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Using Suunto Ambit3 and Stryd

GPS and multisport watches are big business. However most of the devices on the market can record the vast majority of metrics. However what happens when a company develops it’s own metric like Stryd’s power for runners? For most devices, you can get access to the Stryd power data after the run has been uploaded. But after working with Suunto in the development of Stryd, it’s not surprising that Suunto was the firm manufacturer to roll out on update to allow Stryd to natively show power during your running activities. With that in mind, lets take a look at the Ambit 3

Suunto Ambit3 and Stryd

The Ambit3 and other watches from Suunto have always stood out for a few notable differences between Garmin and Polar units. Not least for Suunto’s ability to record your heart rate underwater. The inclusion of Stryd data right from the early stage of their Kickstarter is another reason to look towards the Finnish sports watch manufacturer.

Ambit3

Crucially there are two versions of the Ambi3, the Peak and the Sport. For this test I’ve been using the Ambit3 Peak. The main difference between the two is a barometer and a slightly longer battery life on the Peak.

Suunto ships the device with a bluetooth HR strap. However the unit is not ANT+ compatible like the Polar V800. In both cases I think that is a slight mis-step, something which Stryd have avoided by putting a dual channel transmitter in their device. As a result however, I’m able to use the Stryd with both the Garmin Fenix 3, and Ambit3 for comparison.

Lets just be frank when it comes the the Fenix 3 and the Stryd. You can use the devices together, but as the power field is only supported on a cycling activity with the Fenix3 it does mean you have to do the run as if you are cycling, and then convert all of the Strava and Garmin connect activities back to runs after the fact…which is a pain.

So being able to run with the Ambit3 and use the Stryd without having to faff afterwards was a very enticing prospect.

Since we’re using it, lets take a quick look at the Ambit3

Product Design

The Ambit3 is a chunky device. But the subtle curve of the unit is very effective at belaying it’s heft.

Ambit3

Ambit3

Even with the rather large plastic satellite antenna as part of the design I was surprised to find that I found wearing the Ambit3 more comfortable than The Polar V800, which is a smaller, lighter device. (It’s worth whilst noting that the latest variation to the Ambit line, the Ambit3 Vertical doesnt have the antenna hump)

Ambit3

Ambit3

The rear of the Ambit3 has a propriety charger on the back, but thankfully Suunto doesnt have one charger for each device. The USB charging cable included in the box is able to charge 5 different series of Suunto watches. Which a great thing to see from a company.

Ambit3

The charger is quite a nice chunky feel. The attaching jaws have a mechanical, substantial feel which a lot of other chargers lack.

Ambit3

Ambit3

The actual unit of the Ambit3 is beautifully constructed with a metal screwed down bezel around the unit and 5 heavy duty buttons around the rim which will control the functions of the watch.

Also included in the bundle is the Bluetooth HRM.

Ambit3

However it should be noted that the Suunto sensor is a different size to just about every other sensor on the market, so you’ll be using a different strap in order to use Stryd

Ambit3

Using the Device

Before you can use Stryd with the Ambit3 you need to download the latest firmware drivers. Which requires a little bit more work than I was expecting, and is done through creating a MovesCount account and downloading MovesLink2 to you laptop. This is the main platform for Suunto watches

Ambit3

You can sync your Ambit3 via your phone over bluetooth

Ambit3

Which then also allows the watch to receive smart notifications from your device.

Ambit3

Personally I found the smart notifications to be a little fiddly to use, with limited information coming through to the screen

Ambit3

The Ambit3 shows the number of messages/notifications you have as a numbered icon on the main watch screen

Ambit3

As a result of this, I actually switched off the smart notifications and opted to sync via USB, getting myself a charge in the process

Ambit3

Connecting Stryd to Ambit3

You connect the Stryd to the Ambit3 as you would any other sensor, in that case, selecting “PowerPod”. Where upon Ambit will search for the details from Stryd

Ambit3

Following that, everything is automatic, as soon as you finish a run, the Ambit3 automatically uploads the data to your MovesLink account, for easy perusing.

Ambit3

You can still use the Stryd Power centre if you wish, but I preferred to have all of my data in one location without having to move between different sites. Especially given the huge amount of data which can be viewed on the MovesLink account. You do sometimes have to ask what more would you be looking for if you are using a singular device?

Starve does not properly support power for running yet. But I have seen some odd runs using Stryd where data has previously shown up after having used a Garmin device. ie. having had to convert from a bike ride to run afterwards. SO maybe something is in the works?

Going for a run

This is the main focus of Stryd, so it makes sense to discuss using the Ambit3 when out of a jog.

To begin any activity, you select “Exercise” from the watch menu

Ambit3

From there, you can select you desired activity – so here running. You can select the various activities seen on the watch from your Moveslink account

Ambit3

Wait for your devices to connect, which are searched for at the start of each run.

Ambit3

I dont know if the issue was with Stryd or the Ambit 3, but I did go on several runs where unfortunately the Stryd unit just wouldnt connect. I do think that may have been due to changes in the Stryd firmware however as they moved over to using the onboard storage on the Stryd units.

Once everything is connected, you are quite literally off to the races, or in my case off on my usual test route around Walton Hall.

Ambit3

As you run along, you can have up to seven different data screens available. Given the size of the Ambit3 screen, and the LCD nature of the display makes the read out very clear in all lights. It does really make you wonder what the benefit some manufacturers consider to be hand from colour, more easily washed out screens.Ambit3

As you can see above, whilst the Stryd unit is able to calculate cadence from it’s own internal circuity, the Ambit3 can also measure a cadence rhythm from the wrist directly. SO there is no need for the footpad if you are not using an advance HRM

You can opt for an inverted display, but personally I found that more difficult to read in direct sunlight

Ambit3

Conclusion

The Ambit3 is a bit of a tank of a beast. That is clearly seen when compared to it’s competitors. But at the moment, particularly when it comes to using my Stryd HRM, it is still the device of choice for monitoring my power improvements and variation over time.

Yes it’s perhaps not the most up-to-date device on the market. But does that really matter? The Ambit3 covers all the major bases for a watch you can wear every day. Basically an activity counter and smart notifications. But both of those feel a little like late additions to software. I’m not sure that they matter.

Many people are not in the market for a single do everything watch. Instead will have a day-to-day watch, and then a sports watch. If you are wanting to run with power via a Stryd module, and are looking for a stand alone training device, based on the MovesLinks website alone, the Ambit3 would be a great training/sports watch

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