Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Suunto 9 Peak Multi Tester Review: Who says a fully capable sports watch can't also be Elegant!

Article by Sam Winebaum and Jeff Valliere

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

Pros:  Jeff V./Sam:  

  • small, thin, light, 

  • elegant form factor, 

  • excellent battery life with customizable battery modes and FusedTrack, 

  • accurate GPS, accurate altimeter, 

  • simple menus, touch screen.

Cons: Jeff V./Sam:  

  • OHR accuracy, 

  • limited 24/7 activity tracking, 

  • lack of onboard maps, 

  • utilization of screen space could be improved, 

  • screen can often seem dim indoors and tough to read, 

  • screen glare outdoors,

  • data digits could be chunkier and easier to read, 

  • would love to have a robust web app, 

  • price,  

  • watch faces are very limited.

Tester Profiles

Jeff Valliere runs mostly on very steep technical terrain above Boulder often challenging well known local FKT's. 


Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 64 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. Sam has been running for over 48 years and has a 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA.


Introduction

Editor's Note: Sam's testing occurred in late May 2021 at which time he passed the Suunto 9 off to Jeff for further testing. Updates may have occurred. 

Sam: Suunto's previous flagship training watch, the S9 Baro, is known 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 5.2 mm thinner than the 9 Baro to come in at 10.6 mm (making it competitive with the Polar Vantage V2, Pace 2 and Forerunner 245)  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 Scandinavian or should I say modern Finland sleek. 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. 


Jeff V:  Sam describes the S9 Peak very well and in my opinion, this is for sure one of the, if not the most elegant looking GPS watches on the market, perhaps only rivaled by the (much larger) Suunto 7.  Fit and finish is exceptionally polished, with smooth, clean lines and a very classy assortment of colors.  The Granite Blue Titanium as tested looks shockingly good in person where photos do not do it justice.  


The size of the Peak is an amazing improvement for Suunto, which is previously known for its large chunk factor, but they were able to jam everything (and then some) found in the S9 Baro into an unbelievably small package, while retaining battery life.  As somebody with thin wrists and a dislike for a large watch getting hung up on jacket sleeves, shirt sleeves, running vests and banging it on things, this alone, in my opinion, could easily justify an upgrade.  The only real drawback is that the smaller watch means a smaller screen and thus smaller fonts, so if your vision is not great, this could be a factor. 


I will say that the S9 Peak’s screen size overall is not the primary issue, but that Suunto could do a much better job utilizing the screen space by eliminating the thick black ring of unused screen space around the perimeter as Garmin is now doing more and more and by increasing digit fatness and improving transflective and angle viewing properties and reducing screen glare.


The S9 Peak and Baro side by side.  Both have the large ring of unused space around the perimeter, but since the Baro is so much larger, the screen is easier to read (this makes more of a difference on trails when you can only afford a quick glance).


The variation in thickness is stunning, with the Peak being only 10.6 mm in thickness vs. 15.8 for the Baro.  This is a huge source of weight loss and adds greatly to the overall comfort and usability of the watch.  Additionally, the flared anchor posts for the watch band are much more reasonable and allows for a more “normal” watch feel, versus the bulky and obtrusive (though still comfortable) configuration of the Baro.  You can also see here how much more streamlined the buttons are.  The buttons even offer a more refined user experience with a nice positive click, vs the softer button activation of the Baro.

A side by side view of the back, where you can get a good view of the new OHR and now Pulse Ox sensors, as well as the charging nodes.  

From this angle, the difference in the buttons and the straps really stands out.  Additionally, the removable straps are now 22mm for the Peak and are interchangeable with a wide assortment of Suunto and other brand straps.


The newly designed silicone strap is comfortable and easy to use and sort of reminds me of the Apple watch strap.  It is mostly secure, but occasionally I find myself unwittingly catching the strap end on something and then later find the end of the strap flapping and have to “plug” it back in.



My everyday daily driver is the Garmin Fenix 6S Pro (RTR Review) and one of the things I like about it is the small size.  The S9 Peak, despite having a 43 mm case size vs. the 42 mm case size of the 6S Pro, is thinner, lighter and is overall more comfortable and less chunky.

Side by side profiles of the 6S Pro top and Peak bottom.

Side by side with the 6S Pro



Sam: 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.


