To help us provide you with free impartial advice, we may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Suunto 9 review: Suunto’s flagship sports watch lacks the wow factor

Our Rating :
$356.65 from
£434.48 from
Price when reviewed : £367
inc VAT

Solid sports tracking and brilliant battery life aren't enough for the Suunto 9 to compete with the best


  • Intelligent battery modes
  • Good sports tracking
  • In-app route planner


  • Inaccurate heart-rate tracking
  • Suunto's software is frustrating
  • No custom workouts

The Suunto 9 and Suunto 9 Baro are the Finnish company’s flagship sports watches, designed to fulfil the exacting demands of the most serious runners and triathletes out there. Unfortunately for Suunto, while the 9 is a solid enough GPS watch with excellent battery life, it’s lacking the killer features required to compete at the top end of the market, especially when compared to the mighty Garmin Fenix 5 Plus.

Suunto 9 review: What you need to know

The main difference between the Suunto 9 and its pricier sibling the Suunto 9 Baro is that the former lacks a barometric altimeter, using its GPS instead to log your elevation during activities. That makes it less accurate on the elevation front, especially in densely wooded areas, but it’s something that most road runners will rarely notice.

The watch delivers accurate distance and speed tracking via GPS, GLONASS and QZSS (Japan’s satellite navigation system) plus a Valencell optical heart rate monitor. You can also link to other heart rate monitors and external sensors like foot pods and cycling power meters via Bluetooth Smart, but not ANT+.

Perhaps the Suunto 9’s main selling point, though, is its battery life. It offers 25 hours of GPS in the most accurate mode, but this can be extended to 120 hours in its Ultra mode, which uses the company’s FusedTrack tech to log route and distance surprisingly accurately despite only taking GPS readings every two minutes.

Sadly, though the battery life should appeal to ultra-marathon runners and Ironman triathletes, the Suunto 9 is outgunned by its rivals when it comes to sports tracking and navigation, and has little in the way of smart features.

Suunto 9 review: Price and competition

The Suunto 9 has a starting price of £449, but can sometimes be found for closer to £350. The Suunto 9 Baro, on the other hand, can be yours from £400, but it’s £585 starting price puts it in the same category as the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus (£600), which has better sports tracking, navigation and smart features.

At £350, the Suunto 9’s main competition is the Polar Vantage V (£356), which has some accuracy issues, but does offer more features than the 9, including the ability to track running power from your wrist, which no other wrist-borne wearable can do at the moment.

Despite its high starting price, the Suunto 9’s feature set is more in line with sports watches around the £300 to £350 mark. Garmin’s Forerunner 935 (£340), for example, has more impressive sports tracking features and is also easier to use.

Suunto 9 review: Design and features

Despite being a large watch that sticks out a fair bit from your wrist, I didn’t find the Suunto 9 at all uncomfortable. I was surprised to see it weighs so much more than the Garmin Forerunner 935 (72g vs 49g), because it felt similarly lightweight on my wrist.

My only complaint as far as comfort is concerned is that the watch’s silicone strap is a little wider than necessary, which results in more skin on the underside of your wrist getting hot and sweaty during exercise. This can easily be solved by swapping the strap for one that has more holes in it, though, and there are also textile and leather straps to choose from on the Suunto site, costing £45 to £70. Indeed, the Suunto 9 is compatible with any of Suunto’s 24mm quick-release straps.

The watch’s three-button design is a little annoying in that there’s no dedicated back button, so you have to scroll all the way through menus to go back or swipe using the touchscreen. This is pretty responsive, but nothing like as slick as a smartwatch such as the Apple Watch. Nor is the Suunto 9’s 320 x 300 screen as easy to read as most of Garmin’s sports watches or as bright and vibrant as something like the Fitbit Ionic, which is a shame.

Battery life is a key feature for the Suunto 9. It delivers 25 hours of GPS tracking when taking readings every second; 50 hours in Endurance mode, where the GPS readings are every minute; and 120 hours in Ultra mode, where GPS readings are every two minutes. In the latter mode, other power-saving features are also enabled such as disabling the screen after ten seconds of inactivity.

Other brands have similar battery-saving modes, with Garmin’s UltraTrac roughly doubling the battery life of watches like the Forerunner 935 and Fenix 5 Plus, and the Coros Apex’s UltraMax mode increasing the already amazing battery life of the 46mm watch to 100 hours. However, the Suunto 9 not only lasts longer than its rivals, but also offers more accurate tracking in this mode.

That’s because of its FusedTrack feature, which uses motion sensors alongside the infrequent GPS readings to plot a map of your route and gauge distance with surprisingly impressive results. When compared to a Garmin watch and footpod on a city run (during which I also completed several laps of a running track), for instance, the Suunto 9 measured 15km in Ultra mode compared to the Garmin’s 14.6km. On a simpler route through Epping Forest it was almost bang on until I stopped for a few minutes and it missed the last kilometre of my route.

As good as FusedTrack is, though, the vast majority of runners probably don’t need it. It’s perfect for Ultramarathon runners completing long training runs and races, but the 25 hours of battery life delivered in the regular GPS mode will suit most people just fine. When used in this way, the Suunto 9 lasted me about ten days between charges.

