There are heart rate monitors and then there are workout performance and coaching systems. The latter is a relatively new breed of heart rate monitors that allow you to track and optimize performance to your needs. Expandable using separate pods (GPS, foot pods, cadence sensors, etc.) these watches can track your every move.
Both Suunto and Polar are always neck-and-neck when it comes to heart rate monitor technology. While Polar had a head start, Suunto jumped onboard with gusto and is giving them a run for their money. Most recently, Suunto has been focusing on their training systems and the Suunto t4c is a flexible option for the avid athlete in training. Last Fall, I reviewed the Polar FT60 and really liked it, but how does the Suunto t4c stack up?
About the Suunto t4c Training Watch
A lightweight training watch, the Suunto t4c is more like a coach on your wrist. It measures your heart rate and then calculates your performance based on your fitness level with suggested workout schedules and duration. Included with the watch is the Suunto Comfort Belt heart rate strap. Other optional pods can be added to make a complete system for your specific training needs.
Select Features of the Suunto t4c:
- Suunto Coach: automatic training program to improve fitness
- Interference-free digital ANT transmission and coding
- Training Effect in real-time
- Speed, distance, cycling cadence and PC interface with optional PODs
- Training logbook on device (stores 15 logs)
- Suunto Comfort Belt heart rate strap provides: heart rate, calories burned and zone training
- Standard watch features: dual time, alarm and stopwatch with splits and laps
- MSRP: $220 (watch and heart rate strap)
- Learn more
Suunto t4c Heart Rate Watch Review
I’ve been very impressed by the latest heart rate training watches on the market. Many of them truly aid the training process while many of the heart rate monitors of yesteryear were nothing more than a monitoring device without much detailed information.
The t4c is set up specifically for your needs based on your age, weight and fitness level. An automated coach will guide your upcoming workout plan by showing the intensity level, duration and days to rest. The easily understood graphical workout display shows how well or how poorly (in my case, recently) you are sticking to the plan.
As with many of these devices, I found the coach feature to be a helpful and good way to kick myself in the butt, but not quite as good as having a real personal trainer who forced you to get out and ride or run harder or longer. Because I wasn’t as diligent as you may be, the benefit of the t4c to me came in the post-workout analysis, not the coaching suggestions. Just how many calories did I burn? How many miles did I run (I used the optional GPS pod)? What was my training effect? If you save your session at the end of the workout (can save up to 15), you can review your performance by day, week or month.
With my sporadic exercise routine, I wasn’t always wearing the device, nor was I always following its suggested duration or intensity, but I always enjoyed viewing my performance–especially calories burned so I knew I’d be OK downing that occasional In-n-Out Double Double.
The Comfort Belt heart rate strap is by far the best I’ve used. It picked up my heart beat fairly quickly and was comfortable to wear. I particularly liked the attachment clip in the front instead of fishing with a hook on the side of the strap.
I did find some of the menu navigation to be confusing and unlike other Suunto watches I’ve used. The “back” button isn’t consistent and sometimes I still find myself just pressing random buttons when I get 2-3 levels deep in hopes that it will exit the current mode. It also took awhile for me to understand that when the display reads SPD or HRM in the middle, that means that the HRM or SPD sensors aren’t working. I’d actually prefer it to just display 0.0 mph or 00 bpm instead of saying SPD or HRM. This was evident when I wore the GPS unit on the opposite arm as my watch. It said SPD the entire time until I moved the GPS unit to the other arm and it then showed my actual speed. I didn’t realize it wasn’t storing my speed/distance until the switch was made.
Over time, I figured out my preferred display settings for mid-workout monitoring. With all the data, the 3-line display gives you plenty of viewing options. I typically settled on Heart Rate, Distance and Elapsed Time, but you can change that to your liking with the press of a button or two.
- Very lightweight and comfortable
- Soft rubber strap flexes with wrist movements
- GPS signal strength is solid–even in tree cover
- Heart rate belt is comfortable to wear and easy to clip on/off
- Versatile pod system (HRM, GPS, Foot Pod, PC, etc.)
- Training Effect monitor tells you how your workout performed
- Full dot-matrix screen
- Workout performance summaries
- Difficult at first to get into the right display modes
- Viewing angle is limited due to convex glass
- No audible indicator when HRM or GPS loses signal
- Have to wear GPS pod on same arm as watch or it loses signal
- Menu system is confusing because back function varies per screen
The Bottom Line: Suunto t4c Training Watch
Once configured, this watch has been a reliable training partner–providing me with excellent performance summaries and mid-workout guidance. The flexibility of adding several POD’s only add to it’s out-of-the-box versatility of long-wearing comfort and accurate workout monitoring.