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Suunto Ambit2 (HR) Review

By Phil on 2014.08.19 In Fjällräven Classic Product Review

I was recently asked to test and review the Suunto Ambit2 (HR) GPS watch while taking part in this years Fjällräven Classic trek.

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This was the first time I had used a GPS watch, as I currently use Walkmeter application on my iPhone to track all my hikes. I was interested to see how this would compare to Walkmeter, so I decided to use both simultaneously during the trek. I also own a Casio Pro-Trek PRG-550 watch which only has altimeter and barometer, so was pleased the Suunto Ambit2 had these additional features, which meant I could leave my Casio in my stored luggage.

“The Suunto Ambit2 is the GPS for explorers and athletes. All you need for outdoor sports – navigation, speed, heart rate, altitude, weather conditions and features for running, biking and swimming. Thousands of Suunto Apps available to add new functionalities to your watch. Packed in a glass fibre reinforced casing with a battery life of 24 hours with GPS, Ambit2 is ready for any adventure.”

Setting Up:
I was given the watch when I arrived in Sweden at Nikkoulatta. The first thing you need to do us power it up it with its supplied USB lead. As I was camping the night prior to the Classic I didn’t have access to any electricity mains supply, but luckily I had my Powermonkey Extreme USB solar charger with me and was able to set it up in a matter of minutes. This was a good start to show how easy it could be charged when in the outdoors.

Setting it up was really easy and helped by a simple step by step interface where you set various parameters such as your birth year, weight and sex which is used to calculate heart rate. Calibrating the compass was also very easy and quick and done by rotating the watch in several directions for a few seconds.

Look and Feel:
Wearing the Suunto watch was a much better fit than my Casio Pro-Trek watch and very comfortable to wear. The display screen is also very clear and descriptive as well as a much smoother look and less complicated looking screen. I was also impressed with the size of the watch, which was smaller than I expected given the amount of functionality it has.

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Measurements: 50mm x 50mm x 18.1 mm (1.97″ x 1.97″ x 0.71″)
Weight: 89g (3.14oz)

Functions:
For this test I would only be using the trekking option to track the Classic route. The 5 buttons around the watch are very easy to access and have a raised pattern on each with I guess will be useful when using the watch when wearing gloves like during a winter hike. The Start/Stop button also has different sounds which I also found useful, as I often forget if I have re-started the tracking of hikes after a lengthy break. Having different sounds for these functions seem to stick in your mind more.

The full list of functions are as follows:

GPS
Full-featured GPS (SiRFIV v2.2)
Adjustable GPS recording interval
Location in multiple coordinate systems
Waypoint and route navigation
Find back
Track Back
Track logging, viewing and sharing*
Point of Interest (POI) creation
Route planning*

ALTIMETER
Barometric altitude
GPS corrected barometric altitude (FusedAlti™)
Total ascent/descent
Vertical speed
Altitude graph

WEATHER
Barometric pressure and graph
Temperature
Sunrise/sunset (Suunto App)
Storm alarm (Suunto App)
Tide information (Suunto App)

TRAINING
GPS-based speed, pace and distance
Real-time, average and max. heart rate
Calories
Heart rate limits
Heart rate graph in real time
Peak Training Effect & Recovery Time
Manual & autolaps
Chrono
Countdown timer
Interval timer
GPS track analysis*
Heart rate zones*
EPOC & V02 max values*

MULTISPORTS
Swapping of sport while logging and exercise
Preconfigured multisport modes
Sports comparison*
Post-analysis of multisport exercise by sport*
Interactive map and charts by sport/section of an exercise*
ANT+™ and Suunto ANT support for PODs

RUNNING
Responsive running pace/speed (FusedSpeed™)
Running cadence with Foot POD
Lap comparisons by each kilometer/mile*
Ghost Runner (Suunto App)
Marathon End-time Estimator (Suunto App)

CYCLING
Multiple Bike POD support (Suunto ANT/ANT+™)
Bike Power (W), average and maximum
Bike Power 3 s, 10 s, 30 s
Bike lap and lap maximum power
Power distribution & graphs*
Peak Power Curve for peak power outputs*
Bike Power requires use of optional ANT+™ bike power sensor

