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Garmin vs Suunto

garmin vs suunto
Written by Erik Himmel

What is Garmin?

Garmin Ltd is an American multinational technology company with headquarters in Olathe, Kansas, United States. They started their journey as ‘Pronav’ in1989. They specialize in GPS technology for a wide range of applications such as aviation, automobile, marine, and outdoor activities. Recently they’ve shifted into the development of activity trackers and wearable technology.

Over the decades, Garmin has developed from a small company to a multi billion-dollar company that they are today. Their first client was the US Army. They sold tons of technology like weather radar for airplanes to the US Army.

Garmin Ltd sells a variety of excellent vehicle trackers, walking or driving GPS, numerous models of fitness trackers, smartwatches and what not.

What is Suunto?

Suunto Oy was established in 1936. The Finnish company has headquarters in the city of Vantaa, Finland. The word “Suunto” is Finnish for ‘direction’.

Throughout the years, the company has grown a lot. The company has more than 300 employees all over the globe with sales in over 100 countries.

The company started its journey by producing compasses and over the years, they’ve gained expertise in manufacturing sport watches, diving computers and instruments, different types of lifestyle watches. Now they’re one of the leading brands in the smartwatch industry.

Feature Comparison

Tracking and Display:

Both of the brands offer wristwatches that show real-time data according to the preference of the user. For instance, distance, pace, heart rate, sleep record, calories burnt along with the most basic feature of a watch- time. Also, users can get summary information like elevation gain, average pace and what not. This can be very useful for an athlete or anyone who wants to enhance their physical abilities.

Regarding display quality and tracking abilities, there aren’t a lot of differences amongst the brands. Though regarding digital customization, there’s a major contrast. Garmin’s smartwatch “Fenix 5X Plus” allows the users to switch between data screens during a particular workout while all the similar smartwatches from Suunto demand custom changes in the Movescount app.

Display resolution is another difference found between the two brands. While Garmin used a 280 x 280px display in one of their flagship models “Garmin Fenix 6X pro”, Suunto, have attached a 300x320px display in their latest “Suunto 9”.

Battery life:

The Suunto 9 is somewhat clever regarding battery life. This particular model has three types of battery modes and also lets you know much juice is left in the battery. If your battery is running low, it will notify you to switch to a different battery mode. Users get 25 to 120 hours of battery life depending on what mode they’re using.

All flagship models of Garmin also have different battery modes and users get 24-60 hours of battery life depending on their preferred mode. You’ll get better battery usage if you turn off the GPS in your device.

Navigation and Mapping:

Watches of both companies provide great experience in terms of navigation and mapping. Garmin’s Fenix series watches have color topographic mapping features. Though many users find it difficult to use because of the small display of the watch.

All Suunto watches come with a GPS downloads feature. This feature shows your movements and gives you direction through a “breadcrump” map.

Some of the watches of both brands can also measure altitude. Suunto 9 uses barometric pressure to calculate altitude. Garmin also added this feature in their “Garmin Forerunner 935” but due to its less accurate GPS, it isn’t as good as the Suunto 9 in terms of the altimeter feature.

With a sharper and more accurate GPS, Suuntos provide a greater experience than Garmins when it comes to navigation and mapping.

Fitness Monitoring:

Flagship watches from both companies give you information of your heart rate through wrist-based monitoring. Mid and low tier Suunto watches come with an option to attach a belt that calculates your heart rate.

Apart from monitoring your heart rate, the latest models from Garmin tracks your fitness all the time. This also includes a sleep tracker that measures the amount of sleep you’re getting. A lot of users find it very useful.

If you are just looking for a smartwatch that can measure your heart rate, then you can get a Suunto but if you are a fitness fanatic and you need a proper fitness tracker, then you should probably go for a Garmin watch.

Software Optimization and Data Management:

If you switch between the brands, you will notice the differences between Suunto and Garmin in terms of data management and apps. Both companies handle their apps and user interface very differently.

Suunto used Movescount for a long time until they shut it down in 2020. After the introduction of the Suunto app, Suunto watches enhanced their data management capabilities. The Suunto watches now can do a variety of different things like analysing and synchronising your data, showing notifications of your phone on the watch display, uploading workout descriptions and photos to your phone and so on. The Suunto app also allows the users to customize and create their own sport modes.

Garmin watches have been utilizing the “Garmin Connect” app for a long time. This app has almost all the functions that you expect from a top-quality smartwatch. This software, combined with the cutting-edge hardware used by Garmin provides a perfect smartwatch experience to the users.

Both the companies are excellent in terms of their data management and utilization of their dedicated apps. However, with the Suunto app being new to the game, it’s still probably a few updates away from being at the same level as the Garmin Connect app.

Which one suits you better?

Choosing between a Garmin and a Suunto watch is like choosing between Android and IOS based smartphones. Both of them are excellent in quality and at the same time they’re different in many ways.

Your choice of smartwatches depends on your requirements. There are so many options available in the market. The feature comparison shown in this article can work as your guide if you decide on buying a smartwatch from either of the brands.

Before buying, you should think about a few things like-

  • Your budget
  • Features that you absolutely need and features you don’t need

If you have a low budget and if you just want to have an entry level smartwatch that comes with the basic features like wrist-based heart rate and notifications, both the brands have a few models to offer. The Garmin Forerunner 35 is a great entry level smartwatch that you can get under $100. Suunto’s basic models like the Suunto 3 costs a little under $200. So, if you’re looking for a smartwatch for the cheapest price, you should probably go for a Garmin.

In the mid-tier section, “Garmin Forerunner 645” and the “Suunto Ambit 3 Peak” are the representatives of the two brands. Both of them start at around $290 and gives an all-round smartwatch experience.

If budget doesn’t concern you and you want the best products, choose between the two flagship smartwatches of the respective brands. The “Suunto 9” and “Garmin Fenix 6” are the current flagship models of the two companies. Both of them will give you a premium feel and all the features you can have in any smartwatch.

Before buying a smartwatch you also need to know the features you absolutely need. Both these brands have field specific models that specializes particular fields. If you’re a sportsman or an athlete then a sport watch is perfect for you. Likewise, if you travel a lot and happen to use the GPS frequently, you should go for the brand that’s better at navigating and has the best battery life.

About the author

Erik Himmel

A Part-Time Firearm Instructor

Hi, this is Erik. We all know firearms are dangerous, but only when one doesn’t know how to use and care for them. I have 15+ years of experience with different types of guns and for the last 10 years, I have taught numerous people how to hold and shoot a gun while staying safe and keeping the surroundings unharmed. My neighbors are some of my biggest admirers who enjoy talking to me about their guns, firearms safety and maintenance.

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