Suunto is the OG of GPS watches. Way back in the day, my primary watch was the Suunto Vector. That hockey puck had all the features I thought I needed. Flash-forward 20 years and the Suunto 9 Peak Pro leaves that old unit in the dust in every way — all in a classy and thin profile.
Suunto 9 Peak Pro Watch Features:
- GPS, compass and altimeter
- Triathlon-ready with 95+ sport modes
- 3-button design with limited touchscreen support
- Available with a Titanium bezel for added durability (not tested)
- Sapphire crystal glass
- Tracks running power and cadence
- Navigation options and ability to pre-load routes
- Works with the Suunto mobile app
- In-app and on-device configuration
- Activity tracking: steps, sleep, stress and recovery
- Military-grade durability
- 100m water resistance
- Up to 21-day battery life
- Up to 40 hours of continuous GPS tracking
- MSRP: $549
Part adventure and part multisport watch
With the Suunto brand being synonymous with outdoor technology, it’s little wonder how much they have been able to pack into the new 9 Peak Pro. I’d call it an excellent running watch or capable adventure watch, but both claims are selling it short. With this watch, Suunto has delivered a ton of functions into a beautiful and durable design. On test has been the All Black version, but it’s also offered in a variety of other beautiful colors — including a titanium bezel option. Packing all this functionality into such a small size is impressive and the overall performance has been great, but I’ve found some frustrations along the way.
Admittedly, I didn’t truly test out all the functions of the 9 Peak Pro. I didn’t free dive, nor did I do any peak bagging, I didn’t do any mermaiding (believe it or not, it’s one of the many sports mode options) but what I did do is thoroughly test the utility of the watch for my usual activities (cycling, trail running, hiking, walking and everyday use). The test period has been over 8 months, so way more than one of those “unboxing reviews” that others provide. With the Wahoo ELEMNT Rival and Polar Pacer Pro also at my disposal, the Suunto 9 Peak Pro is more expensive and, believe it or not, lacks some of the features of those watches. So, what makes this watch stand out? Let’s dig in.
Overall livability and configuration
As a recovering Apple Watch wearer, the more I use specialized training watches the more I loathe the idea of a smartwatch on my wrist. I don’t want all that bloat. I want accuracy. I want activity tracking. I want training measurement and ease-of-use. While I don’t know that I’ll ever go back to an Apple Watch, the Apple product team has set a high bar for usability, responsiveness and consistent software updates. With that high bar in mind, let’s talk about the Suunto ecosystem.
To get the most out of your watch, you need to download and use the Suunto mobile app (iTunes – Google Play). Yes, you can set up and configure your watch on the watch itself, but updates, syncing, sport mode management and a few other things are only available in the app. Honestly, that’s one of my biggest frustrations with this watch. While the app is necessary, you can’t do very much there outside of syncing and sports mode configuration. On the watch, however, you can do much more, except sports mode configuration. When modifying settings, I have to think to myself, “where do I configure XYZ feature?” — in the app or on the watch? If not everything is configurable on the watch, it really should be 100% configurable in the mobile app.
For me, Strava is where I log all my activities. It’s where I do analysis and comparisons between devices, bikes, shoes, nutrition, etc. Thankfully, the Suunto app does enable a Strava sync. But, like many watches, it’s a bit of a wonder as to when it will actually sync. Most of the time, I have to open the app and make sure it’s connecting and uploading. Occasionally, it does so automatically in the background without opening the app. It’s a bit of a mixed experience, but not unique to this watch.
In the end, Bluetooth is a tricky standard and there are a lot of variables involved, but I’d just love it to auto-sync. Perhaps some of this is due to user error as the sync doesn’t happen until you go through the activity sentiment (which can be disabled manually on each sport mode) and the workout summary. The activity is done at that point and should be queued for syncing without the unnecessary steps, in my opinion.
Wearing the watch 24/7 has been great. It feels comfortable — even when snug for proper heart rate tracking. I have kept it on during most everything — except things like car repairs where the watch may hit something or get in the way. It is low-profile and really fits into my day-to-day lifestyle. I wear it so consistently that the tan line is real.
