Sports-focused smartwatches are proliferating. There are now several devices out in the market that allows you to track your exercise without too many hassles. Two of these devices are Suunto 9 and Garmin Fenix 5. Which one should you buy?
Suunto has been coming out with rugged sports-focused smartwatches that have captured the attention of athletes and people who like to keep active. The Suunto 9 is one of the manufacturer’s contenders in this increasingly growing market. The company hopes to differentiate this smartwatch from the others with its ultra-long battery runtimes and excellent tracking features.
Design and display
Suunto is known for its sizable smartwatches, and this device is no exception. The Suunto 9 measures 1.97 by 1.97 by 0.65 inches, and it weighs 2.54 ounces. That is no problem if you have big wrists, but it will look awkward on smaller ones. The Suunto 9 uses plastic for its case, as well as having a stainless steel bezel, mineral glass lens, and a silicone strap.
It can fit wrists from 5.12 to 9.06 inches thick with strap widths of 0.94 inches (or 22 millimeters). The materials used for this watch makes it ready for your rugged lifestyle. The Suunto 9 uses a color touch display that delivers resolutions of 320 by 320 pixels. You will like how sharp this screen is, but it is not that bright and can be hard to read even when you are indoors. Fortunately, the screen is lit by customizable LED backlights.
We often put the battery under the features list, but Suunto 9 not only delivers an impressive maximum battery life but it allows you to choose among three different training modes that will help ensure that you have enough battery juice. It also lets you know just how much time the battery charge will hold up. There are three training modes to choose from:
- Performance mode, where everything is on will give you up to 25 hours of running time.
- Endurance mode, where GPS readings are done every 60 seconds, and the screen is set at 20 percent brightness, will give you up to 40 hours of running time.
- Ultra mode, gives you 120 hours of running time, but GPS coordinates are logged only every two minutes, and the brightness is down to 10 percent.
When you choose a mode, the device will show you just how much time you have to run or exercise before needing a recharge. Running time for this device lasts 14 days in smartwatch mode.
The Suunto 9 has several sensors that allow the device to track different things. It features an accelerometer, altimeter, GPS, and heart rate monitor all embedded on the watch.
The Suunto 9 delivers all the necessary activity tracking data. It can count your steps, the calories you burn, and can tell you about your progress in reaching your goals. The device also features an optical heart rate monitor that can keep track of your pulse and even measure your stress. The Suunto 9 can also monitor your sleep, including how long you slept last night, your average heart rate while in dreamland, and other information.
The Suunto 9 is able to track a variety of sports and activities. It can adequately monitor metrics when you swim, bike, or run. It can even change the sports mode during exercise. You can use it for both indoor and outdoor runs, triathlon, and even weight training.
One thing about the Suunto 9’s running-related features is that you have a lot of data to work with. You can learn about your time, pace, distance, cadence, and calories burned. Your descent and ascent are monitored as well, letting you know how much time you spend on each. Suunto also tells you the highest altitude you’ve run. With the heart rate monitor, you can also get the peak training effect, recovery and EPOC, which is the amount of oxygen that you need to normalize the body.
You can wear the Suunto 9 as you swim. You can get your pace, heart rate, and distance, as well as more advanced data.
What You Will Like About the Suunto 9
With the Suunto 9, you will appreciate the long battery life and the feedback you get when you are running. It also has an accurate heart rate monitor. It’s not as precise as chest straps, but as far as wrist-based heart monitors go, it’s good.
What Can Be Better
There are times when you will find it difficult to transmit your data from the watch to the app. But the biggest downfall of Suunto smartwatches has always been its complicated app. Most users find it easier to connect their data with Strava and other online sports communities. The Suunto 9 is also rather big, and it has sharp edges that make it uncomfortable to wear for some people. And while this device delivers great heart rate monitoring, it does have problems when you do high-intensity workouts.
The Bottom Line
Overall, the Suunto 9 is a strong contender if you are looking for sports smartwatches that can track different exercises. It has an impressive set of running-related measurements and an astounding battery life. But it’s not perfect, because of the app that it uses and some difficulty when syncing.
