Thursday, March 17, 2016

Gear Closet: The Suunto Ambit3 Vertical Should Be Your Next Adventure Watch

I'm the kind of person who wears a watch with them where ever they go. My watch is one of the first things I put on in the morning, and one of the last I take off at night. Like any person who is a fan of watches, I have several in my collection ranging from casual to more formal depending on the situation. I especially depend on a watch when workout and travel, which is when having more than just the time on my wrist is very important to me. In the past, my watch of choice in those situations has always been the Ambit series from Suunto, as I've always found them to be rugged, dependable, and with plenty of great functionality. So when I got the chance to test out the new Ambit3 Vertical – a watch specifically designed for use in adventure sports in the mountains – I couldn't wait to see how it performed.

The Ambit series has been around for a number of years now, and over that period we've seen lots of updates to these watches, some subtle in nature, while others are more dramatic. If you're already an Ambit3 owner, the new Vertical still offers some nice refinements, but if you're coming from one of the older versions of this watch, you'll see some major changes that are certainly welcome. In my case, I made the leap from the original Ambit to the Ambit3, and was impressed with how far these timepieces have come.

The first thing I noticed about the Ambit3 Vertical was that it was physically more streamlined than past models. It is a bit thinner, and the GPS satellite receiver that was so prominent in the past is gone. This makes it look a lot more like just about any other rugged sports watch you might find on the market, where some wearers will definitely appreciate.

The next thing that stood out when using the Vert was how much snappier the operating system was as compared to my old watch. Everything responded much more quickly, and it was easy to jump in and out of the menus to find the options you are looking for, such as setting time, adjusting settings, or starting a workout. If you've never used an Ambit watch before, you might be a little confused at first, but it all starts to fall in place the more you use it. If you're an old pro with its interface, it'll all seem like second nature to you.


The Vertical comes with some nice additions that haven't necessarily been seen on the Ambit before. For instance, it now has GLONASS GPS support for use in other parts of the world and it has a built-in barometric pressure sensor for registering altitude. That has been seen in some past models, but not all, and for a watch designed to measure changing elevations during your workouts or alpine pursuits, it is a must. Suunto even added vibration alerts that are subtle but noticeable too.

As I've already mentioned – and as the name indicates – the Ambit3 Vertical is all about tracking the performance of workouts on hills and mountains. The watch now has the ability to route elevation profiles more accurately, while also putting data about your ascent/descent details more front and center as well. It can even track your distances covered in 3D, taking into account elevation changes along the way. That is something that trail runners will certainly love, as in the past your distances up or down were not accurately tracked.

Just like on past Ambit models, the Vertical has preset workout routines backed right in. So, when you're ready to start your running, cycling, or skiing routine (amongst others), you simply pick it from the list, and set off. The new elevation tracking system does a great job of knowing whether you're moving up or down, and incorporates that data into your post-workout summary as well. The route charts that it displays are surprisingly accurate, and the inclusion of altitude change will make this watch a favorite amongst outdoor athletes.

The Vertical comes with the ability to connect to variety of other devices, including a heart rate monitor that came with my test unit. Connecting the watch and the monitor was a simple affair, providing me with even more feedback about performance on my daily runs. You can even connect it to your smartphone via Suunto's Movescount app, which is a very nice companion to the Ambit3, giving you a new way to visual your workout data.

As a travel watch, the Ambit3 Vertical has some nice features too, not the least of which is its rugged construction. This is the kind of timepiece you can wear anywhere and not worry about it surviving. It also features dual timezones, alarms, and automatic time adjust based on timezone. It's ability to track your distances covered and routes can come in handy for navigation too.

I'm sure you can tell that I'm highly impressed with this new watch from Suunto. It offers some great refinements that make it a step up over most of the other watches in the Ambit3 line. But, that said, it is missing a few features that mountaineers might miss, including storm tracking and warnings, barometric pressure trends, a built-in thermometer, and sea level air pressure. If hose are important features for you, you'll have to upgrade to the Ambit3 Peak.

Additionally, battery life on the Vert has been reduced as well. Suunto says that it is capable of running for 14 days in watch mode alone, which is about half what you'll get out of the Peak. That run time will be reduced further when using the GPS functions during a workout. The watch will last about 15 hours when tracking a run for instance, which pings the satellite ever second. That number climbs to 100 hours while trekking though, which extends the tracking to one minute instead. Official numbers aside, I've actually found the battery life to be a bit longer than Suunto says, so while this may be a step backwards in terms of performance, it might not be as bad as you would expect.

Those minor quibbles aside, the Suunto Ambit3 Vertical is a fantastic watch for outdoor athletes. Not only does it look nicer than any Ambit that has come before it, its ability to track movement in 3D is a real revelation for those of us who run, bike, ski, or do just about any other outdoor activity. This feature brings improved accuracy as well, which a lot of people will appreciate.

Priced at $469 ($519 with the heart rate monitor), the Vert is no small investment. But considering everything it is capable of doing, it is definitely worth it for those of us who are serious about their workouts, tracking performance, and improving their conditioning. This is a watch built for adventure, and I would recommend it over just about anything else other than perhaps the Ambit3 Peak, depending on your personal needs.

The Ambit3 Vertical is available now. Visit Suunto.com for more info.

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