Suunto Spartan Sport Review – Scandinavian High-end Watch… Worth the price?

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AT A GLANCE: QUICK RATINGS

Heart Rate Functions

70%

Fitness / Sport Features

85%

Ease of Use

85%

Battery Life

85%

Where To Get It

A Deep Dive Into Spartan Sport

Welcome to my Suunto Spartan Sport review – an excellent outdoor sports watch for adventure racers and elite athletes. The Suunto Spartan Sport was released (UK) in October 2016 and has the enviable task of replacing the highly popular, reliable and successful Suunto Ambit 3 series.

This Spartan Sport model replaces the Ambit3 Sport and Ambit3 Run. For those who want any of the following main features > barometric pressure sensor, more than 10 hours battery life (in GPS recording mode), thermometer and sapphire crystal glass then please consider the next model up, the Suunto Spartan Ultra.

This review of the Spartan Sport has been written by Tristan Haskins aka CardioCritic (formerly HeartRateMonitor UK)

Tristan’s comment > I owned a Suunto Spartan Sport and I think it will be one of the best multisport GPS watches of 2017. However. I believe Suunto brought it out too early. Other products in this market place are very strong including the Polar V800, the Garmin Forerunner 735XT / 920XT and it’s predecessor, the Ambit 3 Sport (still a highly recommended multisport watch).

Suunto are working flat out to resolve the certain key issues and have recently added full Android phone connectivity (as well as iOs). The next major update I am looking forward to is the ability to customise the training views for each sport profile (TICK – done !) …

Update > (Jan 2017) The Spartan now features training view customisation for NEW Sport Profiles. This is a vast improvement … but still not the FULL data field customisation I expect from this level of sports watch.

When the Spartan allows the user set the number of data fields from 1 to 6 for each training page then I will raise this review to a 4.5/5 stars … DONE … please see next update … good enough for me.

Update > (March 2017) another release of firmware for the Spartan watches sees a MASSIVE improvement in navigation. It is now possible to add, from the watch, POI’s (Point of Interests).

Save your camp, home, finish line, navigational waypoint etc in to the Spartan. These POI’s can be used in Navigation mode with a breadcrumb trail illustrating the direction to the POI. Suunto have also enabled 4, 5, and 7 segment training page view to your own custom Sport modes.

Update > (April 2017) a MAJOR firmware update this one. The key NEW features of this upgrade include – Interval Training (create on the watch, ad-hoc) – POI navigation mid session (navigate to a Point of Interest during exercise) – Power Save mode in training with low colour option and display timeout options & Power Pod calibration support.

News > (March 2017) Suunto have announced their new Spartan Sport Wrist HR. All the features found in this model plus the convenience of wrist based heart rate using the Valancell LED heart rate sensors.

Read this and save MONEY
I am a huge fan of the Suunto Spartan range. I really did enjoy my time using the Suunto Spartan Sport for several months training.

In late 2017 I was lucky enough to receive a test model of the Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR. In all honesty I was AMAZED at how good this cheaper model was. It’s nearly HALF the price with virtually all the functionality of this model.

It is one of the stand out all sports GPS heart rate monitor watches of 2017. I have to recommend it to all athletes, including multisport and triathlon. Please ensure you read my review of the Spartan Trainer before committing to this more expensive model – you’ll be glad you did.

  • Who Is It For?

  • Video Review

  • Pros

  • Cons

CardioCritic’s Video Review

If you are considering purchasing a Suunto Spartan Sport or Suunto Spartan Ultra then please give 15 minutes of your time to watch my own video review of this GPS multisport watch.

As with all my video reviews the intention is to give the viewer a REAL LIFE experience of the product with no smoke, mirrors or scripts.

In this video I have attempted to walk the viewer through all the main screens and try my best to give an impression of how it would feel to own and train with the Suunto Spartan Sport or Ultra … what it does well and what it could do better.

