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Thursday, August 6, 2020

Suunto 7 Review: Pros and Cons for the Fitness Fanatic Looking for a Great Looking Smart Watch

Suunto doesn’t have as much clout in the GPS watch space as it used to. Garmin is the go-to for outdoor fitness watches for most people, while Apple, Samsung, Google, and even Fitbit have been surpassing the Finnish company in the smartwatch realm. Enter the Suunto 7. The company is trying its best to appeal to the outdoors users and those who still want a good smartwatch.


Suunto was founded over 80 years ago by Tuomas Vohlonen, a Finnish adventurer and started as compasses.  Now Suunto is a Finnish company that manufactures and markets sports watches, dive computers, compasses and precision instruments. We had to learn more about the Suunto 7 after we saw it at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. 



Our Perspective 


We are not techies or horologists - That term is used both by people who deal professionally with timekeeping apparatus (watchmakers, clockmakers), as well as watch aficionados - so you won't find detailed specifics in this article.  However, we ARE fitness fanatics with a lot of experience in triathlon, cycling, swimming and running worldwide.  It is our pleasure to provide you with our take on the new Suunto 7 in terms of design, fitness tracking and daily use as a smartwatch.


Pros



A comparison of design, Left: Garmin Fenix 5, Middle: Garmin Venu, Right: Suunto 7
  1. The design.  This watch is comfortable with some great looking options for someone looking for a daily, stylish watch. We love the heat map watch face but there are lots of options to change it.  The watch comes with several faces to choose from but you can find more at the google play store including being able to add your own photo to the face. The metallic finish on the bezel and fastener are beautiful as well on the watch we demoed.  We have never seen a gunmetal finish like it.  Gunmetal can be dressed up or down.  It looks rugged enough for a man to wear too!  At the time of publication, there are 5 finishes of this watch available:  Graphite/Copper, Black, Black/Lime, Sandstone/RoseGold, and White/Burgundy (as reviewed here). 
  2. The visible area of the Suunto 7's display is actually 1.39-inches. It's a sharp and detailed display and using an AMOLED panel means great color and brightness, competing with similar Wear OS devices.  The face is incredible and easy to see. We compared the size screen to the Garmin Fenix 5 and the Garmin Venu (see photo below) and the larger screen size is obvious. The map displayed on the face shows where you are at a glance and can be zoomed, perfect when running in unfamiliar places.  We like the notifications and ease of seeing them compared to Garmin. The downside to this display is its drain on the battery.                                           
  3. Touch screen.  Some may find this to be a con, however, we prefer touch screens when exercising because this is what we started with on an Apple Watch and it feels similar to using our phone.  Some find buttons to be very intuitive and prefer this method of operating a fitness watch while moving. For many long time fitness watch users, if you see or feel a button, you know it is there to be pressed. Touchscreens need brightness and content that makes it clear that the display is touch-sensitive and where to touch.  Suunto with Wear OS does a great job of making a touch screen that is visible while moving and easy to navigate.
  4. Quick release strap.  The strap that comes with the Suunto 7 is very soft and comfortable, but maybe you want a different look for evening or important meetings. Most smartwatches are moving toward this design, but you may not see this everywhere just yet (can you say Garmin Forerunner 45 or Polar Vantage V?)
  5. Gorilla glass.  You may have heard of this shatter resistant material made by Corning with damage resistance to scratches, bumps and drops from everyday use.  Combine this durable glass with the glass fiber reinforced polyamide body and stainless steel bezel and you've got one tenacious watch! 
  6. Water resistance.  Remember, Suunto is well-known for its dive computers and the Suunto 7 is  water-resistant for up to 50 M. While this is not unusual for sports watches today we still love the fact that you could get caught in a torrential rain during that training session and not worry that your device will be toast. 
  7. Accuracy.  We compared the GPS accuracy to many athletes' favorite watch:  the Garmin Fenix.  We've also used the Suunto in the swimming pool with great results, giving accurate turn recording and breaking down swim sessions into laps.  Mapping is the other side of this device. This was Suunto's skill when it first started. The watch will download local area maps by GPS, so you can access those on the watch. The maps are really detailed and you can zoom down to individual paths, with points of interest displaying too.  If you're lost jogging in a strange city, you can figure out where you are easily enough. You can also swipe to the map from the normal exercise tracking screens to see a trace of where you've been so you can turn around and head back in the right direction again.  See cons for why this is not all it could be. 
  8. Google.  We like that the Suunto interfaces with Google.  This provides more options on the "Smart" side of the watch.  The interface with with Android devices are better than with Apple, but the interface with Apple is good as well.  Unlike with something like Garmin, you will likely see more smart functions of this watch in the future because of it's interface with Google.  And we are thinking along the lines of apps for the watch, like for travel, payment options, music interface etc.  Right now you'll have access to things like the popular Google Assistant and Google Maps on your watch and likely much more in the future.  Essentially, Wear OS is the same on all devices and so you'll get much the same from something like the Fossil Gen 5 or even the premium Tag Heuer Connected with this watch but with better fitness functions.
  9. Find your phone.  We currently use Tiles for the and it's really nice to be able to locate your phone from your wrist.  We tested this in our home and it worked well.



