Finding the right GPS watch is worth a little research time because it’s a high ticket piece of gear and you want it meet your needs! Today we’re looking at Suunto vs Polar fitness watches to see how they stack up.
A few key differences in Suunto vs Polar vs Garmin:
- Suunto feels like it wants to be the for rugged gritty individual. Google integrations make it more Android like.
- Polar is focused on enhancing the details of your training – most accurate HR, GPS.
- Garmin gives you all the lifestyle data too (hormone tracking, fastest 5K celebration, etc)
If you’re looking to purchase your first GPS watch for running, check out my post on GPS watch mistakes not to make, so you don’t end up getting more than what you need and spending more money than necessary.
This side-by-side comparison should help you better understand the different features and narrow down your choices.
✅This is the watch I’m training in 24/7.
It’s not the cheapest model, but the HR accuracy is a massive win for me.
Suunto vs Polar Feature Comparison
Even the most basic of GPS watches today include the same features such as heart rate monitor, pace, distance, calorie tracking, and lap function.
Where the two brands differ is in the hardware, training tools, alerts, and additional data recording features.
Display and Tracking – Tie
Both Polar and Suunto watches display customizable real-time data, such as pace, time, distance run, calories burned, and heart rate, plus more if you desire. Both brands also have excellent satellite tie ins, so they should be equally accurate on roads and trails.
Summary information like average pace, stride count, and elevation gain are all also available real-time by the push of a button.
The biggest difference between the two brands in this arena comes in display customization.
- Both Suunto and Polar allow you to make changes via their app to screens and then sync to the watch. No on the fly changes to display.
- Both watches have color display.
- Suunto watches appear to have more watch face designs that you can download. (specifically the Suunto 7OS)
Suunto has been making a big deal of these SuuntoPlus screens available on some modes, but minus the safety/weather screen they seem fairly similar to data on many other watches.
Battery Life – Tie
The Suunto 9 uses three different battery modes with built-in intelligence systems that estimate the remaining battery time left on a particular mode. If the watch notices that you’re running low on battery, it will suggest that you switch to a different mode. The battery life can last anywhere from 25 to 120 hours depending on the mode.
In continuous training mode, the Vantage V2 lasts 40 to 100 hours, depending on the settings, where its Garmin competitor the Fenix 6S Pro says it can go 150 horus in GPS mode.
- Wearing with HR on all the time will mean you need to charge watch a little more.
- Still once a week charging is probably the norm.
- Polar has a super fast charge.
Mapping and Navigation – Garmin
For those running new routes or who have a tendency to get turned around during a run, the navigational features on Suunto and Polar watches will make sure you stay on course and return home safely. (not available on all models)
For backcountry folk (whether running, skiing, or mountaineering), Suunto is well known for its altimeter and barometric functions that make off-trail navigation easier and safer. Serious backcountry wanderers will also appreciate the barometric features available from both brands.
- Polar and Suunto maps will give you a line to follow and tell you when to turn
- For both you will plan your route and then load it to the watch
- Garmin can download a full topo map giving details about the area
How Accurate is Suunto wrist HR?
Unfortunately this was the major downfall of Suunto for me. In testing multiple different watches I couldn’t ever get a good reading. To make sure this wasn’t just me, my husband tested it as well and we’d find it showing 165 while running easily downhill.
On the flips side, Polar Vantage V and V2 absolutely crush in this department.
They have been the most accurate wrist based readings, I’ve found since TomTom came out many years ago. Important to know that the V and V2 have a higher end technology than the lower models, which adds to their accuracy.
Data Management and Apps – Winner Suunto
In the summer of 2020, Suunto transitioned from Movescount to the Suunto app. The app will be compatible with the majority of the new Suunto products, with limited capabilities for lower end or older models.
All watches will have the ability to synchronize and analyze training data, upload photos, videos, and descriptions from your workout, social sharing, send notifications from your phone to your watch, GPS optimization, and sync to sports services and other partners integrated to Suunto app.
Polar uses a program called Polar Flow, which is fairly straight forward. Charts to easily see sleep data, workouts, steps and training status. You can also keep more notes on each session for how it felt.
You can also upload a photo, then it will over lay your workout stats to post to social.
- Again Garmin beats both in this area I think.
- Coros really comes out on top with the ability to create strength workouts from a library of movements with demos.
Polar VS Suunto For Running
Let’s officially look at watches from low end to high end by both brands. You’ll be be able to see how they match up and what might best meet your running needs.
Budget Running Watches
Polar Unite ($150)
This is now what’s considered an entry level running watch and it has EVERYTHING including smart watch features.
- wrist based HR, sleep tracking
- GPS features
- Safety features, smart phone notifications
It’s a great value when I think I paid more than this for my first Garmin that could only track how far I ran!
Suunto 3 ($180)
Though this is their entry level watch, it’s got many of the features you have to pay more for in higher priced watches from other brands.
Features include basic functions + altitude measurement, route navigation and track back, interval workout planner, running cadence, and activity-based recovery time.
It has wrist based HR which hopefully is better than the Suunto 5 that I tested. If you want something simple to use that records all of your running data and offers a bit more feature-wise than the Polar Unite, this is a great pick.
It’s a little bit more than the budget Garmin option, but includes more features.
Midrange Running Watches
Polar Vantage M ($290)
For about $100 more, you can get the Polar Vantage M…but I’m gonna say hold out and go for the Vantage V! It definitely has more bells and whistles, but I’m telling you the V is worth it if you’re upgrading.
This watch will track running, swimming, and cycling and tell you your ground contact time balance, stride length, and more.
- HR Tracking
- Longer battery life
- Multisport, waterproof to swim
- Training Load, altitude, ascent and descent tracking
- Smart phone notifications
Suunto Ambit 3 Peak ($295)
For a multi-sport upgrade, check out the Ambit 3 Peak.
Known for its super long battery life (30 hours), the Ambit 3 Peak is a great choice for long distance trail runners in particular.
The watch also features route navigation and track back and real-time altitude profile navigation. As a bonus, this watch is quite affordable, considering all the features.
They are slowly phasing these out and moving entirely to the Suunto 5 that I did not care for or the Suunto Spartan.
High End Running Watches
Polar Vantage V2 ($499)
As noted above this is the watch that I personally am running in daily and loving wholeheartedly. I previously loved the Vantage V, but it’s been improved upon with the screens and data that’s readily available.
- Wrist based HR monitor – most accurate I’ve tested in a long time
- Training load, HRV, sleep tracking
- Smartphone notifications, weather and music on watch
- GPS, power meter, fueling reminders, route guidance
Basically we’re now looking at top of the line. You can read a full review of the Polar Vantage V2.
Suunto 9 ($499)
The Suunto 9 is designed for endurance athletes who want a long battery life for day long activities.
The Suunto 9 Baro includes a barometer to provide more accurate altitude information and ascent/descent values. If storms are frequent where you run, then the watch will alert you of bad weather with a storm warning alarm.
Here’s a full review of the Suunto 5, which is one step down from the 9…except that it has a ton of features for tracking that the 9 doesn’t and costs less!
Looking for more reviews to find the best things for you run?
Checkout our full page of my must have running gear reviews and guides to save you time searching and money! I share what’s worked for me and fellow runners, along with what wasn’t worth the price tag.
A few common requests:
- Garmin Vs Polar
- Coros GPS Watch Review
- How to use all your run data
- Best HR monitors (from watches to straps)
- Best wireless headphones for running
Other watches you want to know about? Let me know!
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