Sunday, November 26, 2023

Suunto Race GPS Sports Watch Review: Brilliant AMOLED Display, Leading GPS Accuracy, Maps, Highly Competitive Pricing

 Article by Jeff Valliere

Suunto Race

$549 Sapphire Titanium (32gb)

$449 Stainless Steel (16gb)


Finnish brand Suunto drops a surprise on the GPS sports watch market with the release of the all new AMOLED Suunto Race.  I was invited to attend a very small release event back in October, where I was fortunate enough to be provided with the sapphire titanium version for review.  

After running with the Race every day for about a month and wearing it 24/7 alongside my Epix Gen 2 Pro 51mm, I have to say that I am quite impressed with the overall performance of the Race.  Simply put (and despite a few limitations) the Race is the best GPS sports watch Suunto has produced to date with a lot to be excited about.  Read on!

What’s New:

The Race has much in common with the Suunto Vertical that was released earlier this year  (RTR Review) with the most obvious upgrade being the high definition 1.43” AMOLED screen, featuring 466 x 466 resolution.  While this is not the first Suunto with AMOLED (see the Suunto 7 smart/sports watch that we reviewed a few years ago  and utilizing Google Wear OS ), this is a massive leap forward for the brand, as the Race is a legit top of the line GPS sports watch with excellent battery life, reportedly up to 26 days in daily use mode (without OHR running) and up to 40 hours of GPS use at the highest quality dual band GPS setting.  Additionally, the Race gets HRV tracking, a new digital dial crown and comes in at a very reasonable and competitive price point.


  • Large vivid 1.43” AMOLED Screen
  • Very good battery life - 40 hours in Max accuracy. Everything on mode-12 days no training with HR on
  • Class leading GPS
  • Comfortable and relatively light with great form factor that is stylish efficient and  with large display for body size
  • Accurate Altimeter
  • Very competitive price
  • Easy to use digital crown with two buttons and touch screen
  • Free downloadable topographic maps


  • Poor Optical Heart Rate accuracy
  • Poor sleep tracking accuracy
  • Slow interface
  • Maps need work



The Race comes well packaged in a nice stylish box, alhough the box is exceptionally large and could be trimmed down quite a bit. In the box you of course get the watch, silicone strap, charging cable and manuals (plus a lot of excess filler packaging).

AMOLED Display

The most notable new feature is the 1.43” AMOLED high definition display with a 466 x 466 resolution at 1,000 nits. By way of comparison the Epix Pro 2  with Ti and Sapphire has a 1.4” display with 454 x 454 resolution and a retail price of $1100. 

The screen is crisp, bright and clear, where the AMOLED screen displays a wide range of vivid colors making the watch face, widgets and data fields very easy to read.  Reading the AMOLED display is much easier than the typical transflective display in all but the most sunny, bright light conditions and even then, reading the screen in bright light is not a problem at all.  Even in very bright, sunny, snowy reflective outdoor conditions, I have not had any trouble reading the display.


The Race comes in 2 flavors, the Stainless ($449/16gb internal storage) and the Titanium Sapphire ($549/32gb internal storage).  I was able to briefly examine the Stainless at the product launch, which weighs 14 grams more  (but is also $100 less expensive than the Titanium version).  Otherwise the design is the same and the build/quality feels excellent.  The Titanium version feels notably lighter, with the quality, materials, design and craftsmanship are impeccable on both watches.  The 22mm silicone band is high quality and comfortable and is easily interchangeable with other standard 22mm bands.  Unlike the Vertical which utilizes a 3 button design with touch screen, the Race features a two button design with a digital dial (along with touch screen as well).  

Interface/digital dial

The digital dial makes scrolling through the widgets and menus very quick and easy, and is much easier than clicking through solely with buttons.  I find the dial/button combo to be intuitive and easy to quickly navigate through the menus and data fields.  Operation is possible even while wearing light gloves or glove liners, though as  for any touchscreen operation, I would choose to remove them (even with touch gloves).  My favorite use however for the digital dial is being able to easily zoom in/out when on the map screen.

There are a variety of watch faces to choose from and from the main watch face you can scroll through with widgets such as heart rate, weather, steps/calories, sunset, logbook, sleep, etc…  From most of those widgets, you click and dive in for more information.  I have found however that the interface is a touch on the slow side with just a bit of lag when scrolling through the widgets, as well as when opening/closing widgets.  This is not a deal breaker, but just a bit surprising. As a new watch, early versions of software likely to get fixes and improvements. 

