Suunto vs. Garmin – Which Brand of Smartwatch is Right for You?
When we stack up Suunto vs. Garmin, two giants in the multisport GPS smartwatch market, it can be daunting to choose between the two.
Whether you’re looking for an upgrade, or you’re looking specifically for a GPS running watch, the entire shopping experience can also be overwhelming. Especially if you’re going to spend around $500 and more.
Both smartwatch brands consistently release new watches for runners, adventurers, and other niche areas, while improving features, software, and design.
The most recent high-end Garmin is currently the Fenix 7 and Forerunner 945 ranges. In these smartwatches, we can see why people often rely on Garmin for fitness and health tracking: Garmin is reliable in terms of data and GPS, offers a host of safety features (with the most being available on the Fenix and Forerunner), and can provide LTE capabilities.
Other Garmin watches like the Venu 2, 2S Plus, the Lily, and Vivomove, all show Garmin’s other approach to smartwatches and fitness trackers: a more style-based one.
The top of the line model from Suunto is their 9, which comes in two great variations – the slightly older Baro, and the somewhat more advanced and slimmer 9 Peak. For a slightly smarter watch, you can also opt for the Suunto 7 with Google Wear OS.
Suunto similarly offers variety and niche areas like Garmin does, with models like the Suunto 5 Peak (another lighter variation of an older model), or their Dive Watch collection.
Garmin, being the larger brand, has more smartwatch families to suit more needs. The Forerunner, for example, are an excellent choice for runners and is more affordable than their multisport watches.
How to decide: Suunto vs. Garmin
Before you go crazy trying to pick between Suunto vs. Garmin, keep in mind that both Suunto and Garmin produce excellent watches. You can’t really go wrong with either.
Garmin is slightly more expensive on the whole, but it depends on the model you’re looking at. If you already have a watch from either Garmin or Suunto, there’s a chance you already know some of the features on offer.
Things like the screen, different monitoring options and sports modes, and the software to sync your data from the device are all personal preferences. An important thing to remember is they don’t typically offer big discounts or sales.
Determine which qualities are most important to you when choosing a watch:
- Do you need a basic watch to keep track of your workouts or runs?
- Are you an athlete in training who needs a multi-sport watch?
- Do you need a multi-tasking watch to help you keep track of communications, schedules, and health?
We can ask one more question. Who is each smartwatch brand?
Who is Garmin?
Based in Olathe, Kansas and founded in 1989, Garmin Ltd. is an American company that initially began as Pronav. They specialize in GPS technology for various applications from aviation to marine, to automobile, to outdoor activities. More recently, they moved into activity trackers following the development of wearable technology.
Over the years, Garmin grew from a small company – whose first customer was the US Army – to where they are today, a watchmaker for all. They now sell their products on a global scale and hold a variety of patents.
Garmin sells a range of popular vehicle trackers, and walking and diving GPS devices. But when it comes to smartwatches, Garmin has made a name for itself with brands like Apple and Fitbit with models like the Fenix, the Instinct, the Epix, and the latest Venu releases.
Who is Suunto?
Founded in 1936, Suunto Oy is a Finnish company headquartered in Vantaa, Finland. The company name is derived from the Finnish word for ‘direction.’ Suunto expanded widely over the years, with now over 300 employees worldwide and their products selling in over 100 countries.
Beyond smartwatches today, Suunto also produce compasses, diving watches, computers and instruments, sports watches, and other lifestyle watches.
Suunto vs. Garmin – Running Watches
As smartwatches are a great tool for runners or tri/bi-athletes, it’s essential to remember both Suunto and Garmin are well known for high-quality tracking watches. But, each brand offers different features.
Ultimately, what you should be looking at when choosing a GPS watch for running are the specific running features or design elements that could affect your run. Look at things like display, tracking modes and activities, and the software needed.
Suunto can help improve your runs and jogs with their lightweight Peak versions of the Suunto 5 and 9. Garmin, however, has a whole section dedicated to smartwatches for runners with their Forerunner Series. Their latest, the Forerunner 945, even allows you to make calls and texts from your watch with LTE functionality.
Suunto vs. Garmin Features
Consider the features the meat of your smartwatch: what kind of cool tools are included on this small device on your wrist? One notable set of features from Garmin is its incident detection.
These require a compatible smartphone, both your phone and watch to have a network connection, and the use of the Garmin Connect app on your phone.
You can use a basic feature like Assistance which lets you tell people where you (exact GPS location) are with a quick message in case of emergency. Or, the 945 and Fenix 7 offer Incident Detection which can detect falls, sudden stoppages, or slow-downs.