Garmin Fenix 5
Garmin has been making its presence felt in the wearables arena. The Garmin Fenix 5 is the company’s answer to rivals who have smartwatches that are focused on sports, without limiting itself to running. What can you expect from this line of smartwatches?
Design and Display
The Garmin Fenix 5 has a round form factor that measures 1.85 by 1.85 by 0.61 inches. It weighs 3.00 ounces. These dimensions make the Garmin Fenix 5 a bit smaller and slimmer than Suunto 9. However, the Fenix 5 is heavier than the Suunto device. The Garmin Fenix 5 uses chemically strengthened glass or sapphire crystal lens, stainless steel bezel, and fiber-reinforced polymer case that has a stainless steel rear cover. It comes with a transflective memory-in-pixel display that is very visible even when you’re under direct sunlight.
Features of Garmin Fenix 5
The Fenix 5 has several time-related features that allow it to function as a regular watch. It can tell you the time and date and works as a timer, alarm clock, and stopwatch. The Garmin Fenix 5 can also automatically adjust time according to your location using the GPS data that it gets. Further, if you are transitioning into daylight saving time, the smartwatch will change the time on its own. It will also give you the sunset and sunrise times.
The Garmin Fenix 5 has both GPS and GLONASS antennas, allowing you to get satellite coverage in more places around the world. It also has a barometric altimeter, a compass, a gyroscope, an accelerometer, and a thermometer. Lastly, you can enjoy the wrist-based heart rate monitor as well.
Because of these sensors, the Fenix 5 can track several fitness-related metrics. It will count the number of steps you take, tells you when it’s time to get off the couch and exercise and give you an idea of how many calories you have burned. It also monitors your sleep, the time that you did intense workouts, and can keep your stress in check.
It can also give you the distance you have covered and the number of floors you have climbed. If you pair it with the mobile app, you can get your fitness age. However, these are not all. The Garmin Fenix 5 can also track different sports. It can help you while you are at the gym, doing cardio or strength workouts. It can count the reps you make. You can also use this device for trail and treadmill running.
It gives you a long list of running data including time, pace, and distance, cadence, performance condition, workouts, end-time predictor, and others. The Fenix 5 can also be put into good use at the golf course or when you are doing some outdoor activities such as mountain biking, skiing, hiking, or cross-country skiing among others. Further, it can keep tabs when you are swimming or cycling. The Fenix 5 further features a heart rate monitor, giving you a lot of data including HR zones, HR alerts, HR calories, HR max, HRR, recovery time, and max HR, among many others.
As a smartwatch, the Garmin Fenix 5 can pair via Bluetooth or using the ANT+ protocols for other fitness-related devices. If you have the sapphire glass version, you can also connect the device to your Wi-Fi network. Garmin provides you with several options for customization via the Connect IQ feature.
You can download watch faces, apps, widgets and data fields to your Fenix 5. More than these connectivity options, the Fenix 5 will alert you when you get a call, e-mail, or text message on your phone. It can also update you on the weather. Further, you can use your watch to control the music on your smartphone. If you lose your phone, you can find it using your Fenix 5, and vice versa.
The Fenix 5 has the LiveTrack feature that allows you to share your locations with friends and other people on a map. This feature is useful when you are exploring a new trail or route, and you want to make sure that your friends will be able to come to your aid if something untoward happens.
The Fenix 5 also allows for Group LiveTrack, which can keep track of several users all in one map. Battery life for this device is rated to last up to two weeks when used as a watch. Turning on the heart rate monitor and the GPS will reduce running times to 24 hours at most. The Fenix 5, however, has UltraTrac mode that can give you up to 60 hours of battery juice. In this mode, the device will turn off the heart rate monitor. The Gamin Fenix 5 has a 10-ATM water resistance rating.
What You Will Like About the Garmin Fenix 5
The Garmin Fenix 5 is perfect for those people who live very active lives and indulge in a variety of sports and workouts. The Fenix 5 can track everything you do from the running trails to the swimming pool to the golf course. It gives you a lot of data, possibly everything you need to improve your workouts, and more. It can also connect to a lot of other accessories that enables the device to get even more data.
