State of the SPARTAN – After Suunto’s Firmware v2.0.40 (May 2018)

Suunto’s entire SPARTAN family are receiving the latest May 2018 update. It’s a notable update which includes features that even Garmin don’t yet have and includes other features that should have been there some time ago.

Firmware is currently: v2.0.40 which superseded a slightly earlier v2.0.34 release (and the prior release I had was v1.12.36 from which some of the images below relate to)

Suunto Spartan software update 2.0 features

Here is a summary of the new features that we will discuss a little more further below:

  • New Zones – pace and power (just like the HR Zones)
  • Enhanced workout traing targets – added duration/distance/intensity targets based on: heart rate (all activities); pace (running); and power (running and cycling, when a power pod is paired)
  • Notification history: from the watch face just press the middle button to see all your recent notifications from your mobile device.
  • Temperature has been added to the outdoor screen
  • Suunto Spartans with Wrist HR now have the Instant HR display directly below the watch face display.
  • Bug fixes and performance improvements including power management

Temperature – Environmental and instant Heart Rate

In the Ultra and Baro models, navigate down with the lower right button (x3) and THEN touch the temperature widget.

You will have seen this screen as you navigated down to the temperature. Instant HR…cool.

Notification Centre

The last 20 active notifications are now visible in the watch’s ‘notification centre’.

Intensity Alerts

Workouts can be given an intensity alert if you exceed a certain level of exertion; based on running pace, heart rate or power. This is set in the workout options before the workout is started. If, for example, there is no power meter paired then you will not be able to set power alerts. Makes sense!

The alert levels are set based on the ZONES that were introduced in firmware updates this year. It is not possible to set a specific alert level unless it corresponds to a zone limit.

Take out: heart rate alerts and pace alerts should have been there on day one for many people. The addition of a POWER alert, at least for running with STRYD/RunScribe Plus, is a market-leading feature.

Workout Targets

Workouts can be given a target based on distance or time. Standard stuff.

Progress towards the target pops up at 50% and 100% levels.

And the %age completion of the target is shown in the workout summary eg 108% below.

Takeout: This should have been more rapidly introduced. Even the Amazfit STRATOS allows workout targets to be set on more advanced physiological metrics – I’m thinking of TRAINING EFFECT targets. The Suunto 3Fitness model allows an automatically defined (adaptive) TRAINING EFFECT target to be followed.

Customised and Expanded Intensity Zones

Changing Zones For Running Spartan
Changing Zones For Running Spartan

The January 2018 SPARTAN firmware already introduced heart rate zones and now we have pace or power zones.

Take out: This functionality is good. The ability to define specific HR zones or have them re-calculated base on HRmax is fine. It would be nice to have the power zones automatically calculated from FTP.

Calendarised Workouts / Training Plan

The functionality to follow a plan from Movescount is now expanded.

From the main screen/main button press, we now are told what is in store today

When choosing to exercise we are given the workout as the sport choice

And that information corresponds with the training overview screens (main screen, button down x3)

Take out: This is all welcomed functionality. The lack of complex structured workout will be missed by some and the lack of an adaptive training program, as found in the 3Fitness, will be disappointing for others.

The New Suunto App

The ‘new’ Suunto app is called ‘Suunto’ in the app stores. At least for now you seem to be able to use it alongside the Movescount app. You CAN pair your SPARTANs with the Suunto app, although I also had some difficulties on Android 7.x.

I have been using the Suunto app for several weeks with the 3Fitness going from the beta version to the live version.

The ‘new’ Suunto app is highly similar to parts of the Sports-Tracker app (also owned by Amer Sports, Suunto’s parent company). Indeed if you sync data to the Suunto app it also finds its way to the Sports-Tracker app.

I’m not entirely sure about where components of the Suunto platform are heading, I’d assume towards the SUUNTO app and a possibly revamped linking mechanism and

spartan firmware
Post Workout Summary & Logbook Now Both Show Zones

Manual Firmware Update

All Suunto’s firmware releases are staggered globally. If you ever want to jump your place in the queue here’s how (link to: When I tried this for one watch, it worked! Anecdotally this seemed to force all my other Suunto watches to subsequently take their updates immediately afterwards through Suuntolink.


The SPARTAN family is in a good place right now. Some models have notably superior construction and components to their competitors’ equivalent. Set against that are functionality issues.

The SPARTAN functionality is generally OK. But some people will find a ‘special’ feature missing. This will be a feature that you or I will never even think about but to that person it is a deal breaker and they will buy a Garmin. This will happen across a wide range of peripheral features. In my case the omission remains a lack of ‘advanced’ triathlon features – although I recommend the Suunto SPARTAN Trainer in the best triathlon watch guide and I like to use the SPARTAN Sport (non-WHR from time-to-time when running

DCR rightly described this as ‘death by a thousand cuts‘. That’s a particularly unpleasant and long, drawn-out death. It’s taken Suunto two years to get some of the features, described above, onboard. Suunto REALLY are drawing it out.

On the other hand Suunto do seem to deliver generally more bug-free products that mostly work. As I have said before, with the exception of the ULTRA, all the SPARTANs have market-leading GPS accuracy and many owners also find the Valencell sensor and onboard altimetry to be superior.

When it comes to ‘accuracy’ of Garmin devices when compared to Suunto, I would take DCR’s analogy, add to it, and apply it in a different way to Garmin. I’d call it the Garmin guillotine-effect. Some people will simply cut-off their links with Garmin devices in one fell-stroke because of Garmin’s generally ‘meh’ level of accuracy for the high price-tag they charge.

Horses for courses. Swings and roundabouts. Whichever phrase you favour, Suunto are still in the game. It’s definitely a game of two halves and it won’t be over until fat, gender-neutral person sings.

With a rumoured Fenix 5plus, a rumoured new Suunto, and ‘other stuff‘;  “The Times They Are A-Changin’

And to prove that last point, the new Suunto 9 comes along…

Suunto 9 BARO – First Runs & Rides



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25 thoughts on “State of the SPARTAN – After Suunto’s Firmware v2.0.40 (May 2018)

  1. I’ve been looking for a reason to leave Garmin for a few years after repeated terrible customer service and sub-par accuracy. I was hoping Suunto would step into that role for me, but they always seem to be 2 steps behind Garmin.

    1. Garmin have many features in their watches. Ones usefull, others not usefull. The gps accuracy is terrible in modern garmin watches. Maybe support for Galileo will solve this problem. In both plattform you have advantages and disadvantages. Polar for me have features and good stuff. But terrible design. Design its always personal.

      1. I agree. The GPS accuracy of my Fenix 5 is not great. I’m done trying to understand why their flagship device is less accurate than my older Forerunners.

  2. Now for me only miss one feature in Spartan. Structured intervals. And i don’t understand why. Because you have it in more ancient Ambit watches.

    1. Same complaint from me. I have it on my vertical and use it quite often. I don’t see the reason it is not implemented in new watches.

    2. +1

      i think the reason why is that it is hard to program and incorporate into the overall architecture. think about what it requries to make one and thenexecute one and then report on one. all the changes on the watch and all the changes on movescount.

  3. I’m considering a dual sided power meter for my bike, I was thinking that my Spartan Ultra can only pair to one and so I perhaps need a bike computer. So power targets might not mean as much, if effectively single sided. Suppose with the right kit, could pair ANT+ to a computer and bluetooth to the watch ? If one can account for an imbalance and set targets appropriately would that work ?

    1. that would work ‘technically’. but you’re spending how much on a PM??? quite a lot i assume.
      i think from a ‘work effectively’ point of view you’r emaking the wrong choice. either go single sided or fully double sided. the latter option involves stopping using the suunto for cycling.

      1. Understood, another device is a must for capturing both sides, I was just wondering whether I could make some use of targeted training from within the Suunto world, eg 20 mins at xxxW, but I don’t think the Suunto training plans are that detailed.

