Suunto 9 Baro Watch | Review - Outdoors Magic

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Suunto 9 Baro Watch | Review

Keeping a log of your days on the hill in relation to your fitness has never been so easy

Finding a watch that keeps up with my life can be tricky. I’ve owned a trusty Suunto Core for the past six years and it’s been pretty much everywhere with me. The Core rarely let me down, giving me barometric readings when needed, whilst also timing my running, climbing and ski touring days in reference to the height gained/lost.

This was sadly where the excitement ended with the Core, as aside from a gimmicky compass and those barometric readings, it had a pretty minimal feature set and no way of recording my days on the hill. I therefore jumped at the chance to test Suunto’s all new ’Suunto 9’ which essentially addresses all of the missing features of the Core.

The Finnish company released the new Suunto 9 Baro and standard Suunto 9 in the UK back in June 2018 for £499 (the non-barometric version retails for £450). This price tag shows that Suunto are (very cleverly) positioning this watch below the direct competition that is the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus which retails at £599.

Activity Settings On The Suunto 9 Baro

The watch comes with a range of exercises programmed in to monitor key statistics for the chosen activity throughout your day. These activities range from (bear with me): Running, Trail Running, Treadmill, Cycling (basic), Cycling (power), Indoor Cycling, Mountain Biking, Pool Swimming, Openwater Swimming, Triathlon, Obstacle Race, Weight Training, Circuit Training, Hiking, Cross-Country Skiing, Ski Touring, Alpine Skiing and ’Other’.

This versatility within the watch is a major selling point for me. I’ve been able to track all my activities, at home or abroad and lay out everything I’ve done to look back on.

This versatility has previously been lacking. Traditional running watches don’t carry the best display or GPS functions and traditional hillwalking and climbing barometers don’t house heart rate sensors.

The Suunto 9 hosts a large colour touchscreen and three navigation buttons on the right hand side.

Design

I have always found that the outdoor watch designers have swayed towards going for a very military-style look, with not much thought for how the watch will look whilst it’s being worn during casual use. However, this is a good looking watch with a clean aesthetic. It won’t look out of place off the hill and in the city.

It features a large display (320 x 300 mm) that’s made from sapphire crystal, meaning it’s able to survive the inevitable knocks that lives in the outdoors put through our watches. You’ll find that it’s around the same size as the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus, with a protective bezel adding slightly more width to the touchscreen display.

A black or white strap couples a dark or light metallic bezel, to keep up the clean look. This strap is slightly elasticated, making it comfortable to wear. Now, I’ve got a bit of a history with Suunto’s watch straps, snapping three (a mixture of plastic and leather) on my old Core. I’ve therefore been keeping a close eye on this one – but it’s been fine so far.

The display is a colour touchscreen, which can be increased or decreased in brightness. The use of a touchscreen lets you scroll through the menu layout with ease.

Whilst a touchscreen is a nice feature, it was good to see that Suunto have kept their three classic buttons on the right hand side of the screen. These buttons allow you to circumvent the need to use the touchscreen which is useful when you’re wearing gloves – certainly helpful during the testing period.

The Suunto 9 will show you vital statistics based on the activity you're tracking.

Suunto 9 Baro Features

The battery life is certainly Suunto’s main selling feature for the 9. It’s charge can last up to 120 hours in the ‘Ultra’ mode which keeps up GPS tracking but deactivates wrist heart rate tracking. In ‘Endurance’ mode, battery life is 40 hours with wrist heart rate and GPS tracking. These battery modes can be selected when you’re about to start your activity.

On top of this impressive battery life, Suunto have fitted an optical heart rate monitor. Although it won’t perform as well as a chest heart rate monitor, we found this a great solution for on the go heart rate measurements where a chest strap is a little too overkill.

For those of you who are looking for improved heart rate readings, then all it takes is a simple pair up with an aftermarket heart rate strap used through the inbuilt Bluetooth on the device.

Navigation on the 9 is relatively basic, compared to the rival Garmin Fenix 5 Plus. This has been done through the use of a simple breadcrumb navigational trail, which isn’t displayed as a fully featured OS map, like on the Fenix series. It would have been nice to have map features on a watch of this price, but I understand that would come at the cost of a larger housing (due to need for internal memory) or a smaller battery.

