This article compares to GPS watches; the Suunto Ambit and Garmin Fenix.  It includes details on main features including battery life, the display, the navigation function, the GPS signal, the price, the design and many other features. If you don’t know which one to choose then use this handy comparison guide before you make a purchase.

Comparison of Battery Life

The battery life of the Garmin Fenix is specified as 16 hours and 50 hours of when in continuous GPS mode. Without GPS, with barometric altimeter, compass and thermometer switched on, the duration of the Garmin Fenix battery is about 6 weeks.  The Suunto Ambit is quite similar. The battery of the GPS clock lasts 15 hours.

This is quite intriguing as both the Garmin Fenix and the Ambit have the ability to switch off individual sensors and use them only when needed – which can increase significantly the operation time. It makes sense to only use the GPS watch function when out mountaineering or trekking to save on battery.

Conclusion: a tie!

Comparison of the Display

Here too, both GPS watches are very close, so close in fact that little difference are negligible.  The screen diameter of the Garmin Fenix is 31mm which is 1.2mm larger than the display of the Suunto Ambit.  The resolution of the Garmin Fenix is 70 × 70 pixels which is smaller than the display of Ambit which has a 100 × 100 display. The legibility is virtually identical, and both watches have a backlight.

Conclusion: a tie!

Comparison of the Navigation Functions

Both GPS watches have extensive navigation options. Routes can be planned in advance on a PC then transferred to the GPS clock and tracked.  Alternatively you can create way points whilst on the move and then navigate back to the starting point if needed.

The Garmin Fenix has similar navigation functions to the Suunto Ambit. Predefined routes and waypoints on your PC can be traced if it is set during the tour or your own waypoints and then navigated through the TracBack feature back to the finish. A unique feature of the Fenix over the Ambit is the graphical representation of the route progression.

The Suunto Ambit shows an arrow in the direction of the target as well as the distance to the next waypoint.  The deviation from the course is shown in degrees as a cardinal direction (N, S, W, O) and even side direction (NE, NW, SE, SW). Once a waypoint is reached, the Suunto Ambit GPS watch will automatically start the navigation to the next waypoint on the route to your destination.

Conclusion: Due to the graphical representation of the route, this puts the Garmin Fenix in the lead as it lets you keep an overview of a tour. However, it is important to remember that this is on a 1 inch display with a resolution of 70 × 70 pixels.  Therefore detailed maps are not included and you only get an overview and an idea of the route progression. For complex trips with many waypoints and direction changes or a whiteout in the mountains you will have to use the point-to-point navigation.  It remains to be seen whether Suunto will go on to offer a software update which will expand the GPS watch to include those functions.

Comparison of the GPS Data

The GPS data included with the Garmin Fenix can be read via USB or even wirelessly via Bluetooth. The Bluetooth interface is exciting as in the future interaction with smartphones will be introduced by a new app. To load data to the Garmin Fenix at the moment it must be done via USB cable. Through the familiar Garmin ANT+ technology it’s possible to couple the GPS watch wirelessly with other sensors such as thermometers or external pedometers.

The Suunto Ambit GPS data can be exported via a USB cable. The ANT technology allows wireless data exchange with a variety of optional sensors such as pedometers or the Suunto ANT Ambit chest to record the pulse – which can be useful for those that wish to monitor heart rate functions.

In analyzing the GPS data functions of the Suunto and Garmin products, the Suunto can upload to the website, and Garmin to their website. There the data can be analyzed in detail and if necessary exported as Excel format and on to other platforms such as TrainingPeaks.  Both watches can be updated via software patches and widened in the future if additional functions are released.

Conclusion: a tie!

Comparison of the Build Quality of Both GPS Watches

The quality of both the Garmin Fenix and Suunto Ambit watches can be safely described as excellent. You will notice that both GPS watches are designed to be robust for outdoor use and both look very sophisticated, chunky, and unbreakable. The Suunto Ambit is waterproof to a depth of 100 meters, the Fenix only 50 meters

Conclusion: The Suunto Ambit has the lead!

Comparison of Design and Quality

Both watches can be worn all day due to the long battery life and both have a beautiful design. In my view the Garmin Fenix just edges this one though as it looks like a very styslish and chunky men’s digital watch which won’t look out of place whatever the occasion.

Conclusion: Garmin Fenix has the lead!

Comparison of the Prices

The recommended retail price for the Garmin Fenix is $399 US Dollars or Euros whilst the Suunto Ambit will set you back $479 US Dollars or Euros – but does come with a free Heart Rate Monitor.

Conclusion: The Suunto Fenix has the lead!

Overall Conclusion

To conclude, when comparing the Suunto Ambit to the Garmin Fenix, the Garmin GPS watch just edges it.  Both are very similar, but the design and other factors just put it ahead of the competition for me.  Of course, a lot of this is down to personal taste so it’s worth checking out both on their official websites before you make a purchase decision.  With regards to the Garmin Fenix watch you can click the link towards the end of the product comparison article which will take you to an independent Garmin Fenix review website which also includes videos and customer testimonials which will help you to make your mind up.  Whichever watch you choose, you are sure to get a quality product from one of the best GPS watch manufacturers in the business!

About the Author: Peter B runs a number of review websites, including one dedicated to the Garmin Fenix outdoor GPS watch.  For more information and details please visit today.

Click here to buy the Suunto Ambit (Amazon UK)

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Click here to buy the Garmin Fenix (Amazon US)