Gear: Suunto Ambit2 R Review

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.

Suunto launches new Ambit2/S GPS watches

The launch of the original Suunto Ambit took the GPS watch market to a new level and a bunch of adventure athletes including trail runners to a new realm of capturing their adventure and trail run data.

Ambit2_S_Perspective_View_Lime - RUNNING Negative MetricNow, Suunto has unveiled an all new pair of GPS watches that, along with an opening up of their Apps Collection to outside developers and updates to, is set to become a game changer for any athlete in the adventure sphere, including of course trail runners (who took to the Ambit with a fair amount of gusto when it launched originally, shifting the focus off market leader Garmin).        

And so without further ado (and without test units in hand yet – so limited information til we do…): Suunto’s second generation of Ambit outdoor GPS watches introduces the new Ambit2 S and the Ambit2.From what we can gather, the main upshift is a move to allow user programming, centered around the apps zone and personalisation capabilities of the watches. The units have had a makeover, too, with the bulky faces put on a diet to slim down some and a little shnazzle [2] added to the styling. Yeh, ‘shnazzle’ – watch out for it in an upcoming release of the Oxford ED. 

We’ll get more information as it comes to hand but for now, here’s the blurb from Suunto’s release notes:

Comments President of Suunto, Mikko Moilanen: “The Ambit got a tremendously positive response from consumers last year. To meet the needs of performance sports oriented users even better we felt that a lighter, slimmer GPS with sports-specific features but less focus on outdoor functionality was needed to complement the Ambit family. In addition, the rapidly advancing technology made it meaningful to update the Ambit family with new members already now.”

App Zone and upgraded

In a move that redefines sport watches in the same way Apple did to the Smartphone, Suunto is also upgrading the Suunto App Zone – the community forum where users can find and create free Apps for the Ambit GPS watches. The upgrade now gives Ambit owners the chance to create and share more advanced Apps, putting the power of personalisation in their hands. Since it launched in November 2012, the App Zone has proved popular with users, who have created over 5,000 Apps so far. Suunto’s online sports community which hosts the App Zone, will also be updated to provide new tools for in-depth analysis, enhanced navigation and improved opportunities for sharing.

image002Ambit2 S – The GPS watch for Athletes
The new Ambit2 S is a light and sleek GPS watch for multisport athletes that packs all the features needed for cycling, running, swimming and multisport training. The GPS provides accurate pace, route navigation and tracking, while the heart rate monitor lets you train within your ideal zone.

o Running: Runners benefit from highly accurate pace and distance thanks to FusedSpeed™, the Ambit’s accelerometer integrated GPS, as well as interval timer and autolaps for training.

o Cycling: The new Suunto Ambit2 S will support power meters (ANT+) and offers various power measurement values and numerous options for in-depth analysis.

o Swimming: The Ambit2 S also offers comprehensive swimming functionality, including pace and distance, automatic intervals, stroke rate and swimming time related to different pool lengths. The Ambit2 S will also learn to recognise your swimming style, which makes performance analysis easier.

o Multisport Training: Users can switch between sports, making the Suunto Ambit2 S ideal for recording your multisport training or race.

image003Ambit2 – The GPS for Explorers and Athletes

Suunto also launches the Ambit2, which builds on the success of the award-winning Suunto Ambit. It includes Suunto’s hallmark outdoor functions such as route navigation, barometric information, altimeter with FusedAltiTM, 3D compass and other outdoor specific features. In addition the Ambit2 has all the training features of the Ambit2 S.

Packed in a glass fiber reinforced casing with a battery life of up to 50 hours in GPS mode, the Ambit2 is the ultimate watch for serious adventurers, explorers and multisport athletes. The Sapphire edition of the Ambit2, features a brushed steel bezel and sapphire crystal glass, adding some serious style to the Ambit2’s extreme functionality.

Comments Suunto ambassador and climber Ueli Steck: “In the mountains you need a watch you can rely on. I’ve been using Suunto products for many years and the Ambit2 is the ideal product out there for anyone serious about their mountain sports.”

Both Ambit2 S and Ambit2 will be globally available from May 2013.

For more product details and full specs, visit