Jeff V:  I have been seeing the exact same battery life as Sam, with 1.5 - 2 hour runs consuming between 5-8%, so easily and consistently seeing the advertised 25 hours in Performance mode and even up to 27 hours as estimated in the battery mode screen.



Of course for long distance hiking you can even use Ultra or Tour mode to further savebattery and like the S9 Baro, customize battery setting even further by toggling GPS accuracy, display timeout and touch screen.


As far as daily use, I find that it will lose 5-7% each day on top of any GPS use (keeping the backlight off mostly).  Essentially I charge every 4 days or so, but typically do not like dipping much below 50% and like a fresh top off more often.



GPS Accuracy and Tracking

Sam: 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 me with a vibration that I was running but that the watch was still paused.


Below a screen capture from DC Analyzer (all graphic comparisons in the article 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 deep thick 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.

Graphs: DC Analyzer

I recent participated in Ragnar Trail Colorado. I ran 3 courses with official distances to the tenth of a mile and Suunto 9 Peak and Polar Vantage M2 results below.



The Peak appears closer to actual distances than the Vantage M2. The course was in more open scrubby brush than the first test. 


Jeff V:  I have been finding the S9 Peak to be measuring very close when compared to the S9 Baro and the Fenix 6S Pro (both of which I consider to be my most accurate GPS watches) with any of the three of them coming up from nearly exact to a few tenths of a mile short/long depending on the day.  As far as the track on the ground accurately and precisely representing where my footsteps actually landed, as with any other GPS watch they can vary a bit, depending.  


On the trails, in the trees, through canyons, up and down mountains, the S9 Peak tracks very closely, though at times can trend a few feet to either side of the actual trail, just like any GPS watch I have ever owned.  Tracking a few feet on either side of the trail, though is not unusual for any GPS watch, and the Peak is on par with the 6S Pro and S9 Baro.


All of the following screenshots are of my Peak GPX tracks (Purple in all examples) in run mode compared with the Fenix 6S Pro (Blue in all examples).





When running on roads, which tend to be more in the wide open with less obstructed views of the sky and faster paces, I am getting more precise readings than on the trail, with a more accurate representation, picking up when I cut tangents on the road, am on the sidewalk or not, or do deliberate zig zags.


On a recent run over four 14,000 foot peaks that was entirely above treeline, both the S9 Peak and 6S Pro were in perfect sync, tracking an exact path over the trail and clicking off each of the 7 miles in perfect unison.



When cycling (riding my gravel bike on a mix of wide open rolling trails, cement paths and neighborhood streets), I see for the most part a perfect match of tracks and even more accurate representation of where I rode with very few variations.


Fused Track:


Jeff V:  We covered Fused Track when reviewing the S9 Baro here and it is exactly the same here.


Barometric Altimeter:

Jeff V:  As is the case with the S9 Baro, the S9 Peak also has a barometric altimeter that functions exactly the same way.  Read our S9  Baro eview here for more detail, but below is a quick graph showing parallel tracks between the S9 Peak and Fenix 6S Pro



Wrist Heart Rate



Sam: 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, especially in colder weather 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 thicker heavier and less wrist conforming 9 Baro.


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 earlier above? Terrain? Low humidity? Slow paces? The many sharp drops are from stops to take some of the pictures below.


Jeff V:  First I will point out that OHR accuracy will vary from person to person, or even from wrist to wrist, depending on wrist size, blood flow, skin thickness, skin tone, vascular flow, wrist shape, watch tightness, temperature, season, humidity, etc…


I have very thin wrists (5.5” circumference) and have quite often struggled with OHR accuracy on many watches regardless of size/weight/bulk, but have had pretty good luck with the Fenix 6S Pro.


I have found the new LifeQ sensor in the S9 Peak to be very unreliable, equally, if not worse than the previous Valencell sensors used by Suunto.  Having tested on both wrists, I occasionally find small periods of close to accurate readings, often early in a run and most often on flatter runs.  Going uphill, I consistently see readings of 90-100 bpm, when in fact my HR is in the 130’s - 160’s range or even in the 170’s.  When I count out my cadence on the steeper uphills, I am also getting readings in the 90-100 footsteps per minute range, so am convinced it is confusing cadence for HR.  On downhills, I get inverse numbers, raising the OHR readings to higher numbers, in line with my cadence, when in fact my HR lowers, so will see numbers in the 140’s or more, when my actual HR is in the 120’s.  My closer readings on the flats I believe do not reflect accuracy, but instead a coincidental convergence of pace and HR most of the time.


