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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.


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.


  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.


  1. An excellent review on the type of product I'd been giving some thought to. That's really helped me out.

  2. After using Samsung smartwatch for a year, I see that most important feature for me is battery life. I need to charge my watch every second day. And my friend who has Garmin, can do this once every 2 weeks. Now that's a battery!