Main Features and Functions

I always try to keep my reviews as short and concise as possible, if you think I’ve missed something, or you’d like to know, please use the CONTACT form to get in touch. The following features are what I consider to be the main selling points of the Suunto Spartan

  • Hand assembled in Finland
  • High quality polyamide case with scratch resistant mineral glass
  • GPS and GLONASS satellite support
  • Store up to 20 Sport Profiles in the watch
  • Chose from over 80 Sport Profiles on Suunto Movescount
  • Basic GPS navigation – follow breadcrumb trail routes
  • Bluetooth Suunto Smart belt (optional) store HR data while swimming
  • 24/7 Activity Tracker with steps & calories
  • Built-in accelerometer for speed & distance when in Treadmill mode
  • Choice of several different watch face designs
  • Dedicated TRIATHLON mode for single button transition and sport change over
  • Freestyle MULTISPORT mode – press and hold a single button to change to ANY sport
  • Battery life – 10 days in time of day mode, 10 hours in HRM & GPS mode or 16 hours in extended battery mode
  • Bluetooth connectivity to iOs and Android for data upload and smartphone notifications
  • Heatmaps – discover where other people or running / riding near you (Movescount)
  • Connected to – Strava, Training Peaks, Preva and Sports Tracker
  • WATCH my VIDEO REVIEW
  • BROWSE my PHOTO GALLERY
  • Conclusions and Summaries

Summary Impressions after 4 days

I’ve owned 2 x Suunto Ambits before, the original and the Ambit 2 Sapphire. What I immediately noticed with the Blue Spartan Sport I am testing when removing it from the box was a) how LIGHT it is and b) how SOFT the strap is.

The Spartan Sport weighs a mere 70g, compared to 86g of an Ambit 3 Sport and 92g of the Ambit 3 Peak. Couple this light weight with the super soft strap and you have a watch you’ll be happy to wear 24/7.

Within the first couple of days of owning this watch I had already updated the firmware twice. This is NOT a criticism a such, see below, as it proves Suunto are addressing issues raised by the premature release of the product.

I have now used it in the gym, on a run and also on a bike ride. It has functioned without glitch or issue and provided me with all the necessary realtime and post session feedback I expect from a watch of this calibre.

Quality Display, Case, Strap and OS

The Spartan exudes quality and it’s easy to recognise it’s hand assembled in Finland qualities. From the clear, bright full colour touchscreen display protected behind a mineral crystal glass and light weight tough polyamide case to the precise button actions, soft silicone strap and quality engineered stainless steel bezel.

I will be happy wearing this watch in ANY environment for office meeting to white water rafting. The OS (operating system) has been glitch free and is very intuitive, user friendly and easy to follow.

Which Watch Face Is For You?

As with all the latest “smartwatches” like the Polar M600, Garmin Vivoactive HR the Spartan gives you the option of half a dozen different watch faces from modern DIGITAL to a TRADITIONAL analogue. Some are designed with minimalism in mind with nothing more than TIME of DAY, others have additional DATE, STEPS, Time Zone and various other fields. All of them allow for a certain amount of colour personalisation.

Should you Buy One?

Yes. If you are happy with everything it does TODAY with the knowledge that it is only going to get better and stronger over the coming months.

For me it has everything I need from a GPS sports watch including, in no particular order > daily alarm (set in watch), smartphone notifications, real BUTTONS (you can access everything with the buttons if you prefer them to the touchscreen) easy to read display in all light conditions, multiple sport profiles, training load and recovery feedback, GPS route follow (breadcrumb trail only), 24/7 activity tracker, smartphone connection for data upload (iOs and Android)

However. If there are things that Suunto have marked as FUTURE upgrades (in their public roadmap) that you want/need NOW then either wait or consider an alternative product that does everything you need NOW.

No. If you compete in genuine ULTRA racing the battery life may not be suitable. If your training sessions / races are over 10 hours and you want high resolution GPS sampling (1 second sample rate) for up to 18 hours then please consider the Spartan Ultra instead.

The Spartan Sport has the ability to record a single event up to a maximum of 16 hours in battery save mode. Personally, if I was doing a FULL IRONMAN I’d opt for the Spartan Ultra with it’s 18 hour standard GPS mode (1 second) and 26 hours in battery save mode.

Top Alternatives

Next Model UP - Spartan Ultra

spartan ultra watch

The model up from the Spartan Sport is the Spartan Ultra. The main difference is improved battery life (from 10 hours to 18 hours for GPS recording) and the inclusion of a barometric pressure sensor in the Ultra.

This Sport model gets it’s altitude date from the GPS feedback. The Ultra utilises a barometric pressure sensor making it more sensitive to pressure changes and also providing feedback on temperature.

Next Model DOWN -Ambit Sports

sports watch for fitness

This new Spartan range replaces the Ambit range.

The Suunto Ambit reached version 3 with smartphone notifications and Bluetooth heart rate monitoring. 

If you want to grab a genuine bargain and you’re not too bothered about the colour touchscreen display then you certainly should still consider the  Ambit 3 Sport (for Triathlon / multi-sport users)

Sports Modes – see what’s right for YOU

The Spartan Sport has multiple pre-installed sports modes (over 80 in Suunto Movescount) – the watch can display up to 20 different personally selected sports from the 80 available.

