Suunto Ambit 3 Sport in-depth review

The Suunto endurance sport flagship

In this review I’m not doing a fancy unboxing or what’s in the box, as the Suunto Ambit 3 was introduced quite some time ago, I finally got around to write a review about it. Suunto did send me the watch (which I have to return), but obviously I wasn’t the first to write a review. So, the box… it’s gone. But that doesn’t really matter. As In the box you’ll find a watch, charger cable and optionally a heart rate monitor. So I don’t think you’ll have any surprises there. I’ll expand this post with more information and photos over the next couple of days, but I just wanted to post it to give a complete picture of the multi sport watch options.

One thing that’s different from other manufacturers is that Suunto’s Ambit 3 has a sort of ‘semi’ lock. If you want to enter a menu or cancel what you’re doing, a lot can be achieved with a long press of a button. I normally don’t read manuals, so it took me a bit to figure this out. Once you’re used to it, it’s actually pretty nice. As you won’t accidentally pause your session by grazing your arm past something.

Swim

So the Ambit 3 has a smart HR sensor. The ‘smart’ part is that the sensor will record your heart rate even when connection with the watch is lost. The watch and sensor pair up again and the buffer is send over. Why is this so important for swimming? Well, wireless connections perform really badly in water. And by really badly, I mean they’re almost impossible to be reliable for distances over a couple of inches. So the smart part is, pretty smart.

The Ambit 3 will recognise your stroke and if it doesn’t you can teach it. Yes, you can actually tell the Suunto: “I’m going to do breast stroke now, so pay attention!” And it will track what your doing and improve it’s algorithm (You can do this after you’ve started your session by pressing NEXT, then select Swimming and then pick ‘teach swim style’). It also has a drills option. It won’t know what drill you’re doing, but at least it will record your heart rate and time. So in case you repeat the drill or do the same session a couple of weeks later, you can compare the data.

Stroke, HR and other data

As said above the Suunto Ambit 3 will record your heart rate (with the Suunto HR Monitor) but it can gather a whole lot more information because of the accelerometer. For starters, it will detect your stroke and calculate your SWOLF.

One thing I quickly learned is that you don’t have to pause the watch on your breaks. It will auto detect that you’re not swimming and add a rest in the session. So, my first data looks rather stupid and I felt like it too. Ha.

Once you’re done with your session, you can synchronise it with using your phone and automatically upload it to the Suunto’s Moves website. Here you can get all the information you want. Well, you can alread get some information on the watch itself, and your phone, but personally I prefer a good view of the data.

Simple 50 meter lanes up and down and a rest.

Simple 50 meter lanes up and down and a rest.

So my first session was with a lot of stops. And my second session was with a lot of unrecognised strokes, so I won’t bother with showing the information from that session, I hadn’t figured out the stroke recognition part yet.

Bike

Using the Ambit3 on the bike is pretty straight forward. It supports Bluetooth Smart sensors for cadence, speed and power. There are some limitations on the number of sensors you can use at the same time (five). I don’t see how a normal user would have an issue there.

When you go cycling, there isn’t a quick mount option as you see on the Garmin 920XT. So you’ll have to use a simple bike adaptor or just leave it on your wrist. For triathletes, leaving it on your wrist can save you from the mistake I once made of leaving it on my bike in T2.Although I did run a PR in that race, I wouldn’t recommend it! Anyway, adding laps can as with almost any watch, be done manually or automatically by your input of distance.

Run

I went on a couple of runs with the Ambit and can say that it ticks all the boxes you’d expect from a watch in this price range. From your wrist the Suunto Ambit 3 will calculate your speed (or pace), total distance and running cadence (strokes or steps per minute). You can also get your burnt calories estimate if you are counting calories and PTE (peak training effect). This is a score on your aerobic performance impact. It’s based on your level of fitness and thus harder to score high once you are very fit.

Online

All your sessions are automatically synced to MovesCount. The Suunto site that shows your data. There’s enough to dig through, and then some. Interestingly there are some notable items. For starters, on the map the line you see is not colored by speed, but by the selected data in the graph underneath it. If you look closely on the map on the right, I have plotter my heart rate (click for large). You’ll see a short green line at the start of my session. Now this session was ‘keep up with the girl’ so I quickly go up in heart rate (she’s a way better runner than I am). And below the map, you can see your time in HR zones. Again, with the corresponding colors:Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 21.33.32

The second chart is a bit harder to understand, but it’s the time spent at a heart rate. So you’ll probably always see something of a line trending downwards.

You can set just about all the settings of your watch (I didn’t go through every single one…) online too. This makes it really nice and easy to set all your preferences. For example the display screens, of which you can create up to eight:

Display Screens of Ambit 3 online

(This is also where you can set your auto lap distance).

After you’ve changed everything to your personal preferences, you just have to sync to the watch and it’s all set!

 

Mobile

I was able to pair up the Watch easily with my Android phones but did have a little trouble with synchronising. But I have to say I’ve always had trouble with Bluetooth watches (and I have a very recent phone). So I can’t chalk this up to Suunto. But at least don’t expect a perfect system. That being said, the mobile app is quite nice as it allows you to build workouts and set the display settings on your watch.Suunto Ambit 3 Workout

Workouts

Making a workout is rather simple. You open the app, select your watch, go to workouts and build one. Yes, that easy. You can select Targets, add custom text and at the top you’ll see a visualisation of the workout (see the screenshot on the right). You can even add repeats and within a couple of minutes you’ll have an interval workout ready to go.

After you’ve given it a proper name all you need to do is synchronise to your watch. Then, you just start a workout as you would normally. After you started you log press ‘next’ to go to the options and select workouts. Pick your poison and go!

Navigation

The Ambit 3 has some form of navigation. It doesn’t give any turn-by-turn information, so personally I think the term ‘navigation’ is a bit of a stretch. That being said, you can have the Ambit 3 direct you over a course, either by using waypoints or by just looking at your screen. I did a quick run and added some waypoints where I needed to make a turn and this worked quite nicely.

Compared

Sport, Peak and Run

The Ambit 3 comes in a couple of variaties, for triathletes I recommend using the Sport. If you’re solely a runner, the Run would benefit you more. Have a look at my post about the different options available, you can find all the differences here.

Garmin and Polar

I’ve written a couple of comparisons about the Suunto, so if you’re considering another watch you can see how it compares to the Garmin 920XT and the Polar V800 which I both consider to be in the same target audience.

Price

As with almost all sports watches, you have several options and with the Ambit 3 you have a dozen. In the table Below I’ve listed the latest prices I could find of (hopefully) a local online store that will ship it to you. If you use one of the links below, I get a small fee for your purchase which helps me maintain this blog!

Edition Just the Watch Watch + HRM
Ambit 3 Sport White $247 on Amazon $250 on Amazon
Ambit 3 Sport Black $251 on Evans Cycles $272 on Amazon
Ambit 3 Sport Blue $187 on Amazon $290 on Amazon
Ambit 3 Sport Coral $319 on Amazon $279 on Amazon
Ambit 3 Sport Sapphire $230 on Amazon $320 on Amazon
Ambit 3 Peak Black $393 on Amazon $330 on Wiggle
Ambit 3 Peak Sapphire $412 on Evans Cycles $457 on Evans Cycles
Ambit 3 Run $196 on Amazon $196 on Amazon

1 Comment on Suunto Ambit 3 Sport in-depth review

  1. /I’m looking for a watch that has enough battery and accurate GPS to last me for ultramarathons and trail runs, triathlons. I am in between the Suunto Ambit 3 Peak, the forerunner 920xt and the Polar v800. What do you think is the way to go

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