The digital dial is reminiscent of the Coros Apex 2 Pro (and others)

GPS Tracking, Maps and Navigation:  Like the Vertical, the Race utilizes all of the major satellite networks (GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, QZSS, BEIDOU) via dual band frequency.  I have found GPS accuracy to be equal to the very best out there, equal to the Garmin Epix Gen 2 and Epix Gen 2 Pro.  

I spent the entire test period of over a month running, hiking or cycling daily with the Epix Gen 2 Pro 51mm on my left wrist and the Race on my right wrist, where both watches alert each mile simultaneously recording the same distance.  On maps, the Race and Epix Pro track very close to one another and pretty much spot on with the exact steps taken on the ground.  Below are some examples of how close the two watches track to one another (Race = Blue, Epix = Purple).

Navigation is essentially the same as the Vertical which Sam has gone over in great detail here.  Like the Vertical, you can download the maps for free state by state, but plan ahead, as this process requires the watch to be on the charger and takes many many hours (start the process before bed and it should be done in the morning).  The maps on the watch are OK, better than not having a map at all and handy for general spatial awareness, but are far inferior to Garmin’s preloaded maps.  The Suunto maps, while providing some detail, do not show trail, road or feature names, nor is the detail as granular.  Suunto has acknowledged this however and say they are working on improving their maps.

Suunto Race map in the mountains with lots of topographic relief.

Suunto Race displaying my neighborhood.

For comparison, the maps on the Garmin Epix Pro

And the Epix Pro at street level in Boulder

Altimeter: The Altimeter is the best I have tested on any watch.  Most watches I own or have tested in the past with a barometric altimeter tend to drift a good bit if left unattended (not regularly calibrating), but I am impressed how well the Race holds close to the actual elevation (within 20-40 feet without me having to calibrate).  For comparison, many (including the Epix) can drift as much as 200 feet if left unchecked.

Optical Heart Rate Accuracy:  Unfortunately, I have struggled with optical heart rate accuracy on the Race, as I have with all other previous Suunto watches.  For comparison, I wore it side by side with the Epix Gen 2 Pro 51mm, which I find to be accurate within a few beats per minute almost all of the time (outside of the rare occasional hiccup).  I also wore a chest strap synced to the Epix on many days just to be 100% sure.  

During flat jogs or bike rides, the Race OHR shows promise, being in agreement with the Epix, but just about all of my runs are in the mountains, up/down a mountain or across multiple mountains and this is where the Race falters, confusing heart rate for cadence.  I think the reason it works on flat runs is that the cadence just happens to match heart rate, but going up and down hills, this is where heart rate and cadence can differ quite a bit and thus showing the weakness of this sensor and its algorithms.  

Oftentimes n, the Race will start off in agreement that it fools me every time into questioning if it has suddenly reformed.  Invariably on climbs, heart rate reads in the 80s - 100, where in fact heart rate is actually in the 130s or higher.  I will count my steps and it will be in perfect sync with the optical heart rate reading of the Race.  Then, when on the downhill on a typical run, I’ll just be cruising at a low heart rate, in the low 100s and then the optical heart rate of the Race is reading white high (again, I will count my steps and it will be in sync with the OHR readings.  

Below is a good typical example of this n one of my usual runs up/down Green Mountain in Boulder (4.8 miles, 2,500 vert on an easy casual day) where you can see the Epix (purple) showing accurate heart rate until I reached the summit at 1:04 into the run, where the Race (blue) is reading very low.  Once I started my descent after 1:04, you can see the flip clearly, where my HR drops and cadence increases, with Epix reading accurately, where the Race jumps quite high.

Below is another interesting example where I time trialed another route on Green Mountain that is hands on the knees steep, so the cadence was slow.  You can see on my ascent the Race (blue) was accurately reflecting my slow cadence on the steep trail and the Epix was showing my actual high heart rate that was steadily within a few beats of 170.  

After 37 minutes, I pushed very hard, which my HR reflects and it just so happened that the Race seems to be in agreement, but that is only because the cadence is very high and happens to be more in sync with my HR on this hard effort.

I keep hoping Suunto can dial in accuracy with a software update, but unfortunately that has not happened yet.  For the time being however, if you are seeking accuracy, I would strongly recommend a chest strap.

Size/Fit/Comfort:  The Race has a 49mm body and I am very impressed with how Suunto has reduced the bezel and managed to squeeze in a very large 1.43’ screen into a very reasonably sized watch, a watch that is significantly smaller than the Garmin Epix Gen 2 Pro 51mm (left below) and is similar in size to the Epix Gen 2 47mm (which only has a 1.3” screen vs. 1.43” here).  

