Which Brand of SmartWatch is Right for You?
Whether you are in the market for an upgrade on your sports watch or have decided that now is the time to make your first GPS watch purchase, the market can be a little daunting. There are some great brands out there with a wide variety of different features and some significant difference in prices. If you already have a watch, then there is a good chance that you already know some, if not all, of the features that you require, and those that you really didn’t need. If, however, this is your first purchase, then don’t just be tempted to buy the one someone suggests to you. 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. Both make great running watches, so let’s take a look at a few of their models.
So Who is Garmin?
Based in Olathe, Kansas Garmin Ltd is an American company who originally began life as Pronav. The company has been around for quite a while, having been founded in 1989. They have a background in specialising in GPS technology for a wide variety of applications from aviation to marine, automobile to outdoor activities. More recently, they have moved into the field of 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 are a company who sell their products on a global scale and hold a variety of patents.
Garmin sells a wide variety 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?
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 or heading. The company was founded in 1936 when they became the first company to manufacture the compact liquid sighting compass which was used extensively by artillery officers during the war.
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, which they still manufacture, the company also produce diving watches, computers and instruments, Sports watches and a range of lifestyle watches. They are a subsidiary of the Amer Sports Corporation.
How to choose a GPS watch for running
Before you start to panic, it is essential to remember that both Suunto and Garmin are well known for making very high-quality tracker watches. So, whichever brand you do decide on you really can’t go wrong. Of course, both brands do offer a range of 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 of course, the app that you use to sync any data your watch records. There are a variety of models to suit different needs and budgets from each brand.
- Do you want a basic watch that just tracks races and training?
- Do you want a multi-sport watch that will manage a more varied selection of sport?
- Do you want a watch that foes everything and tracks everything that you do all the time?
These questions should get you started on your search for the right tracker. If you already have a watch and there are features that you don’t particularly like, then maybe you might prefer to change the brand. If, however, you love the one you already have and are just looking for an upgrade, then it might be better to stick with the brand you know.
One thing you will find with most basis GPS watches, and this applies to any makes, is that they will include many of the same data-tracking features. These include pace, distance, calorie tracking and in many cases, heart rate monitor. However, some cheaper GPS watches do not include this last feature.
They will, however, differ in terms of the hardware, alerts, training tools and data management.
In order 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 real-time data that is customisable, things such as pace, distance, time, calories burnt and heart rate. At the touch of a button, they also both offer summary information; average pace, elevation gain and stride count. All of which 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 difference. 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, however, 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 mode and has a built-in system that allows you to estimate how much battery is left. If the watch notices your battery is running out, it will suggest you switch to a different mode to help 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.
Apps and data management
If you are changing brands of tracker, then this is one area where you will probably notice the most difference.
Suunto watches use Movescount. However, there are plans in place to replace this at some point during the summer of 2020 when the Suunto app will go live. 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 – 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.
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:
|BUDGET TRACKER||Suunto Ambit 3 Run||Garmin Forerunner 35|
|FEATURES||All basic run features, designed for a smaller wrist||Best priced starter GPS watch|
|MID RANGE TRACKER||Suunto Ambit 3 Peak||Garmin Forerunner 935/945|
|FEATURES||Multi-sport, Route navigation||Multi-sport, heartrate monitor, barometer, altimeter|
|HIGH-END TRACKER||Suunto 9||Garmin Fenix 5/6|
|FEATURES||Extra-long battery life, barometer, weather alerts||Sleek look, all sports, all day, has all the features|