The current pre-installed sports cover everything from Triathlon to Kayaking, Running to Cycling, Indoor Biking to Crossfit and Mountain Climbing to Orienteering.

If your sport isn’t available you can use “Other Sport” as a default. I believe Suunto are looking at adding the ability to add your OWN custom sport, training views etc in the near future.

An upgrade to the firmware in Jan 2017 gave the Spartan the ability to add NEW Sports Modes and define the data fields of the 3 x Training Pages.

At the time of writing this review the user does not have the ability to customise the various training views for each sport, however, this is something that Suunto have in their roadmap for future development coming very soon ….

However, for the popular sports like Running & Cycling, there are several sub-profiles which give sensible training view options for the different training sessions, eg. Running INTERVALS or RACE or TRACK. Suunto have selected the most relevant training parameters/metrics for each style of training.

Adding a NEW sport to your Spartan Sport is easy …

Update > March 2017. Suunto have improved this and it is now possible to customise your own custom sport modes. There are 4 training pages and you may choose from 4, 5 and 7 segment data fields for each page.

Read some BAD reviews?

I’ll be totally honest here and say that I genuinely believe Suunto released the Spartan just a little bit TOO EARLY. There are a dozen or so features listed against the Spartan that are “COMING SOON” or similar.

I appreciate the need to stick to internally agreed release dates, but I think this premature release can do more harm than good. At the time of writing this there are 9 reviews on Google for the Spartan giving it an average of 2.7 / 5 Stars.

As with all reviews it’s a subjective thing and there are a couple of 1/5 stars and one 5/5….? The majority agree that the Spartan COULD be the best multisport GPS watch if/when all the new firmware updates have been released …. HOWEVER, please read on …..

blue sports watch

What do I think?

I’m confident Suunto will deliver a product deserving to take over from the Ambit 3. I believe Suunto fully understand what today’s top level outdoor adventure racer needs from a top end GPS sports watch.

I hope and expect to see a stable and highly regarded sports watch before the end of 2016 / early 2017.

Suunto are doing all they can to make the Spartan a stronger and more reliable product and in the 3 days I’ve had mine it’s already had 2 x firmware updates …. I can see that I will be making frequent amends to this review over the coming weeks and months as the Spartan is updated with new improved features coming all the time.

Video Presentation

Suunto’s own Video

This is one of Suunto’s own marketing videos. As always it’s very professional and gives an outline of what the Spartan range is all about. NOTE – this video is for the Spartan Ultra, however, key features are the same.

Spartan for Multisport users

The Spartan Sport and Spartan Ultra are aimed at everyone and anyone who participates in MULTIPLE sports, whether running, cycling, swimming, rowing, climbing, football, whatever, the more the merrier.

There are TWO great features for those partaking in multisport events / training. From ANY one of your 20 pre-loaded sports profiles (there are 80 to chose from) you can simply PRESS and HOLD the top right hand button to change the session from a single discipline, let’s say RUNNING to a multisport sessions, for example, switch to WEIGHT TRAINING.

You can switch the SPORT PROFILES as many times as you want, eg. WEIGHTS to RUNNING to INDOOR ROWING to CYCLING.. the result is ONE training session with a detailed post session breakdown of each segment/sport. Each time the sport is changed, the displays changed to those relevant to each sport.

Dedicated Triathlon Mode

For TRIATHLON, it gets even better and easier. The Spartan has a dedicated TRIATHLON sports mode. When in this mode pressing and holding the TOP RIGHT button switches from SWIM to T1 to BIKE to T2 to RUN to FINISH.

At the end are presented with a breakdown of each discipline’s results, swim time, speed, etc, T1 time, Bike speed, time etc, T2 transition time and finally Run pace, time etc. This video shows, in a rather rushed manner, how the Triathlon mode works.

Suunto Spartan Display Brightness – video

This is my own video to show just HOW BRIGHT the Suunto Spartan display is . I read some online reviews saying it wasn’t as clear as the marketing photos made it out to be … sorry, totally disagree, it’s super clear in all light conditions

USB Cable & Bluetooth Connectivity (Movescount / Suuntolink)

The Spartan Sport uses a strong magnetic USB cable for charging and connecting to Suuntolink and then to the Suunto Movescount website. Suuntolink is the application that runs on your MacBook or Windows PC used as a link between the watch and the Suunto Movescount website.

