Suunto’s Ambit line of GPS watches have been a mainstay amongst outdoor enthusiasts for sometime now, and for good reason. Not only do they put a surprising amount of functionality right on your wrist, but they are also durable and rugged enough to survive in just about any environment. Over the years, the Ambit family has evolved nicely, gaining new features with each generation, while its tried and true design has changed in more subtle ways. But with the latest addition to the Ambit family, Suunto has updated that design substainally, and created a watch that trail runners, mountain bikers, and other outdoor athletes are sure to appreciate.
When we first saw the Ambit3 Vertical back at Winter Outdoor Retailer, we were impressed with the new features that it brought to the table. So much so that we gave it one of our coveted Best New Gear Awards. Now, two months later, we’ve had a chance to check it out in more detail, and put it through its paces in the field too. What we found was an excellent watch that offers some fantastic options that weren’t available on previous Ambit models, although the Vertical does make a few compromises along the way as well.
One of the more common complaints against GPS watches is that they tend to be thick and bulky. This is a criticism I’ve heard about the Ambit in the past as well, but after wearing one for several years, I’d kind of gotten use to how it looked and felt. When I took the Ambit3 Vertical out of its box however, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Suunto had refined its look dramatically. The company’s designers have discovered a way to integrate its GPS receiver into the bezel that surrounds the watch face itself. As a result, the Vertical is a considerably thinner and lighter than previous versions, and it no longer screams “GPS fitness watch” when you’re wearing it. For many, that alone will make it worth the upgrade, and the best Ambit to own moving forward.
The Ambit OS hasn’t changed dramatically with the release of the Vertical. It remains easy to navigate and program, even if locating some of the options takes more steps than I’d like. In a world where touchscreen smartwatches are becoming much more common, Suunto’s operating system feels a bit dated at times. But, it remains functional and easy to use, particularly if you’ve owned one of the previous generation Ambit models. After setting up the Vertical for the first time, I was able to quickly and easily find the options I was looking for simply because I had used other Suunto watches in the past. If you’re new to the Ambit family however, it still won’t take you long to figure out how everything works.
As you would expect, this watch is packed with useful features. In addition to telling time and date, it also offers a daily alarm, stopwatch, countdown timer, and a compass. It is water resistant to 100 meters, offers route finding and navigation options, and can be connected to an array of other devices, including external heart rate monitors, a smartphone, and more. Like other watches in the Ambit line, it comes pre-programmed to track exercise routines for cycling, running, skiing, or just about any other outdoor activity you can think of. And when you’re done with your workout it’ll store all of the important data in a single logbook that makes tracking your progress on Suunto’s Movescount website and app a breeze.
Travelers will also appreciate what the Ambit3 Vertical brings to the table. For instance, the watch has a handy dual time zone feature that is popular with frequent flyers. It also has GPS timekeeping which automatically updates the time on the watch to your current location each day. It’ll even adjust for daylight savings time as well, and since the watch is made for use in the outdoors, you know it can be taken with you on adventures to the far reaches of the planet and still return relatively unscathed.
Of course, most of those features are also available in previous generation Ambit models as well. What truly separates the Vertical from its predecessors however is its ability to sense motion in three dimensions, accurately tracking your movement both up and down hills and mountains. It is so accurate in fact that it now includes your distance traveled vertically as part of the measure of how far you’ve run, cycled, and skied. That is certainly something that trail runners and other outdoor athletes will appreciate, particularly when training for an upcoming event. Better yet, the data collected is also displayed on the watch’s screen with route profiles that include accurate depictions of changes in altitude.
This precise tracking of our movement, both up and down, is due in part to the inclusion of a new barometric sensor, which can also be used to accurately determine altitude. That’s just one of several new features on the Vertical however, which also now supports GLONASS GPS satellites, route altitude planning and graphing, navigation with up to 250 points of interest, and smartphone alerts complete with vibrations. Additionally, since the watch can connect to the Movescount app via your Apple and Android smartphone, you can also track your activity and plan a workout routine as well.
But for all of its nice new features, the Ambit3 Vertical is missing a few things as well. For instance, it no longer has the ability to track weather trends and provide warnings about changing conditions. This is a handy feature for mountaineers in particular, who will have to upgrade to the more expensive Ambit3 Peak in order to get those options now.
Battery life has taken a step backwards as well, tumbling down to just 14 days in normal watch mode, which is about half of what the Peak is capable ofl. That number drops even further though when you activate the GPS features, falling as low as just 15 hours when tracking runs or cycling workouts. That means the Vertical will require more frequent charging, which can be a nuisance at times, particulalry when you’re away from home.
All of that said, the Ambit3 Vertical is probably Suunto’s best Ambit yet. It’s refined design is fantastic, making it both thinner and lighter, while its ability to track 3D movement is sure to make it a hit with serious outdoor athletes too. This is a watch that was made for the trail, and it shows in how well it it is built and how accurately it tracks our performance while running, riding, skiing, and so on. The bottom line is, if you’re looking to train smarter, the Ambit3 Vertical is definitely a tool you want to have at your disposal, espeically if your outdoor playground includes a lot of changes in altitude.
The latest addition to the Ambit3 line will set you back $469 or $519 if you opt for the package that includes a heart rate monitor. That makes it a significant investment for many, but it is well worth the cost if you happen to live your life outdoors and appreciate everything that this timepiece brings to the table.
Find out more at Suunto.com.