Review: Suunto t6c training watch

I’ve been testing quite a few training watches of late. Mostly it’s because I’ve been trying to get into shape and the only thing that has really succeeded was getting huge stomach cramps and going on an IV in the ER (lost 8 pounds! Thanks Oprah!). Sickness is the ultimate weight loss regimen. That’s neither here nor there.

So When Suunto sent me the t6c I was pretty excited. The watches I tried so far have had a fatal flaw – maybe the footpad was too big or the connection was poor or the heart rate monitoring was flakey at best. During my runs I’d constantly go back to the Garmin Forerunner 405, one of my favorite watches, simply because it had GPS built-in along with HR monitoring, making it considerably more useful than anything else I’ve used.

So how does this watch compare? Well, the Suunto is much lighter and with an optional foot pod you can assess distances run with a high degree of accuracy.

The Suunto watch also as a special feature called Training Effect. The watch gives you a 1-4 rating of your current effectiveness. There’s a little book included that tells you all the tips and tricks. I won’t go into those here.

It also has an altitude monitor to watch your ascents and descents in real time and customizable screens that allow you to add different settings to the watch face.

The heart rate monitor includes min and max heart rate alerts along with training tools like a countdown timer, stopwatch, split times, and, with the foot pod, vertical speed. It is water resistant to 330 feet.

Now – the big differences. Well, first there’s the price. The watch without foot pod costs $429 although I’ve seen it for about $325. The 405 is $299.99 and the 405CZ, the next-gen watch, is $369.99. All of these prices will fall by an order of magnitude in real settings, but off the bat I’m leaning towards the Forerunner. The Triathlon pack with foot pod, bike pod, and cadence pod, costs $629.95 at Amazon.

However, there is build quality. I’ve seen the Suunto factory in Finland and I came away impressed: for a mass-market, commodity device there is a lot of care put into the manufacture of these pieces. The t6c is much lighter and more compact than the 405 and when you’re running ever gram counts. The user interface is also slightly more streamlined than Garmin’s cascade of menus.

Sadly there is no OS X support for Suunto products, another ding against this watch.

Bottom Line
Of all the heart rate monitoring watches I’ve tried in the past few months, this model is the most powerful and easiest to use. It still hasn’t replaced the 405 on my wrist but it comes in at a close second.