A mere six months separate the Suunto 9 Peak Pro from the brand new Suunto Vertical. While the former had won our approval, it lacked an essential feature for an outdoor sports watch: mapping.
Enter the Suunto Vertical. Unveiled in early May 2023, this new sports watch has a clear objective: to combine Suunto’s expertise with all the features and components of a high-end sports watch. In other words, it aims to catch up with the competition – notably Garmin and Coros.
We have been using the Suunto Vertical for a month and a half: running, trail, cycling, kayaking, hiking… The watch even accompanied us to the summit of Mont Blanc. Here’s our comprehensive review and verdict.
Suunto Vertical Technical Specifications
|Dimensions||49 mm x 49 mm x 13.6 mm|
|Screen Resolution||280 x 280 pixels|
|Heart Rate Sensor||Yes|
|Ambient Light Sensor||No|
Suunto Vertical Design
As we explained in our hands-on review, the sports watches with the most features are often the largest in the ranges from various manufacturers. Bigger, stronger, more autonomous.
The Suunto Vertical follows the trend and has a 49 mm case, next to the 50 mm case of the Coros Vertix 2 and 47 mm for the Garmin Epix (Gen 2) and Garmin fēnix 7.
The Vertical weighs 86 g in its stainless-steel version and 74 g in its titanium variant. For comparison, its smaller sibling, the Suunto 9 Peak Pro, weighs between 55 g and 64 g, while the Coros Vertix 2 ranges from 72 g to 89 g.
In short, the Suunto Vertical will not go unnoticed on your wrist, although we must highlight Suunto’s work on the design of its new watch. The Finnish manufacturer has tried as best as possible to apply its usual minimalist approach. We therefore have a clear sports look, but without falling into the extreme adventurer vibe offered by some competing models.
In summary, the watch is large, but the Suunto touch is there. If the design of the Vertical quickly won me over, the space it takes on my wrist is still striking in photos. Ultimate test: we did not escape the classic “But what is this ship?” from a relative. Athletes used to large watches will find it elegant; others may be less charmed. Those with smaller wrists will need to tighten the watch well before certain vigorous bike outings to avoid repeated minor discomforts.
Viewed from the side, the Vertical appears to be composed of three layers, the middle one sandwiched between the bottom of the case and the bezel. The contours of the latter even present small valleys.
Unsurprisingly, Suunto has included three physical buttons on the right edge of the watch. The buttons are accompanied by a small protrusion, marked for the top and bottom buttons with a small yellow dot. Why not? This partial embedding of the buttons likely helps prevent accidental presses, a feature also found in the Garmin fēnix 7, for example.
The Suunto Vertical comes in two case versions: one in stainless steel and one in titanium. The latter model is more expensive, especially since it also has a solar-rechargeable screen. The differences end there between the two versions, both of which are waterproof up to 100 meters.
Since we’re discussing durability, know that Suunto claims to have tested its watch to military standards, a common practice for this type of product, but always welcome. Our Vertical brushed against rocks during mountain outings without ever showing signs of wear. Only some logical micro-scratches are present around the case.
Nothing to complain about the quality of the watch’s construction, especially at this price point. Let’s remember that Suunto watches are assembled in Finland. The brand even highlights manufacturing with 100% renewable energy and fully compensated carbon emissions. You’re now informed.
The back of the watch displays the charging connectors, the two electrodes that allow the watch to measure depth (up to 10 meters), and the usual heart rate monitor. It’s a new generation compared to that of the Suunto 9 Peak Pro.
The good news is that the strap can be easily removed and replaced due to its standard 22 mm size and quick-release attachment system.
Suunto Vertical Display
Suunto remains faithful to MIP technology, hence incorporating a transflective display in its Vertical model. This choice is hardly surprising for a sports watch and is primarily motivated by battery life considerations. Yet, it’s worth noting that competitor Garmin has already introduced Amoled versions of its entry and mid-range watches: Forerunner 265, Forerunner 965, epix (Gen 2), and epix Pro (Gen 2).
