Garmin vs Suunto – Which GPS Sport Watch Brand is Best?


garmin vs suunto gps sports watches

When you think of the best GPS watches with a plethora of additional watch features, you automatically think of Garmin or Suunto. Between these two elite brands, an abundance of sporting and GPS accuracy exist. Plus, with new product launches taking place every few months, deciding which of these sports watches is best for you can often feel overwhelming.

If you are looking for a smart device, watch, handheld, or fitness activity tracker, Garmin is more prolific when compared to Suunto. Suunto sports watches are known for their streamlined interface and basic functions, which are attractive to fitness and health enthusiasts who prefer simplicity.

Choosing between sports watches is hard, and that’s before you’ve even started to do your research to consider whether you need a GPS, heart rate monitor, sleep tracking device, longer battery life, etc., it can get overwhelming.

But don’t despair, as below I will help you to navigate through the key differences and specs of these influential brands. Read on to find out whether a Garmin or Suunto watch is the best for you based on your needs.

Quick Overview: Our Top Picks for Garmin GPS Running Watches
IMAGE PRODUCT
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro
  • Durable lens and battery
  • Increased water pressure capabilities
  • Has barometric altimeter technology
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Forerunner 35
  • Interval training tracker
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Comfortable design
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Forerunner 45
  • Gyroscope
  • V02 Max
  • Accessible interface
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Forerunner 245 / 245 Music
  • Allows you to control the music playback from your phone
  • Up to 500 songs or audio data
  • Prioritizes user safety
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Vivoactive 4
  • V02 Max
  • Innovative performance condition technology
  • Multiple GNSS navigation protocols
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Forerunner 645 Music
  • Up to 500 songs
  • Syncs music from select streaming services
  • Provides advanced running dynamics
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Vivoactive 3
  • Garmin Move IQ
  • Body temperature tracking
  • Elevation tracking
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Vivosmart 4
  • Slim and comfortable
  • Advanced tracking features
  • Battery lasts up to 7 days
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Forerunner 745
  • Preloaded activity profiles
  • Receive on-device run and cycling daily workout suggestions based on your current training load and VO2 max
  • Get training guidance by syncing structured indoor or outdoor workouts
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Garmin Forerunner 945
  • Pulse oximetry data
  • Full map navigation
  • Safety and tracking features
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At a Glance: Garmin GPS Sport Watches

Other devices often struggle to keep up with the innovation that Garmin consistently delivers. Garmin devices are known for their expense, but in all honesty, a Garmin device is worth the higher price tag.

Garmin also runs the gamut between variability with its devices, such as GPS watches, handhelds, and other types that are all superior and innovative in terms of GPS technology.

With advanced features like sports tracking, long battery life, and even important and useful features like menstrual cycle tracking, pulse ox sensors, custom workouts, on-screen workouts, more health insights, and advanced sleep monitoring with up-to-date activity across GPS tracking, Garmin is always one step ahead of competitors.

How good is the battery life and apps on a Garmin device?

Battery Life

Most basic GPS watches often struggle to present an advanced GPS mode – this is sometimes a complaint seen with an Apple watch or even Suunto models. The battery power of a Garmin model is as close to great battery life as you can expect to get from a watch brand.

There is a battery saver mode amongst Garmin features with just about any Garmin multi sport watch. Most Garmin watches generate anywhere between 10 hours upwards of 1-2 weeks on a single charge.

Garmin App

Garmin Connect app is the headquarters for all data from your watch and more. From running to cycling to cardio and other sports, if your Garmin tracks it, Connect shows it.

You’ll be able to see how many steps you’ve walked, an estimate of your VO2 max, your training load, accurate GPS signal updates, And, you can even connect to other users to compare your efforts to theirs.

But before you’re able to take advantage of all of this information, you’ll need to make sure that you pair your device to the mobile app or computer website. This allows Garmin Connect to pull data from your watch.

At a Glance: Suunto GPS Sport Watches

Being very familiar with all things Suunto, the first talking point many enthusiasts in need of a GPS fix talk about is that this brand is built with ease of use in mind.

The large buttons are easy to push with or without gloves, and the menus are straightforward. If you are familiar with recent Suunto models like the t6 or X6, for example, you likely already know that the wearability of the watch is great.