Even though the Suunto 7 has Gorilla glass, we always add a screen protector to our watches to prevent any further damage or micro scratches that can occur. They are easy to apply and are worth the extra steps to keep your purchase looking new. We may make a small commission off any purchase that you make from our links like this but it doesn't cost you anything extra. This helps support our mission to give to charity. Thanks so much! Click the photo below to learn more at Amazon.


Cons


  1. Compatibility with iPhone. We use iPhones and every smart watch except an Apple Watch does not have the capability to respond to calls or texts directly from the watch. While we love Android phones too, there is a reason why there are around 100 million users of iPhone in the US alone.  It is a great phone and lasts for a very long time. After owning an Apple Watch, it is hard to embrace any other smart watch for daily use when you have an iPhone.   
  2. Battery life. You need to use the screensaver to get more than a day or two of battery life.  When compared to most Wear OS watches like Tag or an Apple Watch, this is good, but when compared to Garmin Venu (which has an AMOLED screen), which we have to charge every 3-4 days during marathon training, the battery life is not great.
  3. One size.  If you are someone with a smaller wrist, you may find this 50mm face too large for your wrist.  Some may find the size as a positive, because some individuals need a bigger size watch to see it better, especially when moving. (See above comparison photo between Garmin Fenix 5, Garmin Venu and Suunto 7)
  4. Disjointed fitness and health metrics. There is a slight disconnect here, however, because two systems are used: Suunto provides its own app for tracking sport, while Google Fit is used for general activity. That means you don't get an overall picture of what you're doing as you might from Garmin Connect or Fitbit who have really advanced their lifestyle metrics leading. These companies have a large following in the market because of these capabilities alone. With the Suunto 7 you have on place for tracked sport, whereas steps and heart points are being monitored by Google.  If you are looking for a bright display that puts all fitness and health metrics in one place we suggest a Garmin and for the bright display you would want the Venu.  Remember that the Venu has a smaller screen.
  5. No preplanned routes or workouts.  We were unable to send a map to our Suunto 7 when we have mapped out a route.  Even though the Suunto app has the ability to create routes, there is no way to send it to the Suunto 7 (but there is for other Suunto watches like the Suunto 9).  This is crazy and hopefully will be corrected in the future.
    Suunto Website
    Suunto app for 7 - Where is the Add to Watch button????
  6. Connectivity. Because there is no connectivity to external devices aside from a smartphone, there is no way to connect to Bluetooth or ANT+ gear like a chest-strap heart-rate monitor, power meter, or external speed/cadence sensors.  
  7. Heatmaps.  This was difficult to assign to the negatives. Yes, they look cool and are interesting because they can highlight routes that other Suunto users take. For cycling that's just about every road, but select running and you'll get a much better idea of where you could go running. This is great for easily finding running routes when you're away from home.  Using the app where you can again access heat maps, create routes or import GPX files is pretty cool but...there is NO option to send those routes through to the Suunto 7 itself. It is disappointing  that Suunto has all those heatmaps, but there's no option to automatically create routes - it has to be a manual process that can't even be sent to the watch. In addition, there isn't navigation with turn-by-turn directions, so to use a heat map you find on your watch, you have to zoom in on the watch face and navigate by looking at the map, something hard to do while moving. 


