home fitness The Battle of Garmin vs Suunto . . .
Advertiser Disclosure

The Battle of Garmin vs Suunto:
What Is The Best Sports Watch?
(2021 Review)

Choosing the right sports watch is a big deal. For one, it can represent a sizable investment, but if you are serious about training and improving your overall fitness and well-being, choosing the right sports watch is like choosing a fitness-journey companion. Fortunately, comparing Garmin vs Suunto is the perfect place to start.

💪Home Fitness

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Some products we try first-hand, while other products we review based on detailed research, without trying them first-hand. Of the products we try first-hand, some products we receive for free in exchange for an honest review, and other products we pay for. Given the range of products we review, research is essential to every review we share.

Here's how we make money.

See our high-level takeaways below, or skip to our full review!

Our Take:
Garmin Logo
Garmin Product Image
5

thumb_upPROS


thumb_downCONS

  • check Largest range of options
  • close Expensive top-end prices
  • check Innovation leader
  • check Solar powered options
  • check Multi-sport capabilities
  • check Affordable starter options
The Bottom Line:Garmin offers a versatile and durable line-up of smartwatches that will fit any need. The brand is known for creating long-lasting and high-functioning watches, and often are the first choice of performance athletes and amateurs alike.
Jump to: Full Review

Suunto Logo
Suunto Product Image
4.5

thumb_upPROS


thumb_downCONS

  • check Finnish design
  • close Expensive top-end prices
  • check Less ubiquitious
  • check Wear OS by Google Fit compatibility
  • check Multi-sport capabilities
  • check Affordable starter options
The Bottom Line: Suunto’s design elements are much more straightforward and simplistic, reflecting the brands Finnish roots. While Garmin might have more brand recognition, Suunto makes a great watch, and if you like to go against the grain, Suunto is a great option.
Jump to: Full Review



Full Review:
Garmin vs. Suunto - Cover Image

When advanced fitness smartwatches first came out, many of us thought they looked cool but doubted how practical they might be. Fast forward a few years, and we can’t live without them. Whether you are a beginner, a weekend warrior, or an aspiring pro, the data that a smartwatch provides can help inspire and inform. Still, a smartwatch is a big investment, so proper research is a must, but considering the pros and cons between Garmin vs Suunto is a great place to start.

Garmin vs Suunto: What Is The Best Smartwatch?

Two of the leading brands in smartwatch technology are Garmin and Suunto. Garmin is known mostly for its runner’s watches, whereas Suunto is known for its diving technology. Of course, in an effort to grow their customer bases, both have diversified into more versatile and advanced smartwatches.


In considering Garmin or Suunto, know that both have an extensive lineup of smartwatches, ranging from entry-level watches at a low price point to ultramodern fitness and health watches at a significantly higher price point.

Figuring out which smartwatch is best for you might take a little effort. After all, understanding the various sports modes, heart rate monitors, and battery life is just the start, so let’s take a closer look.

Garmin vs Suunto
Comparison Table
Battle of The Smart Sports Watches
Garmin Logo
Suunto Logo
Biggest Selling PointaddGarminPerformance at Every Price PointSuuntoLess Mainstream & Refined Style
Starter WatchaddGarminVenu 2SuuntoSuunto 3
Flagship WatchaddGarminFenix 6SuuntoSuunto 9 Peak
Model OptionsaddGarmin5+Suunto5+
WebsiteaddGarminSuunto

The Garmin Lineup of Smartwatches

While Garmin might be originally known for dashboard-mounted GPS systems, the company adapted better than most after the iPhone and other smartphones made plug-in GPS systems antiquated. In many ways, it was ingenious and fortunate to transition the company’s core GPS technology to focus on smartwatches.

Ironically, the brand still competes with Apple, but instead of competing with the iPhone, the company now competes against the Apple Watch. Still, Garmin smartwatches fill a niched role among active enthusiasts looking for accuracy, and fortunately for Garmin, they’ve seemed to fair better in their battle against Apple by focusing on watches. The Garmin Lineup is largely composed of specialist devices that are designed for a specific purpose, whether that purpose is outdoor sports, running, or just getting fit.

Garmin vs Suunto - Explore

Garmin Instinct: Rugged, Durable, Affordable

Garmin Instinct bills itself as a rugged, outdoor watch available in editions such as Standard, Tactical, and eSports. The Garmin Instinct is an entry-level watch in many ways, but it still boasts durable components and functionality.

Not only will the Garmin Instinct guide you wherever you might want to go with multi-GNSS satellite support but is built with military-grade components and durability. The watch is really built for trekking, hiking, camping, and other outdoor adventures - and it features maps and tracking to this end, through Garmin’s exclusive app. Still, if you are an athlete looking for something that is durable, the watch also features a sports app designed to give you all of the insights you need.

