I am not a professional athlete – or never will be. However that doesn’t prevent me from playing around with sport tools that are much better suited for serious athletes. I am a geek and that is my excuse.
I’ve been a fan of Suunto’s products for years. Back in the day my first heart rate monitor was Polar device, without any frills or thrills. I was quite happy with it, but as I got a Suunto T6 with a footpod to measure speed and distance, I did not look back. Suunto T6 was the ultimate workhorse and as reliable as a steel hammer. About a year ago I actually sold my Suunto T6 to a new owner, and I assume that it still just keeps on going. Perfect device. I upgraded my T6 to T6c – which added showing of training effect during the training to the displays and added more configurability, which I liked a lot. Configurability meant that you were able to choose almost freely what data to show on two different screens of the device. So depending on whether you were cycling or running and/or doing different type of exercise you could select different data to the screen.
However the upgraded model started to show aging symptoms: showing the screen lighter than it should be and showing low battery, even though there is a new battery in. Good excuse to update my device! Ps. If you want this T6c – I am selling it cheaply.
As we also had Suunto T3c at home, I decided to give it a try before committing into new investments. With a foot pod it was actually really nice heart rate monitor with nice looking displays and a good training log inside the device – as you san’t transfer training data from the device to computer. Originally I had purchased this to Satu, but she decided that she does not need one – so it stood for some time abandoned.
My testing showed it to be actually excellent device with clock features and design worthy of everyday use. However it lacked in the über-geeky sector features – and as my friends were able to get minute details of their runs, maps from the GPS data and what not — I felt that it would be my duty as a early adopter and a geek to reach beyond what is sufficient and reasonable to my needs. ( That also means that the T3c is also for sale, if anyone needs one. )
I had tried and tested previously mobile phone based solutions – namely Sports Tracker with my Nokia 5230 test phone and a Polar bluetooth heart rate belt. It almost worked, except there were problems with really recording the heart rate data properly as well as getting the GPS signal well. So to be honest the experience sucked heavily. The concept was brilliant, but as with most things Nokia – the experience left too much to wish for. However as I sold the heartrate belt to a friend of mine, he has had good experiences with it with his phone and software.
I also tested iPhone based solutions – which naturally lacked the heart rate part. Everything worked really nice. Heiaheia was my favourite as somehow it seemed that my friends got together there as a community. It all started first at Dailymile-service, but then people drifted to finnish based heiaheia, which has really good viral and community features for cheering people – even though it lacks in everything else. So I use it for the people.
I tested T6 with map data from iPhone – and it worked pretty well, though I had to combine the data from the devices in Movescount. And as I usually have iPhone with me for music / audiobooks, that would not be such a bad combo.
But back to the Ambit – finally.
So in this context you will already understand that when I came across the Ambit, I was almost immediately sold. Well, not really. ”GPS for explorers” as a tag line did not call me at all. I was looking at brochures of Garmin and Polar devices where specific features for running seemed to make sense. Polar’s RCX5 and RCX3 got my saliva running as well as some Garmin models seemed to be really interesting.
However as I looked at the devices in the store I felt no connection into their design. They actually seemed like great devices and had everything on the paper, but for some reason it just did not feel right. To be honest for all sorts of training needs Polar RCX5 should be a better device for me, but I still chose Ambit or it chose me.
There was serendipity in the air when I actually made the purchase. I saw it online on huuto.net auction site to be sold as someone who had purchased it though it was too complicated and too much of a computer for his needs. As the retail price of the device is around 450 euros – and these auctions the price climbs to the top just before the auction closes, I did not think that I would be able to get it in the price category I was looking for. I assumed that it would go closer to the 400 euros.
The same evening as we were shopping I noticed that at our local store they were selling Suunto T6ds for 200 euros as a clearance. I had to double check that the pricing was right – as this device is normally sold closer to 300 euros. It was not a mistake. I calculated and thought for few minutes, wondering how much value I would be willing to put to additional features in RCX5, Garmin devices or event in Ambit – and made the decision that T6d is enough for me. Immediately I went out for a run with T6d and iPhone and felt good as everything worked as well as before and I got my map data from the iPhone. I was happy.
