Suunto Quest In-Depth Review
The Suunto Quest is more than a slight twist on the running watches that Garmin, Polar and Timex offer. Not only does the watch track essential performance metrics such as pace, speed and time, but it also has a number of advanced heart rate and online features which really make this watch an incredibly powerful training tool for runners, swimmers, cyclists and triathletes.
This Suunto Quest review is going to take a look at the main features of this advanced running watch as well as detailing what it is like to run with the watch and how to get the most from your Quest. For a review of the newer and more multi-sport orientated Suunto Ambit 2 see the review here
Using a Suunto compatible heart rate monitor, the Quest can quickly relay your current heart rate to the watch and can report it as a function of your maximum heart rate. Using this heart rate information the Quest can also compute accurate calorie expenditure as well as telling you what level your workout is currently rated in terms of intensity. During a run, cycle or swim you can tap the screen of the watch to take a split and can rotate though six different customizable display screens, all of which can be set up to display and array of training metrics that can be customised in an instant.
After your training session is over, you can view a summary of your workout as well as the watches recommendation for advised recovery time, before wirelessly uploading your training data to Suunto’s advanced online training community, Moves Count, for review and analysis. Using this online portal you can also customize the watches display, as well as planning and downloading a complete training plan to the watch. If you create and download a training plan then the watch can tell you how close to completing your daily targets you ar ein terms of time, intensity or distance and it is possible to plan out an entire end to end training schedule (including any kind of training activity) from day zero to race day.
There is also the most feature rich online training community that I have ever seen from a sports watch manufacturer. Free to use and sign up for, the Suunto Moves Count portal allows you to share your training sessions as well as create and join groups and events with other Suuunto Users.
As many runners will not be familiar with the Sunnto brand (they are more commonly known for their advanced dive watches then for their running watches), this Suunto Quest review is going to explain the functionality of the watch in as much details as possibly bearable (prepare to be very bored!) as well as reporting on the accuracy, the ease of use, the reliability and the value for money that the watch gives you considering its array of features.
In The Box
I pre ordered my Suunto Quest from an online store prior to its release, and annoyingly had to wait three weeks for a unit to arrive. I was informed that Suunto had suffered a minor problem with a supplier, which had delayed the global launch of the watch by several weeks. This wasn’t a great introduction to the Quest but as soon as the unit finally arrived on my doorstep I soon forgot my initial annoyance and was wholly impressed with the watch.
The watch is supplied in a small box without any superfluous packaging or materials and was easy to unpack.
Because the watch uses a footpad and not a GPS receiver, there is no need for a large power supply or battery charger and so the watch was just supplied with its in-build watch battery for a power source.
Also in the box, was the foot pod that is used to calculate things like speed and distances during training, the MoveStick mini (used for wireless date transfer to Suunto’s online training portal), a Suunto heart rate monitor and an array of the usual quick start manuals and guides that accompany most electrical products.
Suunto Quest Setup
Setup was a fairly easy process and although it took a few brief moments for me to come to terms with the controls, I was able to navigate my way through the initial setup questions without a problem. Considering that there are only three control buttons to work the Quest, choosing the various options for height, age , sex, date and time was relatively easy and much easier than the touch screen watches that are available such as the Forerunner 610.
Suunto uses the information that you enter into the watch during the initial setup to configure the watch to your individual profile. The watch calculates your maximum heart rate as well as your perceived exercise intensity level and calories burned during training using this data and so taking the time to enter it correctly is important.
Suunto wanted to keep the setup process as painless as possible and so there are only a few pieces of information to enter when you first turn the watch on. If you wish to tweak the settings in more details then most of the watch settings can be easily customized using the MovesCount online training portal. This training portal will be covered in more detail later in this article but for now just know that it is a powerful online portal that not only allows your to plan and analyze your training, but it can bring your entire long term training schedule to life.
Heart Rate Monitor and Foot Pod Pairing
The heart rate monitor that Suunto supplies is one of the best monitors that I have run with.
