Suunto is making a move in a new direction, wanting to bring smartwatch features to a device to sit alongside the company's comprehensive sports offering

We've seen a number of sports watches from Suunto over recent years, but the move to a Wear OS device seems to mark a new chapter for the company as it looks to compete with devices like those of Garmin and Polar, which have been getting increasingly sophisticated over recent years.

A comfortable design

The first thing that will strike you about the Suunto 7 is the softness of that 24mm strap. We fastened it up and found it to be really comfortable, which is a great start. The watch is offered in five different colourways, from sensible (and likely popular) black through to more lifestyle colours like this sandstone and rose gold, pairing a reinforced polyamide body with a stainless steel bezel.

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The straps are quick release, so you'll be able to switch colours or replace in the future and the plastic back houses the pronounced bump with the heart rate sensors. The whole package offers 50ATM protection, so it's good for wear in any conditions.

We've not had the chance to wear it for anything more than a brief introduction, so there's lots we can't determine about how this watch is going to feel once you've been sweating into it for a couple of hours, but first impressions are good.

Pairing sport with smart 

The first thing you'll notice, if you're a Suunto user, is that things look very different. Firstly there's a display that's nice and vibrant, with colours that really pop, lending to the smartwatch feel of the Suunto 7. While the sports areas have some resemblance to previous Suunto devices, having access to Wear OS means there's a lot more to contend with.

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Starting with the smarts, Wear OS means that this device does a lot more than previous Suunto watches. You have access to the Google Play to install Wear OS compatible apps, you have Google Assistant, Google Maps and a seamless integration with your smartphone.

In this sense, Android users will have the better experience, but Wear OS plays nice with the iPhone too - it's just not quite as good as it is on Android.

We'll not hark on too much about Wear OS here, but opening the Suunto app then takes you through to the sporting side of this device proper. There's support for over 70 sports, with different metrics and displays so you can get the information you want with some special features for some of the major sports.

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What's great about this setup is that you have both button control and touchscreen. Wear OS is much easier to use with touch, but for sports we much prefer to use buttons, because having to swipe or tap when sweating and breathing hard is just too random. 

We've not had the time to really test either side of this watch outside of the demos at our introduction to the device, but we'll be sure to report back once we've put this watch through its paces. 

Sports features and performance

One of the key elements to the Suunto 7 is how the company has made use of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 3100 hardware that it sits on. Suunto has made sure that the sports tracking features run on the co-processor, rather than the main application processor.

This is significant because the co-processor uses a lot less power, so it can handle the ongoing side of the activity tracking with the watch, effectively, in a lower power state. That, according to Suunto, means that you'll get 12 hours of run tracking, for example, making this a smarter fitness tracker.

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You don' get hugely long battery life overall. Flip back to being a Wear OS watch and a 2 day battery life sounds about average - but it's a long way off the 15 days you might get from a flagship Garmin device - but then Garmin devices don't offer all the same functions that you'll get here.

All the important sports metrics are included, GPS, heart rate, ABC (altimeter, barometer, compass), as well as motion tracking so you can keep track of your steps and other activity.

For running, cycling, open water swimming and a few other sports, you'll also get access to heat maps. These are derived from the activities of other Suunto users, meaning you can look on a map and see popular routes in your area (it's all anonymous, of course). That means you can arrive in a new location, open up the maps in your area and see where you can run or swim.

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The mapping is pretty clever. Rather than preloading all the maps, when you put the watch on charge, it will update the maps for your area. That means that if you arrive somewhere new, you just have to pop the watch on charge and it will download the local maps so you have those in your watch.

These are topographical maps and when you get into urban areas, you can go right down to street level and POI information. Yes, Google Maps also provides these, but Suunto's maps trace your route, give you access to heat maps and contain more topographical information, so are more useful for those out walking.

First Impressions

We've only spent a brief amount of time with the Suunto 7, but we like what we've seen so far. The design of the watch feels good and the sporting functions appear to be wide-ranging, although we've not had a chance to test the performance of any of the sensors. 

The Suunto 7 is going to be available from 31 January and we'll be looking to give it a thorough testing both as a smartwatch and a sports device in the near future.