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Hands-on Gear Review
Suunto Traverse Review
Cons: Very poor battery life, poor wrist band
Bottom line: The Suunto Traverse is a great option if you’re looking for GPS-enabled functionality and few features. That said, the battery life is terrible.
The Suunto Traverse is a GPS-enabled altimeter watch that provides great climb and descent metrics, but doesn't truly stand out for one reason or another. It features an altimeter and barometric profile, in addition to several fitness training features. Although these features and the watch are great on their own, there are better value options out there. The Suunto Ambit3 Peak is our Editors' Choice, and contains all the same (and more) features as the Traverse (except a built-in flashlight). It has better battery life and accuracy with a better quality construct. In addition, it is more comfortable and versatile. That said, this contender is a great watch for short adventures as the battery only last eight hours with GPS, and only two weeks without GPS. Even though we liked this watch on its own as an altimeter contender, we'd recommend checking out the Suunto Ambit3 Peak instead. For an additional $50, you get a much better watch with much higher value.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Altimeter Watches Review
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Traverse is a GPS-enable altimeter watch that can also track routes, log data, and monitor fitness. Take it with you on short adventures.
This contender features many great altitude and barometric features. In addition to the traditional features of an altimeter watch (altimeter, barometer, compass, timekeeper, temperature), it also features many GPS-enabled options. You can track fitness patterns, navigate to selected points, create waypoints and points of interest, and much more. We liked the plethora of features with the Traverse. However, the Suunto Ambit3 Peak features all of these options and more. So if you're in the market for a watch that has fewer features, this may be the option for you. If features are what you're looking for, you should check out the Garmin Fenix 5, our Top Pick for Features.
Altimeter & Barometer
In order to ensure accurate altimeter readers, make sure to calibrate your watch as often as possible, especially in storms or changing weather.
Similar to the other Suunto watches in this review, the altimeter and barometer are tied together. There are three alti-baro profiles you can choose from that include automatic, altimeter, and barometer. If the automatic profile is selected, it can flip between the barometer and altimeter profile based on your motion. If you're moving uphill or down, it will go to altimeter. If you aren't moving, it will switch to the barometric pressure graph. The FusedAlti is a handy dandy feature that calibrates using both sea pressure and GPS function. In addition, the barometric graph plots points to show either a rise or fall in barometric pressure. This can help determine weather patterns and show whether or not a storm is moving in and out of the area.
The profiles generated for the altimeter and barometer are the same as the Suunto Ambit3 Peak. Both of these graphs are much better than the Suunto Core Alu and the Casio PRW-6000Y. However, they don't compare to the Garmin Fenix 5, which integrates color and a moving data point on the graph. In addition, this watch comes with a storm alert that will go off when there is a drop of 2 hPa (0.59 inHg) over three hours. In our experience the alarm does work, but it's not always accurate at predicting whether or not there is, in fact, a storm on the way.
Another feature we really liked was the data log and the trip summary. It shows total ascent and descent, and also shows the speed at which you are ascending or descending if the GPS is turned on. When looking back at past logged events, it doesn't contain nearly the amount of data that you'd find with the Suunto Ambit3 Peak. However, we did like that it showed a summary profile of the altitude gain and loss. This is actually a feature that the Suunto Ambit3 Peak did not have.
The digital compass is tilt-compensated and provides you with a cardinal direction and reference to true north. Like other watches tested, you can manually calibrate the declination, and it also features a nifty bearing lock. All of the features are similar to other GPS watches and the Suunto Core.
Like all altimeter watches, the Traverse also features classic timekeeping functions. It has a countdown timer, stopwatch, one daily alarm, GPS time, and daylight savings time options. If you're in the market for a watch that has more alarms, check out the Casio options.
Navigation and GPS
Of all the GPS watches tested, this has the fewest number of features. Though this watch is engineered to be a fitness tracker, it has some other handy navigational features as well — not as many as either the Suunto Ambit3 Peak or the Garmin Fenix 5, but enough to keep you up to date on fitness tracking. In addition, like other GPS watches, it features both GPS and GLONASS networks for a better signal and accuracy.
Check out this list of navigational features found on the Traverse:
In addition, this watch has many activity monitoring functions such as daily steps, calories burned (that is reset at midnight), 30-day step history (and yearly trends), and specific activity profiles (i.e. hiking, running, swimming, biking, etc.).
