Suunto is a Finnish company that creates sports watches, dive computers, altimeter equipment, and other precision instruments. Giants in the diving equipment and compass markets, they were one of the first companies to build a liquid sighting compass. The design of which helps reduce damage to the compass needle, and can also be used underwater. The company doesn’t seem to have a particularly strong focus on the engineering of smartwatches because of this. However, many love their watches.
Garmin was founded in the 1980s and specialize in GPS technology, but have become a lot more focused on the production of watches and wearable tech. Competing directly with Fitbit and Apple watch, the company has seen some success. Although, they have struggled to offer consumers something spectacular to draw them away from Apple’s enticing grip.
There is a lot of different GPS running watches on the market. Each one gives the user some benefit utilizing a global positioning system software to track their movements. In this sense, you want to make sure that the watch can accurately track your movements. GPS accuracy is an essential feature.
Other things to look out for is the watch’s heart rate monitor. Your fitness relies heavily on your heart rate variability, and if you get a reading on that from your GPS watch, you will discover a lot more about your fitness. Some watches will boast heart rate tracking, only to have you strap a heart rate sensor around your chest every time you want it tracked.
You may also want to ensure that your watch not only tracks running, race, and cardio exercises, but others too. Some watch brands dismiss exercises like cycling, golf, trail running, and rock climbing. If you want to track these sorts of activities, you need to get a suitable GPS watch.
The majority of GPS running watches leave it to the corresponding application to show you an overview of your exercise for the day. But there are a few watches out there that will give you a simple and accessible overview of your training and workout for the day.
Suunto GPS Watches
Suunto 9 Baro– 14 days of battery life and a sapphire crystal glass lens;
Garmin Venu – a more formal design, with Garmin Pay and sports modes.
Key Differences between Suunto and Garmin
When it comes to the two companies’ use of materials, there’s not much that separates them. But the devil is in the details! For instance, when we look at the Suunto 9 Baro, the case material is Glass-fiber reinforced polyamide. The Forerunner 945 on the other hand has a case made of fibre-reinforced polymer. Both are very similar, but the Suunto provides that little bit more protection in its materials.
When it comes to design, both companies turn to the classic circular watch face, which is a welcome choice. A watch face like this limits the interface sleekness somewhat but feels good on the wrist. Both have upgradable options featuring stainless steel bezels as well.
Stringent quality control is something Suunto takes seriously. They just recently signed a deal with Hitachi to deliver quality control at every stage of the process, ensuring high-end products. Also, with a long history of service to a multitude of markets, they must be doing something right. On the other hand, Garmin is sometimes pulled up on their quality control in forums on the site.
Size & Display
When it comes to Garmin vs. Suunto in terms of the leading GPS smartwatches from each brand, Suunto Spartan allows for anyone with a wrist size of 140 – 240mm. While the Garmin Forerunner 945 allows for a size of 130 – 220mm. Just a slight difference between the two, with the Suunto Spartan helping Suunto to edge out as the better brand for size. Both companies have a habit of creating watches that are comfortable to wear.
The 320×300 display for the Suunto 9 is crisp, though sometimes a bit hard to see in sunlight, though one of the main pulls of the Suunto Baro 9 is its battery conservation. With this being the case, one can turn the brightness up when having trouble. The Garmin Fenix 5x screen may not be very bright, but its display is a lot better than other Garmin watches like the vivoactive 3. Both are touchscreen smartwatches.
Even with the Garmin Fenix 5x standing at a 240 x 240, in a straight comparison vs. each other, the Baro 9 does best it. However, both have excellent displays that are usable and clear. It must be said, though, that when judging each company on all of their releases, Suunto does step ahead of Garmin when it comes to screen display.
Mapping & Navigation
The Suunto 5 uses GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, QZSS to power the lock onto your location. This being the case, it performs pretty well. Slight glitches are par for the course in GPS watches, but the Suunto 5 has a reasonably accurate GPS.
The Garmin Instinct uses all of the same tracking systematics apart from QVSS. So they are quite similar in terms of accuracy when it comes to GPS. The Garmin Instinct does have a special mode known as UltraTrac mode. It causes the smartwatch to record GPS location less frequently but saves a lot of battery life. It can be assumed that Suunto forewent on a feature like this because their battery life is a massive part of their popularity. All the same, it’s helpful for Garmin to include.
Suunto utilizes smartphone connectivity with a smartphone program called Suunto. This allows users to see their GPS activity in a more explorative fashion. You can also plan routes and sync them with the application, or download a .gpx file to some of its watches. A great little feature for hikers.
In reality, however, users find the functionality of the application vastly deteriorates dependent on the watch you use. People with watches like the Suunto Ambit 3 peak will find little to no connectivity available, meaning you are unable to collect optical heart rate and gauge other activity. Users find a particular issue with transferring data from the watch or app to the Suunto Movescount app. It must be mentioned as well, that the Suunto app has a specific focus on running, walking, and diving. In comparison, the rival brand has a better smartphone application.
