Suunto 9 vs Garmin Fenix 5 - In-Depth Comparison | Shape Junkie

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus vs Suunto 9

Fenix 5 Plus vs Suunto 9

GPS watches are currently all the rage. They’re feature packed and performance driven devices that can add incredible value to your daily life. 

Purchasing a watch, however, is not as simple as you might think. With so many brands and so many options available today, selecting the right one might feel stressful.  

We took the time to breakdown and assess two top performing watches by two industry leading brands: the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus & the Suunto 9 GPS watch. 

Garmin:

Garmin has been the industry leader in terms of GPS technology for as long as we can remember. For a good period during the early to mid-2000s it seemed there wasn’t a car on the road not fitted with a Garmin navigation device.

Since then, Garmin has dipped its feet in different modes of technology. The latest is the brand’s GPS watch range. Perfect for the sportsman or anyone on the move, the Fenix 5 Plus is taking the world by storm.

Suunto:

Suunto is a Finnish company that specializes in the design and manufacturing of sports & diving watches.

The Suunto brand is a trusted name when it comes to sports watchmaking and it’s known for the unmatched quality & product longevity. In line with the trend, Suunto now offers a GPS watch called the Suunto 9. In line with its standards, the watch is a combination of style and performance. 

Comparing Garmin Fenix 5 Plus and Suunto 9

Suunto 9 GPS Watch G1, Black - Baro

We took a closer look at the features of both the Fenix 5 Plus and the Suunto 9 & were able to draw some comparisons.

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus

Suunto 9 GPS

Garmin Fenix 5 plus
Suunto 9 with GPS

Available Sizes

42mm, 47mm, 51mm

50mm

Battery Life

Up to 42 hours in UltraTrac mode

Up to 120 hours in Ultra mode

Display Resolution

240 x 240

320 x 300

Connectivity

Bluetooth, ANT+, Wi-Fi, GPS

Bluetooth, GPS

GPS navigation

Yes

Yes, limited

Music storage

Up to 1000 songs

N/A

Activity tracking

Step counter, gym equipment, interval training, running, golding, outdoor activities, cycling and swimming

Step counter, interval training, swimming, cycling, running, multi sports

Heart rate monitoring

HR zones, recovery time, Max HR, stress test, HR monitoring while swimming

Requires HR belt or wrist monitor: HR zones, peak training effect, HR monitoring while swimming

Pulse OX

Yes, optional

No

Connectivity

iOS and Android

iOS (Suunto app) and Android (Movescount App)

Barometer

Yes

Yes on the Baro version only

Compass

Yes

Yes

Gyroscope

Yes

Yes

Accelerometer

Yes

Yes

Thermometer

Yes

No

Bezel

Stainless steel or titanium

Stainless steel, Titanium Grade 5 on Baro Titanium version

Strap

Leather, silicone or titanium

Silicone, leather or textile

Glass

Sapphire crystal or strengthened glass 

Mineral glass, Sapphire crystal on Baro version

Water resistance

10 ATM

100 m

Weight

42mm - 65 g, 47mm - 86 g for stainless steel or 76 g for titanium, 51mm - 96 g for stainless steel or 87 g for titanium

72 g for mineral glass display, 81 g for Sapphire crystal display, 76 g for Baro Titanium

Our Rating

Price Check

Design:

Both feature a similar round rugged design. Garmin tries to better protect the display with the bezel material around the display raised slightly above the watch face. The bezel also shows the buttons functions. Both watches feature circular faces unlike the Apple watch’s rectangular case.

Suunto 9 and Fenix 5 plus front

The Fenix 5 plus comes in 3 different sizes: 42, 47 and 51mm. I tried the 47mm and it is on the larger size. The stainless-steel version (which we had in the 47mm size) weighs 86g.

The Suunto is 50mm and weighs 72g so it is slightly larger than Garmin’s midsize model.
Both watches are pretty thick but given all the electronics and battery to power them this is understandable. The Suunto 9 is 16.5mm thick and Garmin 47mm is 15.8mm thick.

Looking at the back of the watches you can see some of the sensors that are embedded in the watches as well as the charging port.

Suunto 9 and Fenix 5 plus back

Both offer a variety of straps and case colors. You can customize them to find the case and strap that fits you best. The Suunto will even allow you to customize button colors and choose white or black charging cables.

Our recommendation: Overall, we really like the simple streamlined look of the Suunto 9 over the Garmin Fenix 5.

Casing:

The Garmin Fenix 5 has a stainless-steel display bezel and fiber-reinforced polymer case with a metal back plate. You can choose from a variety of band materials including silicone, suede, or steel.

The Suunto 9 has a glass fiber reinforced polyamide body with a stainless-steel bezel on the front. Suunto has quite a few silicon, textile, and even leather straps for customization.

