Update: April 2, 2020: We have updated our Suunto 7 review with new pricing details. Check out the value section of this review for more details on a Suunto 7 price drop.
Suunto doesn’t have as much clout in the GPS watch space as it used to. Garmin is the go-to for outdoor fitness watches for most people, while Apple, Samsung, Google, and even Fitbit have been surpassing the Finnish company in the smartwatch realm. That’s why the Suunto 7 exists. The company is trying its best to appeal to outdoorsy users and those who still want a good smartwatch.
Did it succeed? It’s kind of a mixed bag, but I do like a lot about the Suunto 7. I haven’t even thought about switching to another watch since I started wearing it, and that says something. This is our full Suunto 7 review.
Top-notch hardware and design
- Glass fibre reinforced polyamide casing
- Stainless steel bezel
- 1GB of RAM
- 4.5GB of user-accessible storage
- Wi-Fi only (no LTE)
The Suunto 7 looks more like a GPS sports watch than it does any other Wear OS watch. It’s big — maybe too big for a lot of people. The 50mm case is pretty much the max I’d go for my average-sized wrists. Luckily it’s relatively light at 70g.
The whole thing feels really high quality, though. The polyamide material that makes up the case feels sturdy and comfortable, and the side buttons are clicky and easy to find. And that strap, oh man, that strap. It’s great. It didn’t get caught on my clothes, and I quite like the texture on the outside. My one complaint is that the strap loop moves around the watch strap a little more than I’d like it to.
There are four buttons around the watch case. The top-left is the home/all apps button, the top-right is the non-programmable Suunto app button, and the other two are both programmable. Wear OS really benefits from a rotatable crown, but unfortunately there isn’t one on the Suunto 7.
The watch is this big for two reasons: for the display and battery. The 1.39-inch AMOLED display is fantastic. Colors are great, and the size makes it easy to read notifications.
Suunto surprised us a little at CES when it claimed two-day battery life for the Suunto 7 — not a small feat for a Wear OS watch. But I’m happy to say the claims are legitimate. I often got a solid two days out of the Suunto 7, even when wearing it to bed and recording an exercise at the gym during the evening. I usually went to bed on the first night with about 65% left in the tank.
These numbers are for “normal” smartwatch use: receiving notifications, using Google Pay, tracking workouts, etc. If you’re running the GPS continuously, battery life drops down to 12 hours.
All-day battery life and quick performance — Suunto nailed the hardware with the Suunto 7.
Suunto is actually the first Wear OS watchmaker to utilize the Qualcomm Snapdragon 3100’s power-saving sports mode. You can read more about that here, and see Suunto’s Mikko Ahlstrom explain the feature to Android Authority during an interview at CES.
Speaking of that Qualcomm processor, performance is good. It’s the same ol’ story as all other recent Wear OS watches: Google Assistant hiccups from time to time and the setup process is a little laggy. Everything else is smooth sailing.
Suunto has been making watches for a long time, so I’m not surprised the hardware is top notch.
Fitness and health tracking
The Suunto 7 is in the same ballpark as other mid-range multisport watches. It has built-in GPS (with GLONASS, QZSS, and Beidou), an optical heart rate sensor, and a barometric altimeter. It can track over 70 sport modes, including running (outdoor, interval, race, trail, and more), hiking, pool and open water swimming, and many other niche activities. There’s a catch-all “unspecified activity” for outdoor and indoor sports, too. There’s no triathlon mode here though, likely because the battery wouldn’t be able to last that long.
The Suunto 7 excels during outdoor activities. That’s because it supports offline outdoor maps, so you can still see where you’re going even if you can’t get a connection. They’re pretty detailed too, with terrain info, trails, and contour lines if you’re using these maps for hiking or trail running.
Just open the Suunto smartwatch app, click offline maps, and select which 40-mile area you’d like to download. These offline maps automatically update when the 7 is charging and connected to Wi-Fi, so you always should be up to date.
If this is your first experience with a Suunto watch, boy are you in for a treat with Heatmaps. Suunto Heatmaps show heavily traveled areas frequented by other Suunto users. The maps look really nice — they all have a dark background, with orange and yellow accents designating the most popular running paths.
See the image above. The bright yellow path is a popular running route near my house, and the darker orange lines are paths taken semi-frequently. This might not be all that useful for a residential area in my case, but you could see the benefit if you’re going trail running or hiking. The goal is to stay safe, so Heatmaps make it pretty easy to stick to well-traveled paths. Also, colors change depending on which activity you choose.
Heatmaps are available during exercises, but Suunto also included an awesome Heatmaps watch face for the Suunto 7 that auto-updates based on your location. It’s literally one of my favorite watch faces I’ve ever used. You can zoom out or in on your current location and set it to any one of the 15 Heatmaps you like.
I found the Suunto 7’s GPS to be quite accurate, at least compared to my Garmin Forerunner 245 Music and Fenix 5. On a long outdoor walk, all three of these devices were able to stick to my path pretty accurately, even when I went under a bridge.
Unlike other Suunto watches, the Suunto 7 isn’t compatible with external heart rate sensors. Considering most other Suunto watches are, it’s unfortunate the Suunto 7 is left out. Suunto knows this is important to certain users. The company said it’s able to add this feature with a software update if need be, so it all depends on how people react to the omission this time around.
