Which Brand of SmartWatch is Right for You?
Suunto vs Garmin – Two giants in the sports watch market. Whether you’re looking for an upgrade or you’re looking specifically for a GPS watch, the market can be daunting. Especially if you’re going to spend around 500 bucks.
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. Ensure you’re 100% on your choice.
How to decide between Suunto and Garmin?
Before you go crazy trying to pick between these two major competitors, keep in mind that both Suunto and Garmin produce excellent watches. You can’t really go wrong if you have either of these options.
Things like the screen, different monitoring options and sports modes, and the software to sync your data from the device are all personal preferences. Each company produces a range of timepieces to meet various budgets and requirements.
A realistic thing to keep in mind is that they don’t typically offer big discounts, although $50 off or discounted rates are common around the holidays.
Determine which qualities are most important to you when choosing a watch.
- Do you simply need a basic watch to keep track of your workouts and runs?
- Are you a triathlete in training who needs a multi-sport watch?
- Do you need a multi-tasking watch to track of your every move, around the clock?
Here’s another tip… If you currently own a Suunto or Garmin and want to upgrade, stay loyal to the brand you know. There’s no need to learn a new ui unless there’s a shiny new feature offered by the competitor that you don’t currently have.
Suunto vs Garmin is a tough one. They’re two of the more popular brands of GPS watches that are available to buy today.
The truth is both make great watches, Garmin devices are usually slightly more expensive but it also depends on the model you choose. So let’s take a look.
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.
Their best seller, however, is the Garmin Fenix 6 range. Which is arguably the best running watch on the market. You can read what we think of it versus the Suunto 9 in our comparison.
Who is Suunto?
Founded 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.
Suunto vs Garmin Running Watches
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.
Suunto vs Garmin Features
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.
There’s no denying the Suunto 9 range are big watches. They’re broad and bulky, which may be inconvenient at times. They can get tangled up in sleeves and rucksack straps.
Whereas the Fenix 6 has a slimmer profile. It is available in three sizes: 6S, 6, and 6X, in that sequence. The 6X is the smallest of the Suunto watches.
The Fenix 6’s straps have a hinge rather than being solid rubber, allowing for a more secure fit. This means you can obtain a decent heart rate measure while wearing the watch like a regular person.
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.
The main difference between the brands is that Garmin uses buttons on it’s high end GPS watches for men while Suunto uses a touchscreen. If you like the classic button design then Garmin is a better choice. Otherwise, the Suunto looks more high-tech and advanced in terms of display and control – because of the use of the touchscreen.
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 slightly older (and therefore affordable) Fenix 5X Plus from Garmin allows the user to change the data screen during a workout. Of course, if you consider the newer Fenix 6X Pro, for example, the data is more precise. All the models available from Suunto require any custom changes to be made through the Movescount app.
Both the Suunto 9 and Garmin Fenix 6 include LCD displays designed for visibility outdoors with minimal battery use. They aren’t quite as spectacular as the Apple Watch 6, but they do have a battery life of over 10 days rather than just the one.
The display on the Fenix 6 is, however, superior to the Suunto 9. Without the illumination, it’s more sharp and readable. Garmin seems to have increased the resolution and high-contrast ratio seen on the Instinct. Whereas t he Suunto 9’s screen is difficult to see, particularly in low light.
Suunto decided to give the 9 a touch screen, which can be sluggish and difficult to operate when wet. Garmin made the smart decision to utilise a button-only UI that is reliable in all weather situations.
- The Garmin Fenix 6X Pro with its handy mid-workout data changing is significantly more workout friendly.
The GPS tracking from both models is superb.
The Suunto 9 features excellent GPS and altimeter that is accurate enough. However, the heart rate monitor isn’t particularly accurate. When you’re not exercising out, it’s great, but when you utilise it for its original purpose, things go wrong.
For optimal performance, Suunto advises wearing the watch an inch or so above your wrist bone. It seems strange to wear a watch so high up, and it’s also inconvenient since it falls off when you sweat.
The GPS accuracy of the Fenix 6 is excellent. It seems to be able to navigate through forested regions with ease. During exercise, the altimeter adjusts itself using GPS and the built-in topographic maps (note, only on the Pro models), giving you an accurate altitude reading.
Similarly, the Fenix 6 heart rate sensor is great. Plus you can wear the device normally, and it’ll perfor well in all ms ctivities.
The Fenix monitors heart rate and pulse oxygen saturation in conjunction with your heart rate. For a minor battery expense, you may measure manually or switch on frequent measurements during the day. Understanding your blood oxygen saturation can tell you how well you’ve acclimated to altitude.
The Suunto 9 is 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.
Garmin claims the 6X Pro will provide 21 days of smartwatch use, up to 60 hours of GPS, up to 15 hours of GPS and music, 120 hours in maximum battery mode, 46 hours in expedition mode, and 80 days in battery saver mode.
- 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.
All watches from Suunto offer GPS downloads that display a “breadcrumb” map and the direction you need to follow.
Both the newer Fenix range devices and Suunto have barometric and altimeter functions, which are great for off-trail running. So, it’s somewhat of a tie.
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 6 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 to an advanced level, then the Fenix 6 is the watch for you.
Suunto vs 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.
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 from between both brands. Although, it is worth remembering that with the move from Movescount to the 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:
If you’re interested in reading more, we compared Suunto to the more cost-accessible Fitbit, here.
Lastly, you may want to consider getting the Apple Watch 6 with a rugged case for more protection and a rugged look. You will not be disappointed with this choice in our opinion.
Last Updated on July 8, 2021
A highly motivated all-around writing professional with experience in writing about modern technology. Joanne writes for Superwatches for nearly 2 years now. Her work is much appreciated.