I have to give kudos to Suunto’s strap designers. Gone is the typical loop to keep the excess strap at bay and in its place is a metal tab, locking it down. Once situated, both the clasp and excess strap stay cleanly sorted. Only the Apple Watch strap design is better than this one, but not by much. Also, I do appreciate that the buttons are all on one side of the watch. That is a deliberate decision to avoid mis-pressing buttons and it works well. The button edges can feel sharp and slippery when wet, but the positive action and button placement is great.
Navigating through the on-device menus is very intuitive and discoverable. I’ve generally been able to hop in and out of different settings and menus without a hitch. For the most part, you can navigate the watch using the three buttons, but scrolling and navigating back/forth is more natural with touch gestures. Media controls are great, but can be difficult to touch accurately while running, for example. But, the tactile buttons step in as duplicates for the most common actions. That interplay between buttons and touches is tricky and is done pretty well here, but is admittedly hard to nail 100%.
Let’s get to the real reason why you’re looking at a multisport watch — tracking your activities. Without question, Suunto has the most activity types I’ve ever seen on any watch. There are nearly 100 of them, with the ability to configure your own. Frankly, It’s a bit odd to have so many installed by default, but if the intent is to build awareness, I’m now fully aware that I can track my frisbee activity differently than my kettlebell or American football workouts. (#GameChanger) In all seriousness, the options are endless and screens are configurable in the app only before or after an activity. Bummer… Wahoo and Garmin both allow screen configuration during an activity.
My primary activities for this watch have been mountain biking and trail running. I have used it for road and gravel riding too, but it ends up being redundant to my head unit, with the exception of heart rate. I do wish it could could broadcast heart rate for cycling. But, since it can’t, I would double-track for activity comparison and data validation. In my double-testing, the accuracy is spot-on compared to Hammerhead, Wahoo and Garmin bike computers.
Let’s get back to trail running. I’ve become accustomed to tracking my running cadence and power and appreciate that the 9 Peak Pro delivers both. With it, I’ve been able to further analyze my fitness improvements. If you already track power and cadence, you’ll be pleased with Suunto’s data. If not, this is a great device to start with. Suunto is well-known and respected for their data integrity and I’ve had no issues with captured data, nor any issues with the watch crapping out in the middle of an activity. No question, reliability has been great.
While running, it can be difficult to see the data at-a-glance, unless you pare the screens down to a couple of key metrics. I really wish I could have just two lines of data, but three is the minimum and that’s what I use for my first two running screens. Beyond that, it’s too small and unusable for me unless I come to a full stop and stare at the watch. So, I have seven data points on the third screen to see everything at once, when stopped. I also appreciate the ever-present time of day at the top of the screen, but it’s so small that it’s hard to read while running.
For mountain biking, I just jammed the data onto one screen because rarely will I look at it unless stopped. With all my tracked activities, the heart rate measurement has been pretty accurate and consistent — when the watch is tightened properly. I have had some rides with erratic heart rate measurements, but it dramatically improves if I tighten the watch one more notch (a common thing to do with wrist heart rate tracking).
Starting new activities is pretty straightforward, but I’ve had some frustrations there. I love that it remembers your most recent activities and prioritizes the list accordingly. But, I don’t like that there has been a bug that still persists where those recent activities initially come up blank. Going back out and in again clears things up, but I’m surprised this bug has persisted so long.
In addition, I wish Suunto delivered auto-tracking or auto-start if I don’t hit start, or the case that I don’t hit start multiple times (which is what you have to do if you press start before the watch is ready). Pressing start before the watch is ready won’t actually start the activity and the watch will sometimes bark at you — beeping and showing a GPS notice. I did miss the actual start of some activities due to this double-start scenario. Suunto should modify this so you can start the activity and then allow the GPS to catch up a few seconds later. Or, track your activity in the background and then stitch them together when you actually remember to press start for the second time.
If you need navigation, route finding, etc. Suunto has you covered. The back to start feature is great for venturing on unknown trails or bushwhacking. Routes can be pre-loaded and followed — with turn-by-turn directions. You can set up these routes in the Suunto app, or integrate with Komoot.