I came away impressed with the Suunto 7 heart rate sensor. All three of the devices were quick to pick up on trends throughout my treadmill run. In fact, I think the Suunto 7 performed better than the Forerunner 245 during the first six minutes or so. It was able to pick up on the slight dip at around the five-minute mark, while the Forerunner didn’t.
All three devices picked up on the drop down to ~140bpm at 23 minutes, and all three rose up again a few minutes later. I was a bit concerned about the HR sensor accuracy when I learned that Suunto was going with a different supplier for the Suunto 7, but those concerns have been laid to rest.
My Suunto 7 review unit is a final retail model, though I did run into one issue with the heart rate sensor during my testing. I went for a run with the watch on the day it arrived, and the heart rate sensor just didn’t record anything. (And yes, I turned it on in the Google Fit settings beforehand.) A simple soft reboot fixed the issue, but I’m still not sure what was going on there. I’ve let Suunto know about the issue.
And finally, sleep tracking. Wear OS watches are capable of tracking sleep, but not natively. You need to download a third-party app to do so. For a sports watch, you’d think you could do this without jumping through hoops. I downloaded Sleep as Android and it seems to track well in Google Fit, though I don’t love the app itself. Suunto says this is something its developers are working on fixing sometime in 2020.
Google Fit, the Suunto app, and some frustrations
The Suunto 7 runs Wear OS, so the software looks and acts just like any other Wear OS watch from the past few years. The biggest benefit you get here is access to the Suunto smartwatch app. Click the top-right button to launch it. You’ll see a map of your current location (or a Heatmap if you so choose), a “start activity” slider, exercise and map options, and more. It’s well designed and easy to navigate, and definitely made me feel like I was using a more traditional GPS fitness watch.
But once you get your fitness stats off the watch and onto your phone, things get messy.
You’ll need to download two apps to use with the Suunto 7: Google Fit and the Suunto app. After you record a workout, that information will be sent over to the Suunto app. Here, you can see all the details about your activity: pace, heart rate, duration, cadence, speed, and more. But the other three pages on the Suunto app’s Diary screen — steps, calories, and sleep — are completely blank. You have to use Google Fit to see those stats.
The Suunto 7 only sends workout metrics to the Suunto app, not daily activity metrics (steps, calories, etc.). You can, however, view your daily activity stats on the watch, just not in the Suunto app. It’s just weird to open your fitness app and only see workout details, no steps or sleep or anything. Suunto says this is higher up on the priority list for the development team, so we’ll keep our eyes out for a fix later this year. Luckily this is Wear OS, so you can connect it with Strava, Endomondo, or another fitness app of your choosing.
When you do use the Suunto smartphone app, it’s a great experience. It’s easy to use and you don’t need to go digging for things like you sometimes do with Garmin’s app. It of course features Suunto’s Heatmaps and lets you import or create new running or hiking routes right in the app.
I’ll be honest, Google Fit isn’t for me. I usually do whatever I can to push my fitness stats over to Strava instead of using Fit. But if you want to see all your metrics — workouts, heart rate, steps, sleep, etc. — you’ll need to use Google Fit. I still have the same minor criticisms with Google Fit that I did before. There are limited social features, and I think the app makes it difficult to dig into simple things like heart rate data.
So, yeah. I’m hoping the software situation gets worked out soon.
Value and the competition
The Suunto 7 is available on Amazon and Suunto.com for $499 in five color options: All Black, Black Lime (our review unit), Graphite Copper, Sandstone Rose Gold, and White Burgundy. As of April 2, 2020, the Sandstone/Rose Gold version of the Suunto 7 is on sale for $478.98 ($20.02 off) on Amazon.
I think Suunto got the pricing wrong with the Suunto 7. This is very much a Garmin Venu/Vivoactive 4 competitor, and those devices are regularly on sale for $300. If it’s between the Suunto 7 for $500 and Venu for $300, I’d choose the Garmin every time. Wear OS isn’t worth a $200 price difference, and the platform’s limitations are pretty annoying here.
As for competing Wear OS watches, the Suunto 7 is your only bet for a smartwatch with this many fitness features.
Unfortunately, the best smartwatches for Android users aren’t great fitness watches. Samsung’s Galaxy Watch Active 2 struggles with accuracy and the Fitbit Versa 2 isn’t really for the power users. You’re going to have to make some sacrifices if you want the best of both worlds, because the best of both worlds doesn’t exist right now.
Suunto 7 review: The verdict
If you’ve got the cash and none of those negatives at the top turn you away, I think you’ll be really happy with the Suunto 7. I know I am, but I also never use a heart rate sensor chest strap outside of reviewing devices, and I like certain Wear OS features.
You'll have to make some sacrifices if you want the best of both worlds. The best of both worlds doesn't exist right now.
Outside of the Apple Watch, no one has really nailed the fitness watch-smartwatch combo quite yet, but I think Suunto is close. Once it fixes those app issues and drops the price (and maybe adds external HR support), I’ll recommend this watch left and right. Until then, keep checking that Amazon listing for the price to drop, or just go out and buy a Garmin Venu.