2015 Review : Suunto SMART Belt – HRM Heart Rate Monitor

4iiii Viiiva V100 Heart Rate Monitor, Polar H7, Wahoo TICKR-X, Suunto SMART Belt, Garmin HRM-RUN
4iiii Viiiva V100 Heart Rate Monitor, Polar H7, Wahoo TICKR-X, Suunto SMART Belt (the round one!), Garmin HRM-RUN

What it is?

The Suunto SMART Belt is one of the best HR straps on the market. It has lots of positive points where it scores very highly and a few points where you need to do your research before buying.

In more detail then…

It’s the heart rate chest belt that partners nicely with the Suunto AMBIT3 sports watch using Bluetooth 4 Smart (BLE – Bluetooth Low Energy). Data from your training sessions would then go to MOVESCOUNT for logging and analysis.

You: Oh. It’s just a HR strap then.

Me: Yes.

The end !

Well no! Because of course there is more.

Firstly it’s an itsy-bitsy strap. Nice and small. It looks beautiful (if there can be beauty in a HR strap). It is very small and comfy. By far the best of any strap in terms of aesthetics and comfort. I’ll put a picture up sometime comparing it to the Garmin HRM-RUN and the WAHOO TICKR-X…MUCH smaller than both of them although the strap itself is the same size.

It is at least as accurate as a Polar H7 in my experience. And, in fact, I now use it every morning for my HRV recording. My smartphone app finds the Suunto faster than any other HR strap. Only a few seconds faster but faster and more reliably.

As this is a Bluetooth based strap then it will also work with MANY other fitness applications on iOS and Android.

Which is all well and good but that’s still just a HR strap and most definitely NOT the reason why I would want to take a look at it.

So, why am I testing it? The strap partners with the high-end AMBIT3 triathlon watch. Most of us haven’t got one of those, but most of us do have a smartphone and here’s the rub…

Currently Heart Rate monitoring is trending in two directions: firstly, with wrist/arm-based optical monitoring; and secondly with functional innovation. The Suunto falls nicely into the latter camp.

HR strap innovation may not set the world alight for many people but I LOVE the one direction that Suunto has taken this product. It has a memory.

That means you can go off and do your session, wearing your strap, and not have to worry about carrying your watch or phone. This in itself only has a marginal appeal, especially as you have to effectively turn the strap on from the app (or watch) before leaving the app (or watch) behind and running. However the big appeal for me is using this type of functionality for swimming.

Unfortunatley what Suunto have missed out on is heart rate recording whilst swimming. To be clear IT CAN record HR  whilst swimming but only when you initiate the strap using the watch. Enabling the MOVESCOUNT app to do this is scheduled for 2015 (EDIT: YES! This should now work on the apps for both Android and iOS)

You might train by heart rate in which case you could sort out your zones for swimming and then you can target sessions accordingly. You could argue that you can take your HR manually at the end of each set. Of course that’s true. It’s a faff; but it’s true. If you were doing 20 lots of 100m then, let’s face it, there’s no way you would remember to take your HR at the end of each set AND take it accurately. The Suunto AMBIT3 plus this strap will do it for you. In fact it also records the HR during the set so getting a correct recording of your effort for the entire session.

So I trust none of you will be looking at your mid-stroke heart rate (ie whilst you are still swimming). Well, even if you do, you won’t see anything as the BLUETOOTH signal will not travel through water. So the only use for the data is when you are either temporarily or permanently out of the water ie looking back in some way and certainly not for an instantaneous reading.

I will be using HR swim data to complete my overall training stress/training load measuring/recording.

I look <here> in some detail at how to combine this data into your Garmin pool swims. Basically you can use tapiriik.com to synchronise a MOVESCOUNT account with, for example, SPORTTRACKS MOBI or GARMIN CONNECT or TRAIING PEAKS. That’s ‘basically’ it, but there are more involved nuances for those of you who want to analyse HR against other pool metrics.

Data Connectivity

If you already use the AMBIT3 then you are sorted. If you use SUUNTO MOVESCOUNT, you are fine (fuller functionality in Spring 2015).

But what about getting the data elsewhere?

For example you could be  longstanding Garmin user who just also wants a cheap and easy way of getting HR swim data (like me!) and/or you could be a FIRSTBEAT user. The thought of JUST having to purchase a new strap and then using an app is a good idea.

Here’s what you should need to do

  1. For Garmin users who use FIRSTBEAT. EASY!. Firstbeat will automatically link to both MOVESCOUNT and your local GARMIN data, taking RR data from both. So in FIRSTBEAT this is how you can use all their fancy tools with the RR data it requires from swimming. [Edit: with the newer Garmins like the 920 this has to be done manually]
  2. GARMIN CONNECT. You can’t connect it easily. Here are the steps
    1. Connect MOVESCOUNT to STRAVA
    2. Connect STRAVA to tapiriik
    3. Your exercise/Move MUST contain GPS data for the MOVESCOUNT to STRAVA export to work. Strava only accepts GPS (outside) data. So you have to choose a sport where GPS will be recorded!
    4. Link your desired service to tapiriik such as TrainingPeaks, garmin connect or sporttracks mobi (you need the latter to get your data to sporttracks local)
    5. Tapiriik can also send your data to Dropbox as a tcx file. So you have a local copy that you could import into software of your choice. I would use this to import into a local version of sporttracks. Here I would combine the swim HR R-R data with my Garmin 910/920 lap information.


