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Suunto Ambit 3 Sport Review

sa1The Ambit 3 Sport is one of three new sports watches released by Suunto recently. It offers general activity tracking, heart rate monitoring and GPS that all work together at the same time.

This is a powerful watch that can track your heart rate just about anywhere you go, whether it is at the gym or in the pool. However, despite all of its functionality, there are a few drawbacks as well, namely the watch is bulky and on the pricey side.


The screen is your basic 128 x 128, and 29mm in diameter. However, all of the space isn’t used. There is some dead space on the display due to its circular design. The screen does recess into the watch quite well, which can help to protect it against knocks.

The display has a basic approach, similar to the Polar M400. However, there are some good graphic options include. It is also bright enough so that you can still read it fairly well even in bright sunlight.


sa2The first thing that really stands out about the design of the Suunto Ambit 3 is how bulky it is. The watch weighs 80 grams and is 15.5 mm in size. Compared to competitor GPS watches, this size is a drawback.

The GPS module, on someone with a large wrist, extends down from the face of the watch and has a tendency to dig into the bone. On those with smaller wrist, it is hard to get the watch to sit still and be comfortable and looks bulky and awkward.

There are five buttons surrounding the face of the watch: start/stop. light/lock, next, back/lap and view. The lock feature is definitely useful since it easy to inadvertently press some of the buttons.

There are four recessed metal dots on the back of the watch where you can clamp a non-standard USB cable. That does mean you have to carry around another cable compared to if was a standard socket instead.


sa3There are three versions of the Ambit 3 Sport. The Ambit 3 Run is the low priced model. You are unable to change sports as you are exercising, and it does not include cycling power or swimming heart support.

The Ambit 3 is the top-of-the-line model. It has double the battery life and water-resistance and also has an air pressure sensor added fro better barometer, temperature and altimeter.

The middle watch is the Ambit 3 Sport, which is being reviewed here. It combines heart rate, multi-sport GPS, along with other fairly decent sensor support and 24/7 activity tracking. The general activity tracking, unfortunately, is very basic. For example, daily steps are not given by any of the Ambit 3 models, their app or MovesCount site. An update to this would be a definite improvement.

At the moment, however, you only are provided with calorie count, an overall rating (“vigorous” or “moderate” for example), and a chart that shows your activity level compared to previous days. Your sleep is also not currently tracked by the Ambit 3. Of course the bulky watch is so uncomfortable you won’t want to wear it at night anyway.

The Ambit 3 Sport fortunately scores much better on sport and exercise than it does on general movement and sleep. Just push the start button, select your exercise from the list and you are ready to go. The kind of exercise you select set the GPS sampling rate accuracy (which affects how fast the battery drains), the number of laps that are set up, whether or not heart rate and GPS are enabled and much more. You can modify or create and store as many as 10 sports in the Ambit 3 Sport at one time as well as the data that is displayed while engaging in an activity.

sa4Heart rate gets measured wirelessly via a Bluetooth Smart chest strap and GPS is via a chunky nub that is under the watch face. Using the Suunto Smart Sensor does make sense. With the Ambit 3 is it an optional bundle. It is the only strap that can measure heart rate in the water with this watch. Bluetooth doesn’t work in water. So as you are swimming, the heart rate data is stored by the Smart Sensor. The data is then synced with the Ambit 3 after you get out of the water. So while you are swimming you also don’t have heart rate displayed on the screen.

The alternative would of course be using an optical heart rate monitor that is built right into the watch. That is how the TomTom Runner Cardio works. Not very many higher-end sports watches so far have gone with optical sensors. Due to concerns over accuracy, most have been utilized for testing resting rate

The Ambit 3 Sport,in addition to swimming heart rate, scores high with how it approaches broader outdoor use and multi-sport events. Other features that are available include a digital compass and turn-by-turn waypoint navigation, which includes as you are tracking an activity or sport.

For multi-sport users, what’s even more important is that the sport can be switched mid-exercise with just a few presses of the button – or you can pre-set sport order as well as transition periods with just one press of the button per change. So for a triathlon, it could be set up as swim, transition, cycling, transition, run. With each change it only takes one button press and whole event will be tracked. Open water and pool swims are also tracked differently by the Ambit 3. GPS is used in open water and in the pool preset length and accelerometer data is used for automatically judging pool laps.

There is an option as well for setting interval workouts out with alarms – that way you can jog as your warm up, then sprint at a specific heart-zone or minimum pace for a specific distance or time, recover, and then go at it again before cooling off. Currently, this can only be done using an app. According to Suunto, a website option should be out soon.

