Thursday, May 27, 2021

Suunto 9 Peak First Look and Test Notes Initial Review : Loses weight and bulk (lots of both), adds features

Article by Sam Winebaum

Suunto 9 Peak ($699 Titanium, $569 Stainless Steel)


The Suunto 9 Peak was just received for testing and this article will be frequently updated on the way to our full review. Suunto's flagship training watch it is know for high accuracy, long battery life. and... weight and buik. This new edition changes that last part of the picture, dramatically, while by spec retaining all the watch's strengths as an all endurance sports and adventure focused offering.

From my standpoint the most significant changes to the Suunto 9 are dramatic weight and thickness reductions while not changing specs for battery life or other features and in fact also adding some key features such as a pulse Ox sensor, 1 hour 100% charging, and automatic backlight intensity adjustment . Weight is felt in a watch and can also affect wrist heart rate accuracy especially on skinny runners' wrists in cold.

The 9 Peak Titanium loses a staggering 29g over the prior 9 Baro to come in at 52 g with the steel version losing 19g. By comparison the Suunto 7 weighs 70g, the similar outer dimension (-1mm here) Garmin Fenix Pro 6s checks in at 61g, the all plastic Forerunner 945 with a larger outer dimension 50g and the Coros Apex Pro 49-59g depending on strap.

This is achieved with a case that is 3.8mm thinner than the 9 Baro to come in at 13mm (tied with Polar Vantage V2 in its class with only all plastic Pace 2 anad Forerunner 245 thinner that I know of)  It has outer dimensions of 43x43 whereas before we had 50 x 50. Resolution goes to a more standard 240x240 (same as Fenix Pro 6s, Forerunner 945. Vantage V2 and Coros Apex Pro)  from 320 x 300. 

Finally the strap goes from 24mm to 22mm and I can tell already, in combination with the flatter profiled hinges is far more comfortable than I remember the 9 Baro’s to be. 

All of this slimming down does not affect the training battery life spec of 25hrs best mode and saver modes of 50, 120 and 170 hour Tour mode or the everyday time battery life of 14 days or 7 day life with notifications and 24/7 tracking. Of course these specs will be evaluated in our testing. 

The look is Scandavian or should I say modern Finland sleek. No no more clunky blocky look and feel. Its whisper light on the wrist and the reduced bulk of case, strap and hinges is immediately noticeable.

The flat buttons have a nice positive click with the touchscreen useful for navigating screens out of training modes. 

Testing Notes

Satellite signal acquisition is remarkably quick, about 2 seconds with a hill shadowing.

Screen visibility in darker forest conditions is only average with 4 data points for my eyes. The new adaptive backlight intensity kicked in and was useful but not frequently enough 

The Suunto Plus climb screen was useful, marking each climb's vertical and pace. Unfortunately

 I snapped the picture just after a climb! So far I am finding  I have to select it in options before each run. Likely a small easy to fix bug. 

Battery Life Testing

An extended test over 4.8 days consumed 75% of the battery life. During the period all notifications were on and I ran for a total of 6 hours. I discovered that sleep tracking is not on by default, turning it on the last 2 nights. This test indicates a "real world" battery life i.e. with GPS training with wrist HR in the mix of a very commendable 6.4 days. 

A 1.5 hour run consumed 6% battery demonstrating a 25 hour full GPS and wrist heart rate battery life, so at spec. 

A second run of 114 minutes consumed 8% battery indicating a 23.75 hour battery life. Note that rounding of the gauge percentages can affect this estimate so a 7% use would indicate 27.14 hours and a 9% use 21 hours so we are close if not on the spec of 25 hours in best mode.

GPS Accuracy
5.63 miles for Suunto 9. 5.65 miles for a Polar Vantage M2 on road. Difference likely as i forgot to start Suunto 9 after a stop. I did notice that it reminded with a vibration that I was running but watch was still paused.

GPS Tracking
Below a screen capture from DC Analyzer comparing the S9 to a Garmin Forerunner 945 and Polar Vantage M2 all worn simultaneously in a particularly winding section of trail in the forest. While I can not be sure which tracks are "correct"  the Vantage M2 and Forerunner 945 agree while the blue line for Suunto 9 Peak does not. Note that the S9 was solo on one wrist while the other two were on the other.

