The Suunto Spartan Ultra - retailing for £559.00 - is the latest and best outdoor multisport watch in Suunto’s lineup, and aims to take on Garmin’s touchscreen trackers from mid-2015. It replaces the old Ambit models, and also knocks out the more recent Vertical model, launched last year. It’s intended to be jack of all trades, and master of them too, tracking 80 sports straight out of the box.
Although this model needs an external HR belt to track heartrate, Suunto have announced they’ll make an optical HR version soon. Apart from the HR belt, everything has changed from last year - even the online movescount site navigation, and desktop software has been upgraded.
Decent battery life and very durable
The Suunto Spartan Ultra watch itself is a sleek little number, with a Sapphire glass touchscreen displaying in vibrant, LED backlit colours, two fewer buttons to faff with, and no external antenna hump to get in the way. There’s even a new charger connector, a wee magnet positioning the pins correctly on the rear of the watch.
Battery life ranges from 18 to 26 hours, depending on how high you’ve cranked up the GPS sampling rate, and in testing that seems a pretty accurate measure. That GPS unit may scoff battery (don’t they all), but it’s a good un - adding in GLONASS support for better coverage - even with the lack of external antenna bump. In testing it’s been tracking better than the old Vertical did so far.
That colour touchscreen is a real looker, delivering easily-absorbed stats (up to a whopping seven data points per screen) in all the conditions I’ve tried so far, including driving rain and immersed in saltwater. High altitude testing will commence in October, so do check out this long-term review for those details. That visibility is down to the 320 x 300 resolution screen and the LED backlight, which seems to be relatively power-efficient to boot.
The Suunto Spartan has a new User Interface
The real star of the show is the new User Interface, which has taken the old Suunto watch navigation a huge leap forward in usability terms. It’s possible to pick up the Spartan, swipe a few times and be off on a training run, which wasn’t always the case previously. Basic daily stats are just a swipe away, and the default time display can be configured to show steps and recovery times too. Once paired with the new Movescount app you’ll be able to receive smartphone alerts, such as missed calls and emails, although at the moment in the iOS app these are simple text only, there’s no opportunity to send a response like in a full smartwatch.
You can configure which sports you’d like via the movescount site, so saving the interminable scroll through 79 other disciplines, as well as view your recent performances onsite, in app and on watch. From the time screen, swipe up to view daily step totals, again for training totals and again for recovery time, swipe down to head up into the main menu, accessing ‘Exercise’, ‘Navigation’ and ‘Stopwatch’ as well as ‘Settings’ functions. While tracking an activity, you’ll notice the navigation feature is a swipe or two away (depending on how many screens your sport has), which displays your route in a virtual bubble - the best use of this being a ‘get you home’ type function.
There’s a barometer built in too, which means your altitude, rate of ascent and descent stats are confirmed both by GPS and the barometer/altimeter, theoretically improving accuracy.
However, many of the really interesting training tools and services (such as touch screen lock, alarm, personalised coaching plans, granular planning, Personal Best flagging, logging and comparisons to name but a few) are still availability TBC, as is the Android app, so giving a final verdict seems a little previous. Check the specifications tab on the official Suunto site for a list of ‘coming’ functions - there’s quite a few.
Overall the Suunto Spartan Ultra is a very promising package indeed, with contemporary looks, solid build quality and some great usability. I’m looking forward to testing this over the coming months, as it feels like a real fusion of cardio training tool, everyday recovery and fitness tracker, and finally an trustworthy ‘just in case’ navigation tool for the outdoors. Suunto have a vast history of delivering solid technology tools for difficult environments (check out their dive computer the EON steel for example), so I’m quietly confident they’ll deliver over the next few months, but for now the jury is still out.
- Battery life up to 26h in training mode
- Titanium 5 / steel bezel, sapphire glass
- Barometric altitude, 100 m water resistance
- GPS/GLONASS route navigation
- Sport expertise and support for over 80 sports
- Training insights and community powered tools in Suunto Movescount