Additional Support

sa5There is additional support as well for other Bluetooth Smart sensors besides just heart rate. One of these is foot pods, although wrist movement is used by the Ambit 3 for covering cadence. There is also support for wireless bike speed, cadence sensor and power.

When tested with common Bluetooth Smart products, like the Adidas foot bad and Polar heart rate belt, they appeared to work fine. However, it should be noted that there have been complaints that functionality between the Ambit 3 and some of the less well known Bluetooth Smart sensors has been patchy at time.

The Suunto Ambit 3 Sport can also be connected to a phone via Bluetooth to receive notifications on-screen and for data sync.


Fitness App

sa6Some manufacturers of fitness bands are making impressive innovations in the fields of apps and social connections. Alongside the apps from manufacturer´s like FitBit, for example, the app´s from Suunto,Garmin and Polar seem like they have catching up to do.

You can expect pretty much the same thing from the Suunto app—MovesCount—as you will find on the desktop version on their official website. The only improvement being an interactive program for programming interval training.

At the moment the app is only available to iPhone users, with intended adjustments that will make the app available to the android using community promised for the near future, right after the 4.3 update.

The app, as you will find it on the website desktop version, will allow you take a close look at your “Moves” or actions. You will be provided with heart rate charts, map tracking and much more. You will also have access to calorie counters, recovery tips and VO2 along with some other pertinent and not so pertinent details.

sa7The important object of our focus should be the elements that are sadly missing from the vast quantities of information they can provide, namely essential fitness information. Consumers purchase these apparatuses to see the steps they make each day and goals they are working towards.

There lacks incentive and encouragement for social interaction as well and it wouldn’t have killed them to add some proper over-time tracking.

You can see some notifications of other users in the local vicinity, and can even track their ”Moves” shared on other interest groups, other than that there is little in the way of promoting community interactions or competitive training with other users.

There was no group in Birmingham to be found, and the largest group in London featured a rather miserable handful of people — suffice to say it was disproportionate to the population as a whole.

Suunto´s app does have a redeeming factor in all this, the ability to interface with third party developers. More and more apps are being made available through Suunto and these can be installed onto the Ambit 3. This provides new features like the heart rate expressed as a percentage of your max output.


sa8Ambit is a fairly easy model to interface with. After a simple sign-in function you will be able to interface with the online site and set up your preffered heart rate zones and then you’re good to go.

You will then be presented with the puzzling issues of programming interval workout and exercises as well as figuring out the display. It is not actually that complicated, maybe just poorly designed and a little unclear, nothing you can’t figure out though.

It is important to mention that the setup of the belt and pairing with sensors work swimmingly, the menus and functions on the watch are also clear and well-appointed.


sa9As expected from the many fine pieces produced by Suunto, the GPS and heart monitoring functions receive top marks. Some other brands seem to get a quicker GPS fix on location, but a mere seconds difference. The heart rate monitor was reliable and fast acting.

There have been some complaints about the strap for the heart rate monitor moving about while tight turns when swimming competitively, something to consider though it seems to be a limited complaint solved by adjusting the cinch or the way that the kick off is performed.

The GPS was not able to perform as well when submerged. This was due to signals from underwater being harder to read than those on land. This would do no good as a diving device.

The overall performance was excellent, the problems with the Ambit3 had less to do with performance as they did with the design of the device. The Ambit3 is just too big to wear comfortably and the armband is a constant reminder of its own presence.

Battery Life

The Ambit3 was reviewed extensively and lives up to the 14 day supply of battery energy. The watch didn’t demand much recharge even on day after day events.


sa10If you are a fan of multi-sport events, than this may be the thing for you. If you are looking for something to help track your sports activities with a general use fitness band, then probably not.

For tracking general sports activities this model may get in the way and become a nuisance. And the tracking data you will receive for general activities is too vague to be of use. For this purpose, the Polar M400 will serve far better.

But for tracking multiple sports the Ambit3 is a good choice, especially if those are water sports. The Ambit 3 is a good value for its price and has good performance as well.

The one advantage that the Polar M400 does have over the Ambit3 — because they both provide high performance for a good price— is that the Polar M400 is a lot slimmer and that’s nice when moving about.

The Ambit 3 is still a good fitness band with a top notch heart monitoring feature. But for general sports activities, other manufacturers produce better options.

Visit the official Suunto Ambit 3 page to learn more.

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