Suunto Ambit3 GPS Watch Review
Sep201404

I’ve recently been lucky enough to receive a test sample of the new Suunto Ambit3 Sport for review and after an intense period of getting to grips with the new features, I’m ready to give you the low down!

The Ambit 3 attempts to build upon on the success of  the Ambit2, by adding some interesting new features. It’s a comprehensive update rather than a totally new product and the basic operation of the two watches is virtually identical so just like its predecessor, Ambit3 is an incredibly effective multisport / navigation GPS watch and carries over all of the good stuff from the Ambit2. With this in mind, I’m going to focus my review on the new features rather than re-cover old ground so if you aren’t familiar with the Ambit2, you should take a look at my review here before reading on.

This time, I’m testing the Ambit3 Sport which at £275 rrp lacks the barometric altimeter of its big brother, the Ambit3 Peak (and the Ambit2 I tested previously).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sunnto Ambit3 Sport Stand-Out New Features

  • Bluetooth Smart Compatibility for pairing with sensors but NO Ant+ Support
  • Data transfer and upload to Suunto’s Movescount portal via Bluetooth Smart (or USB Cable as previous)
  • Fancy new iPhone app for uploading data and changing setting (Android to follow)
  • Phone notifications on the watch (can be switched off)
  • Increased Memory
  • Activity tracking
  • New swim-compatible heart rate strap (not part of this test)

More Major Features of the Ambit3 Sport

  • GPS Tracking and Navigation
  • Numerous sport modes including running, cycling, swimming and many more
  • Record several sports concurrently within the same activity (i.e triathlon)
  • GPS Altimeter
  • Battery life of up to 25hrs (depending on settings)
  • Customisable ‘Aps’ available for download from Movescount
  • Customisable displays for each activity
  • Water resistant to 50m

Some Introductory Thoughts About The New Stuff

First, some opinions about the direction Suunto have taken with the Ambit3………….

The Bluetooth / wireless connectivity and App integration immediately struck me as a big bonus over the Ambit2 as connecting via USB can be a bit of a pain, especially if you are travelling and you want to upload an activity or change a setting. As I mentioned in my preview, I was surprised that Suunto have completely dropped the Ant+ support as it will leave those who already have Ant+sensors out in the cold (i.e bike power meters, cadence sensors, HR monitors).

If I’m out exercising in the fresh air, I prefer to off-grid so that I am sufficiently ‘present’ to take-in my environment. I only take a phone for use in case of an emergency or sometimes  for music during the winter if I am doing an especially tedious road run. With this in mind, the idea of having call, text, email and even facebook notifications on my watch is a little bit scary to me so I’m glad you can turn them off.

I don’t have one of the new heart rate chest straps for testing so I can’t comment on it’s performance but the premise is that it solves the connectivity problems of sending the signal to the watch underwater by storing the data in the sensor and transmitting it in bursts when the watch comes into range. I’ve read some positive reports about people using optical HR sensors like the mio link for swimming and they are much more convenient than chest straps so as clever as the new Suunto strap sounds, I wonder if the time and money would have been better spent developing a wrist-mounted optical device?

Now to dig into the performance of the new features……

Movescount App and Synchronisation

Crucially, the free movescount iOS app that is required for syncing activities and settings changes via Bluetooth is compatible with the following devices.  Android compatibility is coming soon:

  • iPad 3rd generation and later
  • iPad Mini/iPad Air
  • iPhone 4s/iPhone 5/iPhone 5c/iPhone 5s
  • iPod touch 5th generation

 

The app is rather swanky and allows you to upload and view activities, make settings changes and create ‘Suunto Movies’ of your adventures. I’ve included a few screenshots of this below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Syncing time seems to vary depending on what you are doing but I think it’s generally faster than the USB method and certainly more convenient. Since Movescount now allows Strava integration, your activities will also be quickly synchronised over both platforms. The level customisation of settings that is available from within the app is impressive and well executed although you do need an internet connection to make certain changes (be that cellular or wifi) as the App also needs to sync with the movescount online portal. 