Recall that Suunto has previously experimented with Amoled in 2020 with its Suunto 7. However, this model ran on Wear OS and thus offered a much lower battery life than other Suunto watches. Therefore, it’s plausible that Amoled might appear in an upcoming model from the brand. We’ll keep an eye on this development.
Meanwhile, the MIP display of the Vertical does its job by remaining perfectly readable under the sun, in Paris as in high mountains — the backlight takes over in dark environments. Importantly, its 1.4-inch diameter makes it more pleasant to consult than the screen of the 9 Peak Pro. The information displayed during training, for instance, is more easily decipherable.
Suunto appears to have taken user feedback into account regarding the bezels present on the 9 Peak Pro: while the Vertical’s screen also has bezels, the brand has thought to dress them up to make them less noticeable. Simple graduations did the trick.
Notably, the Vertical’s screen is touch-enabled, and all models benefit from a sapphire crystal face. We found no scratches on the screen after a month of use, and it wasn’t for lack of trying.
Some may have noticed the slight green tint around our Suunto Vertical’s screen. This is simply the component used for solar recharging. Don’t get your hopes up: this feature is not offered in the standard version of the Suunto Vertical. An extra $200 is required to benefit from a titanium case and this solar recharge screen. Already present on several Garmin models, this technology is supposed to recharge the watch thanks to the sun, or at least slow down its discharge.
We usually do not recommend solar recharge sports watch variants, but it’s clear that the Suunto Vertical can indeed recover some autonomy thanks to the sun. We found ourselves removing our watch to leave it for a few hours on a car dashboard, or a few minutes on a patio table: it’s really pleasant to see the watch recover two or three percentage points over a week of use. Long bike rides under the sun will facilitate solar recharging, as the wrist is rarely in motion, or at least less so than when running.
The dial dedicated to the Vertical with solar recharging allows you to check at a glance whether the watch is recharging. The feedback is instant: the sun logo fills up as soon as the watch is placed under the rays. A dedicated widget displays a history of the past seven days with a gauge, without providing a scale.
It’s a shame that Suunto didn’t go further with its dials. Customization choices are very limited. For example, it’s not possible to choose complications.
Suunto Vertical Usage and Application
The Suunto Vertical offers the same interface and navigation means as the Suunto 9 Peak Pro. Although the processor is different, we encounter the same slowness and the occasional bugs in the interface. The sport profiles scroll smoothly vertically, but the widgets take quite some time to roll out horizontally. It’s unfortunate: competitors Coros and Garmin perform better.
Speaking of widgets, the Vertical introduces three new/revamped ones: detailed weather view, sunset/sunrise time, and solar recharge which we discussed earlier.
Those who like to challenge themselves can navigate the interface with the touch screen, but we once again prefer to do it with the three physical buttons. These buttons offer a click that’s less crisp and quieter than that of the 9 Peak Pro, and that’s not necessarily a critique. They remain fully functional, even with light gloves.
Let’s recap their different uses:
- Top button: navigate upwards, start and stop an activity;
- Middle button: validate an action or move through the widgets;
- Bottom button: navigate downwards.
The Vertical falls short in its lack of connectivity. While some sports watches attempt to offer a semblance of a smartwatch experience, the Vertical does as other Suunto watches do, which is not much. No music storage, calendar display, or contactless payment… The watch does display notifications, but doesn’t allow for responses.
Suunto newcomers must understand the brand’s philosophy: the interface of its watches is as minimalist as it gets. Only the essential data is displayed, and you need to go through the app to check your metrics.
The Suunto App
The Suunto app continues to be a pleasure to use. We won’t delve into it too much, but keep in mind that the home screen is customizable, data display is attractive and understandable, and creating custom workouts (threshold, interval, etc.) is quite straightforward. In short, the app is well-designed and therefore enjoyable to use. Only a few menus could benefit from some slight reordering, but it is far from the confusing layout found in Garmin’s competing app.
