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Suunto 7 review

Giving you the athletic edge

Suunto 7
(Image: © TechRadar)

Our Verdict

Great if you want a beautiful smartwatch and basic stats on your multi-sport life. However, this does require compromise as the Suunto 7 suffers from middling battery life that puts the brakes on extreme adventures Suunto is renowned for, and some baffling design choices that limits what would be an amazing piece of kit.

For

  • Terrific physical design
  • Screen is beautiful
  • Fast and responsive
  • Runs Wear OS

Against

  • Screen can chew through the battery
  • Have to juggle both Suunto app and Google Fit
  • Sports can’t be customised

The Suunto 7 is the latest wearable from the Finnish fitness company Suunto, but it's also a pretty big departure from its predecessors – that's because while the brand's devices are typically dedicated running watches, the Suunto 7 is the first to run on Google's Wear OS.

While a lot of sports watches scream their intent from 10 paces away, they do – in a nuts-and-bolts way – work as a regular watch. Suunto, however, has made a watch you’d be more than happy to wear day-to-day and keep on your wrist when you’re running, swimming, cycling or even roller skiing or horseback riding, and manage your calendar and notifications while you're at it.

(Image credit: TechRadar)

You can tell from those photos that this is a handsome piece of kit, and it’s one this reviewer would often gawp at. The display on this Wear OS watch is sumptuous, big and bright, and while the touchscreen would occasionally be stubborn and unresponsive it wasn’t enough to be frustrating. It does, however, test the battery life, so you’re realistically looking at charging this every day and a half if you’re reasonably active, using Google Pay, checking notifications and off for a 10km run.

In some ways it’s the least Suunto-esque watch the brand has ever made. Google’s Wear OS runs the show with Suunto’s own sports app coming in over the top for specific activities. You’ll have to rely on Google Fit to give you the ‘passive’ activity stats, like your average heart rate and step counter, which feels at odds with what the watch intends to do.

Day to day, though, is where this shines. While many other watches offer Google Pay and media controls, the Suunto 7 is fast and responsive and fills many roles with aplomb. But is that enough to keep dedicated athletes interested, or is it better suited to weekend warriors? Let’s find out.

Suunto 7 release date and price

Suunto 7

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The Suunto 7 arrived at the end of January 2020 and is currently available to buy direct from the company or from major retailers, although its stunning good looks come with an equally stunning price tag. 

The smartwatch has a release price of $499 / £429 / AU$799, making it more expensive than a Samsung Galaxy Active 2, but well behind the more masculine Garmin Fenix 6 series.

While it's admittedly pricey for a wearable, as Suunto devices typically are, it's a touch cheaper than the Suunto 9, which costs £499 / $599 / AU$899.

Design and display

  • Stylish and light design you could happily wear everyday
  • Good looks are matched with outstanding toughness
  • Large bright screen

The Suunto 7 is a far trimmer device compared to other watches in the family, while featuring three crowns on the right hand side and familiar chiselled underside. It comes in five different colors, ranging from blacker-than-black to a white and a burgundy number.

Like other recent Suunto models it has a premium style that’s says ‘wear me everyday’ and ‘I can take a beating’. The AMOLED screen is coated with Gorilla Glass and can handle the rough stuff. You’re looking at a 454x454 display, and that resolution gives life to messages and real-time feedback during activities. Even in full sunshine the display is bright and lively.

Suunto 7

(Image credit: Future)

One of the default watch faces is Suunto’s unique heatmap, which shows where its community is most active. This map has a few different presets to suit runners, cyclists, walkers, skiers and golfers, and is updated when the watch is on charge and connected to a Wi-Fi network. It’s equal parts captivating and useful – more on this later.

The touchscreen, though, can very occasionally throw a tantrum, refusing to go back to the home screen. Pressing the physical top left button sorts it out, and this only happened a handful of times over our extensive testing period but it's well worth noting that you'll likely run into a similar issue.

In an effort to preserve battery life the screen turns off during activities, and is mostly off during the day too. A quick flick of your wrist brings it back to life, albeit after a short pause. You’ll have to rely on the physical buttons to trigger a manual lap of a run, swim, ride, etc. It pays to remember what those buttons do, or suffer accidentally pausing your activity. Thankfully the watch runs you through a tutorial when you first set it up, but after that it's up to you to remember which button does what – something that threw us off quite a bit during the initial testing, until we got used to the functions.

Suunto 7

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The 24mm silicone strap could look a tad plasticky to some users, but it ensures a snug, comfortable fit for most wrists, with a whopping 18 notches along the length. Suunto’s familiar and simple clip system returns for customization in case you'd like to try a different look.

At 70g, the Suunto 7 is a wispy 2g lighter than the standard Garmin Fenix 6, despite its more polyamide body. While this may be heavier than other running watches, it doesn’t feel weighty at all.

Like other watches in the stable there’s not much that the Suunto can’t handle. It’s waterproof up to 50 meters and capable of operating at temperatures -20° C to 50° C (-4° F to 122° F) – good news for those who spend their lives in the Arctic Circle or equatorial deserts.

Features and tracking

  • GPS slightly overestimates distance
  • Optical heart rate monitor is accurate
  • Heatmap setting is fantastic in theory

The Suunto 7 quickly picks up a GPS signal when you’re outdoors, but we found the tracking tended to overestimate the distance we traveled. Usually it was 10-20m per kilometer, compared to a Garmin Fenix 5 Plus. This overestimation was typically worse when around tall trees – understandable when the watch loses sight of the satellites.

10 to 20 meters per kilometer is a 1-2% difference, which might not sound like a lot, but over the course of, say, a half-marathon you’ll think you’re about to cross the finish line when you’re actually several hundred meters away from it.