Our recommendation: it’s a tie. Both feature very high quality materials and are durable as a fitness watch should be.

Display:

Suunto 9 display

The display on the Suunto 9 is 320 x 300 and is covered by mineral glass. If you want a sapphire crystal you will need to purchase the Baro version. It is bright and easy to read.

Garmin Fenix 5 plus display

The display on the Garmin Fenix 5 has 240 x 240 resolution and seems to be a little more dim. The basic version has a domed chemically strengthened glass face which can be changed for sapphire crystal, but this will cost you $150 more.

Our recommendation: The Suunto 9 wins here because of the higher resolution and higher brightness levels. A saphire crystal will also help protect the display from scratches that might happen over time and we would recommend paying the extra money for it.

Comfort:

I find the Suunto 9 to be the more comfortable of the two watches. I believe this is due to the design of the back cover, which is smother and does not have the same bubble/bump design as the Fenix. Also, the lugs are more curved providing a better fit. Your results may vary based on your wrist type. My wrist is not thick and the Suunto felt more comfortable than the Fenix.

Suunto 9 comfort

The Garmin Fenix 5 seemed to wobble more on my wrist compared to Suunto 9. While this could be because of my wrist I feel the curved lugs help it fit better versus the Fenix’s straighter lugs.

Fenix 5 plus comfort

Our recommendation: I preferred the Suunto 9. It felt comfortable from the moment I put it on my wrist and there was no discomfort running with it for long periods.

Battery Life:

Suunto is known for its state-of-the-art battery saving technology. The longevity of their watches is unmatched, providing up to 120 hours or 5 days of usage on one charge. The feature is called ‘intelligent battery mode’. There are 3 modes to choose from: Performance, Endurance and Utra. My watch actually showed up to 126 hours of run time in Ultra Mode.

The Suunto also has a unique Fusedtrack function which combines GPS and motion sensors to improve tracking and save on battery life. The Suunto will also give you smart reminders based on your activity history and will switch to power saving mode if your battery is running low.

Suunto 9 battery life

The Fenix 5 offers up to 42 hours or almost 2 days in UltraTrac mode and up to 18 hours in GPS mode. Similar to the Suunto, UtraTrac mode will record track points and GPS data less frequently, which improves the battery life.

Garmin UltraTrac mode

Garmin also introduces us to Power Save Timeout Settings, which might be useful if you are training with breaks in between. Set it to Normal, and it will enter low-power mode after 5 minutes of inactivity; extended will change the wait time to 25 minutes before entering low-power mode.

Garmin Fenix 5 power saving mode

Our recommendation: The Suunto definitely wins here with up to 120 hours of battery life which is ideal for ultra-runners or if you simply don’t want to take your battery charger with you.

Menu:

The menu on the Suunto 9 is simple and easy to use. The touch screen is a definitely a huge plus especially nowadays when almost everything has a touch screen. Almost instantly I was able to browse through different menus and options and get to where I needed to be.
Garmin does not have a touch screen display, so it takes a bit of time to get used to. I cannot say it’s complicated, but it will take you a bit of time to learn the menu and get to all the different customization options that Garmin offers you.

Our recommendation: If you want a simple to use menu and a touch screen, get the Suunto 9. If you want to have more customization options and can live without a touch screen, the Garmin Fenix 5 will give you more choices.

Modes:

Both of the watches have a variety of sporting modes and navigation functions to choose from.
The biggest difference really lies in the customization options. The interface of the Garmin Fenix 5 allows for more custom-built modes and functions to fit your specific workouts. The Suunto 9 does have customization options as well but they are more limited.

Garmin Fenix 5 training modes
Suunto 9 training modes

Our recommendation: Each watch will work fine for 95% of the users and their needs; if you are part of the last 5% that wants or needs to be able to customize almost everything then the Fenix 5 is the way to go.

Connectivity:

Both the Garmin and the Suunto have full Bluetooth connectivity. This allows the watches to connect to your smartphone and other Bluetooth peripheries and relay information back & forth.
The Garmin watch is also able to connect to ANT+ and WiFi devices, while the Suunto is not although an adapter can be purchased.

A compass, barometric altimeter, gyroscope, accelerometer, and thermometer come standard on the Garmin Fenix 5. The thermometer will allow you to measure the temperature around your Fenix 5. This might be useful for running or climbing as well as swimming.

A barometer is installed on the Suunto 9 Baro version, but not on the Suunto 9 which relies on GPS information to calculate altitude. The Baro version also comes with the sapphire crystal which is a great addition.

Our recommendation: There are hundreds of Ant+ products on the market, so if you want to have more accessories and sensors compatible such as a heart rate monitor or bike speed sensor with your watch, Garmin is the way to go out of the box. The addition of the thermometer is also a plus.

Health Sensors:

Most of us will be buying a fitness watch for tracking exercises and measuring our bodies performance.

