Training watches come in all shapes, sizes and price points. The X-factor with any training watch is its ease-of-use. The new Suunto M5 training watch was built with simplicity in mind — not something Suunto is typically known for. So, is the M5 simple and easy-to-use? I think so.

Suunto M5 Features:

  • Personal fitness test
  • 3 personal targets to choose from – improving fitness, weight management or free training
  • Daily exercise instructions with ideal duration and intensity
  • Automatically adapting exercise program for the next 7 days
  • Real-time intensity guidance during workout
  • Recovery time recommendation after exercise
  • Motivational feedback messages
  • Suunto Dual Comfort Belt, compatible with most gym cardio equipment and Suunto Fitness Solution
  • Upload exercise data to Movescount.com (with optional Suunto Movestick)
  • Download any training program from Movescount.com (with optional Suunto Movestick)
  • Track speed & distance (with optional Suunto Foot PODBike POD and GPS POD)
  • Easy to use
  • MSRP: $209

Suunto M5 Heart Rate Training Watch Review

“Exercise Day,” says the M5. Nearly every day, my watch reminds me that I need to get my butt out the door for some exercise. That’s just one of the great features of the new Suunto M5. Since many of us struggle to find time and sometimes energy to get out the door, that alone might just do the trick.

Once configured, the M5 can act as your personal trainer with custom workouts and schedules that adapt to your fitness goals and actual workouts — if you stick to it. As part of your personal configuration, you perform a fitness test, select your fitness level and enter your goals (fitness, weight loss or free). I’ve been testing it in fitness mode and found the workout suggestions good for improving fitness level and workout intensity. My biggest challenge is using the watch for every workout. If you are committed and wear the watch every workout, it guides your next steps and encourages you along the way.

One nice feature of the M5 is that you don’t have to wear the heart rate stap with every workout to stick with the workout plan. That’s nice because it’s not fun to have to wear that with every workout. Not that it’s uncomfortable, it’s just one more thing. With the heart rate band in place, the watch guides your workout with motivational sounds indicating you’re working too hard or not working hard enough. I found myself consistently exceeding the heart rate recommendations and the “slow down” sound became my indicator that I was topping out.

At the end of the workout (with HRM), the M5 gives you an overall summary of how successful your workout was and then shows you your performance along the way. Without the HRM band, you simply input the level of effort you expended and it keeps track of your progress.

Wearability of the M5 is great… the thing is light and comfortable. I’ve worn it extensively mountain biking, road biking, trail running and indoor training. The only negative related to its size is that it sticks out from your wrist a bit and tends to get smacked. The case shows signs of wear, but the face of the watch has only a few small scratches — very excellent, I’d say. I like the Swiss cheese band as it helps the watch breathe. I’ve pretty much worn this watch exclusively for the past 6 months and it remains very comfortable as a daily driver.

Testing the M5 while mountain biking.

While the function of the watch is the easiest of any Suunto watch I’ve used (and I’ve used nearly every model), it has a few things that are a bit frustrating. First off, the menu structure lacks an exit selection. This initially threw me for a loop since I couldn’t figure out how to exit a path I started. Just now (literally), I realized that holding down the center button, takes you to the exit function. Now that I figured that one out, exiting out of stuff is so much easier. Don’t be dumb like me. Also, the time display can’t be changed permanently to show the date. If you click the middle button, it shows the date and seconds, but switches back to time only in a few minutes. Why can’t I keep the date displayed?

Clearly, the M5 was built with personal fitness in mind, so lets get into how that process works. As you’re getting ready to kick off your workout, you press the play button to begin, it then indicates the time and level of effort you should plan for. If you are connecting the HRM, plan for a maximum of 30 seconds (10-15 seconds was normal) to receive the signal and get rolling. It requires a minimum of 4 clicks to actually start tracking your workout. Every so often, I got to where I thought I was tracking, but I was one click away from that and had to click start after a few minutes on the trail.

I just need to be more patient, but I also think that clicks could be reduced or the workout could automatically begin if it detects your heart rate ramping up, then back-track the start time from when that ramp up began. Seems pretty easy and goof-proof if you ask me… add that one to the list of future improvements.

Good M5

  • Workout guides and progress is helpful
  • Stores workout summary and progress
  • Locks onto the heart rate monitor very quickly
  • Heart rate band is comfortable to wear
  • Watch is lightweight and breathable
  • Expandable with various POD’s
  • Watch band adjusts to fit even the smallest wrists

Bad M5

  • Gotta press a ton of buttons to initiate a workout
  • Can’t keep the date and time displayed permanently
  • Minimal functionality outside of training mode
  • I’d love an auto-start workout function

Bottom Line: Suunto M5 Training Watch

The M5 is the easiest-to-use training watch that Suunto has ever produced. It guides your workouts and keeps you on track with your fitness goals. It still takes discipline to use it every workout and to follow its promptings, but it offers a solid training companion if you’re “all in.”

Buy Now: Suunto M5 at Backcountry.com

About Author

A Seattle native, Jason developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 --sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.

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