Given smartwatches have now well and truly become an essential purchase for anyone looking to more efficiently track their exercise and gamify their health journey, it’s always worth doing a double-tack at models that have been out for quite some time. These things drop in price regularly, so being able to pick up some of the frontrunners at a better price makes sense. Smartwatches can be just as expensive as smartphones nowadays, and they clearly aren’t all made equal. You want one that has a healthy balance between exercise features and smart features, but also style. Can the Suunto 9 Baro Titanium present such a balance?
As one of their most awarded models to date, the Suunto 9 Baro Titanium juggles all three aspects of a smartwatch mentioned above, presenting a chunky 50mm titanium case with a stainless steel bezel and a stunning 320×300 pixel touchscreen encased in sapphire crystal glass. Assuming you don’t mind the imposing write presence, this is as good as you can get in terms of aesthetics. It looks tough, and it plays even tougher.
The strap buckle can feel a bit tight at times, but at 76g the watch is most comfortable to wear and sits flush on the wrist. Though it may look heavy, taking this out on a grind day doesn’t feel like a chore, and there’s not a single point in my time wearing it where I felt like taking a break from having the beast strapped to my wrist.
The watch, which has been calibrated to specifically track over 80 sport profiles – including running, hiking and swimming – in great detail, has three buttons on its right side, one of which simply toggles the reasonably bright backlight and the others which help navigate the intuitive software. Everything has been programmed with a comprehensive but not overwhelming approach to fitness tracking, giving you menu options to select like heart rate, steps, training, altitude, sleep, fitness level, and recovery status. You can also use the menu to check exercise history, navigate with the built-in GPS, and log both indoor and outdoor activities.
As far as operating systems go, Suunto has managed to work in one of the best without giving you too much to scroll through, maintaining a tight balance that’s lost on many other smartwatches that are either too lacking in features or too bloated with them. And that’s one of the more notable aspects of the smartwatch. It’d be quite the challenge to build a GPS smartwatch that’s specifically designed for the more demanding and active users, with a wide scope on what defines such activity, without offering something that’s doing too much at once. The fact that Suunto has been able to achieve such a balance is flat-out remarkable.
Although one that doesn’t work too well is the touchscreen itself. It’s gorgeous to look at, but I found using the navigation buttons was much easier and gave me a more seamless experience with the watch. The touchscreen was prone to lagging in the rain, even though you’ve got some military-grade waterproofing here.
While I’m not the most active tool in the shed, the Suunto 9 Baro was able to keep up with almost everything I threw at it. And by everything, I mean the standard semi-active lifestyle of walking, running occasionally, and a few bursts of winter hiking. The watch deals with elevation much better than any others I’ve tested over the past few years, so I got a good idea of just how reliable this can be for users hitting at the more hardy lifestyles this summer.
For a fitness watch, it’s unimpeachable.
But for a smartwatch, Suunto has made a few sacrifices in order to help everything work efficiently. One of the major compromises here is music and wrist payments, putting a major dent to convenience, especially if you take your exercise with your daily commute. The whole point of having a super reliable GPS watch is that you don’t really have to take your smartphone with you anymore, but not having music or the ability to pay with the watch is a big sore spot.
If you want one of the best GPS watches you can buy, this is it. Navigation is highly detailed and accurate with the Suunto 9 Baro, making it easy to keep track of your exact location when you’re out and about. This is augmented with tools like the intuitive compass and weather tracking features which can be integrated into the watch face.
When it comes to measuring sleep, there’s better out there. Really. Sleep tracking is very basic here, moving away from industry standards like Withings and Apple, with a pitiful offering of just the essentials and not much else. If you’re trying to dig into deeper sleep issues, the Baro 9 might leave you feeling a bit disappointed. But then again, we’re yet to get a smartwatch that can excel in every area a smartwatch should be excelling in.
The battery is another highlight here. You’re looking at up to 170 hours of battery in Tour Mode, so that’s with the GPS functioning at all times. Considering the competition, and how feature-rich the Baro 9 is, that’s an incredible achievement and speaks highly the Suunto’s decisions in designing this smartwatch.
Verdict & Value
At $800, the Suunto 9 Baro Titanium is an expensive piece of kit but very much worth it if you’re the type of person who lives a very active lifestyle and needs to track a variety of activities. Outside of that, it’s just too expensive to make the investment worth it if all you need is something a bit more basic. Although now that it’s been out for quite some time, and Suunto has some new models to push, you might be able to find this model on sale if you’re looking hard enough. If you can find it for around the $600-$700 mark, I’d say go for it. You’ll just need to take your smartphone with you to take care of payments and music when you’re out there living your best life.
THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Highlights: A true fitness tracking machine; very easy to navigate; GPS works perfectly; excellent battery life; great write presence and very lightweight.
Lowlights: No smart payments; no music features; expensive for a watch that overlooks some essential smartwatch features.