start/Stop or Lap.

A Wi-Fi chip would be a nice-to-have, but it’s not a must. I appreciated this feature with the Fenix 5X — my activity data uploaded as soon as I walked into the house, instead of only when I connected the watch to my computer (via USB) or phone (via Bluetooth).

Otherwise, I haven’t found missing must-have features or functionality:

  • Activity tracking and smart watch features: I don’t care.
  • Wrist-based HR: The technology is not there yet. For serious HR training, this feature is worthless; a chest belt is still required.
  • Color- and/or touch-screen: An additional expense with no meaningful value.
  • Topographic maps, such as with the Garmin Fenix 5X: I much prefer paper maps or the larger screen on my smartphone (which has a great mapping app, GaiaGPS).

I suppose the Ambit3 Peak could be prettier and less utilitarian, but I have yet to see a GPS sport watch (including the Garmin Fenix 5 series) that looks good enough to replace a dress watch or an everyday watch in professional work environment.

The Bluetooth-enabled Smart Sensor, which can be purchased with the Ambit3 Peak for a small charge. It’s a must for serious HR training. And, yes, that’s nipple tape — when you’re running 15 hours a week, it also is a must.

 

Questions about the Ambit3 Peak, or how it compares to other GPS watches? Leave a comment.

Own the Ambit3 Peak? What’s been your experience.


Disclosure. This website is supported mostly through affiliate marketing, whereby for referral traffic I receive a small commission from select vendors, at no cost to the reader. This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support.

I purchased my Ambit3 Peak with personal funds at a discounted priced that Suunto offers to members of the outdoor industry.


70 Responses to Long-term review: Suunto Ambit3 Peak || Unmatched performance for the price

  1. Chris February 13, 2018 at 12:21 pm #

    How many data fields can be display on the screen at one time? Different reviews seem to have different answers. I know the newer Suuntos and Garmins can do 4 or more and I’ve grown accustomed to having 4.

    • Andrew Skurka February 13, 2018 at 2:17 pm #

      Three fields, like in the first photo. But the lower field can be rotated (with up to four data screens) by depressing the lower-left button.

      Recently I’ve used the Fenix 5X and Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro (what a mouthful), which can both show four fields. I’m not sure what I think about it yet — when I look down, I just see a lot of numbers. Maybe I’d get more used to it with more time.

  2. Will Thomas February 13, 2018 at 12:48 pm #

    It’s too bad the Garmin 910XT is still not in production. I purchased mine 18 months ago for $139 (you can still find them used or refurbished for $200). It has all the same features of the Suunto Ambit3 Peak minus bluetooth. The battery will only last for about 20 hours as you can’t switch to 1 hour gps pings, but as you mentioned for $10 you can get a portable battery pack to extend life. I’ve taken mine on backpacking trips up to a week long and you actually get a really nice accurate read out during the outing and GPX file post outing without short changed mileage and vert, but then again only Killian and the likes could get through UTMB without charging it. I had to do a full charge on the run at UTMB (takes about an hour).

  3. Ethan February 13, 2018 at 1:10 pm #

    Largely due to your earlier reviews, I picked up the Ambit3 Peak to track my training hikes for an upcoming thru and then primarily function as an ABC during that thru.

    The 200-hour battery life was the biggest draw for me. I set one one “Activity” for dayhikes and another for backpacking (more battery conservation). I’ve also toyed with the “auto-pause” feature.

    In the end, the “OK” GPS setting is too inaccurate for me ESPECIALLY when auto-pause is on. OK alone tends to shorten my distance traveled by about 20%; OK with auto-pause shortens the distance by 75% (guess I’m too slow for this combination!). On a recent weekend hike I used the backpacking activity on the first day and the Ambit under-reported by 2 miles (compared to trail maps, markers, and my partner’s phone); on the second day I used the hiking activity and it was spot-on.

    I bought the watch mostly for the 200-hour battery, but will likely never use it in that configuration do to under-reporting.