Not only is it flexible, but it is also lightweight and easy to take on and off. I have used heart rate monitors in the past that have been unnecessarily stiff and badly fitting and as such they are a nightmare to run with. The only way to make such poorly designed heart rate monitors fit well enough to runt with was to tighten them to the point where they would constrict your breathing. Considering that heart rate monitors are meant to help your training and not hinder you, finding a monitor that is both comfortable and well fitting is paramount if you are serious about HR training and tracking your fitness levels.
The heart rate monitor that Suunto supplies consists of two parts – a plastic disk and a stretchy, flexible strap that connects to the disk. The disk contains all of the wireless transmission functionality and sits on your breast plate when you are running whilst the strap contains the two sensors that record your actual heart beat and wraps around our chest and back.
Connecting the heart rate strap to the watch is much easier then I anticipated. I struggled initially to ‘wake’ the sensors up (they are switched off by default to preserve battery life) but after quickly consulting the Suunto website’s FAQ, I found that dampening the sensors with some good old fashioned spit whilst holding them firmly did the trick
The foot pod sensor connects to the watch using the same wireless technology as the heart rate monitor and simply sits amongst your shoelaces on top of either shoe. The pod itself sits within a detachable clasp, which means that in order to attach the pod to your shoe, you don’t have to remove the laces.
Suunto Quest Running/Training Mode
Once both the foot pod and the monitor were set up it was back to the watch to connect the two sensors so they could begin feeding live information.
In order to pair the sensors you need to first tell the watch to enter one of three modes – training, running or cycling. The only difference between these three options is that you can set different customized fields to be displayed in whatever order you like for each of the three profiles. Each mode can be selected from the main menu with a few clicks.
Upon entering the respective mode (running, cycling or training), the watch starts to scan for the foot and heart rate sensors. You need to wake the sensors before pairing can occur. On the HR monitor this is done by either wearing the belt or wetting the sensors, whereas walking a few steps with the foot pod attached to your shoe awakes the foot pod.
The beauty of the Suunto Quest is that is uses a foot pod to calculate speed and distance instead of a GPS sensor. This has numerous benefits including prolonged battery life, but by far one of the best features is the shortened time that it takes to set up a training session. With GPS watches such as the forerunner 410, 610 and Timex IronMan Global trainer, although GPS sensor technology has made leaps and bounds in recent years, I have still suffered occasions where I have been waiting upwards of 60 seconds for a valid GPS signal. This simply isn’t the case with the Suunto Quest and the watch pairs virtually instantly with the two sensors. In fact, it happened so quickly that I simply had to make a video clip showing you just how fast.
Suunto Quest Training Metrics
The Suunto Quest can displays five screens of separate training data. Each separate screen can display two metrics that are fully changeable using the online Suunto Moves Count portal.
The following is a full list of training metrics that can be displayed on the Sunto Quest on the top line of each training screen.
- Average Heart Rate
- Current Heart Rate
- Average Heart Rate as a percentage of max
- Current Heart Rate as a percentage of max
- Average Speed
- Average Pace
- Running Cadence
- Average Running Cadence
The Suunto Quest can also display the following training data on the bottom line of each separate screen of training data:
- All of the metrics in the above list
- Interval timer
- Heart rate zone
- Lap time
Each of the training metrics is discussed in more details below
The Suunto Quest is essentially a glorified heart rate monitor, but it packs some serious features that stand this watch apart from the crowd.
The watch can display your current heart rate as well as your average heart rate on the watch face. This metric is updated every few seconds and gives you a very accurate picture of your heart rate throughout the run, provided that the heart rate monitor stays connected to your chest and that neither the strap or the watch runs out of battery during your training!
