Q:

Are the new watch-computers worth all that extra money?

I've been looking at sports watches and recently read a review of Suunto's S6. Do you think it's worth spending $350 for a watch? Can you think of other timepieces that are cheaper but have some of the se bells and whistles? You know, altimeter, rate of ascent/descent, that sort of thing. Helen Boulder, Colorado

Mar 19, 2004
Outside
Outside Magazine

Suunto S6

A: I will say this: The Suunto S6 ($369; www.suunto.com) is one helluva watch. Scratch that—it's a "wristop computer." I'm hard-pressed to find something it doesn't do (well, two things do rankle, more of that later): it tracks elevation, rates of ascent and descent, compass bearing, slope angle, temperature, and barometric pressure. And don't forget the usual banalities, too, like time-keeping and alarms. It'll even measure your speed by taking into account your rate of descent (while skiing, for instance) and plotting that against the slope angle. All the data can be downloaded to your computer, so you can keep a meticulous log of your activities, including the number of ski descents per day or your cumulative total ascents for the year. Then you can e-mail that to your friends!

To which they will reply, "Leave us alone!"

Seriously, I find the S6 extremely interesting but am uncertain as to what it really adds to the outdoor experience. Suunto claims it's a "training aid" for skiers and snowboarders, but without a heart-rate function (for that you need the Suunto X6HR—a cool $449!) I don't see where it gets you other than adding up your vertical for the day. And the things I typically find useful—elevation, rate of descent/ascent, barometric pressure—are found on lesser watches such as the Suunto Vector ($215 for 2004's model). Besides, who wants to sit at a PC after a day's skiing and download all this stuff to make up some chart of what you did?

I'm not a Luddite on this issue; I've used altimeter watches and heart-rate monitors for years. And Suunto's technology honestly delights me. But are you going to look at a change in the barometric pressure and say, "Oh, no! Weather is changing, gotta run!"? Come on, you're sitting on a chairlift at the time. You wait until the weather takes the fun out of things, then you head in for some après-ski brews. For this you need a $370 wristwatch?

Additionally, the S6 lacks a GPS, a feature I'm sure will be coming soon. Then I'd say things get interesting. Get back to me when this happens and I might revise my opinion.

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