Gear Closet: Suunto 5 GPS Watch Review

Most outdoor athletes benefit to some degree from wearing a sports-focused, fitness-oriented watch during their workouts. The problem is, many of those watches are expensive, overly complex, and/or offer poor battery life. With the release of the new Suunto 5 watch however, long-time outdoor brand Suunto is looking to change all of that. In fact, the newest offering in the Suunto catalog offers much of the same functionality of the company’s more expensive premium models, but in a package that is thinner, lighter, and more affordable than just about anything else on the market.

Modeled after the excellent Suunto 9, the 5 offers a smilier level of performance with very few compromises. The watch features onboard support for more than 80 different sports, plus the ability to create your own custom settings as needed. It also includes built-in heart rate monitoring, GPS tracking and navigation, 24/7 fitness metrics –– including sleep tracking –– and adaptive coaching that can suggest when you need to take time off and when you need to push yourself harder. In a nutshell, it is a lot like having a personal trainer on your wrist that can help you not just track performance and improvement, assist you in hitting your goals as well.

If you’ve used the Suunto 9, the interface on the 5 will feel very similar. Operating the watch with the four onboard buttons is fairly simply and intuitive, with a brief tutorial at start-up to help you get started. The operating system is much better than previous generation models, making it a breeze to find the options that you’re looking for and adjust them as needed. The display is crisp and easy to read, even in direct sunlight, and the information displayed is simple and easy to understand too. That said, one of the differences you’re likely to notice if you’ve used both watches is that the screen on the Suunto 5 isn’t quite a vibrant or high in resolution as its older, pricier sibling.

You’re also likely to notice that the 5 is thinner and lighter than its big brother as well. The watch weighs in at just 2.33 oz. (66 g) as compared to the 9, which is 2.54 (72 g). That may not seem like much, but when both are held in your hand, the difference is notable. What is much more noticeable however, is the size and thickness of the two watches. The Suunto 5 feels like the 9 was put on a diet, and the result is thinner, more svelte GPS watch that many will prefer on their wrist. This also helps it to feel like noticeable when wearing it while not running, hiking, or traveling. The 5 feels less conspicuous and doesn’t draw as much attention as some other GPS watches on the market.

Speaking of the GPS functionality, it is surprisingly fast and responsive. The 5 is capable of detecting its location and updating its time accordingly, while also tracking routes while hiking, biking, running, or doing just about anything else outside. The level of GPS tracking can be adjusted to support longer battery life as well, as you’ll need fewer GPS breadcrumbs while hiking for instance, as opposed to trail running.

Battery life is a key component to any GPS device, and the Suunto 5 delivers nicely here as well. Like the 9, it offers up to 14 days of juice on a single charge while operating in watch mode. Turn on 24/7 GPS tracking and pair the watch with a smartphone to get notifications and alerts, the battery life drops to 7 days, which is still pretty solid. In fitness tracking mode the battery life drops to 20 to 40 hours depending on the setting for obvious reasons. For most of us that is plenty of time to get through an race or other event, while also allowing us to train for several days before needing a recharge as well.

Smartphone interactivity extends further by allowing the watch’s data to be shared with popular apps such as Strava and Training Peaks. It also gives the user the ability to track their health data more closely using the Suunto app (iOS/Android), which can play a crucial role when trying to improve overall performance. The app also allows you to customize the information displayed on the watch face, manage notifications, and even discover heat maps of popular running and cycling routes in your area.

If you’re thinking the Suunto 5 sounds like a GPS watch that has it all, you’re pretty much correct. As mentioned, it is thinner and lighter than the Suunto 9, and still maintains many of the same features. Sure, the 9 is water resistant down to 100 meters, while the 5 is only good down to 50 meters, but very few people are going to push that limit. Other than a slightly less vibrant and responsive screen, and less battery life in activity tracking modes, the 5 delivers just about everything else that 9 has to offer. Best of all, it does it for $170 less. Priced at $329, the Suunto 5 is a great option for any athlete who needs lots of functionality and features, but doesn’t have the cash to burn on a more expensive model with a few extra features they probably don’t want or need in the first place.

This is a top-notch GPS watch that performs well, is fast and full featured, and is durable enough to survive in wild. If you’ve been waiting for Suunto to make a great watch at an affordable price, the wait is over. The Suunto 5 is here.

Find out more by visiting the Suunto 5 website.