Suunto X9i Review
Buy Altimeter & GPS Units
I love gadgets, especially ski and outdoors related toys, so imagine my excitement when my new Suunto X9i arrived in the post!
Because I live in the French Alps, the X9i seemed perfect to me because it combined Suunto's famous ABC (Altitude, Barometer, Compass) watch computer functions with a GPS unit, all packed into a half decent sized watch. I figured that the ABC unit was a useful tool in the mountains, and the GPS facility (especially aspects of it like the Google Earth interface) would provide me with loads of geeky statistics about how fast I had climbed/descended etc.
The Suunto X9i feature list makes impressive reading:
- Altimeter: altitude, vertical speed, altitude alarm
- Barometer: Sea level pressure, absolute pressure, weather trend graph, temperature, weather alarm
- Compass: Bearing, north indicator, bearing tracking
- GPS: Speed, distance, routes, waypoints, tracks
- Watch: Calendar, 3 alarms with date option, dual time, stopwatch
- Menu-based user interface familiar from mobile phones
- Water resistant to 100 m / 330 ft
- Power supply: USB cable and a universal power supply
- PC interface software + USB cable
- Plan and visualize routes on PC
- View tracks on Google Earth™
- Full access to SuuntoSports.com
So, how did it perform? I think the key to appreciating this watch is to get your expectations right in the first instance. It has a GPS unit squeezed into an only slightly over-sized watch, so it will never perform like a GPS unit 5 times the size. But it does work! When you learn how to pick up the satellites (which can be a bit tedious at first) if you are out in the open, the unit is pretty accurate.
After a day's skiing, I could go back and plot my route on Google Earth, and by & large it was spot on.
One gripe I did have was how the barometer/altimeter worked. On other Suunto ABC computers, the unit will try to work out what pressure change is due to weather, and what is due to ascending/descending. Obviously this can never be 100% accurate, but at least it tries.
With the X9i, the unit assumes two things; either you are stationary so all pressure changes are due to the weather, or that are moving and all pressure changes are due to altitude change. I found this a bit limiting.
In the end, I decided to sell this on ebay, and instead bought a Suunto X Lander (no complaints there) and a stand alone Garmin GPS unit. I thought the X9i tried to do too much, and although it didn't do too badly, it didn't work as well as I wanted or needed it to.
However, if you want a fun gadget toy which you can use on ski holidays, and bore the rest of your friends with stats when back in the ski chalet, then this isn't a bad gadget, and it does work out cheaper than getting a decent ABC watch and a decent GPS unit. Just realise its limitations.
Update: Suunto have recently launched a new X10 so I will be interested to read about how that performs.