The latest watch from Suunto’s aspirational Spartan series, the Spartan Sport Wrist HR is another step up in technological progression from the popular European adventure watchmaker. Without doubt the most significant feature of the latest in the Spartan legacy is the wrist-based heart rate monitor, eliminating the need for a chest sensor strap. I don’t need to tell any runners, triathletes or multi-sporter’s how glad they will be to shake the constricting, chaffing hold of the heart rate chest strap, and that is just one reason the Spartan Sport Wrist HR warrants serious consideration amongst the ever-increasing market of fitness and heart rate watches.
At first glance, the Spartan Sport Wrist HR has the same aesthetically pleasing design as its predecessors. It also shares their size, with a large screen which can, on a smaller wrist like mine, become a somewhat imposing feature. However, the Spartan’s size does nothing to detract from the design, providing a generous interface complete with touch screen functions which are intuitive, and supported by selection buttons. The touchscreen interface is well moderated and operates equally well in wet and dry conditions. Watch straps are available in a range of colours, making the Spartan Sport Wrist HR a fashionable accessory for sporty types, which is a nice bonus if you are interested in utilizing the heart rate capability to record resting heart rate outside of training.
The features and functions of this watch are extensive. Providing specialized training platforms for over 80 sports including racing and interval use, the Spartan Sport Wrist HR is prepared for anything and equipped to work in harmony with other data collection devices such as the Suunto bike sensor and BLE power meters. Water resistant to 100m, and complete with triathlon and multisport modes, the Spartan Sport Wrist HR is made for the outdoors and packed with the navigational and tracking expertise the Suunto brand is known for.
I took the Spartan Ultra Wrist HR for a test run on my regular loop with a particular interest in the GPS and HR functions. From a GPS perspective, the Spartan performed excellently, measuring the distance accurately against what I had previously determined the route, and providing an accurate running feedback of average speed. These may seem like standard functions of sports watches these days, but I was nevertheless impressed with the Spartan’s performance.
The heart rate feedback was slightly more complicated. The technology used to attain the heart rate readings via a wrist sensor operates through a light emitting function that detects the pulse movement in the veins. For this to be accurate the sensors must maintain contact with the back of the wrist, easily achieved during moderate activity, or sports such as cycling where the arms are not in motion.
On beginning my run wearing the Spartan Sport Wrist HR as I would my usual sports watch, I found a comfortable jog elevated my heart rate to 185 bpm- suspiciously high for the level of effort! With a small wrist and a large watch, I had to tighten the strap up a lot more than I would usually deem comfortable so that the watch would not move with the swing of my arms. With this adjustment, I found my heart rate reading reduced considerably to a much more plausible 158 bpm. It was reassuring to know this was a problem that could be fixed with improved fit, and definitely something to look out for if you have doubts about your heart rate accuracy. Suunto have been up front about this complication in the wrist HR technology, and have added the option of pairing the Spartan Sport Wrist HR with a traditional heart rate chest strap, for activities the sensors may struggle to maintain wrist contact.
Ultimately there was a lot that impressed about the Spartan Sport Wrist HR. The battery life (up to 12hrs in sports mode) didn’t disappoint, nor did the workout feedback at the end of my run. The Spartan provided an easy readout of the session including distance, route overview, elevation, as well as speed and heart rate averages, all onscreen pre-download.
Despite the aforementioned problem, the wrist HR technology is a huge step forward, and an excellent tool for monitoring heart rate both in action, and at rest. Athletes seeking to monitor their recovery more closely will be especially impressed with this function.
Overall the Spartan Sport Wrist HR is a supremely qualified sports watch, and excels in presenting high performance feedback to satisfy even the most data-focused athlete, with an intuitive design that is accessible for everyone.