The newest Suunto 9 and 5 smartwatches offer their own incident detection features as well, although are not as comprehensive as Garmin’s. On these two watches, you can enable the new SuuntoPlus, which offers further insights into your workouts while you track activities.
This includes Suunto Safe which gives you quick access to your exact location and the location of your starting point. This information can also be shared with friends and family.
Fit & Design Features
As Garmin offers more smartwatches overall, they of course offer more variety when it comes to design and styles. But some of the most common materials found on their smartwatches include lenses made of Power Glass, Gorilla Glass, or Power Sapphire.
You can find similar lens materials from Suunto, but also cheaper materials like plastic. This makes some of their models, like the 5 Peak, for example, less durable than something similar in price from Garmin, like an Instinct 2 Standard.
Both models offer superbly reliable GPS and location tracking. As mentioned above, both Suunto and Garmin can use your GPS location for enhanced safety and assistance features. But their GPS can do so much more! Garmin, for instance, also offers a way to find your way back just as Suunto’s Safe feature can. The only difference is that Garmin calls it TracBack.
If we compare both of their high-end models, the Fenix 7 vs. the Suunto 9, the Suunto uses more satellite systems to track your location. However, when you look at each brand’s smartwatches and trackers overall, Garmin comes out on top with more to do and more ways to use that location data.
Screen & Display
Garmin generally offers a better-looking and easier-to-read display than Suunto can. Garmin also seems to have increased the resolution and high-contrast ratio seen on the Instinct 2/2S/Solar. In contrast, the Suunto 9’s screen is challenging to see, particularly in low light.
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. Users get between 25 to 120 hours from the battery, depending on the mode.
Garmin is coming up close, however, with models like the Fenix 7 Solar, and Instinct 2 Solar.
- Suunto 9 offers a better battery life.
- Garmin offers more solar-charging models.
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 7 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 7 is the watch for you.
Latest Devices from Suunto and Garmin
Suunto 5 Peak
Suunto now offers smaller, more compact, and simpler versions of some of their existing smartwatches, the 5 included. The 5 Peak is the watchmaker’s latest release and offers a more affordable way to get started with your first tracker or smartwatch.
Although it is smaller, it still includes over 80 sport modes, stellar GPS tracking, SuuntoPlus, several training functions, sleep tracking, and health rate monitoring. There are even special training features for running, cycling, or swimming.
With plastic screen, it is not as durable as a comparable Garmin model, but it may be all your need for less intense sports or workouts.
Suunto 9 Peak
This has been Suunto’s thinnest and most lightweight device, quite different from the chunky watches often found in the Suunto range. And just like the 5 Peak, it is a lighter version of an existing model: the Suunto 9/9 Baro.
The Suunto 9 Peak is a stylish and tough multisport watch with durable sapphire glass, grade 5 titanium, and an underwater rating of 10atm. The Peak comes with 80 sport modes that can be tracked for great amounts of time: Suunto claims the battery can fully charge in just 1 hour and lasts 25 hours with ‘best GPS.’
On this smaller 9 model, notable features include:
- Barometric altitude
- Route navigation
- Storm alarm
- Sea Level Pressure
- Sleep tracking
Garmin Fenix 7
7S, 7, and 7X, with Standard, Solar, or Solar Sapphire
When Garmin followed up on their successful Fenix 6 multisport GPS watch, they didn’t add a ton of features or functions. Instead, Garmin focused on improving the design of an already useful and reliable smartwatch. When compared to the 6, the 7 appears slimmer, more minimal, and more fashionable in design.
The Fenix is great for most sports but stands out as a great running, hiking, or extreme sports watch. You are able to get different types of solar Fenix 7 models, too, creating no need to worry about battery life.
This Garmin smartwatch specifically also offers the brand’s full range of safety features. Some of these aren’t available on their other watches and include some fun elements too like Group LiveTrack.
Read our full overview of everything you need to know about Garmin’s new Fenix 7 here! Or, compare it with the Fenix 6 below.
Garmin Instinct 2
2 and 2S with Standard, Surf, Camo, Tactical, or dezl
This is one of Garmin’s more affordable multisport GPS smartwatches; and, the Instinct 2 is certainly a more niche Garmin watch. The Instinct 2 covers a few niches, actually, like watersports (Surf), trucking/driving (dezl), military (Tactical), or outdoor adventure (Camo). They all slightly differ in their features, too.
This is a durable smartwatch, no matter the model or size you choose and is rich with health monitoring and activity tracking features. However, keep in mind with the lower price, it does not offer quite as much like the Garmin Fenix 7.
