Suunto 9 Baro - Review

Gemma Newbery / 03.03.2021
/ © Suunto

February was an ideal month in which to review the watch I was participating in a team “Route 66 Challenge” for my online bootcamp (GB Colchester Bootcamp) – to complete 2,448 miles of walking and running between our team of 19. It was just the motivation I needed to hit the road and complete some punchy mileage to contribute to the team effort. During the challenge, I found myself walking and running on average 10-13 miles per day, including some 10 mile runs and a half marathon before work; previously unheard of!

As a result, I ran a total of 125 miles and walked 191 throughout the month of February. I also used the device to record my online bootcamp sessions; a mixture of HIIT and strength training. I ran and walked in all conditions; from snow and driving rain, to glorious sunshine.

General: In terms of appearance, the watch is chunky yet sleek and wearable as an everyday timepiece (particularly during the present national lockdown, which finds me working from home in “athleisure” on a daily basis). I have a smaller wrist, so the watch face does appear rather large, however does not look ungainly. The watch strap is wide and comfortable and the material feels durable.

Screen/navigation: The menus and controls took some getting used to and were not entirely intuitive, but the basic start / stop / pause / restart functionality with the side buttons was straightforward enough once I became used to it.

Whilst the brightness is manually adjustable, the screen is more difficult to read in direct sunlight and also at dusk/dark, even when the brightness was set to 100%. Since the touchscreen function is disabled during activity, I found I needed to push the side buttons in order to illuminate the screen while running, resulting in some fumbling and switching between displays / accidentally clicking on the ‘lap’ function. Despite this, the large screen was very easy to read at a glance during a run or walk.

GPS: GPS tracking is very accurate in comparison with devices I have used in the past. The watch was always able to pick up a GPS signal upon stepping outside of my building and accurately tracked all of my running and walking routes, even in “low power mode” where the GPS is compromised in favour of battery efficiency – certainly remaining sufficient for everyday running around town. I live in central London and found the GPS held up even around tall buildings, tunnels (including the Greenwich foot tunnel) and around the parks.

Post-run stats are detailed and insightful, with distance, pace, cadence (something I like to be mindful of), heart rate (discussed below) and calorie expenditure. There is also some useful recovery data including EPOC, recovery time and peak effort.

The watch also monitors daily step and calorie count. You can set up step and calorie goals via the app, progress towards which is tracked via a ring on the home screen of the watch itself. The issue I found with the calorie count was due to inaccurate HR monitoring (discussed below).

Heart rate monitoring: The optical heart rate sensor recorded 24/7 heart rate tracking and calorie burn data that was in line with what I usually record on my Fitbit. However it was not so accurate when recording an activity. During a long walk the watch would intermittently record heart rates of 160-200bpm, considerably above my calculated max HR of 186. The HR functionality was somewhat more accurate for running, however there were occasions when I would record a 5km run and the watch would record an average HR of 80bpm. The device is very sensitive to its positioning on the wrist, which is to be expected for wrist-based HR monitoring, however I did find it particularly inaccurate and this could also be due to having a fairly narrow wrist. I note that it is possible to pair the device with a compatible chest strap for more accurate readings.

The watch also has a sleep tracking function based on HR activity. As a person who suffers with difficulty sleeping (particularly during the pandemic), I monitor my sleep to help me strive for improvement. In comparison with the Fitbit I was using prior to this device, I did not find the sleep tracking or perceived strain/recovery as accurate. The device often failed to record short periods of waking during the night. The app does not provide much insight aside from sleep HR in comparison with devices that are intended for this function, however it is useful as a rough guide. Due to the size of the watch, I would prefer to remove it to sleep.

Battery life: I found the battery life to be excellent. The watch has three power modes, Performance, Endurance and Ultra. For the purpose for which I was using the watch, I set it to Performance mode and found I only needed to charge it 2-3 times per week. I tested the functionality on the more power efficient modes and did not struggle with the minor loss of functionality. I would certainly feel confident using this watch for a far longer run or walk.

Apps: Suunto has now moved from the Movescount to the new Suunto app, which appears to focus more on health and wellness than sports performance. Syncing with the app was relatively quick and it is compatible with Strava, which is an important feature for most runners and cyclists. As discussed above, the app provided useful post-run and recovery data, albeit unfortunately compromised by inaccurate HR monitoring at times.

Conclusion: I found the watch to be first and foremost an excellent everyday sports watch, with some of the useful functionality of a modern smart watch. My major gripes were with the navigation and controls, which were not always intuitive, but were generally manageable. In terms of the general wellness features including HR and sleep monitoring, the watch fell short of the average fitness tracker or smartwatch however I appreciate that this is not the primary intended function of the device.

Suunto 9 Baro – General Specifications

Bezel material: Stainless steel

Glass material: Mineral glass

Case material: Glass fibre reinforced polyamide

Strap material: Silicone

Weight: 72 g / 2.54 oz

Strap width: 24 mm

Integrated wrist heart rate

Customizable watch faces

Touch screen lock during exercise

Touch display / Color display

Vibration alert

Automatic daylight saving time

Water resistance: 100 m

Battery type: Rechargeable lithium-ion

Firmware upgradable

Time, Date, Dual time

Alarm clock: 1 configurable alarm

Automatic timekeeping

Countdown timer / Stopwatch timer

Languages: EN, CS, DA, DE, EL, ES, FI, FR, IT, JA, KO, NL, NO, PL, PT, RU, SV, TR, HE, ZH*, TH*

Backlight: LED

Configurable backlight - brightness / mode

Button lock during exercise

Display type matrix

Display resolution: 320 x 300

Metric and imperial units

Wrist sizes: 130-220 mm

£431 - £765 RRP

For the full specifications visit : https://www.suunto.com/en-gb/suunto-collections/suunto-9/

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