The greatest single feature of the 9 Peak Pro is the outstanding battery life. Not only can you can track up to 40 hours of continuous activities, but, most importantly, for normal use I charge the watch about every two weeks. It reminds you when battery is at 20% or below — about 10-15 days later for me. When leaving on a trip, I can comfortably leave the charger at home and know that I’ve got 2-3 weeks of juice. No other multisport watch I’ve tested has boasted such a lengthly battery life and it’s so nice.
You can pair the 9 Peak Pro with various external sensors, but all the menus speak Suunto-specific language — calling everything a “Pod.” I have successfully paired the watch with both Stages and Quarq power meters for indoor and outdoor cycling power measurement. That is done by pairing a “Power Pod” and unfortunately, you can only have one paired at a time to each activity. In my case, I would need to set up a specific activity and power pod for each bike. I’d prefer one activity type with the ability to have multiple power meters. For some reason, it pairs with the Stages SB20 Smart Bike better than the Quarq unit on the new SRAM Force AXS group.
Other tracking features, etc.
Sleep quality is tracked automatically — and works well. I don’t have to do anything and it gives me a good idea of how my sleep is going. I can track it over time an view any abnormalities in heart rate, blood oxygen, etc. Since the 9 Peak Pro has superhuman battery life, this is the first fitness watch I’ve worn consistently through the night, so it’s great to finally get a sense of my sleep patterns over time. Of course, I could do better, but I’m getting restful sleep for recovery.
You will also find a step counter that can be shown on the home screen. Steps feel accurate to me and it’s nice to see that at-a-glance during the day.
What can’t be shown is your heart rate. While it is tracked consistently, there is a reporting delay for onboard calculations, so you will have to go to the heart rate widget for that info. Sadly, the heart rate widget won’t stay locked in view, which is what I wanted to do for cycling with a head unit.
I love, love, love the innovation that Suunto has brought to the watch market, but with that innovation, you can expect a few bugs. Some have been noted already, but others have not. The biggest one I initially experienced was when I started an activity before the watch was ready, it used to crash the watch. Now, it just doesn’t start the activity (better, but still not ideal).
Full Disclosure: My day job is a product manager in the tech industry. The past 12 years, I’ve been on mobile app teams, so my expectations for hardware and software are high — particularly with mobile.
- The battery lasts FOREVER (and it charges in a hurry)
- Exceptional hardware design and function
- Durable, low-profile casing
- Reliable activity tracking — gathering all the metrics you need (be sure to tighten it up before tracking)
- Route planning and way finding is great to have, when needed
- The interplay between buttons and touchscreen is done better than I had thought
- Configurable activities for whatever you are into
- Love that it has running power
- Quick GPS lock (which makes me wonder why all the warnings and beeps on startup)
- Can connect to other devices (HR, power meters, etc.) for specialized tracking
- Software updates have fixed some of the most glaring issues
- Navigation menu structure is very intuitive and discoverable
- Sport modes can be set up in light or dark mode — depending on your needs
- Glitchy activity menus when first starting an activity
- The bezel is pretty chunky
- Steep price
- The disabled “Start” button has caused a few initially-untracked activities
- Can’t modify activity screens or watch settings during an activity
- Heart rate can’t broadcast to other devices
- Connecting the watch to the app to change a single setting requires a long syncing process every time — and syncs again (locking any changes) in the middle of screen configuration, for example
- Interplay between what you can/can’t do in the Suunto app or device can be frustrating
- Notifications for text and other apps was frustrating and I turned them back off almost immediately — more granularity is needed to make it useful
The Bottom Line: Suunto 9 Peak Pro Multisport Watch
After a long time with the Suunto 9 Peak Pro, I’ve found a ton of great things and a few notable frustrations. Most of the frustrations are due to the interplay between the watch and the Suunto app and the expectations I have with a modern mobile ecosystem. It’s hard not to be overly-critical when you’re spending this much money on a watch, so it’s all fair criticism in my book. Where this watch shines is the awesome form-factor and excellent data tracking/analysis. It looks stellar and has all the fitness and adventure data you could ever want. Clearly, Suunto knows how to make technically-capable devices and the overall functionality is great — just be prepared to jump through some hoops to manage everything day-to-day.
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