Suunto Ambit Review

“Where am I going? Where have I been? How long did it take to me get there? What was my pace? Did I slow down in that one spot? Is my heart rate high?  Am I going South?” These are just a sampling of the questions you may ask yourself while being active outside. If you happen to be so inclined to want to know the answers to these (and more) in real time, you are in luck.

Over the past several years, GPS-enabled wrist-top devices have become the weapon of choice when tracking speed and distance. These devices work great for most standard distance road races, 50ks, and up to 1/2 Ironman, but (in most cases) extend over the 8-hour time frame and you will be without a timing device, wearing a second backup watch, or taping a battery to your arm to charge the thing up on the go. Now, add in the trail and mountain running side of things where we want to see real vertical gain or may be in a location deep in the woods with no clear view of the sky and very quickly GPS goes from being a great tool to becoming another thing to have to worry about or deal with during the run.

Enter the new generation of location based devices specifically for the those who are “Bound to cover a little more ground.” The Suunto Ambit ($500) may not be an ultrarunning specific watch, but to my knowledge its the closest so far. With rugged design, altitude via barometric pressure, an accelerometer to smooth out lost signal, digital 3D Compass, up to a 50-hour battery, and all the other standard functions you have come to expect from this type of watch, this device can take you from sun up to sun down and beyond.

Below we will take a look at the Ambit in two parts. The first will cover the device itself. The second will focus on how we manage the device and the data we capture on it by looking at the companion training site from Suunto, Movescount.com.

For your reference, I have also included links to some of my workouts using the Ambit during my testing:

Suunto Ambit Review Transcript

Wrist-top GPSs have generally failed the ultrarunning, mountain running, and trail running community on three points: battery life, climb in terms of altitude, and accuracy. The Suunto Ambit tries to address all three of those. It does the battery by enabling two things.

Suunto AmbitBattery Life
You have two battery ratings that come on the Ambit. The first is a 50-hour rating. That is the slower sample rating; we’re not going out and checking satellite all the time. We check once every minute to determine where that’s at. So if you think about hiking or slow moving activity or a straight path, that’s probably going to serve its purpose. In terms of running, which is what we’re talking about today, we’re going to want something a lot faster so we can check on things like real-time pace and distance and be more accurate with it. So the Ambit has the ability to go out and check every second. In that mode, we still get 15 hours. In terms of my testing, I was actually able to get 18.5 hours and around 120 miles of training in that time period with only plugging the watch in to do data transfer. So that’s a lot time and should really get you through anything up to a 100k and for the fast, fast runners out there, you can get through a 100 miler also.

Accuracy and Altitude

Another place where accuracy comes in is that the watch has an accelerometer on it. So it understands movement outside of just GPS. So if you’re in a densely forested area, or you’re downtown in a city with lots of buildings, you’re deep in a canyon and that signal is bouncing around, the watch will try to smooth out that signal by using that accelerometer of that movement and pairing that up with your GPS reading. So you have a more accurate way of doing that when signal is lost.

In terms of climb and altitude, the watch as an altimeter built in, so it’s using barometric pressure, not just GPS data to figure that out. So you match all those things together and you have a much more accurate device that’s targeted at that outdoor person doing things in the mountains, doing things in climbing, and being on your feet or bike or whatever it is that you’re on for a long period of time. So with those things in mind, first, we’re going to get up close and look at the watch in detail and then we’re going to take a look at the software side, which is also important for wrist-top GPSs.

Setup
Here we have the kit that comes with the Ambit. So you have the device, if you get the heart rate feature it will come with this heart rate monitor, and then you will get the syncing cable. So just a quick view of how that’s going to hook up. You have four dots on the back, the connectors which are going to connect with this part of the watch, and of course the USB port that will connect to the computer. You’re just going to clip this on and that’s going to transfer the data. This isn’t the most secure way of being able to transfer that. I’ve had that kind of fall out and some things like that, but once you get it and kind of figure out the best way to sit it on your desk, it does just fine. The good side of this is that you don’t have a hole anywhere on the device where water or something like that can sink into. So even though this is a little trickier than a standard USB plug-in, you do have the benefit of having more of a sealed unit.

Suunto Ambit HR Kit
Screen

So let’s take a look at the face of the Ambit. What we notice is, I have the black unit here. It is a relatively thick device in terms of a normal watch. However, with GPS devices, it’s not that far off size-wise from what you’ve seen in other places. So just real quickly to give you a comparison, here it is beside the Suunto T6c. So not a major difference in the size of these two devices, but it is slightly thicker. Of course you have a GPS inside the Ambit where you don’t in the T6c. So obviously that’s going to make up some difference there. So then to give you just another example of a very thin watch, here’s an Ironman Sleek beside that just to give you a look from the size perspective of what’s different. On the face of the watch you’re going to have the dials all around it. At the bottom you have your “View” which changes what you have in terms of day or time or seconds, that sort of thing. You can also hold that button down and switch over to the negative so you can have light background with dark numbers or dark background with light numbers, so whichever you choose. You have your “Back/Lap” button over here on the top left. And then on the right side, you’re going to have “Start/Stop,” “Mode/Next View,” and your “Light/Lock” here at the bottom.

