I really like the multifunctionality of this watch. Not only is it a navigational instrument but it also tracks performance for many sports. It is pre-programmed to tell the ambient temperature, altitude, barometric pressure and calorific expenditure /activity recovery times automatically. For heart rate, an extra heart rate strap is necessary and it can be pared with many brands of heart rate monitor or the Suunto version which can be purchased as a combo or an extra. There is an alarm, a light for night time display, reversible displays for different ambient light. I have family in different time zones and I so I use the dual time display lot. I survived perfectly well without knowing these things but I consult it often in a day and I think it is neat that a small wearable device tells me all this.
Works out of cell phone reach
Perhaps the most important aspect of a good quality GPS watch is that it tells me this even when I am not in cell phone reach, which is the major plus over using a cell phone plus independent cell phone compatible apps like Strava to get similar information (which the Ambit can link to anyway). It is also waterproof and extremely tough which my cell phone is not...
I found the watch functions quite instinctive once I had the general hang of the layout of the screens. Far easier than one leading brand of handheld GPS navigation device I used. Having the watch on your arm also means that you can get up to speed with all the functions quickly as you can learn to use it on the go at long traffic lights or in supermarket queues!
I like the idea that the watch is made by a company that has for years been a leading brand in quality diving watches and compasses and the fact that it is manufactured again in Finland, close to company HQ. This is not the case for other brands of similar products. I find the claim that it has accurate GPS credible and I have not found otherwise myself. The watch is larger than a normal wristwatch but it is very light at 89 grams. I wear it all the time and am not bothered by it at all. It’s great you can wear it in the shower or swimming without a second thought. If you want a super tough screen which won’t scratch you can buy the Ambit3 Peak sapphire watch which has a sapphire crystal glass face, but this is mostly an aesthetic consideration as the regular screen is not going to crack after a tumble from your bike (confirmed by a bruised friend) or contact with rock.
Displaying activity data on the PC
The free Suunto Movescount software for use on the PC or Mac with the watch is very easy to use with clear displays. After an actiivity I upload my activity data to Movescount from the watch via a USB cable. I can see on my PC screen my route displayed on a Google map indicated by a track line. Alternatively I can use Bluetooth to connect my watch and sync my data to the Movescount App on my phone (Iphone or Android). According to different colours of the route line on the map I can how fast I was going (and where I was running out of puff). I can also choose to show other data on the line such as my heartrate, altitude etc. A lot of activity data is also displayed on interactive charts. Incredibly I can leave my watch at home and record my heart rate activity using the new Suunto Smart Sensor heart rate strap whilst running or swimming and the strap will store the information and upload it to the watch or Movescount App via Bluetooth on my return. I have not used the heart rate strap in this way yet but it could be really good for swimmers and triathletes.
Planning a route for navigation
This is really easy using Movescount. Just click the route onto a using a mouse pointer. There are 2 types of maps available – a regular Google maps or more detailed Mapbox maps. You can set and name waypoints by pointing and clicking with the mouse on a map.
Movescount is also used for personalising displays on the watch and sharing activities with the sports community. It is also possible to download lots of other apps tailored for the watch by Suunto and other app creators such as Sports Tracker and Strava through Movescount. Movescount has 10 pre-loaded sports tracking programmes for the watch but there are many many more you can choose from.
The Movescount App
Though the Movescount App for mobile devices data from your performed activity is synced to your phone. The app also allows you to create a short movie of your activity, representing you as a moving line superimposed on a 3D map and adds the date and location of your move and some facts such as your speed as captions. You can share the movie with others. You can also pair your phone with your watch and receive notice of phone messages on your watch as you move. You can personalise your watch through the App too.
Pros and cons
What would l like the watch to do that it doesn’t do? I still love the idea of my route being superimposed onto a topographic map display screen as I move as happens with a handheld gps navigation device with a larger display screen. And if you want a device that you will use mostly for navigation than that is the way I would go. With the Ambit3 Peak it is possible to have your GPS position synced from your watch to your phone screen map but obviously this won’t work when you are out of phone reception. Suunto have also just released their navigation wristwatch called the Traverse. This has the advantage over the Ambit3 Peak that it shows your current track as a breadcrumb line on the navigation map display as you go. It is also smaller than the Ambit3 Peak and less expensive. However it does not have the multi -sport recording functionality, training and recovery assistance provided by the Ambit3. As far as software is concerned I would like to be able to plan a hiking or running route using the Movescount app on my phone and Ipad an upload it to the watch, but this function can only be performed using Movescount on a PC or laptop.
Upgrade from Ambit 2 to Ambit 3?
So what is new on the Suunto Ambit3 Peak compared to the Suunto Ambit2? Is it worth upgrading? Well, for a hiker it depends mostly on whether you want to see your activity data on your phone or tablet or if you want to share your activity immediately with friends from a location away from your PC or laptop – the new bluetooth capability. Other differences for hikers are a longer battery life with GPS activated of up to 200 hours with a GPS fix of 1 minute intervals, 30 hours with the GPS activating every 5 seconds, 20 hours on a constant 1 second fix and 30 days in time mode without GPS. The Ambit2 battery does 50 hours for 1 minute fixes, 24 hours for 5 second fixes and 16 hours for 1 second fixes and the same 30 days in time mode. Both re-charge their lithium- ion batteries quickly via a USB. If you are a runner the Ambit3 Peak has a handy new pre-set exercise mode called “Run A Route” which enables you to run and navigate an own pre-synced route with one click of a button rather than a few buttons- on the Ambit2 you start running and then cross to the navigation function to access the pre-planned route so it takes a few more clicks to get both going at once.
In the seventies children could be successfully bribed with ice-cream to do all sorts of things. Jane was one of them and was luckily equipped with a rather fabulous headscarf, Start-Rite sandals and socks for her Dolomite hikes.