Most importantly, the detail of each sport activity is genuinely well-thought-out, and it gathers a lot of data. This includes a graph that allows you to superimpose several metrics and see their progression throughout the session, such as heart rate, pace, and elevation. The zoom is very responsive.
There have been a few welcome innovations since our test of the Suunto 9 Peak Pro: the “Coach” section of the app has appeared and integrates new parameters and data. You can, for example, compare the weekly time spent by heart rate zone to our average from the last six weeks — pace and power are also comparable. Other new graphics focus on training load and volume by sport type and recovery.
These app enhancements are not exclusive to the Suunto Vertical and are therefore available to owners of other Suunto models.
Also, we find the excellent route creation feature, which pleasantly surprised us during our test of the Suunto 9 Peak Pro: a few minutes on the app are enough to create an accurate route for your next outing. 2D and 3D views, outdoor view, satellite, avalanche map, paved roads, heat map by sport type, personal heat map… The numerous display filters make the Suunto app the best mobile solution for creating your routes — Coros recently caught up with an update in April 2023.
We must highlight the presence of a new menu dedicated to the Vertical: the mapping menu. Finally, you can follow your route directly from the watch during your trail outings. For those who haven’t been following: Suunto previously offered excellent route creation… but no real mapping on the watch. A significant omission for outdoor watches. The Vertical corrects this glaring flaw that the manufacturer had been dragging around for a few years, after a trial with its Suunto 7 under Wear OS.
The mapping menu can be accessed via three menus in the app: the “+” button at the top of the home screen, the bookmark from the route creation tab, or from the menu dedicated to watch settings.
In short, this is where you will download the maps by region of the world, one by one. Yes, the behavior is different from other watches with integrated mapping. Here, no preloaded zone or continent maps on the watch: everything is done via the app, manually selecting the desired world area. The choice is made by country, then by region when the map sizes are too large. Albania, for example, is available as a single 357 MB map, compared to 2.06 GB for the American state of Montana. Count a little less than one gigabyte for the Rhône-Alpes region, or 7.5 GB for the entire map in the USA — broken down into 26 zones.
Suunto seems to have already refined this mapping management by revising the division of certain world regions. The province of Quebec, for example, was available in a single zone before the official launch of the Vertical, but is now divided into about twenty sub-zones. This avoids downloading the entire province’s 2 GB for a simple hike in the Laurentians.
Once the desired map is selected, you must connect the Vertical, synchronize it with the app, and ensure that the Wi-Fi network to which you are connected is added in the app’s settings. Note: the Vertical will not download any maps until it is on its charger.
At this point, Suunto recommends that you bring the watch close to the router. All you have to do is wait. For reference, it took us a good 5 hours to download the 2 GB Quebec map, compared to less than 30 minutes for Lombardy’s 510 MB. The Rhône-Alpes region took the watch 45 minutes to download, for 903 MB — the watch was here 50 centimeters from the Wi-Fi router.
Keep in mind, the watch comes with 32 GB of storage: frequent travelers will eventually need to delete old maps to make room for new ones. On a daily basis, the storage will be more than enough. The app accurately indicates the remaining space.
Suunto Vertical: Health Features
The Suunto Vertical, as expected, is packed with the brand’s well-established expertise. The watch includes the following features:
- LifeQ heart rate monitor (next generation)
- Pulse oximeter
- Depth meter
- Dual frequency GNSS chip
- Barometric altimeter
- Ambient light sensor
Without a hitch, the Suunto Vertical will accurately track your daily step count, measure your heart rate, your SpO2, and other typical metrics for a sports watch. The Vertical can also estimate wrist-based running power without the need for an external sensor.
Suunto’s altimeter is impressively accurate. Interestingly, it showed a height of 4809 meters at the top of Mont Blanc – a few more steps would undoubtedly have pushed it over to the actual height of 4810 meters.
There are dozens of sports profiles available, but you still need to create an extra mode per sport to customize the dials and associated metrics – quite unusual. The large screen of the Vertical allows for up to seven data points per dial. It is now possible to display two “Sports App” views during a sports session. Unfortunately, the combo of “Sports Apps” and “Suunto Guides” is not possible: you have to choose one or the other. It would have been great to display the relative Strava score while following an interval training program.
