Suunto’s range of sports specific watches got a lift earlier this year with the launch of the Suunto Quest. Suitable for those interested in a wide range of fitness activities, the Quest comes with a heart rate monitor and can also be bought in a bundle that includes a foot pod.

Suunto sent us the bare bones version with just the heart rate monitor to trial. As there’s no GPS built in, this means the Suunto Quest was not able to show us important statistics like distance travelled, minutes per kilometre or mile of speed. Nor was it able to map routes. Without this data, uploads to Suunto’s online Movescount.com service were rather hampered.

Still, how did we find the Suunto Quest as an everyday sports watch?
 
Design and usability

There are two designs for the Suunto Quest. I was sent the black version, but there’s also a rather nice looking black and orange one that might appeal quite widely. This has orange highlights around the face and on the strap. Thank goodness Suunto hasn’t decided to produce versions it calls appropriate for men and women, but instead has given everyone a little bit of choice that doesn’t include pink.

The watch itself is quite small. I measured the entire front fascia, including the display surround as having a 42mm diameter while the display itself I measured as having a diameter of 28.mm. That means it was small enough to sit quite comfortably on my wrist, a good sign as my wrists are quite narrow.

The strap has plenty of notches. This is very important for any sports watch. You have to be able to fit it snugly so that it doesn’t jangle around while you are running or otherwise waving your arms about while doing exercise.

Setting the watch up is easy – and the system will be familiar to anyone who has used a Suunto product before. There are three buttons on the right side of the fascia and you use these to run through all the settings. The system is quite easy, but it does have an annoying feature.

To get from normal time and date mode to settings mode you hold down the middle button till an LED has run right round the edge of the display – it takes a fraction of a second. You are then in settings mode, and there are eight menus to work through.

 Using the central button again you enter the first of the eight menus, which happens to be the time mode. The top and bottom buttons are used to advance minutes and seconds, and the central button to accept the setting and move on.

You cycle past time into alarm, dual time settings, date, and then on to personal settings. This is where you can enter weight, activity class, maximum and resting heart rates.

Activity class is a rating between 1 and 10 depending on how fit and active you think you are already. The heart rates are guessed based on your age weight and activity class settings, though you can add precise settings if you know them. They can be automatically updated as your training progresses.

Next you can set the training settings, configuring things like limits for heart rate reached and speed, and choosing training programmes. You can also set auto lap settings here, and configure two separate timers. The next group of settings is called ‘general’ and you can configure button sounds and alert sounds, and set up tap sensitivity. That latter is quite important when you are actually using the Suunto Quest I’ll explain why later.

Finally there’s a group of settings for pairing. As already noted, the Suunto Quest comes with a USB dongle that allows you to wirelessly transfer data to the Movescount.com online service.

The process of running through these setting is easy enough, but I mentioned an annoying feature. It is that you have to cycle through the whole sequence in order. If for some reason you want to turn the button alerts off, you need to make a lot of key presses to get to that spot. Similarly if you want to manually alter your weight or heart rate settings. Remembering which menu some settings are under can be a bit irritating too.

And while working through the sequence is easy enough, Suunto only packages a small quite start guide with the Quest. If you want the full manual – and you probably will in order to explore the more advanced features of the watch, you need to download it. I do understand that this allows Suunto to ensure you get the most up to date manual version and keeps the overall cost down, but I tend to prefer full manuals bundled with products as it is easy to get to grips with everything without having to resort to a computer.

In use

As I said earlier, I got sent the Suunto Quest with heart rate monitor but no foot pod. The HRM is a real pleasure to use. Its elasticated strap is easily adjusted for size, and caused no chafing at all. The large round transmitter can be removed from the strap on both left and right using secure fixings which snap in and out really easily. To get the HRM working you just wet the two large sensors that sit on the strap against your chest and then put the HRM on.

Making a connection between the HRM and the Suunto Quest was a bit annoying as you have to work your way through to step 7 on the settings menu to actually make the pairing. You can pair with three devices at any one time, so the HRM and a foot pod can be worked with simultaneously.

 When the pairing is completed you are ready to start a session, and the top button starts recording a training session and stops it again when a session is done.

