at home in... w| Gerald Zhang-Schmidt

Look Closer, Learn More, #GetAtHome In This World

Category: Connecting Tech (Page 1 of 5)

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.

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Casio ProTrek Smart WSD-F20 In-Depth Review, Part 1: Get Smart About Your Place, #GetAtHome, In This World

The Casio ProTrek Smart WSD-F20, Casio’s second version of an outdoors smartwatch with Android Wear (2.0) was announced at the beginning of 2017.

Sports tech authority DC Rainmaker called himself “perplexed” by it.
I found myself intrigued, now that it includes GPS.

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My Trusty Companion, Photographically: Sony RX100 (M2)

Lots of people have asked me how I make my marathon videos (with a Sony HDR-AZ1 action cam: tiny, but alright quality, with such a wide angle lens I can just hold it away from me and vlog away… but that’s a different story).

I have put a lot of thought into upgrading my camera equipment.

So, it comes at a good time that fellow outdoor blogger Astrid of OutsideA(n)dventure [in German] has called for a “blog parade”, basically for different blog(ger)s to write on the same topic and show their take on it.


My Main Camera: Sony RX100 MII

My story with the Sony RX100 has been a strange one.

I was among the first people who bought into that ‘system’ when it came out, with the first version of that camera.

I was pretty definitely among the first people who managed to have their camera disappear on them, and that while outdoors… on the Hong Kong Trail, back in 2013, no less.

A View from the Hong Kong Trail

A View from the Hong Kong Trail

Having already had good experiences (otherwise…) with it, and with the Mark II only just released, I used the opportunity of lower prices in Hong Kong to immediately replace the lost camera.

Outdoors, with an RX100?!

It was and is not an outdoor camera, and that has sometimes shown.

Among other things, I can still play the scene of how I dropped the camera on some rocks on the path to the Höllkogel (and saw it leisurely retract the lens, because the drop sensor was active, while already lying there on the ground) in my mind.

Sunrise Watching

Sunrise Watching at the Höllkogel

I’m not sure anymore, but I think that even came only after the camera failed on me while I was trying to take pictures of the Ötscher with it, carrying it around on Day 1 of the Ötscher Ultra.

After that, when I had the display tilted out while taking a picture, then let it flip back in to the camera body, the camera turned itself off and didn’t save the photo.

My RX100 (II), Today

By now, the lens barrel is dented a bit, the camera seems to be bent a little and the covering on the bottom partly broke off.

The ring around the lens cannot be turned far, let alone easily, anymore.

“Image Database Error” messages have become regular occurrences when I try to view the photos in-camera.

And the camera works rather better again.

The problem with having the screen tilted out and pushing it back has disappeared.

Canal at Night 2

Venice Canal at Night 2

So, this RX100 has seen a lot, and more importantly, I have taken more than a lot of good (and mediocre) pictures with it.

It has even led me to thinking more, much more, about photography as a #GetAtHome practice.

I fear that it will completely break down soon and suddenly, but it still hasn’t.

Why I’m Staying…

Aside from the fear of a sudden break-down, I’d also really like to get a bit more serious with my photography and vlogging.

Full frame would be great. 4K video recording…

… but, few cameras offer such a good mix of capability and portability as the RX100.

The RX1R (II) would be a fascination, but limited through its one lens and not offering 4K video. Its Mark I could be got “cheap” right now, but be even worse in several respects (and hardly future-proofing it).

Newer RX100 models are nice, but I’m not a sports photographer, so their faster burst shooting wouldn’t be for me and the prices are high enough that they give me pause (especially as I’d really like a bigger sensor and the price difference isn’t so great, then).

Anything better/bigger is easily too big.
The a7 series (in its Mark II) would be very interesting, but here things get so expensive yet again, especially with the glass (i.e., lenses – which also make the camera big, in most configurations).

The Best Camera Is the One You Already Own

When a camera costs so much that I could, for the same sum, get a cheaper camera and a flight to Japan, I’m not really tempted (especially given that it would draw down my accounts by quite a sum).

And of course, the RX100 M2 that I have still works, still serves me well, so far… and I don’t have to care for it quite as much as I would have to if I had a new camera.