Suunto 7

(Image credit: TechRadar)

At least you’ll know how hard your heart is working. Suunto’s optical heart rate sensor (OHR) mostly mirrored the dedicated chest strap heart rate monitor (HRM) paired to the Garmin Fenix 5. OHRs are usually considered to be 86% accurate compared to a HRM, but we couldn’t fault this at all. Which is good, because the Suunto 7 does not pair to a HRM – a disappointing omission. Anyone looking for detailed stats can turn to the Stryd foot power pod, a third party piece of equipment for an additional $219 / £199 / AU$359.

Despite a list of sports to track, you can’t create a custom set. That means interval run sets, or specific targeted bike sessions are a no-go – all you can do is choose a sport, hit ‘start’ and figure it out for yourself after that. Nor can you alter the automatic laps the watch records. Both are serious limitations.

Post workout you get a raft of stats for that session that show how hard you worked, however there’s no way to see how you’ve improved over time, either on the watch or the apps.

Suunto 7

(Image credit: TechRadar)

We touched on the heatmap setting earlier. One of the default day-to-day watch faces shows where the Suunto community is running and riding the most. If the line is a faint browny-orange, you’re not likely to see many people out there. If it glows a thick, fierce orange-yellow, then there’s a lot of competition. It’s incredibly useful if you’re new to an area and want to see where the locals are going.

Go for a run or a ride and you’ll clearly see where you’ve been, marked by a solid line rather than breadcrumbs. Maps here are some of the best around, rivaling Google’s own for clarity, and absolutely outclassing Garmin’s for readability and responsiveness.

Suunto 7

(Image credit: Future)

The heatmap and offline maps both update via Wi-Fi. Pleasingly, you can choose a section of the world to update with offline maps and store on the phone. If you don’t do this, you’ll have to carry your phone and pair it via Bluetooth to see maps in your area.

Sports tracking aside, Wear OS is in full swing. Google Pay works well – once your card is set up, simply swipe down from the main screen, tap the Pay icon and you’ll be promoted to hold your watch to the reader. There’s no lag at all, and never failed us on a run or a ride.

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Battery life

  • As a watch on its own it could last for over a month
  • Mixed use gets around 30 hours
  • Charges from flat to full in 100 minutes

While acknowledging that everyone uses their watches differently, a ‘typical’ usage pattern will net you around a day-and-a-half of use. For us, that meant leaving Bluetooth on to read notifications, going for a 10km run, using the watch to control music and occasionally looking at the screen.

To give you some idea of how the battery fared, that 10km run taken over an hour cost about 9%, while an hour’s bike ride was 6%. It’s an odd result.

The screen defaults to always-off, saving battery. You’ll need to flick your wrist to check the time throughout the day, and also when you’re exercising.

If you don’t use the watch for anything but checking the time, but with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on, you’ll use less than 1% per hour, or about five days of use. Once the battery gets below 10% you can opt for a very basic screen that only shows the time and date, cutting out the smart features entirely. You could opt to use this basic setting from 100%, and give yourself over 30 days of use, but it’s defeating the point somewhat.

Still, it doesn’t take long to add some more juice. The proprietary charger neatly snaps onto the watch with a satisfying magnetic click. When the watch is charging it will search for any available updates, or download selected offline map areas.

Suunto 7

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Apps and web tools

  • Annoyingly relies on Google Fit and Suunto app
  • Wear OS offers lots of customization

The Suunto 7 uses both the Suunto app for dedicated sports tracking, like running, riding, swimming and so on, but if you want to track your day-to-day stats like resting heart rate you’ll need to enable Google Fit. It’s a strange double-up of duties (and means giving this subset of your data away to two companies rather than just one).

Suunto’s app gives a more comprehensive look at your runs, and offers comparisons to previous efforts. It’ll tell you if you’re running or cycling faster or slower to your other activities, and digs through your history to offer comparisons to see if you’re on form or slowing down. Handy if you’re consistently going out for a favourite distance, but we would’ve liked some more detailed stats like VO2 max, heart rate threshold and so on.

From your smartphone you can link to myriad services, like Strava, Endomondo, Training Peaks and more. It’s one way to get around the limitation on the watch, but we would’ve liked Suunto’s own app to offer far deeper stats than what’s available at the moment.

Once you’ve wrapped up and saved your activity, the watch quickly syncs to your phone via Bluetooth. We had a couple of moments where the watch refused to connect to Wi-Fi, but it seemed to be limited to the hotspot setting on our Samsung Galaxy S10e. Back home and on a stable broadband connection, it was all fine.

Suunto 7

(Image credit: TechRadar)

On the watch you can use Spotify, but only to mirror controls from your phone – you can’t download music to it from the world’s most popular streaming service. You can, however, transfer music you’ve bought from Google Play Music, and then pair Bluetooth headphones to the Suunto 7.

Verdict

Beautiful to look at but short on features, the Suunto 7 could benefit from a few updates before it becomes a truly indispensable smartwatch.

And it is more of a sporty smartwatch than a smart sportswatch. In some ways the Suunto 7 is a step backwards from previous watches in the range, so for those hoping this continues the legacy of terrific multisport watches will be disappointed.

Anyone coming to this fresh-faced will like what they see, but they’d have to be forgiving to spend nearly $500 / AU$800 on a watch with these shortcomings. That said, the Suunto 7 would be great for anyone looking for a sleek, lightweight watch to keep tabs on their fitness/athletic prowess and happy to treat it as a smartwatch as well. Of course, that also means you'll need to have deep pockets or feel the need to really treat yourself.