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Suunto Core Review

   
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Altimeter Watches

  • Currently 3.0/5
Overall avg rating 3.0 of 5 based on 10 reviews. Most recent review: July 21, 2014
Street Price:   Varies from $188 - $299 | Compare prices at 9 resellers
Pros:  Most accuarte altimeter we tested, easy-to-use menus, lots of great features
Cons:  Display is a little dark, expensive.
Best Uses:  Mountaineering, backpacking, trekking, ski touring.
User Rating:     
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 (2.2 of 5) based on 9 reviews
Recommendations:  22% of reviewers (2/9) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Suunto
Review by: Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ March 24, 2013  
Overview
The Suunto Core is the most fully featured altimeter watch we tested. The Core has something for everyone: waterproof buttons for snorkeling and shallow diving, more accurate altimeter and barometer functions, nicer graphs, and a slightly easier-to-use interface with a nicely labeled and easy-to-understand menu. The downside: the Core is also one of the most expensive non-GPS watches we tested and at $300 is $100 more than the Casio Pathfinder PAG240-1 or the Suunto Vector.

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Time
The Core has three alarms, which is the same as the Suunto Ambit2 and the Suunto Vector and less than both the Casio Pathfinder PAG240-1 and the Pathfinder PAG240T-7, which have five. Besides having less alarms, what we thought was the bigger deal was the Suunto alarms weren't very loud and we had to put the watch close to our head to make sure they woke us up. The Core has a stopwatch and a timer and during either of these functions you can see the current time and whatever your stopwatch/timer is measuring.

Altimeter and Barometer
Unlike both Pathfinder models and the Vector, the Core has the altimeter and barometer functions linked together. It measures elevation in three-foot or one-meter intervals compared with the Pathfinder 20 feet or 5 meters and the Vector's 10 feet or 3 meters. The altimeter/barometer feature is sweet. It calculates long-term pressure trends to give you a more accurate reading. For example, when you are ascending it gains with you as the barometric pressure changes at a rate far faster than the barometric pressure changes with weather. Once you stop gaining elevation for a while (i.e. sleeping) it realizes that and sees any barometer pressure changes as what they are and not elevation gain. This is a pretty cool and fairly effective feature; it works sometimes but not always in our real world tests. As a whole we thought it had the second most accurate altimeter only every so slightly behind the much more expensive Ambit2.

The Core has an altitude log. While this doesn't seem like a big deal, once people get an altimeter watch this is one of their most-used features. For up to seven days the Core will log your total ascent, descent and number of runs. For skiers, it logs how many laps you take while for hikers and climbers on trails that go up and down it will tell you your true vertical height gained. The Vector has a 24-hour log and will also store up to 100 logs. The Pathfinder models can only hold up to 40 logs.

Something we didn't like compared to the Vector was that you had to go through three or four menu pages to adjust the altitude. Whereas the Vector you just hold down a single button in altitude mode to adjust the altitude.

The Core has a graph for showing both altitude and barometric pressure trends that was excellent and likely the best in the review. The only bummer is it took several menu pages to pull it up, but we did get the hang out if and could pull it up pretty quickly with time.

Compass
Similar to its competition, the Core has a compass with adjustable declination. You can set it to help you record and follow compass bearings. In all the models we tested, if you are doing more serious off-trail travel we wouldn't bring this as your only compass, but it's fine for people who just need it for a general point of reference.

Other cool features
The Core is one of few altimeter watches you can take snorkeling or shallow diving. It is waterproof enough to take down to 100 feet, though it will only accurately tell you your depth to 30 feet. While certainly not a "must have" feature, the Core has sunrise/sunset times. You can access this by selecting your location (or the nearest one out of 400 options compared with the Pathfinder's 48). As a result you can know sunset/sunrise times and set alarms.

