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Suunto 5 Review
This Suunto 5 Review looks at one of the leading mid-tier triathlon & running watches that comes from a sports watchmaker with a longstanding pedigree for making high-quality devices.
Value For Money - 90%
Apparent Accuracy - 90%
Build Quality & Design - 95%
Features, Including App - 85%
Openness & Compatability - 85%
This is a great, value-for-money, running/triathlon sports watch, although more ‘advanced’ athletes and adventurers will want more from the improving Suunto app.
With the Suunto 5, we see a well-made and sensibly-sized sports & adventure watch that’s probably suitable to most wrist sizes. The Suunto 5 looks more ‘modern’ than the Garmin 735XT, nicer than the Garmin Instinct and looks smaller on the wrist than the Polar Vantage M. Indeed the Suunto 5 has that 24×7 look rather than the sport-only look of those directly competing watches.
The Suunto 5 is generally easier and more logical to use than the Garmin. It might not be able to match the Garmin on features but it probably has all of the sensible features that most people need to train effectively and that includes the super-clever adaptive training plans as well as the ability to properly accommodate all training zones with sensible, sport-based alerts.
If you are a casual navigator who does not stray too far from the beaten track then the Suunto 5, when combined with the Suunto app, offers some convenient routing and navigational aids.
Many of you will be able to wear the Suunto 5 for work and that 24×7 usage will be essential if you plan to track your steps and sleep in addition to your calories and workouts.
Suunto has done a nice job here and there is more to come from an improving app.
Here are some pros and cons and links to some great deals with Wiggle & REI where loyalty scheme members should be able to get around 10% off, if you buy there you help this blog, thank you. The SUPER DETAILED review follows further below
- Proper triathlon functionality
- Great adaptive training plan suited to a variety of ability levels
- Lots of support for lots of sports
- A sensible range of activity tracker functions for steps, sleep, etc
- Supports all major BLE sensor types, including STRYD and bike power.
- Provisionally, GPS accuracy looks good.
- Great battery life of 20 hours with GPS and sweetly unique battery management features
- Not all ‘pro’ triathlon functionality
- No mapping intelligence on the watch
- No ability to follow 3rd party online training plans
- The Suunto app is a work-in-progress needing some more functionality (it’s OK)
- Backlight could be improved
This Suunto 5 Review is geared more towards those of you who are looking to understand what your experience will be with a Suunto running and triathlon watch. I’ll add in some insights and trivia for those of you who have come here for that sort of thing. Yet, even by keeping boring sections like ‘unboxing’ to a bare minimum, this review is still long. Now is your chance to skip ahead to the section that most interest you or just get that coffee sorted out and enjoy the ride.
WHAT’S NEW vs Suunto 9, vs SPARTAN TRAINER
The Suunto 5 shares the common software used across all the latest Suunto sports watches with new stuff being continually added. This is Suunto’s second app-only watch, meaning that all your normal interaction with your stats and watch configuration is via your smartphone app and on the watch itself. The Suunto 5 DOES work independently of the smartphone for GPS.
The Suunto 5 replaces the SPARTAN TRAINER, however, there are some notable improvements and the headline changes are as follows
- Notably improved battery life and power-mode management (from a new Sony GNSS chip and software improvements)
- Onboard Firstbeat adaptive training
- New case materials and colours
Sleep/stress/resource tracking & analysis, and breadcrumb navigation features are retained.
These changes are probably not enough to make you upgrade from the TRAINER but they should definitely persuade a newcomer to Suunto to choose the Suunto 5 model.
The Suunto 5 sits below the Suunto 9 watches in Suunto’s range, representing a lighter, smaller format watch perhaps better-suited to those with thinner wrists and those wanting a smaller screen format. The top-end Suunto 9 BARO is twice the price of the Suunto 5; sure you get a super-high quality package with the 9 but the only extra functionality you get is really just linked to BAROmetric altimetry and an extra battery management mode. Plus the Suunto 9 does NOT have adaptive training and sleep analyses, so making the Suunto 5 a more obvious choice for most people.