The Ambit also serves as a highly useful navigational device and the obvious omission from the online app is the ability to plan routes like you can with viewranger etc. Hopefully, this will be added in the future.

Suunto Movies and Picture Uploads

The mobile app also allows you to upload pictures that you have taken on your phone whilst you are exercising and these are also uploaded to the online portal. This is a clear effort by Suunto to promote the social media / community aspect of Movescount, which is all fine by me. Move Image

The real party piece of the App is the ‘Suunto movie’ which overlays a video of your route onto an online map and adds comments, pictures and statistics. This feature is rather good fun, it works nicely and I can see myself using it for particularly memorable or social days out in the hills. The example I have included below was a bit of a dull affair which included lots of stopping to experiment with the features on the app / watch. Annoyingly, I also realised afterwards that I needed to rotate the pictures for them to display properly so sorry about that but hopefully serves as a demonstration:

Phone Notifications

As mentioned above, the watch allows you to receive alerts of phone calls, emails, texts and facebook by sending out a little ‘beep’ followed by a message on the screen. This can be turned on / off and works nicely but it’s worth remembering that as you obviously need to have the bluetooth running on the phone, it’s battery is depleted faster and this could render it useless in an emergency. If you don’t action the alerts, you get a handy little reminder on the watch for later.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Activity Tracker

The activity tracker feature monitors your movements using the watches internal accelerometer. It provides on-screen assessment of your daily activity including estimated calorie expenditure and recovery times. Activity tracking is fast becoming a big deal these days so this feature will no doubt be appealing to many prospective Ambit3 users.

Conclusion

The Ambit3 is one heck of a useful tool for those who are into mountain / tri sports and the new features add to an already impressive package. I think that the bluetooth synchronisation will provide the greatest overall benefit to users but much of the other new stuff is also very clever and it will be interesting to see where Suunto go next with future app and software updates. I’ve really enjoyed using the Ambit2 over the last few months and whilst i’m not sure that I would regularly use each and every new feature of the Ambit3, it certainly provides an improved and more convenient package.

Note that this product was provided on loan as a test sample (see here for my gear review policy).

Where to Find One

The Ambit3 is available now from Castleberg Outdoors (who offer international shipping). Stock will inevitably be limited immediately after the launch so don’t delay if you want one quickly!

Thin Castleberg Resize

I make every effort to ensure these reviews are as objective and honest as possible to help you decide if a product is right for you. This takes me a lot of time and effort and if you are interested in a product I have reviewed, you can help me keep the site going by placing purchases through the links and adverts at no extra cost to yourself. Thanks for your support.

Get Involved!

Got any thoughts or questions about the Ambit3? Please leave your comments below!

Share This

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Google Plus
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS
  • Digg

2 comments

  1. Julie says:

    I’m returning my Garmin Fenix2 as it was just too buggy with the HRM/calorie estimation to warrant keeping it. I’m thinking about picking up an Ambit3 Sport in its place, but I’m wondering if I’ll miss the barometric altimeter in the Peak model. I’m sort of a beginning hiker, and while I’d like to have altimeter info to get an estimate of the kind of altitude gains/losses i’m getting, the accuracy might not warrant the extra $$$. Any thoughts as to the performance of the GPS altimeter on the Sport model? Also, did you test it with the included HRM, and if so, did you have any troubles there? THANKS!

    • Andrew says:

      I think that GPS altimeters like the one in the Ambit3 sport are generally pretty good but their accuracy is dependant on reception which can be hindered by things like trees etc. The ambit3 peak uses a combination of GPS and barometric altimeters for improved accuracy. If you are looking for an estimate, the Ambit3 sport should be more than capable of this but if you wanted it to be as accurate as possible (and spend a lot of time hiking in woods), you may want to give the peak a try. Unfortunately I didn’t get to test the HRM.

Leave a Reply