Suunto Traverse Preview
The Suunto Traverse is the latest offering from Finnish watch manufacturer Suunto, and after playing with a pre-release demo model for a week I’d have to say that it’s well worth the wait. Predominantly aimed at hikers and trekkers, at face value the Suunto Traverse is a powerful GPS/GLONASS navigation watch combined with Suunto’s industry-leading barometric altimeter and digital compass. Think of it as a beefed up Suunto Core with GPS and other goodies crammed into a stylish and compact package. One could almost confuse the Traverse with Suunto’s Ambit3 Peak model, however the Suunto Traverse has a number of unique features and design improvements which clearly separate the two watches.
Suunto Traverse: Design
Aesthetically, the Traverse shares many design traits of both the Core Brushed Steel and Ambit3 Peak Sapphire, but here’s the clincher: Suunto have dropped their iconic (but bulky) ceramic GPS antenna in favour of one built into the stainless steel bezel. Before you jump up and down about a potential loss in GPS accuracy, I’ll quickly allay your fears by stating that Suunto have not taken a backward step in this area; Suunto are not a company to release a product underdone and pride themselves on build quality and accurate measurement. But more about the GPS later. By doing away with the ceramic GPS antenna, the Suunto Traverse is lighter, smaller, more comfortable to wear, and looks 100 times better than an Ambit3.
Upon release, the Suunto Traverse will be released in Australia in three (3) classy colourways: Black (as shown above), Amber, and White. A forth colourway, Graphite, will be available early 2016. The Traverse has also picked up the Ambit3 feature of inverting the display from positive to negative (and vice versa), by holding down the View button (found on the bottom-left of the watch). Furthermore, the Traverse is compatible with the Core range of replacement wrist bands (which Suunto refer to as “straps”), plus many generic watch bands. Just be sure to retain the spring pins that come with the Traverse if you fancy a different band. Not that you really need to change the default bands; they are both comfortable and attractive, made from a silicone based polymer and boasting a knurled surface.
Suunto Traverse: Key Features
So now that you know that the Suunto Traverse looks great, does it pack the features to match? Suunto have included pretty much all the features of the Ambit3 Peak, plus a number of highly sought after additions. Possibly the best new feature is the inclusion of vibration alerts/alarms. Sadly this feature was omitted from the pre-release demo model I tested, however we should expect to see this feature utilised in activities (or as Suunto likes to call them, “Moves”), smart notifications, alarms, and storm alerts.
Holding down the Light button (found on the bottom-right of the watch) activates the “flashlight” feature, which is essentially a really bright backlight. This feature actually comes in really handy, especially when fumbling around a tent or poorly-lit room for some misplaced object, or illuminating a map or fishing tackle box at night. The Suunto Traverse also comes with a proper activity tracker, displaying a daily step count on both the main clock screen and its own dedicated screen with a bar graph display. For some consumers, this was a deal breaker when considering purchasing the Ambit3, so it was wise of Suunto to make sure this feature was done correctly on the Traverse.
Suunto have rated the GPS battery life at 10 hours (1 second sample rate), 15 hours (5 second sample rate), and 100 hours (60 second sample rate); so even the longest trekkers have been catered for. Of course, the Suunto Traverse will function for well over a month without GPS enabled before requiring a recharge. Even though Suunto have not marketed the Traverse as a multisport watch, it still offers up to five (5) customisable sports modes with up to four (4) displays per mode. As usual, these sports modes can be set up via the Movescount app (iOS and Android) or the Movescount web portal. On the topic of Movescount, with a compatible BLE Apple or Android phone, you can receive SMS and call notifications on the Traverse, upload Moves, and create movies of your Moves.
Those who like to keep track of their heart rate will be pleased to know that the Suunto Traverse will pair with the Suunto Bluetooth Smart Heart Rate Strap & Transmitter to provide basic HR data during activity recording. Suunto Apps are supported, which means that the abundant list of features will continue to grow, especially for navigation. Last but not least, with the combination of GPS/GLONASS and a barometric altimeter, the Traverse utilises Suunto’s trademarked FusedAlti to deliver the most accurate altitude measurements of any outdoor/fitness watch on the market.
Suunto Traverse: GPS Accuracy
Being the first GPS outdoor/fitness watch from Suunto that doesn’t feature a ceramic GPS antenna, I was curious to test both the accuracy and GPS fix speed. The first time I attempted a GPS search it took 20 seconds to obtain a fix; not bad considering I couldn’t pre-load/cache the current satellite data on the pre-release demo model. Subsequent searches all took under 5 seconds from within a 10 km radius of each other, which is comparable to what I found with the Ambit3 Peak when I reviewed it back in September 2014. So you won’t experience any frustrating waits when itching to start an activity.
As for accuracy, I compared the Suunto Traverse against the Suunto Ambit3 Peak on a sunny morning road ride (cycling) along a popular Bayside Melbourne route. Both watches were set to a 1 second GPS sample rate, and the average speed of the ride was 36.7 km (to be exact). Upon comparing the speed and map data on Movescount afterwards, I found the Traverse to be spot in terms of accuracy, with little to no deviation from the data recorded by the Ambit3 Peak. If you’re looking at the Suunto Traverse as a replacement for your Ambit3 (or earlier Ambit model), you will not be disappointed by the GPS accuracy; and pleasantly surprised by the weight, comfort, and appearance benefits that are a result of the new GPS antenna design.
Suunto Traverse: Conclusion
The new Traverse from Suunto is a fantastic all-round GPS outdoor/fitness watch. Whilst intended for hikers and trekkers, I feel that most athletes will be more than happy with the training/sports functionality of the Traverse, and new unique features. Hardcore athletes, swimmers, and ultramarathon competitors are still advised to go for the longer battery life Ambit3 Peak. The Suunto Traverse currently has an Australian RRP of $549.99, which places it between the Ambit3 Sport and Ambit3 Peak. With stock expected in store from October 15th 2015, now is the time to place a pre-order.