The Suunto 5 has a unique shape within the Suunto range and which descends directly from the AMBIT3 series, much revered for its rather awesome GPS abilities. Perhaps that’s an advantage too for the Suunto 5 as it probably uses a very similar GPS antenna to the AMBIT, albeit with a super-new Sony GNSS/GPS chip working alongside it.
The rather strangely named Suunto SPARTAN Sport WHR (+Baro) somehow doesn’t fit in with the naming convention but represents a more beefed up and larger hardware version of similar functionality to the Suunto 5 but in the shell of the Suunto 9. Maybe they will rename it the Suunto 6? Who knows 😉
IS IT FOR YOU?
The Suunto 5 sits as a perfectly respectable mid-level running watch and a mid-level triathlon watch. It’s well-made and has a decent number of features including some uniquely useful sporty features.
It’s not competing for the wannabe, pro-triathlon crowd’s business but it is a ‘proper’ triathlon watch in the sense that it does swim, bike and run well, and as individual sports too. What it lacks in the more serious structured workouts, it wins with the clever adaptive training programs which are probably better suited to the intended audience. And what it lacks in not being able to create bespoke multisport profiles it wins in being able to display up to 7 metrics on a screen. It also has proper, native support for STRYD’s running power…unlike Garmin.
UNBOXING & CONTENTS
You get a nice box, proprietary USB clip-on charger and the free app.
It can be charged whilst performing a workout but you would not get optical HR when charging
Planning Training, Doing Training/Racing & Analysing Training
Let’s look at the experience you might get when planning, executing and subsequently analysing your workouts. ie Following a plan, going for a run/bike and seeing how you did afterwards. ie let’s look at the holistic Suunto sports experience – kinda why you’re buying it really 😉
Day-to-Day Use – The Experience of Planning Training
Many of you will loosely follow a paper-based plan or ‘just go for a run’ and you can obviously do that with any sports watch. Some others of you more organised types will be looking to calendarize your workouts as reminders and then also add structure to individual workouts, for example, to guide you through the effort periods. In some ways, the Suunto 5 steers away from some of that traditional kind of organisation and more towards newer, adaptive methods.
Your choices are to either follow Suunto/Firstbeat’s adaptive plans or to manuall set the structure of your workout before you start (or just go for a run)
To be clear: calendarization, following 3rd party plans and creating/following COMPLEX structured workouts, are not (yet) possible.
Suunto 5 is targetting beginner to intermediate runners/triathletes who either need advanced guidance or the ability to create & follow a relatively straightforward workout – or who just simply want to ‘go for a run‘!
Goal orientated workouts
When I think about it, much of my training is only loosely structured. So if my plan says go for an aerobic/Z2 run for an hour then I’ll just put my shoes on and ‘go’ for >80 minutes including a warmup. I’m not particularly concerned about achieving a specific mileage or duration as long as it’s ‘about right’ and I have enough extra loops and shortcuts to extend or curtail my run as needed. However, if you are following a marathon plan, for example, then you might well be sufficiently concerned to ensure that you complete the right number of miles, you achieve that precision via WORKOUT TARGETs.
I *AM*, however, interested in the intensity of my run/ride and would be particularly interested in staying in my power or HR zone and it’s great that the Suunto 5 gives me those options for cycling as well as running with STRYD power.
Specifically, the Suunto 5 lets you choose a combination of these (ie one or both)
- intensity from pace, speed, power or HR zone
- duration or distance
I tend to do ‘simple’ reps and the Suunto 5 is fine for that purpose. For example, I can quickly create an interval workout on the Suunto 5 for either 12x 1-minute intervals with 2-minute recovery OR 5x 1-mile intervals with a 4-minute recovery. It’s not possible to create more complicated interval workouts like pyramids. But that’s probably fine for most beginner- to intermediate-level athletes and any 3rd party, the paper-based plan you might be following probably isn’t any more complicated than that in any case.