The screenshot below  is a very good representation of what I am referring to above, with the blue line representing the Fenix 6S Pro (which for me works pretty well and is usually pretty close to accurate) and the purple representing the S9 Peak.  This run is up Bear Peak in Boulder, which has a less steep approach, then is very steep for the remainder of the way to the summit (about 1,900 vertical feet for the final mile).  

You can see that early on over the less steep approach, there is some variation, then a short bit of agreement, but when I reach the steep section about 20 minutes in, you can see the S9 Peak (purple)  plummets, while the 6S Pro stays somewhat high.  I reach the summit at about the 55 minute mark and spend about 5 minutes on top.  Over that 5 minutes, the 6S Pro shows my HR recover, while the S9 Peak just sort of flat lines that whole time.  Once I start down, the S9 Peak is consistently higher than the 6S Pro.  This was a particularly easy descent, so HR was mostly low, as I was going mellow chatting with a friend I bumped into, though HR increases toward the end as the gradient lessens and requires a bit more effort to keep moving.


OHR Accuracy is even worse on the bike.  Again, on the graph above the Fenix 6S Pro is blue and the S9 Peak in purple.  I am not positive the 6S Pro is all that accurate on the bike, but in this case it is close, as this was a family ride with my young daughters and was really easy for me.  The 6S Pro trends consistently with my efforts and terrain, while the S9 Peak is doing stuff so crazy, I will not even attempt to interpret what it is trying to say.  I can assure you however, I was not putting out efforts where my HR was over 200 (numbers I have not seen since my bike racing efforts when I was in my 20’s).


Day to day trends and real time readings can be had by scrolling to the HR screen.  I find these readings to be somewhat unreliable as well, showing daily averages about 26 beats per minute higher than the readings of my Fenix 6S Pro.  Additionally, you have to go a bit out of your way to see the readings (vs. other brands that have OHR included in a wide variety of watch faces).  The running 12 hour HR graph is about all you get, so any graph beyond 12 hours or any logging over time is not recorded anywhere on the watch or the app I could find.  If you are looking for in depth 24/7 tracking, you may want to look elsewhere. Note that the new Suunto app, replacing Movescount is continuing to evolve. 




Pulse Ox:


Jeff V:  Like the Fenix 6S Pro, the S9 Peak has a sensor to measure blood oxygen level, which can be done by scrolling one level down from the main watch face to the HR screen and then tapping the icon on the screen (the white circle with the drop in the center as shown in the photo above).  Like the Fenix, I find pulse ox to measure a few % points low, which I have compared with medical grade equipment at the doctor’s office.  Getting the reading is also time consuming and sometimes even problematic.  One has to sit exceptionally still and essentially hold your breath (figuratively) while watching and waiting for a result.  Any slight movement, cough, sneeze or hiccup will error out the reading and you have to start over again.  I can do this in the comfort of my own home, but out on a mountain top, I can’t keep still for long enough (basically do not have the patience for it) to get a reading.

Keep still, very still, very very still and wait, still waiting…..


Oops, I twitched


OK, finally got it!


Rapid Charge

Sam: 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.


Jeff V:  Sam sums up the rapid charge accurately and I really like this feature.  I am generally pretty good about keeping my watch charged up as needed, but I occasionally notice in the morning that I forgot to check/charge the previous night, so if I notice this in the morning, I can pop the S9 Peak on the charger while I get ready to get out the door, or even plug it in the car to charge on my way to the TH and it will charge most of the way to a full charge in that time.  I would love to see other companies make this standard.


Charger Unit

Sam: 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.


Jeff V:  While I sort of grumble at having a new charger with every watch to keep track of (different ones for each the Ambit 3 Peak, S9 Baro, S7 and now the S9 Peak), I really like the relative ease at which this new charge cable works, easily snapping on, no matter the rotational angle.  While I have had the occasional misfire with other chargers resulting in a not so charged watch the next day, that has never happened with the S9 Peak.


