The latest GPS watch from Suunto is finally with us. Looking very similar to the ambit 2 with many of the same features but using very different technology. The Ambit 3 no longer uses ANT+ communication but uses Bluetooth Smart. Whilst this doesn’t make much difference to the user when connecting to the heart rate belt or foot pod, it also allows the watch to communicate with your smartphone (iphone only currently but android app in progress). Combining the watch with your phone and associated app offers an alternative to the cabled PC connection for downloading info and editing displays plus receive phone notifications on the watch.
The Ambit comes in 2 variants, Ambit 3 Peak (starting at £360) and Ambit 3 Sports (starting at £275). The Peak as the name suggests in the outdoor / mountaineering version and has a barometer / altimeter and associated functions which the Sports version does not. The Sports can do altitude using a GPS fix but it’s not as accurate as an air pressure reading if you have calibrated the altimeter. The Sports does not have any features which the Peak does not.
The Ambit 3 Sports exists because many people use the Ambit as a measuring device and have no need of an really accurate altitude measurement or storm alarm so there is no need to pay for features that will not be used.
The Ambit 3 has your usual watch features like time, dual time and alarm. Whenever you do an activity the ambit 3 records what you are doing and where plus other values depending which sports mode you are in. You can define all the activities you do and what information is displayed and recorded. There are 3 data rows on the watch and you can define which info goes in which position and how many screen of data there are. All this was possible on the Ambit 2 but the screens could only be edited by connecting the Ambit to a PC and the movescount website. This is now possible using the movescount app. I think this is a great feature as I have often been away from home and wished the displays of my watch were different but could do nothing about them and then by the time I got home I had forgotten what I wanted to change! You can also review log files (recordings) of an exercise you have just done, including a map, by downloading the log into your phone without having to wait till you get to your PC.
GPS Performance is very important and the Ambit 3 has an upgraded antenna over the Ambit 2. This video shows the first and subsequent fixes of my watch. The video has some speeded up footage to make it less boring but the times are completely accurate.
There are a few things that are either are new on the Ambit 3 or I didn’t realise about the Ambit 2 that are worth a mention.
- Heart Rate Belt now has some memory. If it looses connection to the watch it will store info until it can upload the data. There must be a connection to the watch to start the log file with HR but after that you could go swimming and leave your watch behind.
- Trackback function still present in navigation as a separate item to find home which is straight line navigation back to first waypoint. There is still no option to join a route at the nearest waypoint, the user must select the starting waypoint manually.
- Define shortcut. A long press of the bottom left button by default, changes the display from positive to negative or vice versa. However this is a definable shortcut. You can to most places in the menu and then define that point as the shortcut destination. I changed mine to the set reference altitude screen so I can calibrate my altimeter quickly when on the hill.
- Storm alarm does not function in altimeter mode so it’s more of a marine tool than a mountain one.
- There is a service menu that allows you to put your watch back in sleep mode to preserve the battery when not using it rather than recharge it. 10 second press of the upper 2 buttons, but you need the usb cable and a power source to wake it up again and all your settings are gone.
- 5 button reset similar to sleep mode but reboots the watch but retains the current settings. I had a bluetooth connection problem caused by interrupting a sync cycle that was cleared by using this.
- Some of the functions of the Movescount app require a data connection and some don’t. For example you can download a log file from watch to phone offline but you wouldn’t see the google map until online.
I am really pleased with my new Ambit, like a lot of upgrades these days I’m not sure it’s worth changing if you have the Ambit 2 but the new features of the Ambit 3 are well worth it. My favourite has to be the phone notifications on the watch, a great feature when running, biking or driving.