What Can Be Better
The Garmin Fenix 5 uses a wrist-based heart rate monitor, which might not be as accurate as you want. There are some complaints that users can accidentally pause tracking while they are still working out. There is also something wrong with the recovery advice that the Fenix 5 gives out. It sometimes feels like it wants you to rest longer than you should.
The Final Say About the Garmin Fenix 5
Garmin has had a lot of practice in sports tracking, often coming out with special devices or those smartwatches that are targeted toward specific athletes. The Garmin Fenix 5 feels like the company wanted to boast and show the world what it can do.
And so they came out with an outstanding multi-sports smartwatch that does a little bit of everything that their other devices can do so well. For the most part, it delivers when it tracks different sports such as golf, swimming, cycling, and running. However, as you can guess, the Fenix 5 carries a heavy price tag. This smartwatch sells for $500. But if you think about the long list of data and the variety of sports it tracks, the Garmin Fenix 5 is well worth the high price. You might also want to pass on the Garmin Fenix 5 if you want an accurate heart rate monitor.
Comparing the Suunto 9 and the Garmin Fenix 5
These two devices share a lot of things in common. It has the same price range, and both of these smartwatches are bulky. They even have the same materials for its bezel, case, strap, and lens. However, the Garmin Fenix 5 offers a sapphire crystal version for its devices. Additionally, the Fenix 5 allows you to order a metal band to go with your new watch.
The Suunto 9 and the Fenix 5 can track your fitness without hitches. These devices also have smart alerts and are designed for monitoring your cycling activities. Both of these devices might not be for those who like to listen to music as they run. You cannot store music files on both the Suunto 9 and the Garmin Fenix 5. You can’t even use streaming services. These two devices also cannot pay for your purchases.
Where Garmin Fenix 5 Wins
When it comes to sports tracking, the Garmin device includes a golf mode. Golfers should choose this over the Suunto 9. There are also complaints that the cadence as measured by the Suunto 9 is inaccurate. It also has more features than the Suunto device, but they are minor functionalities that are nice to have.
Where Suunto 9 Wins
FusedSpeed is a feature that brings together GPS and accelerometer readings to help you get speed data when GPS reception is spotty. This feature also allows the Suunto 9 to save on battery. For instance, the ultra mode will give you 120 hours of battery life, but it will log GPS locations only every two minutes. With FusedSpeed, an algorithm is applied to these intermittent GPS readings, and then the data from the accelerometer is also factored in. The result is that you can get accurate speed data even when the GPS log is intermittent.
Side-by-Side Comparison: Garmin Fenix 5 vs. Suunto 9
If you want a detailed look at what these two smartwatches offer, check out this side-by-side comparison:
|Model||Garmin Fenix 5||Suunto 9|
|Dimensions (Diameter x thickness, inches)||1.85 x 0.61||1.97 x 0.65|
|Stainless steel bezel||Yes||Yes|
|Lens||Glass or sapphire crystal||Mineral glass|
|Stainless steel strap||Yes||No|
|Wi-Fi connectivity||Sapphire versions only||No|
|Waterproof up to 100 meters||Yes||Yes|
|Maximum battery life in watch mode (days)||14||14|
|Maximum battery life with GPS (hours)||75||120|
|With basic activity tracking features||Yes||Yes|
|Can Control Phone Music||Yes||No|
|Designed for cycling||Yes||Yes|
|Designed for running||Yes||Yes|
|Designed For swimming||Yes||Yes|
|Designed For Triathlon||Yes||Yes|
|Automatic start and stop for tracking||Yes||No|
|Live weather data||Yes||No|
|Follow GPS tracks||Yes||Yes|
|Embedded heart rate monitor||Yes||Yes|
Garmin Fenix 5 vs. Suunto 9: Which One Should You Buy?
There are not too many differences between these two devices. However, the Fenix 5 does deliver a lot of extra features for you to enjoy. At roughly the same price and looks, as well as exercise-related features, it makes more sense to buy a Garmin Fenix 5. Do you have these smartwatches? Share your experiences with these devices in the comments!