Sharp and focused: the Suunto Race is a superb watch for serious sportspeople

With its laser focus on training and racing rather than general outdoor pursuits and adventures, we test the Suunto Race to see what that really means in practice.

from Suunto
RRP  £479.00
Suunto Race on wrist in map mode

by Chris Williams |
Updated on

Need an outdoor smartwatch for your pursuits? There’s no shortage of options, and Finnish navigation brand Suunto has recently added another: the Race.

Opinions vary widely on outdoor smartwatches. Athletes and those who are training find them helpful (so long as they’re reliably accurate), and at the other end of the spectrum are people like our own Fliss Freeborn who gets purple with rage at the very concept.

The Suunto Race isn’t design to convert the Fliss’ of the world, and is instead aimed squarely at sportspeople who want an ‘ultimate performance watch for racing and training,’ as Suunto puts it.

Consequently, accuracy is key for the Race. If it can’t track the essential stuff reliably, it would undermine everything. In our experience, no watch has ever been perfect, so we’ll see how the Race gets on.

Pros

  • Durable yet stylish
  • Intuitive interface
  • Superb app
  • Very accurate mapping and navigation
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Heart rate monitor wasn't accurate during weight training

Design and features

Sunnto Race in hand
©LFTO

As ever with a smartwatch there is a vast array of features on the Race, although it isn’t quite as overwhelming as what you get on watches like the Garmin Fenix that cost twice as much. The Race is more focused in terms of what it offers.

So, there are almost 100 sports to select from (this often means variations of a sport – for example, cycling, mountain biking, gravel cycling, and indoor cycling). In addition to featuring your sport no matter how niche, there are two other primary focus areas of this watch: training guidance and mapping.

Suunto Race sport selection menu
©LFTO

Regarding training guidance, the watch uses Heart Rate Variability to calculate your ‘training load, progress and recovery’, and there is a Training zone section in the Suunto app that delves in-depth into your progress, load, and recovery in various metrics and feedback from the Suunto Coach.

Suunto app screenshots
©LFTO

For mapping, it’s not just accuracy (the watch connects to GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, QZSS, and BEIDOU satellites), you can also download maps from a library in the Suunto app. The library is extensive, although some countries (UK, France, USA, New Zealand etc.) have more comprehensive mapping than others (e.g. Bangladesh).

Beyond purely sport functions, there isn’t much. Some watches have extra bells and whistles like contactless pay, but the only notable extras on the Race are phone and media controls.

Performance and accuracy

Suunto Race displaying in-sport info
©LFTO

We’ve been using the Race for about three months and the version we used is the Titanium (used for the bezel) – there is a stainless steel version as well that also costs less (and is probably the one to go for unless you absolutely must have that 20g weight saving).

As with our experience of the 9 Peak Pro and Vertical models, we think the interface is superb – much improved over older Suunto smartwatches. Menus are clear, intuitive, and selecting and tracking sports is very fast and simple.

Speaking of intuitive, we think the Suunto app is arguably the best of its kind. Suunto has done a brilliant job of displaying so much data. You can sync the Race to a host of other sports apps such as Strava as well.

Something else of note is the battery life. Suunto claims 12 days ‘with 24/7 tracking and mobile notifications’ – what we found is that with this plus one or two sessions using GPS you get about a week, which is impressive. It can mean that if you’re away for a weekend and forget the charger, it’s not the end of the world.

Suunto’s maps are detailed and the GPS tracking is incredibly accurate. It’s fast to connect too, only taking a minute or so to locate our position.

Suunto Race on wrist in map mode

The other tracking metrics such as altitude are on point as well. Regarding heart rate, we found it was fine for walking and running but it often struggled in some circumstances such as weight training. In the middle of session, it would frequently display our heart rate as far too low – 60 or 70bpm.

The heart rate sensor is an optical one, which measures blood flow through tissue. Suunto recommends having it higher on the wrist than perhaps you would normally but we found this didn’t help. In fairness, Suunto does say it may not always be accurate for everyone for all sports, and that’s often the case with other watches we’ve used too. There is a Suunto heart rate belt you can use for consistently accurate heart rate monitoring.

Comfort and durability

Suunto Race strap
©LFTO

Suunto watches have an aesthetic edge over their rivals but they’re deceptive because their toughness is inversely proportional to their relative elegance.

During our testing, the Race has seen its fair share of rough and tumble action. It’s been whacked against hard surfaces and worn swimming – it still looks like new. There are no marks on it at all. We found the silicone strap comfortable too, its perforated design helps prevent a big buildup of sweat.

Price and competition

At the time of writing, the Race Stainless Steel version costs £389 and the Titanium costs £479. As far as outdoor smartwatches go, these are reasonably mid-range prices.

But as we mentioned previously, there is no shortage of outdoor smartwatches. Coros and Polar have direct rivals for the Suunto Race: the Coros Apex 2/2 Pro and the Polar Vantge V3. The Coros is about the same price as the Race, while the Polar is a bit more expensive at £519. The Coros watch boasts exactly the same sorts of features (long battery life, offline maps etc.) as the Race, and the Polar makes a big fuss about its biosensing features which, in fairness, Polar is highly regarded for.

Suunto Race watch face
©LFTO

Verdict

We’ve been really impressed with the Suunto Race. The watch interface and app are very easy to use, battery life is excellent, it’s incredibly well made and durable yet simultaneously stylish as well.

Suunto does market this as an athlete’s watch, but we think it’s also great for anyone wanting to train, push themselves, and after some guidance on doing so.

How we tested

Chris Williams hiking in Lake District wearing Artilect Divide Fusion Stretch Jacket
©LFTO

The Suunto Race was tested by our Senior Writer, Chris Williams over the course of about three months. Chris used the Race for a range of sports including hiking and swimming and going to the gym.

Chris likes wearable tech but is often frustrated by the unintuitive layout of many, so he is always keenly looking for those that are easy to use.

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