Suunto Ambit review

The Suunto Ambit is the latest sports watch with GPS built in

T3 Platinum Award
Reasons to buy
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    Rugged styling

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    GPS accuracy

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Reasons to avoid
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    Epic price

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    Weedy battery

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The Suunto Ambit is a sports-watch that's packed with features including built-in GPS, but is it worth the steep price tag?

Update: T3 has now got is mitts on the newer Suunto Ambit 2. Stay tuned for a full review - coming soon...

The Suunto Ambit is one of a new breed of sports watches that provide GPS positioning as well as more traditional watch-side tools. Going head-to-head with the Garmin Fenix in providing genuine GPS mapping, the Ambit's standout trick is the ability to download apps to your watch to customise it.

Suunto Ambit: Design

The Suunto Ambit design is on the Marmite side - you're either happy with a chunky sports watch, or you're not. It's fairly large, but the smart bezel and GPS unit integrated into the strap keep bulk to a minimum. The strap itself is perforated to allow air movement, and also looks pretty slick.

Additionally, it's a robust setup - we tested it in a variety of situations, from marathon training to Scottish winter and it shrugged off the lot. The only disadvantage is its bulk, which can impede movement at times.

Suunto Ambit: GPS

The Ambit's real party trick is GPS. A full-featured GPS unit with up to 100 way points and navigational aids make this the pro's choice, and due to Suunto's focus on this, the watch gets a GPS lock surprisingly fast once on the move, and logs lateral movement extremely accurately.

It also logs ascent particularly well, using 1m increments rather than the 10 foot blocks used by much of the competition. This accuracy is aided by a sensitive barometer.

Suunto Ambit: Screen

A very fine dot-matrix screen provides a lesser experience than the full-colour, HD screens we might be used to on bigger devices, but actually it's more than enough information on the wrist. It also allows you to flip resolution between black-on white, or white on black - very handy in varying light conditions.

Suunto Ambit: Apps

The main criticism of the original Ambit still stands - it can seem overwhelming at first, with so many options to choose from. Suunto cunningly launched the ability to customise and download 'apps' to the device with the aim of simplifying the UI.

For example, you can create sets of screens for different activities, stringing together mile lap time, overall distance and a 'marathon total time remaining' app for a big marathon day, tweaking that to add in split times and HR input for sprint training, then flipping to a slower GPS sample time, altitude and weather warnings (set alarms for sudden barometric changes) for a weekend out in the hills.

It's complicated to setup, but once you've dipped into it with the site and software, it's compelling.

Suunto Ambit: Battery and power

The biggest lowpoint about the Ambit is the flimsy battery life - just 15 hours of tracking (set to max, in fairness), or 30 days on standby. In sub-zero temps you can knock a couple of hours off that too, leading to a full charge barely lasting a full winter day.

It's possible to lengthen the GPS interval intensity to once a minute, which will give you a more expedition-friendly 50 hours. For multi-day endurance events this could be an issue, but many competitive events ban GPS watches, so do check before you rely on it.

Suunto Ambit: Verdict

The Suunto Ambit is an incredibly powerful piece of outdoor tech, and in some ways is a victim of this fact. Without personalisation it can seem overwhelming, and even the process of configuring it can seem overly complex.

It's also very expensive, and the battery life can be on the short side. However, once you've grappled with it, you're left with a massively impressive package - only the Garmin Fenix comes close to the same functionality - which is certainly worth a look if you're in this market.

Suunto Ambit release date: Out now

Suunto Ambit price: £295

Mark Mayne

Mark Mayne has been covering tech, gadgets and outdoor innovation for longer than he can remember. A keen climber, mountaineer and scuba diver, he is also a dedicated weather enthusiast and flapjack consumption expert.