The Ambit3 Peak is a great all-around altimeter watch. Its accuracy, combined with its GPS capability makes it our top competitor and Editors' Choice winner. Though it lacks the battery life of some other models, this watch is relatively easy to use and offers useful features with a simple, clear display.
The Ambit3 Peak is our Editors' Choice winner due to its great design, accuracy, and ease-of-use.
This watch is accurate. 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 kept us in the know (when appropriately calibrated).
It was typically not more than 300 feet off from the actual altitude. When properly calibrated and in the correct mode, it also had one of the narrowest ranges of altitude readings when taken at the same elevation at different times. Like other Suunto models, the accuracy increases when you turn on the FusedAlti function. This nifty feature provides an auto-correct to the altimeter with use of the GPS. It's the best of both worlds: the accurate readings of a GPS with the security of a traditional barometer-based altimeter in case you are under heavy tree cover or otherwise can't get a good signal.
Checking the altimeter with the actual altitude. San Antonio pass in the Cordillera Huayhuash has a recorded altitude of 16,371 feet.
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.
The primary drawback is that there is still some room for human error. Since you can toggle between altimeter and barometer profiles, you have to be sure you are using the correct one at any given time. Essentially, if you are in altimeter mode, the watch assumes you are climbing or descending. If a storm rolls in, the device will misattribute the pressure change to gain/loss in elevation. Similarly, if you are in barometer mode and climbing or descending, the pressure reading will change while your altitude reading remains steady.
Of all the GPS watches that we tested, this one has the second longest battery life. When set to low power mode with the 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 22. Also, this watch will run for about a month between charges without the GPS function. If you're in the market for a watch that won't run out, check out the solar-powered Casio PRW-6000Y, Casio PAG240B-2, or the battery-powered Suunto Core Alu instead.
A look at the buttons and interface of the Ambit3 Peak. The buttons are large enough and spaced far enough to effectively be used with gloves. Additionally, we thought the interface was super easy to use and quite easy to navigate.
Ease of Use and Interface
Out of the box, the setup is easy. The menu provides prompts to set up your watch correctly right off the bat. However, it was a little more challenging to figure out the deeper features without consulting the owner's manual or an online guide. The primary 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 think the Garmin Fenix 5x Plus Sapphire and Suunto 9 Baro are 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.
The Ambit3 Peak provides a variety of features well-suited for simple navigation and altimeter/barometer readings during a day hike, as well as fitness-tracking patterns over a longer period of time. Even though it doesn't have nearly as many features as the Suunto 9 Baro or the Garmin Fenix 5x Plus Sapphire, it still provides a useful selection for most outdoor enthusiasts.
The Suunto watches work in conjunction with the Suunto Movescount App. It can be used to track activities and routes with the built-in GPS. You can also use this app to upload tracks and routes that you want to follow.
If you want to track your data on your phone, here are a few apps that work well with this watch and can be downloaded for free:
*Suunto (generic health and fitness app)
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 automatically switches to the altitude profile. If you're on the flats, it turns to a barometric reading. You can't have both profiles up at the same time though.
A look at the altitude profile generated. You can also see temperature, the current altitude and time (not shown here) if you wish.
In addition to a profile that displays information in 15-minute increments, this model also shows graphs of the past 24 hours. These can be used to view basic trends in both altitude and barometric data and are easy to read. This watch also features a storm alert to help you determine if poor weather is moving in or out of your area. This is a great feature for those who plan on hiking or backpacking in the mountains.
A look at the data produced with the Ambit3 Peak in the logbook. Surprisingly, there is no summary altitude map like we saw with the Suunto Traverse.
Like many of the other GPS-enabled watches that we tested, the compass in the Ambit3 Peak is tilt compensated, meaning it reads accurately whether or not your arm is perfectly 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 coordinate 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 navigate to a point of interest that you 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 need help retracing your steps. In addition to the compass, the watch also produces a digital map showing your route. It doesn't overlay onto a map though, so it shows a trend of where you've been and the direction you're heading.
A look at its sweet digital compass. The display is clear and easy to see, while the symbol (seen in the bottom right) points North.
Like all GPS watches, this Editors' Choice winner features all of 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 any of the models in the Casio line, including the PRW-6000Y and PAG240B-2, which feature five alarms.
This watch is also a fitness tracker. It can:
- Monitor exercise and daily activity, calories burned, recovery time, weekly logs
- Track-specific sport performance, including different information for different sports
- Can customize sports mode displays
- Pool swimming: teach it to recognize your swimming style
- Water resistance to 100 meters (not the best for diving, but great for snorkeling)
Suunto Smart Sensors
There are also accessories you can buy to really up your fitness tracking. You can get a Bluetooth-enabled heart rate monitor that is Bluetooth compatible, which monitors 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 inclusion of GPS, there is an array of data-gathering that this watch is capable of. 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.
Here is the short list of the GPS features found in this Editors' Choice winner:
- Recording tracks and laps
- FusedSpeed: Wrist acceleration + GPS signal to determine running speed
- Interval workouts: guided interval workout and workout planner in Movescount app
- Logbook: logs of all your recorded activities
- View track: shows your direction, the next waypoint, closest POI, scale, etc.
- SmartNotification: Receive notifications (unable to scroll to see longer messages)
A comparison of the nightlights of each watch. From top left: Casio PRW-6000Y, Suunto Traverse, Garmin Fenix 3. From bottom left to right: Casio SGW300HB, Suunto Core Alu, Suunto Ambit3 Ambit.
We really like the display quality of the Ambit3 Peak. Its black-and-white fonts are smooth and easy-to-read. It is a little less reflective than the Suunto Traverse but not as large or crisp as the Garmin Fenix 5x Plus Sapphire, which has a full-color screen.
We also appreciate the ability to toggle the backlight between night and normal, adjust display contrasts, and invert the display between black font on a white background or vice versa. Its backlight is bright, so we also think this is one of the best watch faces in the dark.
A look at all the displays tested. From top left to right: Casio SRW300HB, Casio PRW-6000Y, Garmin Fenix 3. From bottom left to right: Suunto Core Alu, Suunto Ambit3 Peak, Suunto Traverse
Comfort and Fit
This is watch is much more rigid than other models that we tested. The profile is also a little thicker. We do like the breathable wrist strap, and it is a little less clunky than some higher-end watches, like the Garmin Fenix 5x Plus Sapphire, but it's also a little more challenging to find that perfect fit, especially for skinnier wrists.
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, the Ambit3 Peak can be used for a variety of outdoor excursions. It's a great option for ultra-marathons, day-long outings, or as a longterm fitness tracker. If the GPS doesn't figure heavily into your plans, this model is a perfect companion for multi-week missions. However, because the battery lasts for about a month, you should make sure you have access to a USB charger if you plan to be out on treks longer than that. Like many of the watches that we tested, because it is fully waterproof, it is great for swimming or snorkeling.
We took the Ambit3 Peak to the high mountain range of the Peruvian Andes. We ran, hiked, and backpacked over 150 miles with over 19,000 feet of vertical gain. Pictured here is Jared running out a downhill after summiting a 16,000 ft pass.
There is a lot to like about the Ambit3 Peak, but we still feel the price is 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 values of watches that we tested. If you're in the market for something of similar quality without a GPS, check out the Suunto Core instead.
This GPS-enabled option is a top choice for those looking for an altimeter watch with a little extra. It provides great accuracy and features many other tidbits that many outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate.
Take your Ambit3 Peak running in the mountains. Or if you like to hike, bike, climb or swim, that's a great use for it too.