The Holy Grail of a connected watch is the ability to merge both the features and functions of a sports watch with the capability of a smartwatch. Suunto comes close with its latest release, the Suunto Vertical.
With accurate sensors, superb battery life, and an unobtrusive and functional design that gets the job done, this timepiece ticks all the right boxes.
Those who are familiar with the Finnish company’s product range would most probably classify the Suunto Vertical as the next iteration of the Suunto 9 Peak Pro, albeit marketed under a new moniker.
Suunto ensures you will not have any trouble choosing from just two options: Solar (with titanium) or sans Solar (with stainless steel). Freedom of choice comes with the slew of bands that go with the chassis.
Unbox the Suunto Vertical and you will find the smartwatch itself, a USB-C charging dock, and printed user documentation you will probably never refer to.
Design and build quality
The Suunto Vertical certainly appreciates understated elegance as its design language. With a case measuring 49mm, there is no rotating bezel here – just three buttons on the right that lets you navigate the menu with ease.
At a thickness of 13.6mm, this is certainly thinner than other available flagship smartwatches in the market.
While there is a touchscreen display with sapphire glass, Suunto clearly caters to situations where it is inconvenient to do so by providing the buttons. A 1.4-inch (3.5cm) matrix touchscreen display at 280-x-280-pixel resolution is where all the visual action happens.
This is clearly larger with a higher pixel count than on the Suunto 9 Peak and Peak Pro, but it falls short of the Amoled and Oled displays found on other smartwatches.
The reason behind the LED-lighted MIP display? Superior battery life with excellent viewing angles under bright sunlight or when you take a dip in the pool. The solar charging ring surrounds the display in a discreet manner, helping boost your battery life by leaps and bounds.
The top and bottom buttons are to scroll through the menu and make certain selections, while the middle button is generally used as an “enter” key in most situations. Should you scroll through the different functions, a long press of the middle button will return you to the watch face.
While the touchscreen could be more sensitive as it fails to register touches at times, you would not go wrong using the physical buttons to navigate the user interface.
The 22mm silicone strap is long enough to fit comfortably on just about every wrist size, thanks to an insane number of adjustment holes. Flip the timepiece over to the back, and you will be greeted by the different sensors and magnetic charging points.
Overall, the build quality is extremely solid and certainly worth every single sen you fork out to own one of these. In fact, you will be able to take this on your snorkelling adventures without missing a beat, since it has a water-resistance rating of 100m.
Functions and features
So, what can the Suunto Vertical do? Everything that a flagship GPS watch can, and more.
Basic and more exotic sports are covered, you can get your health and sleep tracked, and everyday smartwatch functions are catered for. It has all the right features for the target market: the adventure-seeker who indulges in various sports and might get lost in the wonder of nature for days on end.
Powered by Suunto’s very own operating system, the scrolling menu with a tile system offers a quick overview of the different metrics, including your heart rate, sleep quality, fitness level, oxygen use, “fitness age” – the works.
All basic recorded data plus additional information can be accessed via the Suunto app, which is ideal for those who love metrics and want to achieve a new personal best. The app is easy to navigate: long-time Suunto fans will find it familiar, while new users can jump aboard without much difficulty as it is extremely intuitive.
The Suunto Vertical can also receive incoming messages, albeit with Android-powered handsets only, and the latest on the weather. Note, however, that while you can reply to messages via the watch, it is much faster to do so on your smartphone – the watch serves more effectively as a notification device.
The ABCs of a sports watch are also present – namely the altimeter, barometer, and compass. While there is 32GB of memory to store maps, you cannot use the same memory to stash your favourite tunes for offline listening. All you can do is control music playback from your wrist.
Other expected functions are thrown into the mix, including setting alarms and a timer. City-oriented users might shun the Suunto Vertical for the lack of ECG and NFC support, which is fine as these are simply nice to have but not essential.
Maps done right
Happily, the Suunto Vertical offers full offline map functionality and, best of all, it is free! Nothing is hidden behind a paywall, and you will be able to synchronise with Suunto’s very own heat maps, 3D maps, and terrain layers based on your personal preference.
The fact that the Suunto Vertical will prompt users to download local maps upon setup is a nice touch. While most of us may already have an established running route, there are times when the spirit of wanderlust calls us to foreign places.
The solution is simple: just download an offline map of where you’re going, and voila! The next time you pound the pavement, the map is ready to match your location without any lag, courtesy of the dual-band multi-GNSS system that locks on the satellite signal in double-quick time.
Controlling the maps is a snap with the user-friendly button layout. You can zoom in on your position or have a big-picture view by zooming out. Everything is presented cleanly, allowing you to concentrate on your run, hike, swim, or workout while having an overview of your activity at one glance.
Another major strength of the Suunto Vertical is its phenomenal battery life. The Finnish-company quotes a battery life of up to 500 hours in Tour mode, but this means the sensors are disabled, which is hardly the standard scenario the watch will find itself in. Use this mode only if you are on very long trips with no access to charging options.
Ultra mode nets you 140 hours of battery life, while Endurance mode delivers 90 hours of juice. Most users might settle for Performance mode, which offers up to 60 hours of operational capability before charging.
Suunto claims that the solar ring is capable of extending battery life by another 30%, but this would mean you’d be as red as a lobster since the Vertical will have to be exposed to 50,000 lux of sunlight a day.
While it is theoretically possible to charge the Suunto Vertical via solar energy alone, it’s best you rely on the included charger. A 30-minute charge yields approximately 50% of battery life, which is perfect for urbanites who cannot live without fast charging.
Indeed, 50% of battery life can keep the Suunto Vertical going for a long, long time. Case in point: after using the Suunto Vertical for two weeks without charging, having enabled all sensors while indulging in runs and hikes, and staying connected, this tough little timepiece still had approximately 30% of battery life remaining.
Most city folk who lead a more sedentary lifestyle might actually find themselves charging this watch once or twice at most each month, which is amazing!
The bottom line
Fitness enthusiasts who want a reliable sports watch with smartwatch capabilities and amazing battery life will not find anything close to the Suunto Vertical – a large-screen adventure watch to keep you company on long expeditions.
The asking price of RM3,799 for the titanium model is steep, and let’s face it, if you are going to embark on outdoor adventures, the watch is going to see some rough-and-tumble moments.
Scuffs and scars are bound to be part of the experience even with a titanium case, so those on a tighter budget can settle for the RM2,799 stainless-steel model with peace of mind.
Edwin Kee dreamt of being a pro-gamer only to have circumstances mould him into a programmer in a past life. He has since moved on to write about consumer electronics and other topics.