Suunto 9 Peak was the latest flagship model manufactured by the Finns in 2021 under the ownership of Anta Sports, a Chinese company. However, on January 10, 2022, Suunto was sold to another Chinese brand, Liesheng. In this review, I will share my impressions of the top-notch sports watch Suunto, discuss its advantages and disadvantages, and conduct several tests. Let’s see where Suunto 9 Peak ranks in the Suunto gadget family!
Logic suggests that Suunto 9 is a range of similar gadgets with different modifications, but this is not the case. Suunto 9 Baro (released in June 2018) is a flagship model created in 2018, while Suunto 9 Peak was released in 2021. These watches have the same firmware, but they have nothing in common physically. Suunto 7 (released in January 2020) is in a leage of its own, running on Wear OS by Google, which implies a bunch of smart features and a very cool screen that is closer to the Apple Watch than to other sports watches. As you understand, with such a screen, there is a decrease in autonomy. Suunto themselves call this model a smartwatch with sports features. On the one hand, it is a very interesting gadget, but on the other hand, it is unlikely to be what Suunto fans expect from this brand. Suunto 5 (released in June 2019) is a watch close in spirit to Baro and Peak, created for confident athletes and ultramarathon enthusiasts. Suunto 3 (released in April 2018) is a fitness watch with an adaptive workout plan (which is not included in other lineups).
Suunto 9 Peak is made in the spirit of the brand: it is a watch for confident athletes, whose main task is to use the watch as a tool for tracking workouts. Personally, I think that this is both an advantage and a disadvantage of this model. Let’s clarify the differences between Suunto 9 Baro and Suunto 9 Peak:
- Completely new case design
- New heart rate sensor
- Pulse oximeter
- Fast charging (up to 100% in 1 hour, unlike 3-4 hours in Baro)
- Automatic screen brightness based on the sensor
If you have already read the Suunto 9 Baro review, here is a brief guide to reading the Suunto 9 Peak review: just look at the photos, as they do not differ in functionality.
Design and UX
The design has changed significantly compared to the Suunto 9 Baro:
Before, the watch looked like a cut stone on the wrist, which screamed that it was made exclusively for sports; now it is a super-sleek, streamlined, and surprisingly modest model that really suits everything. I like the feeling that this modest watch is made in a titanium case (optional), has a sapphire glass (in the entire lineup), and provides at least a day of battery life with GPS turned on. The character of the watch is revealed in its general hardness, despite its modest appearance.
Suunto 9 Peak has three buttons and a touchscreen display, which is more than enough to organize navigation through all the watch functions.
I have already praised Suunto for visualizing activity – these circles that close the days are simply genius in their simplicity and implementation, and I personally wanted to close them all.
By the way, the interface of the Peak operating system does not differ from Baro, so the new model will not surprise you with anything. The screen may seem dim in the photos below, but in reality, this watch has automatic brightness (if you look at the bottom of the screen, you will see a red dot – this is the sensor of automatic brightness), which allows you to see the data on the screen at any time of the day:
The navigation in the watch is quite logical and convenient: when you press up, you enter the menu list, when you press down, you see widgets, and when you press and hold the middle button, you get the quick access buttons. The visualization of sports indicators is also very convenient, but I will write about it in more detail later.
However, the interface is not perfect here: some important data that is available in the application is missing on the watch and vice versa. This issue will also be addressed in the review of the watch’s sports functions. The responsiveness of the watch to taps or swipes on the display leaves something to be desired, to be honest. One of my workouts with the 9 Peak was in a group, and when I needed to start the workout quickly, the watch really annoyed me because it responded very slowly at every stage. Of course, the task of “starting quickly” will rarely appear in the schedule of your trivial workouts, but I cannot fail to mention this experience.
- Display: Sapphire glass, touch, LED display, 1.2″, 240 x 240 pixels, automatic brightness control;
- Dimensions: 43 x 43 x 10.6 mm; Weight: 62 / 52 grams;
- Bezel and button material: steel / titanium;
- Case material: polyamide reinforced with glass fiber;
- Battery life: from 25 to 170 hours with GPS usage depending on the energy consumption settings, up to 7 days in watch mode with notifications and continuous heart rate monitoring, and up to 14 days as a regular watch;
- Water resistance: WR100. Can be submerged up to 100 meters, used while swimming and in the shower;
- Operating temperature: -20° C to +55° C, for charging – 0° C to +35° C;
- Navigation: GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, QZSS, BEIDOU;
- Sensors: heart rate monitor, pulse oximeter, barometer, thermometer, barometric altimeter, compass, FusedAlti™ altitude data retrieval technology (GPS+altimeter data);
- Data synchronization technologies: Bluetooth®, USB;
- Smart functionality: Any notifications / Respond to messages with template messages (Android only) / Alarm clock, timer / Music control / Sunrise and sunset time (and notification about it) / Weather alert;
- Activity tracking: Step counter / Manually adjustable (not automatic) goals for sleep, walking, and sports / Sleep monitoring / Calories burned;
- Running functions: Interval workouts / Lap settings, auto lap / Customization of information displayed on the screen / Auto pause / Multisport mode / VO2Max / PTE / EPOC / Recovery analysis / Running programs / Bread crumb route backtracking / Navigation along a loaded route / Navigation to a point (POI);
- Connecting external sensors: Bluetooth® heart rate monitors;
- Training profiles: about 70.
