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Triathlon Sport Watches Review: Suunto 9

We begin our sport watch review with Suunto's 9 with its impressive battery life

Over the next week we’re going to review a number of triathlon sport watches geared towards enhancing the triathlon lifestyle. Sadly, some of us are old enough to remember the days when simply having a stopwatch you could wear on your wrist was a big deal. Nowadays, though, we expect the little computers on our wrist to do much more than that – and they do, keeping track of all kinds of data whether we’re swimming, biking, running or enjoying any of the other endeavours our active lifestyles add to the mix.

Here’s the list of watches we’ll be reviewing over the next week:

  • Suunto 9
  • Garmin Swim 2
  • Suunto 7
  • Garmin 945
  • Polar Grit X
  • Apple Watch Series 5

Suunto 9

I know, you’re probably wondering why we’re starting with a watch that was released almost two years ago, but the 9 remains one of our favourite sport watches thanks to its durability and impressive stamina – literally days of fitness tracking. Suunto also does regular software updates – this is a watch that has definitely aged well. Right now you can also get it for 30 % off on the company’s Canadian website. And, don’t worry – if you’re itching for a newer model, we’ll be checking out the 7 in a few days.

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While many Canadian triathletes might not be as familiar with Suunto as they are with Garmin or Polar, the Finnish company is hardly a new player in the game. Suunto got its start in 1936 creating accurate compasses for orienteering and has been a fixture in the adventure sports watch scene ever since. Renowned for its diving watches, Suunto has developed some fantastic GPS sport watches over the last few years, starting with the Spartan lineup that we were very impressed with. The “9” builds on some of the features of that watch. In addition to the durability and stylish looks, of most interest to triathletes is the whopping 120 hours of continuous exercise tracking available on the 9, which makes it perfect for long training sessions, races, extreme adventures or just the luxury of going for such a long time between charges. 

You don’t have to be an long-distance competitor to enjoy the many features of the 9, though. All the Suunto watches we’ve reviewed have been tough as nails, offering reliable GPS performance for swimming, biking and running, along with a host of other features that make this a great choice for triathletes. The 9 improved on the Spartan by coming in a touch lighter (72 g) even though it offers an optical wrist-based heart rate monitor and a stainless steel bezel versus the titanium bezel on the Spartan Ultra. While wrist HR monitors seem to work well for some and not at all for others, we found that HR tracking on the 9 worked well. For those who traditionally struggle with wrist-based monitors, you can buy an optional chest strap. For those who need super-accurate altitude data, Suunto makes a 9 Baro, which combines GPS and barometric data for altitude information, while the 9 relies on GPS for altitude measurement.

If you’re a multi-sport athlete, you’ll love the fact that the 100m waterresistant watch offers over 80 sport modes. Connectivity to a variety of sensors is a breeze through either Bluetooth, while you can download data through USB or Bluetooth to your phone or computer. The touch screen makes it easy to navigate through the various settings and you can pick from a variety of watch faces, too. The Suunto app makes it easy to keep track of your training, activity and sleep, keeps you connected with call and message notifications from your phone and allows you to customize what you’re seeing on the watch during training (you can even create your own sport modes). Suunto’s regular firmware upgrades keeps the watch fresh with new features. 

When it comes to training, the 9 can track data in three different modes – performance, endurance and ultra – which provide anywhere from 25 to 120 hours of recording. When you start training the 9 will actually tell you how much battery life you have left in the current mode, so you can adjust accordingly. It’s easy to set up interval sets and keep track of splits – either manually or through auto-laps that can be distance or duration based. Once you’re done it’s a breeze to analyse all your data either on the watch or through the app, and connect all that information to TrainingPeaks or Strava.

The 9 is, basically, a workhorse that gets the job done no matter how much you put it through. Even if you’re not pushing the limits with long workouts, it is really nice to be able to go days between charges. (There have been more than a few trips in which I’ve forgotten the charging cable and haven’t run into any issues.)