The Suunto 7 is a big deal for the tech manufacturer. Although it's dabbled with smart features in previous models, the Suunto 7 marks the first time that the Finnish company has created a bona fide smartwatch.
The move from sports tracker to smartwatch is an interesting development for the company, especially considering that one of its most devoted audiences is the trail running and ultra demographic ‚Äď activities that don't often fit with the capabilities and limitations of a smartwatch.
- Essential reading: The best outdoor fitness watches
The watch uses a combination of Wear OS along with Suunto's own outdoor and fitness features. Expect NFC payments, a built-in music player and the ability to customise the device by downloading apps from the Google Play Store.
Can the Suunto 7 compete with the likes of the Apple Watch, Samsung Galaxy Active 2 or the Garmin Vivoactive 4 when it comes to fitness? We take a first look to see how it holds up.
Price: $499 | Weight: 70 g / 2.47 oz | Battery: Up to 40 days (in battery Saver mode), up to 12h in training mode with GPS, up to 2 days with normal smartwatch use | Wrist sizes: 130-230mm | Water resistance: 50m | Display type: AMOLED | Display resolution: 454 x 454
Look and feel
When a sports watch manufacturer develops a product designed for the lifestyle market, you expect the look and feel to undergo some changes. The Suunto 7 still has the appearance hat we've come to expect from the company's output, however, there's a noticeably glossy style that make it appear less sporty.
It still has the overall look of a Suunto watch, featuring four physical buttons and the same overall shape and aesthetics, but it's subtler ‚Äď especially in the case of the all-black version that we tested.
The 454 x 454 resolution AMOLED touch screen is the first noticeable feature that sets the Suunto 7 apart from its non-smart counterparts and it's impressive to say the least. The bright colours and clarity really stands out as a some of the best we've seen and it makes a striking first impression as you start to play around with the watch.
The overall look and feel of the Suunto 7 sits between the worlds of fashion smartwatches and endurance sports watches. If you're after a beautiful looking and stylish option, it may not be up there with something like the Apple Watch, but it's definitely no slouch when it comes to design.
As with any watch which utilizes Wear OS, the interface and features are, at first glance, what you would expect. You gain the obvious benefits of being able to download countless apps from the Google Play Store, and standard features like Google Assistant, Google Pay and Google Fit are all native to the device straight out of the box.
That inclusion of Wear OS isn't necessarily a good thing when it comes to fitness tracking, though. It's an operating system fundamentally designed to offer the general user the ability to customize their device, regardless of what they're using it for ‚Äď something that lends itself to a smartwatch but not so much for a sports tracking device.
When it comes to fitness tracking, the Suunto 7 has its own interface that sits apart from using something like Google Fit, and it's actually pretty good. Accessing the sports tracking section is done via the top right button and it takes you instantly into a quick access menu, allowing the users to start recording the last type of activity or to easily choose from over 70 activity options.
It's intuitive, easy to pick up and fundamentally shows off the fact that Suunto has balanced the use of the watch between fitness and daily use. For us, it's not as good as a specialised sports tracker, and using a touch screen to operate fitness tracking activities is never as simple as using a couple of buttons, but once you've got to grips with how the buttons and touch screen work together, it's relatively painless.
The other important feature for outdoor activity users is the inclusion of maps in the device, specifically downloadable offline maps. It's an increasingly important feature for those users training in the outdoors these days and the massive screen makes map usage a largely enjoyable experience, aside from the unavoidable difficulty of using a watch touch screen to operate it. For Suunto users, useful maps and breadcrumbs are an essential and it's good to see that this element of the watch works well.
For brands like Suunto, where battery life is one of the fundamental selling points ‚Äď especially considering that a vast number of users tend to do activities for long periods outdoors, like trail running and cycling ‚Äď releasing a smartwatch is a tricky prospect.
Where outdoor sports trackers generally look at having an operational time of multiple days, smartwatches, in contrast, tend to need charging significantly more frequently. It's a factor that ultimately removes most smartwatches as an option for endurance athletes.
Suunto claims that the 7 will give you two days of smartwatch usage, 12 hours of GPS and up to 40-days of charge in battery saver mode. In comparison to the likes of the Suunto 9 or the Ambit, that's a hefty drop in battery life and one that marks a clear divide in who will actually use the 7.
As with all battery life claims, those are based on the best-case scenario, so we expected them to be lower in testing. In actuality, they held up fairly well, for daily use we found that we were charging the watch on average once every couple of days. A 2-hour half marathon at full charge would knock the battery life down by about 25%.
For the general fitness user, or someone used to using a smartwatch, those numbers are fine and similar to what you might expect from the Apple Watch. For serious outdoor users, it's unlikely to do the job. A marathon runner may be okay with it, as long as you only turn the watch on at the start of a race though ‚Äď which isn't ideal. For ultra running, hiking or cycling, it's a no-no.
The Suunto 7 has an optical heart rate monitor built in, as you'd expect, however, there's currently no support for an external chest strap. For those looking for accurate heart rate measurements, this is likely to cause a problem as the level of accuracy we've found whilst using the Suunto 7 hasn't been great.
As with many wrist trackers, the watch struggles with the sort of fast peaks and drops you're likely to experience in interval style training and we have seen issues where there are blocks of a recorded session that seem to drop out or it takes a while to catch up with the activity that you're doing.
As a standalone fitness tracker and outdoor watch, the Suunto 7 isn't really comparable with those products designed specifically for that purpose. Ultimately, it's a competitor for smartwatches in a world of increasing fitness features, and in that it delivers a competent and balanced option.
It looks great, it's relatively easy to use and the Suunto maps and fitness tools in the watch work incredibly well, especially against apps like Google Fit or third-party options available. The battery life is good for a smartwatch and it comes in a stylish selection of colorways.
For those looking for accurate, detailed fitness activity tracking or endurance capabilities, it's unlikely to do the job, however, for the general user that wants a great looking smartwatch that doubles as a low to mid-level fitness experience, it's one of the best options out there.