Suunto 3 Fitness In-Depth Review


By and large, Suunto has been a company that’s been focused on endurance users. Be it people climbing to the top of a mountain, racing a triathlon, or doing something else that justifies eating large quantities of donuts without feeling guilty about it.  That’s been the branding and marketing they’ve pushed since inception, even within the diving realm they also occupy.

But the Suunto 3 Fitness starts to shift that message just a tiny bit.  Like gradually changing the compass direction of a large ship, it’s not a massive shift, but it’s still noticeable.  In a recent meeting with them, they noted that they “are not the brand for couch potatoes”, and that’s certainly clear within the Suunto 3 Fitness as well.

Except that the Suunto 3 Fitness removes many of the features that Suunto users have become accustomed to – while adding others not seen elsewhere in the Suunto platform. It shifts GPS from being inside the unit to depending on your phone, and it removes advanced customization of sport modes and profiles.  It also detaches from the feature-rich Suunto Movescount site.  Concurrently though, the company has added in more biometric related data than any of their higher end watches that cost 3-4x the price of the Suunto 3 Fitness.  Not to mention that it’s the most lightweight watch Suunto has made for the segment, or that it contains the most advanced optical HR sensor they’ve used yet.

The question is – is it the right product for you?  And is it the right product for Suunto?  Well, I’ve spent 7 weeks wearing the watch to try and decide.  And the results might surprise you…at least depending on who you are.  The answer is tricky.

Before we dig into things though – note that Suunto sent over a media loaner of the watch, which I’ll send back shortly. Like with all my reviews, once I’ve completed my test time with the product I send it back to the company that loaned it.  After which I head out and get my own unit through normal retail channels.  If you found the review useful, hit up the links at the bottom to support the site.

With that – let’s begin!


First up we’ve got the box contents. While there are a couple of different Suunto 3 Fitness color variants, they all contain the same box parts. And thus, the box:


For those familiar with Suunto boxes, nothing much has changed in this department in the last half a decade or so. Here’s what it looks like once opened:


Then once we’ve got all the parts taken out and placed atop the table:


The unit uses the same charger as the Suunto Spartan Trainer as well as the older Ambit series. It doesn’t use the newer magnetic charger found on the Spartan series watches. No worries, it all works mostly the same to me.  The charger is used for both charging as well as firmware updates to a computer (your phone is the primary sync option).


Then there’s the small pile of paper in 37 languages. Oh, and a sticker. I’d suggest your forehead as a good place for it.


Next, we’ve got the watch itself.  On the bottom, you’ll find the Valencell optical HR sensor package, which is the latest generation from the company (version 1.2).  Suunto has used Valencell sensors on past watches as well, albeit either custom implementations or older variants.  The Spartan Trainer is however also on 1.2.


Meanwhile, on the right side of the watch there are three buttons, whereas on the left side of the watch there are two buttons:


And that’s pretty much all there is in the box.  For a quick look at sizing, I’ve slid it up against the Fitbit Versa as well as the Apple Watch Series 1, and slightly higher-end, the Garmin Vivoactive 3 (it’s often on sale for $ 249, so basically only about $ 30-$ 50 more depending on model).

In any case, it is what it is. With that, let’s take a quick look at size as compared to the Fitbit Versa and the Apple Watch (this is a 42mm variant, but you can also get the smaller 38mm variant).


And here ya go from a thickness standpoint:


The Fitbit Versa is the thinnest of the bunch, just barely edging out the Apple Watch.  With that, let’s go onto using it.

Ok, with all the unveiling and weighing in covered, it’s on to using the darn thing.

The Basics:


I’m going to start with the non-sports pieces first, since those give you the general gist of the watch.  As such, there’s no more natural place to start than the watch face itself.  These can be changed within the settings to a variety of stock faces.  You can’t download 3rd party ones or create your own, but there’s a number to choose from.  You’ll notice on some of the watch faces there’s details like sunrise/sunset and moon phase.  Others have battery and date.