Using the Ambit
So to start an exercise, it’s actually pretty simple. You’re going to hit “Start” and this is going to bring up your screen for what you’re going to do. From here you can choose “Exercise,” “Navigation,” or “Previous.” “Previous” is going to let you go back through your previous log of exercises. We’re going to go ahead and hit “Exercise” and “Next” and it’s going to ask you what you want to do. I’m going to show you how to navigate and adjust and modify all these settings because this is something I’ve done for myself here. So I’ve got “Cycling,” “Trail running,” and “Running.” We’re just going to choose “Up/Down” with our things on the side and then “Next.” It’s going to say “Start with the heart belt” or “Start without.” We can say “Start without,” or we can also turn that off. Then “Start with GPS” or “Start without GPS.” And that’s the basic way of getting into an exercise. Once the GPS is found, as it just was, what we’re going to have is our watch, which is what we want, in front of us. When we want to change the way that looks we can actually go to “Next” and get different types of views based off of that. So we can have up to eight different screens per exercise. So as we move through that we have different ones that I have set up and can change based on what you’re doing. There are also going to be different screens based on different sports. Trail running is going to be more about climbing, vertical speed, distance. Running (road) is going to be more about pace, distance, and splits. All that is configurable but those are some of the out of box options you’re going to get.

The GPS antenna sits right here, and you can see on this side of the outside of the watch, we don’t have that. It’s going to sit here; that’s going to sit on the top of your wrist, and give it its most clear view of the sky. You have a nice band here that is relatively thick. It feels like it’s going to be nice and durable. Metal on our clasp here. The bezel is metal. These buttons feel like they’re nice to the touch and give good tactile feedback. Then overall, you have a device that doesn’t have any seams as I mentioned earlier. So it’s a much, much more sealed unit in terms of what you’re getting. So it’s tough to go out and show what a GPS watch looks like without having a bumpy video. I’ve put this through the ringer, lots of different things, hill repeats, road running, trail running, hiking. What we’re going to do now is move over to the software piece.

Movescount
And what we’re looking at here is the Movescount client. This runs in your system tray; this is on a PC but is also Mac compatible. It will synchronize when you plug in the watch via USB. Then this client is going to come up and download from the device and do a couple of other things, move those up, and then synchronize your moves. So in Movescount, any activity you do is considered a “move.” So trail running, hiking, climbing, kayaking, whatever it is you were wearing this watch for, that’s considered a move and then uploaded to the Movescount website. So what we have now is the watched plugged in. We can see the nice feature of “fully charged” which is an indicator that tells us how much battery is left. Then we can go out and check out our moves in Movescount. So let’s go do that now.

What we’re on now is the “private view” of our Movescount dashboard. This gives us some idea of all of our training and everything that we’ve done with this device and uploaded directly to Movescount. So here we can see a little information about me; a profile; we can see the latest moves that have gone on; the last 30 days; anything that we’ve uploaded with this watch. We have some social aspects here so any other runners or individuals that we follow, we can keep track of if we want to, and then events or groups that we belong to as well. So we can add moves on our own or we can look at the ones that have been uploaded from the device.

Movescount member page

Movescount member page

Here’s my latest move while wearing the Ambit. We’ll go in and look at some of the data that we get kicked out from the watch. So first off, when you start the watch, you choose what kind of activity you’re going to do. This one was “trail running.” When you do trail running, the views are different on the watch and it gives us things like “ascent” and “climbing speed” and those sort of things. So what we have is “trail running” in 1:06:30, we have a route on that because I had GPS on, we have distance, we have the ascent, and the device. I can export this move, I can edit, I can do some things with it, if I stood around or whatever, I have some editing capabilities. This gives us some information: total time, number of laps. Of course, if we were running a road run where we wanted every mile split, every 1/2 mile split, every kilometer, however we wanted that data split, that would show up here and we’d have that data available to us also. This is the map that came out of it, the trail run that I did, lots of blue lines here. It was actually hill repeats that I did, so there will be a lot of activity that went on in this specific place. So we get our output from our map. When we look at this chart below, little additional features that we get, we can see speed (maybe general running, maybe I stopped to tie my shoe), and then my hill repeats that happened. We can also see altitude. So because this has an altimeter in it, measures barometric pressure, we have some ability to have some very accurate data coming from that. I’m a flatlander, as you can see, but this was the hill that I did and we were able to get some information back from that. Temperature (here) we can also graph, distance (here), and vertical speed (here), which is a fun one. This is because of the altimeter that is built in there along with the GPS, we can do some math to figure out how quickly are you climbing up something. So this gives us an example of how fast we were able to go up that grade, going up at that speed. Then at the bottom, here, we can get additional details. What’s nice about this is the amount of content. This is specific to running, mountain climbing, hiking, whatever you want to do. All of this can have some different types of data that is intelligent to this or riding a bike. We just happen to be trail specific for this. So we can get some information, max speed, all the types of information you’d expect to pull from a GPS type device, we’re able to get through our Movescount dashboard.