    • Andrew Skurka February 13, 2018 at 2:15 pm #

      I’m surprised that you’re getting a 20 percent error with 60-sec pings. What kind of terrain were you in? If if it’s a really windy trail, I suppose it could cut off a lot of corners. In my experience it’s always been more accurate than that — not spot on, but reliable enough. But I’m usually hiking in big mountain terrain (i.e. climbing towards a pass for hours in mostly the same direction) with a fairly open view of the sky.

      The more common problem I have with 60-sec pings is during electrical storms or when I’m stopped — the track can get pretty jumpy. For example, look at the craziness at Gourd Lake, where we waited out a storm, https://www.strava.com/activities/723176500.

      • Will Harmon February 13, 2018 at 3:03 pm #

        I had a similar issue with accuracy on the PCT near Wildwood last summer. With the OK GPS accuracy, 200 hours, and the 10 second intervals, to save on memory, I recorded 0.8 miles for each official mile of the trail. That section of the trail is windier than in somewhere like the Sierras and you aren’t often climbing most of the day towards a single pass. I suspect the 10 second recording interval, vs the 1 second interval, is the largest contributor to the lack of accuracy.

        • Andrew Skurka February 13, 2018 at 3:21 pm #

          At 3mph, you could in theory walk in a circle that is 84 feet in diameter (circumference of 264 feet) while fooling the watch into thinking that you have not gone anywhere. However, it has some other instruments (barometer, accelerometer) that might pick up part of what you’re doing.

          My point is that it will cut the corners of a seriously twisty trail, leading to the accuracy error.

      • Ethan February 13, 2018 at 6:03 pm #

        Here’s a segment from that first day on OK GPS mode:
        https://imgur.com/a/oNU6X

        The switchback sections are predictably awful, but even some of the “straights” are quite off.

  4. Bob S. February 13, 2018 at 4:29 pm #

    I’m not sure “Suunto Ambit3 Peak || Unmatched performance for the price” is accurate when you can buy a Garmin fenix 3 HR Sapphire in the same low $300 price range.

    I suppose if you are an ultramarathon runner you might need 200 hours of battery life. For the other 99.95% of us humans who wear a watch on a daily basis and have access to electricity portable chargers, and flush toilets having smart notifications, music controls, access to Garmin IQ apps, and a fashionable, everyday wearable design is more important.

  5. Joe February 13, 2018 at 5:55 pm #

    Dang. I just walk and run. And bike, and snowshoe.

    Today I ran for 67 minutes. My old Timex told me so.

    It was cold, with an ice fog and a north wind, so I just wanted to get my minimum daily hour in.

    Not much fun, truth told, but I hate seeing a 0 in the log, and I avoided that.

    ‘Bout 6-7 miles, I reckon. I’m kinda old and slow. 66 last Friday.

    My elevation gain and loss were identical though, I’m pretty sure, ’cause I ended up where I started out.

    I monitor my heart rate carefully. By listening to my body. Been at it awhile now.

    Computer watches??!!!

    I don’t need no steenking computer watches!!!

    Just playin’. 🙂

  6. Joe February 13, 2018 at 8:41 pm #

    But seriously…

    Don’t y’all ever get the urge to just leave all that techno-shit behind, and just gleefully go for a run?

    Skipping and jumping, even 360 spinning, just amazed to be fit and free and having fun, in God’s amazing creation?

    You must have once. You didn’t fall in love with running or the backcountry because it allowed you to use your “devices”, did you?

    It’s still there. Go back. Run for fun.

    Put your Superwatch in a drawer next to your iPhone, and go for a run!

    Andrew knows exactly how many miles he has on every pair of his running shoes!

    That goes beyond anal. That is bordering on insane.

    Running is fun! Running is easy! Have easy fun running!

