When I received the SUUNTO Ambit 3 Peak in blue, it was love at first sight. Until I started trying to use it. So, instead of choosing to do a technical review of all the features of the Ambit Peak, I decided to look at how the watch could assist me from a functional perspective. This review compares it with the older Garmin 310XT (launched in 2009). Firstly, because they are both multisport watches and secondly, because I wanted to see what the difference was. I looked at the things that I love to as a trail runner and mountain biker, and how these two watches perform within these contexts.
Both watches are pretty big, but I quite like that, because the information is easy to read. Both are waterproof and have a soft comfortable strap, although the Ambit Peak’s is slightly softer. The Ambit Peak can be worn as a regular watch, but the black bezel scratches easily (shows up as shiny silver), so I wouldn’t. The 310XT wasn’t made to be worn as a regular watch.
STARTING UP/SETTING UP
The Garmin 310XT is user friendly and the buttons and menus are easy to figure out and intuitive. The Ambit Peak is the exact opposite. It took me about an hour to figure out how to use the Garmin 310XT, while it took me a few hours on numerous days, phone calls to friends and SUUNTO support, and scouring the internet for various blogs and user manuals, to understand the Ambit Peak. A workshop was held in Cape Town by SUUNTO to assist users. That alone speaks volumes about what is required to understand the SUUNTO watch. The biggest difference is that the 310XT is customisable on the watch itself, while the SUUNTO needs to be configured using the Movescount mobile app or a PC/laptop with a data connection.
MULTISPORT MODE AND THE FACES OF EACH MODE
The Garmin has a Mode button on the watch. When held in, you can select Running, Other or one of 3 Bike modes. Within each of these modes you can set up to different 4 faces, each face giving you up to 4 different metrics (e.g. pace, time, calories, incline etc). I really like the fact that the faces are customisable on the watch because sometimes, especially on runs when I am feeling more tired than usual, I enjoy distracting myself by viewing different metrics and running with different goals and just having fun with the watch.
The Ambit Peak faces are only customizable via the mobile app or a PC/laptop. You need to set up the faces and then sync with the device. You can customise the names of your modes (e.g. hiking, skiing, road run, trail run etc.) so you are able to set many different combinations of faces for different types of activities.
I did a bike-run involving cycling from the Southern Suburbs in Cape Town, followed by a trail run up the front face of Table Mountain and down Llundudno Ravine. Within Movescount it is possible to set up a new MultiSport Mode and name it Duathlon. Select preferred faces and sync with the watch. With the 310 XT you can set it all up on the watch and choose the relevant discipline, as well as transitions.
DETECTING GPS AND HR MONITOR
The Ambit Peak detects the HR monitor and GPS satellites in seconds; this trumps the 310 XT by a long shot. Many times the 310 XT picks up other HR monitors before it picks up my own and it takes about 10 seconds to a minute (in cloudy conditions) to pick up satellites. Definitely not ideal when you have to stand dead-still in a parking lot, while your mates head up a mountain. As an aside: I’ve been told that “warming up” your GPS watch 5 to 10 minutes ahead of time (e.g. while you are driving), results in more accurate readings.
I set up various combinations of interval sessions, including warm ups and cool downs. First on the 310XT itself and then got stuck trying to repeat this on the Ambit Peak. Turns out it is only possible to set up interval workouts on Movescount (mobile app or PC/laptop). I find this to be a significant negative. When I was having a tough day and wasn’t able to complete longer workouts, I couldn’t simply amend the session on the Ambit Peak to shorter intervals. On the 310XT this was possible.
A REGULAR OL’ TRAIL RUN UP MY FAVOURITE TABLE MOUNTAIN
I completed a regular Saturday morning trail run up Table Mountain with both watches.
The outputs were 50 m out in distance (Ambit Peak less than 310XT) and 35 m out in total elevation gained (Ambit Peak less than 310XT). The Ambit Peak is said to use much newer technology to measure altitude. The Ambit Peak recorded 10.15 km and 598 m of ascent. While the 310 XT recorded 10.2 km and 633 m of ascent. A third watch would have been great to compare.
FOLLOWING A ROUTE
There were pros and cons to each watch here. It is easy to set up a route to follow on the Ambit Peak. Either draw the route in Google Earth, open in Movescount and then sync to the watch. Or draw it in Movescount and sync with the watch. You could also import a route that someone else has run, open it in Movescount and sync with your watch.
