Suunto’s range is now fairly well covered with, starting from the top of the pyramid, the Suunto 9, the 7 (a curiosity Wear OS by Google), 5. Talking prices, the top of the range is 549 euros (Suunto 9 Baro) and 229 euros for the Suunto 3 Fitness, which aligns with market prices. Even if the initial marketing positions are not equal between a Garmin Swim 2 and the Suunto 3, it is clear that for practically the same price, the latter offers greater versatility by being useful in many different sports activities.
With the Suunto 3 Fitness, all the usual Suunto ergonomics and handling are the same, so no surprises for those who are familiar with these interfaces. For newcomers, it requires a (little bit) of adaptation.
Let’s begin with our overall impressions after our many months of testing. Firstly the Suunto 3 Fitness is a watch that you don’t realize you are wearing. Space-saving (reduced diameter compared to an S9), it weighs 36 grams in comparison with 66 for the Suunto 5. So especially when you are running or swimming you can forget about this model 3. Thanks to its intermediate size, it is suitable for all wrists, big or small. The watch strap is really comfortable, very flexible and soft to the touch although it does looks a bit “cheap”. It does not cause any pressure points on the wrist like the Garmin Swim 2 does.
The Suunto 3 Fitness doesn’t have a touch screen (is it really essential?), So its designers have kitted it out with five buttons. Two on the left, three on the right, one which is less “sensitive” that gives access to the “Exercise”, “Journal”, “Stopwatch” and “Settings” menus. This navigation with several buttons can seem complex, but it isn’t, after a few excursions you get used to it and you quickly have good reflexes to navigate without too many errors.
NO INTEGRATED GPS
Before leaving the house, here is some essential information to know about the Suunto 3 Fitness: it does not have a GPS chip. The tracking is done via your smartphone which suddenly becomes an obligatory companion for any outdoor excursion, which means other important necessities: a fully charged battery, and the extra weight and bulk of your phone (that said nowadays who doesn’t leave home without their phone?). The Suunto 5 has 30-hour autonomy is therefore a little misleading because you must add the watch + the smartphone. The smartphone’s GPS is used.
VERY PERFORMANT FOR SWIMMING!
We’ve barely highlighted on the top quality of the Suunto Fitness 3 (like the Suunto 5). After swimming sessions where we compared the Suunto 3 to the Suunto 9 Baro, we had more accurate readings with the S3 than with the top-of-the-range 9! We persisted, redid the tests, and almost always we had the same good results that favored the little Suunto 3 Fitness! Is its motion sensor better or is the software more elaborate? To solve the mystery, we asked Suunto, who confirmed that there were differences in programming that gave these astonishing results: the S3 and S5 are more performant when it comes to detecting movements: swimming, running without a GPS.
Another rather surprising noteworthy aspect of the Suunto 3 Fitness is its relative accuracy in measuring heartrate. We use the word “relative” on purpose, because wrist measurement via LEDs is a technology that is still a long way off replacing capture via a cardio belt. But Suunto 3 Fitness gives an acceptable trend in this area. For those highly specific trainers, it is absolutely necessary to couple the watch with a FC belt in order to obtain precise heartrate readings.
AUTONOMY… WITH THE SMARTPHONE
The battery is recharged using the familiar Suunto Ambit type recharger. The watch once recharged has a largely sufficient autonomy to hold three to four days doing one sports session per day, a figure of course that is variable depending on the length of your sessions, the notifications received, etc. By the way, one regret with this “Fitness” targeted watch: there’s no way of managing music. There is, in fact, no player allowing you to read an Mp4 or a smartphone. Another point to improve would be the screen’s brightness, which would benefit from being brighter. However, the screen size was considered sufficient for this type of watch (the Suunto 5 is barely better).
What is a Suunto Fitness 3 worth for an athlete who wants to train? First of all, be careful not to rub it up against rough surfaces too much, the Polyamide glass gets scratched and it is annoying to damage such a beautiful watch! Then, you find the Suunto range of training programs with interval management (except pyramid), pairing with different sensors (of strength, HR, etc.), automatic lap calculation, etc.
The watch provides a personalized training program that encourages exercise and can be a source of motivation for some. It is not a substitute for precision and listening to a real coach who will be able to manage injuries and achieve specific goals in the best possible way.
In the running mode, there is no “breadcrumb” function, which is very useful for retracing your steps in the forest, for example. No battery mode management either, which is understandable, because top sports people should get away with 30 hours battery life (with smartphone).
We liked the stress level indicator and, as always with Suunto, the recovery time, which is the accumulation at the end of each session: this gives a precious indication of your fatigue state.
By pressing the central button for several seconds, you access the shortcuts and in particular the stopwatch.
Synchronization with the Suunto App was carried out without any problems for months before blocking completely. Unable to load our exercises in order to view them on our smartphone. We had to uninstall the App to reinstall it.
Our last remark, for a watch that integrates sleep monitoring (quite a nice function), you rapidly notice the cardio diodes flashing in the night on your bedside table! Some, those who fall asleep quickly, it’s not a problem.
For others, yes! So, just go to “Settings”, then “Activity” and un-click “Daily HR”. It’s strange that there is no possibility of programming the HR only during the day. Something to think about for the next updates?
The Suunto 3 Fitness is a mid-priced watch that is not necessarily intended for outdoor addicts who need an on-board GPS (for an additional 100 euros, this is included in the Suunto 5). For athletes jogging and just wanting to train or keep fit without pushing the limits too much, the S3 is a good compromise between technicality, lightness and usability.
We used this equipment over a long period of time
These are our thoughts after intensive use:
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