Screen Visibility

Sam: 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 similar 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, there is more glare off the screen than non touch screen watches,  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 font 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 to but even  after doing so things can remain dim. The default brightness of "medium" can of course be adjusted to a brighter setting. 


Jeff V:  Like Sam, I have struggled with screen visibility.  In bright light/direct sun, I can generally read the screen well, either in daily watch mode and during activities, but I find the screen to catch a good bit of glare and have to maneuver my wrist sometimes to get an optimal view.  In darker shadows while running and wearing my sunglasses, I have to work a good bit harder to see and sometimes remove my glasses.  Further adding to the difficulty, the digits are really thin and somewhat small overall.  Despite having reasonably good vision (20/20 uncorrected and 20/15 with my glasses), I have to concentrate to interpret what is on the screen.  This is even more of a challenge when running on technical trails, where it is difficult to take your eyes off of where you are running for too long.



Comparing the Peak to the Fenix 6S Pro, the Fenix has nice chunky digits and I never have a problem with glare.  The Fenix also does a much better job maximizing and utilizing available screen space.


Suunto Plus


Sam: 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 adjusted current pace with the to the right feet climbed per hour rate. Above that 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.  Unlike Garmin and Coros, as of yet (my testing late May 2021 before handing the S9 off to Jef), individual climbs on a route are not shown and evaluated as they occur as far as I can tell. This seems pretty essential and while the Suunto Plus and Climb widget  is new I would like to see these very useful types of vertical features added as soon as possible. 


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 the 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 72F. The screen also shows barometric trends as well as sunset and hours of daylight remaining.   Recall that as of now you can only select one Suunto Plus widget at a time.  I hope and expect this will change.       


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. 


Mapping screen comparison between Suunto 7 and Suunto 9 Peak:





Both Suunto (and Polar) use mapping from Komoot with route building easily done in the Suunto app. Komoot has superb roads but also trail maps and it is rare in my experience that 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 a 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 major junctions. 


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. 



During subsequent runs I learned more about the navigation and turn by turn directions.

You will be notified of off routes approximately 100 meters beyond where you went off route as shown below, the Garmin Fenix 6S Pro, Forerunner 945, and Coros Apex Pro alert at 30 meter or less. The correct route is at the light colored trail straight ahead to the left and climbing. 


You will note the Off Route message is not showing. It appears only very briefly with a light vibration. I was not able to capture it with the camera in time although I was anticipating it. The indication (pop up screen and vibration) is the same as for the notification for a turn very subtle, too subtle but that should be an easy fix.  


It appears the Off Route zone is more a circle around you than linear as below I was Off Route parallel to the road seen and had traveled about 200 meters off route but received no alert. The route (the road seen above the watch) is the blue line to the right below on the watch.


Turn indications appear initially fairly consistently at 295 feet / 90 meters before a junction. All trails and roads shown in the app are enabled for turn indicators and the Komoot map database is very complete. Having tested the Suunto 7 with the same system I can say that most trail systems and trails shown on topographic maps are included. 


The view below is on road with the turn at the furthest out orange construction signs. Good luck seeing in time which way you are supposed to turn although it is indicated at the top. Along with holding longer a more effective use of contrasting colors, arrows for direction and bigger fonts is in order and an easy fix.


When I get to the turn ahead shown above, the screen reappears telling me direction to turn with indication of how far I have to go to the next turn and what I think is an estimate of time to get there based on my current pace. 

To build a route in the Suunto app see our Suunto 7 review here where we go into detail as it is the same for both watches except..instead of breadcrumbs as here, the much higher resolution and consequently much lower battery life Suunto 7 screen shows you the route and maps on gorgeous detailed topo maps right on the watch. I will say the app route building is much improved since I tested the Suunto 7 with more smarts and fidelity figuring out far more accurately what the intent of your finger presses are than before as you touch off segments or pieces of segments to build your route.


Above is a route I built around the neighborhood. Each white dot represents a press of the finger to mark a segment. Below is the route in my list of routes uploaded to the watch. Very important you will see an additional toggle for turn by turn guidance. 