The Race feels light, comfortable and compact, even on my small wrist.  Since I discovered nylon bands last year, I purchased a few 22mm nylon bands to use with the Race, which I have found on the Race or any watch, significantly adds to the comfort and also dropped the weight from 69 grams down to 59 grams.  While that may sound insignificant, it is very noticeable in both comfort and weight.

While the watch looks really big on my wrist in photos, it is a very reasonable size, definitely more compact than the Epix Pro 51mm. I have particularly skinny wrists at 5.5” circumference).

The Race in the middle next to the Garmin Epix Gen 2 Pro 51mm on the left with 1.4” screen in a 51mm body (the Race is 1.43” on a 49mm body) and the Epix Gen 2 on the right with a 1.3” screen in a 47mm body.

To the right below in white is the Suunto 7, a similar size watch. It is impressive how well the Race utilizes all available space on the front for screen.

Battery Life/Charging:  Battery life is amazing and I can confirm that the Race lives up to the specs  Suunto is claiming.  

With all options on (bluetooth, OHR, dual band GPS), I am seeing that the Race can last for 40 hours in GPS mode, which is plenty much enough for most people, even for 100 milers.  I do not run for that long personally, but it is nice to only have to charge about once per week.

The charger is the round magnetic puck style that easily attaches to the back of the watch and is the same charger used on the Vertical.  I have not timed it, but charging is quick and seems to fully charge in an hour or two.

Flashlight:  The Race has a flashlight mode from the screen which can be activated by scrolling through the menus. You can also create a hotkey to activate it.  

The lighting comes solely from the luminescence of the screen (vs. the dedicated LED bulb in the Garmin Fenix 7/Epix Pro series).  

The light is handy for getting around a dark house or in the tent when camping, however is not particularly effective outside.  There however is no way to adjust the light intensity which would be nice.

Sleep Tracking: Sleep tracking has not been accurate for me, where the Race seems to only track ⅓ to ½ of my actual sleep. 

 I generally sleep 7-8 hours per night which is accurately recorded on the Epix, but the Race reads really low.

A few nights it did not even record any sleep.

HRV/Advanced Training Metrics:  

The Race has Heart Rate Variability tracking which, when tracked over time, can serve as an indicator of overall health and stress levels.  I am not able to determine the accuracy here, but the readings are generally in line with the Epix (ffor which I also cannot verify accuracy), but when my HRV range goes low, it is usually tied to other training metrics going sideways, overtraining, not recovering or sleeping properly, other life stress.

Additionally, you have all the usual recovery training indicators.

Of course, you can view all of this and more in the Suunto app

Sport Tracking: As you would expect, the race has 95+ sport modes on board, or you can easily configure your own custom sport profile using the app such as I have in the photo below the way I like it.  Not many surprises here. Suunto is on point in this department!

Weather: The Race syncs with the app on your phone to display current weather conditions, forecast and air quality.

Conclusions: I am very impressed with the Suunto Race and quite optimistic as to where Suunto is heading.  While I have a few nitpicks with sleep tracking, maps and interface speed, those are very minor and I am confident that these can(will) be ironed out with software updates.  

The OHR accuracy is a bit more concerning and I hope that the sensor/algorithms can be tightened up to be able to provide a greater level of accuracy and get away from the HR vs cadence confusion. Of  course you can always wear a chest HR strap for running with day to day accuracy non activity being very good.  

That said, there is so much to like about the Race.  The price is very, very reasonable, quality is excellent, the AMOLED screen is brilliant, battery life is amazing, GPS accuracy is the best out there as is the altimeter.  The Race is light, comfortable and I love the style/form factor, especially that Suunto was able to fit a 1.43” screen onto a 49mm watch.  The digital dial is a nice touch and very easy to use along with the buttons and touch screen, it is very user friendly.  The Suunto app and software have come a long way, making the Race a top choice at this price point.

The Race is available at Suunto HERE and at our partners


Top4 Running Europe SHOP HERE

Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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Jeff Valliere said...


Shane said...

Thank you for the review. I am between the Suunto Race and the Garmin Epic Gen 2 (both around the same price now with sales on Epic 2). Which do you prefer? It would be my daily driver (24/7, sleep, workouts...).

Jeff Valliere said...

Hi Shane. The Race has better battery life and a larger screen, but the Epix 2 still has very good battery life and more accurate 24/7 tracking in my experience.