Use Suunto Movescount to optimize functionality with this watch. This app will upload all data and actually create videos of your adventures.
Other Cool Features
In addition to these fitness features, this watch also has Smart Notifications. Unfortunately, this watch doesn't have any additional accessories like a heart rate monitor or foot pod that is specific to its design like the Suunto Ambit3 Peak and the Garmin Fenix 5.
To be blunt, the battery life in the Traverse really sucks compared to the rest of the GPS watches tested. Using regular settings (a GPS point every 60 sec) we found that the battery life only lasts about eight hours. In comparison, the Suunto Ambit3 Peak and the Garmin Fenix 5 lasts almost twice as long. Additionally, even when not using the GPS, the watch is said to last just two weeks. Unfortunately this limits to the use of this watch drastically and as a result, it earned one of our lowest scores for battery life. The GPS watch that did the best in this metric was the Garmin Fenix 5, while the best non-GPS watch was the solar-powered Casio PRW-6000Y. It only needs to spend six minutes in the sun to stay charged daily.
Ease of Use
Of all the watches tested, this was rated as the second easiest to figure out. The menu and interface is the same as the Suunto Ambit3 Peak, but because it has fewer features. We still thought the Garmin Fenix provided a more logical and user-friendly interface that required less button pushing.
In addition, we found that the buttons weren't as easy to press as on the other GPS watches tested because they are flat on the ends instead of convex like the Suunto Ambit3 Peak and the Suunto Core Alu. That said, it was still easy to use the buttons with a pair of gloves.
Compared to the other GPS watches tested, this was the second best for altimeter accuracy. Overall, it was the third, with the Suunto Ambit3 Peak second, and the Suunto Core Alu being first. We liked the FusedAlti function that provided relatively accurate readings. In our altimeter accuracy tests (where we hiked over 10,000 vertical feet), we learned that accuracy varied day to day. The Core provided the most reliable readings and was consistently more precise. The Ambit3 Peak also provided a similar level but was off by a few hundred feet more often than not. The Traverse also was fairly accurate, being off only by a 50 to 500 feet with regular calibrations. That said, we still recommend this watch as the altimeter is quite accurate and will help you get where you're going. Just make sure to calibrate it regularly for the best accuracy.
The large mineral glass display is easy to see and features large fonts in the interface. The color display can be inverted and the contrast can be adjusted, which is great for viewing during both day and night. The backlight has three features for night-time use: normal, night, and toggle. In addition, this was the only watch to feature a flashlight mode that kept the display on at its maximum brightness until you turned it off. We liked this when we needed to get something out of our pack and the headlamp wasn't at hand. Overall, we're impressed with the display quality. It is very similar to the Suunto Ambit3 Peak.
This is the only watch to feature a 'flashlight' mode.
Comfort and Fit
Even though this watch features a slim watch face and silicon watch band design that fits nicely around the wrist and over and under clothing, we did not like wearing it when it was hot outside. Unlike all the other bands tested, this one only features watch holes on one side of the band.
While hiking in the heat with the watch against our skin, we learned that the lack of holes made our wrist sweaty and itchy. In addition, the band does not have the ergonomic insert like the Suunto Ambit3 Peak or the Suunto Core Alu. Instead if feels floppy. However, the weight is light and aside from wearing it when it's hot outside, it's still nicer on the skin than the Casio SGW300HB.
Given the short battery life of the watch, it's best used for daily or short adventures. Take it with you on day hikes or week-long backpacking trips. Avoid it for anything longer than two weeks if you don't have access to a USB charger. Additionally, it's a great fitness training tool with a plethora of extra features.
At a price of $349, this is just $50 cheaper than the retail value of the Suunto Ambit3 Peak. In general, this is a decent value, especially since you can find it on sale at a variety of dealers. However, we'd recommend that you spend the extra $50 to get the Suunto Ambit3 Peak. It has all the same features of the Traverse (except the flashlight), with a much longer battery life, and a much higher value. If you're in the market for something even less expensive, check out the Suunto Core ($350 without the aluminum finish) or the Casio SGW300HB for just $65.
The Suunto Traverse is a GPS fitness trainer with a built-in altimeter and barometer. It has all the basic features of an altimeter watch, but the battery life is quite poor. If you're looking for a GPS watch, we'd recommend looking instead at the Suunto Ambit3 Peak that has all the same features, better battery life, and comfort, for just $50 more.
— Amber King
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