Movescount move

Movescount move

If we look over here on our right hand side, we can see our calendar. One of the nice features about this that I liked was the ability to roll up all the activities that I had done. So here’s one specific activity that I did, and now I want to look at multiple activities. So I’m going to deselect the first one and I’m going to grab this one and this one and this whole first week. We can see this does a really great job of building out on the week all of activities that happened. So we can see 8 moves. I did 8 activities wearing this watch. I had a 74-mile week with 42 of those “running” and 32 of those miles “trail running.” I can get splits based off of that; I can get ascent between the two based off of what was going on. Then I can see my max speed and my average speed between those. Also, when wearing the heart rate monitor, I can get a break down of my heart rate that happened within that. So I can see the amount of time that I did that. I don’t wear a heart rate monitor for every workout, but when I did, I can get that. Then we have some other charts and graphs we can go to. So all the things that are tracked through our watch we’re able to display on here. This is duration, by day, we can see a 4:45 run on the 1st and then 1:10 and so on. Then we also have some graphs on “feeling” or how he felt. If you want to have that, we can adjust “felt good,” “felt bad,” “injured.” So we can run those sort of things through and all types of different metrics that we want to look at and see how we did. Peak Training Effect is a good one basically showing how did I improve on this one vs. the last one. Was I just running in zone 3 all the time? Did I get some good recovery? Did I run in a high zone 4 and really do a lot of high anaerobic output? Am I increasing my VO2 Max? There are a lot of great ways to go through and get some information on how you’re improving as an individual.

Ambit Settings
Next up, what we’re going to do is look at the settings on the watch. One of the features that I really liked about the Ambit was the ability to change the look and feel of the displays on the watch without having to mess around on the device, this little, itty bitty screen on my wrist. So I can go to this “Gear Tab” and we can see the different types of devices that I have. I have my own personal Suunto T6c and I also have the Ambit. So I can change all my settings here and these are going to automatically sync with the device. “Personal settings,” I can put all my information in there. I can do my “General Settings” of the device. If I want to change the display from light to dark, I click the button, click save, and that’s going to change my watch from being a black face with white numbers to a white face with black numbers. It’s really easy to go through and changes how we go about showing the watch.

Probably for a training standpoint, this is really what I like the best. When you get the watch and you turn it on, you’ve got all these different modes that are enabled by default: alpine skiing, cycling, indoor training, mountaineering, running, trail running, trekking, other. You can add your own also, but these are the default. So for me, when I put this watch on, I’m going to be out running, trail running, or I’m going to hop on my bike. So those are really the only things I want because I don’t want to have to scroll through those different things. So I “Disable” all these others. I can “Delete” if I’d like to or I can just uncheck the box. Then, inside of each of these specific sports, I can edit the way that watch is going to look. So for example, on my “trail running,” I want some different views. I can pick how I want the watch to look: distance, stop watch in the middle, then on the bottom, I’m going to pick my views (ascent, descent, pace, vertical speed). That’s one view. My next view could be time, heart rate, and average heart rate, peak training effect, vertical speed. As you can see, I can have more and more and more displays. That’s going to deploy that directly to the device when it’s plugged in over the USB. So this is a really great way of being able to manage the device without having to mess around with all the buttons, and it’s going to simply sync to that watch and it will be available the next time you turn it on. So I found this to be a really great way to manipulate the watch, work with it, and it’s a really easy way to interface directly through the Movescount.

Waypoints
At the bottom here, waypoints. If we want to add waypoints, we can do that on the device itself or we can create a new waypoint by basically going in and adding what we want to add to it. Those again will deploy to the watch, or if they’re already on there, they’ll sync back and forth. So if you’re trying to do geo-caching or something along those lines with the watch, or if you’re trying to remember where the trailhead is if you’re going somewhere new, this is a great way to manage and keep track of those things. So that’s the overview for the software for the Suunto Ambit which is the website, “Movescount.com.”

Overall Impression
The Suunto Ambit has definitely upped the game in terms of outdoor, rugged GPS. This device is aimed at those that are out there doing mountain sports, climbing, that are in bad weather, that are in somewhere that the device can really take a beating, along with providing great data from things like GPS, having a long battery life, being able to accurately track vertical gain, as well as some things we weren’t able to get into like a digital compass just to let you know where you are. So all in all, you’ve got a device definitely targeted at us as ultra runners, spending a lot of time on our feet in maybe not the best of conditions. With that, any questions or comments, leave those below the video. Thanks for watching. We’ll catch you next time.

Travis Liles

resides in Portland, Oregon where he is a husband, father, Race Director for the Mark Twain 100, and a technical specialist for a software company. In his spare time, he is exploring his new home in the Pacific Northwest, getting more vertical but still not living in the thin air, while producing "Trail Trials with Travis Liles" video gear reviews for iRunFar.

