Suunto, the Finnish orienteering brand best known for its high-level adventure gear, just dropped a new fitness smartwatch.
The Suunto 5 (the company’s naming convention isn’t chronological, so you didn’t miss the 1 through 4) is a compact, powerful device that focuses on tracking performance and battery life that will take you through any workout or outdoor excursion with plenty of juice to spare. The 5 fills in a strong spot feature and cost-wise between Suunto’s other two generally focused workout watches, the basic Suunto 3 Fitness and the powerful Suunto 9, making it the right choice for someone looking to up their performance without going all out to break the bank.
The Suunto 5 is a solid smartwatch for performance buffs looking to expand their adventures. If you’re not totally dialed-in on your activities, though, you might be better off with a less powerful, more connected wearable.
When I first strapped on my Suunto 5 smartwatch test unit, I was suffering from notification fatigue.
I’d been wearing an Apple Watch Series 4 every day for about six months, by far the longest extended period of time I’ve kept one single style of device on my wrist. I love how seamless the smartwatch synchs with my phone (the Apple Watch’s greatest strength, in my opinion), but the constant screen awareness from the two devices began to wear on me as the warm weather of late spring approached. I was ready for a break.
The Suunto 5 came as a welcome change-up to the hyperconnected life. While the smartwatch does allow you to connect to your phone to receive some pings and alerts, the flat, reserved display is much less engaging than that of what I was wearing before.
The design helps to keep the watch from eating up my attention, too. The 5’s silicone strap is comfortable on the wrist, with a solid ridge around the casing for a more streamlined fit, while its casing, made from a light glass fiber reinforced polycarbonate, is much less bulky than the brand’s top level Suunto 9 and other GPs-enabled wrist devices. The mineral crystal screen has no touch interface, unlike the Suunto 9 and many other smartwatches, so you’ll be tasked to use the five buttons to navigate the menu. Like the more basic Suunto 3 Fitness before it, I found that I didn’t mind the lack of touch and tap based command inputs, although I did find myself absentmindedly swiping on the unresponsive surface a few times, strictly out of habit.
The real draw here is the Suunto 5’s powerful battery and tracking features. Different “intelligent” battery modes allow you to optimize battery usage, and the company claims that you’ll be able to go up to 40 hours between charges (pending the way you use it, of course). During my testing (which was only over a four day period), the battery only dropped down to around 20 percent, with several GPS-tracked runs and workouts.
Along with sleep and stress levels, you can track a long list of over 80 activities, from standard outdoor running to alpine skiing (unsurprisingly, I did not test the former over the short trial period), and a unique personal training feature that gives you input on your workouts, separates your heart rate performance into different “Intensity Zones,” and can even design a fitness plan for you to follow on-device. The device connects to Suunto’s app, which I have enjoyed using with its other smartwatches. I had some synching issues with the app and the watch, which was potentially because the device was a pre-production sample, but I’ve had problems with other Suunto devices in the past, too. But even if the phone and watch aren’t working in lockstep, you can still use the watch for just about everything you’d want to do.
Casual users might find the Suunto 5 a little too technical for their taste. The app is easy to use (when it’s connected) and you’ll get the same notifications that other smart devices like the Fitbit Versa Lite, but the lack of touchscreen and lifestyle features like NFC payment might turn some people off. The design is decidedly old school, so there’s no mistaking the 5 for one of the more hyped entries in the smartwatch market, either. The $329 price point isn’t friendly to the fair weather crowed either—this isn’t a device to ditch after a few weeks of wear.
Like Suunto’s other watches, the 5 is best for an avid outdoors or training enthusiast. If that’s you, this GPS-powered, extended battery wonder might be your next favorite gadget.
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