One of our customers has kindly done an excellent and detailed review of the Suunto Traverse Alpha for us.
When I took delivery of a Suunto Traverse Alpha two months ago, I resisted the opportunity to provide a review, until I would be able to report confidently, on the basis of experience. Although use of the device is mainly intuitive, it has taken a while to work through the many facilities this watch offers, and that process continues.
I purchased the Traverse to replace my much battered Suunto Core. I purchased from Facewest for price, and because of their consistently high standard customer support.
It is best to consider the Traverse watch, and its supporting PC and cloud based software separately.
An attractive watch, surrounded by a robust bezel, that has so far resisted marking. Easily worn, and stable on its water resistant fabric strap. No sharp edges to abrade sleeves and cuffs. I am less aware of it than I was of the Core. Positive buttons, with facility to lock the buttons effectively prevent inadvertent use. Good clear display, and excellent night vision preserving red backlight. I can wake up, and read the time, without a significant wait for my eyes to accommodate.
The menu system is mostly intuitive, with a short learning curve. Logical, well thought out, and unnecessary clutter is avoided. There are several very nice time saving shortcuts, for instance, the ability to set a waypoint from a single button press. The GPS is fairly fast in obtaining a fix, and a nice touch is that when the watch is paired with the PC, the GPS almanac is updated, also speeding Time To First Fix.
The menu system allows access to most of the customisation that is possible, with a few options, ie setting up profiles, requiring access to the Suunto Movescount application.
The barometer/altimeter is very important to me. It appears accurate, much better barograph display than the core. No tendency to spurious readings. Unlike the Core, there is no provision to obtain previous barometer readings from a log. This is occasionally useful. Perhaps a Suunto App exists to fix this? Alternatively, Suunto provide data to aid user programming.
The GNSS functionality sets the time, and selectively integrates with the barometer/altimeter by “Fused Altitude” to provide a long term reference to sea level. Select GPS for general use, and GPS + Glonass for additional sensitivity in the urban canyon, and under tree cover. Position display is possible in many formats, natively WGS84, and in the UK, British National Grid. Heights in metric and Imperial units.
Battery management and life is good. Using the watch as a basic ABC watch (ie like the Core), depletes the battery by about 8 per-cent daily. Heavy use of the GPS reduces battery life to as little as ten hours – but by selecting an appropriate profile, 100 hours of GPS use is possible. Charging is by proprietary usb cable.
Native profiles are Hike, Hunting, and Fishing. These do not have to be used, and I set up BEST10, GOOD15, and OK100, corresponding with battery life when the GPS us used at progressively less frequent sampling rates
Unlike the Garmin devices, the Suunto watches do not appear as mass storage, when connected by usb to a computer. You can not just drag an xml file off the watch. A proprietary interface is used. An annoyance but arguably this does provide protection for the watch and the data.
Setting up the Traverse, and uploading tracks for analysis and preservation, requires access to a computer running Movescount, which is available by download. Connection to a PC is by the proprietary USB cable used to charge the watch. Connection to a cellphone is by Bluetooth. iPhone and Android versions of Movescount exist.
I have used the PC connection to an iMac, and to a Dell laptop. The Android version of Movescount refuses, by design, to load to a tablet, and is not well reviewed on Play.
In contrast to the watch, the Movescount software, and the Moveslink2 software, which is essential when uploading to a PC, is not well documented, and I had initial difficulty with both items. I succeeded with Moveslink2 only when I found an excellent description of how to use this software, on the Facewest blog. Previously I wasted a lot of time failing to force synchronization, because I did not know that the tray dialog contains a synchronization option that is not available in the MovesLink2 application UI.
Moveslink2 is installed on the PC and transfers track files from the watch to the PC. It also enables Movescount to access the watch, enabling software updates, and user customisation.
Movescount is cloud based, and transfers track files from the PC, to Suunto’s server. For some applications, this may present security issues, especially if the user makes their tracks publically visible. Tracks loaded to Movescount may be exported back to the PC, in generic formats, enabling the user to make local backups.
I wasted a lot of time with Movescount. While the dialog to customise the watch is very good, it initially provided limited functionality to manage tracks (called moves by Suunto). I could configure the Traverse, and upload tracks, but not display, edit, export or analyse the tracks. Subsequently, I found the problem to rest with my browser, and possibly anti-virus software. I now use Movescount successfully under Windows 10, using both Firefox and MS Edge browsers.
The functionality available in Movescount enables the creation of routes, both from open source mapping, and from excellent high resolution satellite photos. There is no direct access to Ordnance Survey or user mapping. The Movescount application is particularly useful to athletics sports users, and enables comparison of basic metrics, position, elevation, HR, and speed throughout an activity. While the elements are there, the menu system is far less intuitive than is the watch, lacks coherence, and has the tendency to divert to the sales pitch for Suunto products. A clear, sparse menu would help, as would a reduction in unnecessary graphical content.
Movescount may be set to display tracks publically, in which case all tracks are public, or privately. This may expose security issues – think before starting a track record at home.
Suunto should separate Movescount from their corporate website, and give oversight to the software team which produced the excellent embedded software for the watch.
The Traverse is a worthy successor to my much battered Core. It is slick and capable of useful customisation. It looks and feels right and performance does not disappoint. The screen visibility, and barometer alone justify its purchase. But it will not replace my GPSMAPs
Supporting software is good in function, but needs more work on documentation and usability. There is a need for software to manage, edit, and save Suunto track files, and waypoints, entirely on a local machine.
My applications are sailing, long distance walking, and overseas travel. While the watch will not replace my handheld GPS systems, the use of a GNSS watch to find a small hotel in a Budapest suburb, while not giving the impression of being a lost tourist, is certainly not trivial.
When not sailing boats, or tramping hills, I am a Chartered Engineer with involvements in software development, product design, and navigation systems.
I have no connection with Suunto, or Facewest.
Thanks to GSBJ for this review.
For more information on using the Suunto software check out our Suunto FAQs blog post.