There are 82 comments

  1. OldGoat

    I upgraded to the Ambit from a Garmin 305. After a month of use, I'm still debating if it was worth the cost.

    The Ambit is definitely not a "stand alone" unit. All exercise data is transferred to Movescount so you must connect and be online to see past exercises. In Movescount, the route is shown in Google Maps, not Google Earth. That's OK for roads but not so hot for trails as trails are not shown on Google Maps. Most settings cannot be changed on the watch but can only be changed in Movescount. In exercise mode, the watch is limited use in navigation, as the compass and GPS location cannot be used.

    The GPS seems accurate and reproducible for short runs in open country. I tested the watch on a Grand Canyon R2R2R and the GPS printout was suprisingly wild and the recorded distance was several miles inaccurate. On a 50 mile out-and-back trail run along the Salmon River, the GPS out distance was about 1/2 mile shorter than the back distance and the GPS tracings were consistently not overlapping.

    So is it worth the $500? To this mountain trail runner who is mostly concerned about accurate distance and mapping backcountry routes; probably not.

  2. Brad

    Great review. I have to disagree with the prior poster, I have found my Ambit to be very similar to the 910XT I tried in terms of accuracy. There has been some discussion of this issue and how the watch is worn may affect accuracy. There is also a software upgrade to improve GPS, make sure you are running software version 1.0.7. I agree with you regarding the navigation issues. A new software update this month should greatly improve navigation. Make sure you inform Suunto of your issues, I have found them quite responsive. I think mine is worth the money, I have asked for an intermediate GPS fix so that us slower ultra runners can get better tracking.

  3. Paul Nelson

    I love this watch but I have to send it back :( Only getting 7 hours of battery life with the 1 second gps fix.I know they have a new firmware coming out this month to add more features and fix some. I'm so glad I bought it at REI hard to beat their return policy.

    1. Brad

      There is something wrong with your watch. I routinely do 7h runs and have 50% of my battery left. If you like it you might want to try another.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Ha! Just goes to show there are a very wide range of preferences for all products. :-) I SO dislike ANT+ when I have to use it for my Garmin 310. It's slow and requires an addition piece of gear when traveling, as I still need to bring a dock to charge ANT+ products.

  4. Jerimy jArnold

    Have you exported a data track to .gpx or looked at the raw data? I am curious to know if it is actually recording data points at the 1 second interval or that is just the GPS refresh rate. The X10 has the same 1 sec 1 min intervals but even on the 1 sec setting only records data every 10 seconds. This is a drawback if you want to log bike rides.

    1. Travis

      Great question. I did a short bike ride last night with accelerations so there is somev varying speeds that happen from second to second and have exported the file to here http://sdrv.ms/IERUnj If you look at column AE, it time stamps the samples in one second intervals. Is this what you were looking for?

        1. Travis

          that was the training file which appears to not show the cordinates. I went ahead and exported the track so you can see that to the same folder here http://sdrv.ms/K6whxl . Its a klm file so you can view it in Google Earth. Just to check, I opened the file in notepad and can see a time stamp paired with coordinates every minute.

          2012-04-01T07:08:25

          -90.70169 38.504234 164

          2012-04-01T07:08:26

          -90.70169 38.504247 164

  5. Martin Sander

    The need for a Movescount connection is a problem for mountaineers. Internet is not always available on a longer tour outside normal civilization. And even if available over phone – data roaming can be very expensive in some countries. And who will put a Laptop in the backpack?

    But the Abmbits memomory will be full soon, and you can see only the data of the last recording directly on the watch. Battery could be charged by a solar charger, but the problem of running out from memory makes it useless for real situations.

    A solution could be to transfer data as files on a USB memory stick – if you can find someone with a computer during the trip. This should work without the need to install any additional software (ever tried to use a computer with no ASCII user interface?). For that it should be possible to switch the Ambit to a USB memory mode like most cameras, mp3 players and smartphones support. Nothing else required for that than built in drivers. I hope that Suunto will implement this feature. Otherwise this watch would be only a very expensive toy for me, and I will stay with my smartphone and a cheap GPS-less ABC outdoor watch.

    1. Paul Nelson

      I wonder when Window 8 Tablets come out having a 7" tablet that will work with this and use a usb host cable to transfer files to. I fear the wrath of god because I said Windows 8….Bryon please don't ban me :)

  6. Brad

    For those that are interested, on the Mac rubiTrack will synchronize the .xlm files automatically and allow you to export .gpx, .tcx (track with all altitude, speed and hr data) or .tcx course files. The developer is very responsive and great to work with. All Suunto devices that use Moveslink work. http://www.rubitrack.com
    On the Mac the .xlm files are in user/Library/Application Support/Suunto/Moveslink2. To get to the Library when in Lion hold down the option key and select Go in the Finder menu while holding down the option key, you will see the Library as a selection.

