Comparison Fenix 3 - Spartan Ultra: top of GPS Garmin and Suunto watches match

the SUUNTO watch SPARTAN ULTRA Black HR is probably the most successful sports watch ever developed.” “the sentence is not to me but to a site selling online (with ‘running’ in the name). It is envy, no? Looks like we’ve finally found the Suunto GPS watch that will compete with the Fenix 3 Garmin. And yet, if you read my review of test of the Spartan Ultra , you know that its features are very limited. Promising but limited.

I get around ( Facebook , Twitter , in the commentaries to the articles) the same question: is the Spartan Ultra better than the Fenix 3? And the sums of money involved (between 400 and 800), I understand the hesitation.

so I decided (Finally, suggested me ) to write a complete article to compare the Spartan Ultra and Fenix 3. Everything will be gone through: hardware, features, and updates to come. So, you know, based on what you are looking for and the horizon for your purchase, how to guide your choice.

I have a Spartan Ultra and a Fenix 3 HR. Technically, the Spartan Ultra with sapphire glass and no sensor optical cardio, my natural rival would be more the Fenix 3 Sapphire. But sometimes I’ll compare it to the Fenix 3 HR. Because if you want the top topdu, then all compare the model the most complete each brand. As the Fenix 3 HR not expensive more than the Spartan Ultra (a criterion that fit into account, obviously, when we’re looking for a GPS Watch).

hardware: Ultra Spartan 1-0 Fenix 3 Comparaison taille Spartan Ultra Fenix 3

Let’s start with the hardware, which will never change: case, screen, bracelet. I will not design, because tastes are personal and these 2 sports watches are beautiful and can quite be laid in the life of every day, even in a suit at a wedding.

the case of Spartan Ultra made 1 mm less than that of the Fenix 3. But the bracelet setting is different. It is wider on the Fenix 3, while the birth of the bracelet is tilted on the Spartan Ultra. Axis to axis, the Spartan Ultra is actually 5mm less wide. Personally, but it certainly depends on the size of the wrist of each, I find the Spartan Ultra more comfortable to wear, she walks less on my wrist.

side screen, is the Ultra Spartan who has the best features. Larger (35mm 31 mm), color (for 2), touch and better resolution (320 × 300 pixels against 218 × 218). Level display, the only advantage of the Fenix 3 is the ability to reverse the display (black numbers on white or white numbers on black background). Some people prefer one or the other because they find it more readable. The best resolution of the Spartan Ultra can be seen on the analog watchfaces, where the hands are well less pixelated. And during activity, it is also an asset for the follow-up of route in navigation screen.

the Spartan Ultra screen is protected by a scratchproof sapphire glass. You won’t have this level of protection on the Fenix 3 of basic, but it is found on the Fenix 3 Sapphire and the Fenix 3 HR. Long awaited evolution of Ambit3 users, the Spartan Ultra has alerts by vibrations, like the Fenix 3.

with regard to connectivity, the Fenix 3 has free WiFi as well as Bluetooth. It can be used to automatically download your data as soon as you get home. Little more comfort.

the 2 bracelets are similar, silicone covered with a nice coating to the touch… which tends to wear out fairly quickly leaving unprotected areas smoother and brighter. However, we always find the same system of 2 bystanders at Suunto, where we slide the end of the bracelet. However, these 2 people tend to move and must regularly put them back. While the side Garmin, passing is more rigid and grit is fixed in a hole of the bracelet. Finally, no possibility to inter-change bracelets at Suunto. We can replace it, if it is broken, but we can’t choose to install another that we’d love more. While Garmin offers for sale of metal bracelets (stainless and titanium), silicone yellow, blue, red, green, blue and black, leather, nylon and fabric. And in addition to all this, it is possible to order NATO bracelets!

on balance, the Spartan Ultra weighs 77g, which puts it between the Fenix 3 (70g) and the Fenix 3 HR (86g).