  1. Is it r-r? Yes ! And that is important if you are considering a wrist based approach. Wrist based monitors don’t usually give accurate RR data.
  2. how good is the end of lap/set upload? Good, but it only works on the AMBIT3 at present NOT THE APP.
  3. how good is the connection to the body? It’s good.
  4. how do you link with the ambit3 for swim as opposed to the app. The app doesn’t work with retrieving cached data from the belt. Either on ios or android. The swim data caching to the app directly will work Spring 2015 at the earliest (Source: Suunto). Realistically on iOS first. Eesh.


**EDIT** : 31 March 2016:  A couple of users have noted that the caching used in conjunction with the MOVESCOUNT app appears NOT TO WORK if an AMBIT is NOT present. I have asked Suunto for clarification.

  • Looks good
  • Accurate and reliable
  • Comfy, it fitted great under my clothing.
  • Bluetooth SMART only NOT ANT+
  • Priced appropriately against the competition.
  • Caching only really works with the AMBIT3 at present. MOVESCOUNT app direct connection will be in 2015 I am told by Suunto…let’s see.
  • Does cache/record RR HR data.
  • The app or watch are required to initiate the caching (unlike the WAHOO TICKR-X where you tap the HRM to record)
  • Once the app properly works with it, it will be my swim HR strap of choice. Until then I’ll use the WAHOO.

EDIT: Late 2015 saw Garmin release the HRM4-TRI and HRM4-SWIM bands that cache underwater HR data. Polar of course allow underwater HR by using data frequencies that travel through water.

HRMs Comparison June 28th 2015AmazonUKAmazonUSA
4iiii Viiiiva V100 HRM£79.99Link$77.00Link
4iiii Viva MiniTBC
SMS Bio Sport Ear Bud£114.97Link$150.00Link
Garmin Heart Rate Monitor (Hard)£29.95Link$39.60Link
Garmin HRM-RUN (Soft)£51.93Link$99.99Link
Garmin Premium (Soft)£33.07Link$42.44Link
Jabra Sport Pulse£199.95Link$174.49Link
LifeBeam Smart Helmet£99.95Link$228.00Link
MIO Fuse£95.78Link$124.00Link
MIO Link£63.94Link$79.00Link
MIO Velo£88.43Link$129.00Link
Polar H6£74.99Link$30.52Link
Polar H7£39.67Link$49.14Link
PowerTap PowerCal ANT+£80.99Link$89.95Link
PowerTap PowerCal Bluetooth£90.36Link$99.95Link
Scosche Rhythm+£83.79Link$79.95Link
Suunto Smart Belt£49.00Link$55.91Link
Under Armour Armour39$70.95Link
Wahoo TICKR£44.69Link$59.95Link
Wahoo TICKR-RUN£49.99Link$78.20Link
Wahoo TICKR-X£79.90Link$99.99Link
Overall score: 95 out of 100


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31 thoughts on “2015 Review : Suunto SMART Belt – HRM Heart Rate Monitor

  1. Just one small comment. You can upload non GPS data from Movescount to Strava, just export it as a FIT file from MC and upload it manually in Strava. I do this all the time for treadmill runs… Automatic upload from MC to Strava only works with GPS data though.


    1. yes thankyou for pointing it out. not sure if it is in the post. the problem I have is that I want to automate the whole darn thing BUT I don’t use strava routinely. BUT I have to use strava as a staging post to get some swim data from suunto to, say, Garmin or training peaks. So I don’t want to do that bit manually.

      I’m also having a similar problem with weights sessions that for some reason I record with movescount as well (well because the pod is small). again no gps data 🙁 ty for your comment

  2. Hi, does the Suunto Smartbelt work directly with Strava iphone app? I know there’s this workaround with suunto app -> movescount -> export to strava, but the direct functionality would be nicer! Thanks for the review!

  3. just a quick observation about the strap (not the module): with some types of skin the strap tends to have a weird odor in the electrodes area, so be carefull. Mine got that odor after 15 uses and I wash it after every training session.

  4. Hallo,

    I am interested in collecting the R-R-Interval Data during the whole day for measuring the state of my haleness with regard to stress- encumbrance. For this I need no watch and no Smartphone because of the internal storage of this smart belt. At the end of the day I symply wish to transfer the collected R-R-Data from the internal belt storage to my computer. Then I would like to analyze this data with any software like “kubios HRV”.

