One of the big gadgets on my wishlist when I first started planning my climb up Kilimanjaro was a decent watch. Don’t get me wrong – I like my current watch a lot, but it isn’t exactly suitable for climbing mountains! There are a few options out there when it comes to GPS sports watches. I wasn’t sure if GPS was necessarily the way to go due to the fact that we will be on the mountain for nine days straight, and short battery life / recharging issues were a concern. But thanks to the folks at Powermonkey, this should be no concern any more.
Suunto have quite a range of Sportswatches which will suit any keen sportsperson and their wallet, but only their Ambit range has GPS built-in. Recently they released the Ambit 2 as their successor to the very popular GPS watch, which has a number of improvements over the original Ambit including improved battery life and memory among other things.
The watch itself is a chunky watch, which I am personally not used to. Having small wrists, I normally tend to opt for smaller watches, but despite this I found I got used to the “chunk” of the Ambit 2 very quickly and easily. Despite the chunkiness (which is obviously necessary to house all the electronic wizardry and GPS), the watch did not feel too heavy. People do not want the watch to feel like an obvious burden while they are doing exercise, and so keeping the weight down is important.
The watch face is one large LCD screen and has a backlight for night-time viewing. The LCD can be in “light” or “dark” mode, where in dark mode the LCD is inverted so the majority of the screen is black with the font in white. This may help viewing the screen in certain light conditions. Around the outside of the bezel are a few buttons which allow you to easily and intuitively interact with the watch and work you way through its various functions and menus.
I haven’t had a chance to test out battery life fully yet. It will, of course, depend on the amount you are using certain features like the GPS. I am told that with moderate GPS using throughout the day I should expect to get a good couple of days out of a single charge, but will be putting this to the test over the coming weeks. The watch comes with a USB charging cable in the box that clips onto the side of the watch. The clip has metal pins that line up with connectors on the rear of he watch, and the watch is charged and data is synced via the cable when it is connected to your computer’s USB port.
The Ambit 2 is jam-packed with features to suit any sport enthusiast. Including:
- Automatic Alti/Baro switching
- Multi-sport support (including swimming, and also automatic switching for different settings as you change – perfect for triathletes!)
- Biking power measurements
- Heart rate (when using the bluetooth heart rate monitor which comes with the more expensive version, or can be bought separately)
- Integrated GPS
- GPS Altitude
- Storm alarm (warning you when there is a sudden drop in air pressure)
- Recovery time estimation
I really cannot stress enough how versatile the Ambit 2 is. In addition to all the above built-in features that come as standard out-the-box, in case it wasn’t enough you can also personalize the device by loading up custom-made apps that are developed by other Ambit users from the Movescount community (more on this later). If the watch doesn’t do what you want it to do, then just have a look through the 1000+ apps available to find exactly what you need. Or if you STILL can’t find it, then you can always get one of the Suunto Apps Designers to create one for you.
Software & Movescount Account
As with many of the other fitness gadgets we’ve tried and tested on OxGadgets recently, there is a great back-end that goes with the Suunto devices. Suunto has a community called Movescount where all you data can be uploaded, stored, saved, shared and boasted about. You can add your friends and compare your achievements with other members of the community. As I have already alluded to above, the Movescount website also plays a large part in setting your device up to be exactly how you want it. A fair amount of configuration can be done on the watch itself, but to really fine-tune it and to change some more of the major functionality, you can do this via movescount, and the watch will be updated the next time you sync it. This makes setting up a breeze, which is extremely welcome, especially when you consider how versatile the device is, and the sheer number of option that could be available to you.
Once you sync your device, all activities (known as “moves”) will be transferred from the device and stored on your movescount account. Here you can see more information too that you could not see on the watch. You can see a screenshot of a small walk I did this evening whilst walking the dog below:
This extra information will be extremely useful for anyone wanting to track their progress more carefully. And of course, the information you get back will be dependant on which sport mode you had selected before you started the activity (I chose “Trekking” for the walk above).
I have only had the watch a few hours, and so I cannot yet comment on the full functionality, and battery life etc. But I have already fallen in love with the Ambit 2. I am astounded at the extreme versatility that it offers, from a diving computer watch, to a watch to track you progress as you climb a mountain, and from a device that tracks your swimming technique to one that can warn you of bad weather approaching. Yes, admittedly all this does come at quite a cost (the Ambit 2 costs between £275 and £400 depending on which model/style you go for), but in terms of cost/functionality ratio, then this is going to be hard to beat.
I cannot wait to get some more use out of this over the coming weeks and to really put it to the ultimate test as it goes with me up Kilimanjaro. I already know that it will be very hard to send it back to the guys as Suunto when I return…
To find out more about the Suunto, or to buy one, visit the Suunto Ambit website.
To see more photos of our review device and screenshots of the Movescount website, then check out our Facebook Album.
Edited on 17/12/2013 to remove the reference to a depth-meter.