Mysteriously it is not an option when you build the route (as shown in first app view) and my first couple runs I was puzzled that while I was clearly following a route (breadcrumbs and all) no turn by turn directions were appearing...  You have to enable it in the list of routes, after...as shown below for turn by turn directions to appear. Why not do it in the build screen with the option to turn it off on the routes list I don't know. Seems logical that if you are building a route to follow, maybe more likely for the first time you would want to be able to turn on turn by turn guidance right then and there.


To illustrate the level of mapping detail, see a trail route below in Park City's Round Valley, a well known and well marked trail complex. Every trail is selectable and every trail junction on the route will trigger the two alerts above, assuming you have turn by turn  guidance for the route to "on". You will note the slow pace of 3.1 miles per hour, walking pace. I have two activities running and walking selected. Even if I turn off walking that 3.1 mile per hour pace remains. Simple bug or deliberate? It would be cool to punch in or have app evaluate past efforts of each time including vertical in the mix to estimate your total time for the activity. 


In summary the turn by turn guidance works well but is hard to see and hear, easy fixes. The Off Route functionality needs work to alert sooner than 100 meters off route, Garmin and Coros alert at 20-30 meters. 


I do not believe Garmin yet has a trail database to go with their road database (which has turn by turn directions_  relying more on compass direction changes on trail  the is unless you build routes from heat maps in Garmin. See our review of the Garmin Fenix Pro 6S here.


App Statistics and Trends




Jeff V:  Having worn the S9 Peak most days and every run for 2+ months, it records my activities, steps, calories, sleep (though have not worn to bed in a while, so not represented in screen shot).  I am not entirely confident in the training progress, given the inconsistencies in OHR, but I think factoring in age, activity level and such is generally in line with how I feel physically and assess my training.  Shown above the 4 basic swipe views for each key element with more detail available by tapping. Clean and complete. 


Jeff V:  Suunto is making steady progress here, with the app showing better and better training metrics, as well as very good activity breakdowns with all of the data and stats you would expect for each activity.  I do wish Suunto would incorporate better 24/7 tracking/recording and long term statistics and I think we will eventually get there.  It is also frustrating that Suunto does not have a web app and is limited to only a mobile app.  You can get to your activities through Sportstracker, but that app has a somewhat dated feel and is quite limited in scope.


Comfort and Style

Sam: 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 the titanium providing a moderately shiny contrast to the dark blue band.


Jeff V:  As I mentioned above, the S9 Peak is incredibly light and comfortable, thin and a compact design and profile, such that it goes essentially unnoticed on my wrist.  Style is impeccable, with a very stylish and high quality look, which goes for all of the colors, but especially the titanium version with the blue band. 


Durability:

Jeff V:  I am very careful with my watches and take great care to not bang them up, but even so, I am finding that the titanium bezel is showing some micro nicks and scratches, even when I am not even sure I have ever bumped it on anything.  Aside from that though, I am not seeing any issues with the glass and the silicone band is proving to be very durable with no real signs of wear, just a few lines around the holes I use most.


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

GPS: GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, QZSS, BEIDOU

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





Summary:


Jeff V:  In summary, I think the S9 Peak is a huge step forward for Suunto.  I really appreciate the form factor of this watch, like that they were able to pack everything into this watch that exists in the S9 Baro, plus a bit more, while still maintaining very good battery life.  Software updates are continually improving the usability, their app is steadily improving and it is debatable whether or not there is a more accurate GPS watch on the market (though I believe there are a handful of others as accurate, other models from Suunto, as well as competitors such as Garmin, Polar and Coros).  Is it worth the upgrade if you already have a S9 Baro?  I would say it depends.  If you are OK with the size of the S9 Baro, then I would say no, as software updates have made them about equal in terms of functionality and features.  If you have thin wrists and/or just prefer a smaller, thinner, lighter, more stylish and less obtrusive watch, then I would say it is worth the upgrade, IF you find it to be within your budget.  If you are starting from scratch, for sure go with the Peak.


While the S9 Peak is an amazing watch, there is still room for improvement.  In my experience, the accuracy of the OHR sensor could be improved, screen visibility could be vastly improved, I would really love to see onboard maps added (Garmin somehow does it with about the same resolution screen)  and while minor, would also like to see software updates to provide better 24/7 tracking, a wider variety of watch faces and customization and a web app to use instead of leaning on Sportstracker.  I am not sure if I have just had bad luck, but I have also had trouble keeping any Suunto watches I have used synced with my mobile app., where it simply decides to disconnect and then will not re-pair and sending me down a rabbit hole of problem solving, un-pairing, deleting the app, etc….  This has happened regularly with the S9 Peak, S9 Baro, S7, S5, Spartan Sport HR Baro and the Ambit 3 Peak.