The rubber strap on most Suunto devices is thin and lightweight–a welcomed feature in the world of overbuilt, rugged outdoor watches. As with all Suunto watches, the battery is easily replaced by the user in both the watch and heart rate belt. This is a great feature as many heart rate belts don’t allow you to change the battery.

All the data and watch faces of a Suunto can easily mimic Garmin varieties, but either brand will typically meet the needs of those desiring a GPS watch.

Quick Overview: Our Top Picks for Suunto GPS Sport Watches
IMAGE PRODUCT
Suunto 9 Peak
  • Ultra thin
  • Wrist heart meter and Barometer
  • 100m Water resistant
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Suunto 9 Baro
  • FusedTrack™ algorithm for accurate track and distance
  • Power saving options
  • Contactless payment enabled
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Suunto 9
  • Over 80 sport modes
  • Share and log your activity achievements on social media
  • Customizable with engraving options
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Suunto 7
  • Offline outdoor maps inclusive of navigation
  • Wear OS by Google smartwatch features (Google Play, Google Pay and Google Assistant)
  • Listen to music without phone connectivity or data charges
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Suunto 5
  • Adaptive training guidence
  • Turn- by- turn navigation
  • 50m Water resistant
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Suunto 3
  • Mobile connected GPS
  • Sleep quality and tracking
  • 30m Water resistant
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Suunto Core Alpha
  • For those who want a simple sports watch
  • Barometer and Altimeter
  • Sunrise and sunset time
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How good is the battery life and apps on a Suunto watch?

Battery Life

Suunto watches typically use three different battery modes with built-in intelligence systems that estimate the remaining battery time left on a particular mode.

If the watch notices that you’re running low on battery, it will suggest that you switch to a different mode. The battery life can last anywhere from 20 to 125 hours depending on the mode.

Suunto App

The Suunto application has the same data tracking features you can expect to find on a Garmin. This isn’t to say that the brand is the same as Garmin, but the features are not very different.

Between Garmin vs. Suunto watches, which models stand out the most?

Let’s take an in-depth look at various models of both brands to determine which type best fits your needs.

Garmin Watches

garmin forerunner 945

Garmin Forerunner 945 (Best Overall)

The Garmin Forerunner 945 is a classic smartwatch in the making. This convenient and comfortable watch has a no-nonsense set of features that make outdoor fitness activities almost unimaginable without it. 

One of the most exciting features of the Garmin Forerunner 945  is the addition of a race predictor. This nifty and helpful add-on now allows you to receive notifications or check to see how long it will take you to reach a finish line in a race.

You can also use the feature to measure how long your current fitness output will take to run a certain amount of distance.

As much as we try and tell ourselves that we won’t overdo it when it comes to fitness, the execution of those words is easier said than done. The Forerunner 945 looks to remedy those situations with the new recovery time advisor. This feature allows you to receive notification or manually check to see how much output you have left before you overdo your exertion.

Many watches that are fashioned for runners and joggers promise technology that can monitor your heart rate, yet this can be an inconvenience in most models. With the Garmin Forerunner 945, the smart technology keeps in sync with your heart rate through your wrist, which displays on the screen for easy monitoring.

 Have you ever gone for a run only to return home with a sore and sensitive rash around your wrist? This is a common problem with runners due to the material that encloses the band of a wristwatch. This watch uses silicone in the makeup of the band to completely resist sweat and moisture build-up around and underneath the wrist during your run.

One of the many things to appreciate about a treadmill is the convenience of your distance stats on a monitor right in front of you. With this watch, you can now have all of these great GPS features like pace, distance ran, and customizable intervals that light up with frequency during your run. Gone are the inconveniences of having to keep a mental note of your distance running.

One of the standout features of a Garmin watch is the great detail that is put into creating batteries that can last for long periods in-between charges. This watch can hold a successful charge for up to 7 days between plug ins, which allows you to worry less when it comes to waiting for battery charges when you are ready to get out and run.

For some of Garmin’s most select watch models, adaptive training plans through a Garmin coach of your choice are available to help guide you through your run. The Forerunner 945 is one of the watches that includes this convenient coaching, which works well to help you reach your goals on those days when running or any fitness regime seems like a chore.