However I still had my eye on the auction as it hadn’t moved a bit in the price. I took a second look at the specification of Ambit and read a terrific in depth review about it:
I also read RCX5 review from the same guy and was more confident that RCX5 would be better for me on the paper, but that Suunto Ambit just had a better feel and design for me. Yes Polar would have a better fit for my needs, but I would not feel the connection with it – and I am an sucer for emotions and feelings of connection.
So with the idea that Suunto Ambit would be extremely cool, but would stay out of my reach I put in a bid into the auction site – and lo and behold, the next day I got an email from the seller that even though I did not meet his minimum price, he would be willing to sell it for the bid price I had made.
Turns out Ambit had been sold as a Diner’s Club reward for 250 euros + 1000 diner’s points – and even though I did pay for it more than that – I did get it in a significant discount compared to the normal retail price. Lucky me.
Naturally I wanted to pass the good luck forward and sold my brand new Suunto T6d to a friend of mine, who had done quite similar thinking as I had between T6d and Ambit. I saved more than hundred euros of his money as he got it with the same clearance price as I did, instead of normal retail price everywhere else.
As an old Suunto user the logic and usability of Ambit opened quickly, though I had to really look at the manual. All the whiz bang features in the device and only 5 buttons.
Just like the in depth review gave away, Ambit is quite like the modern version of T6. During the sport it behaves just like you want – as well as T6 did, but beyond that it opens up a whole lot of new features and opportunities.
To have the GPS in the watch is nice, as it frees you completely from cumbersome pods: gps or foot pods. For cyclist you might want a cadence pod to your bike, but I am not a serious cyclist.
Configurability is AWESOME.
Different profiles for different sports…
I really thought that to be able to configure 2 screens on T6d was great. However Ambit opens up a whole new game. In your movescount account you can totally customize profiles for your favorite activities and get data selections that matter most to you. This feature alone is a good reason to have the Ambit.
I have customized my Ambit to have specific screens for runs – allowing me to focus properly on keeping a certain training level, speed or average kilometer speed depending on the type of the run.
Picking up the GPS signal was also awesomely fast. Only thing faster in picking up position has been iPhone, but it has cheated with WLAN-information. As a pure GPS device Ambit is brilliantly fast.
Once you are done you can upload your data to Movescount and watch your route and training data there. Above is a small run I did at Tampere during a worktrip.
For trekking and serious outdoor people the device has a really good features, allowing you to predefine waypoints for your hike – or even for your urban exploration. I haven’t yet used this feature properly, so can’t comment on it that much – but there is clear value in it.
For example when you are in un familiar territory, you can create a waypoint from your startpoint and always know which direction your base is. Similarly if you do not have GPS signal for some reason, the internal compass feature allows you to orient yourself fast without the need to use a sundial or any other classic survival methods.
So far the Ambit has worked perfectly. The batterylife is really great and the whole usage experience really good. Just plug the usb cable, start Moveslink2 program and device configurations as well as training data is synched.
Build of the device is really solid and professional – and though it is quite large, it feels good and solid on your wrist. It also has a different kind of sex appeal compared to the Polar devices, which could be categorized as UFO-designs. Ambit looks and feels manly – and even though it is large it can be used on daily basis unlike Polar devices, which always look only like plastic sports computers.
So sufficient to say that I like Suunto Ambit.
Would I have purchased for normal retail price? Definitely not.
Would I recommend Ambit to my friends? Definitely yes, if they find based on the in depth review and features that they have need and use for a device in this category. There is no need for me to have such a complex artefact of engineering and design brilliance, but I can and I do.
I am a Suunto guy.
Ps. I wish Suunto would recognize this category of blogging users and finally start to send free stuff to fat geek bloggers.