I would say that Suunto 9 Peak performs adequately in terms of the claimed smart features.
- It shows notifications
- It allows you you to reject/answer a call
- There is a timer and stopwatch
- Media control
- Alarm clock
- “Do not disturb” mode and airplane mode
On the other hand, it was surprising that the watch does not have a weather forecast. After all, the watch is designed for those who plan to engage in long activities in the great outdoors, where it is necessary to take weather conditions into account.
However, there is a notification about deteriorating weather, which I tested earlier on Suunto 9 Baro – the watch did warn me about an impending snowfall about half an hour before it happened. The watch uses data about sudden changes in atmospheric pressure.
The battery is one of the key features of Suunto watches and is one of the most important factors for such devices, as Suunto works closely with ultra runners.
In smartwatch mode with 3 workouts per week, notifications, and sleep tracking, the Suunto 9 Peak lasted on average 7 days.
The manufacturer claims that in training mode, the Suunto 9 Peak will last:
- In standard GPS mode: 25 hours
- In Endurance mode: 50 hours
- In Ultra mode: 120 hours
- In Tour mode: 170 hours
Below you can find information on how data is collected in each mode:
Unlike its predecessor, the Suunto 9 Peak now fully charges in 1 hour, which is really convenient, as I used to charge the 9 Baro overnight.
Suunto App provides excellent visualization of workouts and activity, fitness and recovery, as well as maps and popular routes. It is quite convenient to create routes and points of interest, but there is no feature for creating sports programs. Therefore, if you are still in the segment of runners who do not know how to train or have not found their coach, this app (like the watch) will not help you with that.
On the first screen, you will see an aggregation of your workouts by month and week, as well as a feed with your latest workouts. You can drill down into each workout and analyze it. Here you can also see your current fitness status, how well you are recovering, and how much you sleep, train, and stay active on a weekly basis.
On the second screen, you will see a calendar of your workouts, which helps you quickly understand when and, most importantly, how much you trained. Here, the same circles that are displayed in the watch menu are used for visualization.
Another cool feature of Suunto is highlighting popular routes. In this report, your specific popular routes are highlighted.
On the third screen, you will see data on activity, workload, and recovery. In the “Running functionality” block, I will tell you about the indicators you can see here.
On the fourth screen, you will see a map with popular routes, the ability to plot a route or import it into the watch, set a point that can be specified as a route point, and immediately review this data on the map. Building routes through the Suunto app is really very convenient.
On the fifth screen, you will find uninteresting profile and settings data. Here you can link the Suunto app with a huge number of other apps.
Here’s what the result of a workout looks like in the Suunto app:
Suunto is a running app with a focus on visualizing activity, maps, and routes. Suunto does not have a web version. You cannot record workouts directly from here without the watch.
On the one hand, this app is enough to track activity and fitness. On the other hand, you cannot use it alone to create a training program. Obviously, Suunto leaves this part to its partner, TrainingPeaks.
Suunto 9 Peak can track about 80 types of sports, with each type of sport highlighted in a corresponding color in the training calendar, which is quite convenient for analyzing previous periods.
When setting up a workout, you have the option to choose:
- SuuntoPlus™ (more on that below)
- Intensity zones
- Goal (duration/distance)
- Navigation type (breadcrumbs by default)
- Backlight mode
- GPS (combination of different satellites)
- Heart rate tracking by the watch
- Heart rate tracking by an external sensor
- Battery mode (Performance/Endurance/Ultra/Tour/Custom)
- Theme (light/dark)
- Auto lap (1 km)
- Auto pause
- Rating the workout by feeling
You might be interested in customizing the workout screens, as this is what sports profiles are all about: the data that the watch displays during a workout.
You can customize up to 3 screens, one of which will be for navigation. Each screen can display up to 7 metrics, which I think is enough, at least for running.