Suunto 9 review: Sports tracking and performance

Take the battery life out of the equation and the Suunto 9 starts to look like a pretty standard mid-range multisport watch with a premium price tag. It has more than 80 different sports modes, an optical heart-rate monitor, and breadcrumb trail navigation, which all work well for the most part but, crucially, there are watches available for much less that do all of the above and more.

As for setting up the watch, this was a bit of a faff owing to the fact Suunto is currently transitioning between two software platforms, from the Movescount website and app to the Sports Tracker website and Suunto app. When I tried using the Movescount app, it kept freezing and the process was altogether unpleasant, so I’d suggest steering well clear of it for now.

The Suunto app is more or less on par with Movescount in terms of route planning and letting you digest all the details of your activities afterwards, even if Movescount does offer more in-depth data in that regard. You can now also link the Suunto app to Strava, which you had to install Movescount for in the past.

When it comes to sports modes, Suunto has an approach that I find utterly baffling. Instead of just having one run mode that you can customise, it offers several preset options like Running Basic, Running Intervals and Running Track. None of these can be customised, so if you want to see a specific combination of data fields, you’ll need to set up your own custom running mode.

That’s fine in that you can cram up to seven data fields on a single screen and also see your heart rate zone shown around the outside, but there are only four screens in these custom modes, one of which is fixed as a navigation screen. In Suunto’s preset modes you get six screens, so it’s frustrating that the same isn’t possible in custom modes.

More importantly, though, you can’t use the basic interval workout function in custom workout modes either. A useful tool for guiding you through a simple on/off workout, this can be selected at the start of training sessions, but again only from Suunto’s preset modes. That’s irritating, and then there’s the fact the Suunto 9 doesn’t offer more complicated structured workouts at all.

With premium Garmin and Polar watches, you can create workouts where you run five one-mile reps with two minutes recovery, for example, and then do eight rounds of one minute on, 30 seconds off. Alternatively, you can set up the watch to keep you in certain heart rate zones during your training session, but neither function is offered by the Suunto 9.

You can get by with the lap button on the Suunto 9, but having a watch that guides you through a workout without having to think about it is really useful when you have a packed training schedule. In my opinion, such a feature should be standard on any premium multisport wearable such as the Suunto 9.

Then there’s its heart rate tracking. Sadly, I found this to be abysmal when running, or even walking, because the Suunto 9 immediately locked onto my cadence instead of my heart rate. This meant my heart rate was consistently in the maximum heart rate zone, skewing the calorie stats, along with the recovery advice and VO2 estimations provided by the watch.

Although the heart rate accuracy was better during other activities, and surprisingly on point when swimming, keen runners will need to get a chest strap tracker to pair with the watch. It’ll need to support Bluetooth too, because the Suunto doesn’t support ANT+ devices. The good news is that it does work with running footpods and cycling power meters over Bluetooth as well as external heart rate monitors.

There’s not a huge degree of difference between the various sports modes on the watch, though you do of course get some specific data fields that differ between running, cycling and swimming. There are open water and pool modes for the latter, and the 9 also has a dedicated triathlon mode.

Suunto 9 review: Navigation and smart features

I was impressed by the navigation features on the watch, especially the route planner available from the Suunto smartphone app. This uses a simple black map where roads are highlighted according to how popular they are with other Suunto users. You can create a quick route on your phone that snaps to popular tracks automatically and avoids paths that other runners tend to shun, which is especially useful when running in unfamiliar areas.

You can set the router to stick to roads and avoid hills when cycling, too, and it lets you draw your routes freehand if you prefer. It’s brilliantly easy to use and takes seconds to sync a course to the watch. And if you prefer to pore over a proper map when creating your routes, you can do so via the Sports Tracker website and sync them to the Suunto 9.

Once they’re on the watch, you just get a basic breadcrumb trail with a pointer, which is enough to get you to your destination without any significant missteps, even if it can’t compete with the full colour maps of the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus.

The Suunto 9 is a sports tracker through and through to the extent that there are no smart features beyond very basic notifications that still require you to get your phone out of your pocket to see what’s going on.

Sports watches are generally moving towards offering more features in this regard, particular Garmin devices. The Vivoactive 3, Forerunner 645 and Fenix 5 Plus all let you store and stream music including Spotify playlists, for example. Though it’s not essential for Suunto to develop smart features to compete for the attention of serious athletes, it is undoubtedly an area where its flagship device falls short compared to rivals.

Things are more developed when it comes to everyday tracking, with steps, calories, weekly training time and sleep all available to view on the watch and the Suunto app. It’s debatable whether the plastic design of the Suunto 9 is something many will choose to wear in a more formal environment, but as far as its features are concerned, there’s no reason you couldn’t use it as any everyday watch.

Suunto 9 review: Verdict

The Suunto 9 is a great multisport watch, but it’s not fit to compete at the top-end of the market. It comes up well short against the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus, but even against the cheaper Forerunner 935, it’s difficult to see why you’d pick it unless having the very best battery life is a priority for you.

If you can find it for around £300-£350, it’s a solid choice, with good sports tracking and a nifty navigation mode, but poor heart-rate tracking and lack of structured workouts still count against it. Unless you’re an Ultramarathon runner or Ironman triathlete, then, you’ll probably be better served by one of Garmin’s multisport watches, which have more features and terrific software that’s far easier to use than Suunto’s.

Read more