    • Jay February 13, 2018 at 11:10 pm #

      Joe, sometimes I agree with you: it’s nice to leave the tech at home and just enjoy being outside. On the other hand though, having all that data can be fun. I’m a terrible athlete, but I run almost every day for about an hour. I’m not training for anything in particular—I’m not all that conpetitive, I have no race in the future, no particular performance goals—I just like it. So I go, and I wear my gps watch. I like data and numbers: not just with my running and hiking, it’s what I do for a living. So it’s fun to just have all that data to poke around with afterward to see what’s going on with my body.

    • Andrew Skurka February 13, 2018 at 11:32 pm #

      It’s very difficult for runners (or any athlete) to reach their potential if everyday they “just leave all that techno-shit behind, and just gleefully go for a run.” That might get you 90 percent of the way there, but if you’re trying to, say, squeeze an extra few minutes out of a marathon — which was the sole purpose of my training from October through January — then the data provided by a GPS watch is extremely valuable.

      Moreover, I think you’re assuming that the watch acts as an inhibitor to feeling present, as if I run down the road or the trail looking at my watch the entire time. It’s just not like that.

  7. NathanT February 14, 2018 at 10:29 am #

    I was very much considering a Suunto watch for my birthday but to be honest, there was a lot of sub-par reviews on Amazon regarding not only the build quality but also the customer service with that manufacturer. Ultimately, I decided to go with another watch maker that had better reviews because I wanted to minimize possible frustrations with a somewhat expensive and discretionary purchase.

  8. Joe February 14, 2018 at 2:25 pm #

    Thanks for the thoughtful replies, Jay and Andrew.

    Good points made by both of you.

    I’d kinda like to say I’m sorry for stirring the pot, but I’d be lying if I did say that. I’m a pot-stirrer.

    Y’all take care, and keep on running in the manner that makes you happy.

    I certainly shall.

  9. TimC February 15, 2018 at 7:47 pm #

    Andrew- thanks for the review. Do you have much cold weather experience with this watch? My Garmin 735 goes dead when less than 20 degrees. Probably a class effect with the batteries but just wanted to see your experience.

    • Andrew Skurka February 15, 2018 at 10:05 pm #

      Not in super cold temps. Lowest without any protection (ie no outer layer to trap some heat and keep it insulated) has been the mid-10’s. It remains functional but the numbers get slow. Don’t know if the battery drains faster, probably so since that is common with lithium batteries.

  10. Adrian February 20, 2018 at 1:37 am #

    After ripping my Suunto Observation off my wrist the 2nd time while hiking, I switched to a clip-on style ABC on my shoulder strap (similar model to https://www.amazon.com/highgear-altitech-computer-altimeter-thermometer/dp/b000fz4rp4).

    It had the extra bonus of the thermometer actually being useable, which turned out to be really useful getting my clothing setup tuned in (“is it actually cold or do I just not have enough clothes”). And actually it revealed just how much more clothing you need when you’re wet to the skin, tired, not moving etc, all while the ambient temperature doesn’t move too much.

    I wonder what good options there are to getting an Ambit mounted well on a pack (while easily removable in camp)? Mountaineers/rock climbers must struggle with wrist mounted watches too? Just using the wrist strap on my shoulder strap causes a bouncy hard-to-reach annoyance, but maybe I need to experiment more.

    http://larsonweb.com/blog/?p=939 mentions a lanyard for the Vector, which doesn’t seem to exist for newer watches.

    • Andrew Skurka February 20, 2018 at 10:42 am #

      I don’t know much about the Ambit3 strap because I find the stock strap to be satisfactory. It may be a custom mount, or it might be compatible with other straps or hardware, not sure. It looks like Suunto has three straps available for it, but none are obviously compatible with some type of lanyard system.

      If you find something, please report back.

