If we had to sum up the Suunto 3 Fitness in one line we’d say it’s a fitness watch for beginners. If you’re already completing Ironman events, on to your fourth marathon or like to create your own training plans, then this probably isn’t the watch for you. If, on the other hand, you’re just starting out and striving for fitness, this has a lot to offer.
With optical heart rate-powered training plans and a sleek wear-it-everyday design, the 3 Fitness is Suunto’s attempt to bring some of its sports tracking skills to the masses.
With an entry-mid level price tag of £169 / $199 / AU$279 (or £199 / $229 / AU$299 for the Gold and All Black models), this watch has been developed with one main purpose – to help improve your fitness levels – but it’s worth noting that this will better suit those coming from a fairly low base.
The Suunto 3 Fitness is a bold move away from the big, robust and multi-skilled adventure watches we’re used to from Suunto, such as the Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR. This is an everyday motivational tool rather mountain conquering aid.
It’s also Suunto’s response to recent offerings from Garmin and Polar, who have been busy making their sports watches look sexier – to appeal to those who want something they can wear 24-7 – and pack more smartwatch skills, to fend off the incursion from the smartwatch mob including the Apple Watch 3 and the myriad Wear OS devices.
And for the most part what Suunto has done here is pretty solid. There’s no built-in GPS which will definitely put some people off, but despite that you get a lot of clever fitness features for your money.
There’s the usual pace, distance and calories sport tracking for running, cycling, swimming and walking, plus optical heart rate on the wrist for in workout and 24/7 heart rate tracking. You also get activity and sleep tracking and it’s waterproof to 30 meters, so you can use it in the pool.
But where the watch gets really interesting is the inclusion of adaptive training - guided workouts to help you improve your fitness. This is supported by recovery time advice and even a way to see the stress your body is under in real time, what Suunto calls Resources.
Away from the fitness features, Suunto has also brought smart notifications to the 3 Fitness with alerts fired from your paired phone. But more on that later.
Design, screen and interface
- Lightweight but plasticky design
- No touchscreen
- Silicone strap isn't as comfortable as we'd like
A simple but good-looking timepiece that you’d be happy to pair with your Sunday best, the Suunto 3 Fitness comes in five designs. There’s Ocean, Sakura, Black, Gold and All Black. You’ll pay a premium for the latter two.
We tested the black and from the moment you pick this watch up you realize it isn’t the most premium watch in the world. From the gleaming silver bezel, to the underwhelming and slightly uncomfortable strap, the overall flavor you get from the Suunto 3 Fitness is plastic.
Because aside from the stainless steel bezel (that also feels plastic), it is all plastic. This does have a benefit though, it means at just 36g, it’s extremely light. Much, much lighter than anything we’ve seen from Suunto before, and that’s a good thing.
The classic round screen is a decent size but is basic in terms of resolution and color reproduction. It's not going to dazzle you with quality, and the low power screen needs to be angled in the light just right to give you the best view. Even with the backlight on the stats on the screen are a bit washed out, though they are large enough to be easy to read on the move.
There’s no touchscreen here, and some will find that lack of swipe and tap annoying. We’ve tested enough watches where the touchscreen is fiddly to use when things get sweaty or you’re moving at pace, that we can forgive that.
What we’re less eager to ignore, is the thin silicone strap that’s not entirely comfortable, a problem for a watch you’re supposed to wear all day. It’s elegant, even a bit dainty on larger wrists, but it’s not entirely sporty and we found it pinched a bit.
Suunto has made it easy to switch out for an alternative, though we couldn’t see where to get those alternatives. The black strap we had on test also picked up dust really easily and was hard to keep looking clean, somewhat ruining those sharp looks we mentioned earlier.
There are five buttons for controlling the watch, all easy to hit and responsive enough. Scrolling through screens and the features is fast and fluid, there’s no screen-to-screen delay, however, while this is probably the simplest Suunto we’ve come across, some of the controls continue to be slightly baffling.
The menus come with neat arrow clues that prompt you to press the middle button to go deeper into a set of stats or to hit down to see other items in a menu, all very helpful until you realize there are lots of occasions where following these arrows bounces you back to the start. That makes for a confusing user experience.
This is still a watch you have to learn. There are quite a few important things hidden behind a hard press of the middle button too, for example. The initial calibration, to ensure the accelerometer can more accurately track your walk and run distance and pace, is one of these.
It’s not made clear when you first fire up the watch that this calibration is even necessary. There’s also no prompt to tell you when calibration has been successfully completed.
It’s never a good sign when you have to reach for the user guide to understand how to use a running watch but sadly that was the case with the Suunto 3 Fitness. We’d definitely appreciate a little more hand holding on setup to walk us through these steps.