Gear Review: Suunto 7 GPS Smartwatch
As an analytical person, I’ve wanted a GPS watch for a while. I already track my hikes using my phone, but it really drains the battery, and I’ve always wanted more features, especially the ability to track my heart rate. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to review the Suunto 7, a hybrid GPS watch and smartwatch. Not only can I now track my heart rate, distance, and elevation while sparing my phone battery, I can also interact with text messages, set timers and alarms, track my daily steps and a huge variety of other workouts. After a few months with this watch, I’ve really come to love all the features it has to offer.
Suunto 7 At-a-Glance
|Measurements||50 x 50 x 15.3 mm / 1.97 x 1.97 x 0.6 “|
|Weight||70 g / 2.47 oz|
|Bezel material:||Stainless steel|
|Glass material:||Gorilla glass|
|Case material:||Glass fibre reinforced polyamide|
The Suunto 7 is a hybrid smartwatch and GPS watch. This is best for someone looking for one watch that does it all—from the couch to the trail. The excellent maps make this a fitness watch geared toward hikers and runners who want to get outside and off the grid.
Circumstance of Review
For the past couple months, I’ve worn the watch near daily for activities ranging from backpacking to simply going to work. I’ve tracked activities including trekking, hiking, walking, cycling, yoga, swimming, stretching, and general exercise. Using the watch at work, I’ve been able to try out the various smartwatch features, such as interacting with my text messages and alerts without pulling out my phone, tracking my steps and my heart rate throughout the day, skipping or pausing songs playing on my Spotify, and even setting a hand washing timer—a very 2020 feature.
- Two color options from REI
- Activities Tracking: over 70 sports modes in the Suunto app
- Heart Rate Monitor
- Altimeter: tracked during activities in the Suunto app or with other apps from the Play Store
- Sharing options available in the Suunto app
- Strava Compatible
Using the Suunto 7
The directions that come with the Suunto 7 recommend making yourself a cup of coffee and sitting down ready to spend 10 minutes setting up the watch. This process mainly includes downloading the necessary apps and pairing to your phone. It isn’t too difficult but does require a few minutes of focus.
Ease of Use
There are a lot of features on this watch, and it can be a little overwhelming at first. I spent the first few days just wearing the watch, learning the buttons and playing with the smartwatch features: interacting with texts, controlling music play, etc. From there I played with Google Fit for a few days, playing with the heart rate monitor and monitoring my daily steps. Finally I ventured into the Suunto app and started tracking physical activity. Once I started using the watch for hiking and backpacking, I started playing with the maps and GPS functions. It took me about a month to fully utilize the watch, learn all the various features, and feel familiar. The more I’ve learned, the more I’ve liked it.
The watch world is complicated. There are smartwatches, which can also track some fitness activity. There are fitness watches, which also have some limited smartwatch functions but a much longer battery life. Then there are GPS watches, which are much more accurate at tracking distances than fitness trackers and sometimes include a few smartwatch features. Typically, the watches in each of these categories are best at what they were primarily designed for: everyday use, fitness tracking and motivation, or accurate distance tracking and mapping. The Suunto 7 is a hybrid, attempting to offer a GPS watch with all the everyday features of a smartwatch.
One of the coolest features of the Suunto 7 is the ability to download high quality offline maps. These topo maps are great for hiking, trail running, or any activity that might venture into the backcountry. There are also heatmaps for 15 different sports, so you can visit (or avoid) high traffic areas.
I have found the GPS on the Suunto 7 to be quite accurate. As a Gaia user, I used to track my hikes on my phone. With the Suunto 7, I’ve switched to tracking hikes on the watch. The GPS accuracy is the same or better, it spares my phone battery and lasts longer than my phone would, and when I get home I can download the FIT file and upload my tracks to my Gaia account.
Huge Variety of Activities
The Suunto 7 has more than 70 different sport modes to choose from. Literally everything from roller skating to paragliding, and everything in between. The sports options are also specific. For example, you can choose from bike commuting, general cycling, indoor trainer, stationary bike, trail mountain biking, or enduro mountain biking. If you manage to do a sport that you can’t find a category for, there’s always unspecified indoor sport and unspecified outdoor sport to choose from.
Heart Rate Monitor
Perhaps my favorite feature of the watch is the heart rate monitor – maybe because it motivates me to push myself a little harder, but also because I find it fun to monitor and track, both during exercise as well as throughout the day. I don’t use external heart rate sensors, so I don’t mind that they are not compatible with this watch.
If I had to choose only one downside to the watch, it’s the huge face. I wouldn’t say I’m petite, but I do have small wrists, and the watch face is nearly as wide as my wrist. I’ll be honest, I had to force myself to wear the watch the first few times and get over how flashy and huge it felt. Eventually, the features of the watch won me over, but if I could change only one thing, I would change this.
Before I complain about the battery life, I must start by admitting for the features, it’s got a very respectable battery life. Wearing it daily, using it mostly as a smartwatch and tracking a couple of workouts, the watch lasts 2 full days before needing to be charged. In battery saver, time-only mode, Suunto claims it will last 40 days. However, for a backpacker, the battery won’t last long enough for meaningful tracking on a multi-day trek, unless you were committed enough to recharge the watch during a lunch break. When I took it backpacking and used it for active tracking, I found that the battery would last around 8 hours before it died. Suunto claims the watch can last 12 hours while tracking, but in practice I never got it to last that long. So, for tracking backpacking treks, the battery life isn’t quite there yet.
Too Many Apps
The most confusing aspect of this watch starting out was the various apps associated with it. The watch runs on Google Wear OS, (which has a corresponding app for your phone) and Google Wear comes with Google Fit (another app), which can track various activities, your heart rate, and steps throughout the day. However, Google Fit is pretty limited in what it will track. The real fitness tracking app is the Suunto app (app #3!), and is what I used primarily for fitness tracking. However, the daily activity features are not tracked in the Suunto app, only Google Fit. This ultimately feels a little clunky and in need of streamlining.
Overall / Value
The Suunto 7 is an excellent blend of smartwatch and GPS watch, great for daily use but ready for an outdoors person to take it off the grid. The ability to download offline maps, the massive number of tracking activities, and the Suunto tracking app make this watch extremely versatile for tracking hikes, runs, or any fitness activity. While the battery life limits its usefulness on overnight backpacking trips, it is excellent at tracking shorter outdoor activities. And while the face is bigger than I prefer, the watch itself has won me over. Although this is an expensive watch, I would recommend it to anyone who doesn’t mind how big the face is.
Comparable Watches / GPS Units
There are plenty of brands in the smartwatch and hybrid watch game, but if you want the best GPS and fitness tracking, the favored brands are Garmin and Suunto:
Not a smart watch, but a more streamlined GPS watch for fitness tracking.
A more basic GPS smartwatch with similar but more pared-down features.
Similar size and features, but a much longer advertised battery life.
**Disclosure: This product was donated for purpose of review
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