Suunto 3 Fitness Review
The new Suunto 3 FITNESS is an intriguing addition to Suunto range of products and takes the learnings from the SPARTAN range to new markets.
On first inspection, those of you who know about all-things-Suunto might think we have another SPARTAN TRAINER in our midst. It certainly LOOKS like the SPARTAN TRAINER. But there are key differences.
NEW STUFF, SAME STUFF
The software on the 3 FITNESS is the SPARTAN software. It has exactly the same look and feel. But there are some features omitted and some new features added; the hardware is also notably different to the TRAINER in one respect.
The 3 Fitness is going to be compatible with the new SUUNTO app going forwards ie NOT with the existing MOVESCOUNT app. The “Suunto app” is a totally new app and, probably, all of Suunto’s current product set will relatively soon migrate to that app.
For those of you wanting a simple explanation of the 3 FITNESS: It’s a slightly cut-down SPARTAN TRAINER with super-clever adaptive training built-in and with connected-GPS. Or, put another way, it’s a small and light format sports watch with a very clever inbuilt training program and GPS from your smartphone.
As of 4th April 2018 there are some detailed elements of the integration between the Suunto app, Movescount, SuuntoLink and sports-tracker.com (Amer) that are not available to me. So I’m a little unclear on, for example, the watch configurations that might possibly be made in the new software environment.
For the rest of you wanting the tasty details I’ve looked at so far…
- There is no GPS on the device.
- GPS can be retrieved from your connected smartphone ie you carry both as you run.
- It has Valencell’s onboard optical HRM
- As of 4 April 2018, the Suunto app syncs to Sports-Tracker.com via an iPhone and NOT to MOVESCOUNT via SuuntoLink. It looks like firmware will be updated via SuuntoLink. Sport-tracker and Movescount CAN be linked.
- You can pair to a BLE HRM chest strap like Suunto’s Smart belt or Polar OH1 armband. It supports cached HR from the Smart Belt when swimming (not tested).
- There’s an optical HR sensor and I’m reasonably sure it’s the exact same Valencell model as on the SPARTAN TRAINER WHR (the 3-LED, Valencell BW1.2).
- You can pair to a BLE footpod, I used STRYD (as a footpod). Others like MILESTONE should work too.
- STRYD’s power data is collected. At least for now.
- It’s for “smaller-wristed people”. It’s a less bulky format than the SPARTANs, although with the same effective screen size as the SPARTAN TRAINER. There is less bulk and weight than even the light-weight TRAINER.
- Screen resolution is 218x218px; that’s the same as the Garmin Fenix 5S and SPARTAN TRAINER but lower than the high-end SPARTANs.
- It’s super-light coming in at: 36g/1.27oz. That’s even lighter than a Garmin 935 (49g) and makes the Fenix 5S (67g) look like a lead weight….even though it’s not.
- There’s no compass-like on the SPARTAN SPORT & ULTRA nor WEATHER TREND.
- Altimetry is shown as being able to be configured on the app as either GPS-based or barometer-based. But I think this is a bug as there is no Barometer Alti onboard.
- The battery is up to 30 hours with connected GPS for continuous SPORTS use; even longer (40 hours) without the connected GPS. As a watch-only it will last 10 days, reducing to 5 days if notifications and tracking are enabled.
- The proprietary USB charger is compatible with the Suunto TRAINER and the Suunto AMBIT3.
- Syncing will be through an iOS/Android smartphone to sports-tracker.com (this is owned by Amer Sports and Amer own Suunto). Syncing further afield will be accomplished by linking to sports-tracker.com, I’ll have to double-check but I think that this can be achieved with syncmytracks (Android app) but it could NOT be achieved with fitnesssyncer or tapiriik (web services) the last time I looked
- Whilst I say ‘It is SPARTAN firmware‘ there ARE differences. For example the inclusion of Firstbeat’s adaptive training algorithm. Firstbeat further notes that: “A variation of Firstbeat’s stress and recovery analysis is … included that goes beyond just Sleep Quality assessment into daily life. Behind the scenes, the analysis is essentially the same as Garmin’s All-day Stress tracking, but instead of showing “stress and rest” throughout the day – Suunto will display the output in terms of “Resources” which increase during rest, relaxation and sleep, and decrease during stress and physical activity.“
- There is only 1 case variant of the 3 FITNESS made in polyamide. Polyamide is also used for the ‘glass’. The bezel is a polished stainless steel.