If you are the true outdoorsman,

the battery lasts up to 14 days in smartwatch mode, which Apple can’t even sniff competing with. For those of you looking for a durable athletics watch, the Garmin Instinct is perfect for the Tough Mudder in you.

Garmin Instinct is great for those who want to get fit, including wrist-based heart rate, stress tracking, and built-in sports apps. You can even pair it with dog tracking devices. Who doesn’t love a good dog tracking mode?

Garmin Instinct Solar: For The True Outdoorsman

For those of you that are a little more adventurous than your average camping trip dad, the Garmin Instinct Solar features an incredible battery life. Your Garmin Instinct Solar may still need to be charged on an infrequent occasion, but also features solar charging, and can last up to an unprecedented 54 days in smartwatch mode.

And if you find yourself deep along the Appalachian Trail, you will be glad to know that in addition to the military-grade construction, the watch also features GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo, so you always know right where you need to be. What exactly do we mean by military-grade construction? Well, the Garmin Instinct Solar is built to military standard 810 for thermal, shock, and water resistance. The watch will still work up to 100 meters.

And this watch is smarter than most. Its unique power manager is better than a battery saver mode. You can view how specific features are impacting your battery life, and then adjust your smartwatch activity accordingly to maximize the battery life when you are in the wild.

Garmin vs Suunto - Learn

Garmin Venu 2: The Perfect All-Around Watch

While the Garmin Instinct features military-grade durability, its functionality is rather basic compared to most modern smartwatches, and the jump from the Garmin Instinct to the Garmin Venu 2 is rather striking. The Garmin Instinct still serves its important place in the line-up, because its more basic functionality and display features allow for all battery modes to last much longer than more advanced watches.

This is especially true of the Garmin Instinct Solar, which can last more than 50 days without a charge. For comparison, most people charge their Apple watches nightly. The Garmin Venu 2 still offers more than 11 days of battery, which is still fantastic in exchange for the more advanced functionality and especially in comparison to the Apple Watch.

Not only does the Garmin Venu 2 allow you to store music on your watch, use tap and pay at the register, and see messages and breaking news from your phone, but the smartwatch is designed to track and report on a litany of insightful health data that will provide you with awareness and help you manage your health.

The Garmin Venu 2 health features start with wrist-based heart rate monitoring and will alert you if your heart rate is too high or too low while you are at rest. As you might expect, this information will also help you gauge your exertion level while exercising, while strength training, or even swimming. The optical heart rate sensor might be your favorite sensor and provide you with the most useful information. This information also helps inform Garmin of your stress level, and the watch will provide you with prompts for breathing exercises if your body gets a little too intense when at rest.

Additionally, the Garmin Venu 2 smartwatch utilizes a Pulse Ox sensor to monitor your blood oxygen saturation, help your track your menstrual cycle or pregnancy if you are a female, help you track your hydration intake each day, provide advanced sleep monitoring, and tell you your fitness age.

Many of Garmin’s watches avoided touchscreen displays because they are designed for sweaty activities, where sweat makes operating the touchscreen more difficult, but the Garmin Venu 2 has a beautiful color touchscreen designed to impress. Fellow runners and cyclists will understand that this is impressive in a multi-sport watch, though some will like it, and some will prefer buttons available on the Forerunner and Fenix watches.


Garmin Forerunner: A Premium Watch for Runners

If you consider yourself a runner, then there is no doubt in my mind that you are familiar with the Garmin Forerunner, even if you don’t wear it. I personally wore a Garmin Forerunner for years. The smartwatch has been at the forefront of smart running watches for years, and they continue to develop the watch so that it stays at the forefront.

Another thing that is interesting about the Garmin Forerunner series is that offers wide-ranging features that will help you match your budget with your needs. Basic Forerunner watches offer lightweight GPS at an entry-level price point. I had one of these Forerunners in years gone by, and they provide all of the basics, perfect for entry-level runners, but also sufficient for mid-level runners on a budget. Track your time, distance, and pace with GPS, monitor your health with heart rate monitoring, and get up to two weeks of battery life.

And sure, the Garmin Forerunner has its origins as a running watch, but the more advanced watches, such as the Forerunner 745 work for triathletes as well. The watch has preloaded activity profiles that make it easy to track various triathlon training activities, including bike, free runs, track runs, virtual runs, pool swims, and a triathlon mode that helps you track all three events without pausing your tracking.