Let's go over just a little bit more about the Suunto App


The app is not specific to the Suunto 7 and in the case of sending a route we already mentioned, works for some Suunto models but not the 7.  The Suunto app syncs with your watch to report the data, so you don't have to examine it on the small screen. It gives you the opportunity to add photos, examine maps in detail, view all the stats from your exercise, and run your eyes over the various graphs produced. This also includes comparisons to previous workouts, giving you a way of tracking training progress, which is a nice detail.

You can also sync and share, working happily with services like Strava, which typically offers more details. Let's face it: there's very little that provide data like Strava Segments.

The stats that Suunto app gives you go a little further than just what is recorded by the sensors. You'll have training insights like Peak Training Effect (PTE) which indicates the impact of a training session on your maximum aerobic performance and is most accurate with medium and high intensity training and an estimate how long it will take for you to recover listed as a "recovery time" in hours based on the activity that you've done. As we said on health metrics, this targets the Suunto 7 to those wanting sports tracking specifically, rather than those after a lifestyle device.




Click here to see the finishes of the Suunto 7 that are available, current pricing and reviews at Amazon. We may make a small commission off any purchase that you make from our links like this but it doesn't cost you anything extra. This helps support our mission to give to charity. Thanks so much! Click the photo below to learn more at Amazon.


Bottom Line: 

The Suunto 7 is a GREAT looking and sturdy smart fitness watch. Unfortunately, considering that this is an expensive watch, it's hard to see that it's good value alongside the competition. Many rivals have been strengthening their lifestyle tracking with great demand. The Suunto 7 could evolve with software development, since the hardware is great, but if you want a smart sportswatch, then you can find better, for less out there.



Sunday, July 26, 2020

Is Your Driver's License Going to be Enough To Get Through Security Next Year? You Need to Check!

**2020 Update: The Department of Homeland Security has extended the deadline for full REAL ID compliance by a year. Adults aged 18 and older now have until Oct. 1, 2021, to ensure their driver’s license is REAL ID-compliant, or acquire another accepted form of identification — like a passport — in order to fly within the United States.


Starting October 1, 2020, U.S. travelers who are age 18 and up and don’t have a Real ID driver’s license or another  piece of compliant identification won’t be permitted to fly.


If you’re unsure whether your identification card is Real ID-compliant, here’s how to know: It generally has a star in the top right corner.  If you’re not sure, contact your state driver’s license agency on how to obtain a REAL ID compliant card.

Is Your Driver's License Going to be Enough To Get Through Security Next Year?  You Need to Check!
Courtesy of NCDOT.gov



Recently, the TSA issued a reminder that to travelers that they will need at Real ID, but American citizens will need the Real IDs for official functions like entering federal buildings and nuclear power plants also. A passport will still be required for travel abroad.

The agency initially imposed a deadline of October 2018 for enforcing the new ID rules, but since many states didn’t adhere to the rules, an extension was granted.

Don't go too early to get a new identification if you live in a state that isn't compliant. Here are the states and territories still non-compliant with Real ID requirements and when their extension ends, according to the Department of Homeland Security:


Saturday, July 25, 2020

Denali National Park and Preserve Tundra Wilderness Tour Is a Special Experience in Alaska Like No Other!

Denali Park Road is 92 miles long, parallels the Alaska Range and travels through low valleys and high mountain passes. It is the ONLY road in the park. Along its route, beautiful landscapes can be seen at every turn, and there are many opportunities to view Denali - if the normally cloudy skies permit. Wildlife can often be seen too, although sightings are not guaranteed - they are, after all, wild animals roaming an unfenced land.




There are two main types of buses in Denali - narrated trips (tour buses) and non-narrated trips (transit buses). In addition, a few free buses travel routes around the park entrance, connecting visitor centers and points of interest in the same area where visitors may drive their own vehicles. We opted for the Tundra Wilderness Tour, a 7-8 hour excursion into the park with a certified driver-naturalist. This tour provides in-depth information about the history of the park, while maintaining a keen eye in search of wildlife and photography opportunities. Chances to see wildlife are greater on this trip than on other tours.