Thermometer
The Core, the Ambit2 and Vector have thermometers good from -5F to 140F compared with both Pathfinder models, which range from 14F to 140F. With all of these watches, to get an accurate reading the watch must be off your wrist for some time in order for your body heat to completely dissipate from the device.

Ease of use and interface
The Core similarly to the new Ambit2 uses a different menu pattern than the older Vector, so people upgrading will have to relearn how to use their watch. Once you get hang of it, the menu on the Core is easier to understand and the menu items are much more clearly labeled. You get three pieces of information displayed at the same time. One upgrade to the Core over the Vector is an extra button to navigate through the menu and function options.

Display
The display is the Core's one weakness. In high intensity light conditions (on a glacier for example), and/or with dark glasses, the screen was more difficult to read than other models we tested. Readability aside, we like the overall layout of the menu icons on the Core, with its large screen and big and easy-to-read numbers.
We wish Suunto would offer both the black on white and the negative options for the display like they offer on their Ambit2 GPS altimeter watch.

Accuracy
The Suunto Core displays elevation in three-foot intervals while most competitors show elevation in ten-foot intervals. The altimeter/barometer function on the Core is the best we tested. The Core basically calculates your long-term trends to give you a more accurate reading.


Other Versions
Suunto Core Brushed Steel - $500
Suunto Core Aluminum Deep Black - $400
Suunto Core Aluminum Pure White - $400
Suunto Core Red Crush - $300
Suunto Core Green Crush - $300
Suunto Core Violet Crush -$300

Accessories
Suunto Core Accessory Strap - $50

Ian Nicholson

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: July 21, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (2.2)

22% of 9 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
10 Total Ratings
5 star: 30%  (3)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 30%  (3)
1 star: 40%  (4)
Sort 9 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Jul 21, 2014 - 10:33am
I don't love it.

Too hard to read in certain conditions (low light times such as dawn/dusk).

The bearing/marking feature on the compass (which would be the most helpful compass feature for me) gives instructions to "turn right" or "turn left" to face your point. It would be much more useful if it simply remembered and displayed the numerical degree.

The major functions of each mode are displayed nicely but, the sub-functions (i.e. stop-watch, or some of the log features) are displayed too small for my aging eyes; especially when moving. For example, I cannot use it to time myself when running.

I can deal with each of my complaints with just a little effort, and it works fine. But overall…meh.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Apr 10, 2014 - 09:24am
nishaan · Climber · pietermaritzburg
AFTER reading the reviews im wondering where the hell are the people with negative views buying their watches OR WHAT ARE THEY REALLY DOING WITH IT. I was on everest with this watch and through deserts and forests and it has worked perfectly for me. CON at night its difficult to read but overall a fun watch to have…maybe suunto in South Africa is doing somthing right.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Mar 25, 2014 - 06:58am
headwerkn · Hunter · Tasmania, Australia
I've had my Mil-black Core for about 4 years, and have used it pretty much as a daily wear watch. Over that time I've been increasingly disappointed with it. What should have been a good looking and useful bit of outdoor activity equipment has turned out to be an unreliable and expensive novelty.

The altimeter/barometer functionality really isn't dependable, in my opinion. While one wouldn't expect < 3 metre-accuracy from its single pressure sensor, it generally only takes a few hours for it to be completely out of whack. Which is a pain because entering your current altitude can take a loooong time holding down that up or down button. Most frustrating is that once you set your 'baseline' ie. your current altitude, it will immediately drop (or rise) 20-30m or more, while you're standing still. The 'auto' mode - which switches from altitude to barometer mode when you're not on the move - is easily confused and generally changes back and forth every half-hour or so - with its alarm sounding each time - when you're stationary. The depth mode isn't very sensitive either, so it isn't much cop as a skin-dive watch either.

With any meaningful accuracy from the altimeter/barometer unlikely over a given period of time, the data logging and Storm Alarm functions haven't proved particularly useful either.

