Face-off: Suunto Ambit 2 S VS TomTom Runner
Sporty GPS watches are everywhere so it's no surprise that satnav maker TomTom is challenging the likes of Suunto for space on the wrists of performance runners. But which one has more stamina?
TomTom's Runner is just 11.5mm slim, weighs 50g and has a unisex design with a single button below the square screen to operate its features. Suunto's Ambit is a softer, rounder design, with an aluminium bezel of various colours and the more usual smaller buttons along the sides. It might be slightly bulkier at 17.5mm and 72g, but the Suunto is still reasonably small and nimble. Its looks are more understated than the TomTom, whose more obviously modern design will appeal to younger athletes.
While Suunto has opted for a traditional quartz display, the TomTom has a large hi-res LCD screen. However, it's only black and white and isn't a touchscreen. It also restricts the battery life to a maximum of 10 hours (in GPS mode), while the Suunto's less impressive screen enables it to last a stunning 15 days in certain modes. That's much more suited to trail runners and those that might be away from recharge points for days at a time. The TomTom's thirst for energy restricts it to urban athletes who want a brighter display that's easier to read in both evening gloom and bright sunshine. Both are scratch-resistant and waterproof to 50m.
Both the Suunto and TomTom have comprehensive features aimed at runners. The TomTom's Graphical Training Partner feature has three modes: zone, race and goal. Zone keeps you to a steady pace by vibrating if you speed up or slow down, while race analyses where exactly on the track you changed pace. Those who run to burn calories, or to reach a specific distance, or to reach a certain heart rate (monitors are available as accessories from both brands), can use the goal mode. The Suunto is aimed more at triathletes. Besides giving comprehensive data for distance, duration, average and maximum pace, it also works in the water, where it can measure the same parameters as on land while learning your swimming style. A power meter accessory, which links to the watch, is available for cyclists. Not surprisingly given their GPS innards, both watches can be used as simple navigation devices, too, so can pinpoint you on a basic map. Maps are easier to read on the TomTom, though the Suunto is a better watch for hikers thanks to its setting to stretch battery to 60 hours by recording a GPS position once every minute rather than each second.
The immense amounts of data collected by both watches would be useless without analysis apps. The TomTom links to a smartphone via Bluetooth to send its data to the MySports website, though the data can also be used on other websites and apps like MapMyFitness, RunKeeper, TrainingPeaks and MyFitnessPal. Suunto takes a more community-led approach with the app zone on its Movescount website, an online hub for users to create their own apps.
The TomTom (HK$ 1,320) is purely about running, while the Suunto (HK$3,275) adds support for swimmers. The ways the data is used differ, too. However, the real differences between these two are the design and screen. It's like choosing between the basic Kindle and the new Kindle Fire - do you want a brighter, but battery-hungry gadget or something that lasts for weeks and weeks? City slickers only into running will love the TomTom, while the Suunto is better for triathletes and all-round outdoor use.
Jaime Carter firstname.lastname@example.org