  11. Coolish February 21, 2018 at 7:01 am #

    Hi Andrew, great article, one question though: were you able to get notifications coming when you are in the middle of a workout? I’ve just bought this watch and it seems to limit some options (eg sunset time) only to “time mode” which is quite a hassle when your “workout” is 11 hour hike. As for gps accuracy I’m also not impressed by 60s ping. It missed quite a lot of turns, is it going to be better when I choose to log data every 1 sec? 10 sec gps ping is in line with Garmin etrex 1s ping and very accurate.

    • Andrew Skurka February 21, 2018 at 9:33 am #

      To get notifications you must have the phone synced with the Movescount app. Open the app and touch the + or – icon in the upper-right corner.

      To have access to sunrise/sunset data, you can install this app on the watch, http://www.movescount.com/apps/app10000003-SunriseSunset.

      Don’t use the 60-second ping unless you need the 200 hours of battery life. As you have found, it will miss any little meander within those 60 seconds, and show a distance that is quite a bit less than actual. For any activity less than 20 hours, I recommend using the 1-second “Best” GPS accuracy and keeping it set at 1-second recording intervals. (The recording interval specifies how often the data is recorded, and has nothing to do with the GPS ping interval.)

      • Coolish February 21, 2018 at 10:05 am #

        The phone is synced and I do get notifications when in “time mode” but the watch turns off bluetooth whenever I start workout. Great for short runs, not so good for prolonged activities when the phone sits in my backpack and the watch could save my time and effort getting it out every time I got a message.
        My main activity is backpacking and day hikes, I’m gonna use “good” gps accuracy for those unless I’m really far away from wall outlets.
        Any idea on how this app impacts battery life?

        Thanks for your post on setting screens via movescount – it really helped me getting my own setup quickly.

  12. Javad February 26, 2018 at 10:31 pm #

    Given a great watch like this and a smartphone, is there still any reason to carry a separate compass? If one fails, I could still use another. Personally, I have a solar Casio watch with a built-in compass (PAW2000T-7) which eliminates the battery-life issue. Thoughts?

    • Andrew Skurka February 27, 2018 at 10:49 am #

      The value of a compass in this circumstance depends on how you would use one. If you simply need to find north, then no, I think you can get away without one. But if you are doing heavy map-and-compass work (e.g. cross-country in subtle terrain with low visibility) then I think it’s still worth having.

  13. enrico February 28, 2018 at 6:29 am #

    My idea is to buy it for a 24hours race in a park https://goo.gl/4gKC7f

    Do you think is a good idea?

    • Andrew Skurka February 28, 2018 at 11:17 am #

      Not sure what you’re hoping to get out of the watch, but if I were running a 24-hour race I would definitely use the Ambit. I’d set it to 5-second GPS intervals and know that it’d last the entire time.

      • Enrico February 28, 2018 at 1:47 pm #

        Actually my only doubt is about the 5sec and the kind of of route. I am gonna run in a track that is oval. Will the watch be able to get correctly the “curve” if it get the GPS signal just at only 5secs?

        • Andrew Skurka February 28, 2018 at 2:04 pm #

          No, the watch will cut off distance, because it will take a straight line between your locations 5 seconds apart, whereas you will be rounding two bends on each loop.

          If the exact distance is really important to you, then use the 1-second setting and figure out some way to swap watches or recharge it mid-race, https://andrewskurka.com/2015/gps-sport-watch-last-longer-battery-five-techniques/

          • enrico March 1, 2018 at 12:14 am #

            Ok, i guess I have to charge it mid-race. DO you think it is easier to do that with the Suunto Ambit3 Peak or a Garmin Fenix 3?

  14. Javad March 6, 2018 at 12:31 am #

    At this price range, one can get an Apple Watch 3. Have you had any chance to try Apple Watch and compare it with Suunto Ambit 3? I kind of expect Apple watch to have better sensors and customer service, let alone the other fancy features that Suunto doesn’t offer.