The watch can also display your heart rate as a percentage of your maximum heart rate and also your average heart rate as a percentage of your maximum heart rate. Your maximum heart rate is calculated by using the formula 207 – (0.7 X age) but this can also be changed using the MovesCount online training portal if you feel the urge to fine tune the watch
Most of the other training metrics are fairly self explanatory and the only one that doesn’t feature on most other sports watches is the cadence measure. This is only something that running watches with a foot pod offer and involves the watch tracking how many times your foot rotates though the gait cycle. This is a valuable training metric if you are interested in training specifically to decrease your stride length and increase your stride frequency (as some coaches advise).
As the Suunto Quest uses a foot pod instead of a GPS receiver, there is no danger of losing signal if you do a large amount of city or indoor running. The ability to use the Suunto quest as a heart rate training tool in these situations shouldn’t be under estimated as it means that you can use the watch to track all of your vital statistics whilst training on an indoor track or treadmill as well as your outdoor runs and cycles.
Speed, Pace and Distance
No self respecting running watch would be complete without some way of reporting speed and pace. The Suunto Quest is no exception to this and it offers the usual speed, pace and distance reporting that you will find on most advanced running watches. These metrics are only available if you pair the watch to the optional foot pod and there is the option to calibrate this foot pod if you find that the distance is slightly under or slightly over.
When I initially ran with the Suunto Quest I found that the distances that I ran didn’t match up with what the watch was telling me. I have run certain routes in my area enough times before to know the exact distances that I cover and when I ran with one of my Garmin Forerunner GPS watches as well as the Suunto Quest I found that the Quest was reporting slightly higher distances then my Garmin.
Luckily there is a way of calibrating the Quest that is easy and straightforward. All calibration involves is you running a distance of about 1km and then once you have stopped the watch, you cycle through the summary stats until the distance metric is found, before altering the distance that the watch though you had run to your actually run distance. This calibrates the watch to your stride length and the result is much more accurate pacing when you are running long steady runs. I would still prefer to take a GPS watch with me if I were going to be doing trail running as the constant changing cadence and terrain means that a foot pod watch would be unable to measure distances properly. However, if you are a 10k, half marathon or full marathon runner then a foot pod watch is perfect as you can calibrate the watch to your stride length and as you stride length whilst road running doesn’t really change much it will be just as accurate as a GPS watch (if not more accurate). Also if you are running under cover, indoors or in areas with poor GPS reception then a foot pod watch is a much better option.
Lap Counting + Tap to Lap
You can set the Suunto Quest to auto lap using the online Mover Count training portal. If this is the case then the watch will lap every 1k (or whatever pre determined distance for each lap you have set) and will give you a summary of your lap time and distance after each lap.
Another novel way of starting a new lap is to tap the Suunto Quest. This idea (stolen from Nikes SportWatch GPS running watch) is a great ideas as it means that when you are running at pace you don’t have to fiddle around with any buttons in order to count off your laps.
If you firmly tap the watch during a run or training session then a chime sounds to tell you that the watch is starting a new lap.
Also , if you have pre set the watch to use Auto Laps then once the auto lap distance is reached (eg, every 1km) then the watch will lap again; ie, ignoring the tap laps.
Ending A Run or Training Session
Once you have finished a run then you can view a list of summary statistics such as average heart rate, max heart rate, distance, average pace and speed. This viewing happens after you have been prompted to save the training session by the Quest.
Some of the workout summary displays:
Moves Count Transfer
Some of the real power of the Suunto Quest lies in the free and easy to use Online training portal that Suunto have created for their sports watches, called Moves Count. This portal is where you can upload, view, analyse and store your training session as well as exploring a whole new online community of Suunto watch users.
In order to upload your Quest’s training data to Moves Count, you first need to install the Moves Count transfer software onto your computer. Suunto offer a quick and easy download service from their website and the software installs in a matter of minutes. I downloaded and installed the Mac OSX version of the Suunto Software, but there is Windows software available from the same site.