Where the Suunto Quest starts to get interesting is in the information it can give you while you are in a training session. Pressing the middle button cycles you through various views. There are three default settings – called ‘training’, ‘running’ and ‘cycling’. In the first instance they cycle through views showing heart rate and elapsed time, heart rate and calories burned, heart rate percentage and heart rate zone, stopwatch, and speed and distance in real time (if you have a foot pod attached). 

The defaults for the other two are different. Running mode cycles through heart rate and stopwatch, pace and distance, pace and average running cadence, distance and time and stopwatch. Cycling mode cycles through heart rate and stopwatch, heart rate and distance, speed and distance, speed and stopwatch and distance and average speed.

Meanwhile, arrows running round the edge of the screen give you an indication of the recovery time from the current activity in hours. This could be quite handy if you are into serious training, as it can tell you how long you need to rest for before you are fully ready for another training session.

No high end training watch worth its salt excludes the ability to create auto laps, and the Suunto Quest can do this for miles, kilometres and variable distances. The latter requires you to tap the screen to take a lap measurement. It doesn’t interfere with the distance based lapping, and is great if there is a circuit you really like to test yourself on, be it a long or a short one. Oddly I couldn’t find another use for screen tapping. It would have been great to be able to start and stop the watch with a tap, but no.

That’s only the beginning, though. Create an account at www.movescount.com and you can set up customised training sessions and download them to the watch. It then monitors your progress towards whatever targets you have set. Upward and downward pointing arrows on screen tell you whether you should be increasing or decreasing intensity depending on your heart rate, and you get a little tick symbol when a training session goal has been reached. You can drop out of training program mode by choosing to when you start a session – if you want to go off piste!

 The Suunto Quest is hampered if you don’t choose to use Movescount, and it’s not just in terms of failing to get the best out of the watch as a training aid by downloading training programmes and uploading performance. There are some settings you can only make via Movescount too. Most specifically, you can customise the information that is displayed on screen, including altering the information that’s shown on that ‘recovery time’ ring. You can also use Movescount to publish data to updates Twitter and Facebook automatically if that’s your thing.

With various sharing modes, tweaking of records, graphs and analysis at your fingertips it is all very clever and extremely flexible. But Movescount does feel a bit clunky to me. A potential annoyance for anyone wanting to use Movescount on a less than regular basis is that the Suunto Quest can only store between 20 and 30 sessions. It overwrites the oldest with new data, so you’ll need to use Movescount fairly regularly if you don’t want to lose all your records.

 Another irritation I found is that the HRM was a bit slow to pair with the Suunto Quest. I like a ‘separates system’ like this to be up and functioning really quickly, and especially on cold winter mornings, hanging around for the HRM and watch to start talking to each other was a bit irritating.

Conclusion

Looking online as I wrote this review we found the Suunto Quest available from a range of different sellers. Typically a price of around £200 will get you the Quest, heart rate monitor and footpod. Suunto itself sells the bike pod for £50 and the foot pod for £75, as well as the Dual Comfort Belt heart rate monitor for £60, a specialised road bike pod for £60 and spare Movestick Mini for uploading data from the watch to movescount.com for £30.

While there’s no doubting that the Suunto Quest is a comfortable watch to wear, and its communications with Movescount were slick and efficient, I have to admit I tend to find Suunto equipment just that little bit over-engineered for easy use.

Movescount too, while it offers lots of flexibility, including online communities and the ability to create and download training programmes, feels very busy visually and just a bit over complicated to get around. It’s fine if you are prepared to put some time and effort into understanding how Movescount works, but if you want a very quick start with higher end features it might not be ideal.

That noted, though, the combination of the Suunto Quest and Movescount is a formidable one, and if you need to control your training to the nth degree, it could be a good choice.

Pros:

  • Small watch that’s comfy to wear
  • Customised training schedules via Movescount.com
  • Flexible accessories for cycling and running

Cons:

  • Watch only stores 20-30 training sessions
  • Limited use of screen tap feature
  • Only comes into its own when used with Movescount.com
  • No vibrating alerts

Manufacturer:  Suuunto

SRP: around £200 for running pack with foot pod and heart rate monitor. A range of optional extras also available