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Hands-on Gear Review
Suunto Ambit3 Peak Review
Cons: Thicker profile, short battery life
Bottom line: The Sunnto Ambit3 Peak is the Editors' Choice because of its fantastic accuracy, reliability, and great features.
The Suunto Ambit3 Peak is the bomb when it comes to altimeter watches. In addition to an altitude and barometric pressure reading, it also comes fully loaded with GPS functionality and a plethora of other cool data-capturing features. Of all the watches tested, it constantly provided great GPS accuracy along with easy to see altitude graphs and barometric data displays. In addition, the Suunto Movescount app allows you to upload and follow routes if you wish. It can navigate to and from a variety of points using the GPS function and compass.
That said, with all these fancy features, there is a tradeoff that can directly affect any consumer in the market for an altimeter watch. The battery life is sub-par, lasting only 22 hours (at most) with the GPS function on. This limits the use of the watch to day use when using the GPS. That said, with GPS function off, it lasts up to a month. In comparison to the Garmin Fenix 5, there is a little less battery life and fewer features, but better accuracy. So, if you're in the market for a watch that has a lot of great features and provides great data displays, and accurate altitude readings, this Editors' Choice is our top pick! However, if you're looking for something that has a battery that truly lasts, check out the solar powered Casio PRW-6000Y instead.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Altimeter Watches Review
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Suunto Ambit3 Peak is the ultimate in altitude tracking. Its accuracy in combination with its GPS capabilities makes it our top competitor and Editors' Choice winner.
Here are a few apps that work well with this watch that can be downloaded for free:
*Suunto App Zones
The Ambit3 Peak provides a plethora of features suited for those looking to either use the simple functions of an altimeter or to track fitness patterns over a long period of time. Even though the Ambit3 doesn't feature nearly as many features as the Garmin Fenix 5, it still provides quite a useful selection that for any outdoor enthusiast. The Suunto watches work in conjunction with the Suunto Movescount App that can be directly downloaded to any smartphone. This can be used to track activities and routes in conjunction with the GPS function. You can also use this app to upload tracks and routes to follow if you'd like. Take a look at all the features this watch has to offer.
Altimeter and Barometer
In addition to providing a current barometric pressure and altitude reading, this watch comes with adjustable profiles. You can choose an automatic, barometric, or altitude profile to view. The automatic profile switches from altitude to barometric depending on your movement. If you are hiking uphill or downhill, it will automatically switch to the altitude profile. Whereas if you're on the flats, it switches to the barometric profile. You can't have both profiles up at the same time (unlike the Garmin Fenix 5).
In addition to a profile that logs information every 15 minutes, it also shows a graph of the past 24 hours. These graphs can be used to view basic trends in both altitude and barometric data. The graphs are some of the best tested. They are sleek and easy to use. However, the Garmin Fenix 5 does provide nicer graphs with better colors, display, and scale. This watch also features a storm alert and weather trend to help you determine if weather is moving in or out of an area. This is a great feature for those who plan on hiking or backpacking in the mountains.
Like all GPS-watches tested, the compass is tilt compensated, meaning you can get an accurate reading without keeping your hand level. The compass provides a heading in degrees. You must calibrate your compass regularly, and be sure to set the declination manually. It also features a bearing lock and a coordinates check with the GPS function to help you navigate to a location or determine your current location with a paper map. In addition to the GPS, you can actually navigate to point of interest that you may have logged manually or uploaded from the Movescount app. You can also use the FindBack feature that will help you navigate back to your original starting point. This is a great feature to have, especially if you get lost out there. In addition to the compass, the watch also produces a digital map showing your route. You can't overlay this over a map, so it basically just shows a trend of where you've been and the direction you're heading. This is also found in the Suunto Traverse and Garmin Fenix 5.
Like all GPS watches, this Editors' Choice winner features all the basic timekeeping functions: a countdown timer, one alarm, a stopwatch, and interval timer. Like other GPS watches, it also has a time sync option with a GPS timekeeper. If you're looking for a watch option with more alarms, check out the Casio PRW-6000Y that features five alarms.
