The Suunto Traverse @FW1.5.4 Review Update

One of the things about Suunto outdoor and training watches, recently: First you get it – and I present it – the way it is, then they release a new software and some things get changed/added…

For the Suunto Traverse, the (first) time of bigger changes came just in time for Christmas 2015, when software (firmware) 1.5.4 was released.

With that came a new implementation of the step counter, the addition of waypoint notifications to the navigation, the activation of GLONASS reception to the GPS system, an altitude profile in the ‘move’ summary, and under-the-hood improvements / fixes that aren’t that visible – except when/if they are, especially in the GPS accuracy and position update…

Step Counter(s)

The most visible change in the 1.5.4 firmware is the addition of a dedicated display for the step counts, And yes, now it is “counts” in the plural.

First, though, if you have newly updated your Traverse, the display is not very visible. It is not active by default but has to be activated by the user.

So, now there are not just the displays for the time mode that we had  before…

Now, there is also the steps display to activate, if you want to have it (and you will):

And then, the step counter doesn’t just reset to zero at midnight as if it were a fairy-tale pumpkin chariot. Now, it also stores the data and gives you an overview over 7 days, 30 days, and even years.

In the software release/update notes, Suunto also states – if you haven’t listened to the video above and heard it there – that the step counts are “not yet” visible on Movescount. So, plans are to also transfer those there, which may easily be *the* feature that most people found missing from the Traverse.

Waypoint Notifications

For me, simple as that may be, one of the most important – if smallest – changes to the Traverse has been the addition of waypoint notifications.

Navigation along a route still works more simply than on the Ambit line (one can’t see the navigation data for a waypoint), but now waypoints marked on the route are used in the watch at least in such a way that one gets a notification when “approaching” the waypoint.

This is a small change, but when you move along a route,

  • it is a comforting sign of progress to also receive notifications that another waypoint was passed,
  • receiving those notifications helps be informed of progress when in a display other than the one for navigation,
  • and waypoints can be named after landmarks or with notes about the necessary turn that is coming up, which can help with the navigation at difficult intersections.

See here:

 

GPS Updates

The main “official” update to the Traverse’s GPS system with firmware 1.5.4 is that  GLONASS reception has now also been made available.

To turn it on, go into the navigation settings (hold middle right button to get into the options menu -> General -> Navigation -> Settings -> GNSS -> Select “GPS + GLONASS”):

Activating GLONASS should/could bring higher accuracy at the cost of a lower battery run time, but both are not as easy to determine as one might think…

So, let’s have a look at some comparison tracks/data recorded with an Ambit3 Peak (customized) and a Traverse, with either GPS or GPS+GLONASS.

Mountain Reception

First, three tracks in the mountains, much of the time on the slope, often under (coniferous) tree cover, all (I’m quite sure but wouldn’t swear to it) with GPS+GLONASS having been active on the Traverse:

(Click on the “view larger map” full-screen symbol in the upper right of the map to go full-screen, see notes on the tracks so you know which is which, and get the option to choose which track/s to view.)

The data for these tracks (in the same order in which they are on the map):

Device

Duration

Distance

Pace (Speed)

Ascent (highest point)

Descent (lowest point)

2015-12-19

A3P

6:13’44.8

33.42 km

11’10 min/km (5.4 km/h)

1736 m (1570 m)

1733 m (419 m)

Traverse

6:13’48.6

32.86 km

11’23 min/km (5.3 km/h)

1697 m (1566 m)

1701 m (420 m)

2015-12-30

A3P

2:07’41.2*

(7.00 km)*

812 m (1039 m)

835 m (397 m)

Traverse

2:15’46.0

7.28 km

18’38 min/km (3.2 km/h)

807 m (1041 m)

862 m (400 m)

2015-12-29

A3P

0:42’43.1

4.87 km

8’46 min/km (6.8 km/h)

362 m (844 m)

379 m (481 m)

Traverse

0:42’44.8

4.64 km

9’12 min/km (6.5 km/h)

362 m (818 m)

362 m (461 m)

*I’m including these tracks from 2015-12-30 because the tracks themselves are interesting, but the time and distance are off because I forgot to turn the recording on the Ambit3 Peak on at the start… It’s a problem I sometimes get when I immediately start to use the navigation, see myself moving – and promptly overlook that the recording isn’t running.
Point 1 for the Traverse with its autostart – except that it loses that point if one wants to use it in a race, where one would want to hit “start” by oneself, when actually starting. (Then again, whoever wants to use a Traverse for that hasn’t understood – or ignored – its target audience.)

