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Suunto 7 review: The best Wear OS watch for fitness enthusiasts

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
429
inc VAT

The Suunto 7 combines both smartwatch and sports watch facilities in one

Pros 
Very comfortable and responsive
Heatmap feature is great
Comprehensive sport tracking
Cons 
Short battery life by sports watch standards
Can't customise data screens
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While other sports wearables firms have largely shunned Google’s Wear OS to date, Finnish sports wearables firm Suunto thinks it has the formula cracked. The Suunto 7 is its first proper smartwatch and it combines the features of Wear OS with Suunto’s own fitness and sports tracking software.

It’s a tactic other manufacturers have tried before and largely failed at but the Suunto 7 is different. It’s a genuinely good sport tracker and smartwatch, and those are a rare breed indeed.

READ NEXT: Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30 review

Suunto 7 review: What you need to know

First and foremost, the Suunto 7 is a Wear OS-based device and that means it has all the advantages – and disadvantages – of other such smartwatches. It’s great for notifications for instance, and you can use its NFC to pay at contactless terminals but battery life tends to be on the short side compared with other, more serious sports watches.

It adds to these functions with Suunto’s own fitness tracking app, which incorporates some ingenious mapping features, and it has all the hardware features you’d expect of a high-end smartwatch, with a full-colour OLED display, a heart-rate sensor, altimeter, motion sensors and GPS, plus its waterproofing to 50m so you can use it to track your swims.

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Suunto 7 review: Price and competition

Suunto has never been a brand to pander to the budget end of the sports wearable market and that means the price of the Suunto 7 is high. The firm wants you to pay a hefty £429 for the watch, which is more than the Apple Watch Series 5 and considerably pricier than our favourite mid-range Garmin sports trackers, the Garmin Vivoactive 4 and Garmin Forerunner 245. You can even pick up a Garmin Fenix 5 Plus – the firm’s previous-generation flagship fitness watch – for less than the Suunto 7, at around £350.

As for Wear OS rivals, there’s not a lot that offers the full gamut of features and functions that the Suunto 7 does. The Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30 comes closest with its rugged design, dual-layer display and mapping capabilities but, oddly, it lacks heart rate monitoring and we found it a bit of a brute to use.

Other “sport-focused” Wear OS watches we’ve seen haven’t come close to offering a comprehensive fitness tracking experience as the Suunto does. The TicWatch S2, for instance, is nominally a sports watch but its fitness app is very basic compared with the Suunto 7.

Our favourite alternatives: Apple Watch Series 5 - £399 - Buy from John Lewis | Garmin Vivoactive 4 - £255 buy from Amazon | Garmin Forerunner 245 - £225 - Buy from Amazon

Suunto 7 review: Design and features

Forgetting about such prosaic things as features and price for a moment, it’s worth considering how attractive the Suunto 7 actually is. It has a sharp 454 x454 OLED touchscreen, which is as bright and vivid as the best smartwatch displays I’ve seen.

This is topped with slick-feeling Gorilla Glass, surrounded by a sculpted stainless steel bezel and, with a solid-feeling resin casing backing, it sits very comfortably against the wrist. It’s all secured in place by a pliable, super-comfy silicone rubber strap. The watch we were sent came with a black strap backed with lime green, a colour that’s complemented rather neatly by yellow highlights on the supplied Suunto watch faces; but it’s also available in a variety of other colourways.

It’s practical, too, supplementing the touch screen with three large, easy-to-press buttons on the right side and one at the top left. That’s perfect for runners, since sweaty fingers and touch screens don’t work particularly well together, and for those using the watch in colder climes as the buttons are easy to feel out, even with gloves on.

As I’ve already mentioned, the watch runs Google’s Wear OS. This means it has a fully fledged notification system that lets you read and respond to messages (via voice or swipe-typing on the touchscreen). There’s Google Assistant functionality, too, which means you can ask the watch questions, issue commands to smart home tech – anything, in effect, you can do with a Google Assistant enabled smart speaker. The only thing the Suunto 7 lacks is a speaker, so responses tend to be on-screen rather than spoken.

You can use it to run all manner of apps downloaded from the Play Store, get walking directions via Google Maps, and use Google Pay to pay for stuff via contactless terminals.  If you’re the type who likes to run to music there’s also Google Play Music, which allows you to download tracks to the watch and connect your headphones for listening without your smartphone. 

Beneath that attractive veneer, the watch is powered by Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon Wear 3100 chip, which ensures surprisingly responsive and smooth operation and it has 8GB of storage for your music and apps.

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Suunto 7 review: Suunto sports tracking and app

One of the big attractions of the Suunto 7 is that it combines smartwatch features with Suunto’s own sports tracking software. Tap the top right button and the Suunto app appears with the last sport you tracked selected and a large Start slider in the centre of the screen. Drag your finger across this slider or press the middle button and you’re away.