While the more advanced Garmin Forerunner offers Garmin Pay contactless payments, it doesn’t have a touch screen. This is a double-edged sword of sorts. Touch screens are hard to manage when you are sweaty, so this is by design, but the multiple buttons on the watch are also a little difficult to get the hang of, despite its sweat-resistant usage. While GPS is known as a battery killer, the Forerunner 745 sill gets up to 6 hours of battery, in GPS mode, and while using music, which should be enough to get you through race day.

The most advanced Forerunner is the Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE. Not only does the Forerunner 945 boasts all of the features included on the other versions of the watch, but it also has a navigation feature with full-color mapping, the ability to create your own courses on the Garmin Connect app, turn-by-turn mapping that harkens back to the company’s roots, and round-trip routing.

The Garmin Forerunner ranges from a basic entry-level watch to a higher-end watch perfect for the runner looking to explore without getting lost.

Garmin Enduro: Extreme Performance To Go The Distance

For some athletes, the Forerunner is insufficient to keep up with their advanced endurance and performance needs, and that is where the Garmin Enduro enters the fray. The Garmin Enduro includes more precise GPS functionality compared to some lower-level watches that mostly track distance, speed, and pace. This means that even if your trail takes you further into the lost than you intended (which has happened to me), you will still be able to find your way back home.

And since the Garmin Enduro allows for solar charging, it lasts for a whopping 80 hours of battery life in GPS mode, and if you know where you are going, it lasts for up to an even more astounding 300 hours in max battery mode.

The watch is built with rugged durability, and designed beyond most sports watches for the athletes that go above and beyond, and far away from average. What do we mean? Well, in addition to a recovery advisor, the Garmin Enduro includes heat and altitude acclimation, an ultra run activity feature with rest timer, a trail run V02 Max sensor that adjusts based on varying trail and terrain conditions, and functionality that provides mountain biking metrics.

While competitor brands try to sell revolutionary sleep tracking that may or may not work, the Garmin Enduro gives you all of the advanced features you actually need as an extreme endurance athlete, plus the simplicity to help you navigate daily life. The Garmin Enduro will help you elevate your training status to the next level.

Garmin vs Suunto - Try

Garmin Fenix: Outdoor Performance Beyond Expectations

Then there is the Garmin Fenix, which might be Garmin’s most popular high-end watch. I am not sure it will ever match the ubiquitousness of the Forerunner, simply because the Forerunner is available at a lower price point, but still, the Fenix is well known. And while the Garmin Fenix 5X changed the game in terms of how athletes track their workouts and monitor their fitness level, the Garmin Fenix 6 takes it to a whole other level.

Naturally, you get all of the features you would expect, including, wrist-based heart rate monitoring, a Pulse oximeter, running and cycling stats, navigations sense, text message, and other alerts, and tap to pay functionality, but where the Fenix really starts to stand apart is the advanced durability. The silicone band and stainless steel bezel are only the durable eye-dressing to match a tough watch tested to U.S. military standards for thermal, shock, and water resistance.

All of this, and no need for any third-party app like you might need with an Apple Watch or other competitor. The Garmin Fenix includes preloaded activity profiles to track trail running, swimming, free running, biking, hiking, rowing, golfing, and even backcountry skiing. In fact, you can pair the Garmin Fenix with the HRM-Pro chest strap to measure your actual exercise load when cross-country skiing.

The Garmin Fenix has enough battery power to last up to 14 days in smartwatch mode, as long as 36 hours in GPS mode, and an incredible 48 days in battery save mode. Dang. What are the major watchmakers doing wrong?

While your friends might happy with simple activity tracking, fitness enthusiasts need a sports watch that is much more sophisticated than an activity tracker with basic features like calorie tracking. Fortunately, the Garmin Fenix delivers everything you need, plus some functionality you didn’t even know you needed.

While the Fenix 5X had a cult-like following, the Fenix 6 elevates the game even further.

The Suunto Lineup of Smartwatches

It is possible that you are familiar with the Garmin brand, but less familiar with Suunto watches and the overall brand, and we get that. Still, in the world of fitness smartwatches, comparing Garmin vs Suunto is a commonplace to start.

Suunto products are inspired by a noticeable Nordic vibe. The company is based in Finland and represents a deep heritage shaped by the Nordic people, and shaped by outdoor adventures.

Suunto vs Garmin - Explore

Suunto 3: An Entry-Level Watch With All The Features

If you are just starting down your fitness journey or looking for a good bang for your buck, the Suunto 3 is a nice, entry-level starter watch. Like all Suunto products, it is lightweight and durable, and interestingly, includes adaptive training guidance so that you can achieve the best version of yourself.