I will divide this section in several rounds, which take into account the updates announced by Suunto . If you wait for Christmas or your birthday to make you a GPS watch, you will see that my verdict is changing over time. Clearly, at present, at the level of features, the Spartan Ultra is trouncing by the Fenix 3 (and even many other GPS watches). But as Suunto will deploy new features, it will become more and more competitive. So, the decision to buy one or the other really depends on the time that you have before you.

today: Spartan Ultra KO – 1 Fenix 3 Trace GPS Spartan Ultra trail 1

currently, the Spartan Ultra is fighting the hands tied behind the back, so it lacks features. There has already been 4 updates since its release, but it does not yet have all the trappings that should have a high range MultiSport GPS watch.

first thing expected of a GPS watch for sport: the GPS accuracy. Because the GPS accuracy depends on the reliability of the data displayed on the screen (distance, speed, etc). The Fenix 3 is compatible GPS/GLONASS, GLONASS compatibility is not yet enabled on the Spartan Ultra. Never mind, in my tests and comparisons, I found the more accurate than the Fenix 3 Ultra Spartan in almost all conditions. This is a very positive point, which could even overshadow all the problems with the software, because the latter will be resolved with updates.

the FusedAlti remains for me a strong point of the Suunto GPS watches. The concept is to use the elevation data of the barometer and the GPS to calculate more precisely the altitude and elevation. It is implemented in the Spartan Ultra.

comparison of autonomy: for Fenix 3, 8 pm in mode s and 50 1 h mode UltraTrack (60 s) against 18 h (rather 14-15 h in practice) and 60 h 60 s for the Spartan Ultra mode. The advantage of the Spartan Ultra is to propose an intermediate mode “1 s eco” at 26 h who should offer a good GPS accuracy while saving a little battery. The use of the battery of the Spartan Ultra could evolve based on forthcoming updates, Suunto having admitted that my use was not yet optimized. In use, I find the charger magnetized the Spartan ultra easier to use than the big jaws of the Fenix 3 charger. I also find it more comfortable to wear in the case of a charge in the race.

interface and menus

overall, I prefer the Organization of menus of Garmin. I find it more intuitive. And despite the incredible number of configurations possible on the Fenix 3, I find the intuitive navigation and I don’t have a hard time finding where a particular feature in the tree. And there are a few small, as the ability to completely embrace the watch, while you can just pass the Spartan Ultra to sleep if we don’t use it.

at the level of the interface, the Spartan Ultra is still very limited in customizations:

  • Watchfaces: Fenix 3 a of the basic watchfaces, plus an incredible number of downloadable watchfaces on Connect IQ , more the ability to create your own watch with the Face-it application. On the Spartan Ultra, there are only 5 watchfaces, with needles 2 and 3 digital.

  • shortcuts: you can configure shortcuts on 2 buttons of the Fenix 3, as for example quickly access the menu to toggle Bluetooth by a long press on a button from the home screen. On the Suunto, the only possibility is to access the personalization of the watchfaces by a long touch on the touch screen.

  • in the current version of the Spartan Ultra, I found a lag in the navigation of the menus, especially if you use a watch with needles. Well, it’s just a soft problem that should be solved in an update. On the side of the Fenix 3, it is possible to turn on or off no less than 21 different widgets based on what we use or not. Then, we make them scroll from screen shows press top or bottom.

  • the Fenix 3 is compatible with an incredible number of applications of Connect IQ, who can add or configure additional features for specific uses. The Ambit3 also gave access to the Suunto App, but they are no longer compatible with the Spartan Ultra. Suunto has planned to develop a new platform, but this isn’t immediately.

sport modes suunto-spartan-ultra-garmin-fenix-3

on the side of the sport modes, limits can be found in the customization of the Spartan Ultra. It may seem surprising, but it is not yet possible to configure the display of the data of the screens. There is a standard display for each mode and everyone has to do with.  On the other hand, the Spartan Ultra has several modes for the same sport database. For example, for running, we have a basic mode, power (to use the sensor Stryd), interval (for a split), race, track (in the sense of cross-country track). It seem complex for some, useful for others. Me, I find it interesting because views are tailored to each mode, but I agree that we can do it manually with the Fenix 3. The interest behind comes in the use and analysis of the data by Movescount, which will be different depending on the mode you used. Another positive, it is possible to display up to 7 data on the screen of the Spartan Ultra (against 4 of the Fenix 3), while remaining legible.

when you scroll through the screens of the Spartan Ultra, the track can be found in each mode activating the GPS ‘thumb’ of the traversed route. We find the autolap and autopause the in 2 watches, but you can configure many more alerts in the Fenix 3 (alarm of pace, time, distance, cardio) or personal alarm. The other interesting screen is the screen of the towers on the Spartan Ultra. There is a data table for each round, one below the other. In running, you’ll see live the pace and average rate for each kilometre (with a 1 autolap km). On the Fenix 3, the autoclimb screen is nice for use in trail. It is a screen which activates automatically from a certain vertical speed and displays different data of your main screen. Basically, it allows to display a vertical drop screen with more data and which will be displayed as soon as you attack a big side. Once back on the flat, your screen will return to the classic view.