Adaptive Training Plans
On-the-watch Intervals and Goal-orientated workouts are very much ‘old hat’. Adaptive training plans are very much state-of-the-art material. Whilst they have been around for several years in various forms it’s really only since about 2017 that they started to appear on consumer-grade apps and sports platforms. Many of them are somewhat ‘suspect’ in the true nature of their adaptability and might be cases of ‘smoke and mirrors’. However that most certainly does NOT apply to Suunto’s adaptive plan(s) which look good.
There are 3 elements to the adaptability of Suunto 5’s plans
- Progression – Rate at which you want to improve.
- Macro adaptability – day-to-day changes required eg if you miss a workout
- Micro adaptability – in-workout changes eg if you under- or over-achieve at the start
You choose your desired level of progression from MAINTAIN, IMPROVE or BOOST and of you go. You can see the planned workouts for the week ahead and you are prompted to start today’s workout automatically just before you start your workout. Follow the unobtrusive instructions when you are exercising and all is good. Handily, you can continue your adaptive plan by changing sports.
Should you wish to understand how adaptive training works then briefly: behind the scenes, your performances to date and personal characteristics, like gender and VO2max, are used to prescribe and evaluate the ongoing TRAINING EFFECT of your future workouts and the in-workout guidance steers you towards the TRAINING EFFECT goal for today.
Day-to-Day Use – The Experience of using Suunto 5 in a Workout
Of course you can just press the button and ‘GO’.
However, the Suunto 5 firstly benefits from very many pre-configured sports profiles – including a ‘proper’ triathlon profile.
Typically the sports profiles involve disabling GPS for indoor activities and including sensible on-screen metrics for the sport, so pace might be included for running whereas speed would be included for outdoor cycling. There are also various equipment-specific settings which broadly also include POOL LENGTH when swimming.
You can create your own customised sports profiles and display up to 7 of the NUMEROUS, sport- and navigational-data metrics on any one screen, which is not possible on any out-of-the-box Garmin or Polar watch. There are also special screens like those for intervals, navigation, laps and graph displays.
Once you get going you will probably find the Suunto 5 to be comfortable to wear. It gives beeps, vibrations and messages at the appropriate times, with appropriate instructions such as ‘SPEED UP’. The visual feedback is not always good though, even with the backlight permanently toggled to be ON, the screen can be tricky to read in some light conditions. Annoyingly, the backlight brightness cannot be changed like on other Suunto watches. Maybe that will be added later? I found it best to aid readability by switching to the LIGHT theme ie black text on a white background.
When exercising the watch is responsive and the screens quickly change and update, probably better so than when in ‘watch mode’. Strangely, ending and saving the exercise is a little slow, although that is similar to Garmin/Polar so not really a problem.
The Suunto 5 has several unusual, and nice, workout features. For example, you can change the targets, intensity zones, battery performance levels, and autopause whilst in the middle of an exercise – although some other features like AUTOLAP are excluded from that.
The two ‘special’ triathlon sport profiles work differently to the others and deserve a mention
- One is designed for those who race with power sensors.
- In addition to autolaps, you CAN insert manual laps in each leg, unlike with Garmin
- Pressing and holding the top right button enters transition. On reflection, it is a good way to progress to transition as it avoids an accidental press of a lap button a-la-Garmin.
- Pressing the top button again moves you on to the next triathlon sport
- Multisport customisation is on the roadmap to be added later.
Day-to-Day Use – The Experience of Analysing Training
The Suunto 5 is not intended for a sports data nerd like me. It *DOES* give some great feedback (probably more than enough for most people) and at the same time lets you send your workouts to the Suunto app and other training platforms on the net.
Analysis on the Watch
You get a decent summary of your workout on the watch with some sweet-looking HR x Time charts and intensity zones which you can nicely toggle between. An unusual feature is that MANUAL LAPs and AUTOLAPs are both shown separately (Garmin can’t do that).
Elsewhere on the watch, you can see the impact your workout has had on your recovery time and on your ‘body resources’. There are a few hidden gems on the Suunto 5’s menus that are initially not obvious to find, but it’s often just a case of pressing the top-left button to toggle through several sets of information like toggling between the HR/PACE/POWER zones you achieved in your workout.
