Although my trusty Garmin 305 is still working, I began thinking it might be time for an upgrade when a friend asked if that was a tablet strapped to my wrist! OK, so maybe it’s not that big, but there are smaller options available today.
One such option is the Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR. In a much more reasonably sized package, I get all of the functionality of my previous sports watch and more.
Right out of the box, the Spartan is charged and ready to go. What I thought was a very thorough user’s manual turned out to be about 5 pages of instructions repeated over and over in just about any language you can think of. No problem, I’ll find instructions on the web.
The first thing I did was to download the Suunto Movescount software and check for a firmware update for my watch. This is a simple process and it goes quickly. Anxious to try out the watch, I disconnected and decided to give it a try. The watch comes pre-loaded with a number of “sport modes” that are already configured with the metrics that are most important for a particular exercise. For example, my main sport is running, so the basic setup for the running sport mode includes pace, heart rate, distance, duration, and more. There are 4 different screens for each exercise. The first question I had was “how do I configure these screens to display what I want to display in the order that I want to see them?”. On my Garmin, I was able to configure those screens right on the watch, but the Suunto doesn’t allow that. Instead, you have to go to the movescount web site. This is where you can change the settings on the watch, and then you synch those settings to the watch using the Suunto Link app. Once I learned that, I set up a custom sport mode with the metrics I wanted to see, in the layout that I prefer. I also deleted the sport modes that I wouldn’t be using.
Using the Spartan is a breeze. One thing I really appreciate about the newer watches is that they don’t make you wait while they acquire a satellite signal for the GPS. You can simply choose your exercise, press start, and take off. As you complete each mile, the watch vibrates to let you know. It also has a heart rate monitor built in, which uses light to measure the heart rate right on your wrist. It’s not as accurate as using a separate chest strap, but it’s a whole lot more convenient. I did some running wearing both my old and new watches to compare them. The Suunto seemed to consistently track my runs as being longer distances than the Garmin, but I think that may change over time. Each time I synch the Suunto, it tells me it is optimizing the GPS, so I expect that to get better over time. Even so, it’s not a drastic difference, and who’s to say that the Garmin is right?
The Spartan is thicker than a standard watch, but not largely so, and that means you can wear the watch all day long, not just when you’re exercising. It has the features of a fitness tracker, so it keeps track of your steps, stairs climbed, heart rate, etc. all throughout the day. You can even use it to track your sleep patterns, but I did not do that, since I can’t stand having something on my wrist while I’m sleeping. Maybe one of these days I’ll give it a try. It features several watch faces from which you can choose, but none of them are anything to write home about, and I didn’t see any way to import watch faces from other sources.
While the Spartan is not a “smart watch”, it does connect to your phone via Bluetooth, and you can receive notifications from your phone for things like texts and news headlines. Although you can’t interact with the notifications from the watch, it’s actually a nice feature to have. I’ve never been able to see the value of the high-end smart watches, but I’ll admit that I do like being able to check a notification easily while driving without having to pick up the phone (which I shouldn’t be doing anyway, right?).
Battery life is good, and I can get about 4 days out of a charge, using the GPS every day for about 45 minutes. Charging doesn’t take long, and it’s easy to connect it to the computer, synch my information, and charge it at the same time.
The Spartan features lots of screens to help you keep track of your fitness. You can see a weekly summary of key metrics like distance run, average heart rate and average pace on a daily basis. That’s pretty cool, but it’s even better when you upload the data to movescount or other apps such as Map My Run. There, you can easily see your trends and keep track of your fitness over time.
Overall, I’m very impressed with this watch. This is a tough category, and you have decide if buy in at a price point like the spot where the Spartan is, or do you go further and get a full smart watch such as the Apple Watch. At $279, this is a pretty good bargain, and you get a lot for the money. You don’t get a touch screen at this price, but I think that’s a reasonable trade-off. The buttons are responsive, and I prefer physical buttons when everything is sweaty or otherwise wet, so I would definitely not pay more for a touch screen. I’m very happy with this watch and am looking forward to getting a lot more use out of it. If you’re in the market for a GPS watch, you should definitely include this one on your short list!