All the talk of bigger sensors and what-not is somewhat moot, anyways, when all the photos just end up on the blog, Instagram and Facebook, and therefore get compressed quite far.

Thus, I’m still running with the same RX100 M2. The one I have. Oftentimes, literally running.

Until it completely breaks down, when I have no idea what I’ll do then.

Suunto Coaching

Suunto (Spartan) Coaching: Suunto Spartan (Ultra) Manual/How-to

You spent a few hundred on a shiny new sports watch, you’ll probably want to use it to the best of its, and your, abilities.

After my Suunto Ambit3 “manual”, I’m starting to produce the same kind of manual / how-to for the Suunto Spartan (Ultra) – only better.

If you’re here just for quick help with (a) Spartan functionality, just continue below. If you have further questions, just put them in the comments (I can’t tell you what’s coming next, though, only Suunto could do that).

Gerald Zhang-Schmidt’s Suunto Coaching ;)

If you gain some value from all that here and want to support me, I’d appreciate it, whether you PayPal something or use affiliate links of mine (which are in the footer).

If you want further support and advice, either having questions about a Suunto Spartan (or Ambit or Traverse) or in the form of coaching, you can contact and pay me via my email for quick questions or get in touch to hire me as outright coach.

For true coaching in your running career and not just (but also) with a Suunto, I have a limited introductory offer of €100/month for training planning, weekly check-ins, and support via the Movescount coaching feature and a private Facebook group.

The Suunto Spartan (Ultra) Manual / How-To

New content added… whenever there’s something to add and/or I get something more done. Follow me on YouTube, Facebook or Twitter for #GetAtHome news, including those.

Introductory Remarks

After a few months of the Suunto Spartan out in the wild, getting stronger, it is time to have a look at the way it works.

I startd this manual/how-to with firmware 1.7.30, in March 2017, and will add to it as new firmware and features become available. Next up, it will continue with firmware 1.8.26 which has just been released (with a staggered rollout on March 30, 2017, for some, April 3, 2017, for all that remain.

I’m working with a Spartan Ultra with (Suunto Movesense) HR belt, so there are some differences between that and the Sport version(s).

Namely, the Sport models do not have barometric pressure/altitude measurement; the just-released (again March 30, 2017) Sport WHR model has an optical (wrist) heart rate sensor and uses it not only to replace a HR belt (if so desired) but also for a 24/7 HR and calorie tracking.

01: Know This About the Display

Something I feel should be explained, seeing how people complain why the display does not remain in their chosen look but goes into a simplified display: it’s still not a smartwatch, a Spartan is a sports watch.

So, Suunto optimizes for battery life.

I already had that feeling from the beginning; firmware 1.8.26 introduced two new power-saving features (for exercise mode) which make that impression a fact: low-color display and display timeout. (I’ll add videos on those in a bit.)

02: How to Pair the HR Belt

03: How to Connect Spartan and Movescount App

04: Where to Enter Body Metrics

… and why you should not forget about them.

05: Exercise Mode in Practice: Cycling

What the (basic) cycling exercise mode looks like, in practice, from the start display (and the options currently offered there) to the summary after the finish.

One thing I forgot here: The cycling (basic) mode is actually also set up to use autolaps, only that they are at 10 km.

06: Exercise Mode in Practice: Running

Same as for cycling, but this time a look at the running (basic) exercise mode, in practice, as pre-set up by Suunto…

07: How to Do a (Manual) Multisport Exercise

A triathlon multisport mode is set up right from the start, but you won’t see its use from me anytime soon. You might want to combine any sports into one multisport exercise, though – and here’s how you can do that. And why you might not want to…

08: The Logbook in the Suunto Spartan

One place to remind yourself of what you did, exercise-wise (until the next update comes along and wipes it): the logbook in the watch. Here’s where to find it and what it shows…

09: The Activity View and Training Summary in the Suunto Spartan

It’s not just the detailed data in the logbook (or the data on Movescount, where it all ends up stored and analyzed) where you could check how active you’ve been, there is also the Activity view and the Training Summary.

Activity view gives you your daily (total) steps and calories burned, or a 7-day overview of the two factors. Here, you can also set your step goal and your (active) calories-burnt goal.

Training summary shows you summary data for the (up to four) types of sport you have performed most, with either distance or duration displayed. Swipe left to get to summary details for each of these types of sports. Swipe right to get to your planned training (if you set it up on Movescount).

