Suunto Quest watch HRM


The Suntoo Quest watch HRM  just works.  It has some faults, to be sure, but it’s a great piece of gear that you pull out of the box, put on, and go running with it, without hassle or hangups.

In fact, that’s exactly what we did when our test model arrived in the mail.  We didn’t calibrate it, we didn’t test it. We didn’t even read the owner’s manual.  That’s because there wasn’t one, but the point is it’s simple enough to use that we didn’t need to.

Sure, you can do that stuff.  And you’ll probably be well-served by reading up and learning every detail about the workings of your expensive training toy.  But if you just need something that you can trust, that’s easy to use and accurate, definitely check out this model.

The Quest series comes in two flavors: The Running Pack and the GPS pack.  We tested the Running Pack, which comes with the watch, HRM strap, footpod and a tiny USB stick for connecting your data to the online community.  More on that in a bit.

questboxThe Quest records time, speed, distance, calories burned, running cadence and heart rate. It will record up to 300 splits.  One interesting data point it provides is an estimated recovery time, which we’ve never seen on a watch. It’s almost as though the Quest rewards that tough interval workout with a time-frame before you’re ready to hit it again. Or, looking at it another way, it can help you avoid overuse injuries by giving you a guide for down time between workouts. That’ll be great for runners doing two workouts a day.

Let’s dispense with the subjective stuff:  Nobody will argue that it’s sexy, but it’s certainly a very handsome watch. And it comes in four color schemes with black as the base color with white, yellow, orange or blue as a highlight color.  The yellow is a little too “neon” for our tastes, but the blue and orange are very good-looking for either men or women.  The white is a great option for people who don’t  feel the need to show off to the world that they own a pricey timepiece.

questpressAnd these aren’t cheap.  The base Quest is $199.  Adding the GPS Pack pumps that up to $299.  With the advent of the Samsung gear ($299), the existing MOTOACTV ($250), and the rumored forthcoming apple iWatch, this price might make some shy away when it’s apparent that muti-function smartwatches are clearly coming down the pike. But for those who aren’t early adopters, or who want a training-only timepiece, this price is in line with similar offerings by other companies.

The Vibe took the initial run by putting everything on and heading out the door.  No calibration is necessary, it seems. The only quibble with the technology is a bit of disbelief in the maximum heart rate the watch thinks we have.  A first-run estimate of 190bpm popped up on the screen and almost made us grab our chest.  That sounds like it’s encroaching on Olympian territory to us.  Not impossible, and not horribly far off from what we suspected, but we weren’t exactly in peak fitness when we put it on, so we wonder if that number is spot-on.  If you crave specific data, input your own exact HRM.

For triathletes, there is also a bike pod to track your cycling effort.  That’s three pods the Quest can track.  Seems like a lot of “stuff,” and we’ll make a note about that later.  But it’s also a way to buy only the gear you need, without being forced into an even more expensive workout watch.

That HRM strap is very good, by the way. It doesn’t need to be moistened to make contact with the chest. The contact pads are a rubbery texture that stay in place for readings.

And the strap is better than on other HRMs we’ve tried. It’s extremely elastic, so you can cinch it up tight enough to keep the HRM disc from sliding around, but it never feels too tight.  It’s also very easy to adjust.  We were able to reach back to slide the adjustment with one finger — while running.  And the adjustment didn’t affect the data link, either.  Nice.

queststuffThe Quest syncs all the data with your optional account.  This is an online community that allows you to track your workouts, create training plans, keep a journal-like log and even join groups for virtual training. You’ve heard of similar online communities. You might even belong to one.  Two features that make MovesCount unique is that the site can acutally unlock features of your watch and it lets you create “apps” for your account.  For example, if you have the bike pod, you can input the exact circumference of your bike wheel for more accurate readings.  As for the apps. Don’t expect your Quest to start acting like a smartphone. They’re not THAT sophisticated. But if you want to track your fluid intake or you need to convert a 5k time to an estimated marathon time, you can do that.  We haven’t been using the product long enough to delve deeply into it, but it seems handy, or even fun for tinkerers.

The watch buttons are large enough to find without looking and easy to operate.  The face of the watch is plenty large and the digits are easy to read.  There is a backlight feature for workouts in the dark.  The battery is a CR2032 cell that is so easy to replace that it’s shocking. You really can remove the back of the watch with a coin, pop out the old battery and pop a new one in. The back snaps in place with a considerable click.

The only other quibbles we have are fairly minor.

For starters, is it really necessary in this day and age to have a separate footpod to get cadence and speed data?  You’d think that modern technology would provide for putting an accelerometer inside the round plastic HRM piece.  We can understand a separate pod for the bike, but isn’t it time to ditch the shoe-pod? And we aim that question not just at Suunto, but Nike, Adidas, Garmin, etc..  Come now, give us one less thing to think about.

Regardless, the foot pod is there.  And the it seems to have the same dimensions as a Nike+ pod, so if you have shoes with a cutout for those, it should fit.  But it comes with a plastic clip you can snap onto your shoelaces.  It doesn’t inspire confidence at first glance, but it clips in with a confident snap and after several weeks of runs in the pre-dawn darkness, we have yet to come home to find it has fallen off.

wristThe other quibble is aesthetic and two-fold regarding the size of the watch.  For thin wrists, this thing is a bit big.  Note in the photo how the strap peeks around the wrist, detracting from the minimalist look of the watch bezel. And about that bezel.  It is only a milimeter or so too thick.  That might sound dumb, but the watch itself is bulky, and making the bezel flast rather than raised above the crystal would really make the design sleek.  It’s not a functional bezel; it doesn’t spin, so this small detail would go a long way to make the watch look as expensive as other Suunto watches.

Aside from that, there isn’t much to knock on this watch and we’ll be sorry to send it back to Suunto, who loaned it to us for this test.  We’re going to ask to keep it a few months to train for a long weekend of ultra-running, but we won’t be surprised if they need to pass it on to another blogger who wants to take it for a spin.

What works:  If you simply want a handsome, well-made watch/HRM that connects with an online community, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better product.


What needs work:  The watch could be thinner and we’d like fewer pods to keep track of.

Jeff Wolfram

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