The Garmin Connect app allows users also to see their activity throughout the day gathered from their GPS trackers. The interface of Connect is much easier to use and a lot more forgiving, with easy to use smart notifications. The Garmin Connect app also tracks a few more sports than the Suunto equivalent does. They include kayaking, weight lifting, and even snow sports too. Some have mentioned that the updates slow the app down a bit. However, for the most part, Garmin Connect is simple to use and the smart choice.
The Suunto 3 Fitness tracks and records calories burned and steps taken, allowing you to review your activity in a standard day or when training. It is also able to track distance swam. A lot of its tracking features depend on you having connected with the Suunto app, meaning that you can’t see a lot of your results straight away. For instance, the watch will only record cycling speed when connected with the app.
One of the Suunto 3 Fitness’s best features is the adaptive training guidance. This feature allows you to choose how you wish your exercise regime to go. You can keep it how it is, increase it moderately, or go for a more intensive plan. The watch (alongside the app) will create a workout regime for you to keep. You can review your performance with this regime and decide whether you are making progress.
Though, one main setback for this particular watch is the lack of GPS. This damages its fitness credentials slightly. It does have a sleep tracker, though its features are quite limited. Its accuracy is adequate, but there is no feedback on your sleeping activity. Though its focus on swimming as well as running and cycling make it a perfect triathlon watch.
If we compare this with the Garmin Instinct smartwatch, we can see a slight difference. Firstly, the watch calculates steps counted; floors climbed, calories burned, and intensity minutes. It helps you to stay active with the unique move bar, that will tell you if you have been stationary for too long.
It also tracks heart rate from the wrist and utilizes data such as heart rate variability to gauge your stress levels as well. The watch has dedicated modes for paddleboarding, kayaking, climbing, and many other niche activities. The hiking mode includes a trackback feature, allowing you to review your path and navigate a safe passage back to your hike’s starting point. Amazing for trail running. The watch stands apart, not only as a fitness tracker but adept for activity tracking too. Anyone who engages in a multitude of activities will love Garmin watches.
Garmin, in this watch and in general, provides quite a bit of customization too. You can customize your data pages and activity profiles as well.
In this particular case of Suunto vs. Garmin, it is fair to say that Garmin win. In general, they have more of a dedicated running and fitness focus in their design and engineering. And this means that users looking for fitness expertise will love them.
Battery power is where Suunto come into their own. If we take the Suunto 5, it has a life of 14 days, and a whopping 7 days with 24/7 tracking active. If you can manage it, this watch allows you between 20 and 40 hours of GPS time in one go. The battery power of Suunto watches is nothing short of fantastic. And it is for this reason that many users gravitate towards the Finnish company’s products.
But upon review, Garmin seems to challenge them on their main advantage point. The Garmin Fenix 5x has a battery life of 2 weeks in standard mode, over 24 hours in GPS mode. And if you turn on your UltraTrac feature, that can be extended to 60 hours. A vast improvement on its previous iterations such as the fenix 3.
As mentioned previously, the Garmin Connect experience is an enjoyable and successful one. Garmin understand that all of their smartwatch customers will want some level of synchronicity. It displays vital health data in easy to read charts and figures. Where it excels, for the most part, is the social aspect. Socializing by sharing your routines, tips, and race results is easy in Garmin Connect. It promotes the connecting and empowering of all of its users.
The Suunto application helps the watches a great deal when it comes to transferring and viewing data and records. You can also customize the layout of the sports watch face within the application, and see the most popular walking and running routes around the world. Suunto’s application does lack a bit on the socializing side of things, though many do not think of this aspect as being integral to a fitness application, standalone apps like Strava can provide this aspect.
Value for Money
When it comes to a pricing comparison, the two brands are quite similar. For instance, the Suunto 5 costs $329 direct from the Suunto website. The Garmin vivoactive 4 comes to $349 direct from the Garmin site. These two watches represent the flagship designs and features of each brand, and both are similarly priced. It depends on which brand you prefer from the descriptions above.
The fenix 6 has a price tag of $599.99. An expensive watch but an incredibly well designed and engineered watch to have in your cart at the checkout. The Suunto Baro 9 has the same price tag. This more than anything shows that each company is offering its watches at around the same price range.
Garmin and Suunto are available from Amazon and also from outdoor stores.
In a final comparison, both of these companies produce a fantastic range of watches. It must be said that for diving and swimming products, Suunto is the ones to trust. Not just because of their company’s history but because diving and aqua exploration has stayed a steadfast aspect of their design.
Garmin are advantageous over Suunto when it comes to their app, as well as their all-round proficiency as a builder of activity trackers. In terms of tips for those looking for a generally good activity tracker, Garmin watches are the ones to look at.
Liam writes articles for a myriad of sites and publications. With a deep-set love for electronics and music, often finds himself drawn to writing about the latest bands and gadgets. He has a degree in Drama and English, enjoys acting, producing music and writing in a number of formats. He also works as a copywriter, providing content for clients around the world.