Some great specs are on the Suunto site and, from a hardware perspective, it looks a superior bet to the Fenix 3, on paper at least.
However. There is always a HOWEVER or a BUT.
The Spartan SPORT announcement was ended with the reference to (OPTICAL) HR on the wrist by the end of the year.
Immediately I assumed they would have gone with MIO who have been very quiet on the optical front since there brief partnership with Garmin for the Forerunner 225. Garmin of course presumably used this as a stepping stone to their own ELEVATE optical technology. MIO put together a great hardware package with the MIO Link (review here) that remains a good optical HR wrist band even today.
Well it’s not them.
Then I thought of LIFEQ who have been very active. Recently they announced a partnership with Garmin and, of course, they are the optical powerhouse behind the hugely successful TomTom Runner2/SPARK (review here). Indeed, LIFEQ’s measurement solution is validated (here) and is generally pretty good in my experience.
Well it’s not them.
Then I thought they might have worked on their own. I dismissed that as unlikely.
And, indeed, that is the case. They did NOT do it themselves. Unlike Epson who had an awesome go with the Runsense SF810 (review here).
They went with VALENCELL (Source: dcrainmaker.com).
Despair not dear Suunto lovers. That is, indeed, a super-wise choice. Even though you’ve probably never heard of them. The reason being that VALENCELL powers the Scosche RHYTHM (review here).
Now the Scosche RHYTHM is a sort-of wonderful thing. Once I even re-did one of my tests as the HR track from the Scosche PRECISELY matched the one from my chest strap. It was SO similar that I assumed that I had two devices BOTH RECORDING THE CHEST STRAP.
So the VALENCELL partnership does sound great and it is.
Some caveats though. Firstly the Scosche RHYTHM works on the upper arm which I believe is an intrinsically better and easier place to take HR readings optically. Having said that I’ve tried it on other parts of the body (don’t ask!) and it’s good. Secondly Suunto will have to integrate the sensor, if they do a bad job we will get bad HR results (unlikely, but I mention it anyway!).
Thirdly, apart from accuracy, there will be battery consumption issues. I’m not sure that many Suunto users want 247 non-HRV, optical HR monitoring which is only peripherally useful at best. And if Suunto have delivered 247 HR then the battery WILL take a hit. This could be a shame as ‘somehow’ Suunto seem to have delivered superior hardware onto the SPARTAN, certainly superior when compared to the screen resolution in the Fenix 3 whilst still matching or beating the F3’s battery levels. (Garmin Fenix 4 this year? 🙂 )
Remember that the optical HR sensor WILL lower the battery life when used for a sport as well – kinda obvious really, just not sure how much by.
Anyway. It’s probably a very good partnership and could well have been a WHOLE LOT worse with a different choice.