- Colours available are black (black bezel or steel bezel), white (gold bezel), pink (steel bezel), green (steel bezel)
In fact, it looks VERY similar to the Garmin 645. The Garmin 645 is twice the price and its matt/brushed steel bezel, in my opinion, looks tacky. I’ve also put a Garmin 935 on the right showing the difference in size to larger format watches
Let’s translate that image into Suunto-speak 🙂 Here we have the TRAINER, the 3 Fitness and the SPARTAN ULTRA. They have comparable screen sizes to the Garmins but the TRAINER’s bezel is a bit chunkier, making the TRAINER a bit bigger than some would like.
WHAT YOU GET
If you are new to Suunto then you might not appreciate what also comes as part of the Suunto-package. Here are just a few of the bits you need to know and some ‘highlights’:
- A well-constructed device – I always say that Apple users seem to go for the Suunto for some reason.
- USB Charger
- SUUNTO APP – currently in beta only on iOS. But by late April this software will be released in Android/iOS to coincide with the availability of the 3 FITNESS.
- SPORTS TRACKER online data platform for more in-depth views.
- Bluetooth – Bluetooth SMART sensor compatibility (not ANT+)
- Customer Service standards generally similar to Polar and Garmin
- Running POWER but not cycling POWER compatibility – both native BLE (Running Power IS stored but I am unsure of the display options or of the ability to sync the data elsewhere)
- Optical HR whilst swimming, swim-hr-caching support via a Suunto strap
- 70 pre-built sports and workout profiles. Presumably, the option will exist to create a custom sport profile. If not…
- New and clever Firstbeat software bits
The ‘Big Deal’ with adaptive training plans is that they theoretically optimise your training intensities, durations and rest days dynamically. So if you OVER-achieve one day then the next day’s session adapts. Adaptive training plans will become more commonplace over the next few years and can be based on ‘time-in-zone’, Intensity minutes or more complex measures like HRV.
Firstbeat had adaptive training programs many years ago in their ATHLETE software and other vendors, like Polar & Fitbit, also have adaptive training programs. Suunto has incorporated part of Firstbeat’s ADAPTIVE TRAINING algorithms into the 3 FITNESS watch.
Firstbeat has several levels of adaptive program but the one that is included with the 3 FITNESS is the “IMPROVE FITNESS” program. Essentially this is for sports/fitness people looking to, ahem, improve their fitness. It works on 3/4 sessions a week. Here is one of the graphical overviews. You can see I super-over-achieved the plan yesterday. Today I have my day off.
The 3 FITNESS has a dedicated sports profile just for today’s training session, whatever that session might be.
There is also a sort-of adaptive guidance within the workout. In a nutshell, the workout requires you to spend a certain amount of time at a certain intensity and if you go too fast or too slow the 3 FITNESS prompts you to speed up or slow down. If you ignore that prompt and keep going too slow then the training program will make you go further
or a bit more on the same topic from Gerald
Firstbeat Resources – Stress/Sleep
This is a nifty piece of new Firstbeat stuff that didn’t make it into the recent press release 😉 But hey it’s there in the product.
This is a variation on Firstbeat’s earlier “stress and recovery analysis”. The new measure of RESOURCES does more than just look at Sleep Quality. Indeed similar Firstbeat metrics are already included in the Garmin devices that, somewhat confusingly for some, show STRESS and REST.
However, it seems, to me, that some sports terminology can get quite complex, quite quickly. So I like the Firstbeat/Suunto idea of an aggregate level of RESOURCES available to the athlete. It’s simple. It goes down when stressed and UP when relaxed. So as well as a waking change due to sleep there will also be variations throughout the day eg work stress, exercise stress, a yoga class and a good, long sit down. I need to get my head around this a bit more but it superficially seems to make sense and the bar chart presentation (above) looks pretty clear and intuitive to me.
You can get your instant heart rate. You get 24×7 heart rate tracks and heart rate tracks in your workouts. These can come from either the inbuilt Valencell sensor or you can wear a chest strap. Chest rate straps are usually accurate and optical HR can be accurate for some people, for some sports, some times – Suunto/Valencell are not particularly better or worse than Garmin/Polar/Fitbit in this respect.
The 3 Fitness will only support BLE (Bluetooth Smart) sensors. Footpod, heart rate sensors and bike speed/cadence sensors are supported. Bike power meters are not supported. But the running power meter, STRYD when paired as a footpod seems to blast running power through to the 3 Fitness. This feature could turn out to be a bug as it is a novel feature to include in this level of watch. Most purchasers of this watch would likely never have heard of STRYD in any case.
The Suunto Smart Belt chest strap also caches swim HR for the 3 Fitness. I’ve not tested this but it works on all the other SPARTAN watches.
The new app looks pretty slick and offers ‘normal’ levels of sporting functionality. I’m not going to comment further than that on beta software that I’ve only seen working on iOS.