Pros:

  • Premium GPS running/triathlon smartwatch with music
  • Download songs to your watch
  • Performance monitoring features include Vo2 Max and training status with adjustments for heat, altitude Acclimation status, training load focus, recovery time, and aerobic and anaerobic training effects

Cons:

  • One of the unfortunate missing features from the Garmin Forerunner 945 is the swimming mode technology that is a feature of many other brands of fitness smartwatches
garmin instinct solar

Garmin Instinct Solar (Best Advanced Model)

The Instinct Solar is is a powerful and large smartwatch that is designed for long, outdoor fitness sessions. The solar-charging capabilities of this model are unprecedented in terms of charge longevity. The watch is also durable and built-to-last with military-grade toughness. 

This watch has many new updates to the previous models that featured solar technology. For one, the watch itself is completely altered in size and dynamics to fit the needs of the increased technology that comes with the advanced battery capabilities. This watch is designed for rugged outdoor use, and will certainly not disappoint in that kind of environment.

The watch is well-calibrated to handle the influx of new features and the GPS function is top-tier. The lens combines the best of solar technology with powerful battery-saving performance. But perhaps the biggest standout of the Garmin Instinct Solar is the inclusion of advanced performance tracking features.

Many of these, such as MGRS, are perfect for outdoor enthusiasts who take adventures into rugged mountains or tough terrain.

Pros:

  • Experience unprecedented battery life with solar charging
  • Train smarter with built-in sports apps right on your wrist
  • Fiber-reinforced polymer case
  • Chemically strengthened scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla glass
  • GPS, GLONASS and Galileo. Your 3 best friends in the wild
  • Train smarter with built-in sports apps right on your wrist
  • Get notifications straight from your phone to your wrist

Cons:

  • Sometimes the number of notifications for all the features can be overwhelming. Even if you choose to limit the notifications coming in, the data from the features will still sync consistently to provide notifications
  • In order to reap the full benefits, the lens needs about 3 full hours of direct sunlight

Suunto Watches

Suunto 9 Multisport GPS Watch

If you need to run a full or a half marathon, the Suunto 9 is the perfect model.

This watch has three predefined battery modes, performance, endurance and ultra, which can deliver from 25 hours to up to 120 hours of recording time with GPS tracking on, which is pretty amazing. When you start a recording, you’ll get an estimate of how much battery you have left with the current mode. If it’s not enough, switch to another mode at any time.

On long ultra runs, the battery life is often the limiting factor for recording distance and track accurately, as GPS is a heavy drain on the battery. Suunto’s unique FusedTrack algorithm combines GPS and motion sensor data to improve track and distance accuracy. This allows you to extend battery life by lowering GPS power without significantly compromising accuracy.

Suunto 9 is designed and built to meet the demands of professional athletes. Tested to the extreme with thousands of hours of real use in the toughest conditions by Suunto’s internal testing team and athletes all over the world, so you can think of this device as a trusted companion to confidently see you through any adventure.

You can also pair Suunto 9 with the Suunto app to track all your adventures, as well as follow your long term trends, including daily activity and sleep.

Pros:

  • Amazing design
  • Suunto 9 Peak suits any wardrobe and weather, with ultimate comfort you can wear day and night
  • Featuring intricate design values, the watch is ultra thin, and fits under the jacket sleeve and doesn’t getting caught on your backpack or purse

Cons:

  • The various sports modes can sometimes have difficulty loading

Suunto Traverse Alpha

The Suunto Traverse Alpha combines a strong quality build with a full set of outdoor features. It is your guide in the wild, keeping you on track with GPS/GLONASS navigation, while specific hunting and fishing features provide useful tools for your activity, including automatic shot detection, moon phase calendar, sunrise alert, weather trend alert, and red backlight for nighttime use.

Furthermore, the Suunto Traverse Alpha features a rugged, knurled stainless steel bezel, a durable nylon textile strap, and a premium scratch-resistant sapphire crystal glass. Vibration alerts and a customizable, night-vision-goggle-compatible red backlight help you stay unnoticed.

