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Suunto’s new Ambit 3 Reviewed

Product: Suunto Ambit 3 Peak
Cost: $599.99 OR $649.99 with heart-rate monitor
Website: www.suunto.com/en-AU
By Todd Cole

Finnish company Suunto deserve credit for the new Ambit 3. Packed with features, some new and unique to the sports’ watch market, the big, chunky Ambit 3 will undoubtedly appeal to a wide variety of athletes, but will really get triathletes and swimmers excited thanks to the watch’s ability to record integrated swim metrics. More about this later.

First up, two versions of the Ambit are available: the Sports, more suited to endurance athletes, and the Peak, more suited to outdoorsmen thanks to longer battery life and the inclusion of a barometer. Men’s Fitness got the chance to trial the Peak.

Straight out of the out of the box it’s an attractive piece of engineering. Big, sleek and black (or silver), the Peak clocks in at 86 grams and boasts 50 hours of battery life with GPS tracking. I decided to take it for a trek around the some bush-land for its first test.

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Outside, it managed to acquire the GPS signal as quick as my iPhone and paired with the heart-rate monitor in no time flat. Over the 10km walk it plotted the route, altitude and, although I didn’t recognize the alert at the time, it even warned me of an approaching Queensland summer storm. Nice.

One of the big innovations for the Ambit is that as opposed to ANT+ for communication with the heart-rate strap, Suunto have switched to Bluetooth LE (Low Energy). This means that the Suunto Peak can now be paired with your phone, as well as other sensors. So by utilising the Suunto app, you can get a second, big colourful display of speed, heart rate, etc. Slap your iPhone in a bike mount, and presto, you’ve get real-time, easy-to-see metrics while cycling.

Which is exactly what I did for the second test. I paired the Peak with the iPhone, mounted the phone to the bike and did a mini triathlon. This second display on the phone was great on the bike, giving a clear colourful display of speed, hear-rate and distance. Because it uses Bluetooth LE, it can be paired with power meters, which I didn’t have, but will get. (You can’t get enough data, can you?)

As mentioned earlier, the other major innovation, and a first among triathlon watches, is that the Ambit 3 supports both the recording of heart rate data while swimming merged with actual swim metrics (stroke/laps). Bluetooth’s Low Energy is just that, low energy, so it won’t transmit through water in real-time, but the HR strap will hold the data and sync when you stop. You can even “teach” it which stroke you’re using. All up, pretty impressive.

The run was, of course, no problem. In multisport mode, the unit can move between customizable sport (biathlon, for example) and take into account transition time, too.

Probably the only criticism is that the watch will receive alerts from your phone. To be alerted that Spotify has a new song, of that Temple Run has been updated, is a bit annoying during a killer hill climb. Like many things Suunto does, this feature seems ahead of its time and will probably be refined in later version. For now, it’s easy to turn off.

While triathletes will love the Ambit 3, it would be a real benefit for road cyclists, runners, hikers, swimmers, MTBs, ocean swimmers, skiers…in fact, it’ll benefit athlete who wants to plot, measure and record route, speed, distance, pace, power, swim strokes, stride and altitude, heart-rate, calorie consumption, and EPOC (Excess Post Oxygen Consumption).

The marketing guys at Suunto once like to call their products “wrist-top” computers. For the Ambit 3, it’s a pretty accurate description.