10: How Movescount Displays the Exercise Data

We will need to have a more in-depth look at Movescount and how to best use Movescount in a separate post, later on, but I already want to show how Suunto’s online platform displays the data.

The exercises used in this video are the same recorded in videos #05-07, i.e. cycling, running, and a combination of running and cycling into a (manual) multisport exercise.

11: How to Save Your Location as a POI

One way of setting up a POI (like Home or a campsite): You save the location (coordinates) you are at as a POI.

Finally, the Spartan *does* display location.

12: How to Create a POI in Movescount

You probably won’t just want to save your location as a POI, you’ll also want to set up locations you want to go to as POI. Which you can do in Movescount – if you can find where:

13: How the Spartan Shows POI Navigation Data

When you check out POI that you’ve stored on or synced to your Spartan, and when you activate the navigation to them, these are the screens you get…

14: How POI Navigation on the Spartan Works in Practice

The screens/data displays above are nice, but you should also know how the navigation to a POI works when on the move.

This is rather important because the Spartan (like the Ambit, actually) changes between using the compass (when you are standing still) and using the GPS (when you are moving) for navigation to a POI. And the navigation displays look and behave a bit differently, depending on whether compass or GPS are being used…

Still being continued ;)

ISPO 2017 Roundup, Part 1: Garmin, Casio, TomTom, AxSys,…

Once again, the ISPO Munich was on.

Finally, I went there not just a random blogger who sorta-kinda works with brands willing to set him up with product samples, but as someone turning into a pro blogger looking for serious cooperations.

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Watching as Spartan Grows Stronger: FW 1.6.14

The next update from Suunto, released January 25, 2017, bringing the long-awaited GPS fix and adding GLONASS support (and taking care of some bugs).

Now, as you may have seen from my earlier updates on this sports watch, I have been getting pretty good results from it already. This only continued now that I’ve been starting to have a look at this firmware.

Between this and updates that are coming next…

In Development

  • Interval training support
  • Sport Mode Customization 2
  • Points of Interest in navigation
  • Transfer training plans to Suunto Spartan and follow your progress
  • Graphs for heart rate, speed and altitude

… I find that the Spartan is starting to look good.

That only means that the race is now really on, with the Garmin fenix5 announced, Casio’s Outdoors Smartwatch adding GPS, etc. …

Next weekend sees the start of the ISPO Sports Trade Fair, and I’ll be paying that a visit again, and I’ll meet up with a few representatives of that competition.

Watching as/if/when Suunto Spartan Gets Stronger 2

A look at the Suunto Spartan Ultra at firmware 1.6 (released Dec. 19, 2016); after entry #1 which looked at performance during runs.

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Watching as/if/when Suunto Spartan Gets Stronger 1

The Suunto Spartan (Ultra) has been one of the strangest product releases of the year, at least for people into such outdoor sports tech.

(And chances are, if you have found this blog, it is because you are interested in that…)

There have been lots of complaints about the Spartan, to the point of DC Rainmaker “not wish[ing] that on anyone“, and many of them are very understandable.

Here, however, let’s look at how the Spartan is performing, mention that Suunto is working on it (What am I a tester for, even if I’m not allowed to share any details?…), and show what has come when there is a new public firmware release…

Scene 1: My Italian Marathons

You may have noticed that I went to three marathons in Italy this year.

The one in Rome was in spring, before the Spartan was even announced. There’s a look at the Kailash from this trip, but that’s a very different device.

More recently, and with a Spartan Ultra, were the Venice Marathon (end of October) and the Firenze Marathon (end of November).

Venice Marathon / Maratona di Venezia

You can view what this run looked like (and read about my experience with it) in this earlier post.

Venice Marathon, Running on St. Mark's Square

Finally running on St. Mark’s Square – and filming ;)

Just for details of the watches’ performance, look here:

Ambit3 Peak Spartan Ultra
 Distance  42.49 km  42.46 km
 Speed  10.8 km/h  10.8 km/h
 Pace  5’32 min/km   5’32 min/km
 Cadence  79 rpm (max 103)  79 rpm (max 151)
 Ascent  31 m  87 m
 Descent  36 m  98 m
 Highest Point  17 m  13 m
 Lowest Point  2 m  -7 m
 EPOC Peak 171 ml/kg  173 ml/kg
 PTE  4.7  4.6

Not sure what gives with the altitude (ascent/descent, especially) difference, but given that the GPS has been the main concern…

… there is little concern. You can even, ahem, see where I had to head for the bushes.