Some of the outstanding watch features include:

  • A discreet built-in flashlight illuminates your surroundings in a pinch. Plus you can receive mobile notifications and see Suunto’s automatic shot detection technology which keeps track of when and where you shoot and maps the GPS coordinates of your location for later viewing
  • Use hunting and fishing specific point of interest types to mark trails and important locations
  • Sunrise and sunset alerts to help plan your day
  • A location-based moon phase calendar with moon rise and moon set times that helps you determine the best hunting and fishing times
  • Barometric pressure graph and storm alarms that allow you to closely follow weather changes
  • You can use the built-in digital compass to quickly orientate yourself in unknown terrain
  • The built-in GPS and GLONASS systems track your path, helping you find your way back using the automatic breadcrumb trail, which is both humorous and nifty. You can also save points of interest along the way
  • The ability to plan your routes with topographic maps and keep a diary of your hunting and fishing trips with the Suunto app
  • The ability to see the altitude profile of your route directly from the watch
  • A built-in barometric pressure that accurately tracks your ascent.

This is the Suunto watch to consider if you are new to the brand.

Pros:

  • Features a rugged, knurled stainless steel bezel, durable water repellent nylon strap, and a premium scratch resistant sapphire crystal glass
  • Suunto’s automatic shot detection technology keeps track of when and where you shoot, mapping the GPS coordinates of your location for later viewing
  • GPS tracks your path, helping you find your way back using the automatic breadcrumb trail
  • Location based moon Phase calendar with moon rise and moon set times helps you determine the best hunting and fishing times

Cons:

  • When compared to Garmin, the GPS is not as innovative and varied across satellite platforms

Which one is better Garmin watches or Suunto watches?

Determining which of these two brands produces the overall watch is always going to be subjective.

Consumers become devoted to brands for an entire range of different reasons, which is why a more targeted focus on data management and advanced features combined with such categories as user-friendly tracking features, stress tracking features, and how these features are tailored to a wide range of user needs can help produce a more objective comparison.

Let’s take a closer look Suunto vs. Garmin to find out why these two companies are always so closely entwined in GPS comparisons.

Both Garmin and Suunto are quality, incredibly useful watches, but the various features that define both of these fitness trackers do make either model more appealing to a wide range of buyers.

The most obvious difference in design that you will immediately notice is that a Suunto is typically flatter and more round when compared to the circumference of a Garmin smartwatch.

Also of immediate note is the differences in how the heart rate monitor displays are laid out. The Suunto optional heart rate belt is very smooth and tends to be much larger than that on a Garmin smartwatch. But apart from these design differences, using either model’s heart rate sensor provides stunning accuracy.

However, when compared to a Garmin smartwatch, something like the Suunto 7 does tend to have a great deal of glare on the screen, especially when you are in direct sunlight. Garmin models usually have a more traditional clasp type of watchband, and there is typically a quick-release mechanism that comes in handy.

As a sports watch, Suunto watches would be the most versatile one as it contains the most number of sports mode. So, if you are into multiple sports, this is the one for you. On the other hand, Garmin watches will let you work-out for the longest periods without any hassle or interruptions.

It can track your heart rate and activities to provide you with all the stats that you need while training.

If you are a runner or are fond of personalized training programs, then Garmin watches should be your best friend. The devices of this brand contain features that will let you customize your sessions, so you can get the best results.

Which model of Garmin watch is best?

With Garmin, the various models can get incredibly advanced (and expensive) or, you can go the simple route and still have a classic and durable watch. If you are experienced with the Garmin line of fitness watches, the Forerunner 35 is likely not a watch that you think about anymore. But it bears repeating just how useful this watch is for fitness enthusiasts just starting out.

It is also easy to read and has easy navigation through the few functions on the watch. There aren’t many additional features that you will find in the models towards the end of this guide but this watch is excellent for what it is.

It’s also an effective GPS watch and easy GPS navigation. Because the GPS features are not very advanced, there are no Glonass or Galileo add-ons, it is best to chart your outdoor activity with a clear view of the sky. This will prevent the GPS tracker from lagging and struggling to find a proper signal.

Once you are running or jogging, the Forerunner 35 will chart your route effectively. The Forerunner 35 will also accurately measure your pace, timing, and overall distance. Apart from that, the GPS features do not proceed any further. But still, if you just want the most basic watch, with a decent GPS tracker, the Garmin Forerunner 35 is a safe and affordable choice.

