There have been significant differences between Suunto and the other major GPS sports watch companies, which have become even more pronounced in the past five years.
Battery life? Coros took the lead in a major way. Access to third party apps and a huge ecosystem of developers? Garmin has no peer. Integration with your lifestyle beyond running? Apple has features no other company can offer. None of these brands can compete with Suunto’s beautiful Scandinavian aesthetic — ok, maybe Apple — but most of us aren’t willing to fork over the same amount of money for a good looking, but substandard, GPS running watch.
All that said, with the new Suunto Vertical Titanium Solar ($839), the brand has reasserted itself in a big way — bringing a fully carbon-compensated device — that now truly competes.
What makes the Suunto Vertical Titanium Solar competitive with the best options from Garmin and Coros are its beautifully sharp display, new downloadable maps by state or country, touchscreen scrolling and zooming, solar charging, and perhaps most importantly, a gigantic battery that when paired with that solar charging is fantastic.
The Suunto Vertical Titanium Solar is good for up to 500 hours in its most conservative GPS setting. In its best performance setting, it will last around 85 hours. For comparison, the Garmin fēnix 7 — Solar Edition — see our Garmin fēnix 7 — Solar Edition review— has a battery life of 57 hours in full GPS mode and the Coros Apex 2 Pro has around 75 hours of full GPS.
The sleek and downsized Suunto 9 Peak Pro would prove to be the final watch under Suunto’s Amer Sports ownership. Amer still owns Salomon, Arc’teryx, and many other brands, but the Chinese personal electronics company Liesheng officially bought Suunto in May 2022. Liesheng encouraged the still Finnish-based Suunto to return to its more rugged and multisport mountain heritage and the Suunto Vertical Titanium Solar reflects this. Many of the watches are still manufactured in Vantaa, Finland, in a factory using 100% renewable energy. Suunto says this model is fully carbon compensated.Shop the Suunto Vertical Titanium Solar
Suunto Vertical Titanium Solar Styling
The Suunto Vertical Titanium Solar signals a return to the rugged, massive displays the brand was synonymous with, prior to the more lifestyle-oriented design of the Suunto 9 Peak Pro. This model now has the biggest display in their collection at 1.4 inches. The Vertical Titanium Solar has a claimed weight of 74 grams; 12 grams lighter than its less expensive stainless-steel counterpart.
It’s a hefty package on your wrist. I’m a large person at six feet four inches tall, and the watch looks relatively normal on me. Put it on my five foot eight inches tall wife, though, and it swallows her wrist. It has much more in common with the Coros Vertix 2 — see our review of the Coros Vertix 2 — than it does with the Suunto 9 Peak Pro. The grade 5 titanium bezel is in beautiful condition after three months of daily wear and tear while not only running, but rock climbing and hiking. The sapphire crystal glass face is exquisitely durable and clear.
Suunto Vertical Titanium Solar Battery Performance
The route of the Hardrock 100 has become increasingly popular as a multi-day run, dubbed “Softrock,” where you can eat dinner and sleep overnight in a bed in one of the four town’s the race passes through. My wife, two friends, and I ran Softrock in late August of this year, and it was an ideal way to stress test the Suunto Vertical Titanium Solar’s battery over four consecutive grueling days.
The battery was set to “Performance,” which logs data every single second and provides the best GPS accuracy in dual-band GNSS, which includes access to all five major global satellites, GPS, GALILEO, GLONASS, QZSS, and BEIDOU.
I disabled the wrist-based heart rate monitor, except during the night where I re-enabled it for sleep tracking. Starting the run with the battery at 98% full, over four days the watch tracked about 32 hours of running and around 24 hours of sleep, and still had 22% battery remaining by the end of the 98-mile route. (We made a few detours and mistakes compared to the 102.5 miles of the Hardrock 100 course.)
The Vertical Titanium Solar is, as it sounds, solar-equipped. While the interface is very handy — if you choose to display its power on the screen, it is conveniently broken into 10-minute bars of acquired energy — it is still sketchy at best in how reliable solar charging is when the battery power is truly drained; the company even describes it as giving the battery just a “boost.”
Suunto claims that if the watch is only used for time keeping with no features enabled, that with the solar boost, the battery would last a full year.
Suunto Vertical Titanium Solar Mapping
Until now, Suunto famously had little mapping functionality to date beyond its “breadcrumb” feature and route import. Both were unlabeled and unfeatured displays simply showing you a line that you were either “on” or “off” and without any context in terms of terrain type or elevation. But the Suunto Vertical Titanium Solar makes Suunto competitive with Garmin and Coros, because you can actually utilize labeled maps offline.
