Suunto Ambit ups the ante

It’s an ever-present reminder on my wrist (and on my MovesCount profile) that I should be running more, but despite the nag, I love my Ambit [SEE PRODUCT REVIEW BELOW]. And I’m no techno dude, far from it. But the upcoming software upgrades do bring out the inner geek in me as the Ambit is about to get supercharged with this week’s announcement of two free upgrades that will take the GPS watch to a new level of functionality. Suunto Ambit

One thing the Suunto crew has done since the product’s successful launch is to continuously seek the views of its users to improve useability. Through feedback, and the ability of the watch to update itself and functions via the internet, Suunto has quickly developed ‘fixes’ and additions addressing concerns registered on the watch’s release. The first update, available at the end of September via, will include:

>> On screen route navigation
>> Online routes to download (this update particularly excites Trail Run Mag given our Trail Guide section in the magazine)
>> Location displays in 14 local grid references (includes US, UK and key European countries –  Antipodeans miss out here)
>> Plus chrono, GPS time keeping, a constant backlight and five new languages (Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Finnish and Swedish. No – there will be no ‘Strine language feature.)

With this update, users will be able to download routes online or input their own waypoints from the comfort of their computer. Then out on the trails they’ll be able to see their route in real time, including  start point, current position and more importantly, the route ahead.

Providing location displays in local grid references is another anticipated update for users who want to pinpoint where they are on their map.

The following launch, planned for November, will offer users new training features such as interval timer and compatibility for both the Suunto Foot POD and ANT+ as well as the ability to download community-created features.

(as appeared in Trail Run Mag Edition #5. Note that this review was conducted before several updates, so we have added some notes addressing some points).

Let’s get a one thing out of the way about the Suunto Ambit GPS-watch, namely its downside. It’s like a nagging partner – one that has the unnerving ability to give you the guilts without saying a word.  It’s eyeing you off every second, silently banging on: “Why aren’t you running? How many hours have you done this week? Don’t lie. I know, remember? You could do a little more, you know. Have you seen how many kilometres the Ultra168 crew have done? They’re killing it y’know? Making you look bad. A bottle of red? Now? I know it’s dark and cold, but really…you call yourself a trail runner, start acting like one…”

It. Doesn’t. Let. Up.

And that’s just my wife. The Ambit then always sides with her.

Of course, that’s a good thing. It pushes me over the line, a little black pod of cognitive dissonance giving me the willpower to place the bottle of Shiraz back on the shelf, strap the Ambit on and disappear into the night. Once I’m out there, the fact that the world – well, the internet and anyone who happens across Trail Run Mag’s profile ( – knows I am, and can even comment on my total ascent/descent, pushes me that fraction more, that bit further. And so my running benefits, regardless of all the bells and whistles this thing boasts, regardless of if I know how to blow or ring them.

Any other moans? Well, not being a ‘watch man’, the thing is a little lumpy on my girly wrist, but then it does talk to a contraption the size of a car hovering above me, and in doing so tells me how far, how fast, how high, how hard, how hot and pretty much any other how you can think of, and that’s pretty impressive, so I I’ll forgive it’s largesse.

Otherwise this GPS-watch is a trail runner’s information orgasm.

I’m no technocrat, so I’ll not regale you with too much minutia regarding the Ambit, mainly because if you’re a gadget man/woman reading this, you’ll have a better understanding of the finer points of what makes this watch tick (ba da boom). Jump online and you’ll find lots of overwrought War & Peace length reviews, not all positive, with plenty of boffins arguing the pros and cons, tossing up and tossing off over the superiority or not of competitors Garmin and Polar.

But let’s pretend that like me, you’re new to this world of datafying in detail of what used to be the blissfully simplistic act of getting lost on the trot in the wilderness (that was the fun bit, wasn’t it, getting lost?).

If like me you are new to measuring your joy, you too will actually be a little tickled at the ability to press a button, run, return home, hook up your watch to a computer and, Shazam George Jetson, you can see where you ran, how long it took, where you slowed for that latte, where you got lost, how you found your way again, how steep that descent was and how fast you caned down it, not to mention how long you stopped at the bottom picking gravel out of your teeth. It’s awesome.