SWIMMING
Swimming time by pool length, lap, total
Swimming pace & distance
Swimming stroke rate, count & type
Automatic intervals
Dynamic lap table with strokes, pace and durations*

SUUNTO APPS
1000+ free Suunto Apps for outdoors & training
Up to 50 Apps pre-configurable in watch
Logging of all App values for post-analysis
Suunto Apps creation with:
Chrono, GPS, HR, weather and altitude data
Running, cycling, swimming data
Rich math functions, if/then logic, sound, backlight, etc.

Accuracy of Information:
I was very surprised with the accuracy of information when checking the altitude we were at during the trek, as this corresponded exactly to the readings on our map. Also you didn’t need to calibrate the altitude settings before starting like I have to with my Casio Pro-trek. At first the information provided in terms in distance we walked was slightly confusing, as compared to my Walkmeter app on my iPhone, the watch was slightly less in distance compared to than recorded on my iPhone and wasn’t sure which was more accurate. However towards the end of the trek it was only around 0.5km behind my iPhone. Not sure what could have caused this other than a loss of GPS signal on the watch or iPhone while doing an ascent/descent or time delay between me stopping and starting both watch and iPhone. I plan on doing further simultaneous tests on some future hikes to see how they differ.

Output:
One of the things I really like about Walkmeter app is the ability to view online and share in social media sites which is very easy to do via the iPhone app. In order to view the Ambit2 output, you need to setup an account with Suunto’s Movescount site and synchronise your watch to download recorded routes to your account which you can then view and share online. Once your recorded logbook entry has been uploaded, the graphical view is pretty good, as you can see here. Obviously with it being a watch rather than a graphical iPhone application, having to use an application on a PC or iPhone to download your recorded logs is the method I would expect to use to export your logbook. Once account has been setup and software installed on PC, it is very easy to use.

Verdict:
I think the Suunto Ambit2 (HR) GPS watch is an excellent product and would recommend to anyone looking for a GPS watch with multiple features. It’s a lot easier to start/pause your treks than it is when using the iPhone Walkmeter application, as well as having a pretty good battery life. I only had to charge once with my solar charger during the trek, and that was only because I didn’t want it to drain completely and risk losing what I have already recorded. There was still 30% battery life at the time. I will try it again to see how long battery life last from 100% to 0% when recording future walks. Although I didn’t need to use the compass for navigation during the trek, when I did check positioning with the map, the compass reading on the watch was very accurate. Again this is a feature I would like to test fully and compare with my Garmin Oregon 600 GPS on future hikes now I’m back in the UK. I also never got to try the Heart Rate monitor which is included with this watch, but I do intend to give a try. Also using your Movescount details you can upload GPX route files which can then be synchronised to your watch. This is a really useful feature and helps you to keep on the right track when hiking an unfamiliar route. I hope to try out this feature in 2 weeks when I do Ben Nevis again.
The watch is also compatible with 1000’s of mobile applications which can be found here.
I know one of my friends has been thinking about buying a GPS watch and will certainly be recommending this one to him. A great product!

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Welcome

Welcome to my blog about hiking, trekking, Fjällräven Polar 2014, in fact anything where you require boots and the outdoors.

My name is Phil, and following my outdoor epiphany which started in the summer of 2012 I’m now hooked on everything outdoors. So far my biggest treks have included the 250km Cathar Way, the 170km Tour du Mont Blanc and best of all, winning 1st place to take part in the Fjällräven Polar in April 2014.

I plan to use this blog to write about all my adventures, which will include my personal goal of becoming a Munroist (completing all 282 Scottish Munro mountains), summer treks, weekends in the Lakes and many more.

I like to try and make my blog posts humorous so I hope you enjoy reading and that I can put a smile on people’s faces while showing you some amazing places.

If you have any questions about the blog or the places I'm writing about, don't hesitate to contact me on: phil@philyourboots.com

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