SUUNTO 9 BARO REVIEW
Updated: Jun 8, 2020
A SPORTS WATCH THAT IS RIGHT UP THERE WITH THE VERY BEST
I have recently replaced my trusted Suunto Ambit3 Peak, a true work horse, by the Suunto 9 Baro, an innovative gem of engineering with an incredible battery.
The Suunto 9 Baro is the legitimate flagship, the top-end product of the Finnish company Suunto: an accurate, versatile and trendy sports watch that is right up there with the very best.
When you are focusing on a particular goal or setting off on a specific adventure, you want to make sure your watch can also cover the distance. With up to 120 hours in ultra-mode continuous registration and navigation, Suunto 9 is built to last.
Suunto 9 is designed and built to meet the demands of professional athletes as well as recreational athletes who just want that little bit more.
Don't worry about draining the battery. Three pre-defined battery modes - Performance, Endurance and Ultra - deliver 25 to 120 hours of recording time with GPS tracking. When you start recording, you will get an estimated time of how much battery time you have left in the current mode. If this is not enough, switch to another mode at any time.
If Suunto 9 detects that battery power is low during an activity, it will automatically suggest switching to another battery mode. The watch also indicates, via smart reminders, that you should consider your battery capacity for the next workout. It will notice when the battery is starting to run low. Why hasn't any other brand in this range of sporty wearables thought of this? This is simply genius!
In long endurance sports, battery life is often the limiting factor for precise capture of distance and tracking, as GPS puts a heavy burden on the battery. Suunto's unique FusedTrack™ algorithm combines GPS and motion sensor data to improve track and distance accuracy. This enables athletes to extend battery life by reducing GPS power without significantly reducing accuracy.
Recently, Suunto announced the retirement of their online training platform, Movescount. Instead, athletes will switch to SUUNTO APP, so everything is now centered on your smartphone.
The Suunto 9 Baro is still compatible with Movescount, but you have to make a choice. Suunto very much recommends choosing Suunto app as Movescount is not updated anymore.
The Suunto app has been developed in a very logical and user-friendly way. The upload is fast, which is an important factor. The app allows you to customize anything to match your preferences. You can plan routes and keep track of other Suunto athletes. It is also possible to link external apps from third parties such as Strava or Apple Health. You can expand the statistics of your activities with the necessary detailed analyses. You can personalize your sports if you want to measure your data during any activity, and this provides great added value. You can also create extra sport modes in addition to the 80 existing basic sport modes that Suunto offers. Unfortunately, certain data such as your sleep analysis do not get synced with external health apps and can only be analysed within the Suunto app itself. As the Suunto app receives regular updates, this may change in the future.
SuuntoLink must be downloaded and installed on your PC or Mac to provide the watch with the latest software, which is also designed to keep the GPS optimal. Suunto recommends updating the watch when a new software release is available. SuuntoLink is easy to use and can be used away from the Suunto app.
The Suunto 9 has obviously been made for athletes. The focus is on physical activities. When it comes to lifestyle, the watch is ahead of the competition. You can choose from various watch faces and different watch straps that you can buy as extras. The simple yet trendy design of the wearable is fashionable and matches the outfit that goes with any daily activity.
This sports watch does not support apps such as Spotify, Shazam and various bank apps. Suunto 7, for example, does, and this is one of the biggest differences.
Suunto 9 connects very easily with your smartphone via the app. You can operate the watch via three buttons on the side as well as via the touchscreen. The watch being a smart wearable, you can see live notifications of who is calling, read your calendar items, and view and retrieve messages. You can customize the notifications to meet your preferences by enabling push notifications inside your smartphone on an app-to-app basis.
Even though Suunto 9 does not have all the smart features of the mainstream smartwatch, it is certainly value for money. Suunto 9 has a sleep tracker, keeps track of your steps, records your total calories burned and shows the difference from the active calories you burn each day during your sports activities. These features also allow you to set your goals for the day and pursue them. Suunto 9 also has an activity meter, meaning that it indicates whether you are active and what your energy level is. This clever piece of technology also lets you know when you are under stress and how long this has been the case. Suunto keeps track of all of these data, which can be viewed on the watch and in detail via the Suunto app.
This wrist watch also has a training logbook linked to your training plan. Statistics analysis shows you how you are doing on a weekly basis and what the watch's advice is for your recovery period.
Suunto 9 has all the extras and features that make it a fully outdoor wearable. It has a barometric altimeter that is calibrated on the basis of GPS. There is also a temperature gauge which, it must be said, is only accurate when you are not wearing the watch. As an example, use the watch with the Suunto bike mount, which you can buy separately, when cycling. The watch also has a compass, storm alarm, GPS-tracking with navigation, sunrise and sunset notification, chronometer and a timer that can be set.
All of this means that Suunto 9 is an unrivalled sports watch, and it does not stop at training. The watch is compatible with various external sensors such as a cadence meter or a heart rate belt.
Via the wrist you can also monitor your heart rate 24/7 in a simple and convenient way. This is called optical heart rate. However, it is important to note that you should wear the sports watch according to the guidelines recommended by Suunto in its manual. Surprisingly, a test showed that the measurements of the optical sensor are very accurate. Kudos to Suunto for their integrated optical heart rate sensor developed by Valencell.
Training in heart rate zones as well as training in pace zones is perfectly possible. You can also set your own training goals. During exercise, Suunto 9 uses notification and vibration to indicate that you need to increase or decrease the intensity of your activity. On top of this, it is possible to combine several sports in one activity: think duathlon, triathlon, adventure races ...
Before you start training your specific and, if you wish, personalized sport, you can also switch certain modes on and off. You can choose and let the watch know whether you need for example SuuntoPlus™, intensity zones, your personal goal, navigation, type of lighting, GPS, optical heart rate, external sensors, type of battery mode, auto lap and auto pause.
After putting the watch into use and recording at least 2 activities related to walking and/or running, Suunto 9 will determine your fitness level. It classifies you into one of 6 different levels, it assigns a fitness age and provides an estimate of your VO2max. The more you exercise, the more accurately your personal fitness level is assessed. Of course, your VO2max is very much your own, which leads to an estimate based on an algorithm with various parameters. If you are already very fit, increasing your fitness level will be slower. If you are just starting to exercise regularly, you should see a rapid increase in your fitness level. Assessing your fitness level is one of this watch’s many nifty extras.
SuuntoPlus™ is a new feature that came with the latest software update. It is a part of the watch that brings together all the new and exciting features of external apps on your wrist. Suunto have announced that they will introduce even more features in the future. The motivation here is to help athletes improve their performance. The two compatible apps SuuntoPlus™ uses today are Strava and Trainingpeaks.
I personally use SuuntoPlus™ with Strava to monitor my ‘Relative Effort’ in real time. This gives me a specific insight into the amount of work I put into my activities while I am doing them.
‘Relative Effort’ provides athletes with a personal measurement based on their heart rate zones, so they can adjust the effort along the way. When you are done, synchronize the activity with Strava and get even greater insight into your training. This way, athletes can dive deep into the performance data, and see how much progress they have made in general. You will also see where you are in your training plan. This is especially meaningful information if you want to achieve supercompensation for a race in such a way that you can plan your workout in the context of responsible and healthy training.
Navigation can essentially take place in two ways, on the one hand as part of an activity, on the other hand in stand-alone mode. Stand-alone mode does not record the activity/track for later analysis. If you choose the first option, the activity will be recorded for later analysis. Whichever option you choose, the principle remains the same in terms of where you can navigate to. This includes POIs (points of interest) and routes you can create or import into the app. It then syncs with your watch and you are ready to go. It’s all very handy and easy to use.
It is clear that the Suunto 9 Baro is unique in its field, a fashionable and technically advanced multisport watch with all the characteristics of a true smart wearable. The watch boasts all the capabilities of a top-end outdoor wristwatch and contributes to a healthy lifestyle through its additional tracking capabilities. The watch also includes all of Suunto's classic sport and measurement functions. Even though this gem of innovation does not come cheap, it is most certainly value for money. You are sure to be blown away by the unusual battery strength that can be adjusted before and during an activity depending on the duration of the training. This smart application is unique in its field. This watch is designed for the professional athlete but will also appeal to the recreational sportswoman or sportsman.
As Suunto puts it: this sports watch is "built to last, just like you."
This review was achieved in collaboration with Maaike Van Den Meersschaut,
Kjell Neckebroeck and AS-ADVENTURE.