Firenze Marathon

The race report video will follow shortly, finally, but here I also produced a video just for the Spartan (vs. Ambit3) performance, to give you an impression of what that looked like for me:

Ambit3 Peak Spartan Ultra
 Distance  42.59 km  42.56 km
 Speed  11.0 km/h  11.0 km/h
 Pace  5’28 min/km   5’28 min/km
 Ascent  69 m  92 m
 Descent  72 m  85 m

(No HR data here; had some issues with the pairing. Turned out they were probably due to my having used an old Movesense POD and not having bothered to check what was connected where quite well enough.)

Again, somewhat more difference than I’d have expected with regards to altitude, but as good as no difference in speed and distance.

Looking at the track, there are a few things to notice:

The tunnels/underpasses towards the beginning (in the Northwest, before the loops through a park) caused hardly any difference in distance between the watches.

However, at the tunnel under Firenze Santa Maria Novella railway station, the track shows the Spartan jumping a bit to the side upon entering and back after leaving.

All the narrow roads were definitely a bit of an issue, worse for the Spartan, but neither ideal for the Ambit3.

There are instances of either watch meandering a bit… and this time, I wore them on the same arm to avoid the influence of that.

The bridge we passed in the farthest southeast of the track (Ponte San Nicoló) is an interesting lesson for issues of track vs. map: In the map view, one could think that I must have swum – but then, that would have been the case according to both watches.
Switch to satellite view, however, and it’s clearly an issue of the map drawing.

At the very end, the Spartan produced a bit of a strange track, there it must have lost the signal somewhat, but overall, if performance were always like that for everyone everywhere, I could definitely live with that.

Scene 2: The Sonnsteine Mountain Trail

Just a week after Florence, I finally took the time to head into the mountains.

The trail there is an easy one at the Traunsee lake, where I have spent quite a bit of time, but it is also varied.

There are meandering paths, trails through forest and in open space, a bit of road at the beginning and end, and especially, a section on the foot of a rock face.

That last bit is particularly interesting, as it is rather challenging for GPS…

The verdict from that, really, has to be that it’s hard to tell.

The Ambit3 Peak meandered around a bit more, but since the trails also do, but not quite that much, and aren’t really visible on online maps (and not always where I would have gone, necessarily) who’s to tell if that was a better or worse track?

The comparison with the route, as mentioned in the video, showed the Spartan Ultra a bit off at times, but mainly just in a way that is easy to explain as an artifact of the way the route was created.

The last section on the road, however, does show that the Spartan Ultra continues to have issues; this part of the track really should have been closer to where the Ambit3 Peak showed me.

Ambit3 Peak Spartan Ultra
 HR  153 bpm (90-188)   153 bpm (87-188)
 Distance  7.17 km  6.86 km
 Speed  3.0 km/h  2.8 km/h
 Pace  20’12 min/km   21’10 min/km
 Cadence  54 rpm (max 181)   58 rpm (max 254)
 Ascent  827 m  839 m
 Descent  800 m  817 m
 Highest Point  1043 m  1048 m
 Lowest Point  418 m  402 m
 Est. VO2  38 ml/kg/min  38 ml/kg/min
 EPOC Peak  144 ml/kg  147 ml/kg
 PTE  4.8  4.7

Still some work to do – it could always be better – but not bad… and all that, very strangely if you read (and see…) the complaints that are easily found online, with the same GPS software version that is out in public, if I am not mistaken.

Next up (2016-12-16)

Suunto have just announced that there is an update to Suuntolink, in preparation for a new Suunto Spartan firmware release.

So, in that update, a first step into sports mode customization by the user. And more…

Ambit3 Peak, Now with More Altitude…

With the 2.4.1 software update that was just released (at the beginning of December 2016), the Suunto Ambit3 Peak gains the route altitude profile that was introduced on the (Ambit3) Vertical and later came to the Traverse.

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