DSC_4674 DSC_4703

Next, you’ll use the buttons on the side to navigate through the menus.  The Suunto 3 Fitness doesn’t have a touchscreen, which I think works out for the best.  The buttons are quick and responsive, and simple to use.  You can scroll up through the main feature sections, which are: Exercise, Logbook, Timer, and Settings.


However, if you scroll down you get more of the activity tracking and training/recovery sections.  These include heart rate (via optical HR sensor), recovery/resource status, steps, training time, sleep, and fitness score.

Skimming through some of these, we’ll start with heart rate.  The heart rate metric looks at your current heart rate using the optical HR sensor.  In addition, you can display the last 12 hours of optical HR data.  This data is polled at about every 10-minute intervals.

DSC_4652 DSC_4653

What’s most disappointing about this feature though is that this data is not recorded anywhere. Not to the app, nor the web platform. It’s just fart in the wind data.  Some of you may wonder how it’s useful, and I dive into that in-depth in this post. In short though, you can easily use resting HR data to predict things like fatigue and illness.  Not to mention, if Suunto didn’t find this data interesting – why bother going to the effort to display it to begin with.

Unfortunately, the data in the couple-hour snapshot that is today isn’t really all that useful.  After all, every one of Suunto’s competitors lets you look at this data over long periods of time.  Apple, Fitbit, Garmin, Polar, and many more.

Next, we’ve got your stress levels and ‘resources’.  These can be used to monitor how your day is going.  It’s kinda like one of those fight fuel gauges back on the old Streetfighter arcade games. These metrics are all driven by technology licensed from FirstBeat, and other manufacturers like Garmin use the same underlying features with just slightly different names and labels.

DSC_4633 DSC_4629

Like other metrics I’ve discussed, none of this data is saved anywhere – so I can’t look at these resources on the phone app or web platform. That’s once again too bad, because it’s this exact kinda data that’s cool to look at trending over time.  How does a stressed day correlate with a day I workout?  Does it help if I workout first?

Next, we have something that is recorded…sorta: Steps.  That’s shown in the dashboard and you can view the current day steps against your goal as well as the weekly steps.  I like the last 7 days of steps chart. It’s nice and tidy.  Calories is also in here as well.

DSC_4636 DSC_4638

Remember I said sorta for records? Well, that’s true. It’s shown on the app, but not on the Sports Tracker website.  But wait you say – Suunto shows it on Movescount!  That’s true, except the Suunto 3 Fitness isn’t compatible with Movescount, only with Sports Tracker.  Thus, no steps for you.

Next, we’ve got your total training time during that week.  This is shown against your training goal:


And the goal is then shown against your planned schedule that the watch decides.  This is a core feature of the Suunto 3 Fitness, and one of the big-ticket items that isn’t on any of Suunto’s other watches at this time. This feature is specifically referring to workouts, so I’ll talk about that in the next section.  But again, like others, there’s no record of this on the app or mobile site.

Next, we’ve got sleep.  You’ll need to remember to enable this, as it doesn’t (for some odd reason) automatically start tracking out of the box.  To me, this should be part of setup (just as it is for every other watch on the market).  Still, once you’ve got it cookin’ it’s actually pretty good.  And in fact, I really like the way Suunto gives you a mini report of your sleep once it determines you woke up.


The sleep is the singular area you can see your historical resting HR data – at least for the past 7 days.  And that’s only your average sleep HR data.  Still, it’s better than nothing.

DSC_4660 DSC_4661

And yet again, none of this data is available on the website, though, some of the sleep data is saved to the mobile app (you can’t see the same details you can on the watch):

2018-05-25 13.51.50 2018-05-25 13.52.01

Finally, we’ve got your Fitness Level, which is basically your VO2Max.  Suunto tracks this as a measure of whether you’re becoming more fit or less fit.  While that’s somewhat true for the first few months you start working out, it doesn’t take long to actually plateau.  Otherwise, we’d all have VO2Max’s that are in the hundreds.  VO2Max is largely driven by genetics, not years of working out.


Fitness level data is saved, but only for runs – it’s not recorded for other workouts like cycling:

2018-05-25 13.52.47

But now you’re probably saying: DCR – aren’t you being a bit harsh here on this data saving thing?