As mentioned earlier, Suunto adopts a minimalist approach and therefore displays only a few training metrics on the watch. For instance, to discover your training status, you have to go through the app. Its graph helps to understand whether the effort of the past few weeks is sufficient, too intense, or too light.
The essential metrics are indeed proposed by the watch (recovery time, Vo2 max estimation, adjusted pace…) but some features of competing watches are missing. We’re thinking here of Garmin’s excellent ClimPro. Suunto does have some good ideas though, like the “Snap to Route”, an option that forces the watch to record the exact initially indicated route, without relying on potential GNSS errors.
Importantly, Suunto has unfortunately not improved its sleep tracking with the Vertical. It is slightly less catastrophic than that of the 9 Peak Pro, but still far below the competition. Simply put, how can you trust a watch that detects your wake-up time several hours late? Every four mornings, the watch doesn’t understand that it is placed on a table during my shower and thinks that I get up the moment I put it back on my wrist.
This is why sleep phases are not part of the measured data. Suunto needs to progress in this area and take the opportunity to add the famous measurement of heart rate variability. This data is relevant to understanding one’s overall state and tracking recovery. To tell you, the only metric I check in the morning on my Suunto Vertical to estimate my fitness level is resting heart rate. Useful, yes, but light.
Let’s move on to this famous mapping. Suunto has relied on the collaborative tool OpenStreetMap. If the brand claims that this differentiates its mapping from a “simple map background”, the main takeaway is that the maps will be regularly updated. An undeniable advantage.
To be concise after using the Vertical for hiking and trail running: the mapping is a success. In addition to displaying with detail the contour lines, paths, and other water points, the display is very responsive when you turn on yourself to find the right path to take. The difference is striking: I got lost much more with Garmin watches than with the Suunto Vertical.
Another well-thought-out feature: zooming in and out. No need to go through three sub-menus or get lost in dubious button combinations: pressing the top button of the Vertical triggers a zoom, while a long press triggers a zoom out. Each zoom in/out is done in stages, therefore by pressing: 25 meters, 50 meters, 100 meters, 200 meters, and 500 meters. You can also navigate the map with your fingers if the touchscreen is activated.
Three displays are proposed: outdoor, dark, and contrast. The default “outdoor” mode is the most readable. The “dark” view did not convince us much – at least for our use. Finally, the “contrast” display is intended for winter sports as it removes the vegetation areas from the map.
Note that the mapping is not only accessible during an activity, it is also available from one of the watch’s menus.
You’ve understood, this integration of mapping by Suunto is neat and very pleasant to use. Here are some areas for improvement though:
- The names of streets and paths are not displayed.
- The maximum zoom out is only 500 meters, which is not enough in some situations.
- Turn-by-turn guidance is only proposed for routes created via the Suunto app or via Komoot synchronization: it will not work if you have imported a gpx file.
- It is not possible to create/modify a trace from the watch.
- No race metric can be displayed on top of the mapping.
- The direction to follow is not indicated on the other dials: Garmin marks the orientation with a small arrow on the edge of the screen.
- The map sometimes takes time to load, or does not display at all: it’s hard to find your way with a black background, you then have to restart the navigation – it’s rare, but very annoying.
The Suunto Vertical features a multi-GNSS dual-frequency L1+L5 chip. It is the first Suunto to offer this so-called multiband technology that has already been found in competitors for several years. The watch can, of course, communicate with the traditional GNSS: GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, QZSS, and BEIDOU.
Hardware isn’t everything, and Suunto has also paid attention to software fine-tuning. Result? The Vertical provides seriously accurate traces. No doubt, the bar set by Garmin is easily reached, even slightly exceeded. This is not so surprising when you see the accuracy of the single-frequency GNSS offered on the 9 Peak Pro.
There are numerous examples, but remember that the Vertical generally performs better on Parisian streets than Garmin watches equipped with dual frequency. In open spaces, the watch provides logically very accurate traces. Nothing special to report in the mountains, apart from the usual small errors.