feature lacking at the moment in the Spartan Ultra: personal training programming. If you want to follow a workout soon as your watch, there is for the moment that the Fenix 3 who can do, pending updates to Suunto for management training in split and programming directly on the watch.

for use in running, the Fenix 3 (combined with the Garmin heart rate belt) gives much more data with the Advanced running dynamics: cadence, vertical oscillation, stride length, left/right balance, ground contact time, vertical ratio. My opinion is mixed as to the use of these data. They are in my opinion difficult to integrate in practice in a training program. But the functions for the Fenix 3 training are more complete: preacher of race (based on the VO2max), virtual partner, virtual pacer, lactic threshold.

the excellent resolution of the screen of the Spartan Ultra can be used in the navigation screen. Route track has a very good record, with directions to full blue line and track white dotted. On this point, the advantage goes to the Spartan Ultra, thanks to a higher zoom level (scale 100 m) which makes it easier to decision-making on certain intersections. On the other hand, the Fenix 3 has more features, as the statement of position (display the coordinates of the point where you are), navigating to contacts, points of interest (POI). In addition, she has, since an update last summer, the follow-up of elevation along a route downloaded profile, the same as on the Vertical Ambit3, and which allows to see in real time your progress on the chart of the elevation of your race.

another big lack on the Spartan Ultra, which is the heir to the Ambit3 Peak outdoor GPS watch, it’s the lack of information on the weather and storm alerts. It is not necessarily useful to everyone, but in my opinion, it’s part of the differences between a GPS triathlon watch and a GPS for use in mountain outdoor watch.

for swimming, the Spartan Ultra offers currently only 4 lengths of pool (25 m, 50 m, 25yards, 50yards). It is not possible to manually enter a length as on the Fenix 3. It is probably only a few individual cases, but if you used to swim in a pool of a different size, it you will not help.

Activity Tracker

the function of activity tracker is not completely implemented on the Spartan Ultra. It counts the number of steps, but that’s all. And yet, this data is not transferred to Movescount and so it is not possible to see a progression in time. While we have all with the Fenix 3: number of steps, distance, calories burned and even track the sleep. It is possible to track statistics on 7 days on the watch and on longer term on Garmin Connect.

on the site, you can either manually set a daily goal, or use the self-adjustment. With the self-adjustment system, Garmin Connect will slightly change your goal the next day depending on your progress from the day. If you have reached your goal, the goal of the future will be higher. Otherwise, it will be reduced. Then you have the ability to enable or disable an alert of inactivity (which will alert you after 1 hour of inactivity).


at the level of the accessories, the heart rate of Suunto belt can be used in water. She does not watch live heart rate data, but they are synchronized at the end of your swim session. The same thing exists at Garmin, but it takes a specific (HRM – SORTING or HRM-SWIM) belt.

a little trouble with the Spartan Ultra is that you can pair an accessory of each type (1 sensor cardio, 1 sensor, 1 bike, 1 sensor power bike cadence sensor). It can cause problems to the fades that use several bikes with different sensors or runners who sometimes use the power sensor Stryd in the form of a heart rate belt and sometimes a classic heart rate belt.

Finally, the Fenix 3 HR has a cardio optical sensor, while Suunto does not provide out of version of the Spartan Ultra with an optical sensor (it is the Spartan Sport which in will have a version that will be released in December).

smart notifications

2 watches receive plenty of notifications: incoming calls, SMS, calendar alerts, notifications push applications (WhatsApp, Clash of clan, Twitter, etc.). Liaison with the smartphone is very stable with 2, which surprised me given the youth of the Spartan Ultra. The smaller of the Spartan Ultra, is that we can get an incoming call by tapping on the screen. The big minus is that each notification is displayed 15 seconds on the screen and then disappears. There is no storage of notifications and can not read them again if it was erroneous to them. It’ll come…

at the moment, the Spartan Ultra synchronization only works with iOS, yet with Android.

app / web site

in General, Garmin Connect is much more complete than Suunto Movescount. And it is even more true for applications. More complete but more complex suddenly. You can see a lot of statistics on various thematic displays. But Garmin app also offers more options to configure the watch, while he takes a PC connection to make changes on the Spartan Ultra.

