Let celebrities have their personal trainers. The Suunto t6 will help you take your fitness goals into your own hands. The first in a new line of Suunto fitness watches emerging from a partnership between Firstbeat Technologies and the Finnish Research Institute for Olympic Sports, this high-quality watch aims to do everything--and it almost does. You'll have to pay a high price for its features, though. The t6 is listed at $449.99.
The t6 is part watch and part heart-rate transistor belt. The transistor feeds data back to the watch, which, in turn, reports information on a number of bodily functions, including heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygen intake, and energy consumption. Based on those vitals, the device computes a unique value: Excess Postexercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). EPOC analysis was born in physiological research labs and is essentially a way to judge the quality of one workout against another.
The watch face itself is uncomfortably large, and the LCD takes some getting used to. For example, the normal time display is just fine; however, when in Alt/Baro mode, the current time is shown in exceedingly small characters. Around the watch's face are five buttons that let you access various functions, such as activating laps and storing data into the watch's 1MB of training memory. You'll also get Suunto's standard, sporty feature set, which includes multiple timing functions, an altimeter, and a barometer. The t6 also comes with special USB cable (one end clamps to the watch itself), a necessity for downloading data from your watch to your PC. Pretty cool, eh?
Suunto also includes in the box a training software CD called Suunto Training Manager. From the software interface, you can manipulate data you've downloaded from the watch. You can monitor your training logs, design training programs for different fitness levels, and take three baseline tests for gauging your health status.
While we liked the heart-rate monitor, the alarms, the timers, and all the nifty data you can collect and upload to your PC, we didn't like the altimeter. Altitude measurement in the t6 is based on barometric pressure, a fairly standard practice in sports watches today, but that means that changes in air temperature and barometric pressure might record different readings without your actually changing your altitude. While Suunto recommends resetting the reference altitude before each exercise session, long-distance marathoners might do well to disregard this data altogether. Also, this model lacks a compass, though that may not be a deal breaker, depending on your sport.
Support options include a very robust FAQ on the Suunto site or sending e-mail inquiries. Because Suunto is located in Finland, telephone technical support isn't available in the United States.