Sunday, October 4, 2009

Product Review: Suunto T1 Heart Rate Monitor

Suunto - Finnish for 'Disappointment'?

After my little heart problem in 2008, I decided to return to the Heart Rate Monitor market after several years in absentia, years spent muttering like a crazy person about pathetic battery life, interference issues, fragile chest straps and repeated disappointment.

In the 1990s, most bike shops were pretty reluctant to sell them, as they delivered way too many opportunities to test out the warranty service of the manufacturers.

The actual NEED to have a new gadget was too much of an opportunity to miss in life. The main result of my 5+ hours of internet research was the conclusion I really wanted a Power Meter of some kind instead. At several thousand dollars I was able to resist that temptation with ease.

My friend Glen has been a Polar stalwart for many years, valuing the data functions, the big watches, and the software for his PC. He was not loving the need to send them away to get batteries changed, which seemed bizarre in this day and age. Nor was he loving the data loss every time we rode under the power lines outside the Scienceworks museum on our Altona rides, but he'd worked out how to join 2 broken training sessions again on the computer.

I just couldn't get my head around their range of products. The ideally featured Polar HRM (for me) came as a bike computer, not a watch. I don't like a big hulking bike computer, I prefer my little minimalist unit. And I wanted something to wear in the gym.

Not to mention there was no way I was paying THAT much for an HRM!

With plenty of time on my hands recovering from open heart surgery, I finally concluded that the new Suunto range of HRMs, provided they lived up to the other products developed and sold by Suunto (avionics included), were a fine-looking, 12 month warrantied, and well featured product for a great price.

So, to cut a long review short, I'm here to tell you they're rubbish.

The critical flaw is the plastic watch face, and the lack of a protective bezel. Within weeks this watch becomes unreadable in normal use. It's not something you think about, how much you bump your watch. Now I know why the Japanese watches with plastic faces have such monstrous surrounds (think G-Shock). And why expensive watches have glass faces.

The flaw that actually killed by T1 was the screws in the back coming loose in Month 13 of ownership (I lost 2 before it became obvious) rendering it open to the elements, and subsequently ... dead.

Desperate to keep the standout cool factor of the Suunto range, I went back to the catalogue to find the unit that would overcome these problems - surely the really expensive ones had glass faces? Nope - 100% plastic across the range. Disappointment, thy name is Suunto.

Review Score:

Function: 7/10. While it held together (for 13 months), it proved to be an easily understood HRM. Unreadable, but easily understood. Battery life acceptable, and ability to change batteries in the watch and chest strap yourself highly prized.

Form: 2/10. Despite looking very cool in the box, life in the real world overwhelmed the Suunto - the plastic face became decrepit in no time, and then the screws that held the back in came out, rendering it ... dead.

Price: 3/10. Part of the reason for buying was the low price. I could buy 2 for the price of a Polar or similar unit in a mainstream brand. Then again, I would have to buy 2 (or in fact 3-4) if they have this lifespan.


Anonymous said...

I'm unsure of how you got your T1 beat up; I'm a little clumsy myself, had my T1 for years now (use in gym and out, biking, running, swimming...) and manage to to 1 or 2 minor scraps that can only be seen if you are really looking for them. One issue I have is the hrm reading... sometimes I just can't seem to get my heart rate during a full work out; a real bummer. But I usually have no issues and it's a great tool for monitoring.

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