    On the PC side, I understand that NeoTrack can import the .xlm files and allows for some export capabilities. I have not tried the application. http://www.tomshane.cz/neotrack/features. For the PC the .xlm files are in c:users\appdataroamingsuuntomoveslink2 folder

    1. SylvainNJ

      HI

      Did you find something to export the XLSX extension from an Indoor course (treadmill for example) ?
      In Indoor, we can just export the track with the XLSX extension…

      Thanks

      Sylvain

  7. Nattu

    I have posted this elsewhere (DC Rainmaker's review of the Ambit and the Garmin Support boards) but here is some data collected at Leona Divide 50 using both 910xt (left wrist) and Ambit (right wrist). In this case, unfortunately, the numbers don't lie and it seems like Ambit may indeed be measuring distances shorter compared to 910xt. I don't know which one is closer to the actual distance but my money is on the 910xt. The altitude gain/loss figures are reasonably close.

    910xt: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/173117729
    Ambit: http://www.movescount.com/moves/move5190427

    The one difference between the two was the sampling rate. I plan on setting the sampling rate to be the same for my upcoming runs at Miwok, Quicksilver 50M and BHS50 in the next three weeks and will be able to collect additional data that is as close to an apples-to-apples comparison one can get. I plan on running Miwok in about 14 hours but I am not sure if the Ambit will last because last weekend there was 2% battery life left at the end of the run. If I was asked to make a decision today on choosing one, I'd go with the 910xt.

    Nattu.

    1. AK

      Have you tried exporting the Ambit track to google earth and look at the distance there? I have seen that it gets much closer to the garmin distances when it is measured in google earth.

  8. dogrunner

    I have not done any runs longer than about 12 miles with the Ambit or my Garmin 610 or FR60 (non-GPS). The Ambit is very consistent on a particular route (to the 100ths of a mile) and also consistently shorter than the 610 – my largest sample size route is ~8.2 miles according to my Garmin 610 or 305 and also to GoogleEarth if I trace it out, but the Ambit measures it at 8.11 miles every time. I think I have both the Garmin 610 and the Ambit set to 1s sampling and recording rates (no other choice on the Ambit other than 60s, and the Garmin can do smart sampling). The elevation data is much more accurate with the Ambit, as expected (the 610 is just GPS elevation).

  9. Andy

    I am somewhat of Luddite and have resisted buying any altimter or GPS thus far, but if the prices ever come down from the stratosphere I may bite. Regardless, I love the "Wheel" lyric reference. How apt: I've been told in the context of my tech-resistence that I can't go back and I can't stand still …

  10. Andrew

    After a year long love affair with a garmin 405, I came to the eventual realization that smartphones are the way to go. I've come to find they are much more reliable, have a ton a features (phone, internet) and you get excellent on board data as they are the computer as well (no synching). The only immediate benefit to the gps watch is portability. But there are so many options for carrying your smartphone these days, that once you get your preference dialed in (the right waist belt for me) it's becomes even less obtrusive than a watch!

    1. Mike Papageorge

      I'm holding out and still using my iPhone for training. Battery life it the main limiter there, but also losing the little widget that clips to the phone to get the data from the belt.

      The big winner with the iPhone is that, using Runkeeper, the runkeeper lady tells you your current speed, distance and HR at user set intervals over the headphones. The closest to a heads up GPS to date!

  11. Andre

    Is the USB cable the only way to sync with Movescout? If no wireless transfer then this sounds rather backward.

  12. Nattu

    Here are the links to Miwok 100K from both 910xt and Ambit. I force upgraded the Ambit to firmware 1.0.7 and set the 910xt sampling rate to 1s interval to match with the Ambit. Once again Ambit measured the distance to be shorter compared to the 910xt. On trails exposed to clear sky the Ambit was not losing much distance to the 910xt: anywhere between 0.02 to 0.05 miles per mile. However when I was running down on the Matt Davis trail and going up Dipsea trail I observed that it lost distance to the 910xt at a much faster rate. I haven't had time to plot time vs. distance to see if the data supports it or if it was my foggy brain making incorrect observation. In any case here is the summary:

    910xt: 62.81 miles, +12848 ft, -12838ft http://connect.garmin.com/activity/175598028
    Ambit: 61.08 miles, +12651 ft, -12533 ft http://www.movescount.com/moves/move5291183

    The Ambit lasted the full 14 hours and had a little juice left at the end.

    Nattu.

  13. Mike

    I agree the download via cable is not the best idea. Essentially everytime you download you start a charge cycle and even though the Ambit comes with a lith-ion battery you only get so many charge cycles. The battery life indicator could be much better too (why not show a % like Garmin) …

    I have a Garmin 405 and went on a trail run with both watches to see the differences … After 3 loops of 10+ miles each (half of which has no sky obstructions and half is wooded with switchbacks for a small portion) the Garmin measured right at 31 miles and the Ambit 29.85 … The elevation difference was negligible (300') over 6000' of ascent and 6000' descent (altimeter was calibrated and set to auto on the Ambit) … Both watches were set to record every second on the GPS … The Ambit definitely suffered in the trees as none of the three tracks were on top of each other … Hopefully the software push at the end of the month cleans this up and it is not a antennae issue …

    The Ambit is definitely easier to use than the Garmin 405 since you don't have to deal with the bezel …

    1. Andre

      Managed 20.5hrs recently with the 910XT at 1 sec setting. Product rating is 20hrs, just like for predecessor 310XT model.