Whilst the navigation may be slightly lacking on this device, I found the ’search for location’ feature incredibly useful. With the click of a few buttons from the navigational menu of the watch, you’re able to get GPS coordinates of your location (I did find that it took a while to find a GPS signal, however).

This not only helps in your own personal navigation, but if things do go wrong in poor weather, you can use this watch to find your location in minutes, saving valuable time not having to fumble around with a map and compass to take a grid reference.

The Suunto 9 easily pairs up with your smartphone’s Bluetooth connection, giving access to Suunto’s simple mobile app. The stripped-down app essentially gives you all of the information that’s available through the menu section of the watch and lays out all of your exercises in an easily viewed platform.

You can also make use of the popular Suunto web-app, Movescount. I found Movescount to be the best way to display and back up all of the data on my laptop, with some great displays to show you how much (or little!) work you’ve been putting in over the past few days, weeks or months.

Note: Suunto plan to phase out their Movescount website, bringing all of your data into their Suunto app by summer 2020.

You’re also able to connect your device to your Strava account through the Suunto app. This will transfer all of your data you’re gathering from the watch over to your Strava account if you’re a Strava fan, so you can enjoy the competition of battling it out for the fastest times on specific tracks with your mates.

Once you’ve paired the watch with your phone it will give you all notifications that usually appear on the lock screen of your phone. This is obviously going to be up to personal preference as to whether or not you like getting all of your mobile notifications onto your watch.

These notifications can become somewhat annoying, as if one pops up whilst you’re using the watch, there is no feature to swipe it out of the way. The message takes over your watch screen for around 30 seconds as you’re sat there staring at the watch screen waiting for it to clear.

If you don’t like notifications but would still like to make use of the phone app through Bluetooth connection, then you can switch them off or silence them in the ’Settings’ menu.

I found the Suunto 9 to be an ideal travel companion for multi sports trips.

Bottom Line

I’ve spent the past five weeks with the Suunto 9 Baro on my wrist. Activities have ranged from multiple trips ski touring in France to hiking in Iceland whilst also keeping up my fitness between these trips by running in London.

Overall, it’s become an essential companion to take with me during all of my activities. The ability to track and look back on the finer points of my ski touring and running trips have been an invaluable tool in keeping a log of what I’ve done and monitoring my fitness gains (and losses!).

Battery life was the selling point to this watch and this really is where the Suunto 9 shines. I took it on hut-to-hut ski tours and it kept up with me over three days of GPS tracking (GPS was switched off during the evenings). The device automatically adjusts the settings to conserve power when you do find yourself running out of juice and with no way to charge it.

Once back from each trip, I was able to take a look at the GPS positioning to find where I had travelled in relation to the map, I could look at my heart rate zones in specific areas of the tour and my timings for each section – a brilliant training companion which helped me to hone in on specific training improvements.

Knowing that you’ve got a personal GPS device on your wrist has been a great confidence booster when ski touring in real backcountry terrain. The ability to gather almost instantaneous location information could one day prove invaluable if things take a turn for the worse.

A couple of downsides to note. Firstly I did find that the screen can become hard to read in direct sunlight, particularly when in the sleep mode, forcing you to press a button to wake the watch back up. I’ve been running the watch at 50% brightness.

Secondly, I wish they had placed the function buttons on the left hand side of the watch. As someone who wears a watch on my left hand, when I found myself reaching for a hold and flexing my wrist while climbing, the back of my palm would sometimes unintentionally press one of the buttons and change the function. At times the recording of my exercise would be paused until I noticed what had happened. This can be avoided by wearing the watch on the right arm, but left is what I’m used to.

I’d have loved to see local mapping functions built into the watch, along with some more classic ‘smartwatch’ features, such as an Apple Pay type feature, or Spotify use built in for Bluetooth head phone users, but still, I understand that you can’t get it all in such a small and affordable package.

All in, this is an extremely nifty device and it’s impressive to see this amount of features and battery performance squeezed into a relatively affordable package. The Suunto 9 will have you geeking out about the finer details of your trips, and it’ll become an invaluable travel companion for those of us who spend a lot of time off the beaten track.

£499
White or Black
suunto.com

 

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