Suunto Vertical review
The elite smartwatch market is a fun place. It is full of products that at first, second and even third glance are extremely expensive. Still, it’s a popular market so here’s another new model: the Suunto Vertical.
But they exist for people who want:
1: Track absolutely every data of every activity, from heart rate and VO2 Max to load, training intensity and volume, from sleep patterns and calories to recovery periods;
2: Take their watch out into the wild for days on end knowing that the battery is very unlikely to run out and if you or you throw it or yourself on a rock or in a river the watch won’t complain at all;
3: Compete with themselves, with yesterday, with last year and with others;
4: And enjoy all the features of the smartwatch, from controlling music and text messaging to contactless payment and multiple lifestyle apps.
If you’re the kind of runner or walker who’s just looking to pinpoint your location and log your adventures and/or mileage, then slimmer, sleeker, and cheaper fitness trackers do that job just fine. They even offer varying degrees of fitness tracking and general smartwatch functionality.
Leaders in the upper echelon of smartwatches are Garmin, Coros (both based in the US) and Finnish brand Suunto. But Suunto, we found, has too often been behind the times. Many innovations, usually beautiful to look at, but often lagging behind in crucial areas such as GPS location or synchronization speed, battery life or interface simplicity.
The all-new Suunto Vertical is here to change that. I’ve had this sample for two weeks, but I can already see that some serious energy has gone into making it a real contender against these other big beasts.
Features and design
You can see that the Suunto Vertical retains all the aesthetic elegance that makes it distinctly Suunto. Rival brands may have historically gained specs, but Suunto watches are still the most attractive thanks to their thin bezels and subtle buttons.
The Vertical comes in two versions with four colors for each version. One has a stainless steel bezel, the other titanium. The Titanium version also has solar charging.
Battery life claims are getting crazier and crazier, and Suunto makes a big deal out of the Vertical’s battery life. But in the case of the Vertical, both versions are impressive but the numbers for the Solar models are really crazy:
Daily use without heart rate monitoring: 60 days
Daily use with daily heart rate monitoring: 30 days
Training mode (Tour): 500 hours
Training mode (Performance): 60 hours (or 85 hours with solar energy recovery)
The other key point of the Suunto Vertical is its offline maps. Suunto is extremely proud of this watch’s free offline mapping. First impressions dictate that this is a good idea. Offline maps in the desert? Naturally. But we’ll see how it works in practice.
The Vertical Solar’s stats are incredible. For comparison, look at the Coros VERTIX 2, which has 140 hours of continuous multi-satellite tracking, or a month of regular GPS use.
From a simple user perspective, I charged it fully when I got it, managed two weeks of GPS-tracked walks, runs, and bike rides, and it’s still at 73%. It’s impressive.
The high-end solar variant apparently delivers at least 30% more power on sunny days. Quite how you measure or verify it is not clear. But it seems like a good thing, even if you may not see the benefits any moment now.
I was wondering who exactly was asking for a little textless generic topography patch on their watch. To be honest, I had a hard time getting out of it. There are tons of apps installed on your phone that can deliver the same, or even better, offline mapping on a full, bright, and easily interactive phone screen. Even the craziest trail runner probably has a phone with them, right? (Or even a real paper OS map.)
So yeah, if your phones are packed/frozen/damaged/discharged and your paper map has exploded, it’s nice to be able to check the watch’s cartography for an immediate location and likely escape route (especially with no signal) . But other than that, I don’t understand why we should believe that watch-based mapping is the future.
I wonder if it’s because the European and American markets don’t have as nice and detailed mapping as we do thanks to Ordnance Survey and Harvey Maps. Were so spoiled.
The Suunto 9 Peak Pro has always been quite precise in its positioning and tracking, just like its rivals. The new Vertical uses a dual-band GNSS system, and what I think has improved dramatically is location speed.
