If you’re Jeff Bezos, you have the cash to buy yourself eleventy billion watches that serve a myriad of purposes in your life. But since most of us aren’t Bezos and are lucky to snag one fancy GPS watch for the rest of our days, let’s talk about the Suunto 7, the newest addition to the Finnish brand’s lineup.
Depending on where you fall on the spectrum of hardcore fitness freaks, you may or may not have heard of Suunto since the brand has mega loyalty with extreme endurance folks but less recognition with everyday gym-goers. Announced in January at CES, the Suunto 7 is their first watch with Wear OS, Google’s answer to Apple’s watchOS. Typically, Wear OS is known for minimal battery life which is a stark contrast to Suunto’s history of watches that can go for days—and then more.
Knowing this, I was curious to check out the new watch. Over the span of a month, I hiked, ran, biked, skied, weight lifted, and went about my business in an effort to give this bad boy a trial run. Here are my thoughts.
At first glance, the Suunto 7 is slick. The customizable watch faces caught my eye immediately. The default option is a look at the heat maps of workout data in your surrounding area which is both encouraging and intimidating, depending on your mood and where you live.
But beyond that, the watch face isn’t always illuminated, so the screen is plain black when not in use. But, the second you lift your wrist to look at, the unique heat map image magically appears; pretty cool. Plus, added bonus: the beautiful rose gold rim (other colors available) looks good regardless of whether I’m on the trail or at dinner with my family. Sure, it’s chunky and the face is fairly large, but let’s be real, what good sports watch isn’t?
The Suunto 7 comes with removable rubber watch straps (standard for GPS watches) with plenty of holes to adjust fit. Personally, I have tiny wrists and the watch just fits me; any smaller, it would likely be too big. The rubber straps prevent slippage on the trail but occasion pinched in an awkward manner. This certainly isn’t a deal breaker, but I found myself wondering about poor saps with hairy arms.
Coming from an Apple background, this was my first foray into Wear OS and I’ll admit that I found it confusing at first, but that was likely user error. Once I settled, I found the touchscreen system to be intuitive and basic; nothing fancy or overcomplicated there. The screen also boasts four buttons—three on the right side and one menu/back button on the left—but honestly, Suunto could do without. For me, it was touchscreen all the way because it was logical: swipe up for notifications, swipe down for for the control panel. Easy peasy.
But, major bummer: thanks to Apple’s controls and the fact that I have an iPhone, I can’t respond to messages from the Suunto 7. This is no fault of the watch; rather, it’s Apple’s prerogative since they apparently only allow the ability to respond to messages to Apple users. Lame.
If you’re considering this snazzy new sports watch, it’s likely because you’re an avid runner or biker and want a watch that handles all-things fitness. For me, this is where the Suunto 7 shines. According to the brand, the watch boasts more than 70 sports modes so there should be something for everyone. I can’t personally say I tested all of them, but I did try about a dozen ranging from outdoor trail running and hiking to downhill skiing and indoor weight lifting.
The GPS latches on quickly and easily—no standing around waving your arm in the air!—and the wrist heart rate monitor picks up your beats without hesitation. One qualm: I don’t suspect it’s completely accurate. I’ve worn heart rate monitors for years so I have a general awareness of my heart rate at all times, and the numbers seemed noticeably lower than usual on this watch. Usually, wrist GPS sensors tend to be less accurate than chest straps, but the discrepancy was still apparent. For me, it’s no big deal but I know some die-hard endurance athletes may find that confusing.
I really enjoyed how you can use the exercise maps to track a run while you’re on it, a feature that especially came in handy during one trail run when I took a wrong turn and couldn’t figure out where I was. Plus, Suunto allows users to download local maps while charging the device for use offline. This won’t apply to a lot of folks but if you’re someone like me who goes venturing into the wilderness, it’s a nice feature to have in your back pocket.
At $499, it’s certainly not the cheapest sports watch out there, but it’s in line with other watches like the Apple Series 5 ($499 with cellular data). It offers comparable lifestyle options as Apple with more hardcore endurance features found in brands like Garmin. If you’re looking for one watch to bridge those gaps, it may be worth checking out. I know I’ll be using mine for the foreseeable future!