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Suunto X6-HR review: Suunto X6-HR

Suunto X6-HR

Rebecca Viksnins
3 min read
Finnish company Suunto helped bring MSN Direct service to life with the N3, one of the better first-generation Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT) watches. While SPOT was pretty much a bust, Suunto continues to design sleek sports and diving timepieces that are smarter than your average wristwatch--so much smarter, in fact, that the company has taken to calling its products wrist-top computers. The X6-HR ($475.99 list) combines a heart-rate monitor with an altimeter in a slick package that's water-resistant to 100 meters. While casual runners, bikers, and swimmers will delight in the data it provides, the Suunto X6-HR is far too expensive and feature packed for your average exerciser. Hard-core trail runners, mountaineers, and cross-country skiers will find plenty to like, however.
The X6-HR has a large mineral glass face and a chunky elastomer band, but it's lightweight and fits well, though its larger dimensions might overpower smaller wrists. The watch comes with a heart-rate transmitter belt that was among the most comfortable we tried in our tests. Standard start/stop buttons, two buttons for scrolling through menu options, and the Suunto button, which basically functions as an Enter and Reset key, line the sides of the watch face. The setup works, and the menu system is elegant. You'll still need to crack the manual to figure out how to customize the X6-HR's settings, but for the most part, scrolling through the menu system is a no-brainer. If you get stuck, the included documentation is very well written. The watch carries a two-year warranty.
When you do a lot of hiking and trail running, you know how tough it can be to get an accurate reading of the quality of your workout. The X6-HR collects and stores data for later analysis; you can view, compare, and analyze your performance using the included Activity Manager software. We found the app helpful and fairly easy to use, but it's a bit buggy and crashed a few times. The watch offers five modes: Time, Chrono, Weather, Hiking, and Digital Compass. In Time mode, you can save two time settings and three alarm presets--great for travelers. You can keep an eye on your heart rate in Chrono and Hiking mode; the watch also stores programmed heart-rate limits, intervals, and averages. In Hiking mode, you can activate the altimeter, which works in tandem with the Digital Compass to track your vertical speed and altitude. The X6-HR will even alert you to an oncoming storm--it stores 48 hours' worth of barometric readings. You can use the watch's alarm functions to alert you at certain altitudes, intervals, and heart-rate training zones.
The X6-HR delivered great results during testing in Riverside Park, located on the west side of Manhattan. The watch and the belt were both easy to wear and use. Its heart-rate readings seemed a little high compared to those of other products during similar workouts, but they weren't so wildly off as to be unhelpful. The handy training-interval alarms were easy to set and plenty loud. We didn't use the Hiking mode too often in the park's relatively flat terrain, and you'll get more benefit from the Weather Mode over time than during a single sweat session. The best aspect of the X6-HR system is that it allows you to tweak your performance data afterward using Suunto's training log software. The watch connects to your PC via an old-fashioned serial port--we'd prefer USB--but the process is painless enough, and we love being able to chart our performance over time to easily identify the weak points of our training.
This is not a watch for gym bunnies who stick with standard weekday workouts. It's intended for athletes who are serious about their training and take a lot of their workouts outdoors. It's especially useful to runners or cross-country skiers traversing intense unmarked trails with many twists and turns. If you don't need the heart-rate component, check out the belt-less version, the X6.