Previous models, including the 9 Peak Pro, would sometimes sit buffered looking for satellites for up to two minutes while Garmin and Coros shouted LETS GO!. No more. The moment I left the house and walked down the driveway, it got me. Likewise, if I travel halfway across the country and start a trail in my new location, provided I can see the sky, it will find me within a minute.
Previous Suunto watches were confusing to use, especially for anyone who grew up with Apple’s simplicity. Now, however, Suunto has put itself on much more equal ground with its rivals. There are three buttons, all very simple. Top is top, bottom is bottom, middle is selected. The touch interface is good too.
There are 97 preset sport modes to choose from (Roller Skiing? Telemark? Snorkeling? Cheerleading? Frisbee?). And others can be customized, much to the relief of all those Greco-Roman water pogo stickers. They are easy to select too. And if you just want to configure Florence + The Machine to turn off your phone (and turn it up or down), you can do that easily; also managing text messages.
And one final delight: while rivals often end an activity by posting an immediate report that says unproductive or ineffectual (is there anything more soul crushing? Especially when I loved this race, or enjoyed climbing this mountain) Suunto has learned a lesson here and the first message you see when you’re done is How was it? YES! Let ME decide how good I thought that was, before you start scolding me! Clever.
The Suunto app was already great, and that hasn’t changed. Clean, bright, presenting all the key information of an activity in a useful form. The app is a joy to use, especially if you like importing or exporting tracks to and from other platforms, for example OS Maps or Strava. It also has great flyovers of your routes.
Sync speed has improved. It used to be quite slow on previous models, not just at first, but after importing activities, when the update GPS wheel would spin for minutes and make me paranoid about dragging it so that I can review my newly created walks and runs. It seems to be sorted, and the whole synchronization process is now quick and painless.
I really feel the weight of it considering the huge 49mm diameter and 13.6mm depth. The Titanium Solar model I use weighs 74g, which makes it lighter than the Garmin fenix 7 Solar (75g) and the Coros VERTIX 2 (87g). The stainless steel version is thicker at 86g.
Given the large dimensions, I suspect I’d feel that quite acutely when on the go. That said, I really appreciate the large face size and the clarity of the typography and graphics. I’m 47 you know. My eyes aren’t what they used to be, especially when I’m running and it’s daylight in the middle of summer.
The bracelet is OK too. Smartwatch straps tend to be a lot, but this one is quite breathable, light and not too sticky, even after 10 hot miles along the Norfolk coast.
There’s absolutely no doubt about the build quality, especially on the grade 5 titanium version. And there’s no telling how much this watch costs either.
Both versions come with sapphire crystal, which can bump, scratch or crack against dense gabbro and always looks ready for Oscar night. Everything is military-grade tested (MIL-STD-810H, it’s listed here) and waterproof to 100m.
This is something that strongly sets Suunto apart from its rivals. The Vertical is manufactured in Suunto’s factory in Finland, which uses 100% renewable energy.
Suunto also calculates the lifetime carbon footprint of each product and offsets this footprint through the Tree Nation reforestation project.
Suunto also has a very good international service network. In 2021, 72% of products reported by its service centers were repaired, regardless of age or warranty status.
He acknowledges that there is a lot of work to be done in some areas such as conflict minerals, but says he is working to substitute their use where possible.
This is a hugely impressive smartwatch that truly rivals the Garmin fenix 7 and Coros VERTIX 2 range in all areas of the playing field, from amazing battery life to easy interface. And it still looks as good as the Suunto 9 Peak Pro, whose circular simplicity and clear displays have always looked better than the thick, prosaic lines of its rivals.
I don’t think the Suunto Vertical completely changes the smartwatch game per se, even with its incredible battery life. But it definitely puts Suunto on a par with rivals’ offerings.
1. Suunto Vertical Titanium Solar
- Looks better than its rivals
- Very impressive battery life
- Quick GPS location
- Solar and standard versions
- Excellent app
- We are not sold on offline maps
- Main screen isn’t as big or clear as rivals
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