A vast majority of settings, screen views, sports modes, navigation planning etc is done online using Movescount. When it’s all done and finished the new updated data is loaded to the Spartan Sport via the Suuntolink application.

I tested it on my Macbook during the review and it works very well. The Suuntolink app will also manage the firmware running on the watch. If it’s out of date you’ll get a polite message telling you to update the firmware … it all works very well and is something you’ll need to do with your new Spartan as they are rolling out new firmware at a high intensity currently.

Movescount App for iOs and Android
At the time of writing this review I can download the Movescount App for BOTH iOs (Apple apps) and Android devices (Google Playstore). Good news. HOWEVER, the Android version doesn’t work yet. Suunto have now added Android phone connectivity (update Nov 2016).

On both iOs and Android phone it’s VERY EASY to get paired up and synchronizing. Movescount provides access to basic watch settings including backlight brightness, date, time format, vibration etc. I hope to see the level of watch settings eg. editing Training Views and other similar functionality migrate over from Movescount proper to the APP.

Genuine Multisport – switch sports mid training

The Spartan is aimed at people who love sport and probably participate in several different sports. The Spartan allows the user to switch from one sport to another simply by pressing and holding the TOP RIGHT button. Just scroll down to your new sport and the training views will change to reflect that sport.

This is a useful feature for those, like me, that maybe run to the gym, cycle then run etc. Instead of stopping the session and starting a new one, all the data is in ONE training file. Each individual sports participation data is updated accordingly. The screenshot below shows this new feature. It’s NOT a genuine session but it illustrates, just testing, how this feature is presented post session in Suunto Movescount.

Looking for TRIATHLON mode?
If you are interested in a dedicated triathlon mode, the Suunto Spartan has that with triathlon being one of the optional Sports Profiles

See ALL the data
Suunto and Polar have the best post session feedback of all the training watches. Every metric that can be measured and monitored IS and then it’s clearly presented in Suunto Movescount.

If you’d like to view a genuine training session, here’s one of my 7 mile runs (NOTE, I forget to connect HR strap at start !!). You may notice from the screenshot below the Suunto Spartan Sport records everything from the essential speed, pace, distance, time, calories and altitude data recovery time, running cadence, time spent in heart rate training zones, peak training effect & EPOC.

Following Routes

The Spartan has the ability to follow a GPS route. These routes are stored in the NAVIGATION section of the watch menus and also available from a pull down OPTIONS menu when in EXERCISE mode.

The routes can be ones that you have undertaken before, a route that someone else has shared on Movescount or one that you have constructed yourself using the NEW ROUTE feature in Movescount.

Contructing a NEW route on Movescount

Using someone else’s Route (publicly shared)

Using one of my own Routes (previously ridden)

Heatmaps – see where other people are training

As I’ve been using the Polar V800 for quite some time it’s nearly 12 months since I last looked at Suunto Movescount. While reviewing the Spartan I stumbled across Heatmaps.

I’m not too sure when Suunto introduced this feature but I can see how it could be very useful to find local training routes (trail running, road riding, mountain biking etc) that you might not be aware of.

Very useful when training somewhere different, maybe on holiday or finding new venues. The Heatmaps show RED lines highlighting areas of dense training activity. 

Here’s a Heatmap of Norfolk/Suffolk looking for training routes for Mountain Biking. You can clearly see the popular routes at Thetford Forest.

Connect to popular Training Applications

Suunto Movescount can be connected to the following popular training applications : Strava, Training Peaks, Preva and Training peaks. You decide if ALL, only your RIDES, only your RUNS are automatically uploaded to your chosen applications.

Currently available in 4 different colours…

At the time of writing the review the Suunto Spartan is available in 4 colours, Blue, Black, Pink (Sakura) and White.

Conclusions & final thoughts …

I love everything about the Suunto Spartan Sport and Ultra … I just wish they hadn’t brought it out too early. At the time of writing this review I have already upgraded the review rating 5 times as and when Suunto release new Firmware upgrades.

It is now a reliable, robust, attractive and functional GPS sports watch. That is if you’ve not had an Ambit 3 Peak to compare it to as you may miss things like the Movescount Apps (similar to Garmin IQ Connect Widgets and Apps) and the inability to TOTALLY customise training views …. Build quality wise, there’s not much out there that comes close to the Spartan.

Would I spend a whole lot of money on one? Yes, it has it’s minor issues, but Suunto are making the Suunto Spartan Stronger every week …

Last Updated on March 28, 2019

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Suunto Spartan Sport
Author Rating
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