Perhaps I am.

But isn’t the point of these metrics to actually have them to refer back to?  Almost all of these metrics aren’t great day to day metrics by themselves.  Meaning, knowing your resting HR at that very second isn’t super useful. Neither is knowing your stress level. It’s seeing that data and your response to it over time that’s actually useful.  And again, every other watch/platform out there shows this data.  These are basic things, especially when you’re looking at a $ 200 watch (since most activity trackers at $ 100+ show these metrics over time).

Suunto could kinda (just kinda) get away with not having these metrics on their higher end units by saying “We cater to endurance athletes that don’t care about this” (even if not true).  But once they shift direction to lower end units where the purpose of buying a fancy sports watch is the features on it, you can’t half-deliver it.

Sport & Fitness:


When it comes to the sports side of the Suunto 3 Fitness, past Suunto users will find it both similar as well as different.  They’ll recognize the overall style and user interface of the sports modes – but advanced users will quickly realize that some features are missing.  For example, you can’t customize your sports. Burger King this is not.

But inversely, those familiar with Suunto’s products will find one core new feature here: Automated training schedules and plans.  Thus, we’ll dive into that – because the foundations of it are kinda interesting.

First though, starting a workout.  To do so, you’ll tap up once and go to select Exercise, at which point you can select a sport.  By default though if you’ve enabled the automated workout suggestions, it’ll likely suggest a specific intensity workout – such as ‘40 minutes hard’.  It doesn’t though specify a sport (I.e., running or cycling), instead, you do that after this step.  Alternatively, you can select to do a given sport without choosing the workout of the day entirely.


If you accept the challenge of that workout, it’ll give you a bit of detail about what the workout is:

DSC_5097 DSC_5098

By default, the workout types included are ‘Indoor Training’, ‘Running’, ‘Cycling’, ‘Walking’, ‘Pool Swimming’, and ‘Other’.  Except ‘Other’ is like opening up the gigantic can of worms of workout types including (among many others): Mountain biking, roller skating, aerobics, yoga, trekking, sailing, kayaking, rowing, climbing, indoor cycling, circuit training, alpine skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, weight training, hot-dog eating, basketball, soccer/football, ice hockey, volleyball, American football, softball, cheerleading, baseball, tennis, badminton, table tennis, racquet ball, squash, martial arts, boxing, floorball, obstacle racing, bowling, cricket, cow-tipping, crosstrainer, dancing, golf, gymnastics, handball, horseback riding, ice skating, indoor rowing, canoeing, motorsports, mountaineering, orienteering, rugby, ski touring, stretching, and…I’m done typing these up.

I think there’s 96 sports in total. You’re bound to find at least one that works for you.


Once you’ve selected a sport, then it’ll remind you to ensure the Suunto app on your mobile phone is open (if the sport uses GPS, such as hiking outdoors).  That’s how Suunto can record GPS tracks.


After that, it takes you to the pending screen for the workout, which is where it acquires your heart rate via the optical HR sensor, as well as lets you configure some basic options for the workout such as the backlight, intervals, and any targets.


Next, click start to begin and off we go.  Now whether or not you’re in a workout of the day mode or a generic mode, most of the data pages are the same here, and none of these pages are customizable.  They are what they are.  Still, it’s likely these will meet most people’s requirements nonetheless.  Here’s a quick gallery of them all:

So what about those workouts of the day? Well, they’re nice – but also kinda simplistic.  And that’s probably OK for many, but if you’re more advanced you’ll immediately see some of the challenges.  The first is that 40 minute ‘very hard’ run, has no warm-up to it.  You’ll get warnings about 45 seconds into your run that you’re not running hard enough.  As any coach will tell you, you should have a nice even warm-up, typically of about 10-15 minutes.

Once we get past that point, the unit will simply tell you whether you’re going hard enough or not.  If going too hard, it’ll say ‘Slow down!’, and if going too easy, it’ll tell you to speed up.  Unfortunately, even when I was running at an easy long-run pace, it was telling me ‘Slow down!’.  This may be some issue with HR zone alignment, but by and large, things look appropriate for my HR zones.  So I think some tuning is probably required here.