Analysis on the Suunto App
The somewhat-quirky Suunto app is the way forwards for Suunto but is relatively new and undergoing frequent changes as I write this. It’s the long term platform that Suunto is developing. I’m not sure I like the way the app presents the data but, then again, I didn’t like the MOVESCOUNT platform at first but my opinions became much more positive the more I used it. I don’t want to dwell too much on the app as there will be significant changes over time as it adds in hopefully more functionality than was previously in the MOVESCOUNT predecessor.
Exercise, sleep, calories and activities (+steps) are shown trended over time as well as giving more detail for individual days. There are the usual ‘tracks of where you’ve been‘ shown on a map and details behind your workouts giving similar information to the watch but in a larger format, for example, HR over time, time in HR zones. There ARE some nice touches like seeing how your current performance compares to the same effort on previous occasions as well as the ability to add your own imagery if, for example, you are sharing a sporting event with friends.
The Suunto app has some unusual feature such as, for example, offering the ability to track ghost workouts on the app rather than on the Suunto 5.
You will not be able to see your Suunto 5 data in the Movescount platform as that is being phased out. However, at least for the time being you can see your data on Suunto’s sports-tracker.com website as well as on your iOS/Android SUUNTO app.
Analysis Elsewhere on STRAVA, Training Peaks and co.
Of course, you can easily link your Suunto 5 to STRAVA, Training Peaks, Endomondo and other online services for social sharing and deeper analytical insights.
The Suunto 5 DOES give you all the granularity of data you need for deep analysis elsewhere.
Day-to-Day Use – The Experience of Activity & Sleep Insights
Sleep tracking is fairly basic and to the point, yet it also seems accurate enough at giving a good handle on your total sleep time and time awake. Couple that with some insights to resting HR & trends on the app and it probably covers most of the bases that most people are interested in for a casual, quick check on your generic activity levels.
The info on the watch is easily accessible.
In a way, I’m less keen on the sleep info on the app although the bigger size and trend charts are more readable. I’m not sure that the app gives that much more real insight into your sleep than what’s available on the watch.
Day-to-Day Use – Navigation
Historically, Suunto watches have tended to be favoured by the adventure seekers of this world. Consequently, Suunto has been good at navigation-related features for watches. However, I suspect that one of the trends we are seeing today is that more and more people are either wholly or partly relying on smartphones to take over parts of their navigational requirements. Thus there is a need to link the navigational experience of the watch to the smartphone app and Suunto is moving to address that.
Drawing a route on a wristwatch, even if it was possible, would be an extremely tricky operation for you. Perhaps the watch could be intelligent enough to recognise addresses but, let’s face it, all that sort of stuff is best done on a smartphone and then sync’d to the watch. As a navigator, you will use the watch as a compass-cum-route map to save your smartphone’s battery and to avoid carrying/dropping your expensive phone. In an emergency, you might refer back to Google Maps or some other app on your smartphone.
For a pro-navigator in the wilderness in the middle-of-nowhere then you have other needs which the Suunto 5 would only partly address.
I’m going to have to talk a bit about navigation on the Suunto app now. I tend to avoid that as the app could well be updated the day after I post this review. So I’ll keep this section of a more general nature. Have a quick look at these screenshots of the app (Jun 2019)
The first two images give examples of route discovery & creation. The heatmap tells you where others perform your chosen sport and you could create a route to take that into account when thinking of safety or just somewhere that’s likely to be interesting to go to. The satellite imagery shows other Suunto user’s public routes, I guess you could follow one of those if you wanted to. Otherwise, you can create your own route and, handily, that can be achieved by using the app’s ROUTENAV abilities is it has the intelligence to what constitutes a road/trail. You can avoid hills and you can create your route over a heat map…sweet!! You can then sync any saved route across to your Suunto 5.
- The Suunto 5 has a GPS compass which, roughly translates to mean that it can only determine your compass heading when you are moving.
- POIs do not seem to be able to be imported but can be created and saved on the watch (this will change in the future). Handily up to 250 waypoints can be saved.