While the Suunto 3 is an entry-level fitness watch, it still features all the basics you might expect, including around-the-clock activity tracking, sleep monitoring, heart rate monitoring, mobile-connected GPS, and water resistance to depths of 30M. The Suunto 3 has battery life for 10 days in time mode, and up to 5 days using tracking and notifications.

Aside from fitness-focused features, the Suunto 3 includes music controls, so you connect earbuds to your phone and control from your wrist. Maybe more interestingly, the Suunto 3 includes a Burner function that reports how quickly you are burning fat as you exercise. The Burner function provides yet another data point for you to consider in your quest for weight management and life balance.

Lastly, it is worth noting that most fitness watches include a silicone band, and the Suunto 3 does as well; however, Suunto now offers a microfiber strap suitable for sports, and with a better vibe to go along with your personal style.

Suunto 5: An Adaptive, Compact Watch for Fitness and Health

When you are ready to take your game up a notch beyond an entry-level product, the Suunto 5 will be there waiting. There are more than 80 pre-designed sport modes that you can use with your Suunto 5, as soon as you open it out of the box. And if that is not enough, you can also customize your own activities through the Suunto app. The Suunto app places nice with an advanced partner network that might enable you to analyze your workouts in more detail. Primary partners include Training Peaks, Strava, Wikiloc, Koomoot, FatMap, UnderArmour Run, Endomondo, and Adidas.

On the app, you will have access to activity-specific heatmaps, including popular starting points, which might help you decide where to get a workout in when you are on the go. All this is nice, but the adaptive training plans may be game-changers for some. Suunto takes information from your personal profile, reviews your recorded exercises, and then creates a week-long training plan with optimized durations and intensities.

Most amateur fitness geeks, myself included, fall into the trap of completing the same workout routine, week in and week out. That is a good enough strategy to stay in shape, but it won’t help you improve your energy levels or realize those gains you have dreamed about. Suunto largely relies on the VO2 Max (maximal oxygen consumption) to determine how hard your previous workouts were, and when and how frequently you need to push yourself in the subsequent days.

The Suunto 5 has battery life for 12 days in time mode, and up to 7 days using tracking and notifications.

If you look at your current reality as merely a starting point and are interesting in grinding toward a better version of yourself, but without the expectations of being a pro, then the Suunto 5 might be for you.

Suunto vs Garmin - Learn

Suunto 7: A Smartwatch Designed Around Sports

The Suunto 7 definitely hit the ground running, earning Fast Company’s Innovation By Design Award, as being featured as a finalist for Best of CES in 2020. Why the accolades? Well, the Suunto 7 was the first watch in the company’s line up of sports watches to combine useful everyday Wear OS by Google functionality with Suunto’s standard array of sports tracking, health insights, and navigation. It’s an everyday watch built for ultimate performance.

You might be wondering what that means, exactly. The bottom line is that this is a much more advanced watch than the glorified activity tracker watches that debuted a decade ago. Not only does the watch offer one-button access to more than 70 sport modes, GPS technology, and heart rate sensors, but you can see what meeting is next on your calendar while you are on the run. You can also download music to your phone, see who is calling, and make payments via your smartwatch.

And it is accurate, which is important when you are making this kind of investment in your wellbeing. You can easily check your daily steps or calories burned, and feel confident that you are sharing accurate exercise data to your favorite sports service app, whether it be Strava, Adidas Running, or Under Armour Mapmyrun. The Suunto 7 has battery life for up to 40 days in battery saver mode.

The Suunto 7 is built with a high-resolution touchscreen, but you can also navigate with buttons on the casing when you are wearing gloves are working out in excessively sweaty environments. Beyond the hardware, the free offline maps with terrain details and trails are really game-changing. You never need to worry about venturing off the beaten path. What’s an adventure watch that doesn’t allow you to do a little exploring?


Suunto 9: An Expensive, But Highly Versatile Smartwatch

For those of you that purchase none but the best, the Suunto 9 is the brand’s flagship smartwatch, and it is actually available in two sizes. The Suunto 9 Peak is the thinnest watch the company has made, measuring only 10.6mm of thickness, while somehow maintaining the durability that Suunto is known for. The Suunto 9 Baro is a little thicker, at 16.5 mm thick, but this original model also offers a bigger screen.

The key features are as you would expect, and include over 80 sport modes, GPS navigation, a blood oxygen sensor, and up to 100M of water resistance. Still, small features like the barometer and weather functions provide some uniqueness over similar products, and the sapphire glass and stainless steel casing on the Suunto 9 Peak scream quality and durability.