[My mid-run picture of it telling me to slow down is horrific, it simply says ‘SLOW DOWN!’ on the screen, nothing more.]

Still, the overall idea behind it is that the target should keep moving.  Meaning, the intensity and days of the week should adjust around what you’ve been doing.  And that’s ultimately where things need to go, even if today some of the specifics around it fall a bit flat.  It is Suunto’s first device leveraging the tech (which comes from FirstBeat), so I suspect it’s going to take a bit more polish before this makes sense in higher-end devices.  And that may explain why Suunto started it off with a more basic device first.

As for general running metrics – your heart rate will come from the optical HR sensor.  Though you can pair a Bluetooth Smart chest strap if you want instead.  You’d do that through the HR sensor pairing menu in Settings.  And from the GPS side of things, your pace and distance will come from your phone (assuming it’s iOS or Android and with the Suunto App).  If you don’t bring a phone along for an outdoor run, it’ll leverage the accelerometer and generally get fairly close.  Not perfect, but usually within 2-6% in my experience on a few test runs doing it that way.

After the run, you’ll get the summary screen stats, just like you would on Suunto’s higher-end Spartan series. These are nice:

2018-05-15 16.02.49

And then all of that gets transferred to Suunto’s’ new mobile app, simply called ‘Suunto’.  The new app is actually a big improvement over the existing Movescount app.  It’s the beginnings of what a proper fitness app should be.  It’s not there yet, and probably won’t be for another 6-8 months (based on the progress they’ve made over the last 6 months)…but it’s the right direction.

2018-05-25 14.01.21 2018-05-25 14.01.14 2018-05-25 14.01.44 2018-05-25 14.01.48

Finally, all of that then gets synced up to Suunto’s secondary sports platform – Sports Tracker.  This is the same platform that Suunto acquired a couple of years ago, and shares no backend with their existing Suunto Movescount system (nor any linkage at this point).  Suunto says some form of linkage is on the plans, but no specific timetable for that is available.


Additionally, you can’t link to apps like Strava, TrainingPeaks, or anything else at this time. And it sounds like the timetable for that is some number of months away in a best-case scenario.  You can export out your files, albeit in the slightly older GPX file format (which isn’t super great for more advanced fitness data, but barely squeaks by here).


To be super clear: There’s no method to pair up the Suunto 3 Fitness to Suunto’s existing Movescount platform (period). And there’s no method to import data from Movescount over to Sport Tracker at this time (down the road yes, but not today).   Though, I don’t really see the Suunto 3 Fitness as a watch that existing Suunto users will buy.  Instead, the watch is aimed at new folks wanting to get on the Suunto train.  Given Suunto doesn’t make/sell things like bike computers and the like, there’s very few people who would buy and wear both a higher end Spartan Ultra as well as a Suunto 3 Fitness.  So while it’s pesky that there’s no way I can see my past Movescount data on this new platform, it’s also not really an issue for most.

Heart Rate Accuracy:


It’s worthwhile noting that the Suunto 3 Fitness includes the latest sensor package from Valencell, dubbed 1.2.  This is the same package found on the new Scosche Rhythm 24.  This sensor package includes the ability to do HRV at rest (not yet in workouts) as well as has more advanced sensor capabilities that companies like Suunto could take advantage of.  For example, the underlying sensor package includes blood volume per beat, which could be used as a hydration proxy.  And other entities like the USAF are doing tests using the core body temp metrics as well.  But, none of those things are directly within the Suunto 3 Fitness software today, rather, it’s all within the realm of possibilities around the Valencell 1.2 reference design that companies can use.

The first run we’ll look at is a relatively simple 8K/5mi run around a park.  There wasn’t much in the way of fluctuating intensity here or really anything of complexity. Just a simple run.  Note that technically this run said to run ‘very hard’, and as soon as I did run ‘very hard’ (to me), it told me to ‘slow down’.  Nonetheless, here’s a look at the data:


What you’re looking at here is a comparison of the HR from the Suunto 3 Fitness (optical), and the Fitbit Versa (optical, other wrist), and then a chest strap (TICKR-X) paired to a FR935, and finally the Scosche Rhythm 24 paired to a Spartan Trainer. Neither of those last two watches were on my wrist, as to not interfere with the wrist HR. They were just along for the ride collecting HR data.  Oh, and when the green-line goes to flat-line, that’s because the battery died on the Fitbit Versa.