Additional Features

  • Interval training tracker. The Garmin Forerunner 35 allows you to track your intervals with accurate and real-time notifications. This is incredibly helpful if you will be tracking the number of steps or runs you will be taking either daily or during a fitness session. Additionally, the timer allows you to see exactly how long you have spent on an activity, which can also be tailored to specific movements.
  • Heart rate monitor. Many watches that are fashioned for runners and joggers promise technology that can monitor your heart rate, yet this can be an inconvenience in most models. With the Forerunner 35, the smart technology keeps in sync with your heart rate through your wrist, which displays on the screen for easy monitoring.
  • Comfortable design. Have you ever gone for a run only to return home with a sore and sensitive rash around your wrist? This is a common problem with runners due to the material that encloses the band of a wristwatch. The Garmin Forerunner 35 uses silicone in the makeup of the band to completely resist sweat and moisture build-up around and underneath the wrist during your run.

Downsides

  • The inconvenience with notifications. The heart rate monitor and other notifications must be switched on during your fitness routine. This would have been much more convenient to be on the automatic display with other performance intervals.

Which running watch should I buy?

Both of these brands are innovative and filled with data tracking features to align with your personal preference. Either the Suunto or the Garmin brand are great watches, and this is the same for an entry level watch or a watch designed for endurance athletes, but the single best GPS watch to consider buying of either brand belongs to Garmin.

The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar, to be exact. But what makes this GPS running watch so great?

The Fenix 6 Pro Solar can be used for all fitness types, yet the tone and functionality of the watch are more geared towards advanced runners and triathletes. This model is also one of three Fenix 6 models that are customizable in terms of size and lens type. Since the Fenix 6, Pro Solar uses solar charging for battery through a powerful Corning Gorilla Glass 3 lens, I consider this model to be a personal favorite.

In terms of GPS, the Fenix 6 Pro Solar uses the standard GPS, Glonass, and Galileo that make-up the GPS systems of most Garmin watches recently. The accuracy is precise and syncs well based on a variety of different sports and activities. Since the Fenix 6 Pro Solar uses a powerful solar-charging lens, the GPS readings are given a strong and quick boost when used outdoors.

Additional Features

  • 3-axis compass, gyroscope, and barometric altimeter readings. The navigational capabilities of the Fenix 6 Pro Solar are given a superior upgrade with a three-tiered compass that complements the GPS functionality, as well as gyroscope for enhanced health readings and performance suggestions, and the inclusion of a barometric altimeter for elevated performance statistics. 
  • Innovative GPS. I said it before and it bears repeating, the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar is an outstanding watch for navigational support. With the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro, you can now have all of these great GPS features like pace, distance ran, and customizable intervals that light up with frequency during your run. Gone are the inconveniences of having to keep a mental note of your distance running. 
  • Adaptive training. For some of Garmin’s most select watch models, adaptive training plans through a Garmin coach of your choice are available to help guide you through your run. The Fenix 6 Pro is one of the watches that includes this convenient coaching, which works well to help you reach your goals on those days when running or any fitness regime seems like a chore.

Downsides

  • Mapping technology. While this model does feature some great addition to GPS and navigation, the design is flawed. There are far too many instances where multiple buttons need to be pressed to navigate properly. If you need to zoom in on a location to see the terrain, you will have to navigate a slew of buttons. Manual entry can be convenient for smartwatches, but this is an instance that would be great for a touchscreen.

For a more detailed review of this fitness watch, you can read our featured article on the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro.

Garmin vs Suunto Summary

Ultimately, when it comes to purchasing a smartwatch, you can’t go wrong with a Garmin or a Suunto device when it comes down to it.

For those completely new to fitness watches, I would suggest investing in a Garmin entry level model or a Suunto as they are affordable, stylish, easy to use, and come with all the basic functionality a first-time user could need.

If, however, you are looking to increase the tempo with regards to your fitness then an advanced Garmin watch makes the perfect training companion. Thanks to a range of in-depth exercise analyses, training plans, and insight, these watches are aimed at keen sports enthusiasts. Garmin also has a nice mix of both trackers, golf devices, and smartwatches based on your preference.

Best GPS Tech

At Best GPS Tech we found it frustrating that there were limited websites available, willing to provide an honest opinion on the latest GPS technology to aid our interests. We enjoy creating content around GPS products from the industry leaders such as Garmin, FitBit and more. We hope you find the site informative in helping you make the right buying decisions.

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