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Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro (P)Review

Development of the Suunto Spartan series continues, mainly in terms of the software, but also with a bit of additional hardware – as Suunto makes abundantly clear in today’s news item announcing the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro.

In software news, the “outdoors-focused” October update is coming up, now announced as scheduled for the 17th.

It brings a nice new outdoors watchface (with sunrise/sunset times and moon phases), POI (actually, waypoints) starting to get added to route navigation, and more. Sleep tracking, for example, will also come to the Suunto Spartan Ultra.

We will be having a look at the state of the software via an updated Suunto Spartan Collection manual, on the way to the public release of the next update in October.

Follow the blog (e.g. on Facebook) or subscribe to my YouTube channel to stay informed of that!

In hardware news, we now know that Kilian Jornet at the UTMB was spotted with a new Spartan model, indeed:
Suunto just announced the latest entry to the Spartan family after the Spartan Ultra, Spartan Sport, Spartan Sport WHR (Wrist Heart Rate), and Spartan Trainer: the Suunto Spartan Sport WHR Baro.

Why a New Model?

Why a new watch in that already-wide lineup? Well, there actually was a gap to fill.

The Spartan Collection so far addressed sports people and athletes of a more general bend much more than it did the trail runners and mountain athletes that Suunto has a wide following among.

After all, it is only the Spartan Ultra that gives the altitude/ascent/descent (and barometric trend) data that somebody going for mountain sports will want to have. It alone included the barometric pressure sensor necessary to get the best of that data.

All the other models may have almost all the functions of the Spartan Ultra, most of them added optical heart rate (Suunto’s Wrist Heart Rate), but they measured altitude and ascent/descent only by way of GPS.

That only works in best GPS fix (1 second fix rate), which gets the best tracks at the cost of the shortest battery runtime and is still notoriously inaccurate as soon as GPS reception is less than ideal.

The Suunto Spartan Sport WHR Baro (SSWHRB) fills that gap of a watch with optical heart rate sensor as well as barometric pressure / altitude sensor.

Why Not a Spartan Ultra WHR?

Where the Sport WHR Baro is still no Spartan Ultra is mainly in two points alone:

Battery/Runtime

The battery is smaller, hence the runtime of the watch is not as long as that of the Spartan Ultra.

The SSWHRB is rated for a maximum 10 hours of use with best GPS fix, whereas the SSU (Suunto Spartan Ultra) should record for up to 18 hours in best GPS.

The “Good” GPS Update

What one should know – and very much needs testing – is that the 1-second “Good” GPS fix also receives an update (and bug fixes) on the SSWHRB as well as the rest of the collection.

With that, the Spartan Sport Wrist HR battery runtime in good GPS fix (and with power-saving options active) should reach up to 20 hours (and 40 hours in the “Okay” 1-minute GPS fix) whereas the Spartan Ultra will go up to 35 hours in good GPS fix and 140 hours (?!?) with “Okay” GPS fix and all the various power-saving options in use.

(Spartan Sport should be able to get to 25 hours in good GPS fix and 80 hours in “Okay”.)

So, we have:

Best Good Okay
Spartan Ultra 18 h 35 h 140 h
Spartan Sport 10 h 25 h 80 h
Spartan Sport WHR Baro 10 h 20 h 40 h

 

With the smaller battery, the SSWHRB feels lighter (even though it isn’t), and it is quite a bit flatter and more comfortable to wear.

All that also makes it more stable on the wrist, it seems, and thus better in picking up heart rate via the wrist sensor than a watch with the weight of the Spartan Ultra plus an oHR added onto it would be.

(Optical heart rate can be heavily influenced by many factors, including quite simply the bounce of the watch itself; a heavier and bigger watch bounces more and is more difficult and uncomfortable to close tightly enough on the wrist for a good HR recognition.)

Materials

The materials of the Spartan Sport WHRB are also less premium than those of the Spartan Ultra; there is only the usual ‘plastic’ casing, steel bezel and mineral-crystal glass, no sapphire glas and titanium bezel options.

Looks of the Suunto Spartan WHR Baro

The SSWHRB is released in two models only.

The orange “Amber” version has a rather more simple bezel and an orange band; the “Stealth” version has what may be Suunto’s best-looking bezel to date, wrapping around the watchface in polished steel with cut-outs at the cardinal points, otherwise watch case and strap are a simple black.

The watch band is again in silicone.

Suunto Spartan Sport WHR Baro (side view on wrist)

That collects dust quite a bit and will probably again look used quite quickly, but it is very comfortable and helps secure the watch tightly against the wrist, as necessary for use of an oHR sensor.

This time, the watch band is not a special fabrication sitting flush against the watch body (as it is on the Spartan Ultra). Rather, it is a standard NATO watch strap which should be easy to exchange for a band of one’s choosing, if so desired – all the more so as this band comes with quick-release pins!

Personally, I am a bigger fan of the Spartan Ultra’s integrated design, but I know that many people love exchanging their watch bands and I must say that the SSWHRB’s band feels better on the wrist somehow – which is tremendously important for getting decent oHR readings…

oHR Functionality

Having a Valencell oHR sensor on its back, the Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro offers the same functionality as the other WHR watches in the Spartan collection:

oHR in Training

For your training, you do not need to take a HR chest belt, it’s enough to just wear the watch. Against your wrist, tightly enough, where you don’t have tattoos,…, anyways.

Optical heart rate is very convenient, as long as you don’t freeze off your wrist in the dead of winter, trying to get your heart rate from there and see the watch all at the same time – sorry to emphasize that point, but this time is coming up soon again.

If you feel the need for more exact physiological data such as that which you get from HRV measurement, you will still want to use a chest HR belt, too.

That said, I have rather low circulation to my hands (they typically get warm, at best, 30 minutes to an hour into a run in the cold) but seem to be getting good readings from wrist oHR.

I’m currently working on the details for that, with a Garmin fenix5X as well as the SSWHRB, and I’ll add my results when I feel I’m done with that.

oHR Tracking

In daily life, the wrist heart rate can also be used to track 24-hour heart rate, including as part of sleep tracking.\

There, you get an overview graph of your last 12 hours’ heart rate on the watch, alongside the average and minimum HR, which is (somewhat) useful for tracking stress levels, health and recovery (as an elevated heart rate at rest or on average can point to issues).

Sleep Tracking

In sleep tracking, oHR may be used to differentiate deep sleep from light sleep (though that can also be done via motion detection, as it must be done with the Spartan Ultra – no oHR there). It certainly is being used to track the average heart rate in sleep.

Just remember – but that will be something for the new manual, again – to turn on sleep tracking and to set the watch to “Do Not Disturb” before going to sleep so that the watch itself doesn’t “go to sleep” and turn off oHR measurement when it detects no motion ;)

More…

With the outdoors update coming to the Spartan collection, there’s increased battery runtimes in “good” GPS mode, updates to navigation to (start to) use POI, storm alarm, and new downhill (sports) features which will be a lot of fun for trail runners and even better for Alpine skiing or snowboarding…

We’ll have a look at those, as I already mentioned, in the shape of a manual/how-to for the whole collection until the update goes public, as now announced by Suunto, on October 17.

Questions welcome.