I used the watch primarily for trail running over the four weeks of testing, adding in a few hikes, walks, road running sessions, a ski day at a local hill and several fluid trainer sessions primarily for monitoring my heart rate (HR). I also used it to track my sleep data.
For the first few runs, I wore both my Suunto 9 Baro and the Suunto 9 Peak Pro. Satellite acquisition was within a few seconds of each other. HR acquisition was also comparable however, wrist-mounted heart rate monitoring during trail runs was slightly more accurate with the 9 Peak Pro. I attribute this to the better fit on my wrist and less weight bouncing around which seemed to make the 9 Baro read closer to my step cadence at times. When worn during fluid trainer sessions, the HR measurement was correlating precisely between the two watches. Regarding satellite reception, I didn’t experience any difficulty with losing reception, despite multiple runs in areas with deep forests and poor cell reception. To further test this I stopped the activity in a steep ravine with heavy tree cover and restarted another activity to test the satellite acquisition. The watch had no difficulty reacquiring satellite connectivity.
On the day I wore the watch to a local ski hill, I used the Alpine Skiing pre-programmed setting, which seemed to read the frequent stops and starts of skiing with beginner skiers as multiple laps. (It certainly felt like multiple laps, hiking up the hill to gather ski equipment shredded across the slope like a husky losing its winter coat). I certainly didn’t do 59 laps of the bunny hill! I am not sure of the trigger for the watch to start a new lap, something I would want to explore further with more testing. Perhaps there needs to be a “Family Ski Day” custom setting.
Given my prior experience with the Suunto 9 Baro, I felt comfortable scrolling through the menus and setup options for the watch face, colour, and configuration of the activity data displays. The setup may take a bit of getting used to if the user is more familiar with other GPS watch platforms. The tactile positive feedback of the buttons clicking appealed to my sentimentality of growing up wearing a Timex Ironman. There were occasional delays in the screen starting the activity once the button was depressed, but the activity timer correlated with the button being pressed, and no data was missed.
The 9 Peak Pro I was testing had the strap with the tab option for containing the extra strap length. After the testing period, I can say I prefer this style to the usual sliding keepers that inevitably pinch skin or slide off or tear during extended use. It did not create a pressure point on my wrist or get caught on clothing. After a year of almost daily wear, the keepers on my Suunto 9 Baro strap are looking a bit fragile, and will likely need replacing soon.
Using the watch as a daily timepiece with notifications enabled was user-friendly, as most smartwatches are these days. I work in an environment where my cell phone is not ready to hand, nor am I able to see or answer texts right away. Having a watch that is connected to my phone for notifications is helpful to prioritize which texts I need to respond to right away, for example, texts from home.
I spent some time using the compass and GPS to navigate and found it to be as accurate as a handheld compass. With the declination settings automatic, I would have no concerns using this to navigate cross-country with a map during an orienteering session or navigating back to my vehicle after a day of exploration, and certainly up to the task of geocaching.
I also found the stopwatch easy to get to in a stressful situation at work to time particular events, which was an unexpected bonus. The touch screen and swipe features made this easy to access.
- Compact sizing, both in face diameter and height of unit off the wrist, significantly improves ease of wearing under a cuffed sleeve or with long gloves without constantly catching an edge on the cuff. Prior GPS watches from Suunto were too proud off the wrist to wear unobtrusively with long sleeves or gloves.
- Compact sizing improves daily wearability. I work in a cramped and hectic environment and have found it to blend into my uniform effectively, whereas my Suunto 9 Baro takes frequent knocks and catches on edges to the point of being removed in many situations. I also am wearing the 9 Peak Pro using the sleep tracking function, something I have not done with my Suunto 9 due to its bulk. I quickly forget that I am wearing a watch to bed. This provides useful data to consider when planning training and making adaptations as necessary.
- Compact sizing and lighter weight of the watch fits smaller and slimmer wrists better. Simply put, if you have a smaller bone structure, or don’t have the wrist mass of a Viking warrior, this watch will fit you and feel much more natural. The Suunto 9 Baro feels like putting on an armoured gauntlet in comparison.
- Connection with all common fitness social media apps such as Strava and TrainingPeaks was seamless. There were several times when my friends had difficulty with their Garmin data, and the Suunto tracking data was trouble-free.
- Software downloads via Bluetooth is a welcome feature, eliminating one more step of needing to plug the watch into a USB cable, which with the significant battery life doesn’t happen too often.
- Battery life is significantly improved over previous versions of the watch, now competing with the best in class for longevity.
- Design of the watch is understated classic, and with the easily changed watch face and multiple options for wristbands, it can be worn appropriately in any setting from daily training to boardrooms and elegant dinners.
- Watch face display size is slightly smaller than the Suunto 9 Baro. This factor is not a deal breaker for me, as I customize the face to display the most important data in the largest configuration.
- Slightly less resolution to screen as compared to Suunto 9 Baro, but not noticeable.
- Charge cord connection is not as secure as the Suunto 9 Baro, which connects via two magnet bars with a solid “thunk”. There are two contact points on the smaller circular charging station for the 9 Peak Pro, but it’s too easy to bump the watch off the charge points. This is the biggest drawback for me. The 9 Baro could be charged on the go without a worry about accidentally disconnecting during activity.
If you want to wear a GPS watch as an everyday timepiece, then at $699.99 the Suunto 9 Peak is a great choice in this price bracket. The added features and the smaller size as compared to the 9 Baro make the $50 price differential worth it in my opinion. The slim profile wears well with cuffed sleeves, gloves, and uniforms. The long battery life makes the nightly plug in routine for charging a thing of the past, and adds to its daily use appeal. The increased capability to connect to more satellites would be an asset in deep canyons, thick timber and potentially in built-up urban areas, and potentially increases the high fidelity of route tracking. I do not have any experience using the SpO2 monitoring capabilities, but it would be data that could be useful in much more extreme adventures than I was able to engage in during the test period.