Which all leads to price.  I think for what is offered here and the limitations listed above, Suunto has some very stiff competition.  The similarly priced Garmin Fenix 6 series and slightly lower priced Forerunner series offer much more at the price point.  Additionally, Coros and Wahoo have some very appealing options that are half the price (or even less) that give Suunto a run for the money.  I also have to mention Polar here as well, with the reasonably priced Grit X and Vantage 2 offering a lot of bang for the buck.


I do appreciate the direction Suunto has been trending toward, with vast improvements to their hardware and steady incremental updates to their software, not to mention what they have done with the the S7.  It is just a matter of wrapping up their strongest attributes, bolstering some of their weaker details and selling at a competitive price.


Key Comparative Watches


Garmin 6S Pro Review

Jeff V:  Compared throughout, but I find the Fenix series to offer a lot more for the price.  They are a bit more rugged, provide equally accurate GPS, altimeter and more accurate OHR, have much better 24/7 tracking, more customizable watch faces and widgets, has better mobile app as well as a web app, has on board maps, music, Garmin pay, integration with inReach and is much easier to read the screen.  The S9 Peak however is a more stylish looking watch, is lighter, thinner and less noticeable on the wrist.  While battery life is about equal at ~25 hours, Suunto with their innovative FusedTrack, has an advantage over Garmin, drastically extending battery life while still maintaining acceptable accuracy.


Garmin Forerunner 945 Review

Sam: The Forerunner 945 does everything the Fenix 6S Pro does in a lighter all plastic package at 50g so only 2g less than the Peak with its titanium. It includes full on board topo and road maps, has more accurate OHR for me, is more legible and has longer battery life at about 36 hours in best mode. It is $600 so $50 less than the Peak in Titanium. 


Coros Apex Pro Review

Sam: At $500 the Apex Pro is a great value for a titanium bezel watch. It has outstanding battery life, superb GPS accuracy, very good OHR and useful vertical features.  I prefer the comfort and more subtle classy look of the Suunto with the Apex Pro more legible on the run while having long battery life.


Polar Vantage V2 Review

Sam: At $500, $200 less than the S9 Peak Titanium, and weighing the same, these two are direct competitors in terms of features. The Polar is always on my wrist for its easy to understand recovery and trends analysis backed up by extensive additional data in the app (not really much better done than Suunto’s) and especially on its vastly informative Polar Flow web service which Suunto lacks where you can go deep, very deep into your data and trends. It has similar breadcrumb navigation, powered by the same Komoot mapping and turn by turn directions with the Polar implementation a bit more mature. Not just a GPS tracker it has a whole collection of on wrist mobility, core, and workout suggestions based on your trends.  It’s screen legibility is slightly better than the Suunto as is its OHR accuracy. While not nearly  as elegant the Polar is a better value.


Suunto 9 Baro Review

Jeff V:  Compared closely through the review, but they are for the most part, the same watch (as long as you have kept up on software updates), with the only real difference being the addition of pulse ox (not very compelling in my opinion) and of course size and form factor.


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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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3 comments:

Jeff Valliere said...

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The Stoat said...

I've used this watch for a couple of months now, mostly for running and although a large part of my decision to buy this watch was access to a healthy discount, I am glad that I purchased it over the FR945 or Fenix 6 and I think that the 9 Peak has a few benefits which make it a better option for some users. It does a great job of the fundamentals, is easy to use and has a great form factor and design which means that I am prepared to wear it as a daily watch, not just as a sports item. The navigation function with the turn by turn alerts (not present on any of the Garmin options as far as I'm aware) minimises the chance of running past a turning and, in practice, this is more useful to me than full maps as mapping isn't great on a watch and more often than not I end up resorting to my phone if I need them anyway. The battery life seems to exceed the specs and the fast charge meant that on a long ultra, one 10 minute charge at a checkpoint took the battery from 40% to 70% full. I did find that the little stud thingy for the tail of the strap irritated my wrist so I have bought a conventional loop for the tail to tuck into.