    • Andrew Skurka March 6, 2018 at 12:44 pm #

      I don’t believe the Apple Watch is designed for serious training. The GPS accuracy is not there, and neither is the battery (5 hours with GPS on). I see it as being a good smartwatch and activity tracker that can dabble in serious exercise. The Garmin Fenix 5 is a serious exercise watch that does the other things decently. The Ambit is just a serious exercise watch.

  15. Alex W March 30, 2018 at 9:39 am #

    Andrew – I plan to use my Ambit3 to record a self-supported fkt attempt this summer and wonder about the memory capacity:

    1.) Have you had any issues with maxing out the memory from recording long days back to back? If so, how long can you record before it starts to dump activities or just stops recording altogether?

    2.) Have you had any issues syncing long activities (14+ hours) hour treks/runs using the bluetooth connection to a phone? Suunto recommends syncing with a computer, although I will be in the backcountry for a couple months with no access to a computer – only cell phone service and wifi every few days. Hoping it’s possible to sync to the phone.

    I plan to use my Ambit3 to record a self-supported fkt attempt this summer and I want to get this right !

    • Andrew Skurka March 30, 2018 at 9:50 am #

      I have never max’d out the memory on the Ambit3, but I haven’t pushed it like I did my Ambit2. With the Ambit3, at most I have recorded a 25-hour race (at 1-sec recording interval). With the Ambit2, which had less memory, I recorded up to 136 hours of activity (at 10-sec recording interval) without a download. I don’t recall if I received a memory warning during this latter activity — when you get low on memory, it will tell you.

      The Bluetooth data upload is not fast, but I think it will get the job done. When I download a 1- or 2-hour run, it takes a few minutes. So if you had, say, 15 minutes at the end of the day, you could do it then, especially if you are only recording at 10-sec intervals.

      I’m uncertain if the data downloads to the phone, and then the phone uploads the data; or if the phone transmits the data as it receives it. This would be something to look into — you don’t want to be in a situation where the data transmission is disrupted by spotty cell service.

      • Alex W March 30, 2018 at 10:08 am #

        Awesome, good to know. Also, good point about how it transmits the data. I’ll do some tests.

        Thanks a ton for all of your resources for backpacking/running — invaluable!

        • vgeh April 10, 2018 at 8:54 am #

          Hi Alex W
          Please update if you had done any tests on the data transfer. Thanks

  16. Christian McMillen April 10, 2018 at 11:10 am #

    Hi

    I think the answer is yes but want to confirm (if you know): will the Ambit work with other bluetooth HRM straps/sensors? I have a Polar and could save a little money if I just buy the Ambit w/o HRM. Thanks

    • Andrew Skurka April 10, 2018 at 1:18 pm #

      Yes, the Ambit will work with non-Suunto Bluetooth-enabled HRM’s, power meters, foot pods, etc.

      • Christian McMillen April 10, 2018 at 1:23 pm #

        Many thanks! Suunto is having a really good sale on the Ambit3 Run–$179–and it seems all the watch I need.

        • vgeh April 10, 2018 at 1:30 pm #

          I see Ambit3 Run with HRM for $173 on amazon.com

          • Christian McMillen April 10, 2018 at 1:35 pm #

            You’re right: the lime is $172.49. I see the black for $195 with HRM. I’d prefer the black. Am I seeing what you’re seeing?

          • Andrew Skurka April 10, 2018 at 1:45 pm #

            For an extra $22 you might as well get the HRM. With long-term use, the stretch in the band craps out, so you’ll have to replace.

          • vgeh April 10, 2018 at 1:51 pm #

            That’s correct. I am with you on savings few dollars but I would pick whatever color is cheaper for better features unless the color is too hippy. Lime is not too bad, haha.

          • Christian McMillen April 10, 2018 at 1:58 pm #

            Yeah, good thinking on the HRM band. My polar one does have some stretch in and another summer of salt will surely wear it our further.

            I suppose I should ask, if you have time, for your thoughts on the run vs the peak. Battery life is less on the Run and there are a few other features missing but it seems in tracking many of my most important metrics–pace, distance, altitude gain/loss, HR–that it’s pretty good. I am currently using a Polar M400. It does all I want but battery life is terrible!

            Thanks!

          • Andrew Skurka April 10, 2018 at 2:07 pm #

            If you don’t plan to use it as an outdoor watch, the Run is fine. But it’s not nearly as useful if you need to set it at 5- or 60-sec GPS pings, whereas the Peak remains very useful still.

  17. Christian McMillen April 10, 2018 at 2:11 pm #

    Thanks–is that b/c accuracy diminishes with the longer intervals? Just trying to make sure I understand

    • Andrew Skurka April 10, 2018 at 2:27 pm #

      The location accuracy of all the Ambits will decrease when you slow the GPS ping interval, https://andrewskurka.com/2018/suunto-ambit3-peak-gps-watch-accuracy-okay/.

      However, I think the Ambit has an accelerometer, which could be useful in supplementing the data and keeping it more accurate.

      The biggest issue is that the Run and Sport don’t have barometers. “This instrument accurately measures altitude, vertical gain, and vertical loss, regardless of the GPS ping interval setting. It also forecasts potential weather changes, which normally coincide with changes in barometer pressure. During long intervals between GPS pings, watches without altimeters can miss out on vertical movement, like in rolling terrain. And barometer-less Suunto devices won’t even display cumulative vertical change, due to accuracy concerns.”

      It’s more than that, though. For an outdoor watch, the Peak’s battery life is also a huge advantage.

      • Christian McMillen April 10, 2018 at 2:29 pm #

        Thanks for your thoughts! I really appreciate it.

  18. Andy April 17, 2018 at 12:39 pm #

    This was so helpful as I have been dissatisfied with two prior attempts at owning a serious run-training and backpacking watch. I ordered the Peak from REI today for $200 on the dot. Also, thank you Andrew for replying to the large number of questions the various users asked. It helps much more than reading curt reviews on Amazon or something.

  19. John June 5, 2018 at 1:09 pm #

    According to fellrnr website, the Ambit3 has better instant pace when not using a footpod, how accurate do you find pace information and heart rate info ?

    Excellent review.

    • Andrew Skurka June 5, 2018 at 1:39 pm #

      Instant pace seems about right, but I like to keep an average pace display nearby so that I can see how the pace variations are averaging out.

      HR info is at least consistent, if not also very accurate. Look at HR data from a recent 3K race, https://www.strava.com/activities/1584911181

  20. bushwhacker June 14, 2018 at 9:20 am #

    Hi Andrew or someone with long term experience, do you know how Ambit3 Peak preforms in extreme bushwhack offtrail hikes? I am worried about both the strap and the display itself. Looks like the display is flush with the outer dial so would the display easily damage if I accidentally hit an obstacle while scrambling? I know the Casio Pro Trek series or Pathfinder does not have same features but it is lot cheaper and looks more durable. If Ambit3 is not durable, is my only option stick with phone gps and a 3 sensor watch like Casio?

    Thanks

    • Andrew Skurka June 15, 2018 at 1:39 pm #

      I have not taken my Ambit to Alaska, and I wouldn’t consider cross-country travel in the High Sierra, Colorado Rockies, or southern Utah to be true “bushwhacking.” But based on my experience in those environments, I wouldn’t worry about its durability if taken into the brush. I’ve owned the Ambit3 Peak for nearly a year now, and it looks good as new. I used the Ambit2 for three years, and it had only once scratch on the face, which ironically happened in my house — I whacked my wrist against a door frame, the watch grazed the edge of the metal strike plate.

  21. Alex M July 28, 2018 at 2:04 pm #

    Thanks for the review perspective. I have just gotten an Ambit3 Peak to replace my moronic Garmin with something more accurate. So far, the GPS is spot on. The HR monitor has only had one weird 5 minute period, but otherwise looks very accurate.

    What is driving me crazy and I don’t understand.. and can find Zero mentions of it with every word combination I can think of in Google searching….
    The graph of pace/speed (and altitude) is extremely granular. Like steps up and down in increments of 20 to 40 seconds per mile. !!! This can’t be the normal way this data is presented. Can it? While I do appreciate the lack of extreme swings in page that make the Garmin useless, it’s very bizarre to see such a flat line. Ok, I’m running for 10 min at exactly 10:13 pace, and then instantly jump to 9:38 pace. ?? Trying to figure out what is happening, I see that the elevation is in round integers of meters (or yards.) Ok fine, don’t care. But, the “speed” that is expired into an XLS file appears to only have 2 significant digits. Not sure of the units but numbers like 1.7 or 2.1.
    So something is getting rounded and then multiplied and then converted to minutes and seconds and it’s too averaged.

    Is this a normal experience? (I hope not because I really want this watch to work for me.) Do I have some settings wrong?? I tried 2d and 3d distance, no change.
    I have on 1 second recording and Best GPS.

    Ideas?

    • Andrew Skurka July 29, 2018 at 7:45 am #

      Can you share a link to the move with this granular data? I’m struggling to understand what’s happening.

      • Alex M July 29, 2018 at 4:09 pm #

        Hi. Thanks for the response. Here is one. (you can have a chuckle at around mile 1 where my pace stops and my heart rate spikes. …Altercation with a Chihuahua. Throwing sticks angered the beast.)

        http://www.movescount.com/moves/move232233392

        Whereas things like HR are nice curves with small steps (HR is incrementing in integers), the pace is incrementing by huge steps.

        Example, at around 6:30, the pace goes from 10:44 to 10:19 and then it is a flat line for the next few minutes. Every time the pace goes up or down, it is by these large leaps of over 20 seconds. And then many flat lines where it is between these rounded off (to something) values. I would like to know with a little more precision what my pace had been… not just somewhere in this huge band. It seems to accurate, it would be nice if it was also reporting the precision it has in real time.

        I did confirm on my run today that it IS displaying instantaneous pace in increments of 5 seconds, so that makes me feel much better that it will be useful in action. And I suppose if this post processing is “correct” then I can live with it. But I hope I am missing a setting.

      • Alex M July 30, 2018 at 3:13 pm #

        Well, I poked around and looked at some other moves that were public. Apparently this is usual behavior for the data in Movescount. Some are even worse looking than mine.
        I still don’t understand why, or why I’m the only person that thinks it’s odd.
        It’s not a big deal, but makes the data slightly less useful for post analysis.
        But in other ways maybe it is better, without all the artificial spikes seen in other brands recordings.

        • Andrew Skurka July 30, 2018 at 4:47 pm #

          Look at the “recording interval.” For anything but multi-day backpacking trips, it should be set to 1 second, not 10 seconds. The recording interval is different than the GPS ping interval (1, 5, and 60 seconds).

          • Alex M July 30, 2018 at 4:55 pm #

            Hmm. Yeah, that is set to 1s. And GPS ping to Best.

            Thanks

  22. Rodrigo Cariaga July 29, 2018 at 5:06 pm #

    Hi There, Im under evaluation of my next Ultra Trail Watch, I come from a polar v800 and at the time it haven’t a replace model from Polar. I purchase a Suunto Spartan Sport Black, which is a nice looking watch but it no has the training capabilities of polar v800 (interval Training, detailed training plan, etc) and had some issues syncing with my android phone. You think that Ambit3 Peak has the capabilities and worth the purchase in 2018?.
    Thanks in advance.

    • Andrew Skurka July 31, 2018 at 6:27 pm #

      I have worn a handful of more modern watches, and I’ve yet to find a truly killer feature that they have but that the Ambit3 Peak does not.

      While I would love the Ambit3 Peak to have vibration alarms and while I am getting spoiled with a larger watch face (big enough for five fields), these are not critical. And the Ambit3 Peak is extremely well priced and very accurate.

  23. sloma August 10, 2018 at 2:58 pm #

    It happens that Ambit loses BT connectivity when transferring move. The data is irretrievably lost. The hopeless technical service of Suunto tries to retrieve data from dailies unsuccessfully, but it lasts for months and nothing goes wrong. I advise against the purchase of Suunto equipment. For this price the equipment should be stable and be able to read again move.

  24. Dong August 11, 2018 at 6:44 pm #

    Do you know if there’s a way to change Auto Lap unit from km to miles? Even in imperial unit setting, the auto lap is still in km. I love everything about this watch, this is the only thing I miss from my retired Fenix 2.

    • Andrew Skurka August 13, 2018 at 12:21 pm #

      My auto-lap option is given in miles. So I’m going to suggest this:

      1. In the watch, change the settings to imperial, not metric.
      2. Sync the watch.
      3. Change the auto-lap in Movescount.

  25. John Mikos September 2, 2018 at 8:38 am #

    I’ve had my watch for over a month now and modified the sports modes and displays to suit my needs a few days ago. Each mode set with “good-30 hour battery life”. I went for a run the other morning (71% battery), saved my data and took the watch off. I only wear it when I exercise/hike. The next day I wanted to use the watch and it was dead. I’m on a weekend trip and didn’t bring the charger but on movescount I don’t see anything that could cause the watch to quit. Did I set something wrong? Any ideas. Thanks

    • Andrew Skurka September 2, 2018 at 10:13 am #

      What do you mean, the watch was dead? Like, blank screen? Or dead battery?

      If the blank screen, that sounds like a major malfunction. If the battery was dead, I’m guessing that you left the GPS running somehow.

      • John Mikos September 2, 2018 at 1:32 pm #

        Thanks for the quick response Andrew. Yeah, blank screen. Great battery life the time I’ve had it but after the last run it ain’t showing nothing. I do know I saved my last activity and don’t see how the GPS could run. I guess I’ll have to wait until I have the power cord and go from there.

        • AlexM September 2, 2018 at 1:43 pm #

          It’s it possible you left the screen light on? I almost did recently. I had set it to manual on and off because it didn’t stay on long enough to navigate menus. Then once I forgot to turn it off and only noticed because I turned off the room light.

          • John September 2, 2018 at 6:23 pm #

            I’ll check it out once I can get it back up. It’s kinda driving me crazy not knowing what’s going on. One smart thing was I set up a return to Amazon before the 30 day time limit to get a refund and order a replacement since I have confidence that the watch has a good pedigree and it buys me time to see what’s going on when I can charge it.

  26. Matthew Noonan September 12, 2018 at 4:03 am #

    Just picked one of these up this week. I’m struggling with what to have on the custom screens. I don’t have a HRM at the moment but I think I’ll probably end up getting one.
    I’m not a fan of instant pace but you seem to think it’s ok.
    So if you get a chance could you list your current running screens if they have changed from the article you had written.

    • Andrew Skurka September 12, 2018 at 11:11 am #

      I’ve never listed my go-to screens for everyday runs, probably should.

      I have two modes: regular run and track/tempo.

      For a regular run, I have four screens, each dedicated to something: pace, heart rate, vertical, and overall. You may skip HR and vertical if those are not important to you. You may add lap data (e.g. lap duration, lap avg pace) to the pace screen, if you want splits for normal runs. Your overall duration and overall avg pace can go on the HR or overall screen.

      For a track/tempo workout, I have three screens: time, pace, and overall. Time is mostly for the track, when distances are known, literal lap times are better indicators of pace than the watch, and when perceived effort is very consistent (i.e. no rolling hills that must be offset with changes in effort in order to keep HR steady). Pace is mostly for tempo workouts on the road. Use lap duration and lap avg pace for both of these screens. Overall is just a workout summary, with total distance, time, avg HR, etc.

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