Suunto 9 Peak review: Fitness tracking for the truly dedicated
Quick verdict: The Suunto 9 Peak has impressive physical design and great battery life, but its price and responsiveness mean that it's best suited to very serious workout warriors only.
- Lightweight design
- Battery lasts for ages and recharges quickly
- Tracks a wide variety of exercise types
- Slow response time, especially for touch
- Some exercises don't track accurately
- Comparatively expensive
Many dedicated fitness tracking watches opt for a rugged and chunky design. That's partly a style matter, to make them appear more… muscular, I guess? However, it can also be a practical matter, adding robustness to watches that may face some of nature's harshest trials. Suunto's latest fitness watch, the Suunto 9 Peak, takes a very different tack with a light and thin watch design that definitely bucks the prevailing fitness watch trend.
It's immensely capable of covering most popular fitness activities – and plenty of obscure ones too – and will definitely outlast even the most dedicated fitness fanatics on their daily (and mostly weekly) routine.
However, it is rather expensive, and it's not particularly responsive compared to what the same or less money could buy you. So it's best suited to those who want a really serious, mostly single purpose fitness wearable.
Design: Ultra thin and comfortable to wear
The Suunto 9 Peak comes in just 1 display size, a 43mm diameter LCD. That's relatively large for a smartwatch, but somewhat annoyingly there's a thick interior bezel that robs you of around 5mm of display on each side. Bezels are somewhat a part of life, but you can't help but notice just how much screen you don't get on a watch this size.
Where the Suunto 9 Peak does stand out against other dedicated fitness watches is in its thin and light design. It's just 10.6mm thick and 62g in weight, which is the kind of measurement that quickly vanishes comfortably on your wrist while wearing it. I'm also a big fan of its supplied wrist strap, which combines a traditional securing pin and a push-in stud to more securely fasten it to your wrist. It is worth playing around with how and where you wear it however, as that same secure fitting can squeeze in on your wrists after particularly strenuous exercise.
On the side of the Suunto 9 Peak you'll find 3 very solid buttons, further enhancing the idea that this is meant to be a durable fitness wearable. That's both a blessing and a curse because while they can undoubtedly take a knock, bump or grain of sand over time, they're also somewhat stiff and can be a touch unresponsive. There's also a definite learning curve remembering what each button does, especially if you're busy panting after a heavy workout.
Suunto rates the Suunto 9 Peak as being capable of surviving immersion at up to 100m, which means it could be a semi-practical diving watch.
I don't live near any particularly deep sea trenches that I could investigate during my review period, but I had few issues washing the Suunto 9 Peak off after some particularly sweaty workouts, which is where I suspect most users who aren't dedicated swimmers or divers will find the most use of that durability.
Performance: Tracks everything, but response time is slow
The key reason that you might buy a fitness-specific wearable is rather inherent in the name. You want it to track your fitness, right? Here the Suunto 9 Peak builds on the platform Suunto has had for some time in terms of tracking a wide range of activities. You absolutely get basic step and sleep tracking, GPS and heart rate tracking, but you could get that kind of detail from a much cheaper wearable.
Where it excels is in the sheer quantity of activities tracked, with more than 80 different sports activities tracked one way or the other. It's great that your sport of choice is most likely specifically tracked – and there are "unspecified" modes if it's not – but it could be problematic if you're a multi-sport athlete. That's because the Suunto 9 Peak lets you select your sport through a scrolling list that works either from touch or the side buttons, and neither is fast or responsive. That's true of the Suunto 9 Peak generally, and it's the biggest drawback of the device. It's especially problematic for a device that costs this much.
To give that some context, the Suunto 9 Peak will also handle basic smartwatch functions such as notifications and music playback. When I was out pounding the pavement, I'd sometimes get an email, social media or text message come through, which the Suunto 9 Peak would alert me to with a simple beep. However, getting away from the message and back to my running was a slow process, breaking my concentration and rhythm as I went.
It's a pity too because it's an excellent fitness tracker in most other respects. Suunto has its own excellent tracking app, and it will tie into a bunch of other popular fitness applications. While there's not a huge variety in watch faces, all of them make perfect sense against the Suunto 9 Peak's strong fitness focus.
My own testing encompassed walking, outdoor running and treadmill running, and of the 3, the only 1 that I had any issue with from a metrics point of view was on the treadmill. The Suunto 9 Peak tended to over count my distance relative to the distance the treadmill offered – in this case the NordicTrack Commercial 1750 – but it's acceptable that tracking that way might vary a touch. In any case, tracking those kinds of metrics is all about repeatability. If you're striving for a target you're still likely to look at the same percentage increases or decreases anyway.
Suunto 9 Peak battery: More battery life than you have endurance (probably)
The Suunto 9 Peak's screen isn't massive, and it defaults to a lower brightness state most of the time to further conserve battery power. Again, sometimes getting it to light up so you can see it in direct sunlight is a chore, but it's a manageable one, and one that works well within its aim of long battery life.
Suunto claims that the Suunto 9 Peak is capable of up to 14 days of run time, and I have no doubt that's totally possible. It further breaks that down, however, because while it's not a full app-running style smartwatch, it does have that strong fitness focus, and Suunto recognises that if you're doing direct GPS tracking you're going to burn through power a lot faster. If you want full tracking 24/7, that figure drops to 7 days. If you're going all out ultramarathon style, you can select specific GPS tracking accuracy modes that shift from 25 hours all the way up to an impressive 170 hours.
Before anyone asks, no, I didn't go on a 170-hour run to fully test that particular function. I'm not that fit.
Still, in my own tests using it as an everyday fitness, sleep and notifications device, it easily sailed past a week's heavy testing with over 30% remaining battery capacity. Recharging is via a circular disc charger attached to a standard USB cable, and it's nicely quick at around an hour to get back to full charge.
Should you buy the Suunto 9 Peak?
- Buy it if you want a heavy duty dedicated fitness watch.
- Don't buy it if you want a more responsive watch, or can't run to $999 for a fitness tracker.
There's no doubting that the Suunto 9 Peak is a rather dedicated piece of wearable technology. Its $999 starting asking price alone will see off many potential buyers who may well opt for more affordable fare.
But is it good value? It could be if your particular focus is on heavy endurance sports where the exceptional battery life and good GPS tracking are paramount, and you're less fussed about more smartwatch-heavy features. Those who need a rugged watch for the great outdoors but don't want the chunky look of your more traditional fitness watch may also find it a good match. That's a smaller niche amongst fitness trackers and smart wearables, however.
Suunto 9 Peak pricing and availability
PriceThe Suunto 9 Peak retails in Australia for $999 in All Black and Moss Gray finishes, or $1,199 for the Granite Blue Titanium and Birch White Titanium models.
Where to buy
How we tested
The Suunto 9 Peak was paired with an Apple iPhone 13 Pro for testing purposes using Suunto's iOS app over a 1-week period. In that time a combined distance of 30km was walked and run indoors and outdoors to test its tracking and GPS functions. Limitations around the pandemic did limit how far I could travel and the types of exercise feasible during this test period.
Images: Alex Kidman
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