  4. The fact it has taken Suunto this long to even approach the Garmin level of features is staggering. You’re in this niche place in the market with a grouping of users that expect (not need, not want) these options packed in at a certain price point and they aren’t here out the gate? You’re asking for trouble I say.

    And Garmin is the reason for those expectations–they frontload their devices with a slew of features, whether they work as intended or not is beside the point; they are on the watch. Just peruse the Garmin forums a bit and see for yourself the level of acceptance users will settle for.

    “Features X/Y/Z aren’t working quite like they are supposed to, but at least they are here!”

    “I can’t justify buying a Polar or Suunto because they haven’t included (insert option/feature here), so I’ll stay with Garmin”

    And I’m not going to pretend I don’t fit the description. I am very much in that first category of users with one caveat: Sensor support beyond one or the other signal. It’s the only thing Garmin did this gen that has kept me there–Ant + and BTS support. The only thing Garmin could have done in regards to me and people in agreement with me this generation: not dictate what sensor(s) I will train with/in nor basically trivializing prior purchases by saying “Oh, you spent hundreds of dollars on these sensors but we don’t like supporting the type of radio signal it sends out, so sucks to be you!”

    Maybe next generation Suunto and Polar get the hint, maybe they don’t, but the better business decision is to have the options onboard at the start (even if dysfunctional a bit) than trickle them out over years of the product.

    1. you’re right
      but options cost money AND time-to-market
      suunto also essentially re-invented their OS from scratch with the spartan (time/money). whatever new stuff comes from them should hopefully benefit from what is there.

      next gen polar.suunto with ant+ : literally everyone except Garmin hope so. most of us have learnt NOT to hold our breath waiting for this one. I keep checking before a new polar/suunto release…for kicks

  5. Very honest review, thanks.
    I personally own a F5X (just recently changed to third one due to malfunctions) but I generally have very nice experience with my local Garmin support (i.e. Croatia/EU). The only showstoppers I find in Suunto Spartan watches would be its large dependency on Movescount web/app and somewhat weird selection of configurations e.g. top Spartan model doesn’t have builtin HRM, Baro version doesn’t have vibrating alarm which is essential for my early morning trainings, very exposed HRM sensor which I think doesn’t help much to its ergonomics and a few things more.

    1. I have SSWHR Baro and it does have vibrating alert. Furthernore, I do not find HRM sensor to be that much exposed, actually I do not feel it at all.
      Regards from Croatia too 🙋😁

      1. If it’s anything like the Ultra the vibrating alarm is so faint it’s barely noticeable most of the time.
        While Garmin accuracy is an issue, the fact that you pick out the Ultra for having similar issues doesn’t help Suunto either

    2. Greetings from Croatia as well, you plan on getting the Plus if they are “due to release” soon?

      I mean that’s the only thing stopping me from getting the 5x right now, and the numerous complaints and issues reported with the 5 series in general and the promise of all the HW and bug fixes, and well, if they add GALILEO and possibly more stuff than even more of a reason to wait.

      If you don’t mind me asking, did you buy it from a local Garmin shop or somewhere else?

  6. “you’re right, but options cost money AND time-to-market
    suunto also essentially re-invented their OS from scratch with the spartan (time/money). whatever new stuff comes from them should hopefully benefit from what is there”

    But taking 2 years to do it also potentially alienates the people who would be early adopters/supporters and leaves people unsure of what to expect and reluctant to purchase

  7. Why do you consider the GPS accuracy of the ULTRA to be worse than the SPORT?
    …and where can I read about it.

  8. After last update SW my Heart rate is not correct. Both of them wrist and strap. Down the Hill 205 bom up Hill run 84bpm. Sleeping HR is all the time 72 bom.Suunto was my favourite watch last 6 years I both 7.different Suunto watches but naw is time to say goodbye .

      1. you have to get hold of the ZIP file that is appropriate to your EXACT suunto device it will be called something like (about 5mb). you plug in your watch and open suuntolink. drag the zip file onto the GEAR icon on suunto link and that FW is force updated. to get the historic FW yo uare probably best to head to the suunbto beta forums and/or try suunto support

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