Wrist based heart rate sensors are pretty much a standard feature of every smart fitness watch on the market. Both of the watches come with the sensor and you can get your heart rate measurement at any time. I tried measuring them side by side and could not get consistent results. Most of the time the Suunto 9 showed a higher result by at least 3-5 bpm. Garmin also seemed to refresh the results more often. I compared my Apple Watch 3 to the 2 other watches, and Fenix 5 results were the closest to my Apple Watch.

Another interesting fact is that the Suunto 9 took a few seconds to find the HR by slowly decreasing or increasing the number; for example, when you just put on your watch or stopped moving rapidly. The Fenix 5 was able to jump 10-20 points to get to the right number much quicker.

The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus also has a model available with “Pulse Ox acclimation”. This $300 option isn’t cheap, but if you are going to be climbing or hiking in high altitudes, this is a very helpful feature.

Our recommendation: The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus has a better heart rate wrist sensor that allows for more accurate heart rate measurements. The addition of the Pulse Oximeter is a huge plus for anyone doing activities in high altitudes.

Smartwatch Features:

The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus is defiantly the winner here. Tons of options, apps store, credit card payments and built in music player.

If you don’t want to take your phone with you during your workout session, the Fenix 5 has a built-in player that can store up to 1,000 songs. Songs can be uploaded via Wifi and through additional apps, like the Spotify app for Garmin). If you do carry a smartphone this may not be such a big deal, since you can stream from your smartphone. Obviously, music playing will decrease the battery life of your watch, so expect up to 13 hours of music playing on your Fenix 5. The reasoning for excluding a music player on the Suunto 9 might have been the desire for longer battery life or perhaps they feel that their core clientele are hardcore ultra-marathon runners who are not interested in listening to music while they run.

We love the payment ability in this watch. By linking your credit card to the Garmin pay app you’ll be able to breeze through checkout lines wherever there’s a scanner present. 

The connect IQ Store has quit a few apps that you might find helpful such as weather apps and additional watch faces that can be downloaded.

Navigation:

Both watches have built-in navigation. The Suunto 9 is very slow locating your position.

Suunto 9 locating

It took me on average 3-5 minutes each time to find my position. I had this issue indoors and outdoors. Note that this could be because of my location where I tested the watch and you may not have this issue. The Suunto will allow you to save up to 250 points of interest such as where you parked your car, certain parts of your favorite running trail that you want to stop at and many more. Navigating back shows distance, ETA and your coordinates. Be aware that this is not a true turn by turn navigation like on your smart phone.

The Fenix 5 plus showed my location right away. You also get to see what is nearby and get directions with built in navigation (restaurants, landmarks etc). While it is not super-fast and definitely not as easy to use as a big screen on your smart phone, it is there when and if you need it.

Fenix 5 navigation

Our recommendation: The navigation is superior and faster on the Fenix 5 plus. If you are planning on using navigation even occasionally the Fenix 5 is the way to go.

Apps:

I downloaded the Garmin Connect IQ app and the Suunto app. Both are beautifully done and show tons of information about your workouts.

I really liked the Heatmaps on the Suunto which shows popular trails and other people’s runs. I can see how it would be useful if you want to try new routes and see what is popular with other people.

suunto 9 heatmap
Suunto 9 training map selection

The app shows your typical measurements (duration, distance, avg pace, detailed pace, average heart rate, max heart rate, heart rate zones, your ascent/descent, burned calories and cadence) you can also comment, share, add images and photos.

Suunto 9 detailed running map

The Fenix 5 shows similar data but also adds performance condition, training effect (aerobic vs anaerobic) and temperature change. Overall, while they are similar, the Garmin Connect app is more advanced with more features that are displayed clearly.

Fenix 5 plus running map
running dynamics
performance condition

Pricing:

The basic version of the Suunto 9 retails for $499. If you would like to get a sapphire crystal display – prepare to pay $599 for the Suunto 9 Baro and $699 for the Titanium version. The Baro version also includes a barometer.

The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus starts at $649 (while you can find plenty of merchants selling it for $499.99), and goes up to $749.99 (typical sale price of $599.99) for the Sapphire edition and $1,099 (typical sale price of $949.99) for the 51mm case with sapphire glass and Pulse Ox sensor.


Verdict:

Based on the features, navigation, built in payment system and music player, I would choose Garmin Fenix 5 Plus over the Suunto 9. For the ultrarunner who does not care about music, payments and detailed on screen navigation, the Suunto 9 is a beautiful watch with incredible battery life.

Garmin Fenix 5 plus

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus

    Kevin Lee

    Health and fitness have always been a passion for me; whether its being in the weight room, going for a run before work or even participating in a half iron man triathlon. ShapeJunkie was created to share to knowledge and love of fitness with others.

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