Suunto Ambit 2S Review

Suunto Ambit2 S LIME_gm60The Ambit 2S is a sleeker, lighter multisport version of the original Ambit. It is ANT+ compatible so you can link to a host of pods including power meters. It offers a range of analytical info for HR, beat to beat measurement, EPOC etc. You have to rely on GPS altitude which is fine for most urban uses.

I like a wrist unit (and background software) that is easy to use and intuitive. Both should enhance and improve your experience and not take away from it. The real strength of the Ambit though comes in the very advanced technology housed inside the built-to-last casing.

The HR belt provided with the Ambit 2S is my favourite out of the major brands I have reviewed so far: It clips together at the front and you don’t have to fiddle under your armpit to connect the strap.

The Ambit 2 has all the functionality of the 2S but adds barometric altitude and Fused Alti™. This is intended more for explorers and adventurers. For any accurate altitude data I would recommend going this route as in my experience the GPS-based altitude is just not accurate.

Run
The first time the Ambit looks for a GPS signal it takes a few minutes. After that it is super quick (1-2 seconds). So no more waiting before your run. The Ambit can use a footpod to get distance data when running indoors on a treadmill. However the footpod data overrides all GPS data. In other words, you cannot get cadence info and GPS tracking at the same time.

Swim
The accelerometer in the Ambit 2S has the ability to record and analyse your swimming. You can choose either indoor or outdoor swimming from the menu and select the length of the pool for indoor sessions. In theory the Ambit 2S analyses your arm movements and then records what stroke you are doing and when you change direction (push off the wall), you have completed a lap.

The first time I used the Ambit 2S in the pool it worked great. The next time I obviously did not push off hard enough off the wall and it somehow doubled the distance of my warm-up set. It also got a bit confused with my freestyle (maybe it does actually look more like breaststroke or backstroke). I believe that you can teach the Ambit 2S to better recognise your stroke but I could not test this.

The Ambit 2S only reads the HR belt over a very short distance under water. This means that you won’t get HR values for your swim. Annoyingly when in indoor swim mode the Ambit displays a swimming screensaver and no data on the wrist unit can be viewed while swimming. You have to stop the lap to view data. When you swim open water you select outdoor swimming and it records distance via GPS. The Ambit 2S only has a split second to find a signal before your hand goes under the water again. The outdoor swimming GPS data I got was nowhere near accurate enough but I understand the limitations of this. Strangely, when open water swimming you see your live data and not the annoying screensaver.

Cycling
Cycling functions are pretty much the same as for the run except that pace is replaced by speed and you have optional screens for power etc.

Multisport
This is the big improvement of the Ambit 2 and 2S over the original Ambit. Yes the Ambit could do several sports, however it couldn’t do several sports in one file. The Ambit 2S does have a pre-programmed triathlon mode. It does however not include transitions which I am really surprised by.

Other features
It took me a while to catch the Ambit napping. When you put the Ambit 2S down it turns the display off after a while. A nifty feature if this saves battery life.

The navigation option on the Ambit enables you to set a predefined route on Movescount and send it to the wrist unit to follow. I found this to be pretty basic but sufficient for urban use. You can mark points of interest while on the go and navigate back to them but you cannot see the route you have come and find your way back onto that. So in the navigation department the Ambit falls short of the Garmin fénix and other dedicated navigation units. The compass is super easy to calibrate and use though. This is not surprising considering Suunto’s origins as a compass maker.

Movescount
To download your data to Movescount you just log in to Movescount and connect the wrist unit to your PC or Mac via the charging cable. The rest happens in the background, which is a major plus. The one thing I don’t like on the updated Movescount platform is that you can no longer add comments to individual laps as you could before. I like the interaction of map and graph data and the route on the map highlights sections of higher altitude/HR/epoc or whatever you have highlighted on the analysis graph. Movescount is also the home of the Appzone. Here you can customise your sports functions to your heart’s content.

Good
– Finds GPS signal quickly
– Multisport functions
– Very easy analysis of data post exercise
– Lightning fast download

Bad
– I would really like to be able to adjust settings and recording rates on the wrist unit itself and not rely exclusively on the Movescount platform.
– I don’t like the GPS altitude. It’s just not accurate enough.
– Swim GPS data is not 100% accurate.

Overall
One of the most comprehensive units for recording your exercise, where you have gone and how hard you worked to get there. And it’s supported by probably the best background software available. Inspires confidence and class.

R4999 | suunto.com
Ultimo 011 785 4704

by Leo Rust

Leo entered his first race, the Bat Run, in 2003 and finished second. He confesses his placings have been mostly worse since then, but his times faster. He continues to search for the perfect run, while working in the outdoor gear industry.

Originally published in the July/August 2013 issue.

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