Suunto Ambit 3 Sport Review

The Ambit 3 sport is the latest in a line of smart watches by Suunto that incorporates fitness tracking options such as heart rate monitors and step counters. The Suunto brand of sport watches are highly customizable and their fitness tracking is spot on, for the most part. that said, all of these features come in a rather large and costly package.

Design

The Ambit 3 Sport is definitely on the bigger side when it comes to sport watches, weighing in at around 3 ounces and measuring about 2 inches in diameter. With such a large footprint, the Ambit 3 Sport one of the largest sport watches I have ever tested, even when compared to bulky units like the 920XT. I have very small wrists and it felt a little uncomfortable on me. If you are a big boned person i would imagine the watch would be more comfortable but stand out even more so.

In terms of wrist straps, the Ambit 3 Sport comes stock with soft silicone bands that are similar to those seen on the MIO trackers. I have always preferred this style of band because it is much less noticeable. It also has more of a rubber type feel to it which cuts down on chaffing and is much more pliable.

As for the display, the watch face has 5 buttons: 2 on the left and 3 on the right. The left 2 are for setting/adding a lap during a workout and a view button for accessing shortcuts (which can be set by using the app). The right 3 buttons are for scrolling through the many settings and features of the Ambit 3 and stopping/staring an activity. There is also a backlight button that allows you to set the light level or keep it locked on permanently. And lastly, the back of the unit has 4 pins to accommodate the USB charger.

The menu is very simplified, which is a good thing, I had no trouble navigating the watches many features. Simply select an activity, hit start, and the watch will auto connect to GPS and being logging the activity.

The buttons on the Ambit 3 provide good tactical feedback and are very easy to use, especially while doing and activity such as running. It’s nice to see a sport watch that doesn’t have very small or even recessed buttons for a change.

Features

The Ambit 3 Sport is a decent all around sports watch. You’ll have access to most of the standard features that are expected in this price range: Accelerometer, GPS, speed/distance/step tracking, heart rate monitoring (when paired with a heart sensor), recovery monitoring, and sports logging.

Speaking of sports, the Ambit 3 lives up to its name. The watch is waterproof up to 50 meters, which is ideal for swimming. In addition to the standard cycling/running/swimming modes, it also includes open water tracking, which is great for triathlon training.

Suunto has a long history when it comes to heart rate monitoring and GPS capabilities, and the Ambit 3 doesn’t disappoint in these areas. On average I was able to get a location fix in about 20-30 seconds even in less than ideal locations. The heart rate tracking was accurate during my running test and less so during swimming, although it performed much better than my 920XT did. This is not unusual; however, as accurate heart rate tracking for water activities is better suited for wrist based devices anyway.

Especially useful is the multisport mode, which allows you to link up many sports in sequence. Triathlon trainees will want to pay special attention here. The device has 2 options: and automotive mode that will switch activities depending on which ones you have set. The second is a manual mode that will allow you to add activities as your progress. A very handy feature to say the least. The Suunto app will show multi sport mode as one activity, allowing you to better gauge your overall metrics. This mode is overall surprisingly very accurate, which makes the watch a good pick for those looking for more automation.

That said, the interface is quite limited and Suunto has relegated a lot of the more minor changes to the bundled app. This is somewhat annoying especially if you need to change something like say the GPS settings and don’t have your smartphone with you.

Connectivity

Suunto has opted to go with Bluetooth smart for all of their products. While this is the obvious choice for pairing with mobile devices it would have been nice to see support for ANT+ as well, since this limits the type of sensors that can be paired with the watch.

Additionally, the watch only supports IOS, but Suunto claims and android app is on its way.

Battery Life

Battery life can be a tricky subject, as usage tends to vary and manufacturer’s claims are often exaggerated. That said, in my tests the Ambit 3 Sport performed about average: 13 hours in full GPS mode and around 7 days with intermittent (30 minutes a day) GPS use.

Suunto Move Scout

As far as app support goes, the suunto app is pretty basic. When compared with competitors such as Garmin, with its highly detailed options and the ability to quickly create custom activities, the Ambit 3 app leaves much to be desired. VO2, sports mapping, recovery time, and calories/steps are all included but there is little in the way of detail, over time tracking, or goal encouragement. The app does allow for upload of your stats to the Suunto website for comparison/competition to other users. This is rather location speficif, however. if you live in a low population area its highly unlikely you will see much activity in this regard.

On the other hand, Suunto has made the wise decision of allowing for open source development. These apps are accessed through a web portal called Suunto app zone, which is similar to the Google play store or the App store. Garmen also does this with its Garmen developer IQ, which allows for anyone to create their own app for the device. It is good to see more and more manufacturers starting to adopt this trend.

That said, the overall app experience is a bit limited and is a far cry from other competitor offerings.

Conclusion

The Ambit 3 sport is somewhat of a jack of all trades device. It has a simple yet intuitive interface, but with open source support for a large array of applications that will please the hardcore fitness athletes. At around $350, it is fairly affordable, especially for a GPS sport watch. Runners, cyclists, and swimmers will be a perfect fit for this device. It is also a solid candidate for triathlon training due to its open water tracking, which at the time of this writing is somewhat of a rarity in the sports watch world.

That said, if you are only looking to track a single activity, it may be more cost effective to opt for a fitness band or Suuntos lower tier option, the Ambit run, which omits the cycling and swimming aspect and the multi-sport settings.

All in all the Ambit 3 sport is great sports watch at a competitive price that is best suited for those who are looking for a little bit extra in their fitness tracking.

For a more in depth triathlon guide check out our write up here.

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Alex Fischer