After installing the computer transfer software you have to pair the Quest with the Moves Count portal using the Moves Stick mini USB adapter that is supplied with the Quest. This is a mini USB receiver that needs to stay inserted into a USB port whenever you wish to transfer data. The stick is so small that I almost lost it the moment that I unpacked it and so keeping it plugged into a spare USB port at all times is probably a good idea. Those of you that only have two USB ports may find it a little annoying but that simple wireless transfer stick is the only way to transfer data to the powerful online Suunto training center and so it is pretty important!
To pair the watch all you have to do is scroll to the ‘Web Connct’ option on the main menu and then hit the middle button. The watch will scan for a few seconds before picking up the Move Stick Mini. So far, I have not had to wait longer then five seconds for the watch to pair with the Moves Stick, provided that it is within 2m of my laptop.
There are two points that I would like to mention about the data transfer process that as a Garmin Connect user, I find a little irritating. Firstly, it seems to take about one third longer to transfer my Moves to the Sunto online portal compared to the Garmin Connect transfer with a Forerunner watch [Edit - this extra time was only apparent during the initial pairing. Every subsequent time that I have uploaded my Moves to Moves Count, the transfer has actually been much quicker then the Garmin Connect software]. It took the watch two minutes to upload three 10k runs to the portal whereas this would only usually take a Forerunner Wireless Ant+ watch a minute to 90 seconds. This isn’t so much of a problem as an annoyance, and at least the pairing process hasn’t yet run into any technical difficulties (as the case has been with previous Forerunner models that I have run with). The other annoyance is that whilst the data transfer is occurring, the popup displaying the transfer progress stays on top of all other Mac/Windows windows (you cannot minimise or make it run in the background) so I cannot use my laptop without moving the box into a corner until the transfer has finished. Neither of these two points are showstoppers and more importantly the important process of transferring training data over to Moves Count is easy and reliable.
Moves Count Online Training Portal + Community Features
Post Training Session Analysis
The main purpose of the Moves Count portal is that it is a place where you can upload, store and analyse all of your Suunto Quest (or any other advanced Suunto running watch) training information in order to track both your short term performance and your long terms goals.
When you have finished uploading your training data to the portal, you are immediately taken to a page showing your last moves summary stats. On this page you can see a metric called ‘Training Effect’ which is a metric that tells you how intense your training was compared to your current and improving fitness. A large proportion of this metric is based on heart rate and adapts as your become fitter.
On this page you can also see a break down of your training session by time, and you can plot metrics such as distance, speed and cadence onto a graph to see how consistent your running was.
On this page you can also see how much of your training time was spent in the various levels of training zone (easy, moderate hard etc) as well as your current heart rate at each point during a training session.
You are also given a lap by lap breakdown of your training session, complete with times, distance and pace for each lap.
Moves Count – Training Planner
Turning to other areas of the Moves Count portal there is a whole section of the site that allows you to plan out your week by week training and then download it to your Quest. The Quest then tells you how close to completing your training session target for the day you are. It does this by using an arrow that circulates the outer rim of the watch face as your distance increases. When it reached 360 degrees you have completed the target training distance for that day (depending on what distance target you pre set for the day). If you decide that you don’t want to plan any training sessions based on a distance target, then you can use a heart rate target instead. When you are training, the Quest will then alert you if you need to increase or decrease your intensity in order to keep to your heart rate training target.
The training plan section of the Moves Count portal is a great feature, as it lets you plan out an entire end to end training program that can incorporate many different exercises and targets for weeks and weeks at a time.
Moves Count – Advanced Settings and Customizations
As I have already mentioned earlier in this review, it is possible to change and customize a huge array of settings on the Suunto Quest using the settings section of the Moves Count online portal.
You can change personal settings such as weight, your birth year and also a measure of how active you consider yourself as well as training specific features such as heart rate levels and Max heart rate.
You can also change an array of device settings, including the metrics that you would like to be displayed when the watch is in either Running, Cycling or Training mode, as well as sound and general display settings.