What you see above is that by and large the units actually agree.  Except at the beginning.  This isn’t super uncommon, though, the swaying variance of the Suunto 3 Fitness isn’t ideal.  Usually you see slightly different ramp rates between chest and optical HR sensors at the start of a workout, but this just looks more like guessing.


After that point, for the most part, things follow the general trend. There’s a bit of an oddity around the 26-minute marker, where the Suunto 3 Fitness doesn’t track a decrease in my intensity as quickly as the rest of the units.  Nobody tracks the drop as well as the chest strap though.


Ok, so let’s ramp things up a bit and look at something slightly more complex – a steady-state workout with some short sprints thrown in for good measure towards the end.  Same collection of devices as before, except without the Fitbit Versa this time.  So we’ve got the Suunto 3 Fitness on optical, the Spartan Trainer using the Scosche 24, and then the FR935 connected to a chest TICKR-X.  Here’s the data there.


First off, I have no idea why the Scosche 24 was totally flat-lined for 9 minutes.  This was on a watch I wasn’t watching during the run (just collecting data). My guess is I adjusted something at 9 minutes in and it instantly picked it up (seeing how it was so quick to correct).  Perhaps my shirt got caught under it or something.  Not sure.

Nonetheless, we can start with the first portion comparing the ramp of the Suunto 3 to the TICKR X.  While the Suunto 3 Fitness appears to ramp more properly for the first 60 seconds, once it gets to about 90 seconds the TICKR-X is more correct.  It’s highly unlikely that within 2 minutes of my run I was at 170bpm (especially on pancake flat ground).

After that point though, things are roughly in line for another 15-17 minutes.  It’s not until around the 17-minute marker that we see some variance coming from the Suunto 3 Fitness. It seems a bit ‘jumpy’.


These jumps are about 5-8bmp higher than the other units, and mostly only last a few seconds.  But it’s a pattern I’ve seen on a number of workouts over the past month or so, and I’m not quite sure why it occurs.

Anyway, after that point if you look at the two sprint/interval things I do, those are actually fairly well aligned there:


Then after that at the end, as I cool-down some, things seem to mostly go down the crapper for consistency on the Suunto 3 Fitness.  Note there’s some odd graphing extra-line coming from these .GPX files.  We don’t do a ton of .GPX files these days in the DCR Analyzer (nobody uses them anymore, even Suunto doesn’t use them for all their other watches), but are looking into why the Suunto 3 files plot some horizontal lines. I did go back and inspect the raw values though in the file and they do actually match what is graphed, oddly enough.

[Update: Actually, it gets even weirder – Suunto’s GPX file export actually does go back in time. Every once in a while it’ll plot a timestamped point 2-5 seconds previous to the current timestamped points.  I’ve never seen this before, but then again, this doesn’t surprise me. We don’t plan to fix this in the DCR Analyzer, as this is up to Suunto to conform to standards on the file exports.]


Finally, let’s look at a full-blown interval workout. Same set of watches as the previous.


Ok, so we can start off with the Wahoo TICKR-X and Suunto 3 Fitness crapping all over themselves for the first 8-9 minutes.  Sigh.  And people say chest straps are always right.  The Scosche 24 nailed the right track through the middle there.

As is common, once you stop running as I did at the 10-minute marker (a quick recovery before starting the intervals on the track), the sensors correct themselves. This is typically because they were having signal acquisition issues earlier, determining what is your HR from other large pounding things (like your feet).  So let’s look at those sets for the first four 800m intervals:


You’ll see that again on the first interval the Scosche 24 nailed it, whereas the TICKR and Suunto 3 Fitness were off to a slow start.  However, after that the TICKR and Suunto 3 Fitness started to agree…before they didn’t.  Namely, the Suunto 3 Fitness overshot considerably, and then undershot recovery.

On interval #2 though, all three devices were reasonably close.  So that’s good!

On interval #3, you can see that the Suunto 3 Fitness missed the first third, while the other two were mostly close until the Scosche 24 had some troubles towards the back half of that interval.

On interval #4, they were sorta all close, but not quite perfect.  The Suunto 3 Fitness was the least close of the bunch, though not by a massive amount.

Next, I did 4x~200m sprints on the way home.  I started off with about a 60-second build before starting the first sprint, that you see below.  Throughout that build and sprint #1, things are actually quite reasonable.


Whereas on Sprint #2, the Suunto3 Fitness undercut, as did very slightly the TICKR-X.

On Sprint #3, the TICKR again missed the first portion, and the Suunto 3 Fitness and Scosche were good.

On Sprint #4, TICKR had more troubles oddly, yet the Suunto 3 Fitness slightly undercut. No issues on the Scosche.

I don’t really know why the TICKR had so many problems on this run.  it was a relatively warm day doing a track workout out in the sun, so sweat and such certainly wasn’t a problem.

Finally, a brief note on cycling with the Suunto 3 Fitness. Having done a ton of it, my recommendation is simple: Just don’t. The HR data is useless.  This graph summarizes it all up:


Don’t worry, the Fitbit Versa and many other watches have issues cycling and getting good optical HR data.  I’d suggest a chest strap or an upper arm optical band like the Scosche 24/Rhythm+ or the TICKR FIT instead.

So where do we stand on optical HR accuracy overall for the Suunto 3 Fitness?  Well, honestly not great.

It seems mostly fine for super-steady state running, but even the slightest variance in HR and it goes all wonky quickly.  It’s not terribly clear to me as to why this is, as the sensor is largely the same as those Suunto has used in other products.  However, it could be down to how much battery power they provide to the Suunto 3 Fitness versus other watches.  With a slimmer design there is less room for battery and thus potentially a lower power profile.

Or, it could just be something else entirely.  Do note that the exact same Valencell sensor package that’s in the Scosche 24 shown in the graphs above is used in the Suunto 3 Fitness.  So that shows you how two different companies can implement the same sensor in ways that result in very different…results.  Of course, placement is a huge part of that. Recording at the upper arm is infinitely easier/better for optical HR than the wrist.

GPS Accuracy:

Now you may be wondering – ‘GPS Accuracy? How’s that possible? The unit doesn’t include GPS!”.  And that’s true….sorta.  As discussed above, it instead leverages your phone’s GPS signal to create GPS tracks that you can view later.

But what’s not as well known is that it’s not entirely your make/model of phone that dictates whether or not your tracks on the Suunto 3 Fitness are perfect. The app itself plays a big part in it. And there was no better way to illustrate this than in some of my tests to have side by side a Fitbit Versa, which also uses so-called ‘Connected GPS’ from the phone.  Thus, the GPS ‘signal’ is from the same source, but the tracks can vary significantly.

Like most companies and apps, Suunto takes the GPS signal from the phone and makes some decisions based on that.  It does some tweaking to what they get from the phone, in hopes that they can perhaps clean up some rough edges.  All apps do it, be it Strava or Suunto, Apple themselves, or Wahoo.

Anyway, like it or not – I still think it’s fair to at least glance at the GPS tracks created.  After all, it’s a feature on the watch to see your GPS tracks. And if said tracks look like my 2-year old created them…then the feature is useless.  Again though, this is partially dependent on your phone.  In my case, this was with an iPhone X, which I generally find pretty solid.  In the cases of cycling, the phone would be in my back jersey pocket. In cases of running I generally put this on a SpiBelt, which would decrease accuracy slightly due to body blockage. I’m OK with that, and as you’ll see – it won’t matter much.

Anyway, first up is some running – and a very rectangular route in Kansas.


At a high level, you can see things look pretty much identical between the three devices.  But what about zooming into one of the corners?


Yup, the same there too – all good!  On this run, the unit would have been on my hip in a SpiBelt, so not a great spot for GPS accuracy, but I find for larger phones putting it on my arm is a bit clunky.

Shifting to another run, a Vondelpark run in Amsterdam.  This is interesting because it’s multi-looped, allowing you to see how things compare each time. It’s also interesting because while both the Fitbit Versa and Suunto 3 Fitness were using the same phone for GPS source, the two apps come up with slightly different tracks.


Here, let me zoom in a bit.  You can see quite clearly that the maroon line of the Suunto 3 Fitness is different from that of the green line of the Fitbit Versa.


In fact, you can see some slightly smoothing differences on the west side of this image coming around the corner where the Suunto 3 Fitness is the least accurate compared to the others.  However, note that at that point the Fitbit Versa had died – so it’s plausible it would have also shown a bad track there too.

Ultimately while the Suunto 3 Fitness was slightly less accurate than the others on this run, I wouldn’t consider it substantially so.  And again, that’s kinda the tradeoffs you buy using a phone-based GPS (and having to find places to stash the phone that are GPS-friendly).  With a wrist-based GPS it’s actually a pretty good spot in terms of body blockage.

So what about a non-GPS run?  No problem, let’s include it within this section too!

I did one track workout (started from my house, ran to track a mile away, did session, and then ran home).  In that case, I didn’t take my phone at all, and instead let the Suunto 3 Fitness utilize its internal accelerometer for pace and distance.

Now, unfortunately, I can’t compare pace between the files, as Suunto doesn’t bother to record that anywhere for the Suunto 3 Fitness. Not to exported files, not to their site.  They just give you a total distance – 4.88mi in this case.


So we can compare that to the distances of the other units:

Garmin FR935 GPS: 8.34KM/5.18mi
Suunto Spartan Trainer GPS: 8.36KM/5.19mi
Suunto 3 Fitness Accelerometer (No GPS): 7.85KM/4.88mi

As you see it’s about 6% out from the others.  For a track workout which would have a very wide range of paces, this actually doesn’t surprise me.  My bet would be that if Suunto had recorded the pace data, we’d find that for my more normal steady-state paces it’d be much closer.

Finally, I do want to mention one oddity I’ve seen on just two workouts – which is this bizarre incorrect plotting of a random line across the workout from the GPS track:


It’s like a single misplaced data point.  What’s interesting is that even on Suunto’s App, you won’t see it in the preview (below – left), but instead only when you open the activity in more detail (below, right):

2018-05-17 14.43.53 2018-05-17 14.43.44

Suunto is looking into these workouts to see what’s going on. I suspect it’s some sort of bad data filtering that needs a bit of work, and is why despite the Fitbit Versa being in the same chart above (also using Connected GPS from the same phone), that it doesn’t have that weird data spot.  Fitbit simply has years of experience doing data filtering for Connected GPS in their apps, whereas Suunto has about 4 weeks of real consumers doing it.  I’m not super concerned about it, I suspect they’ll sort that quickly.  Also, the rest of that GPS track was flawlessly perfect.

And I’ve had plenty of other cycling rides that are also perfect too from a GPS track standpoint (side note: That cycling HR track actually came out halfway decent):


Overall, I’m not really seeing any major or minor GPS related issues. It is of course highly dependent on your phone, but by and large I’m getting nice clean tracks (with the exception of the two workouts with the misplaced data point).  Do keep in mind this burns your phone’s battery at a higher rate.  But if you’re doing commuting or such, it’s a great compromise between the two types of devices.

(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy sections were created using the DCR Analyzer tool.  It allows you to compare power meters/trainers, heart rate, cadence, speed/pace, GPS tracks and plenty more. You can use it as well for your own gadget comparisons, more details here.)

Product Comparison:

I’ve added the Suunto 3 Fitness into the product comparison database.  This database allows you to compare any watch I’ve reviewed from a feature standpoint.  You can mix and match and create your own product comparison tables as well. For the purposes of the below chart I’ve added in the Suunto 3 Fitness, Fitbit Versa, and Garmin Forerunner 35.  In many ways the Garmin Vivoactive 3, if on sale, is a better competitor, but then that spirals into also adding in the Fitbit Ionic at often the same price, etc… You can make your own charts with those anyway.