The compass is a bit better, it at least works to a reasonable degree of accuracy, though nothing better or more useful than a basic $10 compass. The temperature function is rendered useless by the sensor position being against your wrist. You have to take the watch off your wrist and wait for it to cool down to get any kind of meaningful measurement - not particularly useful.

For time keeping the watch works perfectly OK. The alarm/date/etc. functions all work as you'd expect of any digital watch. The backlight is very dim and can be hard to read unless it is completely dark. The sunrise/sunset function for your given locale is useful, however Suunto in their wisdom spelt Hobart (Tasmania) as "HOBARTH". Oops.

Battery live is quoted at 8 months but you use the 'features' of the watch you'll be lucky to see half that out of each CR2032. Even leaving mine in time mode I'm changing in a fresh battery every 6 months or so.

Visually the Core is an attractive design, however the black bezel scatches easily and after a couple of years mine looks rather trashed. The band isn't very durable either… I've just broken my second.

For a company of Suunto's reputation (their dive computers are excellent) and for a watch of this price I am really quite disappointed. While the construction and software need much improvement, I'm also convinced that expecting useful altimeter or barometer functionality from a single pressure sensor-type watch is rather optimistic. Far better to get a GPS watch and recharge the battery every night or so. This is what I'll probably do soon, just wondering whether it is worth giving Suuno another chance.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jan 2, 2014 - 07:09am
JamieStillie · Skier · Basel, Switzerland
Had 2 of these, both had the same problem - after a few months (< 3) the buttons stopped working.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Dec 18, 2013 - 06:21pm
djhutch · Seattle
Wow, this watch is a POS! At first, I found it very difficult to use compared to my last two altimeter watched ("was it press the upper left button three times or only two?"). The back light and alarm were both weak at first and the battery went to low within the first 3 months and the light and alarm stopped working (back lights and loud alarms are essential for alpine climbing). And, it is very, very easy to accidentally turn off the elevation log feature.

After I replaced the battery, everything worked OK again until about 6 months from new, then it couldn't hold the altitude, and a little while later it couldn't even hold the time!

This is one of those "classic" pieces I didn't like the first time I played with it about a decade ago (may have been a different model but was the standard Sunnto watch)and now really hate. I went back to my retired High Gear watch and still get mad when I see a Sunnto Core.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   May 28, 2013 - 04:58pm
I took my new Core on an 8-day backpack in Colorado in the summer of 2012. It recorded the altitude great for the first 5 days. After that it started going crazy. For example, the altitude would vary tremendously just standing still and would show me going up when in fact I was on a steep downhill (BTW the weather was not a factor in the variablity). I figured I had a lemon so I returned it and got a replacement. I just got back from a trek in Nepal and it did the same thing! Worked great for the first week and then went totally insane just like the first one. I'll be returning this one too, but this time I'll get a refund and purchase a different brand. I expect a lot more from a $200+ watch. Any recommendations?

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   May 9, 2013 - 08:34am
tooth · Climber · B.C.
I had 3 of these. They all had a different computer issue, returned them all except the last one to REI. It is still sitting in my drawer.
The altimeter/thermometer, etc. worked, I paraglided a lot with them and they were just as accurate as my other flight instruments.
The vector that my friends have haven't had the problems I've had.
Now I bought a Momentum watch (made in Vancouver). No problems at all for a year and the altimeter is just as good.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   May 9, 2013 - 07:11am
Yes this is an awesome watch though after a couple of years it looses it's waterproofness the seals go , so you send it back to be repaired and low and behold they say sorry we no longer make that part anymore to make it water proof you'll have to buy another watch.! What the!! are you serious?.I've expressed my concerns to suunto customer service numerous times though still no reply. It has all the features though it's short lived which is sad , sort it out suunto or Im going to garmin because they last the distance.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Apr 13, 2013 - 12:33am
dae1775 · Kayaker
Awesome piece of kit!

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Suunto Core altimeter watch
Credit: suunto.com
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