Garmin Fenix 3 vs Suunto SPARTAN ULTRA – GPS Test – GPS Face-off

Great news today as my Fenix 3 returns home after a long enforced absence – a ‘friend’ ‘borrowed’ it and ‘forgot’ it was on his wrist! Unfortunately, as you can see from the above image, my 920XT has now ‘gone walkabout’…sigh. ūüôā

It was a great time to put the Fenix 3 to my GPS-test-of-doom aka a quite tricky 100 minute standard run. I also have a replacement SPARTAN ULTRA so it seemed like a good idea to compare the two.

(Here) is my full methodology, source FIT/TCX files and a link to the route. The methodology and route are generally good and challenging respectively, IMO. There is subjectivity in the interpretation of the results.

Garmin fans will be pleased to learn that the Fenix 3 performed very well sneaking up into joint second place (FWIW).¬†My replacement ULTRA#2 performed similarly to the previous ULTRA#1. Neither the Fenix 3 nor ULTRA seem to match the Spartan SPORT. Which, of course, is hardware-wise, near-identical to the Spartan ULTRA or, obviously, NOT. I can only report what I find…warts and all.

In my test the Fenix 3 performed exceptionally well on the easy components of the test and then moderately well on the medium-difficulty and hard components. One reason why it outperformed the ULTRA was because it was so much better on the EASY sections.

Performance on the HARD sections is still currently led by the SPARTAN SPORT and TomTom Runner 3 and these are the only devices to produce a ‘GOOD’ performance in on the hard sections. See: spreadsheet linked to (Here)

Over the entire 100 minutes pretty much all devices get the total distance ‘correct’ by give or take 1%. IMHO judging a device by how it records total distance is only a small part of the GPS accuracy equation.

An updated GPS performance chart is shown below.

In my opinion anything over 60% is acceptable for this hard test
1 Suunto Spartan Sport pre GPS fix 81%
2 Garmin Fenix 3 79%
3 TomTom Runner 3 79%
4 Suunto SPARTAN Sport post gpsfix+GLONASS 79%
5 TomTom Adventurer 79%
6 Polar V800 NORMAL 77%
7 Garmin Forerunner 235 73%
8 Suunto Spartan Ultra post gpsfix, GPS 73%
9 Polar M400 71%
10 Suunto SPARTAN Ultra #2 post gpsfix+GLONASS 69%
11 Polar V800 UNDERSIDE 65%
12 Suunto Spartan Ultra pre GPS fix 65%
13 Polar M600 63%
14 Garmin 920XT 63%
15 Fitbit Surge 63%
16 Epson SF-810 62%
17 Lezyne Micro C GPS 62%
18 Suunto SPARTAN Ultra post gpsfix+GLONASS 58%
19 Lezyne Super GPS ARMBAND 58%

The reality of the chart, below, is that the %age figures should not be seen as absolute. So, at 77%, the V800 could still be the best after a few more runs possibly improving its score. However the Fitbit Surge at 63% would likely NEVER be the best even if the test were repeated 100 times. It takes a lot of time to do this and I give poorly performing devices a chance of a re-run or two. For example the left arm may have an advantage over the right on the route for technical reasons¬†and, today, I wore the ULTRA alongside a ‘mystery device’ – perhaps there was some kind of electrical interference from the mystery device? I took the mystery¬†device off half way round and then the ULTRA improved. If you want me to run the 100 minutes 10 times wearing only one device and then repeat on the other wrist…it ain’t going to happen, sorry! I’m only me.

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