Two quick examples: on the left, the trace after having taken the same slope seven times, on the right, the round trip on a dock to then go back up on the sidewalk.
Count about ten seconds for a fix in an area already covered and about twenty seconds in a new sector. For once, Garmin is faster – but not enough to tip the balance.
Heart Rate Monitoring
Based on our tests, the Suunto Vertical provides more accurate heart rate measurements than the Suunto 9 Peak Pro. We expected the opposite, since larger sports watches rarely get along well with my small wrist. The new LifeQ sensor is likely to have something to do with it.
A classic warm-up time for an optical sensor and a few error spikes are noticeable.
Overall, the results are more than satisfactory, but some competitors do better. Once again, opt for a heart rate monitor belt for reliable measurements.
Comparison of average heart rates:
|Average Heart Rate||Suunto Vertical||HRM-Pro Belt (reference)|
Comparison of maximum heart rates:
|Maximum Heart Rate||Suunto Vertical||HRM-Pro Belt (reference)|
Suunto Vertical Battery
Suunto is known for its remarkably autonomous watches. In this regard, the Vertical excels. It is undoubtedly the most autonomous sports watch we have tested.
The brand communicates various scenarios, explaining, for example, that it can reach between 60 hours and 85 hours (with solar charging) of autonomy in the highest performing GNSS mode. The most economical users could achieve between 140 hours and 280 hours in the so-called “Ultra” mode, with a single-frequency GPS fix per second and with the chip dormant between each signal. On a daily basis, the Suunto Vertical is said to stay awake between 30 and 60 days, or even a year for the version with solar charging… assuming you would only use it to check the time.
These are a lot of marketing data. We decided instead to test the watch with the most energy-consuming settings: wearing the watch day and night, measuring SpO2, GNSS in multiband mode, and frequent use of mapping. As explained earlier, we recovered between 2 and 5 autonomy points per charge cycle with our solar charging model.
|Test 1||Often used||14 h 51 mn||12 days and 6 hours|
|Test 2||Often used||21 h 36 mn||11 days and 7 hours|
|Test 3||Never used||32 h 14 mn||9 days and 4 hours|
Let’s give some more concrete examples. During a 2 hour and 20 minute trail run, the watch lost 9 autonomy points, dropping from 91% to 82%. This is very good behavior considering that the GNSS was in its most precise mode (multiband) and we used mapping throughout the session. Under the same conditions, during a 5 hour hike, the watch dropped from 34% remaining battery to 16%.
Another example is the three-day ascent of Mont Blanc, with a fully charged Vertical the day before. The first morning sees the watch lose 4 autonomy points: we, therefore, start our journey with 96% battery. The three days of climbing and descending follow, accumulating just under 20 hours of multiband activity. Here, we take into account the rest times at the refuge during the descent, as the GNSS chip continues to make fixes and therefore spends the same energy as in activity.
Back in Chamonix, the Vertical still showed 61% battery. Impressive. We were able to easily add more than 12 hours of multiband activity in the following days, without having to recharge. One Mont Blanc, five running outings, a long bike ride, and a bit of commuting, all on a single charge and in multiband modes.
According to our tests, the watch requires 1 hour and 20 minutes to fully recharge, using a small proprietary dock. For information, the watch went from 48% to 91% after 45 minutes on its charger – and while downloading a map.
Suunto Vertical Call and Communication
While the Suunto Vertical has a Wi-Fi connection for downloading maps, it does not have an NFC chip or LTE connectivity. You will not be able to make contactless payments with it or store music. The watch simply allows you to control the tracks played by the connected phone and check your notifications without being able to respond to them.
In short, the Vertical is primarily a sports watch. Some will be perfectly satisfied with it, others will envy the contactless payment feature offered on several Garmin watches.
Suunto Vertical Price and Release Date
The Suunto Vertical is available for $599 in its classic stainless steel version. The titanium variant with solar charging costs $629 on Amazon.