Archive for September, 2008
Why my Suunto X10 military went back after a brief review (and why the Core and Garmin 305 are on my wrist)
I recently picked up the Suunto X10 hoping that I would get my one-device fix, but soon realized that it was not to be. As outlined in my previous posts, there are too many tradeoffs to the Suunto x10 on every pole of the usage triangle:
1) fitness / training device: no heart rate, short battery life, and few calculations that relate to training performance
2) navigation device: tiny screen, low gain antenna compared to a handheld or even the Garmin 305 according to my side-by-side ride, where the Suunto x10 missed large patches that the 305 didn’t. Also, no screen to speak of, compared to some on the 305, and large touchscreens on a dedicated navigation device.
3) watch: too big, and poor battery life, coupled with truly abysmal visibility without backlight under any dimmer light condition – let alone running or hammering down the road on your bike with sunglasses on.
I don’t really fault Suunto – the technology is just going to require some more time to mature.Â Given today’s tech limitations, I really think the pod approach is the right one – like the pds offered by Garmin or Suunto’s training series.
If I had my druthers, I’d pick up the Garmin 705, and use my Suunto Core for a watch. But the Forerunner 305 works great, and includes a heart rate monitor, and I can keep my Core ABC watch on which gives me backup altimiter, and other watch functions.
Even if you require a tiny gps device, this doesn’t suit: by the time you bring along your solar panel to recharge it every 6 hours of use, or even 7 days if you use the features from time to time, you might as well have brought along a regular watch and a regular GPS with all the bells and whistles, which would also get you solid basemaps and the like.
AFter one day of wearing the Suunto X10, military edition, I have to say this is one extremely functional watch. But there are downsides as well. Since all the stuff I’ve seen online just talks about the good, I will dispense the bad:
1) plebian style, bordering on G-shock: this thing is pretty ugly. The texture of the watch is great, and the underside of the band is nice, but it is high off the wrist, lacks any metal or coolness, and the white bezel and little colored (painted) dots on the fron look cheap in real life. I was honestly tempted to return it and keep the all-black Suunto Core (a Black/orange Core with a black strap and buckles) based on looks alone (even though the Core has no GPS).
2) unreadable in low light without the backlight: compared to the Core, the x10 military is not readable at all in low light without the backlight on. And if you think that the contrast settings will help, they do not. Setting the contrast higher than 6 causes streaks all over the negative face, and below 3 washes out the color of the letters.
3) won’t fit under almost any sleeve at all – too high. While not a huge watch, this watch is *much* bigger than say a Garmin 405, and much higher than a Suunto core. It’s also much higher than my Bell & Ross 46mm, which is around 11mm high – that’s a big thing.
4) REALLY stiff buttons – the kind that are so stiff that you will leave a depression on your finger – but you will *not* press one by accident!
And the annoyances:
a) even though this is a GPS watch, and updates time, and compass declination based on where you are, it will not figure out what time zone you are in!Â That’s kind of dumb. I understand having a setting that keeps a person in a certain time zone, but I don’t understand why it can’t do a lookup from the GPS. not that hard. And the second time zone will sync seconds, but not anything else with the satellite sync on the main time zone (based on GPS fix). I can hope for a firmware fix I guess, but I am also guessing that this would require a lookup table in the internal memory of the device.
b) no dive pressure: the core has this – why take it away?
There’s a lot of cool stuff as well – some of that tomorrow!
The world of sport-focused wrist-top computers, also called watches, jumped ahead light years in the last few months. While I’ve been using a GPS-enabled heart rate monitor for some time now (The Garmin Forerunner 305), it’s huge, and not wearable on a daily basis (see pic @ right on a typical human wrist). The battery life is also not workable – you can’t expect it to stay on for more than 25-30 hours at best, even with the GPS off. But as a training device it’s excellent – tracking where you’ve gone, how fast, how high, and your heart rate along the way.
So Garmin innovates, and uses in the ForeRunner 405 an excellent GPS receiver in a more normal size watch, this time using the closest part of the batch bands as a way to hide the bulk of the watch. It’s still a little large, but a very workable daily war, and includes GPS tracking and heart rate tracking.Â But alas, this thing isn’t the answer to all your prayers. First, it only shows one time zone, which is a drawback in my book. Second, it doesn’t have a barometric altimiter, meaning that you will have to burn major battery to get your altitude, and forget about any baro warnings that a pressure drop is taking place and a storm is coming!
Now Suunto, whose Core device excells in providing Altiture / Baromoter & Compass (ABC), and also sports a depth meter to 32 ft, has out a GPS watch called the X9i, which is not focused on the training world, but rather the navigation world. For instance, the x9i has no heart rate monitor!Â As a matter of fact, Suunto offers *no* watch in all of its lineup that does GPS and a heart rate monitor at the same time as navigation features. You can get a training watch with a GPS pod, and that will help with training, but not with navigation, or get a navigation watch without the HRM!
Suunto’s new X10, which has better battery life than the X9i (lasting 6 hours of GPS monitoring and perhaps as much as a month of non-GPS use as a watch), seems to be the best compromise. In a few words it has: GPS, Altitude, Barometer, Temperature,Compass, and Dual time features.
But here’s the payoff: real integration – as a busy busy guy, I only want to go out, workout, and upload from one device, but I want that device to include the navigation features I need rather than having a performance monitor on one hand, and a navigation device on the other!Â Now only ifÂ these folks realize – it’s really not that much harder to cram a heart rate monitor into this watch – and it would be a *really* smart thing to do. And if they want a beta tester, I’m ready.
So Shame on Suunto and Garmin – why go 80% of the way, then stop, when it really wouldn’t cost much more, or take more battery life, to build the complete package!