  14. rowley aird

    I just used the 50 h mode for the UTMF 100 miler, and the results were excellent! Cant speak highly enough of this product. The best in its class by a country distance.

  15. Al

    I've never written a negative review about any product before and usually think of people posting bad reviews as a pack of whingers.  But my experience ith my Ambit was bad enough that I thought I should share it.

    I had been looking for a watch for ages that looked I could wear as a watch, was easy to use and had a built in gps with long battery life so I could use it for ultras.  I was initially super excited when my Ambit arrived – it looks and feels great. But 5 weeks later, having tested it during a 5 day 250km training adventure, I wished I hadn't bought it.

    Assuming they can bring mine back to life, I'm hoping all the fixes now coming out will set much of this right. 

    I foung the watch very hard to use, packed with stuff that was cool but lacking in really basic features, then it totally died on me after 5 weeks. 

    Here were the good things:

    – it looks good, even beautiful.

    – the back-light is very good as is the ability to invert the display.

    – the ability to customise the display is really good, but see my comments on Movescount reliance below. 

    – the altimeter tracking of ascent and descent appeared to be quite accurate.

    That was a short list. 

    Now the problems – a much longer list:

    – right from the start, it was hard to use and basic stuff is missing – felt like trying to use a Blackberry after being used to an iPhone.  It works but is unintuitive, complicated and irritating.

    – It has a GPS but doesnt set the time of day based on your location. You can add a second time if travelling but if you've got a Gps watch, wouldn't you use it to auto-detect the time?

    – all of your settings need to be done on your PC using the Movescount software. This was my first experience with Movescount but it seemed unnecessarily complicated having to use both Moveslink and Movescount.  Irritations with my set up couldn't be fixed as I ran.  My training week was away from a PC so I couldn't even fix things between runs.  Maybe some of my issues can be fixed via Movescount, though after a couple of weeks it stopped downloading my data so I sort of gave up on it. 

    – if you start the stop watch before the GPS signal is locked in, it stops looking for a GPS. This was a little thing, but really irritating.

    – you need to use a usb connection to download data. I'm technically chllenged so needed help setting this all up and it worked for a couple of weeks, then connected so I could charge the watch but did not download the data. The wach died before I managed to solve that one. 

    – no auto pause.

    – To move to a different section in the watch you have to exit the exercise section, which means resetting run on the watch.  On my first day of the training week I was having some navigation issues in the bush ad wanted to take a location reading using the nav feature. It worked fine but i had to exit the exercise section on the watch and save/reset the run to get to the nav setting, then start it all again once I had a bearing.

    – speed accuracy at slow speed seemed all over the place – my speed during walk breaks varied wildly from 7 -14 mins/km while I was doing a quite consistent pace. 

    – the altimeter is very accurate in terms of ascent and descent, but needs to be set with a starting altitude. I'm a bit simple but couldn't the GPS be used to give a reasonable starting altitude?

    – the thermometer is a bit of a waste of time. It doesn't work on your wrist. I was running in a frost and being told the temp was over 20 degrees Celcius.  Suunto says it doesn't work on yourvwrist – maybe the should have done without this. 

    – my battery life wasn't going to be anything like 15 hours when tracking GPS every second. On my training week I was on the trails for 6-9 hours a day. After 9 hours the battery indicator showed almost flat, though it doesn't give a percentage so I dont know how close to empty it was.

    – lastly, 4 days into my training week, the display died.  The back light still worked but nothing else did, so not a battery issue. Looks like all my data is lost and this was the final straw.

    Maybe I was just unlucky and maybe all this stuff will be fixed in the software updates. I certainly hope so.

  16. Mike

    Have you heard whether or not Suunto was still planning on a software update by the end of the month? If they are does it happen automatically thru moveslink & movescount or do you have to manually download? Thanks in advance

  17. Scott F. Handley

    Glad I read all this user commentary, & will stick with my 310 xt! Gives me 16 hrs. on the trail, ( with the beeps/vibrate OFF ). I sure like the looks of the Ambit better, but will live w/my Garmy till come up with better "actual use" battery numbers.

  18. Jon

    I was just wondering if anyone knew of a watch like the ambit that uses movescount but doesn't have the chest strap? Is the another kind of wrist/forearm strap that could be synced with the ambit? I love the watch and the functions it has, but I hate those darn chest straps.

  19. Anonymous

    Hi guys, is there any altitude calibration in this device. I have Garmin 910xt and it is very annoying that it has barometer but no capability to calibrate the altitude (I looked carefully and did not find any ways to calibrate). So some altitude data looks very weird – i.e. running -500m below sea level in Singapore.

    1. Andre (Hong Kong)

      Yes, you can. Options (keep [Next] button pressed) -> Alti-Baro -> Reference -> Altitude. Here you can set it. Also, I noted it auto-calibrated when I upgraded to the 1.5.10 firmware two days ago.

