Which Brand of SmartWatch is Right for You?
Whether you’re in the market for an upgrade or have decided now is the time for your first GPS watch, the market can be daunting. There are some great brands with a variety of features and significant price differences. We’re going to look at two of the best names; Suunto and Garmin.
If you already have a watch, there’s a chance you already know some of the features that you require. If, however, this is your first purchase, don’t be tempted to buy the one someone suggests to you. Because it may not have all the features you are looking for.
Two of the more popular brands of GPS watch that are available to buy now are Suunto and Garmin. The truth is both make great running watches, Garmin devices are usaully slightly more expensive but it also depends on the model you choose. So let’s take a look.
So Who is Garmin?
Based in Olathe, Kansas and founded in 1989, Garmin Ltd is an American company who originally began life as Pronav. They have a background in specialising in GPS technology for a variety of applications from aviation to marine, automobile to outdoor activities. More recently, they moved into activity trackers following the development of wearable technology.
Over the years, Garmin has grown from the small company – whose first customer was the US Army – to where they are today. Now, they sell their products on a global scale and hold a variety of patents.
Garmin sells a range of incredibly popular vehicle trackers as well as walking and diving GPS. They also count the Vivo series of fitness trackers in their range with popular models including Vivofit, Vivosmart and the Vivoactive.
Who is Suunto?
F ounded in 1936, Suunto Oy is a Finnish company with its headquarters in Vantaa, Finland. The company name is derived from the Finnish word “Suunto” which means ‘direction’.
The company has expanded over the years and now employs over 300 people all over the world with its products selling in over 100 countries.
In addition to compasses, the company produce diving watches, computers and instruments, sports watches and other lifestyle watches.
How to choose a GPS watch for running
It’s essential to remember both Suunto and Garmin are well known for very high-quality tracker watches. So, whichever brand you pick, you can’t go wrong. Of course, both brands offer different features. Ultimately, what you should be looking at when choosing a GPS watch for running are the features. Look at things like display, tracking modes and activities, and the app you need to use it. There are models to suit different needs and budgets from each brand.
Ask yourself, do you want:
- A basic watch that just tracks races and training?
- A multi-sport watch that will manage a varied selection of sport?
- A watch that constantly tracks everything you do?
These questions start your search for the right tracker. If you already have a watch and there are features you don’t particularly like, maybe you might want to change brands. If you love what you have and want an upgrade, it might be better to stick with what you know.
Most basic GPS watches include the same data-tracking features. For example, pace, distance, calorie tracking and likely heart rate. However, some cheaper GPS watches do not have a HRM. They will, however, differ in terms of the hardware, alerts, training tools and data management.
To compare Suunto and Garmin, we will break the features down and look at them individually.
Tracking and display
Both brands offer watches that display customisable real-time data. For example, pace, distance, time, calories burnt and heart rate. Also, at the touch of a button, they both offer summary information; average pace, elevation gain and stride count. This can be valuable information for any runner in training.
In terms of tracking and display, there is little difference between the brands. However, in terms of digital customisation, there is one big one. The Fenix 5X Plus from Garmin allows the user to change the data screen during a workout. All the models available from Suunto require any custom changes to be made through the Movescount app.
The GPS tracking from both models is superb.
- The Garmin Fenix 5X Plus with its handy mid-workout data changing is slightly more workout friendly.
The Suunto 9 is rather clever when it comes to battery life. This model features three battery modes and tells you how much battery is left. If the watch notices your battery is running out, it will suggest you switch to a different mode to prolong battery life. Depending on the mode, users get between 25 to 120 hours from the battery.
Both the Forerunner 935/945 and the Fenix 5 from Garmin have various battery mode settings and a battery life ranging from 24 hours in GPS mode to 60 hours in the UltraTrac battery saver mode. This mode shuts off GPS periodically and relies on an accelerometer to calculate distance and speed.
- Suunto 9 offers the better battery life
Mapping and navigation
When it comes to new routes, whether you know the area or not, both brands provide superb navigational features. The Fenix series from Garmin offers colour topographic mapping capabilities. However, due to the size of the screen, this may not be ideal for many users.
All watches from Suunto offer GPS downloads that display a “breadcrumb” map and the direction you need to follow.
Of course, Suunto is also known for barometric and altimeter functions, which are great for off-trail running.
- While both brands offer very similar features, the Suunto watches have the edge with their added altimeter and barometric functions and, of course, map size.
Heart rate monitoring
The higher-end watches from both brands include optical heart rate or wrist-based monitoring.
Models like the Ambit 3 Peak from Suunto have an optional heart rate belt instead. The type of monitor you prefer is very much down to personal choice.
In addition to monitoring heart rate, the Garmin Fenix 5 also tracks wellness on a 24/7 basis. This includes your sleep metrics, which some users might find handy.
- If a heart rate belt is for you, then you will probably prefer the Ambit 3 Peak
- If you want to track everything, then the Fenix 5 from Garmin is the watch for you.
Suunto and Garmin Apps and Data Management
If you are changing brands, this is where you will notice the most difference.
Suunto did use Movescount until very recently. However, the Suunto app is now live. You can transfer your data, though. All of the watches have the ability to analyse your data and synchronise, upload photos and workout descriptions and send notifications from your phone to your watch. The Spartan collection, Suunto 3 Fitness and Suunto 9 also allow for 24/7 synchronisation of data. This includes things like calories burnt, steps and route planning.
All Garmin models use Connect – this offers similar features to Movescount and the ability to build courses, create workouts and even challenge your friends to competitions.
- There is very little to choose between both brands. Although, it is worth remembering that with the move from Movescount to the Suunto app coming up, there may be new ways of doing things that you will need to learn.
Which Tracker? Suunto or Garmin?
Ultimately the choice in tracker between the 2 makes really will come down to personal choice and the features that they both offer. They are both excellent brands that offer real value for money in the field of tracking devices.
Here we have put together a small comparison of a few models from each brand in different price brackets:
Last Updated on February 22, 2021
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