Though maps don’t come preloaded like Garmin’s fēnix series, you simply have to utilize the Suunto app to find the map related to the area where you’re running, then download and send it over the air to your watch. The download and map transfer takes 15 to 20 minutes depending on the strength of your Wi-Fi connection.
Suunto’s strength in aesthetics and user interface shines in the mapping mode. The clarity and simplicity of the maps when navigating a route is superior to Garmin and Coros. But unlike the latest Garmin, you cannot move around the map with a touchscreen; you have to make incremental clicks around the map to get around. This is a major drawback because for the cost of this watch and the technology available, it really ought to match Garmin’s leadership here.
Suunto Vertical Titanium Solar Apps and Connectivity
The “SuuntoPlus” store is not unlike Garmin’s “Connect IQ” app in that you get access to tons of additional features from third party providers like Strava, Training Peaks, and Suunto’s own unique training tests — some as obscure as “Shoe Tester,” which is said to help you pick the best performing shoe for your running mechanics — to use with the Suunto Vertical Titanium Solar.
Of most interest from the app integrations for me was how Strava’s Live Segments functionality integrates on this watch. Live Segments works like this: in the Strava app you “star” the segments you want to race for either the crown or a new PR. Then, when this information is sent to the watch, it automatically alerts you to the start of your nearby segment. Once you’re on the segment, it tells you how far ahead or behind you are of your goal time and how much distance is remaining.
I use this feature almost weekly as a way to make my workouts more fun. I’m a longtime user of this integration on the Garmin fēnix 7 — Solar Edition and unfortunately this watch uses a much worse user interface and data screen compared to Garmin’s. Although it’s nice that it’s now an option, I still opt for the fēnix 7 — Solar Edition when I want to use Live Segments.
Suunto Vertical Titanium Solar GPS Performance and Processing Speed
Suunto has never had problems with GPS accuracy, but it has historically been very slow to connect to satellites before starting a run. However, connection speed on the Suunto Vertical Titanium Solar is now better than any of the other watches we’ve tested in the past two years, save for the Apple Watch Ultra — see our Apple Watch Ultra review for more on that — and you can expect to get moving much more quickly than in the past, when we’d wildly point our wrist to the sky or pace back and forth, maddeningly waiting for Suunto to find the signal.
Accuracy is phenomenal because of the newly added dual-band GNSS, which will crisscross the globe in search of a stable satellite from either the GPS, GALILEO, GLONASS, QZSS, or BEIDOU systems. This multi-band approach really improves reception in difficult places like canyons or in cities with tall buildings. This puts Suunto on pace with the other premium watches we’ve mentioned from Coros and Garmin.
The processing speed — how fast the watch switches between screens, functions, and saving files — is improved. But we’ll say that with a caveat: Suunto historically has had worst-class processing performance. The Vertical Titanium Solar is a real improvement over Suunto’s watches of old, but it’s still frustratingly slow. Where Garmin’s app is so fast it practically sends files to Strava before it’s finished syncing, you can expect to wait tens of minutes before a file is posted from this watch.
Suunto Vertical Titanium Solar Overall Impressions
The Suunto Vertical Titanium Solar is a beautiful watch. I’ve never thought that of the competitors’ products. Everything on this watch, from the quality of the design to the parts and materials, and even the typography on the display, is just gorgeous. But if you want a beautiful watch, buy a Rolex.
For the price, the Vertical Titanium Solar is a rather tough buy when similar watches include better features and faster processing with the same accuracy at a cheaper price.
This watch’s most similar competition is the Coros Vertix line. Both watches are very big on the wrist but pack a ton of multisport modes, huge batteries, and bomb proof construction for activities way beyond running. The Vertical Titanium Solar has over 90 activity types, including “Mermaiding” — it’s a type of diving, Google it! — so it’s a great choice for nearly any sport you practice.
The GPS watch market is a very crowded space, but few companies do as good a job for runners as Suunto. And when you factor in the externalities of consumer products production, it’s heartening to know this watch is produced with 100% renewable energy. Whether renewable energy is worth an additional $100 to 200 is up to you, but it’s a very positive benefit in buying this impressive — but not perfect — GPS watch.Shop the Suunto Vertical Titanium Solar
Call for Comments
- Have you tried the Suunto Vertical Titanium Solar and, if so, what were your thoughts?
- How important are aesthetics to you when choosing a running watch?