An iOS and Android version are confirmed by Suunto to be released on launch.
POSITIONING & PRICING
Here’s where it gets interesting. I give the high and low prices for each SPARTAN model and the Garmin/Polar comparison. Of course, these are the official Suunto prices, comparing to the official competitor prices. The reality on any one day on Amazon could be different. However, this gives you an idea about how Suunto are targeting Garmin & Polar and what other models to consider within your budgeted price range.
- High-end Outdoor MULTI-SPORT: SPARTAN ULTRA (Eu699 to Eu899) competes with Fenix 5 (Eu600+), 5X (Eu900), 935 (Eu550+), 5s (Eu600)
- Upper-middle Outdoor MULTI-SPORT: SPARTAN SPORT & SPARTAN WHR (Eu449 to Eu549) competes with F3 (Eu480+) and 935 (Eu550+)
- Low to mid MULTI SPORT: SPARTAN TRAINER (Eu279 to Eu329) competes with FR235 (Eu350)/FR735XT(Eu450) and Polar M430/M600 (Eu300)
- Fitness: Suunto 3 Fitness (Eu199-Eu229)
- You may well find any of these prices discounted
I reckon that’s about the right POSITIONING for the 3 FITNESS.
At this price level, other watches and watch types come into consideration
- Polar M430 – the Suunto will beat it on 24×7 looks for many people
- Wear OS (Android wear) devices – TheWear OS devices have awesome functionality but need charging very, very frequently. The Suunto will beat these devices with its uber-long battery life
- Garmin – Garmin generally have more features and some have similar looks. The nicer-looking Garmins tend to be more expensive than the 3 Fitness, the additional features will be of little interest to the target market and the Suunto, to many, will win on the ‘looks’ front.
- Apple – there are no current Apple watches at this price level.
- Fitbit – Fitbit has a more square aesthetic. Love it or loathe it. Fitbit’s Versa and Ionic have less mature software than the Suunto at this stage.
SIZE & VISUAL COMPARISONS
Here are a few images to show the full 3 FITNESS range (some of them are dummy units) and then a visual comparison to selected, other Garmin/Suunto models.
So here we have the five 3 FITNESSes , the white one and the all-black one are the two more expensive variants.
Here is a close-up of the strap. These are industry-standard and are interchangeable. Nearly all the SPARTANs have straps that are NOT interchangeable – the BARO being the exception
You can choose from the same, existing SPARTAN watch faces.
THE ELITE ATHLETE
Ths is a somewhat speculative section for a bit of thought-provocation.
Consider a good level runner who wants a lightweight running watch that supports ‘proper’ sensors. They will want accurate HR from a chest strap and accurate pace from a running pod (STRYD). They might want power for running (STRYD). They don’t need GPS for anything more really.
That kinda describes the Suunto 3 Fitness. Just sayin’!
That assumes the appropriate screen metrics exist and that STRYD will remain supported.
In all seriousness I would consider using this as my parkrun watch but
- That is dependent on being able to see HR, pace and power on one screen. TBC
- And, of course, I’m not an elite athlete 🙂
GPS Accuracy is determined by the accuracy of your smartphone and where exactly you are carrying the smartphone as you run.
Even if you have a footpod present for speed/distance, the 3 FITNESS requires you at some point to run with a connected smartphone for GPS. Some of the Firstbeat algorithms rely on this to, for example, get your VO2max.
I have no opinion to state on this yet. In the meantime, here is a pretty picture.
The lack of onboard GPS will be a limiter for some people. They will choose a different watch.
BEST RUNNING WATCH?
OPINIONS & COMMENTARY
This is a sweet device.
I am yet to embark on a full-blown review but superficially it seems to pretty much “Do what it says on the tin”.
It’s a fitness watch, hence the name.
It’s targeted at people exercising up to 4 times a week doing classes, running, cycling, swimming and many other popular sports. That’s a big market with diverse needs and wants.
The small size and SUPER lightweight will appeal to many. The good looks and easy interface will appeal to many. The usual levels of smartphone connectivity and connectivity to sports sensors will also appeal to many.
The adaptive training program significantly helps to justify the price.
It hasn’t got the word GARMIN on it. But lots of people don’t always like to dress like everyone else and maybe like the idea of a good price for a beautiful and highly competent piece of innovative fitness gear.
PRICE, DISCOUNTS & AVAILABILITY
The 3 Fitness is now generally available at Eu/$/GBP 159-169, any discount you can get to make the buying price lower by using the partner links (here) represents a good deal. You can get up to 17% off with Wiggle in the UK and REI offer good member deals too (here)`.