    Before a buy this belt I would like to clarify two questions:

    Question 1: I have a bluetooth Smartphone but I have no watch and no docking station (which is to transfer the data to the computer). Is there any way in this case, to transfer the collected R-R-Data from the internal storage of the smart belt to my computer? Or must I buy a docking station? (http://www.backcountry.com/suunto-smart-belt-docking-station)

    Question 2: In which format are the R-R-Data saved on the internal storage of the smart belt? *.txt?

    Would be very glad if someone could answer ths questions. Thank you.

    1. hi
      the suunto belt can be used without a watch. it can be used to link to a smartphone app
      1. I am not sure if this will work all day
      2. I am not sure if RR data will be saved and transferred (I think it will)
      3. you cannot access the files on the belt. so they will be in the Suunto movescount environment.
      4. I am not sure how you can then get the info out of the movescount environment. all links FROM movecount that I know of such as to STRAVA make the link effectively using TCX files. tcx files do not have RR data.
      5. Other options are wahoo tickr-x and garmin hrm-tri. with wahoo I don’t think you can get the rr data from their environment. I think with garmin you should be ok as the data will be in FIT format. unfortunately with garmin you WILL need a watch.

      the developer of this app may know more: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.syncmytracks&hl=en

    2. Hi,

      I wonder if you have found any answers for your questions because I am considering the same: For a research project I want to hand out some smart belts and finally collect and analyze the r-r-data via kubios HRV. Which method (docking station or phone or app) did you use to get the data from the belt? and with which software did you work respectively which data formats did you use?

      I hope I will get an answer although the post is a year old now…

      Thanks a lot!

      1. sadly both me and this post are a year older, tech changes. my setup is for me ie 1 person.
        email your specific questions in**@th*********.com maybe outline the broad tech scenario eg how long you need to collect data for from each person 24 hours? 7 hours? I have some reservations…eg movescount DOES now export FIT files (I haven’t tested the RR in that) but that export functionality is a little flaky at present though will no doubt be improved over time. other HRM options for you are 4iiii and stryd (expensive), the former does cache FIT data but then you have to use their app

  5. Have you managed to get the cached data to sync with the movescount app? Whenever I get back to my smartphone I see a circle going around the heart icon (indicating to me that it is transferring data) but when I get the HR graph it’s just empty for the periods when I wasn’t near my smart phone. I can’t have a phone or watch with me where I’m using this band – so that was really the only reason I got this, and it doesn’t seem to work… have tried different “MOVES” … even Swimming, but no change 🙁

    1. just tried that. and yes I get the same thing as you.
      I don’t use this functionality normally and haven’t for quite some months…I’m pretty sure it was working at one point. (iOS ?)

  6. I am having the same issue as @gojensen I bought the monitor SOLELY for swimming and on the basis of this review since I obviously can’t take my phone for a swim. So, no app, no HR!!! Super frustrating

  7. Suunto Smart Sensor is BLE (bluetooth). Garmin uses for sensors ANT+. The two frequencies are not compatible, thus it won’t work. Garmin uses BLE only for mobile phone connectivity, or PC connectivity where this can be done (windows mobile app + compatible hardware present on the PC).

    1. I was also looking for it and found it! From the MovesCount app, click the + to add to record a move From there add the sensor hr by clicking on the belt and follow instructions to pair it. After it’s done, you will see that it’s connected with the actual battery level, mine is at 20% so I will change it.

  8. Really happy to find your post on the Suunto HRM. The most comprehensive and useful review of this product. I really enjoy your website and have decided to become a supporter.

    I’m considering buying the HRM with an AMBIT3, or a FIRSTBEAT, to do overnight HRV recording. My understanding is that the AMBIT3 and FIRSTBEAT do the the ‘overnight recovery score’ (calculated from a period of 4 hours of ‘sleep’). I assume it is recording HRV and only counting periods of ‘sleep’ and not ‘wake’. I can’t tell from reviews whether a user can access the raw RR data ‘after’ this processing has occurred. I would like to be able to do additional HRV analyses on this processed raw data using Kubios. You’ve had a lot of experience with the Suunto HRM and Firstbeat. Are you able to assist?

    1. hi
      thank you for the support.
      i will try to to help.
      i’d pretty sure that any MOVE you record on the ambit will have RR in it.
      i’ve not used athlete for a few years now. with firstbeat athlete, movescount connection provided a direct link. but exporting FIT should take the RR data out of movescount for kubios.

  9. In general it’s a good belt and what I especially like is that you can already put the belt on without the sensor so you don’t consume batterylife when you have to wait at the startline or like in my case I can put the belt on before taking the train home and when I arrive at the station I put the sensor on for my run to my house. BUT the quality of the strap is terrible. I already spent more money on buying new straps then I spent on new batteries.

  10. Sorry guys, im pretty confuesed here. will the Suunto smart sensor work with the Garmine Forerunner 645 music?

  11. Hi,
    Please help me.
    Is there a way to use the memory function of the Suunto Smart Heart Rate Belt if I don’t have a Suunto watch? I only have an iPhone on which I would like to start the recording to the belt’s memory, leave the smartphone behind and after the training session sync the data to the iOS app.


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