There are many metrics available, but it should be noted that 3 workout screens may not be enough to display all the importnant information for some people.
The most interesting feature of Suunto sports metrics is the SuuntoPlus™ function. This is a list of different additional screens and metrics that are collected during your workout:
- Burner (shows the current proportion of fat/carbohydrate burning)
- Climb (elevation gain, vertical speed, slope, NGP)
- Ghost Runner (virtual pacer, pace set by the first lap)
- Loop (lap statistics tied to a physical point and a report on pace/power/speed)
- Red Bull X-Alps (vertical speed and elevation gain)
- Safe (quick access to your location data in an emergency)
- Sprint (automatic detection of the start of a sprint and a report on pace/power)
- Strava Relative Effort (effort according to Strava)
- TrainingPeaks (cycling power/running pace/heart rate)
- Weather Insights (weather change data obtained using a barometer)
- Wings for Life World Run (simulation of the famous pace car race)
For example, here are some SuuntoPlus™ screens – Climb, Ghost Runner, Weather, and Sprint:
These features seem useful at first glance, but I didn’t really understand how to use them in the training process. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t spent enough time in the Suunto ecosystem to get used to them, but I found that their practical value is highly questionable.
It also surprised me that there is no way to delete or cancel workout data on the watch, which seems like a pretty basic function. Like when you accidentally start a workout that lasts 5 seconds, but the watch still uploads the data to Suunto App, TrainingPeaks, and Strava, which are all synchronized with each other.
I was able to do several workouts on the bike and cross-country skis with the Suunto 9 Peak.
It was a bit confusing that the watch doesn’t explain the meaning of some screens that aren’t obvious at first glance.
For example, I still don’t understand what the second measurement (260) on the first display for skiing means. If you do, please let me know, I’d be very interested.
There are three profiles for tracking running here:
- Trail Running
- Treadmill Running
Among the profiles, I missed running on an indoor track: I tried to track just running, but I couldn’t get adequate data – the mileage was completely off because the GPS didn’t work in the indoor track:
In principle, this is not surprising, since Suunto’s element is running outdoors. Nevertheless, this also needs to be taken into account if, for example, you plan to run in an indoor track during the cold season.
Here are the data you will see when selecting the “Running” profile by default:
Here’s what the workout results will look like with SuuntoPlus™ Climb enabled:
Like in the previous model, Suunto 9 Baro, there are no built-in running programs or integration with TrainingPeaks, with which Suunto is closely partnered.
Unfortunately, there are also no adaptive general fitness programs here (which I love about the Polar ecosystem).
This is perhaps one of the main drawbacks of the Suunto 9 series watches – the manufacturer believes that watches are a measurement tool, not a coach or motivator. There is some logic in this, but when choosing between the ability to record a workout, analyze form, and the same functionality + programs that, in some cases, prevent you from getting rusty, I choose the latter.
At the same time, you can link the Suunto 9 Peak to the TrainingPeaks platform, which is currently the most popular service for creating training programs. However, this connection means that your data will simply be uploaded to TrainingPeaks, but not the other way around – you won’t see what workouts are waiting for you this week and how you are performing with your training plan.
Suunto 9 Peak performs well in this regard – you can create an interval workout from either the watch or the app. And like Garmin (Polar lags behind in this regard), interval training is set up conveniently: you set the interval settings, their number, and when the workout starts, the intervals are displayed on an additional screen, allowing you to warm up or cool down for as long as you like without specifying a specific warm-up or cool-down time.
The only downside is that you have to create a workout from scratch each time, and there is no way to save its settings.
Heart rate monitor
As usual, I compared Suunto 9 Peak data with the data from the Polar H10 chest strap. For the record, the Suunto 9 Baro model showed surprisingly inaccurate results in my tests, which I tried to explain by very challenging conditions. However, the fact remained.
The first workout with Suunto 9 Peak immediately disappointed me as during an easy workout where my usual heart rate is around 145 beats per minute, the watch showed 180 beats per minute.
However, during most of the other easy workouts, the data was already significantly more accurate:
This workout is quite demonstrative: with a low and steady heart rate, the heart rate monitor data looks quite adequate.
But on hills, Suunto 9 Peak struggled a bit:
I would like to clarify that my tests were carried out in the most challenging conditions for this type of heart rate monitor: a temperature of around -5°C and a damp hand.
In defense of the Suunto 9 Peak heart rate monitor, I cannot ignore the DC Rainmaker test, where heart rate values during interval training on Suunto 9 Peak were quite accurate.
