Gear: Suunto Ambit2 R Review

Tegyn Angel 25.06.2014

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone 

Ain’t that just the case? One week I’m happily logging Kms, blissfully unaware of the glorious Ambit2 (A2) strapped to my wrist and then Suunto Australia send an Ambit2 R our way and all of a sudden I’m asking myself whether my next few runs are likely to need more than 8hrs of battery life. If not, ye’ olde’ wrist anchor is getting left at home! Land-locked, confined to port.

I’ll be perfectly honest: I’m biased; I’m a Suunto fanboy. I had a T6C, I wore my pre-ordered Ambit1 into the grave and the Ambit2 is my daily companion. I love how robust they are, their long, Scandinavian back-story and the fact that most of their premium watches and wristtops are still made in Finland. So why I am leaving it at home? Sure, it’s smaller than some watches out there and it’s definitely prettier than the Garmin Fenix or 910, but it’s still a heavy piece of work. All that extra battery life and altimeter are excessive for a lot of my general training and competition.

Reviews focusing on new variations of an existing product have always frustrated me. All I want to know is how it’s different to the existing products and why I should (or shouldn’t) buy it. I’ll do my best to avoid the trap of rambling on for the sake of it when all you’ll probably read is the conclusion anyway. For those who want more of the gory details, check out the incredibly detailed, Picassoan-prolific DC Rainmaker for more depth than Challenger Deep on just about every sports watch ever conceived.

Suunto Ambit 2R

Suunto Ambit2 R – the GPS for Runners

The Ambit2 R is a GPS watch designed for runners (see our first look post here), and sports a feature set built to please. It weighs in at 70g (vs. 72g for the Ambit 2S and 89g for the Ambit 2) and offers a battery life range of 8-25 hours depending on the user-selected accuracy (vs. 16-50hrs for the Ambit2). Altitude measurements are taken from the GPS which, although less accurate than a combined GPS-Barometric Altimeter system, is certainly accurate enough for most runners; even trailites. For all intents and purposes, the rest of the running-relevant feature set is the same. Navigation, Physical Specs, Speed and Distance recording, Heart Rate monitoring and Training Analysis are all exactly the same as the other models in the range.

The similarities extend to the “FusedSpeed” technology (which has now been rolled out in updates on the other models), which treats the watch like a Wristtop pedometer to calculate distance and speed in the absence of GPS signal (think treadmill cringe). In normal conditions speed and distance would be a synthesis of both GPS and Accelerometer, the former constantly improving the accuracy of the latter. However, when the signal drops, the bounce of your stride still provides surprisingly reliable data and the real kicker: Cadence!

So how does it differ from the other Ambits? Well aside from the halved battery life, the lack of a Barometer / Pressure-based Altimeter means it lacks weather monitoring and the FusedSpeed technology which combines GPS and pressure data to improve the accuracy of elevation recording. While it also lacks a lot of the multisport functionality (think Cycling and Swimming specific features) that the Ambit 2 and 2S offer, as a runner I couldn’t tell you what half of them did anyway.

Let’s look at some criteria. If you want a super solid GPS watch that can be worn just as easily on the daily commute as it can on the trails, keep reading. If elevation interests you, but submitting survey data to the Cartographic Society doesn’t, keep reading. If you occasionally get in the water or buckle-up the helmet and get out on the lazy machine, but these sports are mere breaks between running, keep reading. If you rarely, if ever, plan to run beyond 50k and have access to charging facilities after every few training sessions, keep reading. If you’d rather strap 70g to your wrist than 89g and spend $350/399 AUD (RRP with/without HRM) over $599/$649 AUD (RRP with/without HRM), then put the Ambit2 R on your shopping list.