Wrist Heart Rate

As is quite often the case I am finding accuracy early in runs to be better on my thicker dominant wrist (above) than my left non dominant wrist (below) as shown by the high early spikes. Most watches, and especially heavier watches on thinner wrists have a tendency to pick up cadence instead of heart rate in the first ten minutes or so until they settle down and the S9 Peak is no exception. I do think the now much lighter weight and now more wrist conforming design of the 9 Peak should improve accuracy over the 9 Baro.

Now in Park City my first two trail runs show consistent accurate wrist heart rate on my problematic non dominant wrist from two slow trail runs. An update I missed? Terrain? Low humidity? Slow paces? Still to be determined. The many sharp drops are from stops to take some of the pictures below.

Rapid Charge

The Suunto 9 Peak has a rapid charge feature: 1 hour to 100%. I put the watch on the charger at 27% battery and 45 minutes later it was at 100% indicating 71 minutes. It sat at 99% for several minutes and I missed the gauge roll over to 100% so it meets its spec or very close. This is a very rapid charge. I can't recall one as fast or even close.

Charger Unit

Instead of aligning pins or a plug in cord the S9 Peak has a magnetic ring. Attach the charger anywhere and it starts to charge the watch. I have not yet determined if one can charge while in workout mode.

Screen Visibility
To get to its strong battery life the S9 Peak has several tricks up its sleeve. The backlighting is adaptive to light conditions. I saw it triggered while running in a dark forest for a short while and the better visibility was welcome but shortly after in almost but not quite as dim conditions it stayed off. 

On the run in overcast conditions or in the forest during several runs  back in New Hampshire  digits are quite thin and a times can be hard to see, and harder to see than a Forerunner 945, Polar Vantage M2, and Wahoo ELMNT Rival worn on the other wrist during various runs in dimmer light. I note that the minimum number of data fields is three. Why not a choice of 2 or 1 as others offer with resulting bigger digits a mystery.

Now that I am in Park City, Utah at high altitude and with of course lots of bright sun,  the trans reflectivity of the display definitely improves the legibility but I still think as above digits could be fatter and bigger and a 2 data field view option is needed.

Finally it took me several days to figure out how to activate the backlight in everyday mode without pressing a button. I find myself needing to do this to for example see beyond the time, for example the smaller fonts battery gauge. Unlike many watches the S9 requires a distinct flick of the wrist to light up. For sure this helps save battery and is easy to adapt but even doing so things can remain dim. The default brightness of "medium" can of course be adjusted to a brighter setting. 

Suunto Plus

I am just starting to explore Suunto Plus. It is a collection of mini apps or widgets which can be loaded as screens into your training modes. They currently include  Climb, Loop, Sprint (or intervals), Race a Ghost Runner, Safe (Location), Weather, Strava Relative Effort view, Training Peaks, and others. 

As of  now it appears you can only load one at a time and each time you activate a workout you must select your choice as Suunto Plus is in off mode by default each time I expect updates will take care of both issues: multiple choices and save your defaults for the next time.

I selected the Climb module for my first test and combined it with Navigation on a route I easily built in the app.

I took the picture below at the top of a climb, really on the start of the downslope and as the data is real time by stopping  to do so, things look slow!

The left center NGP field is particularly useful as it shows a grade adjust current pace with the right feet climbed per hour rate. Above the climb stats and grade.

Another screen related to Navigation and the route I loaded from what I can tell shows altitude and remaining climb on the route. 

On my next run I selected the Weather module. To get accurate readings you are supposed to take it off and lay it down for 30 seconds as it is watch's sensor and not your phone that does the measuring. I did not take it off. 

The temperature of 79F shown was decently close nonetheless to the actual temperature during the run of 72%. The screen also shows barometric trends as well as sunset and hours of day light remaining.


Navigation and Routes

Unlike the Suunto 7 (RTR Review) with its spectacular high resolution screen for mapping and navigation..and with its far lower battery life,  Suunto 9 Peak relies on the breadcrumb approach but also offers turn by turn directions for loaded routes. 

Both Suunto (and Polar) use mapping from Komoot with route building easily done in the Suunto app. Komoot has superb road but also trail maps and it is rare a known trail is not included. This allows the watch to give you a heads up as to which way to go at junctions. 