Here, on mountains, I would still suggest that the Ambits have an advantage compared to the Traverse:

I have seen my position marker on the in-watch navigation screen more clearly/cleanly on the route when I myself was on the trail on the Ambit3 here. The Traverse, meanwhile, was showing me a little off the route/trail.

That difference, however, is pretty much negligible in use and, I’d say, well within the accuracy to be expected from any GPS device.

Same way, both devices had to struggle a bit when under forest canopy on a mountain slope (and in fog) – see the move from 2015-12-29.

There, the difference became more pronounced (230 m over a course of not even 5000 m), but one still has to be overly concerned with one’s data to consider that a truly bad/worrying result.

The normal GPS inaccuracy and, on those switchbacks, a possibly-different algorithm that determines whether a “new” GPS position is considered far-enough away from the previous one to be counted as new or  as so close that it should be discounted as a mere reception error can easily explain that difference.

(I’d assume that a similar combination of slightly different algorithms plus different reception may also explain the different ascent/descent numbers. When it comes to those, I should also mention that I hardly ever corrected the reference altitude but just let the watches run the way they did…)

Reception under Ideal Conditions

Secondly, eight recordings on the flat and open ground of the area where I usually live. Here, I made both GPS and GPS+GLONASS tracks by running the same courses again, following the route/track previously recorded.

Again, the order in the following table is the same as on the map’s layers…

Device

Duration

Distance

Pace (Speed)

Ascent (highest point)

Descent (lowest point)

2016-01-04 (course A)

Traverse, GPS+GLONASS

0:56’18.5

10.35 km

5’26 min/km (11.0 km/h)

61 m (187 m)

50 m (154 m)

2016-01-06 (course A)

Traverse, GPS only

0:58’47.5

10.34 km

5’40 min/km (10.6 km/h)

56 m (191 m)

54 m (155 m)

2016-01-04 (course A)

Ambit3 Peak

0:56’19.8

10.36 km

5’26 min/km (11.0 km/h)

68 m (192 m)

68 m (160 m)

2016-01-06 (course A)

Ambit3 Peak

0:58’38.5

10.37 km

5’39 min/km (10.6 km/h)

54 m (194 m)

49 m (158 m)

2016-01-15 (course B)

Ambit3 Peak

1:21’46.1

13.34 km

6’07 min/km (9.8 km/h)

51 m (192 m)

59 m (151 m)

2016-01-15 (course B)

Traverse, GPS+GLONASS

1:21’47.8

13.33 km

6’08 min/km (9.8 km/h)

53 m (195 m)

44 m (145 m)

2016-01-16 (course B)

Ambit3 Peak

1:18’00.4

13.38 km

5’49 min/km (10.3 km/h)

40 m (191 m)

43 m (151 m)

2016-01-16 (course B)

Traverse, GPS only

1:18’01.9

13.36 km

5’50 min/km (10.3 km/h)

59 m (186 m)

64 m (149 m)

So, on flat and open ground, the difference in distance recorded (on Ambit3 Peak compared to Traverse, on the same run) was 30 m at most – and I’d say that, looking at the tracks on the map, the main influence may have been simply what wrist which device was worn on.
There is a definite trend for the tracks to be shifted a little to the left or right as the device is worn on the left or right wrist, respectively.

Comparing with a mountain biking track, it’s likely that there is also some influence simply from whether the device is moving more (with arms swinging while running) or in a more-stable position (with the arms resting on a bike’s handlebars)

The main update, when it comes to GPS, for me isn’t GLONASS. It isn’t even anything quite so explicitly mentioned in the software release notes.

It is that the GPS lag I had seen on the Traverse, as compared to an Ambit3, appears to be gone.

So, it used to be that I took a turn, the Ambit3’s navigation screen already showed me past the curve, where I was, and the Traverse updated my position only a little later.

No more. Ambit3 and Traverse now react just as quickly:

So, yes, mean as those words may have been, I’ll stick with what I concluded about the concern I’ve seen about temperature and altitude measurement “inaccuracies” before:

Don’t get on my, and your, nerves worrying about *the* *exact* numbers all the time, they are pretty good. Get out there and move!

And if you’d like to get a Traverse from REI and get me a commission, follow this link:
Suunto Traverse on REI.com

On 2015-12-29, above the fog
On 2015-12-29, above the fog

And what's your take?