Movescount has still 2 unique features: the Suunto Movies and Heat maps. With the first, you can create a film which traces the route of your race, crashed data on your session (fastest km, heart rate, etc.) and photos that you have taken along the course. On the other hand, the heat maps represent the traces of more than 100 millions of moves of the database of Suunto. By using filters, you can view the routes the borrowed profiles the different sports worldwide, around you or your place of holiday. Frankly, it’s an interesting and useful tool for your course.


comparison of price gives an advantage over Fenix 3. Even with the cardio optical sensor, the Fenix 3 HR is less expensive than the Spartan Ultra of base.

Fenix 3 : official price € 479; best price on the internet € 411

Fenix 3 Sapphire : official price € 599; best price on the internet € 411

Fenix 3 HR : official price € 549; best price on the internet € 497

Spartan Ultra : official price € 649; best price on the internet € 585

Spartan Ultra Titanium : official price € 749; best price on the internet € 719

end of October: Spartan Ultra 0-2 Fenix 3

28 September: compatibility with Android, improvements to daily activity (wake up) and training functions, training peer on Suunto

12 October: ability to set the default sport modes

19 October : Tool of progression, personal records and analysis of training supplied by the community on Suunto

26 October: customization of the sport modes, workout on your watch and much more still

big improvements with these 4 updates. The sport modes can be customized. That is, you can change the page layout screens and data which are displayed for your convenience. But we cannot yet create modes athletes personally. Good frankly, with hundreds of available sport modes, you really have very special needs.

new opening new possibilities will happen with the update of October 19 Movescount: progress for training and analysis tools. The heat maps were the beginning of the use of the big data, pulling moves of the database of Suunto’s 100 million profit. The new tools introduced with this update will be the second step. The idea is to have a share of the analytical tools of your training and the results of your training in the long term. For example, to see the evolution of your personal best on 10km of running on 1 month, 6 months or 5 years. And on the other hand, view training of athletes who have already achieved your goal. For example, you want to go below 3:30 Marathon? You can see how are trained athletes who have already run a marathon in less than 3 h 30: number of sessions per week, duration, intensity, types of sport.

the idea of offering more tools to progress is not new. Garmin has opted for sensors and advanced dynamics, Suunto running opts for big analysis data. I have not yet used these new tools of Suunto, but I think that approach can be more productive than Garmin. Once you know your contact time on the ground, you do what to improve? As I was introduced to him, these tools Suunto can really translate into adaptation of your workouts and your performance.

Christmas: Spartan Ultra 0-1 Fenix 3

November: Altitude and barometric trends, navigating to a point of interest (POI) and graphic of the beaches of heart rate for training

December: rest and recovery

interesting additions on the Spartan Ultra, notably for use outdoor by improving weather forecasting and navigation features. Some features to the practice, already found on the Fenix 3, also arrive.

March 2017: Spartan Ultra 2-1 Fenix 3

1 er quarter of 2017: route elevation profile, support for split training and analysis of recovery on the watch

the route elevation profile passes the vertical Ambit3 the Spartan Ultra and features for training are finally complete and viewable directly on the watch (without the need to connect to the app or web site).

that’s it, we can say that the Spartan Ultra is now the best GPS watch. Better than the Fenix 3. Fenix 3 still has a few features that do not appear on the Spartan Ultra, as music of the smartphone control, the function ‘find my phone’ but good, these are ancillary functions unrelated to the sport.


that is, the idea of this article is to allow you to choose between the Spartan Ultra and Fenix 3 knowing what will happen in the next 6 months. The Fenix 3 is a well-oiled, exit early 2015 Watch (early 2016 for the Fenix 3 HR) and who will know more setbacks or bug. The Spartan Ultra has a huge potential, share the features of its hardware that can last much longer and receive many updates.

but there is still a last parameter: Fenix 4. In my opinion, she should be out early 2017 (I put on an announcement at the CES in Las Vegas). What makes the new Fenix 4, with its good and bad sides (new features / bugs) will be announced at about the moment when the Spartan Ultra becomes better than the Fenix 3.

If you opt for the Ultra Spartan, you buy promises of Suunto, without guarantee on the timetable. If you don’t have a big goal by late 2016, it is a good option to build on a good watch (particularly at the level of GPS accuracy) for 2017. Or because you are a fan of Suunto, you love the brand and you already have all your historical data in Movescount (in this case, you can still use your Ambit3 when it is necessary).

If you need a fully operational, because you have a goal in a few weeks or watch all simply because you don’t want to bother you, then the Fenix 3 is the more rational choice.


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