Fitness and Training Load Evaluation
Determining VO2Max is a standard feature in sports watches. Suunto 9 Peak showed me a VO2Max of 49. I think this is close to the truth, but I don’t have any lab data at the moment.
In the Suunto ecosystem, there are the following values for determining load:
EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption) shows your workout load based on your level of oxygen debt. This is a topic for a separate post, but in brief, this indicator correlates with the amount of air needed for your body to recover to its normal metabolism. The higher this value, the more intense your workout was.
PTE (Peak Training Effect) is an indicator that shows the impact on your maximum aerobic power. Similar data is obtained in Garmin in the form of an impact on the aerobic and anaerobic components. For example, on a recovery workout, PTE will be low, but on an interval workout it will be high.
Suunto uses TrainingPeaks’ fitness and recovery evaluation, which is actually a very beneficial method because athletes of different levels use this system for planning workouts, and coaches use it to promote their services. TrainingPeaks has managed to build its own ecosystem that lives its own life. This system has the following patented parameters:
- TSS (Training Stress Score) takes into account the duration and intensity of the activity. The intensity is calculated based on heart rate, power, or aerobic threshold pace. Essentially, this is all you need to understand your load.
- Fitness (Chronic Training Load) shows your form in the long term. It is calculated based on TSS for the last 42 days.
- Fatigue (Acute Training Load) shows your form in the short term. It is calculated based on TSS for the last 7 days.
- Form (TSB) shows the balance of the two aforementioned values. Ideally, you should build your form evenly and in such a way that fatigue does not exceed fitness.
My indicators during the period of using the watch look like this:
Based on the data obtained from the watch, the Suunto app assigns one of the following statuses to your form:
- Loss of form
- Maintenance of form
- Productive state
This data reflects both short-term and long-term form really well, but one thing is unclear: why is this data not available on the watch itself? It is only displayed in the app. It’s strange that it wasn’t made available on both Suunto 9 Baro and Suunto 9 Peak.
However, to assess your overall state at the moment, the watches display the status of your “charge”:
Stress & recovery. The overall derivative of sleep, activity, and training. A single coefficient that reflects your body’s resources over the past 16 hours.
A good concept, but it didn’t always correlate with my feelings. In the photo, it shows 1% charge at 3:30 pm on a day with an hour-long workout. As you can imagine, I didn’t go to bed at 3:31 pm, and I felt quite alert 🙂
Recovery time. After each workout, Suunto 9 Baro shows approximate data on how long it will take you to recover before the next workout. I can’t say that it always coincided with my feelings, but sometimes it can be useful.
As with Suunto 9 Baro, Suunto 9 Peak has several types of navigation:
- Straight back (an arrow pointing towards the starting point and the distance to it)
- POIs (points of interest: points that can be used to set navigation)
- Navigation along loaded or created routes in the Suunto app, with the option to choose turn-by-turn navigation
- Bearing navigation
- Navigation along the route without using GPS (in this case, your movement is calculated solely along the loaded route, and any deviations from this route are simply not included in the movement data)
- Breadcrumb navigation
It is also convenient that you can change navigation parameters during a workout without stopping it.
The Suunto 9 Peak is a completely new watch design-wise. I personally like its sleek appearance which encapsulates features for tough ultra races. It’s cool that Suunto updated the heart rate monitor and added a pulse oximeter to the watch. Should you upgrade from the Suunto 9 Baro to the 9 Peak? Unless you’re simply tired of the 2018 watch design, they are identical in all other respects. And that’s the main problem – in 3 years, Suunto has been able to radically change the design but has not developed anything unique in terms of software or features. Unfortunately, there are no capabilities for creating running programs, adaptive training, or recommendations for functional training. For some reason, the watch itself also does not have reports on your TrainingPeaks form, which, in my opinion, is the main feature of the Suunto ecosystem. Sports watches are still perceived as a measurement tool for your data by the brand and only work in one direction, without creating a sense of feedback.
I still haven’t been able to get an idea of the watch’s target audience. The Suunto 9 Peak is good when considered on its own, but when considering competitors by price, I sincerely don’t understand what Suunto decided to attract its customers with, besides the brand, which is closely associated with complex sports like ultra running. Perhaps I will be able to “understand” this watch if I have a clear training plan and a trainer who will give me a kick in the butt for motivation, that is, essentially, if I become a more serious athlete 😀 But for now – I don’t get it. And that’s why, I think, Suunto having a new owner is a good thing.
PS: Maybe you know the main unique advantage of Suunto 9 Peak and Suunto in general? Tell me about it in the comments!