- Whilst you can follow a route file you have got from a friend or the internet it looks like you have to manually put that route file onto your phone before you can sync it to the Suunto 5 (not tested, this should be changed imminently with new functionality). 15 routes can be saved on the Suunto 5.
- I DID manage to get some historic routes from MOVESCOUNT onto the Suunto app and then onto the Suunto 5…apparently that’s not possible. But hey! They’re there.
One-Off Considerations & Insights – Sensors & Pairing
The Suunto 5 absolutely requires connectivity to a smartphone outside of your workouts and, as such, Suunto seemed to have invested considerably into improving the smartphone pairing process.
Your other issues around connectivity will likely be linked to external sports sensors. There are 4 types of external sensor: chest strap/HRM; footpod (including STRYD); power pod (bike power meter, not STRYD); and bike pod (speed/cadence, not power). It’s worth mentioning that a Suunto chest strap will cache heart rate data and that might be useful for you for swimming or for team sports where you shouldn’t wear a watch.
The 2 main internal sensors are the optical HRM (which also works when swimming!) and the GPS sensors which also gives altimetry info. There is no barometer.
You can store and use one pairing of each sensor type.
A nuance that the Suunto 5 has is that it will only look for a particular sensor type in a particular sport if you tell it to. For example, if you have a road bike power meter the Suunto 5 won’t look for that PM when you choose an MTB profile. This behaviour seems ‘correct’ to me and is unlike some competitor products where it seems that all previously paired sensors are searched for.
Before starting a workout your ‘expected and connected’ sensors are shown as well as whether or not the Suunto 5 intends to use a chest strap OR the built-in optical HRM.
Note: Bluetooth Low Energy (aka Bluetooth SMART) sensors are supported. ANT+ sensors are NOT supported. There is no sensor pool, nor is there any way to identify which sensor you have paired. Dual-sided bike power meters, eg Favero ASSIOMA DUO, only have data from one pedal doubled. So there is little point in buying a dual-sided PM for the Suunto 5.
One-Off Considerations & Insights – General Design, Buttons & Menus
There are 5 buttons with no touchscreen and the buttons are used to navigate through a ‘shallow’ and mostly intuitive menu system where features seem, to me, to be ‘in the right place’ – it’s mostly intuitive
The buttons and menus are fairly responsive, although the buttons could have a more definite ‘click’ and pushback. The watch is adequately powered and the various menus can be navigated through speedily, although there are some occasions when there appear to be small pauses (also found on the £500/$600 Garmin 945 FWIW). Viewing the summary screens after ending the workout is a little slower than I would like but that’s a minor inconvenience.
As a summary, these are the main themes on the watch menus and that seems to be a sensible organisation of the features:
- Selectable watch face;
- Activity – steps and calories;
- Summary of Training History – by sport and by km/hours;
- Navigation – POIs, routes, waypoints, GNSS quality;
- Logbook – Details of your completed workouts;
- Stopwatch – It’s a watch…that you can stop;
- Trending/Current heart rate;
- Settings; and
- EXERCISE/SPORTS – Here you choose from one of the MANY (80?) predefined sports profiles AND customised sports profiles that you create on the Suunto app including cheerleading.
Special Feature RUNNING WITH STRYD
Running with STRYD power works ‘correctly’ with the Suunto 5 ie it can use STRYD for POWER and also for PACE/DISTANCE. The only aspect missing is the ability to add a manual calibration value.
Special Features – Physiology
Suunto has teamed up with Firstbeat to introduce a range of features that interact with measurements of your physiology.
Here’s an overview for each one
- VO2max – A good measure of your true fitness. t doesn’t take into account running economy and the 245 values seem to vary more than the real VO2max would and probably reflect the equivalent VO2max of your last performance rather than your current capability. Nevertheless, your VO2max trend should be upwards as you train more.
- Fitness Age – will show you what the normal age is for someone with the same VO2max as you
- Body Resources – See this as your readiness to take on the rigours of life, based on HRV
- All-day stress & recovery – See this as an hourly log of your body resources throughout the day
- Personalised Training Plans: Cardio – these are the adaptive training plans covered earlier and which are based on the training effect of your workout and other factors.
- Sleep Quality Assessment – This looks at some of the aspects of your fluctuations in your heart rate overnight rather than looking at simple movements of the body which other trackers will use to estimate sleep metrics.
Special Feature – Battery
It’s a strange day when a battery warrants mention as a special feature but Suunto’s new(ish) battery management really is quite clever and will be especially useful for those of you who are doing long events or for any of you who have ever realised that the battery level was a lot lower than you thought after you’d already started the workout ie everyone at some point!
There are two pre-supplied battery modes that you can toggle between before starting an exercise.
Then you can manually change the battery mode during the workout and the Suunto 5 should also prompt you to change battery modes when it senses the levels are low; that can be during an exercise too.
It’s also possible to set a custom battery mode where you choose the level of GPS accuracy from either off/ok/good/best, which I assume mostly changes the GPS/GLONASS/GALILEO status but it’s possibel it could change the recording frequency. Turning off the backlight and changing to the dark theme should help battery life too. Tip: Using a chest strap HRM instead of the oHR built into the device will perversely probably use MORE battery because of the power requirements of the Bluetooth connection.
Suunto does not yet have any kind of app store for adding extra functionality to the watch from 3rd parties.
However, you can link YOUR DATA to STRAVA and elsewhere via the Suunto app.
Looking to the future, I expect Suunto will open up their platform more to 3rd parties.
You CAN choose between GPS/GLONASS/GALILEO on the Suunto 5 as well as effectively choosing those via the battery performance modes. I started off my GPS accuracy test mostly with GALILEO and then moved to GPS-only to get a feel for what difference it made. (Not a lot).
I’ve also been focussing a little bit more on cycling than I normally do because of injury and rides that will include: King of the Downs (ouch); Pru Ride London and The Dartmoor Classic (ouch). So I’ve not yet had a chance to do my full run test. My other excuses for not doing OWS GPS tests have now expired as the water is warm and I’m working on that but am a little bit short of wrist space. Anyway, excuses aside, I’ll update this section in June/July.
GPS Accuracy – Cycling
My most recent escapade was the King of the Downs and those of you who have done that 100+ mile ride will remember the hills of Leith, Titsey and The Wall, with some particularly horrible 20% grade sections and 2k of overall ascent. Admittedly every climb was significantly shorter than any Alpine climb you care to mention but navigating potholes, mud and grit adds to the uniquely enjoyable English climbing experience. As was almost being killed by a Land Rover on the wrong side of the road, it’s amazing how your bike handling skills miraculously improve when you have to get through a one-metre gap at 35mph.
The ride starts at Evans Cycles near Gatwick airport so you get aeroplanes, roundabouts and a free inner tube too. Let’s go…
Here we can see the wrist-worn Suunto 5 (Blue) and Garmin 945 (pink) facing off against the bar-mounted Wahoo BOLT (yellow). At the zoomed-out level, all 3 are generally fine for the entire ride but zooming in on the section shown below, you can see there is a mini detour by the 945 on the roundabout (2nd image). The Wahoo goes off-piste near the River Medway (third image) and also through the forest at Black Hill on the 6th image. The Suunto boringly chugs along staying out of danger for just about all of the ride…kinda what you want really! Not inch-perfect but that’s the limits of GPS accuracy for you, nice job Suunto.
More roundabout fun and inclines followed that ride with similar devices on a different day whilst STRAVA segment hunting in and around Richmond Park. I discovered Nightingale Lane with a sweet 20% section just a couple of miles from where I live. I’ll make a note to avoid that in the future as I realised, from the STRAVA leaderboard, that there are kids out there that weigh less than me and probably have more power in one of their legs than both of mine combined #Humbling. Anyway, in the first image, you can just see the Wahoo ELEMNT (Green) starting to stray going up Nightingale Lane (the first image, left of image) and again in the second image. However, even though the Wahoo cuts the corner in the second image it’s in line with acceptable bounds of GPS performance. Then, later on in the third image, you can still see that both the Suunto 5 (blue) and Garmin 945 (Red) are still performing spookily, similarly to each other and both have the same Sony chip on GPS-only mode.
With GPS+GALILEO enabled you can see here, from a trip to Windsor, that the Suunto 5 and Garmin 945 both have little wobblies whereas the GPS-only Wahoo produces the better track. There were SEVERAL little sections like this but, ignoring those, all 3 had acceptable performances, IMHO.
The point here is that GPS+GALILEO reception is not as good as you would think and it’s not just Garmin who have that issuette, Suunto seems to share it.
Finally, here are some images from another STRAVA segment hunting day. With a 20km/h Westerly wind, you know just what to do and where to head…and then head back EAST going FAST 😉 Again this is a pretty good performance from the Suunto 5 and from the Garmin 945. Both with GPS only. The WAHOO is pretty good too though interestingly is still tracking differently from the two Sony-powered wristwatches which seem similar to each other.
GPS Accuracy – Running
From a higher level, GPS tracks usually look similar. But all those little kinks will affect your overall distance reading and, whilst that doesn’t bother ME it will bother some of you. Yet how can the running speed be correct when small scale distances are INcorrect? A: it can’t…and you’ve bought this as a running watch right? The pace simply CANNOT be right. THAT DOES bother me. Look at the following image…it is the MORE EXPENSIVE Garmin 945 here that has the problems. The third device failed but it’s indisputable that I was running over the footbridge over the Thames ;-), which the Suunto 5 showed me quite nicely doing.
This is another day where I crossed the River Thames at Teddington Lock (very pretty), the Garmin Forerunner 245 (review ed here) was the worst of the bunch here (GPS only). The Suunto 5 is using ‘BEST’ mode which I assume is GPS+GALILEO and which is probably JUST about the best track recorded on the day but, if you look closely, you will see that the better performance of the Suunto in one place is counter-balanced elsewhere.
Here are the exact same watches but further down the river on a different day. And the Suunto’s GPS+GLONASS this time is worse although JUST ABOUT within acceptable bounds;-). It’s near the tourists at Hampton Court Palace.
Further on, as I approach the awesome window display at Sigma Sports, the same track pattern was repeated but with the 945 worsening more than the 245. The Sunnto 5 is NOT perfect…but it’s MORE PERFECT than the other two!
On a different day when running the grid near 2 storey houses with gardens, the 245 is not so good. The 245’s route over all those garden fences would be somewhat trickier than the one I actually took 😉 The 945 and Suunto 5 are similarly good.
Suunto 5 Review – GPS Accuracy Summary
The Suunto 5 looks good on GPS-only mode. The track has a good level of accuracy for running and cycling but less so for OWS/swimming (results not shown here). But there is occasional jumpiness and this leads to jumping around of instant pace to a degree.
Even in July 2019, the Suunto 5’s GPS accuracy is in a good place. It’s probably going to get even better and hopefully GLONASS/GALILEO tweaks will improve things even further.
Suunto 5 Review –HR ACCURACY
When used in conjunction with Suunto’s smart belt CHEST STRAP (not included) you get all the HRV, super accuracy and caching delights that you would expect from a top-notch HRM. It’s even a small & ‘pretty’ chest HRM – as sexy and streamlined as they come. To many though, the chest strap is still an annoying strap!
But you want to buy the Suunto 5 because of the optical HR ON THE WRIST. Let’s talk about that instead… .
Suunto 5 Review – Cycling oHR Accuracy
There seems to be a pattern for me with unexpected HR troughs when doing higher intensity efforts. I reported this to Suunto in June 2019 at the time of the product launch and I would have thought this was relatively straightforward for them to fix. Ignoring the troughs, the rest of the tracks are generally alright-to-good as you can see…
Suunto 5 Review – Running oHR Accuracy
I’m a difficult case for ANY vendor’s oHR to work on due to my skinny wrists and some other factors. However, I was surprised that the Suunto 5 put in some good performances and then other performances that had a few incorrect spikes (the opposite of the cycling troughs). I was further surprised as I find running oHR is typically the most INaccurate from other vendors. Suunto seems tantalisingly close to getting a really good HR track.