Any changes that you make to your Suunto Quest on your Moves Count account will be transferred to the Quest when it next pairs to your computer (provided that you have internet access at the time)
Moves Count – Online Community
This is an area of the Moves Count portal where Suunto really set themselves apart from competitors such as Garmin (Garmin Connect) as Suunto seem to have managed to integrate a whole social media aspect to their Online Portal.
You are given the option to comment on your own or other users Moves (trainin sessions) and you can also share your training sessions via popular social platforms such as Facebook and twitter.
You can also update a public profile section, which display basic information about you such as your home location, the activities that you are involved in, as well as a photo and some About Me type text. This profile also shows how many total calories you have burned to date as well as the total amount of training miles and the amount of Moves that you have uploaded to the site. Your public profile is something that you can link to from anywhere on the internet and Suunto even provide you with a profile badge that you can put on your blog or website.
Another nice feature of the community section on the Moves Count portal is the addition of member groups. You can search for, join or set up a group based on a common interest. Once you have joined a group you can see the latest moves posted by members as well as rankings for the most active members. There is also a shout box for members to chat to one another. Although the shout box is a nice feature, I would have preferred to have seen a fully integrated forum for each group page as these can sometimes be lacking in substance if there are only a few members.
Moves Count – Events
Another win for the Moves Count portal is the Events section of the site. Here members can view, join and create events and also see results for events based on the moves that users uploaded for that day (post event). This is something that no other online training portal offers and I a nice way of helping Moves Count group owners and member arranging races or meetings.
Extra Nice Features about the Suunto Quest
20 Hour Training Log
One of the big improvements that Suunto have made to their Quest watch over the T3d is that you can now log longer training sessions. The time limit to a training session that you wish to log is 20hours, which means that you are only bound by the life of your battery as opposed to the software capabilities of the watch – perfect for Ultra running and Adventure Racing.
Another nice addition to Moves Count has been the ability for you to search for routes in your area and then download them to your Quest. Moves Count members can map out and share routes manually by using the mapping tools within the portal, or they can use a GPS enabled IPOD to map the route for them. Other users can then download this route to their watches and can run the route to completion.
The battery life of the watch is approximately 1 year if you use it for 2.5 hours per week.
The Suunto Quest is waterproof to 30m. I wouldn’t have expected anything less from a company that is most well known for its dive watches.
Suunto Quest Review – Summary
No Suunto Quest review would be complete without a few lines to summarise the watch…
Now that I have had a few weeks to test the watch, I can say that it is one of the most advanced non GPS watches that I have ever run with. I have never really paid much attention to heart rate training before but the Suunto Quest makes recording and planning training sessions (both Bike and Running) easy and straightforward. The Quest relays an impressive amount of information from the foot pod and heart rate monitor, including cadence, speed and heart rate as well as averages for the previous, distance, time and calories. Something that is unique to Suunto is the Training Effect metric which takes into account your current and improving fitness to tell you if your are working hard enough for your current training session to have any impact on your aerobic fitness, or whether you are running too fast for a session to be called a recovery run.
The watch really comes into its own when we take into account the Moves Count online training portal as this turns the watch from a heart rate monitor into a powerful training too. Not only can you view and analyse your training in immense details, but you can also plan out your future training sessions for each week. Once downloaded to the Quest, the watch tells you how close to completion you are for each day of your training plan according to preset goals (distance and/or intensity). You can also use the Moves Count online portal to customize every aspect of the watches reporting capabilities, from heart rate levels to what you want to see on each screen of live data when you are training. The online community side of the Moves Count portal is something that I have only seen on the Nike+ portal, but unlike the Nike portal you can join groups and create events for people to sign up to, all from the moment that you join the community.
The final aspects of the Suunto Quest that makes it excellent value for money is the fact that it is 30m water resistant (great for swimming), has a one year battery life (due to no power sapping GPS receiver) and has a newly extended maximum training log size of 20 hours (for those long ultra runs and adventure races).
To summarise, the Suunto quest is a very powerful training tool that takes hear rate training to a new level with the very social and very feature-rich online Moves Count training portal.