Function/Feature Fitbit Versa Garmin Forerunner 35 Suunto 3 Fitness
Copyright DC Rainmaker – Updated May 25th, 2018 @ 6:40 amNew Window Expand table for more results
Price $ 199-$ 229 $ 169 $ 199-$ 229
Product Announcement Date March 2018 Sept 1st, 2016 Jan 9th, 2018
Actual Availability/Shipping Date April 2018 Sept 2016 Apr 25th, 2018
GPS Recording Functionality via phone Yes via phone
Data Transfer Bluetooth Smart USB, Bluetooth Smart Bluetooth Smart
Waterproofing 50m 50 meters 30m
Recording Interval 1-second SMART RECORDING (VARIABLE) 1-second
Satellite Pre-Loading via Computer N/A Yes N/A
Quick Satellite Reception N/A Great N/A
Alerts Visual/Vibrate Sound/Visual/Vibrate Visual/Vibrate

And again, don’t forget you can make your own comparison charts via the product comparison tool here.



In many ways the Suunto 3 Fitness is a pretty respectable first attempt by Suunto to try and enter the lower-priced trendy market.  While the actual price-point of the watch is barely lower ($ 23 to be precise) than Suunto’s oft-on-sale Spartan Trainer Wrist HR, it’s significantly sleeker.  It’s lighter as well as thinner (and of course, lacking GPS).  But slicing the chunkiness factor in half is kinda a big deal.  And from an overall on-wrist experience, it’s actually pretty smooth.  I get my activity tracking data on my wrist, along with smartphone notifications, and the new connected GPS functionality largely works well enough.

Still, one thing is abundantly clear: Suunto (or their parent company Amer Sports) needs to spend money on hiring developers.  And not like 3-5 more developers.  But probably 20-40 developers.  It’s painfully apparent that Suunto’s app (despite its actually nice redesign) and newish web platform is letting them down.  Not because they are broken, but because they just need to have at least basic feature parity with companies like Fitbit and Garmin in this space.  After all, the Suunto 3 Fitness is directly competing with the Fitbit Versa (but with far less features than the Versa).  Amer Sports is pouring plenty of money into other ventures/acquisitions, they need to realize that Suunto needs those resources as well.

I’m not entirely sure what the future holds for products like these at Suunto.  Obviously, they plan to make a go of this specific category – one that’s already well entrenched by the likes of Fitbit, Apple, and to a lesser degree Garmin and Polar.  I think Suunto can find a spot for themselves if they can find a way to still hold true to their values of ‘not for couch potatoes’, but also not forget that they need to add in the software/platform features that others have. Else they’ll lose the battle at the place these sorts of device transactions often occur: The Best Buy sales person (as Suunto is heavily focusing their efforts at that channel).

All that said – I’m excited to see what Suunto can do here once they can fully get their app and related platform in place to capture all the data the Suunto 3 Fitness is generating.

Wanna Save 10%? Or found this review useful? Read on!

Hopefully you found this review useful.  At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device.  The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love).  As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.

I’ve partnered with Clever Training to offer all DC Rainmaker readers an exclusive 10% discount across the board on all products (except clearance items).  You can pick up the Suunto 3 Fitness (or any accessories) from Clever Training. Then receive 10% off of everything in your cart by adding code DCR10BTF at checkout.  By doing so, you not only support the site (and all the work I do here) – but you also get a sweet discount. And, since this item is more than $ 49, you get free US shipping as well.

Suunto 3 Fitness (select dropdown for size/style)

Additionally, you can also use Amazon to purchase the unit (all colors shown after clicking through to the left) or accessories (though, no discount on Amazon).  Or, anything else you pick up on Amazon helps support the site as well (socks, laundry detergent, cowbells).  If you’re outside the US, I’ve got links to all of the major individual country Amazon stores on the sidebar towards the top.  Though, Clever Training also ships there too and you get the 10% discount.

Thanks for reading!

Product Reviews – DC Rainmaker

Leave a Reply