  20. Andre (Hong Kong)

    Hey Al, a good summary of pros / cons.

    Some of the cons are resolved in the recent 1.5.10 firmware which has heaps of improvements. It doesn't address everything in your list, but at least it shows that Suunto are serious about developing new features for the watch. I agree with you that sync via cable is a ridiculously outdated concept.

    With regards to battery life, during UTMF I used 2 Ambits (sequentually), both lasted just under 16hrs with 1 sec recording granularity.

    Andre.

  21. Guy

    I am desperate to view mile splits – both on the watch and on movescount. I know you can set the autolap function to 1.0 miles – but the autolap feature conflicts with the start/stop button – every time I stop at a red light or get a drink at a water fountain and press stop, a new lap is created (different from Garmin). So the next split is not a mile split but a lap split. Crazy!

  22. wayne lee

    Hi all,

    Just doing some research on the Ambit and it looks like a great watch. (I currently have the Garmin 610 but the touch screen is getting on my nerves). Have a lot of the niggles been sorted by the latest software update?

    Also can anyone tell me if the training schedules that are available on Movescount are able to be transferred to the watch and ran through as such. i.e. 100m at pace, 1 min rest. etc etc, does the watch process that list to enable you to train correctly?

    Thank you!

    1. Guy

      I bought the Ambit after I lost my Garmin 610 in my firm gym. I thought I'd try something new. A mixed bag. What the Ambit does – it does well. But there are no training plans/schedules (to my knowledge – never used on Garmin 610), no vibration on splits, stop/start etc. (funny how I was conditioned to that) and, per my comment above, not autopaiuse, avg. pace view on movescount (only mph!), and no mile splits if you happen to press stop at a red light or drinking fountain (a new lap is generated). Folks are hopeful that a 2.0 version in the Fall will address some or all these shortcomings.

      1. wayne lee

        HI Guy,

        Thanks for the comments, really appreciate that.

        I'll wait for V2 then I think and see what happens then.

  23. Nuke

    Hi all,

    Can anybody tell me what exactly the 'pace' function means? I mean what is this pace thing good for? What is the connection between pace and speed?

  24. OlderGoatMTB

    Writing brief comment as a user of Ambit for mountain biking. Buy it. It flawlessly tracks in woods, provides accurate mapping (yes to google maps and, surprise!, it just maps to overlay on trees, who cares?) of route and detail on twisty trails is very acceptable. Heart rate monitor functions perfectly as well (had a few Polars and as much as I wanted them to work had problems always with signal detection). Ambit is a bit pricy but relative to the technology and quality purchased, IMHO cheap at twice the price.

    Mountain Biking in PA

  25. Glenn

    I am a 63 year old ultra trail runner & my issue is number size. I haven't looked at a Suunto Ambit in hand yet, but need large numbers, due to needing reading glasses. I don't need glasses when I run. I have been using a very old & beat up Nike Triax that needs replacing.

    Several watches I have looked at have decent sizes but split the screen for chrono or heartrate & I can't read them.

    What can you guys tell me about that?

  26. Ben Nevis

    Hi,

    Speed = Distance per unit of time, Pace = Time per unit of distance. For example running at a speed of 10 miles per hours is the same as running at a pace of 6 minutes per mile.

    It's much easier to use pace to calculate things like:

    How long will it take me to complete my run at this pace.

  27. Austin

    The large display in the middle section of the Ambit should be large enough depending on your prescription. I don't use reading glasses but I can read the main part of the screen from almost 10-15 feet away. Plus you could set up the screens to display only the middle section and then spread whatever information you like on multiple screens instead of combining on one screen.

    I hope this helps.

    -Austin

  28. Sound

    I'm just wondering if it would be easy for a good programmer to write a depth-meter script for the Ambit… So we could easily read the water depth also. Because maybe the Suunto uses the same method to measure air pressure as Casio. The latter company uses the same hardware for measuring the air and the water pressure, so subsequently Ambit would be able to display water depth also… What do you think?

  29. MS

    Has anyone suggested to Suunto or do you know if they plan to offer in a future update maybe a 15 or 30 second recording interval to augment the 1 and 60 second options? I was just thinking that may extend the battery life to make it more comparable to the Garmin 910 and still maintain the accuracy

  30. DJ

    Re: "I understand that NeoTrack can import the .xlm files and allows for some export capabilities." Totally true for PC! Except you get to keep most, if not all, of the data. Neotrack gives you a bunch of control over what it constitutes as a stop too, I have mine set for 0.1 (kph/mph) as "not moving." But you can set it to what you like. I did experience some mileage discrepancy over a known distance and contacted the developer who sent a trial update for me to use, specific to the Ambit (will make permanent if this patch goes well). It seem to be working well, along with a gps smoothing setting. Like I said, "control." Very nice developer, and isn't really interested in promoting because apparently he wrote the scripts for himself but is happy to share (for $19 US). Worth it!