Seriously, the main take-away about the Ambit is that it is simple and straightforward to use for luddites like me. And while I’m all for purity of running, I do actually enjoy the overview the stats give you – even if I won’t ever stretch to having an animated conversation about the ins and outs of the machine that delivers such rich information – I do, after all, actually have a life.

In a nutshell that looks convincingly like a dot point list, here’s the good skinny:

  • It has a longer battery time – 50+ hours on economy settings. On 1sec intervals you get 15hrs+. Without GPS in operation, you’ll get thirty days.
  • ‘FusedSpeed’ technology means the Ambit has an accelerometer in it, a measurement device that doesn’t rely on the satellite GPS. It then pairs up with what GPS readings are coming in to ‘smooth out’ the data output.
  • The 3D compass is great for the directionally challenged as is the barometric altimeter.
  • Hook up is easy with a four-pin cable that uses USB to connect to your computer (PC or Mac).
  • Basic function use is easy.  Hit “Start”, choose “Exercise,” “Navigation,” or “Previous.” In Exercise you have a list of different choices, showing up that this really is a watch for any outdoor fanatic. Choose Trail Running or die.
  • You can customise what you see on each display. There’s a negative to this, see below.
  • I find a great interface, easy to use with loads of great clickable information. It did take a little while to find my way around, but what website doesn’t at first? I cannot compare to other online GPS-user portals, as I haven’t experienced Garmin etc.

And the bad skinny:

  • That 50 hour battery life is on a slower GPS location sampling period of a minute per check in, meaning all those tight twists and turns on the flowing singletrack you just spent sixty seconds grooving though – they get cut to a straight line. In terms of running, you want more accuracy, meaning a check every second. On the Ambit that still gets you 15 hours (a good target time for any 100km).
  • It can take a while for the GPS to locate…but think of it as a reminder to calm down, breathe and stretch. NOTE: the trick to this is to ensure you have logged your watch in at least once a week – when it connects with MovesCounts, it registers a diary of where satellites will be in your part of the world for that week, meaning it picks up the satellites pretty darn quickly if the watch has been connected in the past seven days.
  • If you want to customise what displays you see, you have to do it using your Movescount account, not on the watch itself.
  • In exercise mode, the watch is limited use in navigation, as the compass and GPS location cannot be used. NOTE: there is now navigation while exercising available including finding your way back.
  • If you start the stopwatch before the GPS signal is locked in, it stops looking for a GPS. NOTE: now you can hit the button (written ‘later’ instead of ‘skip’) and set off on the exercise and the watch will still look and start the GPS automatically letting you know when its found with a beep.
  • Speed accuracy at slower speeds seems all over the place
  • The thermometer doesn’t work on your wrist. So the point is…?
  • Make sure you ‘lock’ your buttons after starting your exercise – it’s easy to knock them and accidentally stop recording.
  • Make sure you set the initial starting altitude by using a known and correct elevation source. I didn’t which is why my altitude while running on the beach tends to be 6 metres.

Says Jonathan Wyatt – one of the best trail and ultra runners Down Under and an ambassador for Suunto Ambit:

“This one of the strong things about the watch I think because new features can continuously be added based on testing and feedback that I am involved with.  I know that Suunto are currently looking at ideas for using the accelerometer for stroke count in swimming and there are new ideas for improving the GPS battery life (that I don’t think I am allowed to talk about just yet!) and improvements including a better battery life indicator on the way.  These things can’t all be included straight out of the box so the watch is a living thing.”

RRP$630 with Heart Rate Pack

RRP$550 without

Great review here:

Some of the new changes and improvements are detailed in this pdf memo.

Thanks to Jonathan Wyatt for providing some notes on our review. Check in with Jonathan’s trail running (he smashes it) at or

He’s also a member of Trail Run Mag’s Moves Count page…come join him at

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