I finally got my hands on a Suunto Ambit a couple of months ago and have been using it ever since it arrived. I know there are a lot of reviews out there about this watch, so I am going to focus on the specific things I liked and what I thought could be improved, and skip listing all the functions and details about the watch. If you want this kind of functional detail, I would definitely suggest DC Rainmaker’s review of the Ambit – for me, he is the ultimate resource when it comes to endurance sports electronics (and especially GPS watches).
First off, the physical look of the watch was something I really liked. It looked like a normal watch, only bigger. I liked its round shape and I don’t find it too large, or that it sits too high on my wrist (and I have small wrists). I definitely prefer the shape to the more square form of my last GPS watch. The watch comes in Black and Silver so you have a bit of choice – as you can see by the photos mine is the silver version. The Ambit has a nice wide rubber band with a solid clasp that didn’t cause me any concerns in terms of durability. The buttons are nice and big, easy to feel and seem burly enough to take the abuse that this watch could be subject to.
The nice part about the Suunto Ambit being large, was that the screen size was big enough to fit the data I needed to see while I was running. The display allowed up to three rows of data to be displayed, with a large row in the middle and two smaller bands at the top and bottom (more on setting these up later). The display can be set as either black numbers on a white(ish) background or white numbers on a black background. This can be changed at any time on the watch if necessary. At first I was worried that 3 rows of data on the screen wouldn’t be enough as I was used to having up to 4. The nice part is that on the bottom row, I could select multiple data sets that I could then scroll through. This gave even more options than the 4 that I used to have and it didn’t take long for me to adjust. I haven’t had any issues where I felt like I was lacking the 4th option.
The Suunto Ambit was also different than I was used to in terms of how the data field displays are set up. All of the screen data settings had to be setup on my computer and then synced with the Ambit. I liked the ease that the computer interface provided since it was easy to see what screens I had created, and what changes I wanted to make. There is no option to make changes to the screens on the Ambit itself. To me this wasn’t a huge deal, but during my first few runs I wished I had the option to override or make display adjustments “in the field”. Unfortunately this was not possible. After I had some experience with the watch, and got the display settings optimized for each sport this wasn’t an issue.
There were a few other specific things I liked about the watch. The battery power was great – it was advertised to run up to 15 hours on 1 second recording, and up to 50 hours at 60 second recording. I also realized that this watch doesn’t “shut down” like my other GPS watches did. You don’t have to turn it off when you are done (the GPS turns off at the end of your run), and it will last up to 30 days (according to Suunto) in this mode. So far I have been happy with the battery though I have not used it anywhere near as long as the advertised times between charges. The watch charges quickly and I liked the design on the usb cord connection – it is simple with no cover to break or lose. I also liked the heart rate strap that mine came with. It’s a nice design, stays in place, and I haven’t had any problem with it picking up my heart rate. The Ambit also records temperature and air pressure data. It was great to have the temperature data and the air pressure is used for more accurate elevation data which I also prefer (instead of using calculated elevation based on the GPS.) The watch also had a couple of potentially handy features that I haven’t used much yet. One is the compass and the other is a trackback feature that will guide you back to your starting point if necessary.
There are a few things I would prefer to see changed or improved on the Suunto Ambit. First, as I mentioned, I would have liked the option to make adjustments to the display settings while I was away from the computer, but this was really only an issue the first couple of times I used the watch. The other thing I would prefer is a wireless connection for downloading data and syncing the Ambit. While I liked the design of the usb connection for charging, a wireless connection option would make me happy!
I should also mention Movescount – the Suunto data collection site that can be used to track all of your training information from the Ambit (and other Suunto products). I have really grown to like this program. At first I was hesitant, mainly because I had been using Garmin Connect for a while, was really used to that interface, and Movescount is quite different. I really like the social aspect of Movescount. You can follow other users and create/join groups to see what other Suunto users are doing (now I wish everyone I knew was using Suunto!) You can then comment on users’ “Moves” and share information in the groups. Once I got used to the data display, I was happy with how Movescount displayed my “moves” and found it easy to find the information I was looking for. Movescount is also where all of the computer based Ambit setup occurs, and as I mentioned before this was a very effective way to get the display the way I wanted it.
I have found a few things I wish Movescount did better, and my hope is that in time the developers will build some of these features into this relatively new program. I find the report generation to be non-intuitive and lacking in user defined controls. Basically I wish it was easier to select durations and criteria for report summaries. I also miss having a place to log my health stats (especially my weight) within the Movescount application. Another specific item that I have been told will be rolled out in a future version is pace on the charts. Currently it only displays speed, while for running I generally think in min/km. The average pace is shown, but the pace data for the duration of the move isn’t shown on the graphs, only speed. Finally, my biggest issue with the Suunto Ambit and Movescount is how long it takes data to download from the watch to the computer using the Moveslink interface software. It’s something I can live with, but I am really hopeful that it will be addressed in future updates.
One final note related to the website – just before I got the Suunto Ambit, I created my Movescount profile and realized there was an iphone app that worked with it. I previously posted a short review of the app, and would recommend it for anyone who uses their iphone to record the basics of their outdoor workouts.
Something I am really impressed with in the couple of months that I have had this watch is the number of updates to the watch firmware and the movescount/moveslink applications that has occurred. The communication from Suunto is also really good in terms of when future updates are planned, and what the developers are planning to include. Their model seems to be that you invest the money in the Ambit, and then over the years it keeps getting better and better. I much prefer this to investing money now and knowing the technology will be improved in the future, but I will need to buy a new watch to access it. I hope Suunto carries through on this idea in the coming years.
All in all I am very happy with this watch and the applications that go along with it. I don’t regret switching to Suunto even though I was apprehensive after amassing lots of Garmin data. I am looking forward to some big updates planned for this fall and am sure the Ambit will keep getting even better. If you are mainly a runner, and need a quality watch with a battery that will last you should definitely consider the Ambit.