On the other hand, Garmin Connect does not allow one to open a route (gpx or kmz) unless it is in the form of a workout, i.e. someone must have done the route already; then you can open it in Garmin Connect and sync with your watch. I have been told that you may be able to create routes using other software and then import to Garmin Connect, but I am not familiar with these and it didn’t seem to be quick and easy. If you would like to create a route that follows streets, this is possible using MapMyRide as shown here (http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2010/03/how-to-create-mapscourses-for-your.html).
When following a route on the watch, it is significantly easier to follow the 310 XT route/track, than it is on the Ambit Peak. On the 310 XT you are able to zoom in very closely to see where you are in relation to the route and the watch will warn you with alarm tones when you veer off the route. On the Ambit Peak, only two zoom options are available – very zoomed in and a full view of the route. There are also no alarms when you veer off course. I found it unpleasant to follow a route on the Ambit Peak even when it was just through urban streets, yet I followed the SkyRun Lite route during a race easily on the 310XT, in stormy conditions, with little visibility.
NAVIGATING USING POINTS OF INTEREST
When going on mountain adventures in unfamiliar areas, I like to navigate by means of POIs. It is not possible to set up POIs in Garmin Connect, so I worked around this by editing the only three POIs (for Garmin Stores around the world) that come pre-saved on the watch. But three POIs won’t get me very far. So, for my own purposes, I consider this to be the Garmin 310 XT’s most limiting feature.
In comparison, it is very easy to set up POIs for the Ambit Peak. It can be done in Movescount or on the watch directly. These are nicely categorised according to type of feature (e.g. cave, lodging, parking etc). You can also input the POIs directly on the watch, but it takes a very long time.
It is easy to follow POIs on both the watches. Both indicate the distance (as the crow flies) to the POI. The Ambit Peak indicates the direction with an arrow. While the 310 XT shows you a line connecting your current location to your POI (so it is easier to see when you are veering from your target) and estimates the time to the POI based on your current pace. On both watches you can save your current location as a POI while you are logging an activity.
When we climbed Seweweekspoort Peak a few weeks ago, I preloaded the Ambit Peak with the POIs and found it very easy to navigate to these where necessary.
Both the watches have good battery life. 20 hours on the Garmin and 25 hours on the SUUNTO. I haven’t been able to check if that is exactly true, because I would usually charge the watch when it begins to run low, to avoid going flat during a run. I did, however, notice that while tracking a route, the battery life on both devices is significantly reduced.
MOVESCOUNT APP VS GARMIN CONNECT APP
In terms of functionality, I use the Movescount app mainly for changing the faces of the modes on the Ambit Peak and for syncing my workouts (not for looking at metrics because the information provided is not comprehensive). While I mainly use Garmin Connect to view all the metrics of my workouts and weekly/monthly summaries.
I experienced some issues syncing with the Movescount mobile app and always had to unpair the device, then pair it again and then get the timing just right when I search for the device on the phone. In comparison, the 310XT is not bluetooth enabled so you cannot sync directly with the Garmin Connect app. You need to sync with a PC/laptop via the ANT stick and then you are automatically able to view the outputs in the app.
The Garmin Connect app is sleek, professional and user friendly with all the metrics that I like to see, including summaries of shoe mileage. The Movescount app is severely lacking. It is easier to find a specific work out in the Garmin interface because workouts are grouped into weeks and it shows the specific date and workout description. In Movescount, workouts are shown as weeks ago e.g. 8 weeks ago, without the description, and you have to take a few guesses when you are searching for a particular workout.
Garmin Connect summarises the last 7 days, last 4 weeks and the last 12 months and you can see all the runs listed under the summaries. Really easy to read and comprehend. Great work from Garmin in this regard.
As much as I love the bright blue colour and the big catchy face, The SUUNTO Ambit peak is not as user friendly as the Garmin Forerunner 310XT. Being just a regular runner, who enjoys doing regular runner type things, I prefer the Garmin 310 XT. At approximately half the price of the SUUNTO Ambit Peak, it’s a no brainer (unless looks/aesthetics trump functionality). However, the ability to import POIs or input them directly on the watch is a very basic feature which is lacking on the 310 XT and a big negative for someone who enjoys exploring unfamiliar routes.
If you prefer bells and whistles, a newer model such as the Garmin Fenix would probably be more up your alley.