Gear Review: Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR

A new, touchscreen GPS and heart-rate tracker.

Earlier this spring, Suunto launched its first wrist-based, heart-rate-tracking device, the Spartan Sport Wrist HR.

The device, which retails for $499, packs a dizzying array of sport-specific features into a (relatively) sleek package. In addition to cycling, swimming, obstacle-course racing, ski touring, yoga, kayaking and climbing, the Spartan Sport tracks three different categories of running: trail running, treadmill running and road running.

During a run you can toggle between screens that show: 1) pace, duration, distance, ascent and heart rate; 2) lap/interval stats; 3) heart rate and 4) a map of your route. People who pay close attention to heart rate while running should note that the heart-rate screen is a line graph instead of a numeral display, thus harder to check at a single glance while keeping one eye on the trail. The three running-specific options track virtually all of the same stats, with the exception of ascent/descent, which is unique to the trail-running screen.

Optical heart-rate sensors on the back of the watch. Photo courtesy Suunto.

In addition to importing workout stats from the watch to Suunto’s proprietary Movescount app, you can also use the app to schedule workouts and plan routes ahead of time, and view all your upcoming workouts in the training screen, like a paperless weekly planner—one feature that stands out as unique from other similar devices.  The Movescount website has a heatmap function, which allows you to see areas of particularly high foot traffic (i.e. popular trail systems), a plus when looking for routes in unfamiliar areas.

The watch also logs your overall training time across all sports, estimates your needed recovery time based on details like heart rate and pace and tracks your steps throughout the day.

Long story short: this is one of the most fully featured and fully integrative devices we’ve tested. If you want to control all of your adventure prep, workout data and general health information in one place, the Spartan Sport Wrist HR is a sure bet. If you don’t need the wrist-based heart-rate detection, high-definition display, high-level route-planning and route-finding functionality and weekly workout planner, look for a cheaper option.


Wrist-based, heart-rate accuracy

Suunto claims to have the most accurate wrist-based, heart-rate technology, though without a medical-grade heart-rate monitor for comparison, we were not able to make a determination. Relative to its competitors, the device does respond quickly to acceleration and deceleration, though there are a few seconds of lag time.



As with any device with this level of technological sophistication, the Spartan Sport Wrist HR is far from low profile. However, once you’ve fussed over whether to wear it under or over your jacket sleeve, it feels comfortable and surprisingly light, and stays put without much slipping—an element that is particularly important for the wrist-based, heart-rate detection. However, because of the shape of the silicon band, runners with smaller wrists may find that it does not synch down as snug as models with a more traditional hinge.


Touch screen

Touch-screen functionality is one feature that sets the Spartan Sport Wrist HR apart from other brands. The touch screen works great with dry hands, but (as with any touch-screen device) it does not respond reliably when wet, from sweat or rain. Luckily, you can still navigate using old-fashioned buttons, on the right side. The watch is supposedly waterproof up to 100 meters, though we did not test that feature.