The Suunto 9 is for the free spirit inside you that loves to explore trails, whether hiking, running, or mountain biking; but it also serves the competitive spirit. We love that the watch features a virtual ghost runner that will help you practice your pacing, and while none of us like to slow down, we appreciate the recovery recommendations intended to help you manage your training load.

This watch has battery life for 14 days in time mode, and up to 7 days using tracking and notifications.

The Suunto 9 Baro is the original, and slightly less advanced than the Suunto 9 Peak. The biggest difference between the two is that the Suunto 9 Peak is slimmer and lighter, but the Suunto 9 Peak also has the blood oxygen sensor and maintains automatic firmware updates over air, which are improvements over the Suunto 9 Baro.

Suunto vs Garmin - Try

Suunto Core: A Watch for the Great Outdoors

Last but not least, the Suunto Core is a durable watch inspired by the needs of the most hard-core military standards. Whether you are the true adventurer, or just enjoy a good tough mudder, The Suunto Core will rise to the occasion. It’s built with a barometer, compass, and altimeter, and military-appropriate red backlight. Like the Suunto 9, it also features a barometer with weather functions.

The watch provides external temperature, a storm alarm, and sunset and sunrise times, as well.

Garmin vs Suunto Revisited

For the average runner and athlete, but brands get the job done, so your choice could come down to something as simple as whether you like Garmin Connect or the Suunto app.

Don’t forget that a smartwatch is 50 percent the watch itself and 50 percent the app that you use to control the watch.

The Garmin Instinct and the Suunto CORE may rely upon their application syncing a little less (they are tailored toward the outdoors), but all the devices are going to sync with the Garmin/Suunto apps.

Garmin Connect - An all-in-one health and fitness app that has a 4.6 rating on Google.

Suunto - A training and activity app that has a 2.4 rating on Google.

Before you make a decision on which device you want, you may want to download the apps and try them out. In general, the Garmin App tends to have much higher ratings. But Suunto devices can also sync with other solutions, like Wear OS by Google Fit.

When you’re viewing your sleep, oxygen ratings, energy levels, and more, you will usually be doing so through the application. The application makes it possible to look through your stats, track your calories, upload your workouts, and even share your activity with others — and if the app is clunky to you, the watch will be, too.

Still, we have our favorites.

Garmin Pros And Cons

In our view, Garmin has a more versatile line-up at a variety of price points. If battery life is the most important feature for you,

Garmin has multiple solar-powered watches, such as the Garmin Instinct Solar, with extended battery lives. On the other hand, if you want to push the limits of multi-sport performance while maintaining an impeccable style, there is no better place to start than the Garmin Fenix.

SUMMARYthumb_upPROS
thumb_downCONS
  • check Largest range of options
  • close Expensive top-end prices
  • check Innovation leader
  • check Solar powered options
  • check Multi-sport capabilities
  • check Affordable starter options

Suunto Pros And Cons

Suunto watches represent beautiful design and functional versatility. With more than 70 sports modes, Suunto watches will get the job done, wherever you go, and in whatever you choose to do. If you’re ready to jump all the way into the performance sports watch waters, consider the Suunto 9 Peak, which features GPS, heart rate monitors, and even a barometer.

SUMMARYthumb_upPROS
thumb_downCONS
  • check Finnish design
  • close Expensive top-end prices
  • check Less ubiquitious
  • check Wear OS by Google Fit compatibility
  • check Multi-sport capabilities
  • check Affordable starter options

Suunto vs Garmin Watches

What Is The Best Fitness Watch?

While Suunto’s watches seem to progressively build upon themselves as they get more expensive, Garmin takes a different approach and has a watch for any occasion:

Garmin Vivoactive - Simple activity tracking

Garmin Venu - Stylish and functional, promotes wellness

Garmin Forerunner - For the serious runners and triathletes

Garmin Instinct - For those that love the outdoors

Garmin Fenix - The ultimate multisport watch

We tend to lean toward Garmin, in part because of the clear purpose for each of their watches. Still, the Suunto 9 Peak is an incredible watch with advanced functionality and a sleek design. Plus, Garmin is much more ubiquitous than Suunto, so if you are looking to go against the grain, purchasing a Suunto watch is something you can be proud to have done.

If you are on a budget but want the best, go with a Garmin Forerunner for athletic training, or the Garmin Instinct to satisfy the outdoor lifestyle. Of course, if money is no object, the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar Edition is our recommendation. Getting a battery boost from sunlight means less charging, and it has every feature you might ever need as an adventure athlete. Regardless of what your specific needs are, we are confident that Garmin has a watch for you.


Subscribe to Moonlight Reviews

Get the latest posts delivered right to your inbox!