Here's what we'll cover in this post!


  • Pickup
  • Inside the Park
  • Course of Tour and Stops Along the Way
  • Tips
  • Bottom Line

Pickup


The bus came to our hotel to pick us up.  We were already briefed that this would be a rugged experience with the bus being a "nostalgic" school bus which is the only type available  Supposedly the rugged transportation is due to the nature of the roads and narrow passages that we would experience later in the day.  The pickup was prompt and it becomes clear that there are certain scheduled times to tour throughout the day. Remember, the days are long during the summer in Alaska, so even an afternoon departure means you will have daylight the whole tour.   We left the hotel about 1PM.



Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Bahamas closing airports, seaports to United States visitors due to COVID-19

The Bahamian Prime Minister announced travel restrictions into the Bahamas during a national address attributing the closures to a spike in coronavirus cases.


International commercial flights and commercial vessels carrying passengers will not be permitted to enter the Bahamas, unless they are from Canada, the United Kingdom or the European Union, beginning Wednesday, July 22, said Prime Minister Huberg Minnis.




Effectively immediately, its national air carrier, Bahamasair, will cease all outgoing flights to the United States.

“Our current situation requires decisive actions,” Minnis said.

Fifteen new coronavirus cases were confirmed in the Bahamas, a record daily count since the onset of the pandemic in mid-March. There have been 49 new cases since the borders reopened on July 1 — 31 were from Grand Bahama island.




Bahamasair flies from Freeport and Nassau to the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport, Miami International Airport, and West Palm Beach International Airport.

Monday, July 13, 2020

NorthStar Trekking Helicopter Ride, Glacier Trek and Ice Climbing Shore Excursion from NCL Cruise in Juneau, Alaska

Glacier hiking is a surreal experience. You’ll never forget the satisfying crunch of ever-shifting ice underneath your crampons or the giddy feeling of drinking 100-year-old water from a glacial waterfall. Hands down, hiking a glacier is a must-do excursion in Alaska.


Before we departed on our Alaska Cruise and Land tour, we said to our friends "the one tour that you MUST do is the Helicopter and Glacier Walk!  There is nothing like it in the world! It is a bucket list item!"  We did a similar experience a few years before and felt strongly that this would be the most important experience for them.



What we will go over during this post:

  •  Outfitting Equipment
  •  Helicopter Ride
  •  Glacier Trek
  •  Ice Climbing 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Review of the Alaska Animal Wildlife Conservation Center in Anchorage for Cruise Excursion or Independent Tour

The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to conservation, research, education, and animal care in Girdwood.  It is perfectly located along Seward Highway between the large Alaskan City of Anchorage and Whittier, a major cruise port for Alaska itineraries. Think about visiting on your own or as part of a guided tour.  We were part of a tour that dropped us off and we explored on our own.  


We had a couple of hours here and it was well worth the trip we saw black and brown bear, bison, caribou, moose, porcupine, wolves, deer, a bald eagle and owls just to name a few. The photographs we obtained were superb and overall this was an excellent introduction to the birds and animals of the region.


Getting There:


The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is located between Anchorage & Whittier, from Anchorage about a 2 hour drive- it's some of Alaska's most beautiful scenery you could imagine, with Glacier- topped mountains and waterways, you can see some wildlife- keep your eyes open.  If you are taking a cruise this is a great stop off on the way to or from the port at Whittier.   We opted for transportation to our cruise and the Center was a stopping point along the way.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ALASKAN WILDLIFE CENTER INCLUDING TOURS, REVIEWS AND TICKET INFORMATION AT TRIPADVISOR BY CLICKING HERE. 

We found out that the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving Alaska Wildlife through education and quality animal care, The Center takes in orphaned and injured animals and provides them with refuge and spacious enclosures.  They are a smaller operation and we were hoping to get closer to the animals than we could during our time in Denali all while enjoying great views of the surrounding mountains.  Our time here didn't disappoint! Don't just drive through, take the time to walk (it will be around 1-2 miles of walking on uneven surfaces) and visit the various enclosures.

Here are some of the animals we saw: