Suunto had one major product release, the Spartan Sport Wrist HR. And I learned of future development plans (or, more accurately, non-plans) for the Ambit collection.
Spartan Sport Wrist HR
The first GPS sport watch with a wrist-based heart rate monitor was the Garmin Fenix 3 HR, which was announced 12 months ago. But according to research by Valencell, which supplied the sensor technology being used by Suunto, the Spartan Sport Wrist HR is more accurate.
Eighty-nine percent of the time, the accuracy of the Spartan Sport Wrist HR relative to a benchmark chest strap is within 5 percent, on average. Its accuracy and consistency varies with wrist size and shape, hairiness, perspiration, and movement; and it will not work while swimming.
For general HR monitoring, as you might want to do during a spin class or on a hike, this level of accuracy may be sufficient. But wrist-based HR technology is not yet a reliable substitute for a chest strap if, for example, you need to stay at 150 bpm, because 155 bpm will probably result in a bonk and DNF.
Future software updates may improve the accuracy. And I’m certain that the hardware will eventually be reliably precise. But it’s not there yet.
The Spartan Sport Wrist HR will retail for $650. That’s $100 less than the least expensive Suunto Spartan Ultra, but $50 more than the similarly spec’d Garmin Fenix 5, and twice as much as current retail prices for the Suunto Ambit3 Peak.
The Ambit3 Run and Ambit3 Sport are being discontinued. My heart is not broken, since they were not spec’d with the features I want as a hybrid runner/hiker.
The Ambit3 Peak and Ambit3 Vertical will thankfully remain in production, and will continue to be supported with occasional software updates (most recently, two weeks ago). If your favorite activities are similar to mine, I recommend the Ambit3 Peak model. Only go with the Vertical if you find offensive the Peak’s bulkier aesthetics.
Development of an Ambit4 series is not certain, one way or the other.
Suunto is cleary more focused with the Spartan collection right now, but they seemed to recognize the void that would be left if the Ambit collection were abandoned. First, the Ambit3 has better battery life than the Spartan watches: the premium Spartan Ultra is spec’d at 18, 26, or 60 hours, depending on the GPS frequency interval, whereas the Ambit3 Peak runs for 20, 30, and 200 hours at 1-, 5-, and 60-second GPS ping intervals.
Second, the Ambit3 models are more accurate, due to its larger and more pronounced GPS antenna.
Finally, Ambit3 prices are much more attainable. Current retail prices for the Ambit3 Peak are at or less than $300 on Amazon, and the Sport and Run models can be found for less than $200. Meanwhile, MSRP for the entry-level Spartan Sport is an astounding $600; the least expensive Spartan Ultra is $750.
I was not given specifics, but was told that more moderately priced Spartan models were on the way.