  31. Christopher

    I had one of the very early Suunto GPS watches. The power of the GPS to pick up satillites was terable. It really just did not work. Is this GPS stronger?

    I have Garmin Forerunner and it's signal is excellent even in the city. Would anyone be able to tell me whether the Ambit GPS is worse, as good or better?

    Thanks

    1. Bryon Powell

      I believe both the Ambit and the latest/greatest Garmin, the Forerunner 910XT use the same SiRFStar IV Chipset for the GPS. While things like antenna design affects signal, the two units should be roughly on par with one another in terms of GPS signal.

  32. peter w

    Hi

    I'm not sure if this is a noobie question, but….

    If using the Ambit on the 50h mode (which I'm considering for the MdS) – will it give you a race-pace (albeit less accurate)?

  33. Ali

    I just wanna ask 3rd party question, I have 3 watches on my mind .. Garmin 610, polar rcx5 and suunto ambit, respectively.

    I workout at the gym, and I run outdoors .. What do you think guys is the most right choice to pick ?

    Any suggestion fellas

    Please answer me ASAP

    Thanks in advance

  34. MS

    I have used the Garmin 910 and Ambit and they both are great … I think Garmin's software is superior and the battery life is better with Garmin if you are recording at 1 second intervals (20 hours vs 16) … I tend to like the Garmin 910 better than the Ambit but all the lesser grade Garmin's (410 etc) are far inferior to the Ambit … My greatest complaint about the Ambit is you need a cable to download

  35. Greg

    Too bulky

    I was looking at getting a new watch (currently have a t6d) and I was thinking about the ambit but after having a good look at it I have a few concerns:

    1/. It is too thick, I would prefer a slimmer watch that I could continue to wear after exercising – say if I run to work and change there (I always keep a change of clothes at work).

    2/. The rechargable battery in itself is a good idea but for someone who, like me, is likely to forget to recharge it it frequently the short battery life will be an issue. Presumably the need for this battery stems from the GPS functionality. Well if the GPS were to die mid run that would be unfortunate but I could live with it, but if the the whole watch dies that is very bad.

    3/. Still using a cable to connect to the computer and transfer data.

    It would have been better to keep the watch slim (or slimer) with a user replacable CR 2032 battery with a life time close to a year and move the GPS off the watch into a separate device with the same rechargable battery. With the same GPS unit and same battery but without the rest of the watch the GPS unit could be a little smaller than the watch is now, certainly a lot smaller than the old GPS devices that took AA batteries. This GPS unit could be designed to clip onto the wearers clothing, preferable the colar so it is a high as possible – maybe even onto a bike helmet or backpack (I've notice the higher you hold them the more reliable they are).

    It would be nice if the watch could also transfer data to the computer via the Movestickmini USB dongle or even by bluetooth.

    The new Polar watch is slim (GPS unit is separate) but all my data is stored with Suunto and there are other issues with the Polars but then they do have good software. As things stand I think I will stay with the t6c for now and hope Suunto release a watch closer to my needs down the line.

  36. John

    Brad, thanks for your comment about rubiTrack! I was using Ascent, but it could not download data from my Ambit. rubiTrack has no problem at all with the Ambit.

  37. Dinesh

    hi,

    i just bought Sunnto Ambit HR couple of days before after spending good time to see various market outlook about this fantastic instrument.

    to my surprise the HR belt starting non – functional just after a day.. it seems that the battery need to be replaced or might possible there might be some technical error.

    further after three later the watch battery also not getting charged as well as it is not getting connected to movecount… dont know whats wrong…

    is it a routine .. or my bad luck is bad :-)

    please ignore typos…

    1. MS

      Great watch … After about 6 months my HR monitor got finicky too usually at the start of a run before I broke a sweat. I replaced the battery and still have issues on occasion. I notice it usually stops when I go from a run to a walk but will start up again if I wet the strap … If that doesn't work stop and restart your run on the watch … once before this was the only way I could get it to work …

    2. DJ

      Yes, the contacts of your HR monitor do need to be wet (slightly) to make a connection with the skin. If you are just starting out or have taken a long enough break, your whole sweat-to-connect system will be broken and you need to wet/re-wet the contacts.

  38. Erling

    Great Review. Q: does heart rate mobitoring affect the batterytime drasticly? Any ide of what the temperature limit is and will cold temperatures affect the batterytime?

  39. Ben

    Hi!

    Is it possible to get the raw exercise data from ambit without (or with if so) the use of movescount? I'd need the raw trackpoints…

  40. michael

    Just seeing this watch for the first time. Having great luck with my 610 for most runs, but a lot of difficulty with trails under a lot of canopy I am interested in this.

    Although I still have a lot to consider, while watching the video regarding starting an exercise it just seemed too much to have to select about 5 items just to track a run. The 610 as you may know is just a finger swipe to launch GPS and once locked on, a 1 button push to "go".

    Weight is close. Looks bulkier…. just some initial impressions.

    I'll go read the rest of the comments. Good info guys!!

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