FIRST LOOK: The New Suunto 9 Peak Pro

This article originally appeared on Trail Runner

All Photos Courtesy: Suunto
All Photos Courtesy: Suunto

What We Loved

My first GPS smartwatch was the Suunto 9 Baro, recommended to me by some of the nerdiest tech junkies in the endurance world. I was immediately blown away by its performance. My jump from Casio to Suunto was like going from my dad's Coleman canoe to a jet-powered hydroplane.

Now, I've been a die-hard Suunto fan ever since, but not without significant departures to try other watchmakers. In October 2022, when Suunto launched their new 9 Peak Pro, I was curious how much more firepower they could possibly squeeze into a watch being promoted as slimmer than the 9 Peak (imagine the thickness of seven pennies). Its minimal construction appealed to me, as my Suunto 9 Baro sometimes felt like I'd duct taped an iPad onto my wrist, but I was skeptical. Luckily, the 9 Peak Pro delivered on nearly every level.

Watch Face. Starting with its outer optics, the sapphire glass is scratch-free and extremely durable. Believe me, I've tried stress-testing the glass and watch on a recent jungle mountain 50K in northern Thailand, with several bamboo bushwhacking sections and failed stream crossings. Zero blemishes. (Note: I have the Titanium Slate version). They also offer several snazzy new clock formats that I've been experimenting with.

Battery Life. Next, the battery life is a solid upgrade from the Suunto 9 (launched in June 2018) and the Suunto 9 Peak (launched in June 2021). For comparison, my Suunto 9 Baro is rated to 25-, 40-, and 120-hours when the GPS reading is set to one-, 60-, and 120-second intervals. The new 9 Peak Pro offers a rating of 40-, 70-, and 300-hours at equivalent intervals, which results in a major leap in efficiency.

That said, Garmin's Enduro 2 boasts 81 hours in full multi-band mode and 150 hours in GPS-only (but costs nearly $1,000), while Coros's Apex 2 Pro offers 75 hours at full GPS (at half the cost of Garmin’s Enduro 2). Nonetheless, 9 Peak Pro’s extended battery life is an improvement from even its predecessor, the 9 Peak. With this "Pro" version, you can now go 21 days with regular use before ever needing a charge. That's significant.

Navigation. What's also significant is what's inside the watch. When you touch the buttons or screen to navigate, everything just seems to move sharper and snappier. It’s as if my 9 Baro had been drinking decaf this whole time while the 9 Peak Pro is pulling triple shots of espresso. This is mainly a result of innovations with its new chipset, a major upgrade from the 9 Peak. This is convenient and comes in handy when you've got cold hands, or are turned around and need to navigate an uploaded map file, or must change a song in the watch’s media player, or to pull up the compass.

Activity Modes. Speaking of activities, the 9 Peak Pro offers 95 sport activities from which to choose. I've probably only used five of these activities and their pre-engineered dashboards so far, but who's to say I won't someday get into nordic walking or mermaiding? Hell, you can track your snorkeling freedive to depths of 10 meters (waterproof up to 100 meters!) with functional GPS. Plus, I'm pretty sure "fishing" as an activity option, which I'm looking forward to posting on Strava soon. Local legends, watch out. Fortunately, these activity outliers won't bog you down because the list updates based on most-used activities.

Turnkey Ease of Use. Setting up my 9 Peak Pro with the Suunto App (which isn't great; more on that below) and syncing it up with Strava took mere minutes. From receiving the watch to hitting trails to logging miles, this watch has thrown very few curveballs at me from the gun. Reliable, durable, and stylish, I have had multiple friends - both runners and non-runners alike - comment on its build and aesthetic.

Minimal-Sleek. The suave construction of the 9 Peak Pro might be its most noticeable upgrade. At 10.8 mm thick and weighing 55 grams, the watch's thin body is most refreshing. (For comparison, my Suunto 9 Baro was 15.4 mm thick and weighs 81 grams). In my example, Suunto somehow shaved a third of its weight and nearly 5 mm of its density, while also making it more powerful on every level. Excuse me?

What Could Be Improved

Charging Port. The first thing I noticed that felt unremarkable was its charging port. A similar disc-style construction comes with the 9 Peak, too, but I’m not sold. Instead of a small magnetic bar of the 9 Baro that snaps firmly into place, the 9 Peak Pro's charging port is instead a plastic circle port that snaps loosely to the bottom of the watch. Several times I had to rotate it at length to get it to connect, even though the charger can, allegedly, attach to the watch from all directions. It is fast, I’ll give it that. In one hour you can go from empty to full. Still, I prefer the satisfying snap connection of my 9 Baro. The battery life is so good, though, I've only had to charge my 9 Peak Pro a handful of times. I recently ran a 24-hour race and never once thought about charging the watch. Major win.

Wristband. This is a small thing, but the previous model's latching system felt more secure with its larger, more lateral tooth, as opposed to the 9 Peak Pro (Titanium version; different strap) that offers a small metal knob to punch through a thin line of holes. Though I haven't sampled all the 9 Peak Pro straps, I don't much like their forest green textile option. All 6 variations of the 9 Peak Pro come with their own color scheme and band style, which I found confusing. What is neat is that you have the option to fully customize your own watch model, strap material, and even add a personalized engraving on the back. Had I known about the engraving, I would've most certainly added: "Gone Fishing!"

Suunto App. This is a small rub because, really, the more bells and whistles Suunto adds to their mobile device app, the more I'll spend tinkering around on it. Suunto's app interface isn't much to write home about. I like their 3D route replays, sure, but there's really no added benefit to the app if you're already using something like Strava. It also seems to take longer to upload activities than other watches. My Coros Apex Pro, for example, uploads workouts to its app lightning-fast. You'd think that, with such a steep price point, there'd be an application congruent with the high performance of Suunto’s hardware, but this is just not the case, yet. (Suunto apparently has something up their sleeve with an update.)

Summary

Handcrafted in Vantaa, Finland, since 1937, Suunto is clearly doubling down on one thing: excellence. Not cutting corners. No flash-in-the-pan bells or whistles. No spinning navigation knobs or unnecessary flare. It's become a tool in my endurance quiver that shows up and does its job under any circumstances.

A final thing to note, and something that really sets them apart from other GPS watch manufacturers is their commitment to the planet. Suunto uses 100% renewable energy at their Finland headquarters, enabling zero emissions in 2021. They've also started a "Life Cycle Assessment" (LCA) for each watch produced to calculate the product's CO2 footprint, and pledges to compensate each new Suunto 9 Peak and 9 Peak Pro's carbon contribution with Verified Carbon Units.

And so, with an ecologically-forward business model, Suunto has achieved something remarkable with the 9 Peak Pro: a stylishly minimal, superpowered watch able to withstand a Category 5 hurricane at a fraction of the weight (but, er, double the price) of most other GPS watches. Investing in a smartwatch at this price may feel like a stretch, but it'll serve you long into the future for all your epic mountain adventures, keeping you focused less on the tech, less on the metrics, and more on what you love doing most - fishing.

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