In addition to the basic functions of an altimeter watch, this Suunto can also act as a fitness tracker. Here is a list of things it can do:
Suunto Smart Sensors
There are also accessories that you can buy to more accurately track fitness. You can get a heart rate monitor that is bluetooth compatible. This helps to monitor your heart rate in real time. In addition, you can see your heart rate in graph form, calories burnt, peak training information, and more when you upload the data to Suunto Movescount. You can also purchase a foot pod, power pod, or bike pod for more accurate data gathering.
With the use of a GPS, there are an array of data-gathering features this watch has to offer. When comparing the accuracy and reliability of the GPS to other watches, we learned that the Ambit3 Peak is typically more reliable, and more accurate than other watches testing.
Here is the short list of the GPS Features found in this Editors' Choice winner:
Of all the GPS watches tested, this has the second-longest battery life. When set to low power settings, with GPS on, it lasts between 18-22 hours. When running a 100-mile race, this watch shut off at about 18 hours. However, when leaving it by the window (with the GPS on), it lasted up to 22 hours. In addition, this watch lasts about a month if you don't use the GPS function before you have to charge it again. If you're in the market for a watch that won't run out, check out the solar-powered Casio PRW-6000Y or the battery-powered Suunto Core Alu instead.
As a tradeoff for fancy features, battery life is typically sacrificed. This is true for this Editors' Choice winner.
Ease of Use
Out of the box, the setup is easy. Similar to the Garmin Fenix 5, the menu provides prompts to set your watch up correctly and right off the bat. However, it was a little more difficult to figure out the fancy features of the watch without consulting the owner's manual or an online guide. The basic functions of setting the time and altimeter are super simple, but learning how to use the GPS and the other features took a little getting used to. In general, we thought the Garmin Fenix 5 was easier to use. However, this Editors' Choice winner was much easier to use than any of the Casio options. It was also easy to use with a pair of gloves as the buttons are spaced far apart and don't stick.
To ensure altimeter accuracy, make sure to calibrate your watch on a daily basis at a known location. Google Earth is a great place to determine actual elevations.
Next to the Suunto Core Alu, this was the second most accurate watch tested. It uses both a sea level pressure reference in addition to the current barometric pressure to calculate altitude. When hiking and running in the San Juan mountains of Colorado, the altimeter was fairly accurate (when calibrated properly). It was typically not more than 300 feet off from the actual altitude. In addition, accuracy increased when using the FusedAlti function that provides an auto-correct with use of the GPS. That said, the Suunto Core Alu still proved to have the most accurate sensor tested, even without the FusedAlti function, proving to be more accurate most of the time.
We loved the display quality of the Ambit3 Peak. With a single push of the button you can toggle between light and dark screens to see the font better in high or low light. The display is a little less reflective than the Suunto Traverse but not as large or crisp as the Garmin Fenix 5.
In addition, you can change the backlight between night and normal, adjust display contrasts, and invert display colors. We also thought this was one of the best watch faces for night display as it was bright and easy to see.
Comfort and Fit
This is one of the most comfortable and best fitting contenders tested. Even though the profile is a little thicker than others, we loved its ergonomic design, breathable wrist strap, and strap material.
If you're in the market for something a little less bulky, check out the Casio PRW-6000Y or the thinner Suunto Core Alu.
Given the features and battery life of this watch, it's safe to say that the Ambit3 Peak can be used for many outdoor excursions. If using the GPS, it's a great option for ultra-marathons, day-excursions, or as a fitness tracker. Without the GPS, it's a perfect compadre for multi-week missions. However, because the battery only lasts for a month (without GPS), you should make sure you have access to a USB charger or some sort if you plan to be longer than that. We also liked that it is pool-compatible for water lovers. Not good for diving, but perfect for snorkeling.
Given that this watch is a top-scorer in all categories (except battery power), the price still seems a little high. However you can find many watches for sale online, even with the retail price at $499. The features coupled with the accuracy and reliability of this watch make it one of the highest value watches tested. If you're in the market for something of similar quality, without a GPS, check out the Suunto Core instead.
If you're in the market for the best altimeter watch, this GPS-based option is the best. It has a fair price, provides great accuracy, and features many other tidbits that any outdoor enthusiast would appreciate. Plus, it's a nice piece of outdoor gear bling to show around town.
Suunto Ambit 3
Suunto Core Alu
Suunto Bike Sensor
— Amber King
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