During exercise, as you’d expect, you can cycle through a number of different data screens – by swiping or clicking the centre button – and the type of data presented depends on the activity selected.

If you’re familiar with Suunto’s non-Wear OS fitness watches, it’s pretty much the same. While running, for instance, you have three data screens showing things like pace and heart rate, distance and heart rate zones. In Alpine Skiing mode, meanwhile, the focus is more on altitude and speed.

There are a lot more activities it can track than just running and skiing, though. Indeed, from mainstream activities such as hiking, swimming (both pool and open water) and cycling, to more obscure activities like paragliding, roller skating and telemark skiing, it’s hard to think of anything it can’t do. In fact, the list extends to a total of 70 sports and activities, which is incredibly comprehensive.

The one caveat to all this is that the app isn’t very customisable – it isn’t possible to customise these sports profiles or to create your own. It would be nice, for instance, to show cadence information while running; as it stands you can only see that at the end. Nor can you set your own heart rate zones – you can set your own max heart rate but the zones are always set by percentage of max HR – and you can’t create preset workouts as you can with Garmin wearables.

And although the Suunto 7’s software does offer some advanced metrics such as PTE (peak training effect) and EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) – both of which can be used to assess the impact of individual workouts – there’s no sign of a VO2 Max, which is a more widely recognised metric.

If that’s mildly disappointing, though, Suunto’s mapping features more than make up for such restrictions. With local map data (supplied by MapBox) downloaded to the watch automatically whenever you connect to Wi-Fi, it’s possible to navigate via the screen of the watch, wherever you happen to be.

The most useful thing about Suunto’s mapping is the heatmap view. This indicates, in increasingly bright colours, popular routes used by other athletes. I used this feature to plan out a ski touring route on a recent trip to the French Alps – because it can be filtered by activity type it can be used to avoid venturing down routes that would potentially be unsuited to the activity you’re taking part in. It’s also handy that you can use the heatmap data to plot routes in advance on the smartphone app, although bizarrely you can’t then transfer those routes to the watch.

The cherry on the cake is that, in addition to all these features, there’s plenty of support for third-party fitness platforms, including Apple Health, Google Fit, Strava, MapMyRun, TrainingPeaks, Endomondo, RUNALYZE, running.COACH and quite a few more.

Suunto 7 review: How long does the battery last?

The Suunto 7 is suited to all types of sports, then, but because it’s a Wear OS device it isn’t the best for endurance athletes or longer expeditions. Suunto quotes battery life at 48 hours of smartwatch use (i.e. when not actively tracking workouts) and up to 12 hours tracking workouts with GPS. In power save mode, where the watch displays only the time, it’ll last up to 40 days.

In general, I found these claims pretty much spot on. When I wasn’t tracking any activities, the Suunto 7 would last around two days, at which point it would automatically put itself into power save mode and show the time only. It doesn’t track heart rate, steps or GPS in this mode but this ensures the watch isn’t completely useless while you locate a convenient mains socket to plug in and charge.

Of course, this is not great compared with non-Wear OS fitness watches such as the Fenix 6 Pro, which can last for up 28 days even with GPS on in expedition mode. However, it’s pretty good by Wear OS standards and it beats the Apple Watch Series 5 hands down, the latter only being rated at six hours for outdoor workout tracking and merely “all-day” battery life for generic smartwatch functions.

READ NEXT: Our pick of the best smartwatches this year

Suunto 7 review: How accurate is the heart rate monitor and GPS?

The Suunto 7 uses an optical wrist-based sensor to read your pulse, so it’s never going to be as accurate as a chest belt but didn’t have any serious problems with it. Over the course of several runs, I found it tended to over-read on both average heart rate and max heart rate, albeit not by massive amounts. Sometimes it was bang on, other times as much as 8% more than the belt, and once it told me my max heart rate was 215bpm. I’m going to treat that as an outlier, though, as this was the only time most of the time the readings seemed reasonable.

As far as GPS is concerned, it’s a similar story. The watch supports multiple satellite location networks – GPS, GLONASS, BEIDOU and QZSS – and I never had trouble getting a quick positional lock.

Over the course of several runs I compared the distance measured by the Suunto 7 with the same route measured via Google Maps. Again, I found the watch recorded run distances at a slightly longer distance than they should have been recorded at – by an average of 3.3% – but that’s really not bad for a wrist-bound GPS sensor.

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Suunto 7 review: Verdict

Overall, the Suunto 7 is a pretty darned good Wear OS smartwatch. Indeed, in my opinion the best sports-focused device of its kind on the market and, if you like the advantages that Wear OS brings and don’t mind charging every day or so, you should go out and buy one. It looks great and is very comfortable to wear as well.

However, there’s no ignoring the fact that both battery life and customisation options are limited compared with serious sports watches. That means that although I do like the Suunto 7, it’s hard to recommend wholeheartedly for those who take their sports more seriously.