During my first test I set up a trails route but made a mistake as near the start one of my choices for the climb was an downhill only trail. The watch notified me that I was Off Route as I took an alternative about 100 meters later or so. 

Knowing the area, I rejoined my loaded route a few miles later but can't recall an On Route notification. I did get an On Route notification when at the end of the run I crossed the point I had to change plans... Below the planned route (left) and actual (right). Much of the back half after rejoining was on route and the breadcrumb map screen clearly shows this and had me on the route as shown below yet I was not alerted for turns at multiple jmajor unctions. 

Clearly the map and the turn by turn elements need to be able to "catch up" with inevitable changes in plans when you do in fact return to the route loaded to the watch. 

Note the level of  breadcrumb map detail with the switchback just ahead clearly shown in the picture and on the display with route covered and route ahead and direction clearly indicated. 

App Statistics and Trends

As I am only a week or so in to testing I am building the various statistics and trends. Shown above the 4 basic swipe views for each key element with more detail available by tapping. Clean and complete. 

Comfort and Style

Several days in, I find the Peak to be incredibly light and comfortable. The hinge design, rear of the watch and buttons are never noticed as biting or in the way even when sleeping.

The styling is super classy and modern in a sleek simple way with thetitanium providing a moderately shiny contrast to the dark blue band.

Official Suunto Info: 

All-new upgrades for the Suunto 9 Peak include:

  • Blood oxygen level measurements to help determine acclimation levels at higher altitudes

  • Automatic backlight intensity adjustment depending on lighting conditions           

  • Faster charging: 100% battery in 1 hour

  • Improved watch strap with new metal fastening pin

  • Added watch face that showcases weekly training metrics and inspires new routines

  • Bluetooth 5 doubles the sync speed between watch and Suunto app. over the air updates

The Suunto 9 Peak will be available in two different styles with four nature inspired colors:

Granite Blue Titanium and Birch White Titanium, made with sapphire glass and grade 5 titanium and All Black and Moss Gray, made with sapphire glass and stainless steel. 

MSRP: Titanium models: $699.00, Stainless steel models: $569.00

Weight: 52g (titanium) 62g (standard)

Materials: Grade 5 Titanium or Stainless Steel

Glass: Sapphire Crystal

Water Resistance: 100m

Battery Life: 25 hours with Performance mode and up to 170 hours in Tour mode


Availability: Pre-sale and launch on 5/25/21, available for purchase at on 6/17/21

Key Comparative Watches

Garmin 6S Pro Review

Garmin Forerunner 945 Review

Coros Apex Pro Review

Polar Vantage V2 Review

Suunto 9 Baro Review

Full Review soon.

Pre-Order at Suunto now HERE

Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. No other compensation was received by RTR or the authors for this review beyond potential commissions from the shopping links in the article. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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Anonymous said...

I guess the real test will be how accurate the GPS and HR sensor is?

Carl said...

Looks good, interesting to see how it compares with the Vantage V2 and Garmin 945. I currently have had a Suunto Spartan for the last few year's which has hold up great, but would like to have some better data such as recovery and effort. Also interested in training plans and suggestions such as what I understand Polar and Garmin are offering.

Don't seem like Suunto are as "advanced" in those aspects but the design language is on top in my book. The later is very subjective off course.

Looking forward to the review!

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Carl,
I am pretty sure already that the Vantage V2 and for that matter M2 have deeper and especially more easily accessible recovery data as the Polar's analyze recharge directly on the watch at wake up. No looking at the app for that For several years now I have had a Polar on my wrist exactly for that reason. . See our Vantage V2 review below with Recharge and most of the rest applying to Vantage M2 except Navigation (Komoot base maps and turn by turn as with Suunto S9 Peak), Hill Splitter, and some of the more sophisticated performance tests. As far as 945 I always race or do hard works outs with one on the wrist for its high visibility 3 field view and Performance Condition. The topo maps are also great. Any including the elegant S9 Peak would be a big improvement over the Spartan
Sam, Editor

JASON said...

There is no way to compare with the 6X, compared with the old GPS line is more accurate. But there are still problems with heart rate. So I will not start. The battery performance is not very good either. I still like my 6X