Suunto 5 Review – Swimming OHR
Swimming is even more difficult to get a good oHR track from any vendor. But the Suunto 5 was surprisingly not too shabby in the pool yet strangely ‘off’ in OWS. I could say ‘needs work’ but swimming is a difficult case to get right and, indeed, that is probably still why Garmin does not support HR from the wrist for swimming.
Suunto 5 Review – Summary HR Accuracy
HR Accuracy varies from person-to-person and varies depending on the environment and sport you are working out in. What doesn’t work for me could well work perfectly for you. Unfortunately, you have to almost ignore any reviewer’s opinions on optical HR as your experience will likely be different. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
A Great Budget Triathlon Watch?
The Suunto 5 IS a contender for one of the Best Triathlon Watch categories. Did it win?
Link: Best Running Watch Report
Suunto 5 Specs & Resources
- Screen Resolution: 218x218px
- Size: 46mm x 46mm x 14.9mm/15.7mm (some bezels can be slightly thicker)
- Weight: 66 g / 1.98oz.
- GPS Altimeter, Digital compass, Valencell Optical Heart Rate
- Battery – 14 days standby or officially ‘up to’ 20 hours with GPS+oHR. Up to 40 hours with power-saving options. 14 days of battery life in ‘time mode’. You can also switch between battery-saving modes mid-workout and create your own custom profile which enables/disables the various functions that drink the battery juice.
- Over 80 sports modes + custom modes
- Waterproofing: 50 m
The Suunto 5 manual is available HERE
SUUNTO 5 REVIEW – SUMMARY
It’s a great little watch. I like it.
Would I recommend it? A: Yes, providing you’ve read the caveats in the review.
We’ve got a nicely improved hardware package most notably with Sony’s GPS+GALILEO support, improved battery life and battery management. It’s a nicely designed, quality watch with intuitive functions and insights on the watch. Add to that the fact that the Suunto 5 is light-weight and it looks fairly small on the wrist, then Suunto could be on to a winner. I’d prefer a higher resolution, brighter screen (but I say that about Garmin and Polar too) and the buttons could perhaps give a little more feedback when pressed.
The Suunto 5 performs well, yet my oHR accuracy results should be taken with a pinch of salt as you will probably experience better/different results than what I sometimes found. However you should get the same GPS performance as me and that is, provisionally, quite good.
Looking at the features on the watch, the adaptive 7-day plan and adaptive workouts are the biggest software add-on. These should suit most recreational athletes buying the Suunto 5 or even more committed athletes who don’t want to follow a formal plan. If you are following a structured plan then most kinds of standard workouts still can be properly executed on the Suunto 5 via Intervals and goal-orientated workouts.
There is some special stuff on the watch when it comes to looking at features that enhance your workouts including power zones/alerts, support for a sufficient number of sensor types and native STRYD support. Although it would be nice if a few more multisport modes could be added to cover duathlon and pool triathlon (custom multi-sport profiles are coming later)
Integration with the Suunto app is a Jekyll and Hyde affair; on the one hand, the heatmaps, route creation and syncing from the app to the watch are quite nice but the difficulty of importing externally sourced route files is somewhat limiting. Similarly, the social side of the app and the ability to see and share moves/workouts are nice but, to me, the insights I get from the app on my activity and workouts don’t offer that much more than what I can get from on the watch itself. Thus I could quite happily use the Suunto 5 as one of my main sports watches but I would quickly take Suunto’s option to get my data out of the Suunto app and on to STRAVA. Perhaps I’m being harsh on the app?
I’d give the Suunto 5 an overall 9/10 ranking. If you are a pro triathlete with a bigger budget you’d probably score it lower. However, for the money, it’s a decent call and Suunto should be on to a winner here by building on the success of the previous SPARTAN TRAINER model. Personally, I would NOT upgrade from the TRAINER but earlier AMBIT owners might consider that upgrade after reading this review in full and newcomers to Suunto coming from a low sports tech starting point should find their Suunto 5 experience easy, enjoyable and rewarding.
PRICES & AVAILABILITY
Official RRPs are: Eu/$329 or £279