But for under $700, the Instinct 2 will still give you accurate GPS tracking, multiple map features, and a long-lasting battery. Or, choose a solar Instinct 2 for nearly unlimited battery life.
Suunto vs. Garmin Conclusion
While can argue that both of these smartwatch brands are excellent in their own ways, it will come down to what your needs are; what are they in terms of fitness, health, budget, and style?
If you’re looking for a smartwatch or fitness tracker Garmin has a wider selection than Suunto. It’s no secret that Suunto sports watches are popular among fitness and health fanatics who want a simple interface and basic functions.
For an all-around more intensive collection of training, sport, and fitness features, Garmin will be your top choice. The brand gives you tons of variety when it comes to your favourite sport or activity, your preferred smart features, and your style.
But Garmin watches are a bit more expensive overall than Suunto watches. So it is fair to say that Suunto is an excellent choice for anyone with a slightly smaller budget, or for someone who does not need as much smart technology on their wrist.
So, in reality, it’s impossible to say for sure which of these two companies makes the better timepiece.
Which is better? Suunto vs. Garmin
The first advanced fitness smartwatches were fascinating to look at, but many of us questioned their usefulness. After a few short years, we’ve become completely reliant on them. Wearing a smartwatch is a great way to stay motivated and informed, whether you’re a novice or an experienced athlete. Even yet, because a smartwatch is a significant purchase, careful consideration of the advantages and disadvantages of Garmin vs Suunto is a good place to begin.
At a number of pricing points, we believe Garmin has a more diverse product line. Garmin provides a number of solar-powered watches, such as the Garmin Instinct Solar, with long battery lifetimes if this is your primary concern. The Garmin Fenix is the best place to start if you want to push the limits of multi-sport performance while still looking great.
Suunto watches are a stunning combination of form and function. Suunto watches have more than 70 sports modes, so they may be used in every situation, no matter where you are or what you’re doing. When it comes to high-performance sports watches, consider the Suunto 9 Peak, which has GPS, heart rate monitors, and a barometer.
How to know which is right for you
A more precise focus on data management and advanced features paired with categories such as user-friendly monitoring features, stress tracking features, and the way these features are suited to a wide range of user needs can assist provide a more impartial comparative analysis.
However, both Garmin and Suunto are high-quality trackers that may appeal to a wide spectrum of buyers, thanks to their distinct features.
Garmin watches are often larger in size than Suunto smartwatches, and this difference in design will be readily apparent.
There is also a noticeable difference in the layout of the heart rate monitor displays. In comparison to Garmin smartwatches, the optional heart rate band from Suunto is quite smooth and tends to be significantly larger. However, despite these minor design variations, the heart rate sensor of either model provides amazing accuracy.
If you compare the Suunto 7 to a Garmin smartwatch, you’ll see that the screen is much more reflective in bright sunshine. The watchband for Garmin models is more traditional, with a clasp, and there is normally a quick-release mechanism.
As a sports watch, Suunto watches are the most adaptable because they have the most sports modes. For those who enjoy participating in several sports, this is the right choice. When it comes to working out for long periods of time, though, Garmin watches are the best option.
Using this device, you may monitor your heart rate and other physical activity to get all the information you need when exercising.
When it comes to individualised training plans and running, Garmin watches are your best bet. This brand’s products have capabilities that allow you to tailor your workouts to achieve the greatest results.
For the most part, Suunto’s watches build upon themselves as they become more costly, but Garmin offers a watch for every situation:
- Simple activity tracking with Garmin Vivoactive
- Garmin Venu 2 – A fashionable and useful fitness tracker
- Serious joggers and triathletes will appreciate Garmin Forerunner
- This is the Garmin Instinct for folks who enjoy spending time outside
- The ideal multi-sport watch from Garmin is the Fenix 7
One of the reasons why we like Garmin’s watches is the clarity with which they serve a specific function. Even so, the Suunto 9 Peak is a stunning timepiece with cutting-edge features and a refined aesthetic. For those who want to stand out from the crowd, getting a Suunto watch is a choice that you can be proud of making.
Choose a Garmin Forerunner for your athletic training or an Instinct for your outdoor lifestyle if you want the best but are on a budget. Of course, the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar Edition is our top pick if money is no problem. It includes all the features you could possibly want as an adventure athlete, including a solar-powered battery boost. We are convinced that Garmin has a watch to meet your requirements, no matter what they may be.
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A highly motivated all-around writing professional with experience in writing about modern technology. Joanne writes for Superwatches for over 2 years now. Joanne specializes in product comparisons and reviews for us and we truly appreciate the quality of her work.
Lives in Congleton, UK.